5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY BRANDED

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans

There are a lot of choice for veterans to leverage their time in the military to get great financial services at a competitive cost. The fact that so many businesses and bank are geared towards veterans is a blessing but one institution stands out among the rest – and has for nearly a century.


The financial institution was founded in 1922 after a group of Army veterans took it upon themselves to secure their own need for auto insurance. In doing so, they provided for their fellow veterans. The USAA of today carries that tradition on, with 12.4 million members and offering auto insurance, along with insurance for homeowners and renters, retirement planning, and, of course, banking services. When other banks were teetering on the edge of failure during the financial crisis, USAA actually grew. This is an institution that is as solid as a dollar.


5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans

Auto Insurance

USAA’s original purpose is still one of its best offerings – and one of the best offerings. Even in competition with the civilian world’s best insurers, going with USAA can save its membership at least 0 on their premiums, even for high risk drivers who may have a DUI or more on their records. JD Power even gave USAA a 5/5 rating on their customer service and satisfaction records.

They also offer a car buying service that can sometimes save their members money in buying any kind of vehicle.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans

Credit Cards

Everyone knows too much credit debt is not a good thing, but having a card open with a low balance enlarges your purchasing power and is actually good for your credit report. Still, it’s important to be responsible with your credit. That being said, that kind of responsibility includes deciding which card is right for you. USAA offers a few credit cards designed to fit the lives of military members, veterans, and their families. The USAA Rewards American Express Card and Reward Visa offers the best cashback bonuses a military member can find. USAA’s credit cards also offer some of the lowest interest rates and APRs found anywhere.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans

Easy banking services

Any bank or financial institution who says they offer the best interest rates on savings accounts may have a bridge to sell you. Most savings accounts can offer two percent at the most. While USAA doesn’t offer quite that much, its banking services are stellar. Since they have few physical locations or ATMs, the bank offers reimbursements on ATM fees and no monthly service fees. On top of that, there’s no minimum balance and their rates are still competitive. They also offer free funds transfers between accounts.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans

Retirement services

If you’re planning for retirement and want a low-risk security, you could hardly do better than some of USAA’s mutual fund offerings. USAA manages its own mutual funds and, in the face of the 2008 financial crisis, the USAA Income Fund (USAIX) posted a 19 percent return while much of the rest of the market struggled to break even or even minimize their expected losses. The reason? While USAIX invests heavily in corporate debt, the fund’s mantra is still about minimizing risk.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans

TV doctor pose!

Other services and support

There are a couple of life insurance options, including one for military members only if SGLI isn’t enough. On top of that, they can get great rates for health, dental, and vision insurance as well as umbrella insurance for protection against things not covered by other kinds of insurance, like legal judgements. For per month you can be protected from lawsuits up to id=”listicle-2640236181″ million. But this veteran-oriented financial institution does so much more

USAA sponsors amazing veteran-oriented events and organizations – like the Military Influencer Conference, a three-day conference of service members, veterans, and spouses who work to elevate the military veteran community. The 2019 Military Influencer Conference is sponsored by USAA and brings together the brightest stars in the military-veteran entrepreneurial community to learn and share their business-building knowledge.

Articles

Here are all the signs pointing to General Mattis as the next Defense Secretary

President-elect Donald Trump hasn’t yet finalized his decision for who he’ll tap to lead the Pentagon next year, but plenty of signs are pointing to retired Marine Gen. James Mattis as the top choice.


First and foremost among them are Trump’s comments during an interview with New York Times reporters on Tuesday, in which he said he was “seriously considering” Mattis for Defense Secretary.

Also read: This letter General James Mattis wrote to his Marines is a must-read of historical proportions

The comments came just a day after an off-the-record meeting the President-elect had with media executives and on-air personalities, in which he said “he believes it is time to have someone from the military as secretary of defense,” according to Politico.

If Trump were to stick with that view, then that means the field of potential candidates has gotten much thinner.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans
Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis visits with Marines stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait on Feb. 26, 2011. | DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley

There were a number of names initially floated, including retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.). Both Flynn and Sessions have accepted other positions within the administration, while Talent is apparently still in the running, according to The Washington Post.

Trump met with Mattis on Saturday for about an hour to discuss the position. Not much is known about what they talked about, but Trump did ask the general about the use of waterboarding and was surprised that Mattis was against it.

Afterward, Trump tweeted that Mattis was “very impressive” and called him a “true General’s General.”

Besides receiving praise from Trump himself, Mattis has been receiving near-universal praise in national security circles and among some of the DC elite. Syndicated radio host Laura Ingraham, a Trump backer who spoke at the Republican Convention, said on Twitter that he was the “best candidate.”

And Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, offered a ringing endorsement of Mattis on Monday.

“General Mattis is one of the finest military officers of his generation and an extraordinary leader who inspires a rare and special admiration of his troops,” McCain wrote in his statement. “I hope he has an opportunity to serve America again.”

Mattis did have some competition from another retired general — Army. Gen. Jack Keane — who was apparently offered the job, but Keane declined it for personal reasons, according to NPR. When asked who Trump should choose instead, Keane gave two names: David Petraeus and James Mattis.

While both would seem a good fit for Defense Secretary, picking Petraeus would likely be a much harder one to get confirmed. Congress seems likely to grant Mattis a waiver of the requirement of a seven-year gap between military service and the civilian defense job, but Petraeus would bring plenty of baggage to a confirmation hearing. That would include a sex scandal and charges of sharing classified information, for which he received a $100,000 fine and two years of probation.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans
U.S. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus briefs reporters at the Pentagon April 26, 2007. | DoD photo

According to people familiar with Trump’s deliberations who spoke with The Wall Street Journal, Mattis is the most likely candidate.

Mattis, 66, is something of a legendary figure in the US military. Looked at as a warrior among Marines and well-respected by members of other services, he’s been at the forefront of a number of engagements.

The former four-star general retired in 2013 after leading Marines for 44 years. His last post was with US Central Command, the Tampa, Florida-based unified command tasked with operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as more than two-dozen other countries.

He led his battalion of Marines in the assault during the first Gulf war in 1991 and commanded the task force charging into Afghanistan in 2001. In 2003, as a Major General, he once again took up the task of motivating his young Marines to go into battle, penning a must-read letterto his troops before they crossed the border into Iraq.

A number of defense secretaries who served under President Barack Obama have criticized him for his supposed “micromanagement.” Even Mattis himself was reportedly forced into early retirement by the Obama administration due to his hawkish views on Iran, according to Tom Ricks at Foreign Policy.

Whoever is ultimately picked, the next head of the Pentagon will oversee roughly 3 million military and civilian personnel and face myriad challenges, from the ongoing fight against ISIS and China’s moves in the South China Sea to the ongoing stress on the military imposed by sequestration.

The next defense secretary may also end up dealing with a nuclear-armed North Korea, and Russia is very likely to test limits in eastern Europe. The secretary will also need to reinvigorate a military plagued by low morale.

Mattis did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A Vietnam veteran is returning to thank the doctors who saved his life

Five decades after being shot in Vietnam and almost losing his leg, former Army Spc. John Fogle will make good on a promise he made to the surgeons at the 22nd Surgical Hospital in Vietnam who saved his life.


Before he was transported to a general hospital in Japan, Fogle told his surgeons he would drop them a line and let them know how he was doing. He never did write, but instead, in May, he will fulfill his promise of reconnecting — in person.

Fogle was injured in combat on July 25, 1969. Although over time he forgot their names, he never forgot the doctors who saved him and when he learned of a reunion planned for the surviving members of the 22nd Surgical Hospital staff, Fogle decided to seek them out in hopes of inviting them to the event.

Also read: This is what the average ‘doc’ carried on patrol in Vietnam

Vietnam Vascular Registry

One of his first stops in his search was the Vietnam Vascular Registry, developed by Dr. Norman Rich, chair emeritus of the surgery department at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

In 1966, the Vietnam Vascular Registry was developed by Rich at the Walter Reed General Hospital based on cases he had seen while serving in Vietnam along with hundreds of other cases added by colleagues. The registry documented and analyzed blood vessel injuries in Vietnam, resulting in documentation of more than 10,000 injuries from about 7,500 American casualties in Southeast Asia. Each patient entered into the registry was assigned a consecutive number and given a vascular registry card stating the registry’s purpose.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans
Army Spc. John Fogle recovers at the 249th General Hospital at Camp Drake, Japan, in 1969 from wounds he received in Vietnam. (Courtesy photo by John Fogle)

Rich has maintained the registry for more than 50 years. If stretched out completely, the entire registry itself would be about 114 linear feet, he noted. In 2016, the registry was digitized by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, making it much easier to search and find records from vascular patients seen during Vietnam. The originals were sent to the National Archives and Records Center in St. Louis.

Fogle had held onto his registry card, sent by Rich from the Vietnam Vascular Registry, for more than 50 years. Once he connected with Rich, he was able to reference his assigned registry card number, making it relatively easy for Rich to access his medical records from the 22nd Surgical Hospital. The records provided the names of Fogle’s doctors, among them Dr. Monroe Levine, who assisted in the surgery on his right leg and arm.

‘They performed miracles’

Fogle has foggy memories of the day he was injured, so over the years, it was hard for him to remember the names of those doctors who first operated on him in the 22nd Surgical Hospital. However, he will never forget being shot while flying in an observation helicopter.

Related: How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think

He was on the lookout for signs of enemy activity, as the crew chief, and as they flew over a canyon, they surprised the Viet Cong, who began firing at their helicopter. Fogle was shot three times down his right side, leaving him with a severed femoral artery and a compound fracture in his femur. He remained conscious, though, and continued firing back to suppress the enemy’s fire and protect his crew, which included the pilot, who sat just two feet away. They were able to get out of there quickly and landed safely, arriving at the 22nd Surgical Hospital which was only 12 miles away. Fogle’s actions later earned him an Air Medal.

About 10 minutes after he had been shot, Fogle was being pulled into the 22nd Surgical Hospital, which he recalls had four fully equipped operating rooms, totally air-conditioned. The unit’s mission was to help stabilize the wounded before transporting them to the 249th General Hospital at Camp Drake in Japan.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans
The 22nd Surgical Hospital in Vietnam, marked with a red cross, where Army Spc. John Fogle was first treated in 1969. (Courtesy photo by Terry Caskey)

“They performed miracles in there,” Fogle said. At the time, he said, his leg was a big “question mark.” Surgeons in that unit prepared him for transport to Japan, and told him he “wasn’t out of the woods just yet.” He made it to the general hospital, where he underwent more surgeries. His recovery, over the years, was smooth and he has not had any other major issues.

“I was very fortunate,” Fogle added. “I could’ve easily lost my leg.”

He added that many surgeries were performed at the 22nd Surgical Hospital, over a long period of time, so it would have been hard for the doctors to remember each patient. In looking through his records obtained through the registry, Fogle said he learned that Levine had seen four other patients that same day.

“That’s why these notes [in my records] are so important,” he said.

Reconnecting

After learning Levine’s full name, it didn’t take long for Fogle to find that the doctor is still practicing medicine in Colorado. The two connected over the phone, and are now looking forward to meeting again, after all these years, at the reunion, which will take place in Florida. Fogle sent his records to Levine to look through, hoping to help jog his memory before they meet in May, 2018.

More: A Vietnam vet’s daughter wrote this funny, heartfelt obituary for her dad

Fogle considers himself very lucky. After leaving the military, he’s really only had to limit himself to certain sports and activities because he did suffer muscle loss, which throws off his balance to this day. He was able to go back to school after his military service and became an electrical engineer. A few years ago, he retired after a fulfilling, 38-year career.

Had it not been for the work of Levine, as well as the others in that unit and throughout his care and recovery, Fogle might not be where he is today.

“I’m looking forward to meeting him again in person,” Fogle said.

Rich was pleased to hear Fogle reconnected with one of the surgeons who saved his leg.

“This is what makes it valuable,” he said, referring to the extensive Vietnam Vascular Registry. “It is really reassuring that what we were doing has merit.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy SEAL to receive the Medal of Honor for heroism in Afghanistan

A Navy SEAL who led a risky assault on a mountain peak to rescue a stranded teammate in Afghanistan in 2002 will receive the Medal of Honor, according to a White House announcement.

Retired Master Chief Special Warfare Operator Britt K. Slabinski will receive the military’s highest honor May 24, 2018, according to the announcement.


According to the White House release, Slabinski is credited with leading a team back to rescue another SEAL, Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts, after he was ejected from an MH-47 Chinook crippled by enemy rocket-propelled grenade fire March 4, 2002 in eastern Afghanistan.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans
An MH-47 Chinook helicopter.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher Callaway)

The operation would ultimately be known as “The Battle of Roberts Ridge” in honor of Roberts. The team had originally begun the mission the day before, tasked with establishing an outpost on the top of Takur Ghar mountain as part of Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan’s Shah-i-Kot Valley.

“Then-Senior Chief Slabinski boldly rallied his remaining team and organized supporting assets for a daring assault back to the mountain peak in an attempt to rescue their stranded teammate,” the White House announcement reads. “Later, after a second enemy-opposed insertion, then-Senior Chief Slabinski led his six-man joint team up a snow-covered hill, in a frontal assault against two bunkers under withering enemy fire from three directions.”

Slabinski “repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire” as he took on al-Qaida forces in the rescue attempt, according to the release.

“Proximity made air support impossible, and after several teammates became casualties, the situation became untenable,” the release said.

Moving his team into a safer position, Slabinski directed air strikes through the night and, as daylight approached, led “an arduous trek” through waist-deep snow while still under fire from the enemy. He treated casualties and continued to call in fire on the enemy for 14 hours until an extract finally came.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans
Retired Master Chief Special Warfare Operator Britt K. Slabinski will receive the military’s highest honor.

Slabinski previously received the Navy Cross for leading the rescue and directing continued fire on the enemy throughout the lengthy and brutal fight.

“During this entire sustained engagement, Senior Chief Petty Officer Slabinski exhibited classic grace under fire in steadfastly leading the intrepid rescue operation, saving the lives of his wounded men and setting the conditions for the ultimate vanquishing of the enemy and the seizing of Takur Ghar,” his medal citation reads. “By his heroic display of decisive and tenacious leadership, unyielding courage in the face of constant enemy fire, and utmost devotion to duty, Senior Chief Petty Officer Slabinski reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”

Slabinski’s actions were highlighted in a moving 2016 New York Times account that emphasized the role of Air Force Tech Sgt. John Chapman,who was attached to the SEAL team and ultimately died on the mountain.

Task and Purpose reported in late April 2018, that Chapman, credited with saving the entire SEAL team he was attached to during the operation, will posthumously receive the Medal of Honor. The White House has not confirmed that.

Chapman reportedly directed air strikes from AC-130 gunships after Roberts was ejected from the MH-47. During follow-on attempts to rescue Roberts, Chapman would ultimately be wounded by enemy fire from close range.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans
A U.S. Air Force AC-130Uu00a0gunship.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)

Reporting surrounding the role of Slabinski and the SEALs in recovering Chapman paints a complex picture. According to the New York Times report, Slabinski believed, and told his men, that Chapman was dead. Air Force officials, however, reportedly contest that Chapman was still alive and fought by himself for more than an hour after the SEALs moved back to a safer position. Predator drone footage reportedly supports this belief.

Slabinski himself told the publication doubt persisted in his mind.

“I’m trying to direct what everybody’s got going on, trying to see what’s going on with John; I’m already 95 percent certain in my mind that he’s been killed,” he said in an interview with the Times. “That’s why I was like, ‘O.K., we’ve got to move.'”

Slabinski would be just the second living SEAL to receive the Medal of Honor for heroism in Afghanistan. The first, Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers, received the award in February 2016 for his role in rescuing an American doctor who had been captured by the Taliban.

Slabinski will also be the 12th living service member overall to receive the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan.

According to a biography provided by the White House, Slabinski enlisted in the Navy in 1988 and graduated Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training in 1990. He completed nine overseas deployments and 15 combat deployments over the course of his career, including multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He retired as director of the Naval Special Warfare Safety Assurance and Analysis Program after more than 25 years of service, according to releases.

In addition to the Navy Cross, Slabinski’s previous awards include the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, five Bronze Stars with combat “V” device, and two Combat Action Ribbons.

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

Articles

Raids killed 35 ISIS commanders before Mosul offensive

U.S. airstrikes and special operations raids killed more than 35 ISIS military commanders in the run up to the Mosul offensive, which is proceeding according to plan, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Tuesday.


Carter also joined with French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in stressing that the anti-ISIS campaign in Syria will be accelerated to encircle and then retake the self-proclaimed ISIS capital of Raqqa in northeastern Syria, in concert with the Mosul offensive.

Also read: Everything ISIS has lost at Mosul . . . so far

Last week, Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, made similar remarks on a coordinated campaign against both Mosul and Raqqa. Votel stressed the “simultaneous application of pressure” on Raqqa and Mosul.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans
75th Ranger Regiment conducing operations in Iraq, April 2007 | US Army photo

In opening remarks at an anti-ISIS coalition meeting in Paris, Carter said that the U.S. had been steadily targeting the Islamic State leadership in and around Mosul, “including many of the highest in the last 90 days. In fact, you might say the most dangerous job in Iraq right now is to be the military emir of Mosul.”

The efforts focused on “mid-tier leaders, which our special operations forces and our air forces have done remarkably well. We have caused a lot of confusion in the ranks of the defenders in Mosul by targeting a lot of mid-tier leaders there,” Carter said.

The strikes against the leadership “are going to pay off in the coming weeks” in the Mosul offensive as the Iraqi Security Forces press into the city itself, he said.

Carter said he expects to see moves against Raqqa to commence even as the advance on Mosul continues. “We want to see isolation operations begin, oriented at Raqqa, as soon as possible. We’re working with our partners there to do that, and so there will be some simultaneity to these two operations. We’ve long anticipated that.”

Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, overall commander of U.S. and allied efforts in Iraq and Syria as commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, was on board with the need to pressure ISIS in both Mosul and Raqqa, Carter said.

“While Mosul may be in the headlines, it’s not the only operation underway,” Carter said. He noted that Army Gen. Raymond A. “Tony” Thomas III, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, joined the anti-ISIS coalition meeting in Paris, which also focused on protecting Europe and the U.S. against the ISIS terror threat once Mosul and Raqqa have fallen.

Thomas has been put in charge of preventing ISIS’ “external operations,” Carter said. “That’s another critical issue that we’ll discuss today — our ongoing and intensive efforts to counter ISIL’s external operations,” he said, using another acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

“We are killing the ISIL terrorists who plot and would carry out such operations, impeding their movement across borders, and hindering their ability to use the Internet to spread ISIL’s hateful ideology,” he said.

Carter would not rule out that more U.S. and coalition troops might have to be deployed to the region to prevent an ISIS resurgence. He said that more trainers and advisers would be needed to prepare the Iraqis for a continuing counter-insurgency effort against ISIS and to train more Iraqi police and border control personnel.

Both Carter and Le Drian said that the Mosul operation is generally proceeding according to plan. “And while we know it will continue to be a tough fight — indeed, we’ll probably see more resistance as the fight goes on, and almost certainly as our partners approach the core of the city — I’m confident the Iraqi Security Forces will succeed,” Carter said.

On the outskirts of Mosul on Tuesday, Iraq’s elite Counter Terrorism Service units advanced to within two miles of the eastern city limits after pushing through the Christian town of Bartella and paused to allow other forces to move into place, Reuters reported.

At the Pentagon on Monday, U.S. military officials said that the advancing force consisted of about 20,000 Iraqi Security Forces and about 15,000 Kurdish Peshmerga fighters. ISIS is estimated to have 3,000 to 5,000 fighters to defend the city where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the creation of a “caliphate” in June 2014.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the drill book America used before the ‘Blue Book’

Ah, the vaunted Blue Book, known throughout the U.S. Army for being the first drill guide for American land troops. It is more properly known as Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, and it was authored by Baron and Inspector General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, but it wasn’t actually the first drill manual for American troops.


5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans

Revolutionary War re-enactors.

(Lee Wright, CC BY-SA 2.0)

See, von Steuben came to the Americas in 1778, nearly three years after the battles of Lexington and Concord and over 19 months after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. So, von Steuben was falling in on an American army that already existed. Clearly, someone had some idea of how to drill them before that, right?

Of course. The most recent drill guide for colonial militia before 1778 came from Great Britain, The Manual Exercise as Ordered by His Majesty in 1764. The bulk of this focused on how enlisted soldiers should stand, march, and use their weapons for orderly combat.

Included in the short work was a two-page primer, Instructions for Young Officers, by British Maj. Gen. James Wolfe. Wolfe was a hero of the British empire and had distinguished himself against the French in Canada.

A 2006 re-printing of the text is available online as a PDF, and the first section is a sort of “by-the-numbers” breakdown of poising, cocking, presenting, firing, and then re-loading the “firelocks,” another word for the firearms of the day. If you think it’s odd that “aiming” wasn’t part of that process, good catch. But that wasn’t a big part of an infantryman’s job at the time.

Muskets and similar weapons had entered the hunting world hundreds of years before the American Revolution, but most weapons still weren’t horribly accurate. So rather than “aiming,” soldiers before and during the Revolution “presented” their weapons. Basically, they pointed the weapons in the direction of the enemy formation. Good enough for imperial work.

(Note: While the 2006 PDF is based on the 1764 manual, only Section 1 was in the original manual. If you decide to read it, understand that sections 2-8 were written in the modern day for use by re-enactors in the Tenth Regiment.)

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans

A 1740 Austrian drill manual shows rather than tells how troops would perform key actions.

(U.S. Army)

But even before 1764, colonial forces were using a manual of arms that was likely more useful for many young militiamen than the king’s manual. The Austrian Infantry Drill from 1740 is made up almost entirely of illustrations that show rather than tell how troops should ride in formation, march, fix bayonets, etc.

In a surprising bit of honesty, it even shows troops maintaining the line as troops on either side collapse in combat. It is crazy optimistic in showing only three people having fallen during at least one full exchange of gunfire, but, still.

At a time when as much as 15 percent of the population was unable to read, these illustrations would have been quite valuable. For them, it wouldn’t matter that the descriptions were in a foreign language. They can tell from the pictures which illustrations were showing the fixing and unfixing of bayonets, shouldering and unshouldering arms, and so on.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans

The cover page of a printed “Blue Book,” Baron and Inspector General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben’s Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States.

(U.S. Army)

But the techniques in these books weren’t widely used, known, and understood when the American Revolution started, and they were far from comprehensive. Baron von Steuben’s Blue Book addressed a lot of things missing from the older guides.

For instance, chapter one of the book details what equipment was needed for soldiers, non-commissioned officers, and officers. Chapter two defines what leaders’ roles would be, and chapters three and four details what men were needed for an army company, regiment, and battalion.

It goes on from there, detailing how to recruit and train troops, how to employ a company in training and combat, and more. So, even militiamen who had taken advantage of older drill guides, like those from 1764 and 1740, would find plenty of value in von Steuben’s manual.

It remained the training guide for U.S. troops until 1812, and soldiers are still quizzed on some details of the manual today during soldier and promotion boards.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA renamed facility after brilliant ‘Hidden Figure’ Katherine Johnson

NASA has redesignated its Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) Facility in Fairmont, West Virginia, as the Katherine Johnson Independent Verification and Validation Facility, in honor of the West Virginia native and NASA “hidden figure.”

“I am thrilled we are honoring Katherine Johnson in this way as she is a true American icon who overcame incredible obstacles and inspired so many,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “It’s a fitting tribute to name the facility that carries on her legacy of mission-critical computations in her honor.”


President Donald Trump signed into law in December 2018 an act of Congress calling for the redesignation. The facility’s program contributes to the safety and success of NASA’s highest-profile missions by assuring that mission software performs correctly. IVV now is in the process of planning a rededication ceremony.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans

NASA’s Katherine Johnson Independent Verification and Validation Facility in Fairmont, West Virginia.

“It’s an honor the NASA IVV Program’s primary facility now carries Katherine Johnson’s name,” said NASA IVV Program Director Gregory Blaney. “It’s a way for us to recognize Katherine’s career and contributions not just during Black History Month, but every day, every year.”

Born in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, in 1918, Johnson’s intense curiosity and brilliance with numbers led her to a distinguished career — spanning more than three decades — with NASA and its predecessor agency, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. Among her professional accomplishments, Johnson calculated the trajectory for Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7 mission in 1961. The following year, Johnson performed the work for which she would become best known when she was asked to verify the results made by electronic computers to calculate the orbit for John Glenn’s Friendship 7 mission. She went on to provide calculations for NASA throughout her career, including for several Apollo missions.

At a time when racial segregation was prevalent throughout the southern United States, Johnson and fellow African American mathematicians Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson — who was later promoted to engineer — broke through racial barriers to achieve success in their careers at NASA and helped pave the way for the diversity that currently extends across all levels of agency’s workforce and leadership. Their story became the basis of the 2017 film “Hidden Figures,” based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly.

Johnson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 and, in 2017, NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, dedicated the new Katherine Johnson Computational Research Facility in her honor. Johnson celebrated her 100th birthday on Aug. 26, 2018.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans

Former NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson is seen after President Barack Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington.


Since its inception more than 25 years ago, NASA’s IVV Program has performed work on approximately 100 missions and projects, including: the Space Shuttle Program, Hubble Space Telescope, Cassini, Mars Science Laboratory, Magnetosphere MultiScale, Global Precipitation Measurement and, most recently, the InSight Mars Lander. The IVV Program currently is providing services to 12 upcoming NASA missions, including the James Webb Space Telescope, Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and the Space Launch System. It also provides general software safety and mission assurance services, including support for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

For information about the Katherine Johnson IVV Facility, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/ivv

For more information about Katherine Johnson, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/content/katherine-johnson-biography

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why this weak, slow ship is the most important one in the fleet

She doesn’t look like much. Weighing in at just under 19,000 tons, this ship doesn’t have much in the way of firepower, either. She’s relatively slow with a top speed of 23 knots. So, when you look at a Blue Ridge-class ship, you may wonder to yourself, “just what the heck is this thing’s purpose?”


The short answer: She’s the brains of the fleet. To be more precise, she’s there to “provide command and control for fleet commanders” according to the United States Navy. But it’s not entirely uncommon for a lesser-armed ship to take on such an important role.

Back in World War II, the auxiliary USS Argonne (AG 31) served as a flagship in the South Pacific for Admiral William F. Halsey. The transport USS MacCawley (APA 4) was used as the flagship for Admiral Richmond “Kelly” Turner until its loss in a friendly fire incident in 1943. The United States even converted a pair of amphibious ships, USS Coronado (APF 11) and USS LaSalle (AGF 3), to act as fleet flagships during the Cold War.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans

USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) in the South China Sea.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason Behnke)

The two-ship Blue Ridge-class, however, was built specifically for the task of enabling a fleet commander to handle his fleet. As a small, mobile command post, it is much less vulnerable to attacks from terrorists or enemies. There’s a lot of ocean to hide in, so you have to search really hard to find it.

If worst comes to worst, the Blue Ridge does have some emergency firepower. For self-defense, the ship is outfitted with two Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems. These 20mm guns are a last-ditch defense against incoming missiles, but this ship is intended to be well out of harm’s way. Its primary weapons are its array of communications antennae, allowing commanders to handle operations across an entire theater if need be.

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The reason for these ships in one photo: It provides a secure location for command and control, allowing admirals and generals to run operations.

(DOD photo by Cherie A. Thurlby)

The Blue Ridge-class command ships will be around for at least 20 more years, if not longer — not bad for ships that were commissioned nearly 50 years ago!

Learn more about the brains of the United States Navy’s fleet in the video below.

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

www.youtube.com

Articles

The complete hater’s guide to the US Coast Guard

This is the last in a series about how branches of the military hate on each other. We featured all branches of the U.S. military, written by veterans of that branch being brutally honest with themselves and their services.


The branches of the U.S. military are like a very large family. They deal with one another because they have to, not because they always get along. This is a family that gets together and holds backyard wrestling tournaments every once in a while. They’re violent, they protect one another from outsiders, and are ridiculously mean to each other. When it comes to downrange operations, we put the rivalry behind us. When the ops-tempo isn’t as hectic, that’s when the rivalry resurfaces. That’s what the Hater’s Guide is for.

We’ve already shown how the other branches make fun of the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, and Navy. Here’s how the other branches hate on the Coast Guard, how they should actually be hating on the Coast Guard, and why to really love the Coast Guard.

The nickname “Silent Service” may have been claimed by submariners, but the Coast Guard is a close second. Serving without glory or even sometimes a mention, it is only fair that they get the last installment of “The Hater’s Guide.”

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The easiest ways to make fun of the Coast Guard

Puddle Pirates, Shallow Water Sailors, no matter what way you slice it, it’s pretty easy to come up with a nickname or two for the sailors who rarely venture into the deep, open ocean.

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Not being part of the Department of Defense has always been a primary reason for the Coast Guard’s weird place in military culture. After falling under the Departments of the Treasury, Transportation, and even a brief stint with the Navy, we finally settled into our current place with the Department of Homeland Security, making us the armed services’ version of that kid who has been to five high schools in four years. To make matters worse, when most people think of the Department of Homeland Security, they picture the TSA, not the Coast Guard, and that’s not an association that anyone wants.

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They are at attention.

While the Navy Working Uniform (NWU) gets hate for blending a sailor into the water, the Coast Guard’s uncomfortable and less-than-useful Operational Dress Uniform, or ODU, manages to be even worse than the NWU. Luckily, there are units in the Coast Guard, such as Port Security Units (PSUs) that wear the Navy’s Type III uniform just to look tacticool.

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Maybe no one will notice.

When people start making fun of us and we run out of comebacks, we just kind of throw the “Search and Rescue” card and hope it sticks.

Why to actually hate the Coast Guard

You’re out on the water, having a good time and enjoying a beer or two, and suddenly the blue lights come on and the Coast Guard wants to board your vessel. Before you know it, you’re racking up fines for anything from not having enough lifejackets to drinking behind the wheel of your boat. While they’re just doing part of their job as America’s water cops, no one likes the cops shutting down their party.

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Most of the movies made about the Coast Guard have just been flat-out awful, and caused a lot of grief. The Soviet escort vessel in The Hunt for Red October is actually an active Coast Guard vessel that someone allowed to be repainted. The incident reportedly almost got several officers kicked out of the Coast Guard. No one can forget The Guardian with Ashton Kutcher and Kevin Costner, which is the Coast Guard’s version of Top Gun, except without the volleyball scene or any likable characters. For generations past, Onionhead ruined Andy Griffith’s already floundering career.

There is no real “bad” duty station in the Coast Guard. Sure, there’s Alaska, one of the most beautiful states in the union. There’s also all the picturesque port cities across the U.S. and Puerto Rico, like Charleston, Miami, Tampa, San Juan, Honolulu, and San Diego. If there’s a place where people buy vacation homes, you bet there’s a Coast Guard station there.

We’re smarter, and we know it. To join the Coast Guard, you need a higher ASVAB AFQT score to join than you do with any other branch. While the minimum requirements for all the branches change with the needs of the service, a score of a 30-40 will get a prospective recruit into any of the other services, the Coast Guard expects a minimum of 40-50 from their applicants. Even with this, the wait list for Coast Guard boot camp is regularly six to nine months long, and even after boot camp, it can be two years before an E-2 or E-3 ever sees their “A” school.

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Why you should love the Coast Guard

While reindeer have become a staple in the culture of wintertime America, there would have been no reindeer – and possibly no Alaska – if it weren’t for the Coast Guard. After a failed attempt by the Army to create order in Alaska, the Revenue Cutter Service was tasked with keeping the territory in line. Over the course of the next 100 years, they would save natives and settlers alike from death by starvation and illness. From Capt. “Hell Roaring” Michael Healy, who brought reindeer to Alaska from Siberia to save starving natives, to the crew of the Cutter Unalga who set up an orphanage for children left parentless by the Spanish Influenza, the Coast Guard has always had the best interest of the people in mind. With a commitment that persists to the modern day, the Coast Guard is closely tied to Alaska, its people, its industry, and its unpredictable weather.

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The Coast Guard in its natural habitat.

After the American Revolution ended, the U.S. Navy was disbanded. From 1790 through 1801, while also acting as the only source of revenue generation for the nation, the U.S. Revenue-Marine was the only naval force that the fledgling nation had to protect them from terrors of the seas like as the Barbary pirates until proper frigates could be commissioned.

Even the Marine Corps needs heroes. On September 28, 1942, Signalman 1st Class Douglas Munro saved the lives of nearly 500 Marines at Guadalcanal by using his Higgins boat as a shield to protect the last men being evacuated from the beach. He was killed by enemy fire, but his last words were supposedly “Did they get off?”

One of the Marines that he saved that day was none other than then-Lt. Col. Chesty Puller. For his bravery, Munro posthumously became the only Coast Guardsman to receive the Medal of Honor.

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Remember: No Coast Guard, no Chesty.

There are less than 43,000 active duty Coasties and 7,000 reservists. The yearly budget is less than $10.5 billion, which is man-for-man 60 percent less funding than the Navy. But every day, in every weather, the Coast Guard will be there to protect and defend the shores, rivers, and lakes of the U.S. Doing so much more than we should be able to with so much less, $3.9 billion worth of drugs are taken off the street every year. Thousands of lives and millions of dollars in maritime assets are saved. There are pilots to fly when there are no other pilots willing or able to. Though people may not remember that we’re part of the U.S. military, it doesn’t ever stop us from having pride in what we do.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Coast Guard struggling to keep up with surge of narco subs

Through September 2018, Colombia’s navy had captured 14 “narco subs” on the country’s Pacific coast — more than triple the four it captured in 2017 and another sign of drug traffickers’ ingenuity.

Colombia is not alone. The US Coast Guard reported in September 2017 that it had seen a “resurgence” of low-profile vessels, the most common kind of “narco sub,” capturing seven of them since June 2017.


“We’re seeing more of these low-profile vessels; 40-plus feet long … it rides on the surface, multiple outboard engines, moves 18, 22 knots … and they can carry large loads of contraband,” Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz told Business Insider in October 2018 during an interview aboard the Coast Guard cutter Sitkinak in New York harbor.

“They’re very stealthy in terms of our ability to see them from the air [and] to detect them by radar,” Schultz added.

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US Coast Guardsmen sit on a narco sub in the Pacific Ocean in early September 2016.

(US Coast Guard photo)

‘Era of experimentation’

Low-profile vessels were the earliest kind of narco sub, a category that includes self-propelled semi-submersibles, which use ballast to run below the surface, and true submarines, which are the most rare.

They emerged in the early 1990s, as traffickers who had made a fortune moving drugs into the US — like George Jung and members of Pablo Escobar’s Medellin cartel — encountered more obstacles.

“In the ’80s, the drug traffickers … were using go-fast boats, they were using twin-engine aircraft, and those were very easily detected by radar systems that we had,” particularly in the Caribbean and the southeastern US, said Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

“So they started to counter those efforts by building submarines or semi-submersibles, because they were much more difficult to detect,” Vigil added. “They were made out of … wood, fiberglass, and then sometimes they had a lead lining that would reduce their infrared signature.”

The early 1990s was “the era of experimentation,” for Colombian narco subs, according to Vigil, who was stationed on the country’s Caribbean coast at the time and recalls encounters with them on the Magdelena River, which stretches nearly 1,000 miles from southwest Colombia to the Caribbean.

“They were not full-fledged submarines. They would float … just slightly underneath the water, but you could still see the tower, and they were not sophisticated at all,” he said. “Their navigational systems were poor; communications systems were poor.”

There are varying figures for how many narco subs have been caught over the years.

The first such vessel seen at sea by US law enforcement was intercepted in 2006, carrying 3 tons of cocaine about 100 miles off Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. The first one encountered in the Caribbean was stopped in summer 2011 — despite efforts to scuttle it, US authorities were able to recover 14,000 pounds of cocaine.

Criminal groups in Colombia continue to churn out homemade narco subs — 100 a year, according to Vigil — building them in the interior and using the country’s extensive river network, where law enforcement is scarce, to get them to sea.

The technology has advanced, and criminal groups, flush with profits from Colombia’s booming cocaine production, have been able deploy more sophisticated vessels for covert runs to Central America and Mexico, where cargos then move overland to the US. The routes have also grown more circuitous, likely to avoid detection at sea.

Better technology “has upped the chess game” between criminals and the military and law enforcement, Vigil said.

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Suspected drug-smuggling routes in the eastern Pacific Ocean in 2016.

(US Southern Command)

‘A drop in the bucket’

The recent increase in low-profile vessels intercepted by authorities indicates traffickers will adjust their tactics.

“There was certainly an uptick where the semi-submersibles were being utilized quite frequently, and then we had a lot of success against them,” Lt. Cmdr. Devon Brennan, head of the Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety and Security Team in New York, said during an interview aboard the Sitkanik.

“The drug-trafficking organizations are very agile and adept organizations, so they try to shift back,” Brennan said. “For one reason or another, they thought [low-profile vessels] might be a better option because of the success we’ve had against the [self-propelled semi-submersibles], so we have seen an increase in them.”

“This thing called the low-profile vessel, it’s evolutionary,” Schultz said. “The adversary will constantly adapt their tactics to try to thwart our successes.” The increase “reflects the adaptability, the malleability” of traffickers, he added.

Schultz and Brennan both emphasized that the Coast Guard is having success capturing narco subs. And Colombian officials have said that intercepting those vessels at sea — along with arresting traffickers on land — lands a serious blow to criminal organizations.

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A abandoned low-profile vessel found by the Guatemalan coast guard on April 22, 2017.

(Guatemalan army / US Southern Command)

Vigil was skeptical of the true impact, saying the DEA estimated at least 30% to 40% of drugs coming to the US were moving on narco subs, but authorities were likely only intercepting 5% of those vessels.

“They may be capturing more but, again, that’s because there’s a hell of a lot more being using to smuggle drugs,” Vigil said. (Coast Guard Vice Commandant Adm. Charles Ray has said the service faces “a capacity challenge” in trying to patrol trafficking routes through the eastern Pacific, an area the size of the continental US.)

Vigil also noted that the costs seemed to favor the traffickers.

“The submarines cost id=”listicle-2611789516″ million or million … depending on the communications systems, the engine, the materials used in them, the navigational systems,” Vigil said. Even though many are likely only used once, he added, “they have absolutely no economic impact on the cartels.”

Each kilogram of cocaine is worth only a few thousand dollars in Colombia. But the multiton cargos narco subs can carry are worth hundreds of millions of dollars once they’re broken up and sold in the US or Europe.

The cost to build a narco sub is “a drop in the bucket compared to the payload that they carry,” Vigil said. “So a million, million is nothing to them.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghanistan is producing more opium than ever before

In 15 years in Afghanistan, no counternarcotics effort undertaken by the US, it partners, or the Afghan government has led to sustained reductions in poppy cultivation or opium production.

That was one of a number of findings of a Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Report issued in June 2018, underlining insufficient, uncoordinated, and at-times counterproductive initiatives in Afghanistan to reduce drug production there.


Between 2002 and 2017, the US government has allocated roughly $8.62 billion to fight narcotics in Afghanistan. But the drug trade remains entrenched. Opium is Afghanistan’s largest cash crop, reaching an export value of $1.5 billion to $3 billion in recent years. In 2017 alone, poppy cultivation was thought to support 590,000 full-time jobs — which is more people than are employed by Afghanistan’s military and security forces.

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Heroin and opium produced in Afghanistan are trafficked largely to Europe, Africa, and other parts of Asia.
(SIGAR)

The primary markets are Europe, Asia, and Africa. Opiates from Afghanistan travel through other Central or South Asian states — drug addiction has exploded in Iran, with opium making up two-thirds of consumption — to reach destinations in Europe and Asia. Drugs also travel maritime routes to Africa and Oceania.

Ninety percent of the heroin seized in Canada comes from Afghanistan, but scant amounts reach the US — 1% or less of the drug seized in the US can be traced back to the Central Asian country.

The amount of Southwest Asian heroin in the US peaked in the early 1980s, according to the DEA. It was replaced by Southeast Asian heroin — largely from Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand — in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The amount of South American heroin found the US started to increase in the mid-1990s, but by the late 2000s, Mexican heroin started to become predominant — in 2015 it was the more than 90% of the heroin seized in the US.

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The share of US heroin sourced to Mexico has grown considerably in recent years.
(2017 DEA NDTA)

Opium has been cultivated in Afghanistan for centuries. It was under royal control from 1933 to 1973, but the Soviet invasion and occupation from 1979 to 1989 crippled the legitimate economy and allowed illegal enterprises and criminal networks to thrive.

Production soared after the Taliban took control of most of the country in 1996. But it banned the crop in 2000, leading to a 75% drop in the global supply of heroin but leaving farmers destitute, as no alternative to poppy cultivation was provided.

Cultivation was at a historic low in 2001, when the US and its coalition partners invaded. Counterdrug work was done in the period that followed, but the vacuum created by the lack of functioning Afghan institutions limited their effectiveness.

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Despite year-to-year variations, poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has steadily increased over the last 20 years.
(SIGAR)

2004 saw an increase in cultivation, which was followed by more concerted US efforts to staunch it as well as increased counternarcotics efforts by coalition partners. Cultivation leveled off in 2009 and 2010 — around the time of the US-led surge that brought more attention to combating the drug trade.

But cultivation started to rise in 2011, compounded by missteps and a reduced emphasis on counternarcotics. “From 2013 to 2016, drug production continued at or near the highest levels ever consistently seen in Afghanistan,” the report states. Recent years have also seen eradication stall.

A UN survey in 2017 found cultivation had hit a new high, covering more than 810,000 acres. (The Taliban has also expanded its involvement in the drug trade.)

2017 also saw a new Trump administration strategy that brought with it an “unprecedented” level of attention to Afghan drug production by US military commanders, according to the report — marked by a “sustained air interdiction campaign” that included advanced aircraft striking rudimentary drug labs.

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A US-led airstrike on a Taliban drug lab in northern Helmand Province, November 2017.
(US Air Force photo)

The increases in drug cultivation make clear the failure of counternarcotics efforts, the report says, but it stresses that those failures are not the only factors that have led to the increases.

“The exponential rise in opium poppy cultivation and drug production is rooted in far-reaching, persistent challenges in Afghanistan — namely, lack of security, a poor economy, weak governing institutions, and failures of the wider reconstruction effort,” the report states.

“Given these challenges, there are serious limitations to the US capacity to bring about large-scale, lasting reductions in poppy cultivation and drug production,” it adds, noting the opium economy will continue to undercut US efforts in Afghanistan.

“Therefore, ongoing US reconstruction efforts must effectively address, or at least attempt to mitigate, the drug-related threats to Afghan security and stability.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This B-21 bomber patch just appeared on Ebay

At least officially, there are no existing prototypes of the B-21 Raider, the U.S. Air Force’s next stealth bomber built by Northrop Grumman and destined to replace the B-1 and B-2 fleets.

In 2016, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James revealed the first artist rendering of the Long Range Strike Bomber designated the B-21, at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida, that showed a concept quite similar to the B-2’s flying wing design; then, more recently, on Mar. 3, 2018, Brigadier General Carl Schaefer, Commander of the 412th Test Wing at Edwards Air Force Base, publicly announced that the aircraft will be tested at Edwards: “the B-21 is coming to Edwards and we will be testing it here in the near future,” he said in his address at the Antelope Valley Board of Trade and Business Outlook Conference.


The fact that the aircraft will be tested “in the near future” seems to suggest that a prototype of the new platform has already been built or is about to be readied for testing.

Meanwhile something interesting, that might confirm the B-21 is something more than a concept, popped up on eBay: journalist and photographer Steve Douglass, has just found a B-21 Combined Test Force patch.

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B-21 Combined Test Force patch.

Flying units under the 412nd Operations Group of the 412nd TW are called flight test squadrons (FTS) and the squadron commander also usually fulfills the role of Combined Test Force, or CTF, Director.

“The CTF is an organizational construct that brings together the government developmental test and evaluation personnel (i.e., military personnel and government civilians and support contractors), the operational testers or representatives of the warfighters who will eventually employ the aerospace system in combat, and the contractors who develop and test the aerospace system.

Members of the CTF formulate the test program, develop the criteria for flight test missions, execute flight test missions, analyze data from the test flights and report on the results. The CTF military personnel, government civilians, and contractors all work together as a team. This concept enables a cheaper, faster, and more effective test program and produces a more effective aerospace system for the warfighter.”

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Ebay screenshot ofu00a0B-21 Combined Test Force patch.

For instance, the 411th Flight Test Squadron acts as the F-22 Raptor CFT whereas the 419th FTS acts as the Strategic Systems (B-52, B-1, B-2) CFT. Provided it is genuine, the new patch may suggest the existence of a B-21 CTF dedicated to the new bomber.

Interestingly, the patch features the text “Praenuntius” that means “Harbinger” and the Roman numerals XVII (17) with the latters [speculation on] possibly pointing to a squadron: the 417th FTS, officially inactivated on Feb. 14, 2012, formerly part of the 412th OG at Edwards AFB….

The seller has explained that organizations, personnel and infrastructure at Edwards AFB are all beginning to stand up in preparation for the testing and he purchased the patch there from personnel who are standing up the testing of the new aircraft. We don’t have many details about the aircraft but collectors can get the patch ahead of the unveiling.

By the way, at the time of writing the patch costs $31 (6 bids) but it is probably going to become more expensive…

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Civil War battle resulted in 120 Medals of Honor

In 1863, Union soldiers attempted to root out deeply entrenched Confederate soldiers at Vicksburg, Mississippi. Repeated assaults failed to breach the defenses, leading to over 100 troops committing acts that would later earn them Medals of Honor for valor — including 78 soldiers who took part in a nearly suicidal attempt to build a bridge under fire.


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Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at the Battle of Vicksburg.

(Library of Congress)

Vicksburg was the ultimate target of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s campaign down the Mississippi. His assault started with a landing on the shore of the Mississippi on April 30, 1863, and he fought his way south in the battles of Port Gibson to Champion Hill and Big Black River.

Within weeks, Grant was outside Vicksburg, the city President Abraham Lincoln called, “the key to victory” and President Jefferson Davis called the “nailhead that holds the South’s two halves together.” The Confederates pulled back inside the “Fortress City.”

The defenders were crouched in a ring of forts with 170 cannons, many aimed at bottlenecks and approaches to the city. Grant hoped to take the city before the defenders could truly settle in.

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“First at Vicksburg” depicts the 1st Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment which was the only unit to reach the top of the fortifications on May 19, but even they were later thrown back.

(U.S. Army)

He sent his infantry against an earthen fort named Stockade Redan on May 19, but they were repelled with 1,000 casualties. Grant spent the next two days coming up with a new plan.

He once again chose Stockade Redan, but the new plan called for two feats of combat engineering under fire. One feat was quickly erecting scaling ladders against the wall, a challenging but time-tested move. Before the ladders went up, though, a group of volunteers would need to cross a quarter-mile of open ground while under fire and construct a bridge across an 8-foot-wide ditch.

A call went out for 150 volunteers, only single-men need apply. They came and were split into three groups. The first group carried beams to span the gap, the second group carried the planks that would form the rest of the bridge, and the last group carried the scaling ladders.

These men were collectively known as “Forlorn Hope.” Their assault was part of a three-phase operation. First was a four-hour artillery barrage, then the bridge construction and ladder emplacement, and then an assault by a brigade up the ladders.

On May 22, the barrage ended at 10 a.m., and Forlorn Hope sprinted out of the woods and across the quarter-mile as fast as they could.

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The Siege of Vicksburg

(Thure de Thulstrup, U.S. Army)

But Confederate artillery and rifle fire quickly rang out, and an estimated half of Forlorn Hope was hit and down before they reached the ditch. The survivors quickly found that, with so few people still carrying the materials, they did not have enough pieces to construct the bridge.

They scattered, some attempting to take cover in the ditch or against the stockade wall as others ran back across the open field.

The assault went forward anyway. Three corps of Union soldiers attacked along the city’s defenses and all three eventually took some section of Confederate fortifications. But all three were pushed back amid bloody, close-in fighting and the Union turned tail with 3,000 casualties.

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The Siege of Vicksburg ends as Confederate leaders, near the center, walk out with a flag of truce to discuss surrender terms.

(Library of Congress)

Grant and his men were forced to conduct a siege that would drag on for six more weeks before the city finally surrendered. In 1894, 53 survivors of Forlorn Hope were awarded Medals of Honor for their heroism at Vicksburg, another 25 soldiers who took part in the failed effort would receive the same award in other ceremonies. Approximately 42 other Medals of Honor were awarded for actions during the siege and assaults, bringing the total to 120.

The Confederate forces had their own Medal of Honor, and Confederate Navy Capt. Issac Newton Brown received the medal for his actions on the CSS Arkansas while trying to fight past the U.S. Navy to relieve the pressure on Vicksburg.

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