The answer is yes and no – but that’s a post for another time.
Many currently serving in the military or part of the veteran community felt equal parts excitement and curiosity about the Space Force’s way forward. After all, it’s something that was kicked around for months before any official announcement, which prompted ideas from current servicemembers about uniforms, rank names, and whether there would be a Space Shuttle Door Gunner.
Mulling over the organizational culture of a service that doesn’t exist yet is a good time to remind everyone the U.S. has a number of uniformed services that are oft-overlooked.
The U.S. Military has a great reputation among veterans.
1-5. The military branches
Since the Space Force exists only in our hearts and minds and not yet in uniforms, the existing five branches of the military make up the first five notches on this list. If you’re reading We Are The Mighty (or… if you’ve heard of things like “history”), you’ve probably heard of the Armed Forces of the United States: U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Air Force.
With the exception of the Coast Guard, which is directed by the Department of Homeland Security during times of peace, the big four are directed by the U.S. Department of Defense. For more information about the history, culture, and people in these branches, check out literally any page on this website.
Vice Admiral Jerome Adams, Surgeon General of the United States.
6. United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps
This uniformed division of the Public Health Service creates the beautiful utopia of a branch that doesn’t have enlisted people. Because it doesn’t. It consists only of commissioned officers and has zero enlisted ranks – but they do have warrant officers. While the PHS are labeled noncombatants, they can be lent to the Armed Services and they wear Navy or Coast Guard uniforms and hold Navy or Coast Guard ranks.
The U.S. PHS falls under the Department of Health and Human Services and its top officer is the Surgeon General, which is why they’re always wearing a uniform.
NOAA Corps pilots. Considering risk vs. reward, you 100 percent joined the wrong branch.
7. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps
Or simply called the “NOAA Corps,” as it falls under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The NOAA Corps also has no enlisted or warrant ranks and is comprised entirely of commissioned officers. It is also the smallest of all the uniformed services, with just 321 officers, 16 ships, and 10 aircraft, compared to the PHSCC’s 6,000 officers.
They serve alongside DoD, Merchant Marine, NASA, State Department, and other official agencies to support defense requirements and offer expertise on anything from meteorology to geology to oceanography and much, much more. The Corps is a rapid response force, shuttling experts where they need to be in quick succession while supporting peacetime research. They can be incorporated into the Armed Forces during times of war, and so wear Navy and Coast Guard uniforms and rank, by order of the President of the United States.
Hostage rescue is one of the most dangerous missions special operations troops can be assigned to.
One of the big reasons: You have to pull your punches, lest you accidentally kill the people you’re there to rescue. You have to be very stealthy, or you will be detected and the bad guys will kill the hostages. You must move quickly, or the bad guys will kill the hostages.
But it’s hard to find people who want to be in the middle of training for hostage rescue. The answer, according to one DoD release, may be to use robots.
Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians with the 27th Special Operations Wing conducted some hostage rescue training using the robots this past December – and some of it was caught on video:
Being promoted within the US military’s noncommissioned officer rank is a special occasion in a service member’s career, after which they are entrusted by their commanders to lead junior enlisted service members and are assigned more responsibilities.
One Marine marked the special occasion with what appeared to be his 3-year-old son.
In a video posted online last year, a newly minted Marine sergeant marches to the front of a formation for his promotion ceremony, standing at attention as a senior Marine reads out a commander’s order outlining his new responsibilities.
“As a sergeant of Marines, you must set the example for others to emulate,” the senior Marine says. “You are responsible for the accomplishment of your assigned mission, and for the safety, professional development, and well-being of the Marines of your charge.”
After the order was read out, a child approaches the formation and says, quietly, “good afternoon, gentlemen,” before the promoted Marine kneels so the child can remove his chevrons and pin on the emblems of his new rank.
The two share an embrace before the son scurries away.
American politics is a touchy subject, but voters from any party can easily observe how many veterans go into politics. Currently, the House of Representatives includes 76 military veterans; roughly a fifth of all members. Historically, veterans used to be even more active in Congress. So why are so many politicians vets, and what do they bring to the table that other candidates don’t?
The timing for vets to run for political office is perfect.
America loves our patriots, but it goes beyond that. The age at which people typically leave the military and pursue other careers lines up perfectly with the age requirements for elected officials. Some people know they’re going to pursue politics from the start. They start working in the field right out of college so that running for office becomes a natural career progression.
If you’re hoping to get into politics from a completely different field, however, it’s not that easy. Unless, that is, you’re a vet. Most Americans would be hard-pressed to make a major career change in their 30s. There are no guarantees in politics. You can work on a campaign for months and walk away without a job. It’s a big risk; too big for average Americans to justify.
Members of the military, on the other hand, often change careers in their 30s and 40s. Unlike the rest of the population, they’re free to explore new opportunities with fewer concerns about job security.
Why do so many vets move into politics in the first place?
The reasons for vets to become politicians are, for the most part, pretty self-explanatory. If you joined the military because you wanted to serve your country, getting elected to office provides another way for you to contribute.
While veterans can always volunteer instead, many are driven to serve their country in a more concrete way. By getting involved in government, they have the opportunity to make a difference for future members of the US Armed Forces, as well as the civilians they swore to protect.
Do veterans actually make better politicians?
Military experience isn’t an automatic qualifier for political office. Whether or not a veteran will make an exceptional politician depends on their motives. If they’re changing careers because they’re driven to serve- because they have strong views and strong values that they hope to share with their countrymen, that’s a good sign that they have political leadership potential.
If a candidate is just running for office to follow in their family’s footsteps, being a veteran won’t magically make them a worthy candidate. In that same vein, their military experience is only valuable if their motives for enlisting were pure. Enlisting just to advance their future political career is a shady move that undermines the values of the veterans who run for the right reasons.
That said, for veterans who are in it for the right reasons, their military experience can be a tremendous asset. The values of respect, discipline sacrifice, and dedication to a greater purpose can all make a person a better politician. Whether or not they put their military values to work in their policies is entirely up to them.
USS Freedom (LCS-1), the lead of the Freedom-class of littoral combat ships, brought some much-needed positive attention to the LCS in 2010 when it carried out a deployment in Southern Command’s area of operations. In just seven weeks, it made four drug busts while accomplishing a host of other missions.
It’s no secret that the development and deployment of the Littoral Combat Ship has been rife with problems. This big success was exactly what the class needed to secure an export order. Well, to be more specific, a modified version of the Freedom has found an international buyer.
According to a showing at the 2018 SeaAirSpace Expo, Lockheed Martin has been hard at work modifying and upgrading the Freedom-class LCS. Not only have they designed a guided-missile frigate based on this ship (which is to compete for selection via the Navy’s FFG(X) program), they also designed the Multi-Mission Surface Combatant (MMSC), which is, essentially, a frigate designed to serve as a general-purpose vessel.
The RIM-162D Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile is the primary anti-air armament of the Multi-Mission Surface Combatant.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Matthew J. Haran)
The MMSC maintains many of the same armaments as the Freedom-class LCS; it’s armed with a 57mm gun, RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missiles, and the ability to operate two MH-60 helicopters. The MMSC, however, brings more punch to the table. For starters, it’s armed with eight over-the-horizon anti-ship missiles, either RGM-84 Harpoons or Kongsberg NSMs.
Also on the MMSC: an eight-cell Mk 41 vertical-launch system. Each cell in this system holds up to four missiles, meaning the MMSC is armed with 32 RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles. This is a huge step up in air-defense capabilities. This plethora of missiles is joined by Mk 32 torpedo tubes for lightweight anti-sub weaponry, like the Mk 54 Lightweight Hybrid Torpedo or Mk 50 Barracuda.
USS Freedom (LCS 1) is the basis for Lockheed’s Multi-Mission Surface Combatant.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan Laird)
Currently, the MMSC has secured an export order with Saudi Arabia as part of a massive arms package that was worked out last year with the United States. Although this ship is impressive, it does drive us a little crazy that this is what the LCS could have been.
If you watched the White House press briefing on COVID-19 today, you might have wondered what the Coast Guard folks were doing on tv for a Presidential Address about a global pandemic. And then, upon further inspection of their uniforms and seeing the “USPHS” and a cross embroidered over the left breast pocket where it usually says, “U.S. Coast Guard,” you might have been wondering, “Who are these people and what do they do?”
Introducing the U.S. Public Health Service.
WATCH: Trump gives coronavirus update at White House
According to their website, “Overseen by the Surgeon General, the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps is a diverse team of more than 6,500 highly qualified, public health professionals. Driven by a passion to serve the underserved, these men and women fill essential public health leadership and clinical service roles with the Nation’s Federal Government agencies.
For more than 200 years, men and women have served on the front lines of our nation’s public health in what is today called the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service. The Commissioned Corps traces its beginnings back to the U.S. Marine Hospital Service protecting against the spread of disease from sailors returning from foreign ports and maintaining the health of immigrants entering the country. Currently, Commissioned Corps officers are involved in health care delivery to underserved and vulnerable populations, disease control and prevention, biomedical research, food and drug regulation, mental health and drug abuse services, and response efforts for natural and man-made disasters as an essential component of the largest public health program in the world.”
And, fun fact: they wear uniforms.
According to their site, “Few things inspire pride and esprit-de-corps more than the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) uniform. By wearing the uniform, Commissioned Corps officers display a profound respect for their country, their service, and themselves. Uniforms promote the visibility and credibility of the Commissioned Corps to the general public and the Nation’s underserved populations whom officers are devoted to serving.
The PHS uniform traces its roots back to 1871 when John Maynard Woodworth, the first supervising surgeon (now known as the Surgeon General), organized the service along military lines. The uniforms reflect the proud legacy and tradition of the more than 200-year-old service. Uniforms link today’s officers to their heritage and connect them to past officers. Since they represent the Commissioned Corps history and tradition, rigorous standards apply to wearing the uniform and every officer upholds those standards with pride.
Similar to the other services, the Commissioned Corps has several uniforms including the Service Dress Blues, Summer Whites, Service Khakis, and Operational Dress Uniform (ODU) Woodland Camouflage. Each uniform reflects the great responsibility and privilege that comes with being a commissioned officer.
U.S. Public Health Services Lt. Cmdr. Angelica Galindo, conducts a patient assessment at the Escuela Elemental Urbana in Cidra, Puerto Rico. U.S. Air Force photo/Larry E. Reid Jr.
So are they in the military?
Nope. They’re non-military uniformed service that is not trained in arms. But they are trained in health care. In fact, Corps officers serve in 15 careers in a wide range of specialties within Federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In total, Corps officers have duty stations in over 20 federal departments and agencies.
KOYUK, Alaska – United States Public Health Service Veterinarian Doctor Mary Anne Duncan examines one of two dogs owned by Koyuk residents. Duncan and USPHS Veterinarian Doctor Wanda Wilson walked through the community of 350 to examine 48 dogs and three cats. Coast Guard photo/Walter Shinn
But what do they actually do?
Careers are available in the areas of disease control and prevention; biomedical research; regulation of food, drugs, and medical devices; mental health and drug abuse; and health care delivery. USPHS has physicians, dentists, nurses, therapists, pharmacists, health services, environmental health, dietitians, engineers, veterinarians and scientists.
Quality. It’s what you expect from a product or service when you put cash on the table.
The majority of mobile games do not mesh well with a military lifestyle: You must be connected to the internet to play, you must purchase gems to access certain levels, there’s no auto-save, and microtransactions might as well be highway robbery. There are, however, some premium games from our childhood that are no longer PC exclusives that have found a home on iOS and Android.
The following list contains a selection of hand-picked games that are nostalgic, beautiful, require no internet connection, involved no microtransactions, and bring the quality you’d expect to come alongside a price tag. The reviews below are brutally honest because, well, if somebody’s going to pay good money, they should know the full value of their investment.
Hurry up and wait just got a whole lot more interesting.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic iOS iPad Gameplay Review – AppSpy.com
If you missed out on Knights of the Old Republic on the original Xbox or PC, this is the perfect chance to become familiar with this masterpiece. It is a mixes RPG and real-time elements that bring Jedi training to life. The story is, without a doubt, among the best in the Star Wars library and it’s genuinely fun.
The most noticeable weakness here are the graphics because it is a remake. However, you’ll get about 20-25 hours of unique playtime without doing the side quests. It’s worth the price tag.
Chrono Trigger iPhone Game Review – PocketGamer.co.uk
Chrono Trigger is another classic titan of the gaming industry that features a semi-turn based battle system, which is beneficial to the military lifestyle because we may have to pause or close the game at a moment’s notice. You will easily spend over 40 hours on this title and still play more. The battle system gets a little tricky towards the late stages of the game, but that’s because you have more options to destroy enemies and a larger party to manage.
This title’s weakness lies graphics, which are admittedly dated, but they inspire those nostalgic feels. The review below is brutal, but it’s there so you know exactly what you’re getting for your hard-earned money. If you care more about story and gameplay than graphics, then this is the game for you.
Baldur’s Gate is remake of the classic that was one of the pioneers of RPG gaming. The new mobile adaptation has had a facelift in regards to the user interface, making it much easier to play on a touchscreen than the PC original. There is additional DLC for purchase in the store, but it’s DLC in the classic sense, not a microtransaction. It’s a legit extension, like DLCs are supposed to be.
Baldur’s Gate reminds me how much video game developers used to care about fan service and how the gaming community yearns to end this disgusting age of microtransactions in other games (looking at you EA).
It’s hard to go wrong with the Final Fantasy series, and most installments in the series are available for purchase on mobile app marketplaces. The remakes remain true to the originals while updating the graphics and adding auto-battle functionality. I played Final Fantasy III when I had down time in Afghanistan and it lasted me the first quarter of my deployment. That’s just one of the games and the strategy element does appeal to strategic minds. I played Final Fantasy IV when I was stationed in Okinawa and it was perfect for standing by for a formation and I didn’t even notice how long it took for the colonel to show up.
The Total War series is near and dear to the gaming community, but it does have its strengths and weaknesses. The key change from PC to mobile is the pause button, which is invaluable when you’re in the middle of kicking ass when LT calls a school circle just to tell you the trucks are delayed, again.
It does have auto-save, which is great for when standby is over, and you can pick up where you left off hours later when you’re inevitably standing by again. The game does crash sometimes, so make sure you save early and often. Other than that, it’s just like you remembered it in the good ol’ days.
If you’re considering joining the Army or you’re sick of your current MOS and thinking of reclassing, there are so many options to chose from that it’s a headache to decide.
Maybe you’re picking your MOS based entirely off what you can get, maybe you’re picking it off what would be best suited for your eventual transition back to the civilian world, or maybe you’re following in the footsteps of someone you admire. For those that choose their MOS by counting “cool points,” there’s one MOS that towers them all: (13F) Fire Support Specialist, or ‘Fister.’
These are the 5 reasons why you should enlist as a Fister:
5. The name is perfectly acceptable for use in polite company.
Derived from “Fire Support Team” or FiST, this MOS’s name is the source of innumerable low-brow jokes in field artillery.
While everyone else watches their tongue, taking care not to offend, you get a free pass to say something that could be confused for a violent sex act every time you talk about work.
4. It’s actually like Call of Duty, except you constantly get kill streak bonuses.
It happens at every recruitment station. There’s always that one kid who comes in thinking he’ll be living his favorite video game before he’s struck with the harsh reality that life isn’t a video game.
While other MOSs are less fun in real life — you can’t just to wait behind a rock to heal and stealing enemy weapons is generally frowned upon — fisters have it better. They don’t get told “sorry, you need to kill a few more bad guys before you can rain hell on your enemies.” They just do it. It’s their job.
3. You get paid to watch things go boom from a good, safe distance.
Speaking of raining hell on your enemies, that’s what you’ll be doing.
You’ll be attached to whatever unit needs a guy to say, “that thing right there? I don’t like it. Let’s get rid of it with enough firepower to remove an entire grid-square off the map!” This means you’ll be working with damn near everyone from Armor to Aviation to Infantry to Cavalry, all while being left alone to do your badassery.
2. All the benefits of being a grunt with less of the downsides.
There’s a constant rivalry within the Army between grunt MOSs and the soft ones. Grunts mock others for being weak and POGs mock grunts for being idiots with relatively low promotion point standards.
Some MOSs are just handed the title of “grunt” and no one will ever question it, like infantry. Some have to earn the respect of other grunts to get it, like a hard-ass commo or medic. Then there’s the fister. No one ever questions the balls it takes to be a fister.
They’re out there kicking it with the infantry, while also having the brains to do advanced math on the fly to get the birds blowing up the right spot. Oh — and their promotion points are a lot lower, so you’ll pick up rank faster than a POG.
1. SFC Jared C. Monti and SSG Ryan M. Pitts are some Bad. Mother. F*ckers.
In Afghanistan alone, two fisters have made their brothers proud by being awarded the Medal of Honor: Sergeant First Class Monti and Staff Sergeant Pitts.
Sergeant First Class Jared C. Monti received his Medal of Honor posthumously on Sept. 17, 2009 after his patrol was ambushed by around 60 Taliban fighters. He radioed in for artillery and close air support on their position, but it would take time for the heat to arrive. In the ensuing firefight, several of his men were struck by enemy fire. He was successful in getting recovering one of his men, but was gravely wounded in the process. When the artillery finally arrived, it took out 22 insurgents and dispersed the rest.
Staff Sergeant Ryan M. Pitts received his Medal of Honor when well over 200 Taliban forces swarmed his base at the Battle of Wanat in July, 2008. Though critically wounded by shrapnel, he continued to lay down suppressive fire until a two-man reinforcement team arrived. This bought him the time he needed to crawl to a radio, with no regard for his own life, so he could describe the attack to Command and call for indirect fire.
Last week, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk ruffled some feathers during a discussion with Air Force Lt. Gen. John Thompson at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium. The controversial tech mogul, who is no stranger to drawing headlines and occasionally criticism, voiced concerns over America’s apparent love affair with Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, first calling for competition for the advanced fighter, and then going further to say that the era of manned fighter jets was over.
“Locally autonomous drone warfare is where it’s at, where the future will be,” Musk said. “It’s not that I want the future to be this, that’s just what the future will be. … The fighter jet era has passed. Yeah, the fighter jet era has passed. It’s drones.”
Elon Musk, chief engineer of SpaceX, speaks with U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. John Thompson, the Space and Missile Systems Center commander and program executive officer for space.
Musk went on to say that even the F-35 wouldn’t stand a chance against a sufficiently advanced drone that coupled computer augmented flying with human control.
When the story broke, we here at Sandboxx pointed out that Musk is right that a technologically advanced drone could potentialy do a lot of things a manned aircraft couldn’t — including manage hypersonic maneuvers that would leave most human pilots unconscious as a result of the G-forces. Scramjet technology has proven effective at propelling unmanned aircraft to hypersonic speeds in the past, and it seems entirely feasible that this tech will find its way into UCAVs (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles) in the future.
An X-51A WaveRider hypersonic flight test vehicle is uploaded to an Air Force Flight Test Center B-52 for fit testing at Edwards Air Force Base.
But, we noted, the problem with Musk’s bright idea is that information traveling at the speed of light is actually too slow for the sort of control drone operators would need for such a platform. Even with a somewhat local operator, as Musk pointed toward, the time it would take to relay sensor data from the drone to the operator, followed my the operator processing the information and making a decision, followed by those commands being transmitted back to the drone is simply too slow a process for the split-second decisions that can be essential in a dog fight.
In other words, Musk’s plan is hypothetically right, but likely won’t work in practice for some time to come.
“For a long time, we’re still going to need the manned aircraft on the fighter and bomber side,” Air Combat Command chief Gen. Mike Holmes, an F-15 Eagle pilot, said Wednesday during the annual McAleese Defense Programs Conference. “We will increasingly be experimenting with other options, [and] we’re going to work together.”
U.S. Air Force Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of Air Combat Command, watches a mission video during a visit to the 363rd Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance Wing at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.
The future of air combat likely will include some combination of manned and unmanned aircraft, which is exactly the future the Air Force’s Skyborg program is aiming for. Using “loyal wingman” armed drones like the Kratos Valkyrie, the Air Force hopes to couple fighters like the F-35 with support drones that can extend sensor range, engage targets, and even sacrifice themselves to protect the manned aircraft. In theory, one F-35 could control a number of drones that bear the majority of the risk, flying ahead of the manned jet.
“We can take risk with some systems to keep others safer,” the Air Force’s service acquisition executive, Dr. Will Roper said. “We can separate the sensor and the shooter. Right now they’re collocated on a single platform with a person in it. In the future, we can separate them out, put sensors ahead of shooters, put our manned systems behind the unmanned. There’s a whole playbook.”
The combination of the sort of technology in play in Skyborg and rapidly developing hypersonic propulsion could put the power of hypersonic platforms in the hands of fighter pilots, just likely not in the jets they’re flying.
Of course, doing so would greatly increase the mental load on pilots in the fight, particularly if their means of controlling their wingmen drones is too complex. One of the selling points of the F-35 that doesn’t get much play in the press is its ability to fuse data from disparate sensors into an overlapping augmented reality display. Prior to this advancement, pilots had to read and manage multiple displays and gauges, combining the data in their minds to make decisions. In the F-35, friendly and enemy assets are clearly identified with colored indicators, as are air speed, altitude, and other essential information. At night, pilots can even use external cameras with their augmented reality helmets to look through the aircraft at the ground below.
This is what an F-15 pilot has to keep track of while flying combat missions.
A complex drone-control interface could be a step backward in a pilot’s ability to manage the flow of data, but a DARPA experiment first revealed in 2018 might just be able to solve that problem.
At the time, Justin Sanchez, director of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office, explained that two years prior, DARPA had successfully utilized what he called a “Brain Computer Interface” to put one volunteer in control of not one, but three simulated aircraft at the same time. The “N3 System,” as they call it, could give pilots the ability to manage their drone wingmen using only their mind.
“As of today, signals from the brain can be used to command and control … not just one aircraft but three simultaneous types of aircraft,” he said at the “Trajectory of Neurotechnology” session at DARPA’s 60thanniversary event
In later experiments, volunteers even experienced feedback from the aircraft, transmitted into their brains to feel like a tingling sensation in the hands when the aircraft was pushing back against steering in a certain direction. The only problem is, currently, this system only works for volunteers who have had surgically implanted electrodes in their brain. The volunteers were all people with varying levels of paralysis, as this same technology could feasibly be used to control exoskeletons that could help a patient regain the ability to walk.
“The envisioned N3 system would be a tool that the user could wield for the duration of a task or mission, then put aside,” said Al Emondi, head of N3, according to a company spokesperson. “I don’t like comparisons to a joystick or keyboard because they don’t reflect the full potential of N3 technology, but they’re useful for conveying the basic notion of an interface with computers.”
So, while it’s true that a drone isn’t subject to same physical limitations a manned aircraft is, the tradeoff is that a drone would need to have an extremely advanced, fully autonomous flight system in order to execute maneuvers at the fuzzy edge of its capabilities, because communications lag would make such performance impossible in a human-controlled drone at a distance. If the drone weren’t under the control of a nearby pilot, the only choice would be to give the drone itself decision making capabilities, either through an on-board processor, or through an encrypted cloud computing process.
To date, that level of tech simply doesn’t exist, and even if it did, it would pose significant moral and ethical questions about what level of war fighting we’re comfortable relinquishing to a computer. Friendly fire incidents or unintentional civilian casualties are complicated enough without having to defend the actions of a Terminator drone, even if they were justified.
In the future, it seems entirely likely that drones will indeed be more capable than manned fighters, but they still won’t be able to fly without their cockpit-carrying-counterparts. A single F-35 pilot, for instance, may head into battle with a bevy of hyper-capable drone wingmen, but the decision to deploy ordnance, to actually take lives, will remain with the pilot, rather than the drone, just as those decisions are currently made by human drone operators.
Elon Musk is right that drones can do incredible things, but he’s wrong about the need for human hands on the stick. The future doesn’t look like Skynet, but it may look like the terrible 2005 movie, “Stealth.”
Elon Musk may be good at building rockets, electric cars, and even tunnel boring machines, but when it comes to predicting the future of warfare, he’s just as fallible as the rest of us.
The US Senate on June 13 narrowly averted a bid by a bipartisan group of senators to block President Donald Trump’s $500m sale of guided, air-to-ground bombs for use in Yemen by Saudi Arabia’s Royal Air Force.
The vote was 53-47 to defeat a resolution of disapproval that had been offered by Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, and Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat. Senate Republicans were joined by five Democrats to defeat the measure. Four Republicans joined most Democrats to vote against the arms sale.
“We are fueling an arms race in the Middle East,” Paul said in remarks during Senate debate, citing the famine and Cholera outbreak in Yemen and Saudi domestic rights abuses as reasons not to support Trump’s munitions sale.
“What is happening today in Yemen is a humanitarian crisis,” Murphy said in floor remarks. “The United States supports the Saudi-led bombing campaign that has had the effect of causing a humanitarian nightmare to play out in that country.”
At issue are JDAMs, or Joint Direct Attack Munitions, which are guidance systems to be used with 230kg bombs and bunker busters on Saudi F-15 fighter jets.
President Barack Obama withheld sale of the guidance systems in 2016 out of concern the Saudis were deliberately attacking civilians and critical infrastructure in Yemen, already one of the world’s poorest nations before the war.
Speaking for majority Republicans, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina blamed military threats posed by Iran.
“The Iranian theocracy is the most destabilizing force in the Mideast,” Graham said. “They have aggressively pursued military action through proxies and directly been involved in military action in Syria. Iran’s efforts to dominate Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and now Yemen have to be pushed back.”
More than 4,125 civilians have been killed and more than 7,200 civilians have been wounded in Yemen since the Saudi-led air campaign started in March 2015, according to a recent report by Human Rights Watch. Most of those casualties resulted from Saudi coalition air strikes.
The June 13 Senate vote was close enough and the outcome sufficiently uncertain that Vice President Mike Pence was briefly called to the chamber to break a tie had there been one, a rare occurrence. Republicans hold a 52-48 advantage in the Senate.
Though largely symbolic, the close vote signals a potential shift in congressional willingness to support Saudi Arabia’s ongoing campaign in Yemen. By comparison, a similar resolution last year attempting to block tank sales by Obama failed by a 71-27 margin.
The disputed sale of guided missiles is a small part of a major, $110B package of arms, including M1 tanks, Chinook and Black Hawk helicopters – arranged by Trump on his May 20 visit to Riyadh. There’s been no real move in Congress to challenge that larger transfer, begun under Obama following the Iran-United Nations nuclear deal.
Under the Arms Control Act of 1976, Congress requires presidents to notify it of any pending arms sale, and in the case of sales to the Middle East to certify that any shipments would not adversely affect Israel’s qualitative military advantage over its regional neighbors. Congress can block any arms sale simply by passing a resolution of disapproval.
R. Lee Ermey, better known as “The Gunny”, has had a very impressive film and television career following his 11 years of service in the U.S. Marine Corps. The former drill instructor and Vietnam War veteran acted in numerous films, hosted television shows, and is also an author. Of course, the Gunny is best known for his portrayal of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in the 1987 Stanley Kubrick classic film “Full Metal Jacket,” a role that earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
If you scour his body of work closely, Ermey offers some tips that can serve as a guide to living a successful life. Here are some of them:
A decade before Ermey played a drill instructor in “Full Metal Jacket,” Gunny donned the brim hat in the 1978 movie “The Boys in Company C.” During the boot camp scenes, Ermey’s character Staff Sgt. Loyce challenges one of the recruits named “Washington” to step up his game and become a leader. Loyce tells Washington he needs him to be the type of leader that fellow Marines can trust and count on in combat. His also stresses the importance of supporting his fellow comrades, not being selfish, and working as a team. He inspires the character to seek his potential as a leader.
Ermey lends his voice to the “Toy Story” animated trilogy playing “Sarge,” a leader of plastic Army men. In the first movie, Woody tells Sarge to perform a reconnaissance mission during Andy’s birthday. Woody and his fellow toys fear they will be replaced when Andy gets new toys as birthday presents. Like a loyal team player, Sarge leads his men to scope out the party and report back to Woody. When one of his fellow army men gets stepped on by Andy’s mom, Sarge refuses to leave the man behind and carries the minesweeper to safety saying “a good soldier never leaves a man behind.”
In the 2001 comedy “Saving Silverman,” Gunny plays a no-nonsense football coach who gives his players pieces of advice throughout the film. During the locker room scene, his stresses the importance of sportsmanship. He also says some other things that may not suitable for younger audiences.
4. Life-long Commitment
In his 2013 self-help book Gunny’s Rules: How to Get Squared Away Like a Marine, Ermey talks about being a ‘life-long’ Marine even after retiring for medical injures while in service. In the book, he says “The Marine Corps had retired me, but I kept showing up for work.”
His talks about using his celebrity status to serve his beloved Corps and his desire to contribute any chance he gets. His commitment to serve is still seen today by troops. Ermey makes numerous appearances on bases all over the world helping boost morale and motivation. In 2002, his life-long service was recognized by the Marine Corps, and he was given an honorary promotion to Gunnery Sergeant.
5. Don’t give up
Of course, it wouldn’t be right to have a list about Ermey’s career without talking about “Full Metal Jacket.” However, Ermey was not originally cast to be Gunny Sgt. Hartman. During a 2009 interview, the actor talks about serving as a technical advisor for the film. He took the job to get his foot in the door in hopes to convince director Stanley Kubrick that he should be given the role. After lobbying for the job and impressing Kubrick’s ‘right-hand’ man during an interview session with movie extras where he played the Hartman character, he was offered the role.
In the interview, he said “They had already hired another actor to play Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, but Marines don’t just say ‘Oh’ and give up. We continue to march and we attack until we achieve our goal, and we accomplish our mission.”
6. Embrace your talent
The former Marine is definitely a typecast actor playing similar authority figures in films. Whether he is the police captain in “Seven“ or a mean boss in the horror film “Willard,” Gunny uses his acting chops, quick wit, and background to make each character unique. His willingness to harness this talent led the 72-year-old actor to a very successful career. Like Ermey, it’s important to embrace what you’re good at.
7. Don’t forget your roots
Despite working beside some of Hollywood’s greatest actors and actress, Ermey seems to be very humble and doesn’t forget where he came from. To this day, Ermey’s military roots are strong and he still embraces the “Gunny” nickname, especially in his latest show on the Outdoor Channel called “Gunny Time.”
Today’s military has many antiquated training plans still written into the calendar. Troops will still practice drill and ceremony despite the fact that the need for marching into combat died out more than a hundred years ago. We still sharpen our land navigation skills despite the fact that we have overwhelming technological advantages that make the use of more primitive tools highly improbable.
However, the one training that always draws the loudest “but why?” from the back of the formation is bayonet warfare. And you know what? That loud, obnoxious dude isn’t entirely wrong — the last time “fix bayonets!” was officially ordered to a company-sized element in combat was by Col. Lewis Millet during the Korean War.
But bayonet training isn’t about just learning to attach a “pointy thing to your boomstick and poking the blood out of people,” as an old infantry sergeant once told me. It’s about laying the fundamentals of everything else.
It’s only silly if you make it silly. If you do, the other guy will knock the silliness out of you.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Melissa Marnell)
Bayonet training was officially taken off the Army’s basic training schedule back in 2010 because it created scheduling conflicts with other needed skills. Still, some drill sergeants find a way to work it in on their own time. The Marine Corps still learns the skill, but it’s a part of the greater Marine Corps Martial Arts Program.
The training is always conducted in stages. The first stage is to have the recruits train on pugil sticks — giant, cotton-swab-looking sticks. This teaches a warfighter the importance of maintaining a positive footing while trying to overpower an opponent. Literally anyone can take on anyone in a pugil stick match because it’s not about size or strength — it’s about control.
Learning to control your body while asserting dominance on your enemy is crucial in close-quarters combat. Once you’ve mastered the pugil stick, you can move on to bayonets.
“Yeah! Take that, tire! F*ck you!”
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Walter D. Marino II)
Fighting with a bayonet is less like fighting with a rifle that happens to have a knife attached and more like using a spear that has a rifle on it. Much of the same footwork learned while training with pugil sticks plays a role here. Maintain good footing, thrust your bayonet into the enemy, and send them to their maker.
Maintaining good footing is a fundamental of nearly every single martial arts form known to man. Instead of having troops learn a martial art (which would take years to yield workable results), troops can come to understand the importance of footwork by just stabbing a worn-out tire — much more efficient.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Maximiliano Bavastro)
The third and most vital lesson that’s secretly taught behind the guise of bayonet training is when the troops line up to conduct a full charge toward targets.
Sure, without the real threat of danger, the point may be missed by some, but it’s important nonetheless. If you and your unit are tasked with making a last-ditch effort to stop the enemy and all you have is your bayonet, many of you may die. But when you know for certain that you and your brothers will charge into death head-on with the hopes of gutting at least that one, last son of a b*tch… you’ve embraced the warrior lifestyle.
Sure, missing out on that life lesson doesn’t hurt the “combat effectiveness” that training room officers love to care about, but there’s little else that compares to the ferocity of a bayonet charge.
With the apparently successful test of an ICBM by North Korea, questions arise about what can be done about the regime of Kim Jong Un. This is understandable. After all, he did threaten Sony over the 2014 movie “The Interview.”
Also, the whole humanitarian crisis thing.
According to an op-ed in the Washington Times, there are some high-tech options that could shut down the North Korean threat. Investigative reporter Ronald Kessler stated that the Pentagon was looking at a cruise missile that could fry electronics. He reported that the Pentagon is also exploring micro-robots capable of delivering a lethal toxin to the North Korean dictator.
The cruise missile is known as the Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project, and it comes from Boeing’s Phantom Works — a lesser-known advanced aerospace projects division than the Lockheed Skunk Works. The missile uses microwaves to knock out radios and other electronic equipment. Boeing released a video about a 2012 test that you can see here.
Kessler also mentioned the use of insect-sized robots as potential weapons. While assassinations are currently prohibited by an executive order signed by President Gerald R. Ford, such a policy could be reversed by President Trump “with a stroke of the pen.” The advantage of using the micro-drones to bump off Kim Jong Un would be the fact that no American lives would be put at risk for the operation.
FoxNews.com reported that since the North Korean test, the United States tested the Terminal High-Altitude Air Defense system in Alaska. The system continued a perfect record on tests when a battery stationed in Alaska took out a missile launched from Hawaii. Two launchers from a battery of six have been deployed in South Korea.