The awkward truth about military spouses and their service - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

The awkward truth about military spouses and their service

When, at a ceremony or event, an emcee asks that all active military, veterans, and spouses stand together to be recognized, there is not distinction between the groups.

They all stand. If the woman is a service member or veteran, they know that when everyone stands together the assumption will be they are a military spouse. And what about military spouses? How does this make them feel? They don’t quite fit into the category of service member since they are a spouse. Although they appreciate being recognized for their sacrifice, it just doesn’t feel quite right.


Grouped together

Situations like this especially aggravate an already existing complicated relationship between female service members and female military spouses. Women who serve in the military are constantly overlooked and their service is devalued. They often have to defend their service to the men who they either serve with or men who never served at all. Grouping their service with the service of non-veterans is very disingenuous.

Military spouses appreciate being recognized for the work they do to support the military because it is often an unseen and thankless job. But when everyone is pushed into one category, military spouses find themselves feeling awkward or uncomfortable. The very group they are trying to recognize doesn’t feel supported or appreciated.

Instead, they still feel like outsiders.

The awkward truth about military spouses and their service

But treated differently

As both a veteran and a military spouse, I am in a unique position to see how military spouses and service members are treated in similar situations.

Military spouses are classified as dependents, and are often treated just like the title sounds. And while some rules are made to protect the military and the member, they often make life a lot harder to be a military spouse.

A basic task like getting an identification card renewed or having repairs done to your home when you live on base require the service member. In the civilian world, a spouse is not dependent on their husband or wife to get basic tasks done. But the same cannot be said for military spouses. When I was in the military, I was treated with respect and always had great customer service.

As a military spouse, if I go on base to get help without my husband, I have found myself leaving in tears, treated unprofessionally and feeling like no one even cares. While military spouses don’t hold rank, they should be treated with respect.

Instead of support for spouses, there seems to be an unwritten rule where people can say negative things about military spouses, but if you say anything negative about a service member you are being disrespectful. Even military spouses who are just trying to engage in conversation with female service members may feel the need to tread lightly based on past experiences when stating their opinion ended up in a situation where they were humiliated.

The awkward truth about military spouses and their service

And then there is the “I serve too” issue

Military spouses and service members use the same words to describe different things or don’t understand the other side’s experience. When military spouses say, “I serve too,” this can ruffle all kinds of feathers on both sides. For the military service member, the word service is tied to signing up to join the military and being willing to give the ultimate sacrifice.

While military spouses don’t serve the military in that function that doesn’t mean they don’t serve the military. Military spouses make countless sacrifices to support their service member. Maybe they gave up their career to follow their service member to the next assignment. Maybe they are the one who constantly has to take time off work or bend their schedule to accommodate the deployments, training and endless temporary duty assignments. Being a military spouse is often a lonely, hard and thankless job.

Understanding our stories

The best way to bridge the gap between military spouses and service women is by getting to know the other’s story. Until you actually meet and get to know a military spouse the only thing you know are the stereotypes. And until you actually meet and get to know a female service member all you know are the stereotypes. Stereotypes that are not good. Stereotypes that are often expanded stories or perceived truths that are rarely factual.

Military spouses are not lazy, attempting to get a free ride. Military spouses are strong, determined and are willing to bend over backwards to make military life work while taking care of their family. Many military spouses are working in careers that don’t meet their qualifications, but they have a hard time finding and keeping a job with all the demands of the military.

Female service members are not sluts, using pregnancy as a means to get out of military obligations, or fooling around with married service members. Female service members are strong, determined and work hard to make it to the rank they have obtained.

The awkward truth about military spouses and their service

They are professionals. And, if they stay in after marriage and kids, they have to make countless sacrifices while trying to find the balance of keeping a career and raising a family.

How many stories do you know about the women who have served our country? Or how many military spouses do you know and can talk to about their experience? The only way we can close the divide is to listen to the other side.

Want to share your story or thoughts on this topic or other important topics facing the military community? Email us at editorial@militaryspouse.com.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

As Iran’s missiles get better, US presses for new sanctions

The U.S. special representative for Iran has urged the European Union to impose new sanctions targeting Iran’s ballistic-missile program, calling it a “grave and escalating threat.”

Brian Hook made the call on Dec. 3, 2018, two days after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned what he described as Iran’s testing of a medium-range ballistic missile “capable of carrying multiple warheads” and striking parts of Europe and the entire Middle East.


The Iranian military has said it will keep conducting missile tests despite Western condemnation.

The latest statements from Pompeo and Hook come amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington, which in 2018 imposed tough sanctions on Iran’s economy.

The move was part of a broader U.S. campaign to pressure Iran over what the President Donald Trump’s administration describes as its “malign conduct” such as missile development and support for militant groups in the Middle East.

The awkward truth about military spouses and their service

Remains of Iranian Qiam ballistic missiles seen at the Iranian Materiel Display at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington.

(DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

Tehran has repeatedly rejected negotiations over its missile program and insists the missiles are only to be used for defensive purposes.

Speaking aboard Pompeo’s plane as he traveled to Brussels for a NATO meeting, Hook told reporters that Washington “would like to see the European Union move sanctions that target Iran’s missile program.”

The U.S. envoy said that Trump’s campaign of “maximum pressure” on Tehran since withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers in May “can be effective if more nations can join us in those [sanctions].”

“It is a grave and escalating threat, and nations around the world, not just Europe, need to do everything they can to be targeting Iran’s missile program,” Hook said.

He also said that “progress” was being made on getting NATO allies to consider a proposal to target individuals and entities that play key roles in Iran’s missile program.

European countries have criticized Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal and are working to preserve the accord that lifted sanctions on Tehran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear activities, even though they have also criticized Iranian positions on other issues.

In a Dec. 1, 2018 statement, Pompeo charged that Iran’s testing of a medium-range ballistic missile violated UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the Iran nuclear deal.

The awkward truth about military spouses and their service

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

(Photo by Mark Taylor)

Pompeo warned that Iran’s “missile testing and missile proliferation is growing,” and called on the country to “cease immediately all activities related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.”

The French Foreign Ministry issued a similar call, condemning the Iranian missile test as “provocative and destabilizing.”

Iran’s military did not confirm or deny it had tested a new missile, but said it will “continue to both develop and test missiles.”

“Missile tests…are carried out for defense and the country’s deterrence, and we will continue this,” the semiofficial Tasnim news agency quoted Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi, a spokesman for Iran’s armed forces, as saying on Dec. 2, 2018.

Shekarchi said such activity “is outside the framework of [nuclear] negotiations and part of our national security, for which we will not ask any country’s permission.”

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

MIGHTY SPORTS

This is how two WWII veterans changed baseball forever

There have been many iconic moments throughout the storied history of baseball. Every team has their collection of defining moments, immortalized in photos hung on the walls of stadiums across the nation. And then there are those transcendent plays that everyone knows, like when Babe Ruth pointed to a spot in the bleachers, calling his shot perfectly — a move that’s often imitated, but rarely ever repeated.

But fans of baseball know that the top two moments are universal and unrivaled: The greatest moment was when Jackie Robinson took his first step over the white chalk and entered the Major Leagues. The crowds heckled Robinson, game after game, until the Dodgers’ team captain, Pee Wee Reese, was fed up — which led to the second greatest moment: Reese placed his arm around Robinson, sending a message of friendship into the stands, silencing the jeers.

But their story didn’t begin on the diamond. It began when both Army 2nd Lt. Jackie Robinson and Navy Chief Petty Officer Harold “Pee Wee” Reese served their country during World War II.


The awkward truth about military spouses and their service

Your wartime experience may differ.

Reese had a fairly light military career compared to most. Before he enlisted, he’d already made a name for himself in the baseball world. In 1940, during his rookie season with the Brooklyn Dodgers, he hit a grand slam against the New York Giants in the bottom of the ninth to win the game. He went on to play in the World Series in ’41 against the Yankees, but his team got swept, losing all five games. He gained national recognition when he made the ’42 All-Star Team. He missed the next three seasons as he signed up to take to fighting in WWII as a U.S. Navy Seabee.

But he never got the chance to see combat. Despite his constant petitions, Pee Wee Reese was stuck playing for the U.S. Navy’s baseball team, which, as you can imagine, was mostly for recruitment purposes. While he was playing in Guam, Reese learned that a black baseball player — Jackie Robinson — had been signed by the Dodgers, and was up for his old shortstop position.

This bothered Reese — and not because of Robinson’s race. In fact, others were mad at him for refusing to let race be a concern of his when evaluating a purely baseball decision. In response to critics, he said,

“If he’s man enough to take my job, I’m not gonna like it, but, dammit, black or white, he deserves it.”
The awkward truth about military spouses and their service

Members of the 761st Tank Battalion “The Black Panthers” would go on to earn a Medal of Honor, 11 Silver Stars, and almost 300 Purple Hearts.

Robinson didn’t enjoy the same luxuries while in the Army. Previously, he had attended UCLA and became the school’s first athlete to win a varsity letter in four sports: baseball, basketball, football, and track and field. He used this to apply for OCS, knowing that the Army had just changed the OCS guidelines to be race neutral — but it still wasn’t easy.

After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Robinson was placed in a segregated Army cavalry unit at Fort Riley. It was through a friendship with fellow OCS candidate, the professional boxer who KO’ed Nazi Germany’s favorite fighter in the first round, Joe Louis, that both men were allowed to attend OCS.

His career was unceremoniously cut short after an entirely one-sided court martial was levied against him. Even though Robinson was a commissioned officer of the United States Army and segregation on military buses was banned, the MPs arrested him after he refused to give up his seat when he was taking his friend’s wife to the hospital.

He put up no fight but was cuffed, shackled, and strapped to a hospital bed because they believed he was “intoxicated.” He wasn’t. The charges he faced were slowly dropped before his court-martial. He was narrowly acquitted. Despite this, he was sent to Camp Breckinridge, KY, as his former unit, the 761st Tank Battalion, was deployed. It was the first black tank unit to see combat in WWII. Instead of seeing action, he was quietly mustered out with an honorable discharge months later.

The awkward truth about military spouses and their service

Through his own talent, he’d prove them wrong by earning Rookie of the Year in 1947.

So, Robinson went back to playing professional baseball for the Kansas City Monarchs, a team in the Negro American League. It wasn’t long before Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, saw how talented he was. The news quickly got out that the Dodgers had signed the first black ballplayer.

Fearing fan backlash, they sent him to their Minor League affiliate team, the Montreal Royals. With Robinson on the team, the stands were packed during Royals games. Fans came in droves to see him play — so they called him up to play for the Dodgers, who’d taken Reese back after the war’s end.

Then, on April 15th, 1947, the Dodgers faced off against the Boston Braves at Ebbets Field. Robinson stepped onto the field and became the first black player to play in the MLB since 1884. For the most part, the home crowd loved him. Away games, however, were another story entirely.

The awkward truth about military spouses and their service

This led way for many more black baseball players to join the MLB and their friendship would serve as a proof that desegregation of the military was possible through Executive Order 9981.

It’s been said that while playing the Cincinnati Reds, Robinson received death threats. Understandably, this made him very nervous. He’d turned the other cheek so many times before, but with his life at stake, this wasn’t so simple. Reese saw what was happening and decided to take a stand.

Reese and Robinson had become best friends over the games they played together. They bonded in the locker room and on the field. They would talk and share stories for hours at a time about what they had in common — military service being one of them.

As the Cincinnati crowd and players on the Reds hurled obscenities at Robinson during pre-game infield practice, Reese raised a hand in the air and walked from shortstop to first base and placed his arm around Robinson’s shoulders. The two didn’t say anything — they just stared into the dugout and the bleachers. The jeering stopped.

The captain of one of the greatest baseball teams at the time had shown the world that these two men were teammates, friends, and brothers-in-arms — and that race didn’t affect any of that.

MIGHTY SPORTS

The US Air Force is cracking down on fitness requirements

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has a message for commanders on their physical condition: Get on a fitness program or your job is at risk.

Addressing a standing room-only ballroom of officers and airmen at the Air Force Association’s 2019 Air, Space & Cyber Conference on Sept. 17, 2019, Goldfein said he will launch an initiative Sept. 21, 2019, requiring officers in command billets to be in shape.

“If you are a commander in the United States Air Force, you are fit. There is no other discussion,” he said.

According to recently published Defense Department data, the Air Force has the second-highest percentage of obese troops, following the Navy. Some 18% of all airmen are obese, according to the most recent Health of the DoD Force report.


Goldfein didn’t provide specifics on his plan, but the initiative is part of an ongoing overhaul of Air Force fitness, designed to ensure that service members are fit without the current emphasis on the physical fitness assessment.

The awkward truth about military spouses and their service

Air Force Maj. Michael Bliss, 703d Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Wes Wright)

He will underline his expectations by running the Air Force Half-Marathon at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, on Saturday, a race for which Goldfein said he’s spent three months training and plans to complete. But “you can clock me … with a calendar,” he quipped.

“The point is … I don’t know when I am going to task [commanders] to deploy to Djibouti or Estonia or somewhere in the Pacific and expect you to perform the functions of an expeditionary commander in 120-degree heat or 30 below zero. I just know this: [That] is not the time to start your fitness program,” Goldfein said.

Squadron commanders, he added, will have an additional requirement: Unit fitness will be among the elements they will be graded on as part of a successful command tour.

“There are five elements of a command tour. It’s mission, culture, fitness, family and fun, and fitness is key. … We are going to do this from the top down,” Goldfein said.

The awkward truth about military spouses and their service

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chad Trujillo)

The Air Force is reviewing its physical fitness program with an aim to ensure that airmen sustain fitness throughout the year, instead of simply focusing their efforts on the semi-annual physical fitness assessment.

Among the ideas being considered are randomized testing, a longer time between tests for the superfit, and measures to reduce anxiety around test time.

Speaking alongside Goldfein, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright said the goal is to promote a culture of fitness across the force — a standard he said will improve readiness across-the-board.

“I wish all of us as the Air Force would spend more time throughout the year talking about health, fitness, nutrition and sleep than the time we spend on the test,” he said.

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

Articles

This awesome sea story explains why blue falcons get absolutely no love

Blue falcons—buddy f-ckers for the uninitiated—are a permanent fixture of military life. There are usually a couple in every unit who are out for themselves while messing it up for the rest. You know who they are; they never show up to watch on time, they call you out in front of superiors to make themselves look better, and they never cut you any slack during a PT test.


Related: The 7 biggest ‘Blue Falcons’ in US Military history

While blue falcons are bent on passing the blame and taking the credit, they forget that NCOs can spot them a mile away. Case in point is this awesome sea story we found on reddit by LaserSailor760. The lesson learned: no one likes a buddy f-cker, not even superiors.

(The reddit post has been lightly edited for grammar.)

MA assigned to Harbor Patrol here. I got ratted out once for fishing from the back of the patrol boat while doing harbor checks. Got hauled in to see the Senior Chief and wouldn’t sign or make any statements implicating anyone else on my crew (I was the coxswain and POIC) so Senior decided that I needed some extra duties as punishment.

A major local holiday was coming up, celebrating the day US forces liberated the locals during WW2. We had to send a boat up to a local harbor and standby all night in order to have an escape route for the Admiral in case Osama Bin Laden showed up or some sh-t. I was kinda upset about it because it was supposed to be my weekend, but I figured I was getting off light, so whatever.

When my crew and I pulled the boat into the marina, the whole place was basically a block party. We hung out with the locals, ate a ton of awesome BBQ and they all laughed that this was our ‘punishment’.

After securing the boat and turning over the watch to the next crew at 0000, I went back to base for some sleep, because part two of my punishment started at 0700.

Part two was getting into my dress whites and marching in the Liberation Day parade. It was about a 3 mile march, which ended at an even bigger party. Having been dismissed, I hung out at the party and again chatted with locals, ate awesome BBQ, and proceeded to get completely hammered, without paying a dime.

A few weeks later Senior asked if I learned my lesson. I said yes I did and wouldn’t slack off on duty.

Senior, said “No, I mean the lesson about standing up for your guys,” winked at me and walked away.

Best Senior Chief, ever.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Montenegro wants to know why Serbia is sheltering coup suspect

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Montenegro has summoned the Serbian ambassador to Podgorica after a suspect on trial over a failed 2016 coup attempt fled to Serbia’s Embassy to avoid detention.

Montenegro’s Foreign Ministry said it requested Serbia’s official position on the matter on Nov. 26, 2018, three days after Branka Milic walked out of the courtroom during a hearing, complaining that her rights had been violated.

Podgorica’s High Court ordered Milic detained, but the accused later surfaced at the Serbian Embassy.


The Montenegrin Foreign Ministry’s statement said Serbian Ambassador Zoran Bingulac confirmed Milic was at the embassy and that Serbia was “aware of the legal procedure and the necessary obligations.”

Milic’s defense lawyer, Jugoslav Krpovic, urged authorities to provide guarantees that the “psychological violence” against her client ends.

“She didn’t escape from the trial. She escaped from abuse” by the court, Krpovic said.

Milic, who holds Serbian citizenship, was detained in October 2017.

She is among 14 suspects on trial for plotting to overthrow Montenegro’s government in October 2016.

Montenegrin authorities say Serbian and Russian nationalists plotted to occupy parliament during parliamentary elections, assassinate then-Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, and install a pro-Russian leadership to prevent the small Balkan nation’s bid to join NATO.

The awkward truth about military spouses and their service

Milo Djukanovic.

The authorities accuse two Russian GRU military intelligence officers of organizing the failed coup plot.

The investigative group Bellingcat and Russian website The Insider said they had identified the two GRU officers allegedly involved.

Moscow denies involvement, however.

Montenegro in June 2017 became the 29th member of NATO, a step that was bitterly criticized by Russia and opposed by some Montenegrins who advocate closer ties with Moscow.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is how the Air Force plans to ‘sail’ its airmen through space

Sun Tzu advised in The Art of War, “When the enemy occupies high ground, do not confront him.”


This is why, since the advent of flight, all battlefield commanders have sought to control the airspace above the battlefield – the “ground” above the high ground.

Control of the airspace grants its occupant a clearer view of an enemy’s movements, better communications with friendly forces and the freedom to move quickly and unpredictably to attack downhill well behind the enemy’s front lines.

Forces on land, at sea and in the air all reap the advantages of the establishment of air superiority – the keystone to victories from World War II to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Just as important, occupying that high ground denies those same advantages to the enemy.

Research into lasers may offer advancement in propulsion technology to get us into deep space and beyond for a fraction of the cost. The geniuses at the Air Force Research Laboratory are developing multiple ways to utilize laser power to enhance weapons, mining in space and electrolyze water.

In peacetime, maintaining air superiority provides a deterrent to those potential adversaries who heed the warning of Sun Tzu.

That is why the Air Force and its researchers are constantly looking far beyond the horizon of the current battlefield to develop new technologies enabling access to the highest ground possible – space.

Even before the Soviet Union successfully launched the first satellite, Sputnik, into orbit in October 1957, the United States was developing its own top-secret satellites to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) of potential adversaries – Project Corona.

While Sputnik was little more than a beeping aluminum ball orbiting the Earth, it was an undeniable Soviet flag planted on the global high ground. The U.S. government knew that ceding that high ground greatly increased the chances of defeat should the Cold War with the Soviet Union turn hot.

Vice-President Lyndon Johnson, who oversaw the fledgling National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), firmly acknowledged the national security benefits of advancing the peaceful exploration of space in 1963.

“I, for one, don’t want to go to bed by the light of a Communist moon,” said Johnson.

The awkward truth about military spouses and their service
Today, the Air Force operates the largest GPS constellation in history with more than 30 satellites. Originally developed and implemented as a military navigation system, today we share it with the rest of the world while still relying on it for a variety of tasks from guiding precision weapons to delivering humanitarian supplies on the other side of the planet. (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Maureen Stewart)

To this day the U.S. Air Force has remained at the forefront of pushing farther into space, from launching communications and Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites to providing astronaut Airmen who first ventured into Earth orbit during Project Mercury, walked on the Moon during Project Apollo to Col. Jack D. Fischer currently aboard the International Space Station.

It is a legacy that surrounds and drives Dr. Wellesley Pereira, a senior research physical scientist with the Air Force Research Lab’s (AFRL) Space Vehicles Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.

The very site at which Pereira conducts his research is named for an Airman who led the charge to put an American on the Moon.

The awkward truth about military spouses and their service
Col. Buzz Aldrin was one of the first two humans to land on the Moon, and the second person to walk on it. (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Maureen Stewart)

The Phillips Research Site is named for Air Force Gen. Samuel Phillips, who served as Director of NASA’s Apollo manned lunar landing program from 1964 to 1969. That program culminated in the first humans, Neil Armstrong and then Air Force Lt. Col. Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, landing on the moon in 1969 as Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Collins piloted the Apollo 11 Command Module overhead. It was the kind of aggressive manned exploration of space that Pereira would not only like to see continue, but accelerate.

“The Air Force and its Airmen are seen as trendsetters, as in the case with GPS, benefiting all humanity, or with technologically-inspired precision airdrops from 30,000 feet of lifesaving supplies during humanitarian crises,” said Pereira. “In doing this the Air Force establishes itself as a global power in which it does not cede higher ground to anyone… It pays dividends to be at the leading edge of that technology as opposed to playing catch up all the time. The Air Force can really send a very positive message by being that trendsetter in space.”

The awkward truth about military spouses and their service
The Joint Precision Airdrop System (JPADS) is an American military airdrop system which uses the GPS, steerable parachutes, and an onboard computer to steer loads to a designated point of impact (PI) on a drop zone (DZ). (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Maureen Stewart)

Pereira is currently researching infrared physics and hyper-spectral imaging as a means to provide ISR data over a wide range of light not visible to the human eye.

“We simulate cloud scenes viewed from spacecraft,” said Pereira. ” (Examining) all the aspects that affect an image from space like the artifacts caused by movement in the space platform; trying to process signals, trying to process information. We try to simulate these things in our lab just to understand spacecraft processes and how we can deal with this in post-processing.”

Pereira’s current position at AFRL as a research scientist coupled with a background in astronomy, physics and space research gives him the opportunity to think deeply about space and human space flight.

“As a research scientist, I’ve been involved in building payloads for the Air Force on satellites,” said Pereira. “This has led me to think about satellites in general; launch, orbits, moving in and out of orbits, the mechanics of orbits and the optimization of orbits.”

Those contemplations have led Pereira to envision an Air Force of the future that will propel its assets and Airmen to increasingly higher ground in space in a cost-effective way that combines technology old and new – sails and lasers.

“Up until now, we’ve been using chemical propulsion to get into space. Chemical propulsion is limited in what it can do for us in the future. We cannot go very far. We have to take resources from the Earth into space, which is a big issue considering we only can carry so much mass, we only have so much power, and so on. It is limited by chemical bond, but it is also limited by size, weight, power,” said Pereira.

The awkward truth about military spouses and their service
Description Here (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Maureen Stewart)

The concept of solar sails has existed for quite a while. A solar sail uses photons, or energy from the sun to propel a spacecraft. Photons have energy and momentum. That energy transfers to a sail upon impact, pushing the sail and spacecraft to which it is attached, farther into space, according to Pereira.

“The Japanese have already proven that we can fly stuff with a solar sail. In 2010, they sent up an experiment called IKAROS, Interplanetary Kite-raft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun. This was a very successful project,” said Pereira.

“In the same vein as solar sails, futurists have also thought about laser sails. I think this is an area where the Air Force can develop an ability for us to propel spacecraft farther using lasers, either in the form of laser arrays on Earth or taking a laser array and putting it on the moon, to propel spacecraft without the cost of lifting spacecraft and chemical propellant from the Earth’s surface.”

In the near future, Pereira sees this method as a cost-effective way the Air Force can lift satellites into higher Earth orbit.

“You have spacecraft go into orbits that are just about 300 to 600 kilometers above the Earth. We call those Low Earth Orbits or LEO. Likewise, you have orbits that could be about 36,000 to 40,000 kilometers above the Earth. We call them Geostationary Earth Orbits or GEO orbits. Many communications satellites, as well as, a few other satellites are in Geostationary orbit…the way of the future, would be to use laser based arrays, instead of chemical propulsion, to fire at a satellite’s sail to push it to a higher orbit,” said Pereira.

“Our goal is to try and minimize taking resources from earth to space. We can literally just launch a rocket using a catapult that could boost to about 100 meters per second and, once we get it to a certain altitude, we can have an array of lasers focus on the sail on the rocket, propel it out farther, whether it’s intended for a LEO orbit or whether it’s intended for a GEO orbit. As long as you can build material that can endure the laser energy without tearing, I think this is a far cheaper way to go and it could save the Air Force a lot of money.”

According to Pereira, developing this technology would naturally lead to the ability to propel spacecraft carrying Airmen farther into the solar system where they could establish self-sustaining outposts on ever higher ground.

The awkward truth about military spouses and their service
NASA’s Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, the MPCV, is essentially a spacecraft designed to take astronauts farther than any human has ever gone before. (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Maureen Stewart)

“NASA’s Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, the MPCV, is essentially a spacecraft designed to take astronauts farther than any human has ever gone before. One test flight concept is to visit an asteroid called 1999 AO10, in around 2025,” said Pereira. “This asteroid does not have a lot of gravity and not a lot of surface area, so rather than walking on the asteroid, the idea is for the spacecraft to connect itself to the asteroid, and for the astronauts to do spacewalks to mine materials, so that they can bring them back to Earth for analysis.”

Past and current Air Force research during manned space flight has led to increased understanding of human physiological response to microgravity and exposure to radiation, development of life support systems, nutritious food packaging, sophisticated positioning, navigation and timing software and systems that could one day enable Airmen to routinely fly to and mine asteroids and planetary moons for needed resources.

Pereira also sees Air Force cooperation with commercial companies developing space flight technologies as a benefit to both, from developing suborbital space planes, manned capsules and space waypoints, or “hotels”, to projects as ambitious as Breakthrough Starshot, a proposed mission to send a microchip all the way to Proxima B, an exo-planet orbiting the star Proxima Centauri, and transmit data back to Earth.

“They want to do this at about 20 percent of the speed of light, meaning it will take five times as long as it would take light to travel between the Earth and Proxima Centauri, approximately four light years away. So it could take only about 20 years for this chip to get to Proxima Centauri. Then if it beams images back at the speed of light, it would take another four years for that data to come back. In about 24 years, we would get data from Proxima Centauri, our nearest star,” said Pereira.

The awkward truth about military spouses and their service
To this day the U.S. Air Force has remained at the forefront of pushing farther into space, from launching communications and Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites to providing astronaut Airmen who first ventured into Earth orbit, walked on the Moon and are currently aboard the International Space Station. The future holds promises of laser-based sails and self-sustained space outposts. (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Maureen Stewart)

Pereira believes that the Air Force participating in such ventures into the space domain could lead to technologies that could send Airmen to the moons of outer planets in our solar system within a person’s lifetime, benefiting the human race and keeping the Air Force firmly atop the high ground.

“First and foremost, Airmen, as many times in the past, can serve in the capacity of professional astronauts: providing services in scouting and setting up breakthrough scientific missions, establishing colonies for repair and mining in order to reduce or avoid having to take materials from Earth to space…enabling safe pathways, providing in-flight maintenance, refueling crews, more effectively than machines might be able to do.”

“There are so many wonderful things about space that are so fascinating that we can explore and learn so much more if we just keep that aspect of space exploration going. We can achieve this by having our Airmen lead the way to an era of exploration enabled by human space flight.”

Lists

The 5 fighter aircraft of the US Air Force

The Air Force has a different kind of plane for every task, but its fighter jets are often its most visible aircraft, carrying out a variety of missions over any kind of terrain.

The first F-15 arrived in the early 1970s, and the highly advanced (though technically troubled) F-35 came online in the past few years. In that period, the Air Force’s fighters have operated all over the world, adapting to new challenges in order to dominate the battlefield and control the skies.


Below, you can see each of the fighter jets the Air Force has in service:

1. F-15 Eagle

The awkward truth about military spouses and their service
First Lt. Charles Schuck fires an AIM-7 Sparrow medium range air-to-air missile from an F-15 Eagle here while supporting a Combat Archer air-to-air weapons system evaluation program mission.
(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Michael Ammons)

The F-15 is an all-weather, highly maneuverable tactical fighter designed to gain and maintain air superiority over the battlefield. It first became operational in 1975 and has been the Air Force’s primary fighter jet and intercept platform for decades.

The awkward truth about military spouses and their service
An F-15 Eagle from the 142nd Fighter Wing takes off from Portland Air National Guard Base in Oregon during an operational-readiness inspection.
(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Hughel)

The F-15’s superior maneuverability and acceleration are achieved through high engine thrust-to-weight ratio and low wing loading, or the ratio of aircraft weight to its wing area. Combined with the high thrust-to-weight ratio, low wing loading lets the aircraft turn tightly without losing airspeed.

The F-15’s multimission avionics system includes the pilot’s head-up display, which projects all essential flight information gathered by the integrated avionics system onto the windscreen. This display allows the pilot to track and destroy an enemy aircraft without having to look down at cockpit instruments.

2. F-15E Strike Eagle

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An F-15E Strike Eagle over Afghanistan. The F-15E’s primary role in Afghanistan is providing close-air support for ground troops.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon)

The F-15E Strike Eagle is a two-seat variant of the F-15 Eagle that became operational in late 1989. It is a dual-role fighter designed for air-to-air and air-to-ground missions.

It can operate day or night, at low altitude, and in all weather conditions, thanks to an array of avionics and electronics systems.

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An F-15E dropping a bomb.
(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

“One of the most important additions to the F-15E is the rear cockpit, and the weapons systems officer,” the Air Force says. “On four screens, this officer can display information from the radar, electronic warfare or infrared sensors, monitor aircraft or weapons status and possible threats, select targets, and use an electronic ‘moving map’ to navigate.”

3. F-16 Fighting Falcon

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An F-16 Fighting Falcon from the Arizona Air National Guard’s 162nd Wing, April 8, 2015.
(U.S. Air Force photo)

The F-16 is a compact, multirole fighter that first became operational in early 1979. It has all-weather operating capability and better maneuverability and combat radius against potential adversaries.

There are more than 1,000 in service, and it is able to fulfill a number of roles, including air-to-air combat, ground attack, and electronic warfare.

The awkward truth about military spouses and their service
An F-16 pilot over Iraq can been seen wearing a Santa hat during a Christmas Day operation, December 25, 2016.
(U.S. Defense Department photo)

“It provides a relatively low-cost, high-performance weapon system for the United States and allied nations,” the Air Force says.

4. F-22 Raptor

The awkward truth about military spouses and their service
A US Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter aircraft over Alaska after refueling January 5, 2013.
(U.S. Air Force photo)

The F-22, introduced in late 2005, is considered the US Air Force’s first 5th-generation fighter. It’s low-observable technology gives it an advantage over air-to-air and surface-to-air threats.

The awkward truth about military spouses and their service
(Photo by Todd Miller)

“The F-22 … is designed to project air dominance, rapidly and at great distances and defeat threats attempting to deny access to our nation’s Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps,” the Air Force says.

5. F-35A Lightning II

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The first F-35A Lightning II to land at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, arrives Sept. 13, 2013.
(U.S. Air Force photo)

The F-35A is the most recent addition to the Air Force’s fighter ranks. Variants are being built for the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy.

It’s designed to replace aging fighter and attack platforms, including the A-10 Thunderbolt and F-16.

The awkward truth about military spouses and their service
The first external-weapons test mission flown by an F-35A Conventional Takeoff and Landing aircraft, at Edwards Air Force Base, California, February 16, 2012.
(Lockheed Martin photo)

F-35s have been introduced to some air forces, but the program is still in development in the US and continues to face challenges.

The Pentagon said in April 2018 that it would stop accepting most deliveries of the jet from Lockheed Martin because of a dispute over which party was responsible for the cost of a production error found in 2017.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

US, UK, and Israeli F-35s join forces in Exercise Tri-Lightning

F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft from the U.S, United Kingdom, and Israel participated in Exercise Tri-Lightning over the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, June 25, 2019.

Exercise Tri-Lightning was a one-day defensive counter air exercise involving friendly and adversary aircraft from the three participating countries and consisted of active and passive air defense operations.

This exercise is a demonstration of the interoperability between the U.S., U.K., and Israel using the F-35A, F-35B, and F-35I respectively.


“We build capacity with our strategic partners to harness our air component’s capabilities and skills,” said Lt. Gen. Joseph Guastella, U.S. Air Forces Central Command commander. “The transatlantic strategic relationship between the U.S. and our allies and partners has been forged over the past seven decades and is built on a foundation of shared values, experience and vision.”

The awkward truth about military spouses and their service

A U.S. Air Force pilot from the 4th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron enters the cockpit of a F-35A Lightning II before Exercise Tri-Lightning June 25, 2019, at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Thornbury)

The U.S. Air Force F-35As flew from Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, the Royal Air Force F-35Bs flew from RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, and the Israeli Air Force F-35Is flew from Nevatim Air Base, Israel.

“Tri-Lightning was an exercise which had been planned for months and it provided an outstanding opportunity for the squadron to operate and learn from our fellow F-35 community,” said U.K. Wing Commander John Butcher, Squadron 617 commanding officer. “In addition it allowed us to share and gain valuable experience that we will be able to exploit during future training and potentially operational deployments, whether embedded on the Queen Elizabeth or from overseas air bases.”

The awkward truth about military spouses and their service

An F-35A Lightning II from the 4th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron taxis the runway at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, before Exercise Tri-Lightning June 25, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Thornbury)

The F-35s from the three nations played as primary friendly, or blue, force players in this exercise while a variety of other aircraft played the aggressor roles, simulating realistic combat situations between the advanced F-35s and previous generation fighters.

“The exercise today reflects the close cooperation between the participating nations, said Brig. Gen. Amnon Ein-Dar, Israel Chief of Air Staff. “This training opportunity between Israel, the U.S. and Britain, strengthens shared capabilities and overall cooperation amongst allies.”

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The ‘ribbon gun’ inventor answers our top questions

So, we wrote about that “four-barrel” rifle last week and posed a few questions to the inventor, Martin Grier, in an email. He got back to us that day with our initial query and has now responded to some more of the questions we posited in the original article. His answers make us even more excited about the weapon’s promise, assuming that everything holds true through testing in Army labs and the field.


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The FD Munitions L5 rifle prototype has five bores and few moving parts. The Army has requested a four-bore version for testing.

(YouTube/FD Munitions)

First, a bit of terminology. The weapon is a rifle. Most people have described it as having four barrels, but it’s really a barrel with four bores (the original prototype had five). The inventor prefers to call it a “ribbon gun,” which we’ll go ahead and use from here on out.

Just be aware that “ribbon gun” means a firearm with multiple bores that can fire multiple multiple rounds per trigger squeeze or one round at a time. The bullets are spinning as they exit the weapon, stabilizing them in flight like shots from a conventional rifle.

If you haven’t read our original article on the weapon, that might help you get caught up. It’s available at this link.

So, some of our major questions about the rifle were how the design, if adopted, would affect an infantryman’s combat load, their effective rate of fire, and how the rounds affect each other in flight when fired in bursts. We’re going to take on those topics one at a time, below.

Weight

How much weight would an infantryman be carrying if equipped with the new weapon? Grier says it should be very similar, as the charge blocks which hold the ammunition are actually very light

“In practice, Charge Block ammo, shot-for-shot, is roughly equivalent to conventional cartridge ammo,” he said, “depending on which caliber it’s compared to. It’s lighter than 7.62 and slightly heavier than 5.56. It outperforms both.”

Since the weapon fires 6mm rounds, that means the per-shot weight is right where you would expect with conventional rounds. The prototype weapon weighs 6.5 pounds. That’s less than an M16 and right on for the base M4.

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The L4m ammo blocks feature four firing chambers and their rounds, stacked vertically. The blocks can clip together in stacks and be loaded quickly. Excess blocks able to be snapped off and returned to the shooter’s pouch easily.

(Copyright FD Munitions, reprinted with permission)

And those blocks of ammo provide a lot of benefits since they can withstand 80,000 PSI. That lets designers opt for higher muzzle velocities if they wish, extending range and increasing lethality. For comparison, the M4 and M16 put out about 52,000 PSI of chamber pressure.

Even better, the blocks snap together and can be loaded as a partial stack. So, if you fire six blocks and want to reload, there’s no need to empty the rifle. Just pull the load knob and shove in your spare stack. The weapon will accept six blocks, and you can snap off the spares and put them back into your pouch.

Rate of fire

But what about effective rates of fire?

Well, the biggest hindrance on a rifle’s effective rate of fire is the heat buildup. Grier says that’s been taken care of, thanks to the materials used in the barrel as well as the fact that each chamber is only used once per block.

“In the L4, … the chamber is integral with the Charge Block,” he said. “Every four shots, the Block is ejected, along with its heat, and a new, cold one takes its place. The barrel is constructed with a thin, hard-alloy core, and a light-alloy outer casing that acts as a finned heat sink. In continuous operation, the barrel will reach an elevated temperature, then stabilize (like a piston engine). Each bore in the L4 carries only a 25 percent duty cycle, spreading the heat load and quadrupling barrel life.”

FD Munitions expects that the military version of the L4 would have a stabilized temperature during sustained fire somewhere around 300-400 degrees Fahrenheit, but they took pains to clarify that it’s a projected data point. They have not yet tested any version of the weapon at those fire rates.

But, if it holds up, that beats the M16 during 1975 Army tests by hundreds of degrees. The M16 barrels reached temperatures of over 600 degrees while firing 10 rounds per minute. At 60-120 rounds per minute, the barrels reached temperatures of over 1,000 degrees. That’s a big part of why the military tells troops to hold their fire to 15 rounds per minute or less, except in emergencies.

All of this combines to allow an effective rate of fire somewhere between 60 and 100 shots per minute. That’s about five times more rounds per minute than a M4 or M16 can sustain. And that’s important; paratroopers in a 2008 battle died as their weapons malfunctioned. One soldier had three M4s fail while he was firing at an average rate of 14 rounds per minute.

The awkward truth about military spouses and their service

The guts of the weapon feature very few moving parts, a trait that should reduce the likelihood of failures in the field.

(YouTube/FD Munitions)

Do rounds affect one another mid-flight?

Sweet, so the combat load won’t be too heavy, and the weapon can spit rounds fast AF. But, if rounds are fired in volleys or bursts, will they affect each other in flight, widening the shot group?

Grier says the rounds fly close together, but have very little effect on each other in flight, remaining accurate even if you’re firing all four rounds at once.

And, four rounds at once has a special bonus when shot against ceramic armor, designed for a maximum of three hits.

“The projectiles do not affect each other in flight,” he said. “Even when fired simultaneously, tiny variations in timing because of chemical reaction rates, striker spring resonances, field decay rates, electric conductor lengths etc., ensure that the projectiles will be spaced out slightly in time along the line of sight. The side effect is that the impacts will be likewise consecutive, defeating even the best ceramic body armor.”

Meanwhile, for single shot mode, each bore can be independently zeroed when combined with an active-reticle scope. With standard mechanical sights, Grier recommends zeroing to one of the inside bores, ensuring rounds from any bore will land close to your zeroed point of impact.

Some other concerns that have arisen are things like battery life, which Grier thinks will be a non-issue in the military version. It’s expected to pack a gas-operated Faraday generator that not only can power the rifle indefinitely, but can provide juice for attachments like night vision scopes or range finders.

There’s also the question of malfunctions, which can happen in any weapon. Failure to fire will be of little consequence since you’re going to eject that chamber quickly anyway. If a barrel becomes inoperable due to some sort of fault, the fire control can simply skip that barrel, allowing the shooter to still fire 75, 50, or 25 percent of their rounds, depending on how many barrels are affected.

So, if everything goes well, this weapon could shift the balance of power when the U.S. goes squad vs. squad against other militaries. Here’s hoping the final product lives up to the hype and makes it into the hands of service members.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US airstrikes kill Russian military contractors in Syria

U.S. airstrikes, in response to what it called an “unprovoked attack,” killed around 100 people in Syria in February according to the Pentagon, but a new report from Bloomberg says that number may be as many as 300, and that they were Russian mercenaries.


If true, the battle may mark the deadliest encounter between the Cold War rivals in decades.

While the Kremlin has declined to comment, and no independent party has yet verified the reports, U.S. and Russian aligned forces have fought on opposite sides of the Syrian conflict and in close proximity for years.

If the U.S. did kill Russian military contractors, it falls short of killing official Russian service members, which could escalate into a larger war.

The awkward truth about military spouses and their service
Syrian Arab trainees await commands from an instructor at a Syrian Democratic Forces’ rifle marksmanship range in Northern Syria, July 31, 2017. Small arms and ammunition represent the majority of support from Coalition Forces to the SDF, the most capable and reliable force in Syria currently making daily gains to reclaim Raqqah from the hold of ISIS. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mitchell Ryan)

But the loss of Russians in Syria may still blacken the image of the Kremlin’s intervention in the six-year civil war, which it portrays as peacekeeping and inexpensive.

Russian media said Russian private contractors and pro-government forces advanced on oil fields in the eastern Deir el-Zour province and were targeted by the United States.

“Pro-regime forces initiated what appeared to be a coordinated attack on Syrian Democratic Forces east of the Euphrates river,” Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said in a statement, referring to the SDF, which the U.S. has trained, equipped, and backed for years.

The river acts as a border between the coalition and Russian and Syrian forces, and the Pentagon also described the SDF location as well-known, and that therefore the attack wasn’t a mistake.

Syrian regime forces launched a coordinated attack that included about 500 regime troops, 122mm howitzers, tanks and multiple launch rocket systems on the U.S.-backed SDF headquarters in Deir al-Zor province approximately five miles east of the Euphrates River.

Also Read: US troops make pro-Assad forces pay for attack on American allies

Regime forces operating Russian-made T-55 and T-72 tanks fired 20-30 tank rounds within 500 feet of the SDF base, where some U.S. troops were embedded, according to Pentagon press secretary Dana W. White.

The U.S.-led coalition responded with “AC-130 gunships, F-15s, F-22s, Army Apache helicopter gunships and Marine Corps artillery,” according to Fox News reporter Lucas Tomlinson.

The Pentagon said that the attack wounded only one SDF soldier.  Days later, a U.S. jet destroyed a Russian-made T-72 battle tank that had fired on U.S. and SDF forces, the Pentagon told Business Insider.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Britain planned a fake invasion of Norway in WWII

During World War II, the Allies, especially Britain, worked hard to convince Germany that every attack it saw was a feint and that every shadow in its vision was another Allied army coming to crush it. These deception operations led to the creation of an entire, fake invasion of Norway that was supposed to keep German defenders away from Normandy on D-Day.


The awkward truth about military spouses and their service

Norwegian soldiers on the Narvik front in World War II.

(Norway)

The overall deception operation was known as Operation Bodyguard, a reference to a speech by Prime Minister Winston Churchill that said Truth was too precious and fragile to go anywhere without a Bodyguard of Lies. And when it came to D-Day, Bodyguard was on steroids.

To understand how deception operations worked for D-Day, it’s important to understand that the actual landings at Normandy weren’t necessarily logical. The Normandy landings took no deepwater port, and the terrain in the area forced the Allied invaders to fight through thousands of hedgerows to break out into the rest of France. Even after that, it was over 600 miles from there to Berlin, and the bulk of that was through German homeland.

So, while the D-Day landings of Operation Neptune were successful and Germany lost the war, it wasn’t the easiest or, arguably, even the most logical course of action. After all, there were two succulent nuts that would be easier to crack than Normandy.

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German troops in the Balkans in 1941.

(Bundesarchiv Bild, CC BY-SA 3.0)

The first and likely the easiest 1944 target for the Allies would’ve been an invasion into the Balkans, the soft underbelly of Europe. Allied troops were already holding the lowest third of Italy, all of North Africa, and Turkey, so they had plenty of places to invade from. And taking the Balkans from Hitler would’ve robbed him of much of his oil, copper, and bauxite, among other materials.

But another juicy target was Norway. Norway had been captured by Germany early in the war because Hitler knew that he needed a large Atlantic coastline to prevent his navy being bottled up in the Baltic and North seas like it had in World War I. And, the German presence in Norway helped keep Sweden neutral and amenable. If Norway fell, Sweden might allow Allied forces in its borders or, worse, join the alliance itself.

From Sweden or Norway, the Allies could easily bomb northern German factories and take back Denmark. And an invasion through Denmark would put the Allied forces less than 450 miles from Berlin, and only half of that path would be through German home territory.

And so Allied strategists played up the possibility of a Norway invasion, seeking to keep as many German units as possible deployed there to make the actual landings in France much easier.

The awkward truth about military spouses and their service

Danish troops during Germany’s invasion in 1940.

(Public domain)

This led to Operation Mespot, a coordinated plan to move troops, create false planning documents, and pass fake intelligence that would indicate an invasion into Norway, through friendly Sweden, and into Denmark in the summer of 1944, right as the actual D-Day invasions were taking place. According to the Mespot deception, the D-Day landings were the feint to draw German defenders from real invasions in the Baltics.

The part that related directly to an invasion of Norway was Operation Fortitude North, and it called for a British and American landing in the North. There, the forces would link up with Russian soldiers and press south. In order to sell this subterfuge, Britain ordered dozens of double agents from Germany to report on the movements of the “4th Army,” a fake organization that would be a major force in the invasion.

The 4th Army was supposedly training in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and the frequent reports to German intelligence hooked the military leadership. Germany created an entire order of battle that they thought was headed against them. They suspected the British 4th Army, the 52nd Lowland Division from Scotland, and the American XV Corps.

Those second two units were real, and the 52nd had actually been training for a potential invasion of Norway. So Germany wasn’t completely crazy.

The awkward truth about military spouses and their service

The British 4th Army was a field army in World War I, and military deception planners revived the unit in World War II on paper in order to create fake units to deceive German defenders.

(Imperial War Museum)

The American troops were supposedly talkative, and German agents were told stories of another infantry division and three Ranger battalions training in Iceland. German double agents there were told to verify this false intelligence, and they did. In the end, Germany thought 79 divisions were training in England for invasions when there were only 52, and they believed that the main target might be Norway.

Since Hitler was already obsessed with a Baltic invasion, all of this intel fed into his fears and demanded a response. And so one was given. 464,000 German troops were held in Norway to fight off an Allied invasion. While many would have been there regardless, 150,000 were otherwise “surplus” troops who likely would’ve been sent to France to combat the landings if Germany had known Norway was relatively safe.

There was also a Panzer division and 1,500 coastal defense guns, many of which could have been moved if Germany had better intelligence.

The awkward truth about military spouses and their service

British forces land on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

(Sgt. Mapham J, No. 5 Army Film Photographic Unit)

All of this had a real effect for Allied troops on the French beaches. Combined with the success of the famous Ghost Army, deception operations towards the Balkans, and German missteps, the D-Day landings faced much less resistance than they otherwise would have.

While Germany was defending Normandy, Denmark, and Greece, it was getting pummeled in France.

MIGHTY SPORTS

The mathematical reason NFL teams need to be aggressive on 4th down

Ask any military historian: Tactical aggression is a game changer. Throughout history, forces who were more aggressive in combat saw a lot more success compared their predecessors. Ulysses S. Grant’s determination to take the war to the Confederates led to a win for the Union in the Civil War. When Maj. Gen. Lloyd Fredenhall was soundly beaten by the aggressive Nazi Afrika Corps in Tunisia, he was replaced by the famously aggressive George S. Patton, who saw resounding success. The U.S. strategy of building an overwhelming force to push Iraq out of Kuwait led to a decisive victory in a mere 40 days during the Gulf War.

In a game of strategy like NFL football, the same kind of aggression pays off.


For anyone who saw the Bengals-Chiefs game on Oct. 21, 2018, watching Cincinnati opt to take a field goal in the 3rd quarter while down by 30-plus points was a real head-scratcher. Why not risk the turnover when you’re running out of the time it takes to score the four touchdowns you need?

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Maybe you don’t know who their coach is.

That call — still a bad one — is one made over and over by conservative coaches, even in situations not quite as extreme as the one Cincinnati faced that Sunday night. If a team is facing a 4th down with 4 yards to go on their opponent’s 40 yard line, there’s a good chance they’ll still opt to punt the ball away.

They shouldn’t.

Well, maybe the Bengals always should. Anyway…

Kicking the ball, either for a punt or a field goal, is the safe choice. Whenever a team opts for the kick, fans and sportscasters alike praise the coach for making that decision. Economists and statisticians, on the other hand, lose their minds.

Why? Because there’s no real reason for a coach to be so conservative. Brian Burke, a former Naval aviator who used to fly the F-18C, is a nationally recognized expert on advanced sports analytics. Burke is currently an analyst for ESPN. In 2014, he published a study on Advanced Football Analytics that took a look at 4th-down decision making.

The longitudinal study assumes that coaches want to maximize the number of points they score while minimizing the number of points the other team scores. Then, it took thousands of real NFL plays on 4th down to calculate the potential value of each situation. Every down versus yardage situation has an “expected point” value and a value attached to the result of previous play, which affects the value of that play.

For example, the expected points value of a touchdown is actually 6.3 points because the opponent gets the ball back on the next play, whose value is .07. If you understand the value of the situation a team is in on 4th down, then you can find the statistically-driven decision the coach should make on that down.

If you don’t understand the math, don’t worry about it. People who do understand math created a handy graphic for the New York Times, based on Burke’s calculation. So we can look at the Bengals horrible performance in Kansas City a different way.

The horrible ball handling that led to the turnover aside, the Bengals tried for a fake punt on 4 and 9 from their own 37-yard-line with almost the entire second quarter remaining. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis tried a play that worked against the Chicago Bears in a preseason matchup. No matter how the ball was handled, the Times‘ 4th Down Bot says they should have punted it away.

Later in the game, with 6:20 left in the 3rd quarter and the Bengals down 28-7, Lewis opted to kick the field goal from the Kansas City 15-yard-line. Bengals fans everywhere were livid, given the score. While the the bot created by Burke’s formula and the New York Times doesn’t account for what to do in a blowout situation, Lewis made the mathematically correct call.

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Too bad math isn’t enough to make Bengals fans hate Marvin Lewis any less.

Looking at the 2018 season, let’s see if there’s a correlation between game-winning success and 4th down aggression.

As of week 7, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a staggering 4-4 when comes to first downs on 4th down — but their record is still a measly 3-3. That doesn’t correlate, but the teams with the next-highest percentages in 4th down conversions are the Saints (at 87.5 percent) and the Chiefs (at 80 percent). New Orleans and Kansas City are first in their respective divisions. Five of the ten most successfully aggressive teams on 4th down also lead in total yardage, points per game, and total points this season.

One caveat: the least successful on 4th down conversions are also the least successful teams so far this year. So… know your own limitations.