US scrambles fighters after Syrian aircraft bombed near SpecOps Forces - We Are The Mighty
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US scrambles fighters after Syrian aircraft bombed near SpecOps Forces

U.S. fighters scrambled Friday against Syrian aircraft that dropped bombs near American special operations forces on the ground in the northeast in an incident that was the closest the U.S. has come to combat in the wartorn country.


Syrian air force Su-24s made by Russia departed the areas over the contested city of Hasakah before the U.S. warplanes arrived but Pentagon officials made clear that the Syrians would risk attack if they returned.

U.S. and coalition troops were on the ground near the bombing in their train, advise and assist role, according to Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.

US scrambles fighters after Syrian aircraft bombed near SpecOps Forces
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Erin Trower

“The Syrian regime would be well advised not to do things that would place them at risk,” he said. “We do have the right of self-defense.”

No U.S. or coalition troops were injured in the bombings, which were close enough to pose a threat, he said.

Davis said he could not confirm that the incident in the skies over Hasakah was the closest the U.S. has come to combat in Syria but added that “I’d be hard-pressed to think of another situation like it.”

President Barack Obama has barred combat for U.S. ground forces in Iraq and Syria but the ban stops at self-defense.

Davis said that two Syrian Su-24s conducted bombing runs over Hasakah, where there have been clashes in recent days between Syrian regime forces and Kurdish militias backed by the U.S.

American officials immediately contacted the Russians through communications channels set up by the two militaries under a memorandum of understanding, Davis said. “The Russians said it was not them,” he said.

The U.S. then scrambled fighters but Davis said the action was not an “intercept” since the Syrian aircraft were leaving the scene.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s how the Atlanta Falcons honored fallen heroes

Update: This article previously stated that the Falcons would again be wearing the initials of fallen heroes at the Super Bowl. This act of honor was solely done during their Salute to Service game in November.


The Atlanta Falcons, who will face off against the New England Patriots this weekend in Super Bowl LI, honored veterans by wearing the initials of fallen heroes on their helmets during their Salute to Service game in November 2016. Together with TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors), the Falcons put together a meaningful event that including the surviving families of the fallen.

US scrambles fighters after Syrian aircraft bombed near SpecOps Forces
The Atlanta Falcons honored 63 fallen heroes and recognized their surviving families at their Salute to Service game in Atlanta. (Photo credit: Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors)

The tribute is part of the NFL’s Salute to Service campaign; in partnership with USAA, the NFL works throughout the year to honor veterans and raise funds for the USO, the Pat Tillman Foundation, and the Wounded Warrior Project (millions and millions of funds, in fact).

In fact, the Falcons played such a key role in honoring America’s vets and their families, Head Coach Dan Quinn was nominated for USAA’s Salute to Service Award.

The video below features players from the Falcons as they share the names of men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice. The list is a sobering reminder of the cost of freedom, but the comments from people who personally knew the heroes named is what will make you reach for the tissues.


MIGHTY TRENDING

The guilt of a Gold Star friend

It was Nov. 10, 2010 — the Marine Corps birthday. I was sound asleep and having another nightmare. I’d been having them randomly for years; PTSD does that to a person. Lately, the nightmares seemed real and more consistent.


My husband had recently deployed for his 4th combat deployment. A Platoon Sergeant with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, Mike was in what was considered at the time to be the deadliest place in the world: Sangin, Afghanistan.

I was about to be diagnosed with some serious medical issues. While I waited for test results, I spent my days and nights in those early stages of deployment hiding that from everyone. I was alone with three children under 6-years old, and 50+ wives and mothers and families, all of whom depended on me to be strong and healthy.

Of the 50-something man platoon my husband was with, none but three had ever been in combat aside from him. Not even his lieutenant.

The wives were having issues with the Family Readiness Officer, and so the saltier wives took over helping the less experienced ones. It was very much like the beginning of the Iraq war for us — unreliable contact, unreliable information, unreliable family readiness program, unreliable EVERYTHING.

In short, it was a sh*t show just shy of becoming a sh*t storm.

So, I was having another nightmare. Somewhere in the distance I could hear knocking. A phone ringing. Was someone saying my name?

In my dream, Mike was whispering “Katie, answer the phone. Katie, get the door.” He coughed, his face contorted in pain. “Katie… Katie… Katie…”

I pulled out of a groggy, medication-induced sleep, and picked up my phone.

“Uh huh,” I muttered into the phone.

“Katie!” the frantic screaming felt like a bucket of ice water being thrown over me. “Katie, they’re at the door and I don’t know what to do!”

I jumped out of bed. “Who’s at the door,” I asked the young wife on the phone, my mini-me. At barely 19 years old, Katie Stack was my overly dramatic, neediest Marine’s wife, and she was a GD headache. I loved her, but I really wanted to knife hand her most days.

“The- the men! In blues! A chaplain!” I could tell that Katie was on the verge of outright collapse. Her voice was near hysteria. I could hear her movements; she was practically rushing around in a circle halfway through the house, screaming mostly incoherently, trying not to look at the men standing, knocking on her door.

“Sweetheart,” I said softly, “Is Joanne home?” Joanne was Katie’s little sister, and I knew that Katie was home in Chicago visiting family. I’d had to update the FRO just days prior in case something happened. In case she needed to be notified of…

“She is, but she’s just a kid!”

“Sweetheart, put your sister on the phone and go answer the door, you have to.” I waited for Katie’s little sister’s voice to greet me.

“Hello?” came the tiny, terrified, barely-a-teen, voice. In the background I could hear a sob, a wailing. Men talking gently.

“Joanne, honey. Where’s your mom?” Katie and Joanne’s mom, a school administrator, would’ve already left for work, I assumed.

“She’s at work. Miss Foley, there’s men at the door named CACO and they’re saying scary stuff about James…”

“I need you to go hand the phone to the men at the door, go upstairs and get your phone, and call your mother right now.”

“What’s going on Miss Foley?”

“Hon, I need you to do this right now and then you have to come back down stairs and sit with Katie until your mother gets there. Tell your mom it’s an emergency, and that CACO are at the door. Run now.”

The next voice I heard was deep and somber.

“Mrs. Foley, are you near Chicago that you could get here within the next few hours? Mrs. Stack is going to need you.”

“I’m in California. I’ll take the next plane, but her mother is en route now. Do you guys stay with the widow? She has stress related seizures, she can’t be left alone like this. There’s a baby in the house…”

My mind was running a mile a minute-

Get to Chicago, get childcare for my three kids, reschedule my upcoming doctors appointments, shoot an email to Mike- God is Mike okay? No time for that. Someone will come to my door if he isn’t.

I hung up and went to my kitchen, rushing around, pushing dishes into the sink, starting a pot of coffee, pulling my V-neck tee all the way on as I’d run out of my room with just one arm in the sleeve. Suddenly, I stopped moving.

“Katie, something’s happened to James! I can feel it. Something terrible, I just know it.”

The conversation from just the day before replayed in my mind as if the two of us were standing in front of me in my kitchen.

“Katie!” I’d angrily snapped at her. “God! James is fine. You’re fine. Everyone is FINE! Sh*t! Calm down.”

The scene played over and over until I leaned against my wall and slowly slid to the cold kitchen tile.

She’d called me multiple times a day, every day, from the moment our husbands had left. She’d wailed and cried and complained. She’d tried to send a Red Cross message when he was in pre-deployment training because she’d gotten a headache one night.

I’d finally lost my freaking mind and hollered at her.

“James is fine.”

The words repeated over and over.

“Everyone is FINE. Sh*t.”

Over and over.

“James is fine.”

Every time the words played again, I could feel my heart tighten. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think. My chest hurt. I couldn’t feel my arm. My vision was going out.

“Mama?” a tiny voice called out from the top of the steps.

I crawled across my kitchen floor and peered around the bottom of the steps.

“Yeah?” I smiled up at my son at the top of the stairs, his pudgy little fingers gripping the baby gate.

“Lub you. I go back to bed now,” the 3-year-old ginger smiled at me from the top of the steps before skittering back to his bed.

I laid down on the tile right there between my kitchen and dining room and just sobbed.

“Everyone is FINE. Sh*t.”

James Bray Stack was killed in action by a sniper on Nov. 10, 2010, in Sangin, Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

“James is fine.”

He left behind a wife and baby daughter, Mikayla.

“Everyone is FINE. Sh*t.”

He competed in the Junior Olympics in 2008, taking the Gold.

“James is fine.”

His daughter was 1 year and 7-days-old, and it was one year and four days after my father died.

“Everyone is FINE…”

Everyone is not fine.

I have, since that morning in 2010, been both wracked with guilt and rattled to my core. I’d never experienced combat deaths from the wife side of the field. When Marines died, it was Marines I knew. I didn’t know their wives. I knew them because I’d served with them. I’d ridden to boot camp with them or worked with them in an S3 shop somewhere or left Camp LeJeune on a bus with them at some point.

When Marines I knew died, I simply felt bad for their wives. But then again… I didn’t yell at them.

“Everyone is FINE. Sh*t.”

Years later, Katie would tell me what she remembered from that day. “It was November,” she’d tell me. “The Marine Corps birthday. James would’ve liked that.”

That’s all, really. She doesn’t particularly remember me yelling at her the day before. She doesn’t really remember most of it.

We are closer friends than most of either of our friends. She calls me out of the blue sometimes, and I text her every few random months to check in. But she isn’t far from my mind, ever. I stalk her on Facebook to make sure she’s okay, and she stalks me on Facebook to make sure I’m still married.

I haven’t seen her in five years. Sometimes I hear my words “Everyone is FINE. Sh*t.” in my mind and I feel like I’m being crushed. I might never stop feeling guilty about that.

“Is there such a thing as survivor’s guilt when the other person survived as well?” I asked my therapist one day.

“Yes. All that is required for survivor’s guilt is that you be dealing with some level of PTSD, and that the thing that happened did not happen directly to you. Stack’s death happened to his wife, not to you.”

“How effed up does that make me?” I asked her, laughing a bit at myself because it’s frowned on to laugh at other people.

“It makes you normal.”

“Other spouses feel like this?”

“They do.”

All these years, all this time, I thought I was alone in that. I thought I was some weird Marine/Marine wife hybrid that had gotten caught in the middle and was just short circuiting or something. But no. It’s normal.

We feel survivor’s guilt, too.

I wish I’d known that six years ago. I wish I’d known that it was normal, that there were other people who felt like I did. I could’ve been of far more use to other spouses, Gold Star and the others.

But most of all, I wish I’d known it was normal because maybe I could’ve helped Katie more.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Can a pandemic turn the tide of war?

As the Coronavirus continues to dominate media coverage and outbreaks keep all of us on edge, I’m reminded of the effects pandemics have had on history –specifically how they shaped history.

For some, this epidemic probably brings to mind the 2009 H1N1 outbreak. Others who read books such as the Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History by John Barry are reminded of an even more devastating contagion from the last century.


But we can go back even further to learn how pandemics have shaped society and the outcomes of conflict.

So, let’s go back over 2400 years ago….

Pericles had the perfect plan! The Athenians moved behind the walls of the city, letting the Spartans attack across land. They would wait them out in a Fabian Strategy. Food would not be an issue because Athens could rely on its maritime imports to keep them fed. Money wasn’t a problem, because they had plenty in the bank. Meanwhile, their fleet projected combat power into Spartan territory, raiding coastal cities and shaming the Spartans. Not only would Pericles avoid fighting the Spartans on their terms, he would also sew doubt of Spartan superiority among the Peloponnesian League by attacking the “home front.” As Athens and Sparta finished the campaigning season in the first year of the war, Athens believed their strategy was working as evidenced by Pericles’ Funeral Oration.

As the second year of the war began, disease struck in Athens. The plague caught everyone by surprise, and as Thucydides points out, “there was no ostensible cause; but people in good health were all of a sudden attacked by violent heats in the head…” The plague swept through Athens killing men, women, and children, and with it came devastating effects on society. Thucydides wrote that lawlessness broke out as men watched others die and private property came up for grabs. The unforeseen disease affected Athenian will; they questioned the value of Pericles’ strategy and the war itself, ultimately sending envoys to Sparta to seek peace.

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The Athenian experience with the plague should remind us of the power of the unseen. Disease can reshape society. It can influence the outcome of war. And although we have not experienced the devastating effects of contagion on a mass scale in modern times, we may only be standing in the proverbial eye of the storm.

One can argue that microscopic parasites could be placed on equal footing with geography, war, and migration in shaping the world that we know today. In Plagues and Peoples by William H. McNeill, the author traces the history of mankind, pointing out how disease proved a major factor in the trajectory of our species. First, he points out that disease served to break down communities of people, enabling them to be absorbed by larger groups. He writes that,

“Such human material could then be incorporated into the tissues of the enlarged civilization itself, either as individuals or families and small village groupings… The way in which digestion regularly breaks down the larger chemical structures of our food in order to permit molecules and atoms to enter into our own bodily structures seems closely parallel to this historical process.”

He observes that the plague led to changes in European society in the 14 and 15 centuries. In England, the Black Death of 1348-1350 led to changes in the social fabric of society, increasing wages and quality of life for serfs. McNeil even suggests that diseases in Europe created enough social upheaval that it successfully set the conditions for Martin Luther’s Reformation.

He further argues that disease set the conditions for European expansion into the New World. For example, Hernando Cortez, who had less than 600 soldiers, was able to conquer an Aztec empire of millions in the early 1500s with the help of contagion. Within fifty years of his landing, the population of central Mexico shrank to a tenth of its size. This catastrophic drop in population levels had significant impacts on religion, defense, and their society in general, paving the way for European growth in the region.

McNeill is not alone in his argument. In Bacteria and Bayonets: The Impact of Disease in the American Military History, David R. Petriello argues that contagion played a major factor in the successful colonization of North America and the American experience with war. Smallpox and other illnesses depopulated the regions surrounding the colonies, giving the settlers the space to grow.
US scrambles fighters after Syrian aircraft bombed near SpecOps Forces

upload.wikimedia.org

Most Americans have heard the story of how an Indian named Squanto helped save the Plymouth settlers by teaching them planting techniques and guiding them through the peace process with surrounding tribes. However, it was disease more so than goodwill that saved the Pilgrims. The author writes, “When Squanto wandered into the Pilgrim’s’ world he did so as an exile. Had it not been for the epidemic visited his tribe…Squanto himself would not have been seeking out kindred human company.”

While the U.S. military responds to the threat of the Coronavirus, this isn’t the first time it’s battled contagions. Long ago, before we stood in lines to get way too many shots before deployments, commanders dealt with smallpox, influenza, dysentery, and venereal disease, as it affected 30% of armies up through World War I. These outbreaks, more than likely, had an impact on the outcome of key campaigns.

In the Revolutionary and Civil War, disease took important leaders out of important battles the eve of engagements. And it caused commanders to hold off on taking advantage of fleeting opportunities in both conflicts, as they had to wait for replacements to arrive. It has only been in recent history, that we have brought disease’s impact on war under control.

Vaccinations didn’t become common practice until World War II. As Petriello observes, “Whereas there were 102,000 cases of measles in World War I with 2,370 deaths, there were only 60,809 cases in World War II with only 33 deaths reported.”

Thanks to technological advances in medicine, it has been almost a hundred years since disease sat in the front row of a national security conversation. However, things are changing. We’ve seen how the Coronavirus is affecting markets, diplomacy and even troops serving abroad. Maybe it’s time we reexamined our preparedness for these outbreaks.

In the end, Pericles succumbed to the plague, and Athens lost an important leader. Those who came after him chose a different strategic path for the city, which ultimately proved costly for the Delian League. This incident during the Peloponnesian War is worth making us pause and think about the role of contagions in human history and conflict. It has wiped out cultures and set the conditions for the successful expansion of others. It has served as a significant factor in wars of the past. Finally, it may yet play a major role in world affairs again.

While the Coronavirus may pass without any long-lasting effects, it’s worth asking military leaders an important question, “Are we really prepared?”

Articles

Why the ‘brown note’ is complete BS for riot control

The brown note. The ultimate in non-lethal riot control devices.  A single blast could incapacitate assailants, leaving them vomiting or defecating all over themselves.


Protesters around the world have reported that they soiled themselves because of it. There was even an episode of South Park dedicated to this sound.

Except it was total bull sh*t.

Pun intended? (Image via GIPHY)

The myth states that when hearing 153.0 Hz at a thunderous volume, your guts will shake to the point where you can’t control your bowels. Jaime Hyneman and Adam Savage of “MythBusters” busted this all the way back in 2005.

Savage, who conducted the test, felt the long waves vibrating through him and it felt awkward. Yet, the show concludes that a sound alone couldn’t make you crap your pants.

“Even with the help of some of the world’s best audio technicians, the MythBusters just couldn’t produce the brown note,” concludes the narrator, Robert Lee.

There is no way to literally shake the sh*t out of you with sound. That we know of.

US scrambles fighters after Syrian aircraft bombed near SpecOps Forces
(Screengrab via YouTube )

However, this isn’t the only time anyone conceived of and developed sound as a weapon.

The use of sound weapons has been a concept that has been in development stage since 1944. Currently, the military and law enforcement both use the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD). The LRAD is a non-lethal loud speaker that works more as a mass notification system than a weapon.

US scrambles fighters after Syrian aircraft bombed near SpecOps Forces
Yeah. That’ll amplify a bit. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications 3rd Class David A. Cox)

Sound has more of a psychological effect than physical. Instead of a specific frequency, it’s songs that have a long history in psychological warfare.

Related: Listen to the playlist that ousted Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega

US scrambles fighters after Syrian aircraft bombed near SpecOps Forces

In the Vietnam War, troops played “Ghost Tape Number Ten.” They would blast it from helicopters and loudspeakers at the dead of night in deep in the jungle. The tape played funeral music and heavy-distorted voices that sound like ghosts.

In Vietnamese, the “ghost” would say eerie things such as “My friend, I come back to tell you I am dead,” and “Go home, my friend, before it’s too late.”

RELATED: That time US Soldiers pretended to be vampires and ghosts to scare the hell out of the enemy.

Watch “MythBusters” break down why the brown note just doesn’t work:

(skateboardforev, Youtube)

Articles

Navy set to deploy first submarine with female enlisted crew

The Bangor, Washington-based USS Michigan (SSGN 727) will soon put to sea and submerge with a crew that includes four female NCOs and 34 junior enlisted women, marking the first time the Navy has deployed a submarine with women in the enlisted ranks.


The female sailors will be divided between the Gold and Blue crews of the guided-missile submarine.

US scrambles fighters after Syrian aircraft bombed near SpecOps Forces
INDIAN ISLAND, Wash. (Aug. 1, 2015) Sailors assigned to the Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Michigan (SSGN 727) Blue crew arrive at Naval Magazine Indian Island following a 20-month deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Amanda R. Gray/Released)

According to the Kitsap Sun newspaper, the USS Michigan has undergone a $6 million retrofit to build out the crew quarters and heads to accommodate the female crew, including converting a bunkroom into shower space, splitting the aft washroom to allow for a shower and head combination and a watchstander head, and creating a new bunkroom from the old crew’s study.

The chief petty officers will bunk together two or three to a room, while the other women will split into nine-person bunkrooms and share a head, the newspaper said.

The Navy opened up the all-male submarine force several years ago to female sailors and deployed its first crew with women officers in 2011.

The USS Michigan’s crew is made up of 15 officers and about 140 enlisted sailors. The female enlisted submariners were chosen from 113 applicants, the Kitsap Sun reported.

The Navy reportedly plans to add as many as 550 female sailors to the submarine service by 2020.

Articles

10 tips on raising resilient kids from an Al Qaeda-fighting Rhodes Scholar

US scrambles fighters after Syrian aircraft bombed near SpecOps Forces
Eric Greitens in Iraq.


Eric Greitens is no parenting expert, so why should you listen to his tips on raising resilient kids? Take your pick: The guy’s a Rhodes Scholar with a doctoral degree in ethics, philosophy and public policy. After doing humanitarian work in some of the less pleasant corners of the world, he became a Navy SEAL with 4 deployments, including a turn commanding an Al Qaeda targeting cell. Along the way, he picked up a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star, and 7 other major military awards and commendations. Greitens has persevered through more in one life than most could in 5, and he did all that before having his first kid last year. So, how has he applied what he knows about resilience to that little adventure? Read on …

1. If youre not a resilient guy, your kid wont be a resilient kid.

“To paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson, who you are will speak more loudly to your children than anything you say,” says Greitens. If they see you always able to pick yourself up when you’ve been knocked down, that’s behavior they’re going to adopt intuitively. While you’re at it, maybe try to get knocked down a little less.

Also read: 7 leadership lessons from former commanders of America’s most elite warriors

2. Being resilient begins with taking responsibility.

If you have no ownership over anything – actions, property, your sister’s feelings – then you have no incentive try hard or try again when the moment calls for it. “Teach your children early not to pass the blame or make excuses, but to take responsibility for their actions” says Greitens. That doesn’t just apply when they tag their sister in the face with a rubber band; it’s just as important when they agree to walk the dog or keep their room clean.

3. Empower them through service.

Helping others teaches all sorts of important skills, including empathy and resourcefulness and an understanding that life’s a box of chocolates and sometimes you pick the one with the gross orange-flavored filling. But, more importantly, Greitens says, “Children who know that they have something to offer others will learn that they can shape the world around them for the better.” That’s a powerful source of optimism for a kid, and it will come in handy when you’re old and broke.

4. Make a daily habit of being grateful.

Now that your kid is seeing what misfortune looks like through their service, it’s a good time to introduce the idea of gratitude. If nothing else in life, they’ve got a father who loves them unconditionally and irrationally (they probably also have a roof over their head and 3 square meals a day, too), and not everyone is so lucky. Taking a minute out of each day to remember that makes it easier to handle whatever curveball comes next.

US scrambles fighters after Syrian aircraft bombed near SpecOps Forces

5. Resist the urge to fix, solve or answer everything for them.

“Your children should know that you’re always there for them, and that they can call on you when needed,” says Greitens. “But give them the opportunity to learn to solve their own problems.” You know you’re supposed to object to this and insist that you just can’t help rushing in to save them because you love them so much, but admit it: His plan is way less work for you.

6. Help them understand consequences, for better and worse.

Learning the negative consequences of their actions is a key step in your kid understanding why they shouldn’t torture the dog and why they should do their homework. It’s on you to enforce the consequences that are within your control, but they don’t always have to be negative – understanding how their actions can also have positive outcomes will help them look for the best course of action in any situation.

7. Failure is a good thing.

“In failure, children learn how to struggle with adversity and how to confront fear. By reflecting on failure, children begin to see how to correct themselves and then try again with better results. A culture that rewards failure with trophies steals from children the great treasure chest of wisdom that comes from pain, from difficulty, from falling short.” Considering that, when Greitens talks about struggling with adversity and confronting fear, he means “Shit I saw serving as a Navy SEAL,” it’s probably best to take him at his word on this one.

8. Allow risk taking.

Failure, consequences, independence, responsibility – every single one of the aforementioned tips involves your kid taking some kind of risk. If you try too hard to mitigate those risks, you mitigate your whole kid. “To be something we never were, we have to do something we’ve never done,” says Greitens. Again, Navy SEAL. Don’t argue.

9. Know when to bring the authority.

“Not every risk is a good risk to take, and adults need to be clear with children about what will and won’t be tolerated. Children don’t get to choose to ride in a car without seatbelts,” says Greitens. Properly wielded, authority actually frees your kid up to take the good kind of risks, because you’ve established safe limits within which to operate – like, in the yard but not in the street. Or in their pants and not without pants.

10. Demonstrate your love for them every day.

What? You thought the guy was a hardass just because of the whole Navy SEAL thing?

Greitens has plenty more to say on the topic of resilience in his new, appropriately titled book, Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom For Living A Better Life, out now.

MIGHTY CULTURE

More Sailors Are Reenlisting. Leaders Say It’s Because Navy Culture Is Changing

The Navy is moving away from the “suck it up, buttercup”-style culture of the past to appeal to the millennial generation and beyond — and new retention numbers indicate the approach is likely working.

The service blasted past its 2019 retention goals for enlisted sailors in their first 10 years in uniform. It held onto nearly 65% of Zone A sailors, or those with less than six years in. And 72% of Zone B sailors — those with six to 10 years in — re-upped.


The Navy set out to keep at least 55% of sailors in Zone A and 65% of those in Zone B. When combined with Zone C sailors, those who’ve been in the service for 10 to 14 years, the 2019 reenlistment rate was 74% across the three zones.

Fleet Master Chief Wes Koshoffer, with Navy Manpower, Personnel, Training and Education, told reporters the high re-up rates are a result of an ongoing culture shift in the Navy. Leaders are listening to rank-and-file sailors, he said, and the Navy is focused on developing policies based on what’s easier for the individual and their family.

“When I was a very, very young sailor in the Navy, facing a particularly challenging … family situation, the moniker was, ‘Family didn’t come in your seabag, shipmate. We need you,'” Koshoffer said. “That is no longer our mantra.”

The entire military faces recruiting and retention challenges when it’s up against a booming economy. People have job options outside the service, Koshoffer said. Being an appealing career choice for today’s generation of sailors is crucial as the Navy builds its force back up to 340,500 personnel as it faces more sophisticated threats.

That’s up from a 2012 end-strength low of 318,000 enlisted sailors and naval officers.

“We’re going to need a bigger Navy,” the fleet master chief said. “[We have] a different national strategy, a different military and Navy strategy. … In order to really grow at the pace we want to grow, you have to have these high retention numbers.”

Yeoman 2nd Class Thomas Mahoney and Personnel Specialist 1st Class Holly Tucker say they’ve seen Navy culture change during their time in the service. Mahoney, 26, will soon reenlist for the second time. Tucker, 25, re-upped last year.

Mahoney was on an aircraft carrier when two destroyers in the Pacific suffered separate fatal collisions. When lack of sleep was found to have contributed to the accidents, Mahoney said leaders in 7th Fleet reacted immediately.

More rotational watch schedules were added, and other steps were taken to ensure people were getting good sleep while deployed, he said.

That’s a big shift, Koshoffer said. “Our attitude toward sleep [used to be], ‘You’ll sleep when you’re dead,'” he said. “We’ve changed that.”

Tucker cited the military’s 12-week maternity leave policy as contributing to her decision to stay in the Navy. The service’s maternity leave policy briefly tripled from six weeks to 18 under former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. In 2016, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced all the services would receive 12 weeks.

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“I think that’s a great incentive for women specifically,” Tucker said, adding that she values her leadership’s support and understanding on family matters.

The millennial generation is also focused on career progression and flexibility, the Navy found. Koshoffer said leaders are shifting the service’s culture to show sailors they’re listening and responding to what they’re looking for in a Navy career.

After years of complaints about the Navy’s career detailing program being too secretive, for example, the service unveiled a new online database called My Navy Assignment. The tool is meant to give sailors more information about requirements they’ll need for their jobs of choice so they can build up their skills well before their detailing window hits.

So far, about 11,000 sailors have used the tool to bookmark 27,000 jobs.

“The reason why we show every job available to the sailors was sailor demand for transparency,” Koshoffer said. “… We heard you, we listened, we made the change.”

Change is what the Navy must do in order to compete for top talent, the fleet master chief added. The service still relies on reenlistment bonuses to entice those in hard-to-fill jobs to stay in uniform. Tucker, for example, was eligible for an extra ,000 when she reenlisted.

But the Navy must also embrace telework, flex hours and job-sharing options, Koshoffer said.

“The nature of work is changing,” he said. “… That would be heresy in some circles that in the Navy, we would allow somebody to telework. Are you kidding me?

“But we recognize that we’ve got to adapt to a modern lifestyle and world out there.”

— Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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

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17 Photos That Show Why Troops Absolutely Love The .50 Caliber Machine Gun

The M2 .50 caliber machine gun has been in production longer than any other, and it’s easy to see why troops love it.


Since the 1930s, “Ma Deuce” has been serving troops on the ground, in vehicles, and in aircraft, and with its effectiveness and reliability, it doesn’t look like this weapon is going out of style any time soon. Originally developed during World War I by John Browning, the weapon is now in the hands of U.S. troops and a number of NATO allies.

Here’s why:

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The M2 .50 cal has served troops well in Iraq and Afghanistan as a fearsome automatic weapon usually mounted to vehicles.

US scrambles fighters after Syrian aircraft bombed near SpecOps Forces

But it was just as deadly in Normandy in 1944 …

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… As it is overlooking remote bases in Afghanistan today.

US scrambles fighters after Syrian aircraft bombed near SpecOps Forces

With a belt-fed .50 BMG round, it packs serious punch that can effectively hit targets out to 1,800 meters.

US scrambles fighters after Syrian aircraft bombed near SpecOps Forces

The weapon can fire a variety of ammunition types, such as standard ball, blanks, armor-piercing (AP), armor-piercing incendiary (API), armor-piercing incendiary tracer (APIT) …

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… And the crowd favorite: Saboted Light Armor Penetrator (SLAP), which can bust through steel.

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Troops can find the .50 cal everywhere from the perimeter of the forward operating base …

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… to the rails of U.S. Navy ships.

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Of course, two is better than one.

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Before they can fire it, soldiers usually learn how to disassemble, assemble, and adjust headspace and timing — tweaks made to the gun that allow it to fire safely. (The U.S. Army upgraded a number of their .50 cals to the M2A1, which doesn’t require headspace & timing adjustments).

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Once it’s ready to go, soldiers place the rounds on the feed tray, make sure the cover is closed, and pull the bolt to the rear to load the weapon.

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Then it’s ready to rock and roll. The .50 can fire in single shot or fully automatic mode.

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At the rear, soldiers grab the “spade” handle and fire it using a butterfly trigger. They need to be careful however: There’s no safety mechanism to prevent accidental discharge (Some variants have been fielded which feature a positive safety selector).

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While it’s most often mounted to vehicles in a rotating turret …

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… Ma Deuce can also be found on the side of helicopters.

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And with the use of a tripod, it can also be fired very effectively from the ground.

US scrambles fighters after Syrian aircraft bombed near SpecOps Forces

Correction: This post was updated with new information to reflect the fielding of the M2A1 variant and other versions, which feature safety selectors, and don’t require the need for adjustments to headspace and timing.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Can military spouses be buried in veterans cemeteries?

You may know that most veterans can be buried in state and national veterans cemeteries for little or no money, but what about their spouses and other dependents?

Your spouse may be eligible to be buried with you in a veterans cemetery at little or no cost. However, if you and your spouse have divorced and they have remarried, they probably aren’t eligible. Dependent children may also be eligible. Some parents of those killed on active duty may also be eligible.

As always, only veterans with an other-than-dishonorable discharge (and their dependents) qualify for this burial benefit. There are also other restrictions against those found guilty of certain crimes.


Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery is run by the Department of the Army. As such, it has rules that are a bit different than National Veterans Cemeteries, which are run by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The cemetery is also running out of space for new burials.

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Arlington National Cemetery.

Therefore, burials and inurnments, the placing of cremated remains in a large wall, are limited to specific groups. Currently, burial at Arlington National Cemetery is open to:

  • Members who died on active duty and their immediate family
  • Retirees and their immediate family
  • Recipients of the Purple Heart or Silver Star and above, as well as their immediate family
  • Any honorably discharged prisoner of war who died after Nov. 30, 1993, and their immediate family

Veterans and their dependents as well as some retired reservists are eligible for inurnment in the cemetery.

The cemetery will furnish a headstone/marker for both the veteran and dependents.

National veterans cemeteries

These cemeteries are run by the VA. There are currently 136 national cemeteries in 40 states and Puerto Rico. Locate a VA cemetery near you.

Burial is available to any veteran with an other-than-dishonorable discharge, as well as their dependents. The VA will furnish a headstone/marker for the veteran and dependent.

VA National Cemeteries

State veterans cemeteries

Many states have their own veterans cemeteries. Eligibility is similar to VA national cemeteries, but may include residency requirements.

Most states provide free burial and a headstone for the veteran; many charge a fee less than id=”listicle-2636201112″,000 for eligible dependents.

State veterans cemeteries

Other cemeteries

The VA may provide a free headstone or marker for all eligible veterans buried at any cemetery worldwide; however, it doesn’t pay the cost of placing the marker. Some states will reimburse this cost.

Dependents aren’t eligible for this benefit; however, some states may provide a headstone to dependents.

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

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These are 4 of the most underrated American military commanders ever

We’ve all heard about military leaders from American history who totally rock. Washington, Stonewall Jackson, and Ike are certainly among them.


But it’s worth noting some military commanders who didn’t get the accolades, but really should have.

Some, you may know a little bit about, and some you might never have heard of until now.

Let’s take a look at who might need some more compliments for their military prowess.

1. Raymond A. Spruance

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Raymond A. Spruance, the victor of Midway. (U.S. Navy photo)

Samuel Eliot Morison called Raymond Ames Spruance “the victor of Midway” in his “History of United States Naval Operations in World War II.”

Morison noted in that Spruance, upon reviewing the text, requested that “the victor of Midway” be changed to “who commanded a carrier task force at Midway.” Morison declined to make the change, but it shows the modest character of Spruance, who was arguably America’s best naval combat commander in the Pacific Theater.

Look at his results.

At Midway, Spruance smashed and sank four Japanese carriers. During the Battle of the Philippine Sea, his fleet pulled off the Marianas Turkey Shoot, and later sank a carrier and two oilers (American subs sank two more carriers). Here’s how thoroughly Spruance beat the Japanese: At the start of the battle, CombinedFleet.com noted the Japanese had 473 aircraft on their carriers. After the battle, WW2DB.com noted the Japanese carriers had 35 planes total among them.

In the Navy, it is an honor to have a ship named after you. When your name goes on the lead ship of a class of destroyers, it speaks volumes about how you did.

Spruance’s name was on USS Spruance (DD 963), the first of 31 Spruance-class destroyers. An Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer (DDG 111) also bears his name.

2. John Buford

Sam Elliot gave a memorable performance of this general in “Gettysburg.”

We may very well owe the fact that the Union won the Civil War to John Buford. Everything that happened at Gettysburg was due to Buford’s actions on June 30 and July 1, 1863. An excerpt from a U.S. Army training manual notes, “Buford’s deployment and delaying tactics blocked Confederate access to Gettysburg while gaining time for reinforcing Union columns to arrive on the battlefield.”

He identified the terrain that mattered, he then bought time for the Union Army to arrive, and to eventually regroup on Cemetery Ridge. The U.S. Army manual says that, “[H]is morning actions ensured that the Army of the Potomac secured the high ground. Over the next two days, General Lee’s army would shatter itself in repeated attacks upon these heights. The battle of Gettysburg very much reflected the shaping influence of Buford’s cavalry division.”

3. Ulysses S. Grant

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Mathew B. Brady

Butcher. Drunk. Those are common perceptions of Ulysses S. Grant, but they miss the point.

If Robert E. Lee’s biggest fault was the failure to keep in mind the comparative strengths and weaknesses of the two sides in the Civil War, Grant was someone who keenly grasped them. Yes, Union troops suffered heavy casualties at battles like Cold Harbor or the Wilderness, but where other generals pulled back, Grant pressed forward.

Edward H. Bonekemper noted at the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable that in the Overland Campaign, “Grant took his aggressiveness and persistence beyond the levels he had demonstrated in the Western and Middle Theaters.” Bonekemper also expressed his belief that had Petersburg not held, Grant’s campaign would have won the war in two months.

Eventually, he broke Lee’s army, and with it, the Confederacy.

4. Daniel Callaghan

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(Photo: U.S. Navy)

Like John Buford, Callaghan really had one big moment. But what a moment it was.

Against overwhelming odds, Daniel Callaghan saved Henderson Field from a massive bombardment, making the ultimate sacrifice in doing so. Yet far too many historical accounts, like Richard Frank’s Guadalcanal (see pages 459 and 460), act as if Callaghan blundered into the fight.

On the contrary, Callaghan, by forcing a melee, bought enough time that the Japanese had to postpone having a battleship bombard Henderson Field for two critical days — enough time for American fast battleships to arrive.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The pressure is on for Army’s newest command

When the idea for an Army Futures Command was first broached by Chief of Staff General Mark Milley and then acting Secretary Ryan McCarthy at the 2017 annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army, it was part shock and part thrill. The civilian and military leadership of the Army was united in their intention to radically change the service’s approach to acquisition.

The centerpiece of their strategy for change was the creation of a Futures Command. The goal of the new command, according to the Vice Chief of Staff General James McConville, is to kickstart Army modernization by starting with a vision of the future, imagining the world you want and then working backward to figure out what it would take to get there. This approach is much more likely to produce revolutionary change, and it’s the one Army Futures Command will adopt.


In recent public statements, General John Murray, the newly-confirmed commander of the Army’s fledgling Futures Command, has been downplaying expectations for his new organization. He has cautioned listeners not to expect miracles from the new organization. In fact, in General Murray’s estimation, it will take the next three to five years to achieve buy-in from the Army and Congress for Futures Command. According to him, buy-in is achieved “by being a little bit disruptive, but not being so disruptive you upset the apple cart.” So much for the goal of revolutionary change.

The trouble with this perspective is that the current state of the Army requires some miracles. Virtually the entire array of Army ground and aerial platforms is in serious, in some cases desperate, need of modernization. Also, at the end of the Cold War, the Army essentially abandoned several capability areas, most notably tactical air defense, electronic warfare and chemical-biological defense, that it now is scrambling to resurrect. Then there are the emerging areas such as cyber warfare and robotics which the Army and the other services are struggling to master.

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General John Murray, the newly-confirmed commander of the Army’s fledgling Futures Command.

The Army leadership may not believe in miracles. However, they do seem to be indulging in wishful thinking. By locating Futures Command in Austin, a city with a reputation as a hotbed of innovative thinking regarding technology, they believe that a staff composed largely of mid-career Army officers and government civilians can be magically transformed into a cohort of Steve Jobs, Peter Thiel and Bill Gates. Army secretary Mark Esper described their intentions this way: “We needed to immerse ourselves in an environment where innovation occurs, at speeds far faster than our current process allows.”

Neither Silicon Valley nor Austin created the innovative culture that has become so attractive to defense leaders. There is nothing in the air or water in either location that promotes creative thinking or an entrepreneurial spirit. There are many cities in the United States that possess the combination of characteristics that Army leaders said they wanted in the place that would house Futures Command: academic talent, advanced industries, and an innovative private sector. Army leaders initially had a list of thirty potential candidates. The five finalists, Austin, Boston, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and Raleigh, are spread across the United States.

Department of Defense and Army leaders have it exactly backward. Innovators created Silicon Valley, Austin and the other locations that were identified as prospective homes for Futures Command. Moreover, innovators are not made, they are born. They begin by seeing the world differently than conventional thinkers. They don’t learn to take risks; it is part of their DNA.

This is, even more, the case for entrepreneurs, those who successfully translate the innovator’s creations into marketable products. Entrepreneurship is inherently about using the products of innovation to destroy old devices, systems and ways of behaving. Can one imagine Steve Jobs’ response if he had been told to restrain himself to being just a little disruptive?

If immersion in a “hothouse” environment of innovation is necessary in order for the Pentagon to produce cutting-edge military capabilities, how does one account for the successes of Kelly Johnson, Hyman Rickover, Donn Starry and the other defense innovators in the decades before Silicon Valley emerged? How do we explain the stream of innovations that have emerged from the Lockheed Martin Skunkworks, the Boeing’ Phantom Works and BAE Systems’ state-of-the-art Integration, Assembly and Test facility?

It is unclear how Futures Command is going to infuse the rest of the Army’s acquisition system with the spirit of innovation and the drive of entrepreneurship. There is an urgent need to get control over the requirements process that can often take five or more years to develop a set of validated requirements. But this is only a palliative measure.

What must be disrupted, even destroyed, is the risk-averse, do it by the books, write iron-clad contracts mentality that afflicts much of the acquisition system. There is also an imperative to change the risk-averse mindset of many Program Executive Officers and Program Managers.

Futures Command could be most useful, at least initially, by focusing on removing impediments to innovation and entrepreneurship rather than searching for new and potentially exciting technologies. It could focus on deregulation and retraining contracting officers so that they are supportive of the process of innovation. Then the Command could look for law schools that teach their students how to find ways to change policies and procedures rather than identifying all the reasons why it can’t be done. Building a flexible acquisition system with a culture supportive of innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit would be a miracle. But this is what the Army needs.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

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5 crazy games you played while in the military

As kids growing up, we played games to pass the time, entertain ourselves, and meet other youngsters our age. It was an innocent time.


In the military, it’s sort of the same — except the games are much darker.

Spending the majority of your day either stuck on a ship, humping a pack in the field, or just bored as hell in the barracks, tends to give service members ampul time to come up with simple, low-cost games to play.

Warning: these do not necessarily reflect the most noble moments of our military heritage — but they sure are entertaining!

1. Don’t Fall Asleep

You could consider this a prank or a game.

The military grants you at least 8 hours of rest per night, supposedly. Don’t be so sure that when you manage to sneak a cat nap here or there that someone isn’t out to get you, even if they’re on your side.

These service members found out the hard way.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbDoBBTHZtA
 

2. F*ck, Marry, Kill

This one is probably self-explanatory, but Dale Doback from 2008’s Step Brothers (played by John C. Reilly) is going to explain.

 3. No Balls

This game is almost like truth or dare, minus the truth option.

It’s no secret that men and women sometimes talk themselves up in front of their comrades to boost their image to gain respect. We’ve all experienced it at some point or another and maybe even done it ourselves.

The best time to call out “no balls” is after a tough talker makes a strong arm claim and no one else expects it. Seeing everyone’s shocked reaction of “will they do it?” could be priceless.

4. Nut Tap/ The Gator/ Nut Check

The various names of this game are endless.

Out of all the games, this is probably the most dangerous and most painful one. It can leave your fellow gamers fuming at you for extended periods of time, but who cares. It’s hilarious!

This game is typically controlled under false pretenses as getting you mark into proper position can be challenging.

5. Playing Picasso

You’re the last man in the office, as you secure the spaces you notice John Doe has left his CAC inserted (so to speak) into a government computer and he’s gone for the day. Game on!

A Common Access Card (or CAC — please don’t call it a CAC card) is just as important for civilians and active duty members to have in their possession while on base as a driver’s license while operating a motor vehicle. Once you’ve retrieved the CAC, its time to teach the forgetful service member a small, but useful lesson.

Time to create your masterpiece!

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These games are meant to be conducted out of good wholesome fun. So don’t be that guy who goes overboard.

What military games did you play? Asking for a friend…

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