Why soldiers probably shouldn't worry that much when studying for the board - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Why soldiers probably shouldn’t worry that much when studying for the board

It’s one of the most nerve-wracking moments for a young specialist or sergeant hoping to move up in the ranks: stepping in front of the promotion board. In preparation, troops feel compelled to study and memorize every last question that the battalion’s first sergeants and sergeant major could possibly ask.

Throughout the process, each first sergeant will ask you questions that they believe to be paramount to both your role in particular and to NCOs in general. The subjects span the gamut, ranging from something like handling medical emergencies to spouting off regulations verbatim. And there’s no clear way of knowing what they’ll ask, so it’s best to study everything.

With that being said, you don’t have to go insane trying to fit every last regulation number in your head right before stepping into the board. You should still study and if you say that you didn’t because of an article you read on We Are The Mighty, you will be laughed by your chain of command — and me, as I hold my DD-214. Okay, especially by me, who may or may not screencap the conversation and send it to US Army WTF Moments. I digress.

Passing the board is about much more than your ability to parrot off semi-relevant information to higher ranking NCOs. It’s about your chain of command gauging your competency and potential to lead.


If your squad leader didn’t have faith in you, they never would have put you on that list.

(U.S. Army photo by Timothy Hale)

Long before your name even appears on any kind of candidate list, your first sergeant will consult your first line supervisor. If they think you’re ready, they will have a quick chat and your squad leader or platoon sergeant will argue for your promotion. If not, they aren’t even going to raise your hopes.

Your squad leader is (or should) always going to fight for you to advance your career. The moment your first sergeant is convinced that you’re ready for the next level of responsibility, you’ve successfully persuaded one-fifth of the board members.

It’s the big moment. Don’t lose your cool or else you’ll get rejected and have to come back again when they think you’re ready.

(U.S. Army photo by Timothy Hale)

Then it comes time to actually study. Your squad leader can’t cheat for you and give you the answers, but they can find out which topics each first sergeant might ask about. This means you should definitely take their advice if they advise you to study certain areas.

Next, we arrive at the big day: the promotion board. Keep as level of a head as you can. I don’t know if this will help you or stress you out further, but in the time between the previous person walking out and you showing up, they’re discussing you among themselves. It could be nothing more than a simple nod and a “I like this guy” but, make no mistake, they are talking about you.

Something as small as that nod of approval could seal your fate before you march in. The rest of the proceedings are just to convince anyone still on the fence.

Another bit of advice, try to take the board while you’re deployed. The questions tend to be easier (since your deployment is proving your worth to the Army) and you don’t need to get your Blues in perfect order.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kimberly Hackbarth, 4th SBCT, 2nd Infantry Division Public Affairs Office)

You’re sitting in the chair now and the first sergeants are hitting you with questions. You find yourself stumped. There are two old tricks I’ve heard from NCOs but, as always, read your audience and choose wisely.

Some say you should give an answer and be confident about it, even if you’re not sure that it’s right.This shows that you’ll stick to your guns — but it could also make you seem like a complete dumbass.

Others say you should be humble, and respond with a respectful, “first sergeant, I do not know the answer to that question at this time.” If you admit you don’t know, it shows that you are honest — but it could also mean you’re unprepared if it was an easy question.

Both are technically good responses, but they could bite you in the ass. It all depends on the board members.

The first sergeants may drop some heavy-hitters on you, but the heaviest of all will come from the sergeant major. Impress him and you’re as good as gold.

Every unit and promotion board is different but, generally speaking, the sergeant major will ask you situational questions to determine your worth as an NCO. One question that stuck out for me was as follows:

You and a friend are drinking heavily by the lake. Your friend gets seriously injured and needs to get to the hospital. It’s fifteen minutes away on a path that no one takes, including law enforcement. Your cell phones are both out of service but you know the park ranger will make their rounds in one hour. Do you take the risk and drive there drunk? Or do you wait it out and risk them bleeding out?

It’s a trick question. You should answer in a way that demonstrates your understanding of military bearing and being an NCO. The only correct answers are, “I would never put myself in a position where myself and a passenger get drunk without having a legal way home” or “I would stabilize their wound then get to a point with better reception.”

Then again, I’ve also heard of a sergeant major asking a quiet and shy specialist to sing the National Anthem at the top of their lungs. It’s nearly impossible to know what’s going on in a sergeant major’s head.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This moto kid singing ‘The Army Song’ will make you want to join

A small child is going viral on social media for his awesome rendition of The Army Song, the song performed at Army ceremonies around the world to celebrate the service and its history. And the fact that the kid is wearing a comically oversized helmet with night-vision goggle mount and full camo paint is just gravy.



Toddler brings down the house with Army song

www.facebook.com

Gonna be honest, I watched this and then found “Army prior service recru” in my Google search bar before I could get myself back under control. Become one of the millions like me by just clicking the play button above.

(And you can go ahead and stop reading here. We have to put about 300+ words in articles to get search engines to see them properly, so I’m going to write some stuff about The Army Song below, but the big attraction is the adorable singing child, so you can scroll back up and watch that. Seriously, the rest of this is aimed at robot readers anyway. Go look at the adorable kid. Seriously, I haven’t hidden any cute kid stuff below. It’s all just history.)

The Army Song was adopted by the U.S. Army as its official song in 1956, but it’s based on a song written by a brigadier general in 1908. Brig. Gen. Edmund Louis ‘Snitz” Gruber wrote The Caissons Go Rolling Along as a way of expressing his experiences serving with an artillery unit in the Philippines.

Field artillery pieces and caissons on a parade ground in 1914 during border clashes between the U.S. and various forces involved in the Mexican Revolution.

(Library of Congress)

Caissons were horse-drawn supply wagons designed to carry ammunition for artillery units, and the song as a whole is about the inexorable power of a column of artillery marching to the battlefield. The first verse and the refrain are:

Over hill, over dale
As we hit the dusty trail,
And those caissons go rolling along.
In and out, hear them shout,
Counter march and right about,
And those caissons go rolling along.

Then it’s hi! hi! hee!
In the field artillery,
Shout out your numbers loud and strong,
For where e’er you go,
You will always know
That those caissons go rolling along.

When the Army adopted a broader version in 1953 as The Army Song, they simply changed out some phrases to reflect Army history and make the song less field artillery specific. The first chorus and refrain now go:

First to fight for the right,
And to build the Nation’s might,
And the Army goes rolling along.
Proud of all we have done,
Fighting till the battle’s won,
And the Army goes rolling along.

Then it’s hi! hi! hey!
The Army’s on its way.
Count off the cadence loud and strong;
For where’er we go,
You will always know
That the Army goes rolling along.

The full song has additional cadences not often sang at ceremonies that can be seen here at the Army website.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Heroic weapons sergeant to receive Medal of Honor

A weapons sergeant with the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) who heroically fought up a mountain through a barrage of enemy fire to help rescue his detachment members will receive the Medal of Honor.

The White House announced today that Master Sgt. Matthew O. Williams went above and beyond the call of duty during an operation on April 6, 2008. Williams — a sergeant at the time of the operation — was assigned to Special Operations Task Force-33 in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.

Williams will receive the highest military award for valor at a White House ceremony, Oct. 30, 2019. A “Hall of Heroes” induction ceremony at the Pentagon is slated for Oct. 31, 2019.


In April 2008, Williams joined 14 other Special Forces operators and roughly 100 Afghan commandos on a mission to take out or apprehend high-value enemy targets that were operating out of a mountain-top village within Shok Valley.

Then-Sgt. Matthew Williams with other team members assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), wait on a hill top for the helicopter exfiltration in eastern Afghanistan, late spring 2007.

(Master Sgt. Matthew Williams)

Shortly after the joint force dropped into the area and organized into elements, the lead command and control team started their treacherous hike up a near-vertical mountainside toward the objective.

It did not take long for the adversary to respond. A barrage of heavy sniper and machine-gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades rained down on the team’s location.

In the ensuing chaos, the lead element was pinned down at a higher elevation and isolated from the larger military force. Further, they had sustained injuries and were requesting support.

In response, Williams organized a counter-assault team and led them across a waist-deep, ice-cold fast-moving river, and fought their way up the terraced mountain to the besieged lead element’s location.

Joined by his team sergeant, Williams positioned his Afghan commando force to provide a violent base of suppressive fire, preventing the enemy force from overrunning the team’s position. In turn, the actions of Williams and his team allowed the first command and control element to consolidate and move the casualties down the mountain.

As Williams worked to defend the force’s position, an enemy sniper took aim and injured his team sergeant. With disregard for his safety, Williams maneuvered through an onslaught of heavy machine-gun fire to render aid.

Then-Sgt. Matthew Williams assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), conducts long-range weapons training at Camp Morehead, Afghanistan, during the fall of 2009.

(U.S. Army Master Sgt. Matthew Williams)

Once his team sergeant was secure, the joint team egressed off the mountainside. Williams descended with his team sergeant off a near-vertical 60-foot cliff to a casualty collection point and continued to provide first aid.

With more injured soldiers coming down the mountainside, Williams ascended through a hail of small arms fire to help with their evacuation, and also repair his operational detachment commander’s radio.

As Williams returned to the base of the mountain with three wounded soldiers, enemy forces maneuvered to their position in an attempt to overrun the casualty collection point. Williams and the Afghan commandos quickly responded with a counter-attack and courageously fought back the attacking force.

As the medical evacuation helicopter arrived, Williams exposed himself to insurgent fire again to help transport casualties. Once the injured were secure, Williams continued to direct Commando fires and suppress numerous enemy positions. The team’s actions enabled the evacuation of the wounded and dead without further casualties.

The entire Shok Valley operation lasted for more than six hours. During that time, Williams and the joint force fought back against about 200 adversaries, all while they were subjected to a series of friendly, danger-close air strikes.

Williams is the second member of his detachment to receive the Medal of Honor for this operation. The president presented Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer II the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony Oct. 1, 2018.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

US snipers train with ally to sharpen shooting skills

The art of sniping is more than just proper cover, concealment and sight alignment; it demands vigilant situational awareness, flawless timing and solid arithmetic skills.

U.S. soldiers had a five-day Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange (SMEE) with Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers at a base outside of Amman, Jordan, in October 2019. The Military Engagement Team-Jordan (MET-J), 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard; in collaboration with Jordan Operational Engagement Program (JOEP) soldiers; 1st Squadron, 102nd Cavalry Regiment, 44th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 42nd Infantry Division, New Jersey National Guard.


“As a group, we [MET-J, JOEP] were able to collaborate and come up with a good exchange,” said U.S. Army Master Sgt. Johnny Vidrio, with MET-J, 158th MEB, AZANG, “The sniper field is a perishable skill so you have to use it a lot to retain it. We are working with the JAF to keep our exchanges going.”

A U.S. Army soldier, with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, adjusts the scope of a Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers’ rifle during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)

Snipers are known for their specialization in shooting targets from long-range distances with a modified weapon, as well as their reconnaissance abilities. Vidrio, who served as the Sniper SMEE team lead, has more than 20 years’ experience with various weapons systems through his civilian and military occupations.

A U.S. Army Soldier, with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, discusses a mathematical equation with Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) Soldiers during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)

Vidrio explained how the MET-J shared information on how the U.S. Army executes sniper tasks and in turn, the Jordanians shared their way of doing the same task. The exchange not only reviewed basic sniper skills but incorporated different approaches to instruct the material to other soldiers. The two nations were able to work through the Jordanians’ Basic Sniper Manuel which provided a platform for the Jordanian snipers to hone their basic skills and enhance their teaching techniques.

A rifle faces downrange during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange between Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, and the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)

“The more you teach with a group, the more comfortable you will feel teaching by yourself,” explained Vidrio, “That’s what we were doing, helping them feel comfortable about teaching.”

MET-J facilitates and conducts military-to-military engagements with regional partners within the U.S. Army Central area of responsibility in order to build military partner capability and capacity, enhance interoperability and build relationships.

A Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) sniper looks downrange through a tactical monocular during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)

Areas covered during the Sniper SMEE included setting up a comfortable firing position, weapons maintenance, correcting malfunctions, zeroing and determining wind values, to name a few. The snipers discussed how half value, full value, tail and headwinds affect the drift of a bullet. They examined techniques to find the directional movement of wind, such as observing the path of dust, smoke, trash or mirage waves, that are near an intended target. Target range estimation was calculated through a mathematical equation, but each nation used a different formula.

Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers practice setting up firing positions during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)

“They [JAF] have a different calculation for range estimation, this was new to American snipers,” said Vidrio “We learned a whole new way of estimating distance and ranges.”

SMEEs allow open information flow and an opportunity for coalition soldiers to work together, learn and grow from one another, which is beneficial to both counties. The United States is committed to the security of Jordan and to partnering closely with the JAF to meet common security challenges.

Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers hold certificates of appreciation given to them by U.S. Army Soldiers after the completion of a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)

One soldier who expressed favor in ongoing SMEEs with U.S. Army was JAF Sgt. 1st Class Ghareeb Alaomary, sniper instructor and logistics coordinator. He too specifically found value in the transfer of knowledge with the arithmetical equation calculations for target distance and range. “The mathematic equation formulas given [by the U.S.] were new information for us,” explained Alaomary, “It added to their [JAF snipers] knowledge to help make more accurate calculations.”

Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers pose for a photo after the completion of a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, at Joint Training Center-Jordan in October 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)

According to Alaomary, the exchange between the two countries was engaging and an abundance of wisdom was shared, which resulted in a successful exchange. They plan to take the knowledge gained through the Sniper SMEE back to their individual units to cross-train with their comrades.

“I would like to give a special thanks for the effort you [U.S. Army] have dedicated to the students and the valuable information you have provided,” said Alaomary.

A U.S. Army Soldier, with 1st Squadron, 102nd Cavalry Regiment, 44th Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the 42nd Infantry Division, New Jersey National Guard, looks downrange through a tactical monocular during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange between the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) and Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)

The U.S. military has a long-standing relationship with Jordan to support our mutual objectives by providing military assistance to the JAF consistent with our national interests. Our people and governments have a historic, unbreakable, strategic relationship that spans decades and different administrations. Jordan is not only one of the United States’ closest allies in the region but in the world as a whole. This isn’t going to change.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Vietnam vet talks Agent Orange and a brotherhood among fellow veterans

In 1968, Rodger “Jim” Lammons had two choices: he could join the military, or he could wait and be drafted. He chose the former, not knowing the effects Agent Orange would have on his life. In March of that year, the native of Smiths Station, Alabama, signed with the Navy where he served six years as a “SeaBee,” an oronym for C.B., or construction battalion.

After finishing basic and advanced training courses in California, including a four-week stint at Camp Pendleton with Marines, Lammons was dispatched to Vietnam out of Port Hueneme, California. 

“That’s where we got on the big bird and flew out,” he said.

Lammons poses by a humvee

For more than a year – 13.5 months – Lammons was stationed in Vietnam. He served as a heavy equipment operator, gunner, and, “whatever it took to get the job done.” Lammons said, at times that even meant driving semis and hauling materials up from deep-water piers, or to Red Beach and dispersing them along Route 1.

“We just did what we needed to do, and that meant the job changed from day-to-day,” he shared.

After Vietnam, Lammons returned to the U.S., before taking another overseas stint in Puerto Rico.

“Then my time was up and I went home,” he said, listing not staying in and retiring with the Navy as one of his biggest regrets.

However, his reception back home was less than welcoming. Along with his fellow veterans, Lammons was egged, spat at. They were cussed at and called names, he said, most notably, “baby killers.”

“None of it was true. We were just there to do what our country asked us to do.”

While he remembers his time in the Navy fondly, Lammon’s stories come in spurts. He gives specific details, then pauses, circling around until the whole of it comes together, often out of order. This, he explained, is due to a rough recovery from surgery – a bad combination of anesthesia and gout. His memory hasn’t been the same since.

His wife, Carol, anticipates each gap, prompting him with questions that cause his eyes to light up with moments from years past.   

This is just one of his side effects that can be attributed to Agent Orange. 

“They would fly over – helicopters, aircrafts. They would spray different things on the foliage to try and kill it. Well, we were in the foliage and it would just coat us.”

“We didn’t understand the dangers at the time.”

Today, Lammons suffers from gout, diabetes and neuropathy, among other illnesses. He was also diagnosed with prostate cancer.

“There’s a thing, some people, it doesn’t bother them,” he said, referencing his brother who served as a Marine in Vietnam, but has never shown symptoms of Agent Orange, despite direct exposure.

Lammons didn’t know the cause of his illnesses until 2016, when he and Carol relocated to Port St. Joe, Florida. A new town meant a new doctor, and a new facility, and the puzzle pieces of Agent Orange began coming together.

“They saw things that were wrong with me that shouldn’t be wrong.” After seeing various specialists, Lammons was referred to the VA representative in Gulf County, who helped relate his symptoms to Agent Orange exposure.

Lammons while deployed to Vietnam, where he came in contact with Agent Orange.

After his years in the Navy, Lammons worked in Columbus, Georgia as a construction superintendent. Then, at the start of the Global War on Terrorism, he applied to work overseas as a civilian contractor, where he would spend nearly four years.

On why he chose to volunteer, he said it was an easy choice. He told Carol, “There’s got to be something I can do. If they need someone to go, I’ll go.”

Once again, stepping up for his country in a time of war, a time of need.

After all, more than 50 years later, Lammons still cites Vietnam as an unforgettable bonding experience.

“We all became brothers – black, white, it didn’t matter what color – to this day we still are brothers.”

Even now, when seeing someone in a Vietnam hat, he greets them.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Every branch is getting the Army’s new modular pistol

The U.S. Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard have all placed orders to purchase the Army’s Modular Handgun System, according to Sig Sauer.


Military.com reported March 14, 2018, that the Marine Corps had budgeted money in its proposed fiscal 2019 budget to purchase 35,000 MHSs: the Sig Sauer pistol the Army selected to replace the M9 9mm, made by Beretta USA.

Also read: This is a first look at soldiers firing their new M17 handgun

The Army awarded Sig Sauer an MHS contract worth up to $580 million in January 2017. The other services are authorized to purchase the MHS through the Army contract, according to Tom Taylor, chief marketing officer for Sig Sauer.

“All services have been involved in MHS since its inception … and they have all committed to ordering guns,” Taylor said in an email to Military.com on March 15, 2018. “The U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Coast Guard all have orders that will be fielded starting later this year and early next year.”

Compact XM18 MHS (Photo by U.S. Army)

The Army confirmed that the other services can go through it to buy the MHS.

“The other military services, who were involved in the entire acquisition process including source selection, can also procure XM17/XM18 Modular Handgun Systems under the Army contract with Sig Sauer,” Debra Dawson, spokeswoman for Program Executive Office-Soldier, said in an email.

Related: This is the Glock the Army rejected for its new combat handgun

Military.com reached out to the Navy, the Air Force, and the Coast Guard for comment but did not receive a reply by press time.

The Marine Corps said it would not comment on MHS at this time.

The Army’s 10-year MHS agreement calls for Sig Sauer to supply the service with full-size XM17 and compact XM18 versions of its 9mm pistol. The striker-fired pistols can be outfitted with suppressors and accommodate standard and extended-capacity magazines. There is also an accessory rail for mounting accessories, such as weapon lights.

Compact XM18, above left, and the full size XM17, lower right. (Photo by US Army)

The Army intends to purchase 195,000 MHS pistols, mostly in the full-size XM17 version.

Army officials first announced that all of the services intend to purchase the MHS at the National Defense Industrial Association’s 2017 Armaments Systems Forum May 2017.

MHS quantities for each service have not been finalized, Taylor said.

More: The Army is prototyping new weapons for its next combat vehicle

This is not the first time the services have agreed to adopt a common pistol. The Army selected the M9 in 1985 to replace the .45 caliber 1911A1, and the M9 soon became the sidearm for entire U.S. military.

The Marine Corps fiscal 2019 budget request does not give a total dollar amount for the MHS, but lists the unit cost of 35,000 Sig Sauer MHS pistols at $180 each.

Army weapons officials, as well as Sig Sauer officials, have so far declined to talk about the unit cost for MHS.

Articles

13 new shows and movies vets should watch

Hollywood and other multimedia producers get it wrong a lot of the time when they’re trying to appeal to the military community.


But there are those out there who try their best to nail it.

Here are 13 upcoming shows and movies that get it right, according to Got Your 6.

1. “American Veteran”

The feature length documentary tells the story of U.S. Army Sergeant Nick Mendes, who was paralyzed from the neck down by a 500 pound improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2011. The documentary follows Nick for five years following the explosion as he rebuilds his life and falls in love with Wendy, an extraordinary medical caregiver he meets in a VA hospital. The film chronicles his long recovery, struggles, and pain, but never perpetuates the stereotype of the “wounded veteran.” BetterThanFiction Productions

2. “Criminal Minds”

The long-running American police crime drama, set primarily at the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) based in Quantico, Virginia, follows a group of FBI profilers who catch various criminals through behavioral profiling. The plot focuses on the team’s cases and their personal lives, depicting the hardened life and statutory requirements of a profiler. Actor Joe Mantegna plays Supervisory Special Agent David Rossi, a senior level profiler who happens to be a Vietnam veteran as well as a moral core of the show. His service is primarily mentioned in passing, depicting his veteran status as one of many characteristics as opposed to defining his identity. The Mark Gordon Company, ABC Studios, CBS Television Studios

3. “Fences”

Directed by Denzel Washington with a screenplay by August Wilson based upon his Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “Fences” follows Troy Maxson in 1950s Pittsburgh as he fights to provide for those he loves. Troy once dreamed of a baseball career, but was deemed too old when the major leagues began admitting black players. He tries to be a good husband and father, but his lost dream of glory eats at him, and causes him to make a decision that threatens to tear his family apart. Troy’s brother Gabriel, a disabled veteran, acts as a shining beacon of hope, despite his traumatic backstory. Gabriel is a fresh take on the sorts of wounds soldiers endure and showcases the strength of the human spirit. Paramount Pictures, in association with Bron Creative and Macro Media

4. “Five Came Back”

Netflix’s “Five Came Back” is a three-part adaptation of Mark Harris’ bestseller, directed by Laurent Bouzereau. Meryl Streep narrates Harris’ story of how five esteemed Hollywood directors – Frank Capra (“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”), George Stevens (“Swing Time”), William Wyler (“The Letter,” “Jezebel”), John Ford (“Stagecoach,” “The Grapes of Wrath”), and John Huston (“The Maltese Falcon”) – volunteered to make propaganda films for the United States and its fighting corps. For the adaptation, it was Bouzereau’s vision to ask five current filmmakers – Guillermo del Toro, Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, Lawrence Kasdan and Paul Greengrass – to consider the Hollywood quintet who went to war and returned forever altered by what they saw and did. Amblin Television, IACF Productions, Netflix, Passion Pictures, Rock Paper Scissors Entertainment

5. “Megan Leavey”

This film is based on the true life story of a young U.S. Marine corporal (played by Kate Mara) whose unique discipline and bond with her military combat dog saved many lives during their deployment in Iraq. Directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite (“Blackfish”) and written by Pamela Gray, Annie Mumolo, and Tim Lovestedt, the film documents their journey of more than 100 missions until an IED explosion injures them. Bleecker Street/LD Entertainment

6. “Sand Castle”

Set in Iraq in 2003, “Sand Castle” follows a platoon of U.S. Army soldiers in the early days of Iraq War. Inexperienced Private Matt Ocre (played by Nicolas Hoult) and his unit are ordered to the outskirts of the village Baqubah to repair a water pumping station damaged by U.S. bombs. Ocre struggles with the true cost of war and learns that trying to win the hearts and minds of the locals is a task fraught with danger. The film was written by U.S. Army veteran and Tillman Scholar, Chris Roessner. Treehouse Pictures, Voltage Pictures, 42/Automatik, Netflix

7. “Seeing Blind”

A digital short produced by Crown Royal as part of its “Living Generously” campaign, “Seeing Blind” tells the story of U.S. Army Major Scotty Smiley, a combat veteran who was blinded in Iraq and continued to serve in active duty for another decade as the Army’s first blind commander. To thank Major Smiley for his service, Crown Royal paired him with internationally renowned poet Matthew Dickman to help him visualize his hometown of Pasco, Wash., in a poetic new way. Good Company

8. “Seven Dates With Death”

This moving documentary short is about Moreese Bickham, a man jailed for an act of self-defense who survives half his life in prison by holding onto his faith, resilience, and hope. Viewers don’t learn he is a veteran until the end credits when an American flag is draped on his coffin at his funeral; however, this symbolic end showcases the depth of Moreese’s life and sacrifice. The short documentary is currently playing in film festivals across the U.S. and London and is expected to be publicly released by the end of 2017. Executive Producers Joan M. Cheever, Mike Holland

9. “Taken”

A television series based on the “Taken” film trilogy, this series acts as a modern day origin story for former Green Beret Bryan Mills (played by Clive Standen), who overcomes a personal tragedy while starting his career as a special intelligence operative. As a former CIA agent and post-9/11 veteran, Mills has spontaneous flashbacks to his military service. While the show touches on his service, it allows the audience to be empathetic with his experience and the skills learned while in uniform. “Taken” consulted with Got Your 6 team members on specific issues regarding active duty service and veteran reintegration. FLW Films, Universal Television, Europacorp Television, NBC

10. “The Vietnam War”

This 10-part documentary film series directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick will air on PBS in September 2017. In an immersive 360-degree narrative, Burns and Novick tell the epic story of the Vietnam War through the testimony from nearly 100 witnesses, including many American veterans who served in the war and others who opposed it, as well as Vietnamese combatants and civilians from both the winning and losing sides. Florentine Films, PBS

11. “This is Us”

This hit American television series stars Milo Ventimiglia (Jack) and Mandy Moore (Rebecca), parents of triplets – two natural-born and one adopted after their third child is stillborn. The series follows siblings Kate, Kevin and Randall as their lives intertwine. After 18 episodes, it is revealed that Jack – who must balance being the best father he can be with the struggles of supporting for his family of five – is a Vietnam War veteran. This dramedy challenges everyday presumptions about how well we think we know the people around us. Rhode Island Ave. Productions, Zaftig Films, 20th Century Fox Television, NBC

12. “VOW” (digital shorts)

“VOW” (Veterans Operation Wellness) is a Spike campaign created to inspire veterans to make the same commitment to their health and wellness that they made to their country. Two of the campaign’s digital shorts, “Operation Surf Helps Returning Soldiers” and “NYC Veterans Day Parade 2016,” were awarded 6 Certified status. In addition to featuring inspiring veterans, the shorts serve to motivate civilians to connect with veterans through community-building events and activities. Witness Films, Viacom

13. “When We Rise”

This four-part mini-series event which chronicles the real-life personal and political struggles, set-backs, and triumphs of a diverse family of LGBTQ men and women who helped pioneer the last legs of the U.S. Civil Rights movement. Ken Jones (played by Michael K. Williams and Jonathan Majors), an African-American Vietnam veteran, joined the gay-liberation movement in San Francisco, only to discover and confront racism within the gay men’s community. For years he organized services for homeless youth, worked to diversify the gay movement, and led efforts to confront the devastation of the AIDS epidemic. ABC Studios

MIGHTY CULTURE

We found the 30 best American cities to live in after the pandemic

If you are considering moving to a new place after the novel coronavirus pandemic, you may want to consider one of these 30 US cities.

Recent polling has suggested that many Americans are thinking about moving. The news website Axios reported in late April on a Harris Poll survey that found that about one-third of Americans said they were thinking about moving to less densely populated places. And recent research from Moody’s Analytics found that less densely populated places with a larger share of jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree or higher were likely to recover first from the economic impact of the pandemic.


During stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of the virus, more and more Americans have transitioned to working from their homes. In a Gallup analysis, 62% of respondents in a survey conducted from March 30 to April 2 said they were working from home, compared with 31% of respondents in a survey conducted from March 13 to 15.

New Gallup polling has indicated that even after stay-at-home orders lift and employees can return to offices, some people are thinking about working remotely at least part of the time. In a survey conducted from April 13 to 19, 53% of respondents said they would work remotely as much as they could, while 47% said they would return to the office as much as they previously did.

Business Insider decided to find out which cities could be the best to live in after the coronavirus pandemic for those Americans seeking a new home and planning to continue remote work.

To do this, we used nine economic, educational, and demographic metrics from government data sources and academic research that we think people might consider when moving and that could help a metro area recover faster from the economic effects of the pandemic.

These measures are the pre-coronavirus unemployment rate, ability to work from home, population density, housing affordability, monthly household costs, cost of living, weekly two-way work commute, total elementary- and secondary-school spending per student, and share of residents age 25 and over who have at least a bachelor’s degree.

Each measure was rescaled to a uniform z-score, allowing us to add the values together to get a final overall index for each metro area that we then used to rank the 30 metro areas at the top of the list.

You can read more about our method and the metrics we used here.

Here are the 30 best cities to live in after the coronavirus pandemic, based on our analysis:

30. Danville, Illinois

Danville’s cost of living — the metro area’s price level of goods and services compared with the US’s — is 21.4% lower than the national average. The city’s population density of 84.3 people per square mile is also lower than in most metro areas.

29. Grand Island, Nebraska

In Grand Island, 74.1% of households spend less than 30% of their income on housing, indicating better housing affordability than most metro areas. Grand Island’s cost of living is slightly lower than in most metro areas, at 15.7% lower than the national average.

28. Peoria, Illinois

Peoria is among the 100 metro areas with the lowest cost-of-living scores, at 12% lower than the national average. Average housing costs in the city are 5.22 a month.

27. Omaha, Nebraska

Omaha’s pre-coronavirus unemployment rate was 2.9%, 0.6 percentage points below the national rate. Omaha’s cost of living is 7.9% lower than the national average.

26. State College, Pennsylvania

State College’s pre-coronavirus unemployment rate was 3.6%, 0.1 percentage points higher than the national rate in February. Additionally, 46.7% of residents who are at least 25 years old have a bachelor’s degree or higher, the 18th-highest share among metro areas.

25. Green Bay, Wisconsin

In Green Bay, 75.5% of households spend less than 30% of their income on housing, the 16th-highest share among metro areas. Average housing costs are 6.86 a month.

24. Columbus, Indiana

In Columbus, 79.5% of households spend less than 30% of their income on housing, the highest share among metro areas. Its pre-coronavirus unemployment rate was 2.3%, tied for the 13th lowest among metro areas.

23. Iowa City, Iowa

Iowa City’s pre-coronavirus unemployment rate was 2.2%, tied for the sixth lowest among metro areas, and 49.3% of residents who are at least 25 years old have a bachelor’s degree or higher, the 10th highest among metro areas.

22. Lansing, Michigan

Lansing is among the metro areas with the highest share of jobs that could be done from home, at 41%. Lansing’s cost of living is 8.8% lower than the national average.

21. Syracuse, New York

Syracuse’s pre-coronavirus unemployment rate was 3.4%, close to the national rate in February. Syracuse is also among the 100 metro areas with the highest share of jobs that could be done from home, at 38%.

20. Cheyenne, Wyoming

Among the metro areas, Cheyenne has the shortest weekly commute to and from work, at two hours and 28 minutes, and the 18th-lowest population density, at 37.1 people per square mile.

19. Ithaca, New York

Ithaca has the seventh-highest total spending per student in elementary and secondary public schools, where the school district in the metro area with the most students enrolled spends ,220 per pupil. The metro area also has the sixth-largest share of residents with a bachelor’s degree or higher, at 51.9%.

18. Wausau, Wisconsin

In Wausau, 77.5% of households spend less than 30% of their income on housing, the fourth-highest share among metro areas, and average housing costs are 9.32 a month.

17. Madison, Wisconsin

In Madison, 42.6% of jobs could be done from home — a higher share than in most metro areas. The pre-coronavirus unemployment rate of 2.6% was lower than the national rate in February.

16. Dubuque, Iowa

In Dubuque, 74.1% of households spend less than 30% of their income on housing, which is more than in most metro areas, and average housing costs are 5.57 a month.

15. Logan, Utah

Logan’s pre-coronavirus unemployment rate was 2%, tied for the second lowest among the metro areas. The weekly commute to and from work is two hours and 57 minutes, tied for the 16th shortest among metro areas.

14. Lincoln, Nebraska

Lincoln’s pre-coronavirus unemployment rate was 2.7%, lower than most metro areas, and 72.3% of households spend less than 30% of their income on housing — it’s among the 100 metro areas with the best housing affordability.

13. Huntsville, Alabama

Huntsville had a pre-coronavirus unemployment rate of 2.2%, tied for the sixth-lowest rate among metro areas, and 41.5% of jobs could be done from home, a higher share than in most metro areas.

12. La Crosse, Wisconsin

In La Crosse, 73.7% of households spend less than 30% of their income on housing, which is higher than in most metro areas. It has the 15th-shortest weekly commute to and from work, at two hours and 56 minutes.

11. Cedar Rapids, Iowa

In Cedar Rapids, 75.9% of households spend less than 30% of their income on housing, the 13th-highest share among metro areas. Its pre-coronavirus unemployment rate was 3%, 0.5 percentage points lower than the national rate in February.

10. Columbia, Missouri

Columbia’s pre-coronavirus unemployment rate was 2.7%, lower than most metro areas, and its weekly commute to and from work is two hours and 58 minutes, the 18th shortest among metro areas.

9. Bismarck, North Dakota

In Bismarck, 76.7% of households spend less than 30% of their income on housing, the ninth-highest share among metro areas. Its pre-coronavirus unemployment rate was 2.4%, the 19th lowest among metro areas.

8. Des Moines, Iowa

Des Moines’ pre-coronavirus unemployment rate was 2.7%, which was lower than in most metro areas. Additionally, 42.7% of jobs could be done from home, the 17th-highest share among metro areas.

7. Rochester, New York

The Rochester metro area school district with the most students enrolled spends a total of ,943 per pupil in elementary and secondary public schools, the second-highest amount among metro areas. And 39.3% of jobs could be done from home, a higher share than in most metro areas.

6. Ames, Iowa

Ames’ pre-coronavirus unemployment rate was 2%, tied for the second lowest among metro areas. Additionally, 50.7% of residents who are at least 25 years old have a bachelor’s degree or higher, the ninth-highest share among metro areas.

5. Champaign, Illinois

Champaign’s pre-coronavirus unemployment rate was 3.2%, which was 0.3 percentage points lower than the national rate in February. The school district with the most students enrolled had the 20th-highest total spending per pupil in elementary and secondary public schools, at ,606 per pupil.

4. Bloomington, Illinois

The share of jobs that could be done from home in Bloomington is 39.4%, and 72.2% of households spend less than 30% of their income on housing; both shares are higher than in most metro areas.

3. Fargo, North Dakota

Fargo’s pre-coronavirus unemployment rate was 2.1%, tied for the fourth lowest among metro areas. The weekly commute to and from work in Fargo is two hours and 52 minutes, tied for the 10th shortest among metro areas.

2. Jefferson City, Missouri

Jefferson City’s cost of living is 18.3% lower than the national average and the fifth lowest among metro areas. And 77.2% of households spend less than 30% of their income on housing, the seventh highest among the metro areas.

1. Springfield, Illinois

Springfield’s pre-coronavirus unemployment rate was 3.5%, equivalent to the national rate, and 42.9% jobs could be done from home, the 16th-highest share among metro areas.

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


MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy EOD Tech awarded Silver Star for saving comrades during ISIS fight

A Navy chief was awarded the military’s third-highest valor award on Thursday for repeatedly braving enemy fire in an area filled with improvised explosive devices to save his teammates.


Chief Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Matthew O’Connor, a member of EOD Mobile Unit 11, received the Silver Star during a ceremony at Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego. Vice Adm. Scott Conn, commander of Third Fleet, presented O’Connor with the award.

Adversity under fire doesn’t test one’s character, it reveals it,” Conn said during the ceremony.

O’Connor, who joined the Navy in 2008, was serving as the EOD lead for a special operations task force fighting the Islamic State group in April at an undisclosed location. The team was tasked with checking into a facility where terrorists were known to be producing IEDs.

The chief and his team maneuvered into an enemy-held village, but were ambushed by eight fighters when they got to the facility.

After returning fire, O’Connor noticed a teammate on the ground, according to his award citation.

“With utter disregard for his own safety, Chief O’Connor advanced forward, carried his wounded teammate to cover, and then rendered lifesaving medical treatment while coordinating suppressive fire,” the citation states.

He again braved enemy fire to reach the team’s linguist, who was hurt. O’Connor then carried the first injured teammate to a casualty collection point, “under continuous enemy fire through difficult terrain,” his award citation states.

O’Connor then returned to the facility where the ambush started to conduct post-assault procedures, the citation adds. He then guided the rest of the task force across the area laden with IEDs to reach a vehicle pick-up point.

“By his bold initiative, undaunted courage and total dedication to duty, Chief O’Connor reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service,” the Silver Star citation says.

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

Articles

First female Marines apply to MARSOC

Maricela Veliz | U.S. Marine Corps


Just weeks after previously closed military ground combat and special operations jobs were declared open to women, the Marine Corps’ special operations command has had its first female applicants.

Maj. Gen. Joseph Osterman, commanding general of MARSOC, told Military.com the command has already received several requests from female Marines to enter the assessment and selection pipeline to become a critical skills operator. While Osterman could not specify how many women had applied, he said the first female applicant surfaced only days after the Jan. 4 deadline Defense Secretary Ash Carter set for new jobs to open.

“The very first week of January … we had one female applicant on the West Coast,” Osterman said. “Unfortunately, there was something in the prerequisite stuff she didn’t have, a [general technical] score or something. It was, ‘get re-tested and come on back,’ that kind of thing.”

Osterman said MARSOC is actively soliciting and recruiting qualified female Marines to join the command’s ranks. The command does not have, as Osterman put it, a “street to fleet” recruiting program; rather, it recruits from within the ranks of the Marine Corps.

To qualify for MARSOC critical skills operator assessment and selection, a Marine must be a seasoned corporal or a sergeant, or a first lieutenant or captain. The Marine must also have a minimum GT score of 105 and a minimum physical fitness test score of 225 out of 300, and be able to pass a command swim assessment and meet medical screening criteria.

“We’ve actively identified all the females in the Marine Corps writ large who meet all the prerequisites just like with our normal screening teams,” Osterman said. “We’ve notified or contacted every one of them and let them know, ‘it’s open, you’re eligible.'”

MARSOC submitted its broad implementation plan to the Secretary of Defense at the beginning of January after receiving input from the Marine Corps and U.S. Special Operations Command, Osterman said. In terms of training and job skills, he said, the command does have an advantage over the Marine Corps in that there were already clear gender-neutral physical standards in place for critical skills operators, while the Corps has only recently created such standards for infantry jobs.

MARSOC’s training pipeline is notoriously grueling. After a three-week initial assessment and selection period that tests physical fitness and a range of other aptitudes, Marines enter a second, 19-day assessment and selection training phase. Applicants who make it through both AS phases can then begin a nine-month individual training course that covers survival, evasion, resistance and escape [SERE], special reconnaissance, close urban combat, irregular warfare and many other skill sets.

Osterman said Wednesday that 40 percent of Marines who enter the MARSOC pipeline go on to become critical skills operators.

“When [Marines] go into assessment and screening, it’s a very holistic psychological profile. It’s swim, it’s physical fitness, but we don’t even count the PFT as part of the evaluation. It’s much more comprehensive than that,” Osterman said. “It’s a pretty sophisticated standardization system which is nice in that, again, we already had this and it’s gender-neutral already.”

MARSOC is also making plans to prepare its leadership for the advent of female trainees and operators, Osterman said.

A December study by the Rand Corporation found that 85 percent of 7,600 surveyed operators within all of SOCOM opposed the idea of serving alongside female counterparts. Many cited fears that female operators would harm combat effectiveness and provide a distraction down range.

Acknowledging the study, Osterman said he planned to hold a town hall meeting for MARSOC leadership to discuss the implementation of Carter’s gender integration mandate and to discuss thoughts and concerns.

“The tone and tenor from my perspective is, the concern was mostly about standards,” Osterman said of the Rand report. “Our standards are as they’ve always been and we’re not changing them.”

On a personal note, Osterman said he could see benefits to having female operators downrange.

“There are things that women can do, as I’ve seen many times in Afghanistan and Iraq, where there’s a lot of value added in the combined arms kind of approach,” he said.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

In about face, Army restores ability to shoot down Russian jets

The US Army in Europe has made a number of changes in recent months as part of a broader effort by the Pentagon to prepare for a potential fight against an adversary with advanced military capabilities, like Russia or China.

The latest move came on November 28, when the Army activated the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, in a ceremony at Shipton Barracks in Ansbach, near the city of Nuremberg in southern Germany.

The battalion has a long history, serving in artillery and antiaircraft artillery roles in the War of 1812, the Civil War, World War II, and the Vietnam War. It was deactivated in the late 1990s, after the US military withdrew from the Cold War.


Lt. Col. Todd Daniels, commander of the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, uncovers the battalion colors during the activation and assumption of command ceremony at Shipton Kaserne, Germany, on November 28, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jason Epperson)

Its return brings new and important short-range-air-defense, or SHORAD, capabilities, according to Col. David Shank, the head of 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, of which the new unit is part.”Not only is this a great day for United States Army Europe and the growth of lethal capability here. It is a tremendous step forward for the Air Defense Enterprise,” Shank said at the ceremony.

The battalion will be composed of five battery-level units equipped with FIM-92 Stinger missiles, according to Stars and Stripes.

Three of those batteries will be certified before the end of the summer, Shank said, adding that battalion personnel would also “build and sustain a strong Army family-support program, and become the subject-matter experts in Europe for short-range-air-defense to not just the Army, but our allies.”

Those troops “will have a hard road in from of them,” Shank said.

Stinger missiles are fired from the Avenger Air Defense System.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

Air Defense Artillery units were for a long time embedded in Army divisions, but the service started divesting itself of those units in the early 2000s, as military planners believed the Air Force could maintain air superiority and mitigate threats posed by enemy aircraft.

But in 2016, after finding a gap in its SHORAD capabilities, the Army started trying to address the shortfall.

In January, for the first time in 15 years, the US Army in Europe began training with Stinger missiles, a light antiaircraft weapon that can be fired from shoulder- and vehicle-mounted launchers.

Lightweight, short-range antiaircraft missiles are mainly meant to defend against ground-attack aircraft, especially helicopters, that target infantry and armored vehicles. Unmanned aerial vehicles — used by both sides in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine — are also a source concern.

A 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade member loads a Stinger onto an Avenger Air Defense System.

(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Rachael Jeffcoat)

US Army Europe has been relying on Avengers defense systems and Stinger missiles from Army National Guard units rotating through the continent as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, which began in 2014 as a way to reassure allies in Europe of the US commitment to their defense.

Guard units rotating through Europe have been training with the Stinger for months, but the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, will be the only one stationed in Europe that fields the Avenger, a short-range-air-defense system that can be mounted on a Humvee and fires Stinger missiles.

The Army has also been pulling Avenger systems that had been mothballed in order to supply active units until a new weapon system is available, according to Defense News, which said earlier this year that Army Materiel Command was overhauling Avengers that had been sitting in a Pennsylvania field waiting to be scrapped.

A U.S. Army Avenger team during qualification in South Korea, October 24, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Marion Jo Nederhoed)

The Army has also fast-tracked its Interim Short Range Air Defense (IM-SHORAD) program to provide air- and missile-defense for Stryker and Armored Brigade Combat Teams in Europe.

The Army plans to develop IM-SHORAD systems around the Stryker, equipping the vehicle with an unmanned turret developed by defense firm Leonardo DRS. The system includes Stinger and Hellfire missiles and an automatic 30 mm cannon, as well as the M230 chain gun and a 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun. It will also be equipped with electronic-warfare and radar systems.

Final prototypes of that package are expected in the last quarter of 2019, according to Defense News, with the Army aiming to have the first battery by the fourth quarter of 2020.

The activation of the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, is part of a broader troop increase the Army announced earlier this year, saying that the increase in forces stationed in Europe permanently would come from activating new units rather than relocating them from elsewhere.

The new units would bring 1,500 soldiers and their families back to Europe. (Some 300,000 US troops were stationed on the continent during the Cold War, but that number has dwindled to about 30,000 now.)

A member of the Florida National Guard’s 3rd Battalion, 265 Air Defense Artillery Regiment, uses a touchscreen from the driver’s seat of an Army Avenger.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

In addition to the short-range-air-defense battalion and supporting units at Ansbach, the new units will include a field-artillery brigade headquarters and two multiple-launch-rocket-system battalions and supporting units in Grafenwoehr Training Area, and other supporting units at Hohenfels Training Area and the garrison in Baumholder.

The activations were scheduled to begin this year and should be finished by September 2020, the Army said in a statement.

“The addition of these forces increases US Army readiness in Europe and ensures we are better able to respond to any crisis,” the Army said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

When Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Crosby first interviewed to be Army Futures Command’s enlisted leader, he had no idea what to expect.

The command was still in its nascent stages with no headquarters building and he could only find a brief description of its vision to modernize the Army.

Instead, Crosby was focused on the battlefield, observing his troops defeat ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria. The prospect of the new job seemed like a 180-degree departure from his post overseeing Operation Inherent Resolve’s Combined Joint Task Force.

He then reflected on the coalition troops he had lost during his tour. Then of the soldiers who never returned home from his other deployments, including back-to-back tours to Iraq from 2005 to 2008.


He decided he wanted to help change how future soldiers would fight, hopefully keeping them safer and more lethal.

“It’s something bigger than myself,” he said in a recent interview. “I’m fired up about this. This is a bold move by the Army.”

Embedded with industry, academia 

Inside a high-rise office building in the heart of Texas, the command’s headquarters bustled on a weekday in late June.

Unlike other Army units, the office space felt more like that, an office, rather than a typical military workplace.

The command had a low profile in its upper-floor nest inside the University of Texas System building, overlooking downtown and the domed state capitol.

Sgt. 1st Class William Roth, right, assigned to Army Futures Command’s Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team, conducts a live demonstration of new Army equipment at Capital Factory in Austin, Texas, April 11, 2019.

(Photo by Luke J. Allen)

Among the rows of cubicles, soldiers wore no uniforms as they worked alongside federal employees and contractors. Many soldiers went by their first name in the office, often frequented by innovators, entrepreneurs and academic partners.

The lowest-ranked soldier was a sergeant and up the chain were senior executive service civilians and a four-star general.

A few blocks down 7th Street, another group of soldiers and federal employees from the command were embedded in an incubator hub to get even closer to innovators.

The Army Applications Laboratory occupies a corner on the eighth floor of Capital Factory, which dubs itself the center of gravity for startups in Texas. The lab shares space with other defense agencies and officials call it a “concierge service” to help small companies navigate Defense Department acquisition rules and regulations.

“They’re nested and tied in with industry,” Crosby said.

The command also provides research funding to over 300 colleges and universities, he added

Those efforts include an Army Artificial Intelligence Task Force at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh that activated earlier this year.

In May, the University of Texas System also announced it had committed at least million to support its efforts with the command, according to a news release.

More recently, the command agreed to a partnership with Vanderbilt University in Nashville. As part of it, soldiers with 101st Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team would work with engineers to inspire new technology.

Soldiers up the road at Fort Hood may also soon be able to do the same at UT and Texas AM University.

“That is what we’re looking to replicate with other divisions in the Army,” Crosby said. “It will take some time.”

In on the groundfloor

Since October 2017 when the Army announced its intent to create the command to be the focal point of modernization efforts, it wasted no time laying its foundation.

It now manages eight cross-functional teams at military sites across the country, allowing soldiers to team with acquisition and science and technology experts at the beginning of projects.

The teams tackle six priorities: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, network, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality — all of which have since been allocated billion over the next five years.

The next step was to place its headquarters in an innovative city, where it could tap into industry and academic talent to develop new technologies that give soldiers an edge against near-peer threats.

Gen. John Murray, left, commander of Army Futures Command, and Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Crosby, the command’s senior enlisted leader, participate in a command synchronization session at the University of Texas at Austin, April 26, 2019.

(Photo by Luke J. Allen)

After an exhaustive search of over 150 cities, the Army chose Austin. The move marked the start of the Army’s largest reorganization effort since 1973, when both the Forces Command and Training and Doctrine Command were established.

The location away from a military post was intentional. Rather than surrounded by a security fence, the command is surrounded by corporate America.

“We’re part of the ecosystem of entrepreneurs, startups, academia,” Crosby said. “We’re in that flow of where ideas are presented.”

As it nears full operational capability this summer, Futures Command has already borne fruit since it activated August 2018.

Its collaborative efforts have cut the time it takes project requirements to be approved from five or seven years to just three months or less.

Once prototypes are developed, soldiers are also more involved in testing the equipment before it begins rolling off an assembly line.

By doing this, the Army hopes to learn from past projects that failed to meet soldier expectations.

The Main Battle Tank-70 project in the 1960s, for instance, went well over budget before it was finally canceled. New efforts then led to the M1 Abrams tank.

Until the Army got the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, it spent significant funding on the Mechanized Infantry Combat Vehicle in the 1960s, which never entered service.

“So we’re trying to avoid that,” Crosby said. “We’re trying to let soldiers touch it. Those soldier touchpoints are a big success story.”

Culture change

Futures Command is not a traditional military command. Its headquarters personnel, which will eventually number about 100 soldiers and 400 civilians, are encouraged to think differently.

A new type of culture has spread across the command, pushing many soldiers and federal employees out of their comfort zone to learn how to work in a more corporate environment.

“The culture we really look to embrace is to have some elasticity; be able to stretch,” Crosby said. “Don’t get in the box, don’t even use a box — get rid of the box.”

Crosby and other leaders will often elicit ideas from younger personnel, who may think of another approach to remedy a problem.

“I’m not going to somebody who has been in the uniform for 20 to 30 years, because they’re pretty much locked on their ideas,” he said. “They don’t want to change.”

A young staff sergeant once told the sergeant major the command could save thousands if they just removed the printers from the office.

The move, which is still being mulled over, would force people to rely more on technology while also saving money in paper, ink and electricity.

While it may annoy some, Crosby likens the idea to when a GPS device reroutes a driver because of traffic on a road. The driver may be upset at first, not knowing where the device is pointing, but the new route ends up being quicker.

Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley, center, deputy commanding general of Army Futures Command and commander of Futures and Concepts Center, talks with Josh Baer, founder of Capital Factory, during a South by Southwest Startup Crawl on March 8, 2019, in Austin, Texas.

(Photo by Anthony Small)

“You have to reprogram what you think,” he said. “I’m not used to this road, why are they taking me here? Then you come to find out, it’s not a bad route.”

For Sgt. 1st Class Kelly Robinson, his role as a human resources specialist is vastly different from his previous job as a mailroom supervisor at 4th Infantry Division.

As the headquarters’ youngest soldier, Robinson, 31, often handles the administrative actions of organizations that continue to realign under the budding command.

Among them are the Army Capabilities Integration Center that transitioned over to be the command’s Futures and Concepts Center. The Research, Development and Engineering Command then realigned to be its Combat Capabilities Development Command.

Research elements at the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command have also realigned to the Army’s new major command.

“The processes and actions are already in place,” Robinson said of his old position, “but here you’re trying to recreate and change pretty much everything.”

Since he started in November 2018, he said he now has a wider view of the Army. Being immersed in a corporate setting, he added, may also help him in a career after the military.

“The job itself and working with different organizations opens up a [broader perspective],” he said, “and helps you not just generalize but operationalize a different train of thought.”

Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Crosby, left, Army Futures Command’s senior enlisted leader, participates in the command’s activation ceremony in Austin, Texas, Aug. 24, 2018, along with Gen. Mark Milley, chief of staff of the Army; Army Secretary Mark Esper; and its commander, Gen. John Murray.

(Photo by Sgt. Brandon Banzhaf)

While chaotic at times, Julia McDonald, a federal employee who handles technology and futures analysis for the commander’s action group, has grabbed ahold of the whirlwind ride.

“It moves fast around here,” she said of when quick decisions are made and need to be implemented at a moment’s notice. “Fifteen minutes seems like an hour or two.”

Building up a major command is not without its growing pains. Even its commander, Gen. John Murray, has referred to his command as a “startup trying to manage a merger.”

“Everybody is just trying to stand up their staff sections and understand that this is your lane and this is my lane,” McDonald said. “And how do we all work together now that we’re in the same command?”

The current challenges could pay off once the seeds planted today grow into new capabilities that help soldiers.

For Crosby, that’s a personal mission. In his last deployment, nearly 20 coalition members, including U.S. soldiers, died in combat or in accidents and many more were wounded as they fought against ISIS.

“We have to get it right, and I know we will,” he said. “Everybody is depending on us.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Defectors living openly in US happens ‘far more often than people would think’

A former Russian official whose background matches descriptions of a high-level CIA spy hurriedly extracted from Russia has been living openly outside Washington, DC, under his own name.

According to documents from a 2017 real-estate purchase reviewed by Insider, Oleg Smolenkov bought a house in the DC area in 2018 for $925,000.

Intelligence sources told Insider that such a situation — a former agent living under his own name — was less unusual than it might at first appear, partly because of precedent and the unique personality type of high-level sources.


Smolenkov was named in Russian media Sep. 10, 2019, as a possible identity of the extracted spy. Reuters and the BBC were among Western outlets to also report the name.

A spokesman for the Kremlin said Smolenkov had worked for the Russian state but reportedly dismissed reports that a high-level spy had been extracted as “pulp fiction.”

Smolenkov was named in the wake of reports by The New York Times and CNN that described an unnamed Russian official who worked for the CIA for decades before fleeing to the US in the wake of the 2016 presidential election.

The descriptions from Russia of Smolenkov’s work for the Kremlin, the timing of his disappearance in 2017, and his presence in the suburbs of Washington, DC, appear to match the reports.

When an NBC News reporter knocked on the door of the Smolenkov house Sep. 9, 2019, he was intercepted by unidentified men asking what he was doing.

Two former FBI officials told NBC News that they thought the man in Virginia was the intelligence asset.

That asset is reported to have supplied critical information that helped shape the US government’s understanding of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The asset’s identity remains unconfirmed. Among assets in a similar position, however, the practice of living openly in a Western country under a real name would not be unusual, according to a former US Drug Enforcement Agency agent who regularly ran intelligence and drug-cartel sources.

“Not shocking at all to those of us who have been there,” said the former member of the DEA’s special-operations division, which handles high-level investigations and sources.

“A guy like Smolenkov spent decades working his way to the top of the Russian government and succeeded while also being an asset for the CIA,” the source said. He asked for anonymity to protect former sources and assets around the world.

“That level of political success at the same time he knew every day for decades he could be revealed and arrested usually requires a special level of ego and appetite for risk,” the source said.

“So it’s not shocking that the first reports said he turned down a chance in 2016 to escape before being convinced by the media coverage that he finally had to go in 2017. Getting him to give up that level of status inside his own homeland along with the status he secretly held with the CIA … it’s a powerful combination.”

Three other former intelligence agents contacted by Insider were less willing to talk about the story, which immediately grabbed the attention of the media and intelligence circles Sep. 9, 2019.

But all three noted that Russian intelligence assets tended to keep their identities intact after defection despite usual pleas from their handlers to adopt fake names and go into hiding.

All three noted that the Russian defectors Sergei Skripal and Alexander Litvinenko lived openly in the UK after fleeing Russia and continued to consult for intelligence services and private companies under their own names.

Footage of Sergei Skripal’s 2006 trial.

(Sky News)

Both men were poisoned in cases where UK has blamed the Russian state.

Skripal and his daughter narrowly survived a nerve-agent poisoning in 2018, while Litvinenko died in 2006 after drinking tea laced with radioactive poison.

“It’s unlikely that someone with the level of ambition to rise that high in the Kremlin while working as an agent for the Americans would want to easily drop the social status that came with both sides of their double life,” the former DEA agent said.

“And it gets even harder to convince them they’re actually threatened and need to go into deep witness-protection programs if they have families that probably didn’t know they were working for another country on the side.

“Then you add that these are people rather used to risk and living off their wits and so ego plays a huge role.”

When asked how often high-level defectors refused to completely abandon their old life and identity, the former DEA agent said “far more often than people would think.”

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