VA Secretary Robert Wilkie told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 26, 2019, that he will recommend the Justice Department not fight the decision, handing a victory to ill former service members who fought for years to have their diseases recognized as related to exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange.
In 2018, the House unanimously passed a bill, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, to provide benefits to affected service members. But Wilkie objected, saying the science does not prove that they were exposed to Agent Orange. Veterans and their advocates had argued that the ships’ distilling systems used Agent Orange-tainted seawater, exposing sailors on board to concentrated levels of dioxin.
Large stacks of 55-gallon drums filled with Agent Orange.
(US Army photo)
However, the bill failed in the Senate when two Republicans, Sen. Michael Enzi of Wyoming and Mike Lee of Utah, said they wanted to wait for a vote pending the outcome of a current study on Agent Orange exposure.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in January 2019 ruled that a Vietnam veteran, 73-year-old Alfred Procopio, and other Blue Water Navy veterans qualified for benefits currently given to service members stationed on the ground in Vietnam or who served on inland waterways and have diseases associated with Agent Orange.
Procopio, who served on the aircraft carrier Intrepid, suffers from prostate cancer and diabetes, illnesses presumed to be related to exposure to the toxic herbicide.
The VA has contended that any herbicide runoff from the millions of gallons sprayed in Vietnam was diluted by seawater and would not have affected offshore service members. It also objected to the cost of providing benefits to Blue Water Navy veterans for illnesses common to all aging patients, not just those exposed to Agent Orange.
The proposed Blue Water Navy Veterans act had estimated the cost of providing benefits to these veterans at id=”listicle-2632903078″.1 billion over 10 years. VA officials say the amount is roughly .5 billion.
Wilkie told members of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee during a hearing on the VA’s fiscal 2019 budget that the department already has started serving 51,000 Blue Water Navy veterans.
Leaking Agent Orange Barrels at Johnston Atoll, 1973.
He cautioned, however, that while he is recommending the Justice Department drop the case, he “didn’t know what other agencies would do.”
Lawmakers praised Wilkie’s announcement, urging him to ensure that the DoJ drops the case. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, said it would “bring fairness” to these veterans.
“I am grateful for you in making these considerations,” Blumenthal said, adding that he’d like to see the VA do more research on toxic exposures on the modern battlefield. “The potential poisons on the battlefield are one of the greatest challenges of our time.”
Committee chairman Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, also promised a hearing later in 2019 on burn pits and other environmental exposures some troops say left them with lifelong illnesses, including cancers — some fatal — and respiratory diseases.
Isakson added, however, that the VA needs to care first for Blue Water Navy veterans. “If it happens, we are going to be in the process of swallowing a big bite and chewing it,” he said.
The diseases considered presumptive to Agent Orange exposure, according to the VA, are AL amyloidosis, chronic B-cell leukemia, chloracne, Type 2 diabetes, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, ischemic heart disease, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Parkinson’s disease, early onset peripheral neuropathy, porphyria, prostate cancer, respiratory cancers and soft tissue sarcomas.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, in a veteran who served 90 days or more in the military is automatically considered service connected, regardless of date of service.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Recruits arriving at Marine Corps Recruit Depots in late November will be the first to go through an additional period of training, which will be known as fourth phase, designed to better prepare them for success as Marines.
The Marine Corps has reorganized a portion of the current 13-week recruit training to afford drill instructors additional time to mentor and lead new Marines. Among the slight modifications, recruits will tackle the Crucible, the demanding 54-hour challenge, a week earlier and then spend the final two weeks of training as ‘Marines’. The Crucible remains the culminating event for recruits as they earn the title ‘Marine.’
“Making Marines is one of the most important things that we do,” said Gen. Robert Neller, Commandant of the Marine Corps. “Earning the title is, and will remain, difficult. Our standards and requirements have not changed but as recruit training evolves we want to ensure we are preparing Marines for success in their follow-on training and service to our great country.”
Fourth phase will utilize the six F’s of Marine Leader Development framework: Fidelity, Fighter, Fitness, Family, Finances and Future. Marines will be in small groups covering subjects that are critical to success and growth in all aspects of their personal and professional lives.
Neller added that the Corps is seeking more time for these new Marines to get used to the idea that earning the title ‘Marine’ is just the beginning.
“We thought it was important that the drill instructor, the key figure in the development of these new Marines, had a role to play in the transition,” said Neller. “They were their drill instructors, but now they have to be their staff sergeant, their gunnery sergeant and we thought that was very powerful.”
As drill instructors transition from trainers of recruits to mentors of Marines, the expected result is a more resilient, mature, disciplined and better-prepared Marine.
“This is a normal evolution of the recruit training experience,” said Neller. “We are trying to keep the very best of what we do now [in recruit training] and add something to make it even better.”
Recruits at both Marine Corps Recruit Depots Parris Island, South Carolina, and San Diego will first tackle the fourth phase in early February 2018.
While the United States fought conflicts and insurgencies in the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa over the last seventeen years, potential adversaries were studying U.S. operations and developing sophisticated weapons, munitions, and disruptive technologies. U.S. forces must anticipate that adversaries will employ these increasingly advanced systems, some approaching or even surpassing U.S. capabilities, while also proliferating them to their allies and proxies around the globe.
Both Russia and China, our two most sophisticated strategic competitors, are developing new approaches to conflict by modernizing their concepts, doctrine, and weapon systems to challenge U.S. forces and our allies across all operational domains (land, sea, space, cyberspace, and space). Russia’s New Generation Warfare and China’s Local Wars under Informationized Conditions are two examples of these new approaches.
In the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa, non-state actors and radical militant groups are gaining military capabilities previously associated only with nation-states. Irregular forces are growing more capable as they adopt new weapons and tactics. Hezbollah has used advanced anti-tank guided missiles, man-portable air defense systems, and a sophisticated mission command system in its conflicts with Israel and participation in the Syrian civil war. Joining Hezbollah in the employment of unmanned aerial vehicles are Al-Qaeda and ISIS, and ISIS has also used chemical weapons. In addition, Iran adopted a very sophisticated warfare doctrine aimed at the U.S., and the Houthi insurgency in Yemen aims rockets and missiles at Saudi Arabia.
The U.S. Army exists to fight our nation’s wars and it rigorously prepares to reach the highest possible level of sustained readiness to defeat such a wide array of threats and capabilities. To attain this end state, training at U.S. Army Combat Training Centers, or CTCs, must be realistic, relevant, and pit training units against a dynamic and uncompromising Opposing Force, or OPFOR.
Soldiers of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment maneuver through the streets of a compound at the National Training Center, Calif., during an OPFOR training exercise.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. David Edge)
The CTC program employs several professional OPFOR units, including the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at the National Training Center in California’s Mojave Desert, the 1-509th Airborne Infantry Battalion within the swamps of Louisiana at the Joint Readiness Training Center, 1-4th Infantry Battalion at the Joint Multinational Training Center in Hohenfels, Germany, and the World Class OPFOR within the Mission Command Training Program at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. The Army’s Cyber Command also provides specialized support to these OPFOR units with cyber aggressors.
The OPFOR is representative of adversary forces and threat systems that reflect a composite of current and projected combat capabilities. The OPFOR must be capable of challenging training units’ mission essential tasks and key tasks within the Army Universal Task List. To maintain OPFOR’s relevance as a competitive sparring partner, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command devotes major analytic efforts to studying foreign armies and determining the optimum configuration for OPFOR units that both represent a plausible threat and challenge training tasks. This also requires the Army to consistently modernize the OPFOR with replicated peer or near-peer threat weapons and capabilities.
The OPFOR must be capable of challenging U.S. Army training units with contemporary armored vehicles that are equipped with stabilized weapon systems and advanced night optics, as well as realistic kill-or-be-killed signatures and effects via the Multiple Integrated Laser Effects Systems. The OPFOR must also have air attack platforms, advanced integrated air defense systems, unmanned aerial systems, modern-day anti-tank munitions, long-range and guided artillery fires, and improvised explosive devices.
Soldiers from A Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry Regiment; 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team, race their M2A3 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle toward the opposition force (OPFOR) during a battle simulation exercise at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin.
(Photo by Maj. W. Chris Clyne, 115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)
Additionally, the OPFOR must be capable of subjecting training units to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear effects and technologically enhanced deception capabilities. The OPFOR must also be capable of degrading or denying training unit dependency on Cyber-Electromagnetic Activities with threat electronic warfare, cyberspace, and space effects.
Modernizing the U.S. Army’s OPFOR program is an unremitting endeavor, because threats continuously change and technology relentlessly revolutionizes the art of war. Replicating the most realistic threat capabilities and tactics is critical for training units and commanders to practice their tactics, techniques, and procedures, and learn from the consequences of their decisions under tactical conditions.
This topic, as well as the challenges the OPFOR enterprise faces in developing much-needed capabilities to effectively replicate threats in a dynamic Operational Environment that postulates a changing character of future warfare, will be highlighted during a Warriors Corner at the annual Association of the United States Army meeting in Washington D.C. on Oct. 10, 2018, from 2:55-3:35 p.m.
Russia’s military leaders have reportedly called its intelligence service “deeply incompetent” after Western investigators accused its agents of being behind the nerve agent poisoning in England and an attempted hack into the global chemical weapons watchdog.
Photographs showing Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Borishov, two men accused of poisoning former spy Sergei Skripal.
(London Metropolitan Police)
The GRU was described in the meeting, MBK said, as “deeply incompetent,” “infinitely careless,” “morons,” and people that “would still wear the budenovka” — a phrase that means being outdated. The budenovka was a military hat worn in the late 1910s and early 1920s, shortly after the Russian tsar was deposed.
The defense leaders are also considering a “big sweep” at the GRU and ask some of its generals to leave, MBK said.
MBK was founded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a prominent Kremlin critic.
Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal buying groceries in Salisbury, England, days before he was poisoned with military-grade nerve agent.
( ITV News)
in September 2018 the UK accused two Russian men of traveling to Salisbury, England, and poisoning Skripal and his daughter with military-grade nerve agent this March, and said they were GRU agents traveling under pseudonyms.
The two men also went on national Russian TV to say that they only visited England to visit a cathedral.
Investigative journalism site Bellingcat, however, has since identified Petrov as Dr. Alexander Mishkin, “a trained military doctor in the employ of the GRU,” and Boshirov as Col. Anatoliy Chepiga, a highly decorated officer with the GRU.
Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov told RT’s editor-in-chief they had nothing to do with the Skripals’ poisoning. Sept. 12, 2018.
In early October 2018, the Netherlands also accused four Russian GRU agents of trying to launch a cyberattack on the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the world’s chemical weapons watchdog. The OPCW was, at the time, investigating the nerve agent attack on Skripal and a reported chemical attack in Douma, Syria, where Russian jets have bombed.
The men — two tech experts and two support agents — were caught red-handed and attempted to destroy some of the equipment to conceal their actions, Dutch authorities said.
The Netherlands then determined that they were agents of the GRU after finding that one of their phones was activated near the GRU building in Moscow, and discovering a receipt for a taxi journey from a street near the GRU to the Moscow airport, the BBC reported.
Mark Urban, a British journalist who recently wrote a book about Skripal, wrote in The Times on Oct. 9, 2018: “It would be surprising if this series of compromised operations did not trigger some realignment in Moscow, a further round of struggle between the spy bosses.
“The mockery of the GRU for its recent upsets, both globally and on Russian social media, must have rankled. Whatever the intentions of the Salisbury operation, they cannot have included opening decorated heroes of the agency up for ridicule,” Urban added, referring to Chepiga and Mishkin.
The USO will kickoff a three-day event series featuring fan favorites in comics, film, television and music.
Service members and military families are invited to attend the USO’s inaugural Military Virtual Programming (MVP) Con, running from Oct. 6 – 8. The three-day event features popular stars like Scarlett Johansson and Chris Evans from Marvel Studios “Black Widow” and “Captain America,” Norman Reedus from AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” Jon Bernthal from Netflix’s “The Punisher” and many more, according to a press release. The full schedule of events includes live discussions, webinars and performances.
Tuesday, Oct. 6
Noon ET – Greg Grunberg of The Action Figures Band
3 p.m. ET – National Cartoonists Society Comic Book Panel with Members Jim Davis (“Garfield”), Jeff Keane (“The Family Circus”) and Maria Scrivan (“Half Full”)
9 p.m. ET – Doug Marcaida of History’s “Forged in Fire”
Wednesday, Oct. 7
Noon ET – MAD Magazine Comic Book Panel with Writer Desmond Devlin and Cartoonist Tom Richmond and Sam Vivano
3 p.m. ET – Gerard Way, Creator of “The Umbrella Academy”
9 p.m. ET – Norman Reedus of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” and “Ride with Norman Reedus”
Thursday, Oct. 8
Noon ET – DC FanDome’s Finest Prerecorded Panel Series, Including “The Flash,” “Titans” and “BAWSE Females of Color Within the DC Universe”
3 p.m. ET – Scarlett Johansson and Chris Evans of Marvel Studios “Black Widow” and “Captain America”
9 p.m. ET – Jon Bernthal of Netflix’s “The Punisher”
The COVID-19 pandemic led the USO to transition its traditional in-person programming in April, producing 55 MVP events that engaged more than 26,000 service members.
“The USO has always been by the side of our military and their families,” USO Chief Operating Officer Alan Reyes stated in the release. “By providing virtual engagements and programming—with the help of military supporters, the entertainment industry and USO partners — we can boost morale and express our nation’s gratitude for all the military is doing to protect us.”
For more on the inaugural USO MVP Con or to view past MVP events, visit USO.org/MVP.
Think of a military helicopter. Think of it in combat. Is it a Black Hawk dropping off operators in urban combat? A Chinook picking troops up from a remote ridge or rooftop? Maybe you’re old school and you see a Piasecki H-25 or H-19 Chickasaw from the Korean War. But few people will think all the way back to World War II when German and American helicopters all served on the front lines.
The Sikorsky R-4 helicopter was one of America’s only helicopters to see active service in World War II, acting predominantly as a rescue and transportation asset in the China-Burma-India Theater.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)
America’s military helicopter program was largely carried by two companies, both prominent helicopter manufacturers today who, oddly enough, are now competing to create the Army’s next generation of vertical lift aircraft. Sikorsky’s founder, Igor Sikorsky, was a Russian-American immigrant who wanted to help his adopted country fight in World War II.
He received financial backing from friends to start manufacturing aircraft, predominantly fixed-wing planes, for the U.S. military. But, off to the side, he was developing new helicopter designs including the VS-500, an aircraft that used one large rotor blade to generate lift and another, smaller rotor blade mounted on a long boom to generate anti-torque. This is the same blade configuration now used on everything from the UH-60 to the AH-64 Apache.
The VS-300 prototype quickly gave way the R-4, a two-seater helicopter that would serve most predominantly with the U.S. Army but also the Navy, Coast Guard, and the Royal Air Force. It first began rolling off the production line in 1942 and was primarily used for observation and to ferry supplies.
The German-made Flettner 282 helicopter was employed against Allied naval assets near the end of World War II, but was then captured by Allied troops. In this photo, it’s undergoing testing with the U.S. military.
But, the helicopter was also employed in two daring rescue missions in the challenging terrain of the China-Burma-India Theater. The helicopters could just barely make it through the high mountain passes that planes could easily fly over, but the rotary aircraft could land in small clearings that were impossible for planes to stop in or take off from.
Other helicopters were in development during the war. The Bell Aircraft Corporation, later known as Bell Helicopters and now Bell Flight, created the Bell Model 30 that would see limited use on the home front, but it would not be deployed overseas.
Meanwhile, Germany’s helicopter program was much more advanced than America’s or the Allies’. They debuted experimental helicopter designs before the war and even flew prototypes in front of adoring crowds for weeks in 1938.
The Focke-Angelis Fa-223 helicopter was a German machine popular during the war. It had a heavy lift capability for the day that allowed it to re-position artillery in forward positions.
(U.S. Air Force)
This pre-war research led to the Fa-223, the “Dragon.” Five types were planned with missions from anti-submarine, to search and rescue, to cargo carrying. But it really predicted future developments when it was used to recover crashed aircraft and to move artillery batteries to inaccessible mountaintops where they would have greater range and better defenses.
Meanwhile, the Flettner-282 Hummingbird was designed to seek out enemy submarines at sea and other threats. It was completed late in the war with early models going through testing in 1943. But the first 24 were completed in time for limited deployments to the Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean, and the Aegean Sea.
While the United States was celebrating its 100th birthday on July 4, 1976, four Israeli C-130 cargo planes landed at Entebbe Airport in Uganda, cargo bay doors already open. A black Mercedes and a parade of Land Rovers screamed out of two of the planes, headed for the old passenger terminal. Armored personnel carriers exited the other three.
There were 106 mostly Israeli hostages being held by pro-Palestinian hijackers and supported by the Ugandan army under dictator Idi Amin being held here. The hostages were coming home.
If anyone’s coming to rescue you, you want it to be the IDF.
The raid on Entebbe airport was one of the most daring hostage rescues of all time. The Israelis flew in some seven planes under the radars of many hostile countries, landing at an enemy airport, pretending to be the caravan of a brutal dictator, and risking an all-out war to save Israeli citizens, losing only three and only one of the Israel Defence Forces commandos. The Israelis even destroyed 11 Ugandan fighter aircraft on the ground in retaliation. In three years, Amin would be deposed.
Airplane hijackings dropped dramatically after this incident and a number of Western countries vowed never to negotiate with terrorists, especially the United States. The U.S. does not negotiate with terrorists as a matter of policy.
This resulted in a number of American hostages dying at the hands of ISIS.
In the years following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, more than 1,200 Westerners from some 32 or more countries have been captured by terrorists and held hostage by militant groups and pirates, demanding ransom or some other concession. Americans made up 20 percent of those hostages taken since 2001 and half of those were killed by their captors. The reason for this is the policy of not giving concessions to terrorists or anyone else who might take citizens hostage.
The United States believes giving in to terrorist or other militants’ demands for ransom or some other concession would just make Americans a more tempting target for those who would take hostages, allowing terrorists to perpetually self-finance through hostage-taking. As it is, Americans are twice as likely to die in captivity by their captors while countries who pay ransoms – Germany, Spain, France, Austria, and Switzerland – are more likely to have hostages released.
But citizens of those countries are not taken hostage in disproportionate numbers because taking hostages is risky and not as profitable as other ventures for terrorist groups, such a narcotics, black market oil and arms sales, and human trafficking. Civilians more likely to be kidnapped are those who are already in unstable areas. Three-quarters of Westerners taken by al-Qaeda and ISIS were freed. Only two of those were Americans.
Since a new hostage policy was announced in 2015, where the U.S. coordinates agencies to secure the release of hostages, six have been released, and none died in captivity. The only hitch is that none were held by foreign jihadist groups.
It should be noted that the Carter Administration held negotiations with Iran for the hostages taken at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran during the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Not one of the hostages were killed, and they were released on the last day of the Carter Presidency – all without firing a shot.
Retiring from the armed forces can be a very stressful transition because there is no magic crystal ball that allows you to see into your future as a civilian. Veterans often have strong networks built over the course of their military service, but as useful as these networks are, they are also apt to keep you from branching out into something new, or taking time off to pursue uncharted possibilities. You don’t know what you don’t know, so it is easy to fall into a trap where income becomes the driving force behind career decisions rather than a deep introspective look into what you really want out of life. This leads to a pursuit of employment rather than fulfillment, and ends in a contract that forces you to trade more of your precious time for money. After giving so much to your country, and asking your family to sacrifice just as much or more, taking time to reconnect with them and yourself before a second career is worth your consideration. You might be pleasantly surprised where it will lead.
Consider the following in your calculus:
Military service didn’t leave much room for hobbies and passions. Do you have any languishing in the recesses of your life?
Military regulations and culture compelled you to identify yourself by an all-consuming job title, which in turn suppressed your identity as an individual. You were the Admiral, the Colonel, Skipper, Warrant, Chief, Senior, Top, OPSO, COS, the LPO, the First Sergeant. Do you really know who you are anymore without a job title to define you?
Time keeps ticking, but money comes and goes. Is time more valuable than money when you realize that you can bank one but not the other?
This last thought is the one that gave me the most pause. If you are shackled to a life dictated by consumerism and workism, your “one day” list becomes less and less achievable. This is paradoxical, because chances are you might be making a decent salary on top of your retirement income, but you don’t have time for you, your spouse, your kids, your dog, your forgotten hobbies, or your wild and crazy ambitions. Why? Because your new job might provide a comfortable existence and a title to impress your friends, but it doesn’t guarantee you will have time for anything on your bucket list. How many successful people have all the toys in the world but no time to use them? More than you think. In this article, I will argue that as a veteran, you have been given all the resources you need to thrive in a life of your choosing. To be clear, I am not suggesting that you become completely “checked out” and retreat from society never to work again. Instead, I am advocating for a period of time that prevents you from rushing headlong into a second career. This will give you some “maneuver space” to sort through the stress, the noise, and the pressure that is screaming at you to immediately get a job and keep slogging forward. That space might be a few months, or it might be a few years, but either way, it is time well-spent.
Try this little exercise. Mentally fast forward to the end of your life. You are looking back on your experiences wondering why you worked your whole life, yet missed out on so much living. Maybe you wanted to take a year and surf the south Pacific, or fish the great rivers in Alaska, or hike the Appalachian Trail, or follow the Tour de France, or start a business, or write a novel, or raise alpacas, or sell it all and buy a sailboat…but you didn’t, and now you are too old and tired to do anything but look back with sadness and regret. You realize there was always something standing in the way; there were always reasons why you couldn’t. So, instead of doing, you resigned yourself to watching others as you scrolled through your social media feeds and groused about your boss, staff meetings, the person who chews their food too loudly in their cubicle, the jerk who cut you off on your commute, and the endless mundane aspects of life in “The Matrix.”
As you contemplate those lost dreams, you might be asking yourself with a twinge of frustration, “Why didn’t I go for it? What was I afraid of? What was the worst thing that could have happened to me if I had unshackled myself from the ‘golden handcuffs,’ put down the electronic tether, and lived the life I always imagined?” You might be surprised to learn the worst thing that could have happened was nothing from which you could not have quickly recovered.
Now, rewind to the present. Ask yourself this question, “Have I ever allowed myself to fail?” If you made it all the way through a 20-year (or more) career, chances are the answer is a resounding no! So why do you think you will start failing now? I’ll let you in on a little secret…you won’t. You already know how to succeed. The sad truth, however, is that many of us never take a chance, because we focus on the reasons we shouldn’t…the fears…rather than the reasons we should…the inspiration.
Every military member goes through transition class on their way out of the service. You learn that it is possible to reinvent yourself, but it isn’t easy. You are instructed to make a list of your assets, your liabilities, and any gaps you have in your skill set, then cross-reference it against what you need to break into a sector outside of what you have been doing for the past twenty-plus years. You are told to be willing to move to an area where that sector has a presence, be patient, be willing to evangelize yourself, build a network in your new community, use your hard-earned benefits to get the education or certifications you need to fill in any gaps, and be willing to start at the bottom. If you do these things while exhibiting all the qualities that made you successful on active duty, you will succeed.
What if I told you that same blueprint for reinventing yourself professionally is just as useful for reinventing yourself personally, and going after those “one day” dreams before you blindly (or deliberately) trade one overlord for another. With a little bit of planning and foresight, you can do it, and if I haven’t made my position clear, I think you should. When else will you get a planned break in your professional life to do something crazy?
I started my transition playing by the rules. I spent hours…no, weeks…working on a resume. I went to career fairs. I interviewed for jobs. I received job offers. None of it felt right in my gut. I started terminal leave in June 2018 in a panic-stricken state, grasping for a lifeline. At my wife’s urging I had been exploring the idea of trade school using my GI Bill benefits, but I was afraid to commit. “It’s not what I am expected to do,” was my typical reason, which was ridiculous. I was afraid of the unknown and everything that came with it. That was the truth. I had reached the first portal of fear, and with my wife’s encouragement, I stepped through it.
Once again, I found myself grasping for the familiar and hiding from my fears. I applied for a government job overseas, knowing it wasn’t what I really wanted. A friend was recruiting me to come back to the staff I had left a year and a half earlier, but after I submitted my resume, there were knots in my stomach. “What am I doing,” I asked myself. “Is this what I really want?” I wasn’t ready for staff meetings and point papers again. I wasn’t ready for days when I went to work at dawn and came home after dinner just to get up and do it all over again while my life ticked away a second at a time.
My wife had a dream that we could sell it all and go sailing. I was adamantly opposed. “If there is one thing I learned at the marine trade and technology school,” I joked, “it is don’t buy a boat!” The truth of the matter is I was terrified of selling everything and buying a boat. There were too many voices in my head telling me it would be our ruination…MY ruination. I hid behind my biggest fear – money. We couldn’t afford it. End of story.
But, it wasn’t.
It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it. As I tell my children, there is a solution to every problem, we only need to outthink it. So we looked at the problem again and realized we could afford it. But, I still wasn’t ready to commit. I needed a push.
Fate intervened on my behalf. Much to my surprise, my resume never made it through the initial screening for the civil servant position, so I never got the job interview on the staff overseas. Despite my ego being bruised, I actually breathed a sigh of relief. I was a free man again. A few weeks later, after some long, introspective conversations with my wife, I agreed to the sailing adventure. Failure had somehow opened a pathway to an outcome I did not think possible. That was in March 2019. Four months later, we would be boat owners after an exhausting push to sell, donate, or repurpose just about everything we owned. Three months after that, we would be getting underway from Hampton, VA for a 1,600 nautical mile ocean passage to Antigua.
How did we go from “normal life” to “boat life” so quickly? We followed the same blueprint I received in the transition seminar. We laid out a plan, prioritized our resources, and focused everything we had on the achievement of our goal. I had already filled in the knowledge gaps by becoming a certified marine mechanic. Anyone who knows boats will tell you that 90% of boat ownership is boat maintenance, so I felt confident I could handle that responsibility with my new skills. I grew up sailing, so that wasn’t an issue, but living aboard a boat full-time was another story. We hired a couple who had twice circumnavigated with their kids as “cruising coaches.” We built a network by talking about our plans with people who could help and guide us. We made sure we were able to fund our dream by paying cash for a boat and living within the means of my retirement income. Using our new and growing network, we found a boat, brokered the deal, and moved aboard on July 31, 2019.
It was not an easy transition from land life to sea life. In fact, it was harder than anything we had ever done. Being a military family, we were used to relocating and starting over every couple years, so we put all that experience to good use. But, this time it was different. It was all on us to get it done. There were at least three distinct points when we wanted to quit. We didn’t, largely due to the encouragement and instruction we received from people who had walked the same path. The rewards for persevering are too many to list. Suffice it to say, I answer to no master. I have learned more about myself and my family in six months than I have in six years. I have swum with a whale in 19,000 feet of water halfway between Bermuda and the Leeward Islands. We have sailed our way through 50-knot squalls and come out the other side stronger and more resilient. I have made lifelong friendships with people I would never have met had I stayed in my “safe” bubble. I have gained valuable perspective by using this time away from the rat race to sort myself; to be a better husband, father, and friend.
A good counterargument to this conversation would go something like this – “My professional stock is highest immediately after I retire. It will be irresponsible for me not to take advantage of that transition point and start building my professional resume in the real world. Statistics support the fact that I most likely will change jobs several times as I find my niche, so it doesn’t matter what I do. The important thing is to get into the ring and make a name for myself.” So you get a job and a fancy-sounding title that you eagerly post on LinkedIn. You beef up your profile with a power photo that has you leaning into the camera with a smile that says, “I’m a go-getter!” You add a description underneath that says something like, “I’m a results-oriented leader with a proven track record of astonishing accomplishments, fiscal maturity, operational prowess, cunning initiative, etc, etc, etc.” It becomes your identity, and it is the right thing to do, isn’t it? I certainly thought it was. But for me, at least, it wasn’t. I am not getting any younger. Neither are you. The counterargument doesn’t hold up, in my opinion. You can always get a job and make money, but you can’t make more time. Another aspect of this counterargument is that your network will abandon you if you take time for yourself and your family. I also believe that this is invalid, and would go so far as to suggest that your network will respect you more for leading in this manner.
We as Americans have it all backwards. We work and work and work until we hit the “golden years,” then we retire with the idea that we are going to take off from our empty nest and explore the world. I have heard so many tragic stories about people who FINALLY get some time to do the things they have always wanted to do only to be sidelined by unexpected health crises that leave them debilitated or worse. Derek Thompson, a senior staff writer for The Atlantic wrote a compelling article in February 2019 titled, “Workism is Making Americans Miserable,” where he argues that work has become, unfortunately, the, “centerpiece of one’s identity and purpose.” It’s an excellent, thought-provoking read.
Work, pay taxes, then die.
As a retiring military member, you have the resources to do what you want – healthcare, education opportunities, steady income, and many more benefits to jumpstart your second life. You only need to face down your fears and embrace the possibilities that lay before you. I am not done working, but I guarantee whatever employment I pursue in the future will be far different than what I thought I had to shoehorn myself into when I first transitioned from service. We have had a lot of people tell us how amazing our life is…how lucky we are…how courageous we are to be out sailing with our kids full time. We don’t see ourselves as different or special. We are just us, living a life of our choosing. We realized in hindsight that fear had been holding us back, not resources. Once we made our decision, we were flabbergasted by how everything suddenly seemed to align behind us. It was all there to begin with, but we were blinded by our fears of the unknown, and therefore too afraid to take a chance.
Fear is paralyzing, and in the weeks surrounding my transition there were days when I didn’t want to get out of bed and face reality. In the middle of those dark moments, a very wise friend of mine asked me to stretch my hands out in front of myself palms up, then she had me clench my fists. She looked at me and said, “There won’t be room for anything new in your life if you are holding onto everything so tightly, afraid to let go. You have to open your hands and be willing to release – toxic relationships, needless possessions, clutter, the wrong career, convenience, the safe and easy path, money. But more importantly, you have to open your hands so what you really want has a place to land.”
I stood there for a moment clenching and unclenching my upturned hands. I am not a particularly spiritual person, but I was shocked at how profoundly her simple exercise struck a chord. “Money comes and money goes, and it should,” she concluded, “but even though we have had our backs to the wall a number of times, we always believed we would be fine because we kept our hands, figuratively of course, upturned and open.” She and her husband are better now than ever after launching their own business nearly twenty years ago. They had been let go from their previous jobs at the same time, when their kids were still young, and their stress levels already high. In that moment of darkness, they chose to open their own business and live life according to their own terms. It wasn’t easy, but looking back, they wouldn’t want it any other way.
In the final analysis, it’s not about how much you have, but what you do with it. Achieving your ambitions means making decisions, prioritizing and leveraging resources, and aligning efforts. Do you want to be linked in right away, or checked out to gain some perspective and clarity? The choice is yours, and it doesn’t matter how big your proverbial or actual boat is. It only matters that you believe in yourself and face down your fears. Trust me, someone always has a bigger boat. You can find dozens of YouTube channels where people are sailing the world on every manner of boat imaginable. I used to watch some of them and say, “Look at their boat. It’s so ugly, or small, or dilapidated.” My wife would answer, “Yeah, sure is…but they are doing it!” How true. Would you rather be sitting in a staff meeting wishing you were doing it, or actually doing it?
I’ll close with this final thought. Many, if not all of us, who are retiring from a career in the service lost shipmates, close friends, and comrades in training and combat. A few years ago, standing on a beach in Italy looking out into the Adriatic Sea, where a friend in Air Wing 17 had perished during a nighttime training flight off the USS George Washington (CVN-73) in 2002, I made a promise that if I somehow made it through my military career, I would not squander the opportunity to fulfill dreams and live an amazing life. I felt like I owed that to those who couldn’t. Life is short, and precious. Don’t let fear hold you back. Don’t let a false sense of obligation keep you from doing the things on your “one day” list. If you do, that list will go unfulfilled.
We keep a sign on our boat that reads, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” It is a constant reminder for us to keep pushing forward. You can, too.
Glenn Robbins is a retired Naval Officer cruising full-time on a 46-foot catamaran named FEARLESS with his wife Andi and their two children, Gavin and Alexis.
When armchair historians discuss naval aviation during the Vietnam War, the focus usually turns to the F-4 Phantom. That’s the multi-service plane flown by the Navy’s only aces of the war — Randall “Duke” Cunningham and Willie Driscoll.
One plane, though, probably deserves more attention than it’s earned.
The RA-3B Skywarrior decked out in camouflage and displaying its various reconnaissance package options. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
That plane is the A-3 Skywarrior – often called the “Whale” due to its size. It certainly was big – more than 76 feet long, and with a 72-foot wingspan and a maximum takeoff weight of 82,000 pounds.
The A-3 had a range of 2,100 miles and could carry 12,800 pounds of payload.
While the Skywarrior did some bombing missions early on, it shined in the electronic warfare and tanker missions. The Navy turned 85 planes into KA-3B tankers, and 34 were also given jamming pods to become the EKA-3B.
The KA-3B could carry a lot of av gas. (Photo from Wikimedia)
These planes not only could pass a lot of gas to the planes in a carrier’s air wing, they helped to jam enemy radars, blinding them to an incoming attack until it was too late.
Other Skywarrior variants included the RA-3B reconnaissance plane, the ERA-3B electronic aggressor platform, and the EA-3B electronic intelligence version.
As a tanker, the KA-3B and EKA-3B didn’t just enable planes to strike deeper into North Vietnam. These tankers also gave planes gas to get back home – in some cases after suffering serious damage. Aviation historian Joe Baugher noted that as many as 700 Navy and Marine Corps planes may have been saved by the Whale’s tanker capabilities.
That statistic might be the most important. When an EB-66E bomber was shot down during the Easter Offensive of 1972, it resulted in a massive rescue effort to retrieve the lone survivor, Lieutenant Colonel Iceal “Gene” Hambleton, that resulted in the loss of five aircraft, with 11 Americans killed in action and two more captured.
The last A-3 variants, EA-3Bs, managed to see action during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 with VQ-2 before they were retired. E-3 airframes, though, flew in private service as RD for avionics until 2011.
“Consider that, first of all, you are a United States Marine. That is the beginning,” Joseph Owen said just days before his death in August 2015.
He said it as if he were addressing all Marines.
“You are something beyond ordinary people. Now you want to take a step up from there. If you’re not the best, you’re gonna be. If you’re not trying to be the best the Corps has, you’re not worth a sh*t. Why are you here?”
Owen commanded a mortar platoon as a 2nd lieutenant in Baker Company, 1-7 Marines during the Korean War. Owen enlisted during World War II but saw the bulk of his service in Korea. As an officer, he was charged with turning an undisciplined group of reservist mortarmen into a force to confront the enemy.
“You always have to perform to your limit,” he said. “Myself and a fellow officer, we used to sit around and talk about leadership all the time. Combat leadership doesn’t mean a goddamn thing unless you have Marines that will continue the fight no matter what.”
Becoming an officer changed his world.
“I’m not bragging, I’m just saying the facts: two Navy Crosses and a Silver Star – we know what the hell we’re talking about,” he said.
1. His most vivid memories:
“The North Koreans had much more initiative,” he said. “They would come on you tenaciously and keep on the attack until you killed them. And in defensive positions, they were aggressive and used offensive tactics. Even pinned down they would get out and come at you. I had great respect for them. They fought with their brains individually. The Chinese were only tenacious because there was no going back.”
“Some of the Chinese front line soldiers didn’t even have weapons, they had stakes. They would try to get in close and kill you with that. The ones who came after them would try to pick up the burp guns of the first wave. If they got killed the third wave would come and pick up the weapons.”
“The Chinese were wearing sneakers in 30-below-zero temperatures,” he remembered. “Sometimes we came up on them, and some of them would still be in position, frozen solid. They’d put their hands up to surrender. We would take them, pull them out, and find they were just stumbling around on frozen feet.”
2. On racial integration of the military:
“Two Southerners came to request to be in my platoon when they received a black squad leader, a Sgt. Long. When Sgt. Long was killed during a night fight with the Chinese, those two Marines requested to carry Long’s body, because they wanted to pay proper respect to ‘the best damn squad leader in the Corps.’ When the fighting started, everyone was a Marine.”
3. His take on modern American warfare:
“Today’s troops cannot fight the way I know how to fight. You have to take the battle to the enemy and kill them. These days you have to go through rules of engagement, which ties the hands of soldiers behind their back. You have to keep on going and do not stop. Keep going and kill those bastards. No pity, no mercy, just kill them. As many as you can.”
4. On North Korea today:
“We fought them to a defeat and now they have risen back and are – in effect – giving us the finger and getting away with it. What are we gonna do? We shouldn’t let that little son of a bitch play around with atomic weapons. That pisses me off.”
5. On harboring ill will toward an enemy:
“Hell no. They were fighting under the same orders I had. They were out to kill me, as I was out to kill them. Hell no. I respect them. I’d love to sit down with one of them and bullshit with them about what they were doing at such and such a time, especially if they were in the same battle as I was.”
6. Why he wrote a book:
“I had been thinking for a long time something should be done to honor the Marines I fought with,” Owen said. “I knew if I wrote about Baker Company it would also cover Able Company. We were all the same, formed up by the numbers, and we bonded very quickly. If I said Baker was the best, they’d say ‘F– you, we’re the best.’ We were the same. So I quit my business and wrote the book. This was a story that needed to be told.”
“What I wrote about getting to Fox Company after they were under fire for five nights… we came up to Fox Company’s positions. They had stacks of Chinese bodies set up as protective walls against enemy fire. They were using those walls to put down fire on the oncoming Chinese. When we came up on them, I was able to walk 50 yards on just Chinese bodies. There must have been hundreds of them thrown against Fox Company. This is the kind of thing I needed to write.”
7. On life after the Corps:
“Stay active, be proud of what you do. What I say about the pride of being a Marine. That’s all over the place — the rest of your life, make it a good one. Do good things for people to the best of your ability. I had a hell of a life, way beyond the Marine Corps. I look back at night before I go to sleep… I got millions of great, great memories. I remember everything. I think ‘son of a bitch… you were able to get away with that!’ ”
8. Advice for anyone, military or civilian:
“If you’ve never been scared sh*tless, what kind of life have you led?”
The first step to becoming a better husband is to, well, try to be a better husband. It’s as simple as that. Marriages thrive when partners play active roles in the relationship, paying mind to everything from the daily maintenance of the marriage to personal care in hopes of understanding yourself better for the other. In other words: It’s all about making an effort. Do the work, and you’ll be rewarded. Want to start? Well, there are a number of small, nice things that all of us can focus on to be happier, more present, and more attentive husbands and partners.
Talk about your feelings honestly. When she asks you how your day is, tell her about something that made you upset or annoyed. Don’t just say your day was “okay,” and leave it at that.
Take over for the evening. Don’t announce it or plan it ahead. Once the kids are bathed, brushed, dressed, read to, and in bed, tell your spouse they’re ready for a good night kiss.
Ask your wife about her day. Have at least one follow-up question. Then, tell her about yours. And answer her questions with more words “fine” and “eh.” Make this a habit.
Make a constructed effort to interrupt her less when she’s talking. If she seems like she’s in between two thoughts, give her five seconds. If she doesn’t say anything, then speak.
Clean that thing you know she hates cleaning. You don’t even need to tell her you did it. She’ll notice.
(Photo by Christian Gonzalez)
Do the dishes when it’s “not your turn.”
Stay in good shape. Part of the gig is trying to remain attractive.
If she seems like she wants to be left alone, don’t take it as a referendum on anything. Just leave her alone.
Listen to and empathize with her problems. Say: “That sucks. I’m sorry.” Don’t try to fix the problems unless she asks for your advice.
Does she like SMPDA — that is, social media public displays of affection? Then post about her earnestly on social media every so often. Even if it’s a photo of her with the heart-eyed emoji, it may not be your thing, but because it’s not it will mean more.
Don’t hold back small seemingly insignificant compliments. If she really impressed you by parallel parking, her lunch order, or how she de-escalated a toddler tantrum, tell her.
Be the keeper of your love story. Get nostalgic about your relationship, from time to time. Reminisce about how you met. Bring it up with friends.
Journal about the things you’re upset about before vocalizing them to your spouse. It might help you see some of the things bothering you are not worth complaining about.
Your wife is not your therapist. If you are struggling, and she’s the only person you lean on, think about going to therapy. Therapy rules.
Leave nice notes. They don’t have to be long or saccharine, they just have to be original.
(Photo by John Jones)
Make a decision when she doesn’t want to. Let her make a decision when she does. Know the difference.
Be kind. The world is mean, your marriage shouldn’t be.
When you introduce her to your friends or coworkers, mention one of her accomplishments.
If you make yourself something — tea, a sandwich, a stiff cocktail — offer to make her one, too.
Take her side in family squabbles whenever possible. If you sense a family squabble might happen, discuss it beforehand to get on the same page. Then, talk about how you’ll mount your defense together.
Keep your promises.
Talk to her about what she likes in bed. Don’t assume that you know. Do that thing.
Give her the benefit of the doubt. She’s allowed to be in bad moods for no reason.
Take some tasteful nudes.
When you become impatient with her, take a few deep breaths. Walk away if you need to. Remember you love her even when you don’t like her.
Get rid of your unreasonable expectations about who you think she should be.
Call just to say hi.
When she asks you to go on a run with her, go, even if you hate it. Especially if you hate it. She’ll know you did it just because you love her.
When your wife talks about a sexist thing that happened to her that day, don’t give the man in the story the benefit of the doubt. Talk shit about him with your wife.
Be enthusiastic about her favorite TV shows, even if it’s bad reality TV. Get into it. Make fun of the contestants. Ask her who her favorite person on the show is. Root for someone.
When your wife asks you how she looks in something, and if she doesn’t look great, tell her about another dress you like. Provide an alternative. Tell her you love her in it.
When you get in a fight, use “I” statements. Don’t put your anger on her. Make sure she knows it’s about how you’re feeling.
If you don’t know where something is in your house, actually look for it before you ask. You are not a clueless intern. You are her partner.
Tell her — and demonstrate — that you love her.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Human Systems Division working with members of the Advanced Tactical Acquisition Corps or ATAC, one of the center’s premier leadership development programs, are in the early stages of acquiring the next generation helmet for aircrews in fixed-wing aircraft with the exception of the F-35.
Recently, with recommendations from ATAC, the Human Systems Division awarded $600,000 in grants via AFWERX Vegas to three companies to develop and present prototypes for the helmet by the end of May 2019.
The team worked closely with AFWERX Vegas, an Air Force innovation hub specializing in engaging entrepreneurs and private sector vendors, to identify the pool of companies that could potentially develop the new helmet faster, more efficiently and with cutting edge technology.
Replacing legacy helmets on fixed-wing aircraft has become a priority in part because over time new requirements have added sub-systems, and devices, that the helmets were not originally designed for.
A helmet sits turned on at a booth during AFWERX Helmet Challenge at the Enclave Las Vegas, Nev., Nov. 14, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan T. Guthrie)
“It (legacy helmet) is a 1980’s designed helmet that was not made to withstand and balance everything — technology — that we are putting on them,” said 1st Lt. Naomi Harper, a program manager with the Human Systems Division. “If the weight is off, the center of gravity is completely off, which can cause neck issues and pain. Our goal is to find a helmet that is lighter, has more stability and is compatible fixed-winged aircraft and equipment.”
Michael DeRespinis, program manager with the Human Systems Division said that working with AFWERX has been beneficial in that it has helped increase competition to replace the helmet and is facilitating the rapid delivery of prototypes.
DeRespinis also said that the division would like to select one of the prototypes and put that company on contract by Sept. 2019 for further development activity and future production.
Because of AFWERX Vegas, a process that in the past would have taken years to complete, will now only take months, which in turn will allow the Human Systems Division to field the helmets to aircrews faster.
An Airman and an attendee of the AFWERX Helmet Challenge discuss new helmets at the Enclave Las Vegas, Nev., Nov. 14, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan T. Guthrie)
The ATAC team comprised of a group of competitively selected mid-level military and civilian acquisition professionals from across AFLCMC, the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Space and Missile Systems Center, are focused not only on supporting the Human Systems Division during this process, but also on figuring out the best way to transition technology.
“Innovation hubs like AFWERX are starting to spin up around the Air Force,” said Adam Vencill, a member of ATAC and a program manager by trade. “A challenge the Air Force has is getting products on contract that comes out of these hubs. We (ATAC members) were tasked to create a business model that helps that transition process.”
Nicole Barnes, ATAC contract specialist and member said that working with AFWERX, the Human Systems Division and being part of a rapid acquisition process has been rewarding. She added that the ATAC program is an example of leadership’s commitment to the workforce and to positive change.
Military trainers in Germany just wrapped up a four-day competition to determine the best sniper squad in Europe and a Norwegian team took first place at the end of 27 events designed to test key tasks that snipers must complete in combat.
Eleven countries sent squads to the competition, and the U.S. sent five squads including paratroopers and Marines.
The competition, hosted by the U.S. Army Europe and organized by the 7th Army Training Command, took place at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany. Participants took part in multiple shooting competitions as well as casualty evacuation, ruck marching, and other general military events.
“The competition challenged the competitors’ physical and mental toughness as well as their marksmanship proficiency,” said U.S. Army Maj. Erick Nyingi, the officer in charge of the competition.
One of the most suspenseful and distinctly sniper-oriented events was the stalking lane, where squads had to proceed as far as possible without being detected by observers.
Some high-octane events included a high-angle shot lane where snipers rode in a Black Hawk helicopter and had to engage two targets in under two minutes using three rounds or less. There was also a water shoot where the snipers engaged targets from a boat.
The sniper squad competition is the 2016 version of the annual Best Squad competition held by U.S. Army Europe. Each year focuses on a different type of squad. Last year, it was infantry squads.
No matter which type of unit is highlighted, the goal is to bring NATO members and other allies together to share tactics and engage in friendly competition so the troops can share new tactics, and training techniques.
“Overall the competition will definitely meet the objective of getting the squads to exchange ideas and [tactics],” Nyingi said. “There was a lot of collaboration after each day’s events, and I believe the greatest dividends will be realized from this exchange of ideas.”