Every military branch, office, and unit has its own unique traditions. Military culture develops within us from the very beginning of our service. The plebes at the United State Military Academy are no different in that regard. Every class has a unique motto and crest while each cadet company has a unique mascot. But no matter what class or company, they all come together for the West Point Alma Mater.
West Point alum, Army officer, and filmmaker Austin Lachance is known among plebes and old grads alike for his skills in producing high-quality, West Point-centric films. In 2017, he produced a music video of the U.S. Military Academy’s glee club singing a rendition of the 1911-era West Point Alma Mater that will give you chills.
In 2018, Lachance remastered the piece in stunning 4K video in order to honor 1st Lt. Stephen C. Prasnicki, an Army football player from the West Point class of 2010 who was killed in action two years later.
Called “Sing Second,” the video references the tradition of the end of the annual Army-Navy Game, where each side sings the other’s alma mater. The losing team sings theirs first and the winning team sings second. But the rendition is more than an Army-Navy Game spirit video, like 2017’s “Lead From the Front” — it’s a tribute.
Lachance, now an Army officer on active duty, remastered the moving video to honor fellow West Pointer Stephen Chase Prasnicki, who was killed by an enemy improvised explosive device in Maidan Shahr, Wardak Province, Afghanistan, on Jun. 27, 2012.
Upon graduating from high school, Prasnicki was a highly-recruited prospect for college football. As a quarterback in a highly competitive area of Virginia high school football, he might have chosen to play at Virginia Tech under legendary coach Frank Beamer. He could have played in bowl games and for national championships. Instead, he chose West Point.
“Chase was a leader in every aspect of his life,” Prasnicki’s surviving spouse, Emily Gann, told CBS Sports. “People wanted to follow him onto the football field, and they wanted to follow him into battle.”
The former Army Black Knights backup quarterback and defensive safety was a platoon leader assigned to the 4th Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. He was only in Afghanistan for five days before sustaining his wounds.
In the annals of Marine Corps history there are many famous units and numerous famous men. There are tales of valor and loss.
But one unit truly exemplifies these traditions through its actions and its enduring nickname: the Walking Dead.
Through nearly four years of combat in Vietnam, the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines earned its place in Marine Corps history.
The 1st Battalion first arrived in Vietnam in June 1965 as part of the troop increase and escalation that year as U.S. forces took over most combat operations from the South Vietnamese. By August they were involved in offensive combat operations as part of Operation Blastout — a search and clear mission.
More missions continued throughout 1965 and into 1966. In their first year in Vietnam the Marines of 1/9 would conduct hundreds of company-sized or larger missions. The Marines of the 1st battalion, as part of a greater effort by the 9th Marine Regiment, also developed the SPARROW HAWK concept. This was essentially a heliborne quick reaction force that could be called in to help win a fight in which Marines on patrol had found themselves. The 1st Battalion, 9th Marines then rotated out of Vietnam for a few brief months beginning in October 1966.
When the unit returned in December 1966 the operations tempo greatly increased. The 1st battalion Marines started 1967 with the anti-climactic Operation Deckhouse V. From there operations picked up in the 9th Marines tactical area of responsibility. This area just south of the Demilitarized Zone became known as “Leatherneck Square” for the high number of Marine casualties. The Marines there swore the wind, rather than blowing, made a sucking sound. It was in this area that the 1st Battalion 9th Marines became the legendary Walking Dead.
The battalion participated in three phases of Operation Prairie within Leatherneck Square. Casualties were heavy as the Marines conducted search-and-destroy missions. In less than a month through mid-1967, Marine casualties during Prairie IV were 167 killed, and over 1,200 wounded.
In July, 1/9 participated in Operation Buffalo, a clearing mission up Highway 561. On the first day of the operation, July 2, the Marines of A and B companies encountered strong NVA resistance. The fighting was bitter. The NVA used flamethrowers to burn the vegetation and force the Marines into the open. An NVA artillery round wiped out the entire company headquarters for B company.
Soon the commander of 1/9 sent in C and D companies to relieve the battered Marines. With significant support they were finally able to force the NVA to break contact. The battalion suffered 84 Marines killed and 190 wounded. The next day only 27 Marines from B company and 90 from A company were fit for duty.
A combination of the remnants of Companies A and C several days later was able to get some payback on the NVA, inflicting 154 enemy killed. By the middle of July Operation Buffalo came to an end. Almost immediately the men of the 9th Marines were back in action as part of Operation Kingfisher in the Western portion of Leatherneck Square. This operation drug on until the end of October 1967. The sporadic but intense combat saw another 340 Marines killed and over 1,400 wounded in Leatherneck Square.
January 1968 found the battalion reinforcing the infamous Khe Sanh Combat Base just south of the Demilitarized Zone and west of Leatherneck Square. The Marines at Khe Sanh not only held the base but also fought in the hills surrounding it. Just over a week before the Tet Offensive began on January 30, 1968, the North Vietnamese began laying siege to Khe Sanh. Some 6,000 Marines, including 1/9, would endure daily shelling and close-combat for 77 days before being relieved. In all, 205 Americans were killed and over 1,600 wounded defending Khe Sanh. A further 200 Marines died in the bloody fighting in the hills surrounding Khe Sanh.
The lifting of the siege was hardly the end for the Walking Dead though. Immediately upon relief of duty from the defense of Khe Sanh they began Operation Scotland II to clear the area nearby. Following the conclusion of Scotland II, the Marines of 1/9 returned to the Con Thien area and took part in Operation Kentucky. This action would last until near the end of 1968.
In early 1969, the 1st battalion, as part of the larger 9th Marine Regiment, launched Operation Dewey Canyon, the last major Marine Corps operation in Vietnam. During this time the Marines swept through the NVA controlled A Shau valley and other areas near the DMZ. In a heroic action on February 22, 1968, then-Lt. Wesley Fox earned the Medal of Honor. The Marines suffered over 1,000 casualties during the operation. The entire regiment was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for their extraordinary heroism during Operation Dewey Canyon.
The Walking Dead — along with the rest of the 9th Marines — redeployed from Vietnam in the summer of 1969 to Okinawa.
The name “the Walking Dead” was originally used by Ho Chi Minh talking about the Marines in the A Shau valley. Later, after the 1st Battalion suffered extraordinarily high casualty rates, they used the term to describe themselves. Of a standard battalion strength of 800 Marines, the battalion had 747 killed in action with many times that number wounded. They also were in sustained combat operations for just short of four years. Both of these are Marine Corps records.
The unit was disbanded in mid-2000, reactivated for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, then was disbanded again in 2015.
Five suspected members of a drug-trafficking ring were arrested in Argentina and Russia as part of a joint police investigation that was launched more than a year ago after 389 kilograms of cocaine were found in the Russian Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentinian officials say.
Argentinian Security Minister Patricia Bullrich said that the probe led to the arrest, on Feb. 22, 2018, of a naturalized Russian who was a member of the police force in Buenos Aires and another citizen of the South American country.
The investigation started in December 2016, when Russia’s ambassador to Argentina reported to Argentinian authorities that they had suspicions about luggage found in an annex of the embassy.
Once authorities confirmed that traffickers were trying to move 16 bags of cocaine from the embassy by way of a diplomatic flight, “a tracking device was placed in the suitcase that was to be used to make the shipment to Russia, which was its destination,” Bullrich told reporters.
The luggage was flown to Russia in 2017, and Bullrich said three Argentinian customs officials traveled to Russia to monitor the delivery.
McDonnell Douglas, the manufacturer of the F-15 Eagle, knew it had a winner on its hands with the plane. It was the first U.S. fighter with greater engine thrust than weight, allowing it to accelerate vertically like a rocket. And it was highly maneuverable, so it could out fly its likely adversary in the Foxbat and other MiG jets.
But McDonnell Douglas and the U.S. Air Force wanted to prove that the F-15 was superior to anything Russia had before pilots clashed in actual combat. After all, if your enemy knows their likely to lose in a real battle, they’ll hopefully just stay home.
So they took a pre-production version of the F-15 and stripped everything unnecessary off of it, to include the bulk of its paint. It had an Air Force graphic on the fuselage, but the standard gray, anti-corrosion paint was removed to save even that little bit of weight. Their goal was to set all of the major time-to-climb records for planes.
If time-to-climb sounds like a niche record to compete on, it’s actually super important to air combat. Speed, max altitude, and acceleration are all important as well. But speed in a climb determines which plane in a dogfight is likely to get above the other while they’re maneuvering. And altitude equates to extra energy and speed in a fight, because the higher pilot works with gravity instead of against it while attacking.
The first record was shattered on Jan. 16, 1975. Maj. Robert Smith took off from North Dakota in freezing weather. Smith conducted a 5G pull-up and rocketed up past 3,000 meters, over 9,840 feet. He hit his mark in 27.57 seconds, shattering the old 34.5 record.
That afternoon, another major broke the 6,000-meter, 9,000-meter, and 12,000-meter records. Another pilot destroyed the 15,000-meter record by 37.5 seconds, breaching the altitude in just 77.05 seconds.
And yes, all three pilots were flying the same Streak Eagle. They went on to beat the Foxbat’s records for 20,000 meters, 25,000 meters, and 30,000 meters in the following two weeks. The 30,000-meter record was beaten in just under 3.5 minutes. That 30,000 meters number equates to 98,425 feet, and the pilot coasted to 103,000 feet before beginning his descent.
The Streak Eagle used in all of these record-setting flights is now in the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s repeated demands that Iranian forces and their allies leave Syria are not “realistic,” Russia’s ambassador to Israel has said.
“The Iranians are playing a very, very important role in our common efforts to eliminate the terrorists in Syria,” Anatoly Viktorov said in English on Israel’s Channel 10 broadcaster on July 30, 2018.
“That’s why, for this period of time, we see as nonrealistic demands to expel any foreign troops from the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic,” he said.
Viktorov said the presence of Iran’s military advisers and allied fighters in Syria is “fully legitimate, according to UN principles,” and Russia “cannot force them” to leave the country.
Syria, with help from Russia, Iran, and Tehran’s ally, the Lebanese militia Hizballah, has swiftly regained control over large swathes of territory after seven years of a civil war that has killed more than 400,000 people.
On July 30, 2018, the Syrian Army was reported to be consolidating control of its border with Israel after having ousted a last remnant of the Islamic State extremist group in the area.
Russia, which has friendly relations with both Iran and Israel, recently has sought to play a mediating role between the two sworn enemies.
Both Tel Aviv and Washington have demanded that Iranian fighters leave Syria, and Israel has repeatedly carried out deadly air strikes against Iranian facilities and positions in Syria.
Viktorov told Channel 10 that Russia is “not OK” with such use of “force” by the Israeli government, which has reportedly killed dozens of Iran-allied fighters.
But the diplomat said Russia “cannot persuade Israel how to proceed” in Syria. “It is not up to Russia to give it freedom to do anything or to prohibit anything,” he said.
The Israeli air raids have gone largely unimpeded by Russian defense systems deployed in Syria, and Israel set up a hotline with Russia in 2015 to ensure the two countries avoid accidentally clashing in the air over Syria.
While Viktorov’s comments are the first to publicly state that Russia will not try to kick Iran out of Syria, in July 2018 Israeli officials reported that Russia offered to keep Iranian forces 100 kilometers from Syria’s border with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights during a Jerusalem meeting between Netanyahu and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Israel has been on high alert since June 19, 2018, when Syrian government forces launched an offensive to retake southern Daraa and Quneitra provinces, next to the occupied Golan Heights.
Israel seized 1,200 square kilometers of the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War, in a move never recognized internationally.
Pairing athletes with military veterans just makes sense. Both have a team mentality, dedication to their uniform and all the meaning associated with it, and — most importantly — a deep connection to their fellow teammates. It may (or may not) surprise some to learn that making film and television is very much a team sport as well. The cast and crew have to operate in tandem and rely on one another for success. Physical fitness is also a very important aspect to all three lifestyles.
So, it makes sense that movie stars are getting into the latest social media trend: push-ups for veterans.
In 2015, FOX NFL insider Jay Glazer created the nonprofit Merging Vets and Players to match separated combat veterans and former professional athletes to help the vets deal with transitioning out of their old team — the U.S. military — and into civilian life. He wanted to show that the country cared about what happens to them when the uniform comes off, that the skills they picked up in service to the United States are still applicable in their new lives, and that professional athletes could help show them their true potential.
Glazer was soon joined by Nate Boyer, a U.S. Army Special Forces veteran and player for both the Texas Longhorns and Seattle Seahawks who is very active in the veteran community. He believes the two worlds have a lot in common.
“Both war fighters and football players need something to fight for once the uniform comes off, and your service to country or time on the field is over,” Boyer says. “Without real purpose for the man on your right and left, it can be easy to feel lost.”
With Glazer’s access to the world of the NFL and its players combined with Boyer’s impeccable credentials in the military-veteran community and unique knowledge of the struggles returning veterans face, the nonprofit offers peer support between the athletes and veterans, as well as physical training and challenges at locations across America.
One of those challenges recently caught on with another group: movie stars. Glazer challenged all the members of his elite LA-based training center, Unbreakable Performance, to a 25 push-up challenge. For every member who publicly posts their 25 push-ups, TV personality and NFL alum Michael Strahan will donate fitness equipment to Merging Vets and Players. It immediately got a response.
Chris Pratt, star of Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World was challenged by Strahan specifically. He answered the call, then challenged Jack Ryan star, John Krasinski, who challenged both Captain America Chris Evans and The Rock to pump out 25 for Merging Vets and Players.
They both did their 25. In the days that followed, Pratt’s Guardians of the Galaxy co-star Dave Bautista answered the call, as did Caleb Shaw, and Sylvester Stallone. Recently challenged stars include Mark Walhberg, LeBron James, and even Snoop Dogg.
The 25 push-up challenge didn’t stop with celebrities, though. Veterans who follow Merging Vets and Players, as well as MVP alumni, are also posting their 25 push-up challenge videos on Instagram and Twitter.
You may know Chuck Yeager as the man who broke the sound barrier, but back in the 1980s, he was also pitching a new fighter jet — one that arguably would have been on par with some of today’s fighters.
That jet was the Northrop F-20 Tigershark. First known as the F-5G, it was a program to give American allies an advanced multi-role fighter to replace older F-5E/F Tiger IIs. The Tiger was a good plane, but arguably at a disadvantage against jets like the MiG-23 Flogger. The Soviet Union was also widely exporting the MiG-21 Fishbed and the world needed a response.
American allies had a problem, though. Under President Jimmy Carter, the United States would not release the F-15 Eagle or F-16 Fighting Falcon to many of them. Israel got lucky, and was able to buy the planes, but most other allies had to settle for something less capable. Northrop’s privately-funded venture fit the bill.
The F-20 replaced the two J85 turbojet engines typical of the F-5E with a single F404 turbofan, like those used on the F/A-18. It also had the ability to fire the AIM-7 Sparrow, a semi-active radar-guided missile. Northrop also got Chuck Yeager to serve as the pitchman.
The F-20 proved to be very easy to maintain, was cheap (aviation historian Joe Baugher notes that a $15 million per plane price tag was quoted), and had a number of advances that made it a capable interceptor. MilitaryFactory.com notes that the F-20 had a top speed of 1,500 miles per hour and a range of 1,715 miles. Three prototypes were built, and a fourth would have had more fuel capacity and the ability to use drop tanks.
The problem was, even with Chuck Yeager pitching it, the Air Force and Navy didn’t want the plane. The last chance for this plane’s success came and went when the Air National Guard declined to replace F-106 Delta Darts and F-4 Phantoms with it, opting instead for modified F-16s. Learn more about this fighter-that-could-have-been below:
When the F-22 Raptor production line ceased in 2011, Air Force Lt. Col. Daniel thought the Pentagon had made a huge mistake.
He was driving in his car in 2009 when he found out “the Raptor fleet is done at 187, and I remember thinking, ‘This is not great.’ I thought it was an error.”
Because, “more is better than less, right?” said the F-22 pilot of the 95th Fighter Squadron. He spoke to Military.com on the condition that his last name not be used, due to safety concerns amid ongoing air operations against the Islamic State.
Military.com recently sat down with a few pilots and a maintainer at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, as part of a trip to observe fifth-generation F-22s flying with fourth-generation F/A-18 Hornets for training.
The Air Force originally wanted at least 381 Raptors. Had the service acquired that many of the stealthy twin-engine fighters from Lockheed Martin Corp., life nowadays might be somewhat less hectic for the service members who fly and maintain them.
More of the F-22 fleet could “mitigate [operations] tempo, and we’re always on the road so if we had more Raptors, there’d be more Raptor squadrons, more Raptor maintainers that would mitigate some training and operational demands,” Daniel said.
Lt. Col. Ben of the 325th Operations Group agreed.
“That’s exactly right,” he said. “But these decisions are above my pay grade.”
Daniel added, “Of course, there’s a huge cost with that.”
He’s right. Indeed, cost was the driving factor behind then-Defense Secretary Bob Gates’ decision to push for the Pentagon to prematurely stop buying the aircraft.
$20 Billion Restart
According to a 2010 RAND study, to restart the F-22 production line to build 75 more of the jets would cost about $20 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars.
To build a new Raptor — not a 1990s version — “you’re not building the same airplane you were building before, and it becomes a much more expensive proposition,” a defense analyst in Washington, D.C. told Military.com on background on Thursday.
“So do you build a new ‘old’ F-22, or do you build an improved one?” the analyst said.
And that figure is a rough estimate to restart a marginal lot of planes. It doesn’t take into account the cost of hiring workers, integrating newer stealth technologies, or training and equipping additional pilots.
Preparing Raptor pilots to fly from the nest takes time, too.
“To make a really good F-22 pilot, I need about seven to eight years to get him to where he is fully employing a jet and can actually quarterback the whole fight,” Daniel said.
But as the Air Force weighs retiring its F-15C/D fleet sometime in the mid-2020s (though lawmakers in Congress will have a say in the matter), many defense experts question how the service plans to maintain its air superiority. For example, will the F-22 eventually take over the role of the F-15 Eagle? If so, will Raptor pilots be more in demand than ever?
F-16s Instead of F-22s?
The questions aren’t abstract. Both the active-duty component and Air National Guard are considering retiring the Boeing-made Eagle, service officials told the House Armed Services Subcommittee during a hearing on Wednesday. The F-16 Fighting Falcon could take over missions from the F-15, they said.
Rep. Martha McSally, an Arizona Republican and former Air Force officer who flew the A-10 Thunderbolt II ground-attack aircraft, said “prior to the F-22, [the F-15] was the best at air-to-air.” The F-16, a fixed-wing, single-engine, fourth-generation platform, “doesn’t bring the same capability,” she said.
The reference by Air Force officials to F-16 rather than F-22 during the hearing also caught the analyst by surprise.
“Why didn’t the Air Force say F-22 restart?” he said during a telephone interview. “Why did they leak that they’re looking to replace it with F-16s instead of using it as a case to examine F-22 restart?”
Another reason might be because Air Force leaders have zero interest in restarting the F-22 production line. The reference to F-16 may suggest “this is the end for F-22 restart story — not the beginning of it,” he said.
Earlier this week, officials at Lockheed — which produces the F-16 and F-22 — told DefenseOne it plans to move the F-16 production line to South Carolina from Fort Worth, Texas, where it built the single-engine fighters for more than 40 years.
As of Sept. 30, the Air Force had 949 Fighting Falcons, according to Air Force inventory figures obtained by Military.com.
By comparison, the service has less than half as many Eagles and F-15E Strike Eagles. The F-15 inventory totals 456 aircraft and is split almost evenly between the two variants, with 236 of the older Eagles, including 212 one-seat F-15C models and 24 two-seat F-16D models, according to the service data.
“F-15C/D is just one job,” the analyst said of the all-weather, tactical fighter. “The Air Force is going to make the same argument it made on the A-10, which is, ‘As we look around the Air Force to save money, we’re going to retire things that have one job.’
“The F-16 is multi-role … and the F-16 has grown significantly since it was just a little squirt under the F-15’s wing,” he said.
For example, in December, Raytheon Co. was awarded a contract to upgrade the F-16 computer system as part of the Modular Mission Computer Upgrade, which features “more than two times the current processing power and 40 times the current memory, equipping USAF pilots with near-fifth-generation aircraft computing power,” the company said in a release at the time.
Just this past week, the Air Force announced the 416th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base in California has begun testing F-16s equipped with Northrop Grumman’s APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar, a fifth-generation Active Electronically Scanned Array fire-control radar.
“It is intended to replace currently used APG-66 and APG-68 radars and provide the F-16 with advanced capabilities similar to fifth-generation fighters like the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II,” the service said in a release.
The Air Force claims it has the capacity in the F-16C community “to recapitalize … radar to serve the same function as the F-15 has done and thereby reduce the different systems that we have to sustain and operate, so that makes it more efficient,” said Maj. Gen. Scott D. West, director of current operations and the service’s deputy chief of staff for operations at the Pentagon.
The effort will help minimize the number of systems pilots operate, West said during the hearing on Capitol Hill.
As for the Eagle, Air National Guard Director Lt. Gen. Scott Rice told Military.com that any planned upgrades will be fulfilled. However, the Air Force may want to look at the next block of upgrades to save on future sustainment and operational costs, he said.
Rice said he believes the Air Force is getting beyond comparing aircraft platforms, “especially in the digital age” when looking at the platforms as systems and “how they integrate is as important and, in the future, will be even more important than the platform itself,” he said.
The F-16 is a “less capable dogfighter than the F-15,” the analyst added, “but at the same time the question is, ‘How realistic is it that you’re going to have a single F-16 without any help'” from other fighter jets? “That’s not how we plan to fly,” he said.
A Magical Airframe?
Last year, the House Armed Services Air and Land Forces subcommittee tasked the Air Force to issue a study of what it would take to get the F-22 line up and running again.
Whether the official study has been completed, “preliminary assessment showed it was cost prohibitive to reopen the F-22 line,” an Air Force spokeswoman told Military.com on Thursday, in line with RAND’s study.
Even so, Lockheed is offering advice on what it would take to do so, said John Cottam, F-22 program deputy for the company in Fort Worth.
“They have come to us and have asked us for inputs into that study, so we have been working very hard with them, in concert with them to provide that data,” he said last month. “With this new administration, they have priorities that are putting Americans back to work and making America strong, so we believe that what the Air Force provides could very easily resonate with the administration’s policies.”
Cottam added, “As time goes on, if the report isn’t delivered [to Congress], we can then keep delivering our responses and making it more and more refined.”
Meanwhile, Raptor pilots can’t help but wonder if newly minted aircraft will again come off the production line.
In any exercise, pilots show up the first couple of days, “integrate with other platforms — everyone’s trying to learn,” Daniel said. “By the end of the first week, everybody realized we need about 30 more F-22s in the lane because as soon as the F-22s leave, people start to die in the air-to-air fight.”
Daniel said, “It’s always disappointing that we don’t have more, or don’t have more missiles, more gas — it’s always frustrating as an F-22 pilot when you hear, ‘Bingo, bingo,’ and you’re out of missiles and you go home and you start hearing other planes getting shot down.”
The stealth, the speed, the “unfair amount of information the jet provides to us … .it’s magic,” he said.
Even with oncoming upgrades to the F-16, many fighter pilots and others question whether a fourth-generation fighter will — or could — ever step up to such a role.
As a prior butter bar, I want you to know that I have no regrets about my career choice.
Sure, when I signed up for the military, I thought I was going to get to do a little less paperwork and a little more single handedly saving the entire world from terrorism for all time with my bravery, but hey, we all have our roles to play. Mine was to ensure my people were able to conduct mission ops — and deep down, I know that’s important, too.
I was very calculated about which branch I would serve in (Air Force, duh — I’m not a masochist) and how I would earn my commission (on the beaches of Southern California, like a BAMF). We trained on Fridays, and I was super into it (ROTC nerd to an extreme level) so I also attended optional Saturday morning training, which meant I missed out on the collegiate Thirsty Thursday, Friday night parties, and Saturday night shenanigans (because I was tired from all that training, bro).
So it really wasn’t until active duty that I realized how much lieutenants could party.
When we were at intel school at Goodfellow AFB, Texas, we set up a “pub crawl” where everyone served signature drinks from their dorm rooms — everything from a shot of Jeremiah Weed to a game of flip cup to Vodka mixed with Airborne tablets (“to help our immune systems.”)
My first Gin and Tonic was consumed in the SCIF while cramming for the Navy test (does one really need to be sober to learn about boats? I mean ships…).
In Korea, the pilots partied so hard I started carrying a sharpie with me so I could make a tic-mark on my palm to track my drinks. Most nights left me waking up with a bar code across my palm.
But beyond the drinking, the butter bars in the office are more likely to liven up the office with pranks and jokes — and let’s not forget who keeps the snack bar full.
Butter bars have it great. They have enough training under their belts to feel confident about testing themselves but not enough experience for any serious responsibility. It’s a carefree time. The good ones acknowledge their shortcomings and learn quickly. The crappy ones… well, you can read some of their stories in the comments on this post (and add your own — it’s hilarious!).
The point is, butter bars are precious. They’re bright eyed and ready for a good time. They don’t know that the sh*t is about to get real. Look out for them. Show them the way.
3. They’re the future brass
Four-stars have to start somewhere, right? Their experiences as CGOs will have an effect on their leadership style down the road, so help them out. Teach them the mission. Remind them of what’s important. Show them the value of mutual respect.
They’ll remember it later and we’ll all be better for it.
And for all you 0-1s out there, work hard before you play hard. You might be at the bottom of the officer ranks now, but you’ve still got men and women who rely on you.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Oct. 20 there is a place for moderate elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan’s government as long as they renounce violence and terrorism and commit to stability. He also delivered a blunt warning to neighboring Pakistan, insisting Islamabad must step up action against terrorist groups that have found safehaven within its borders.
Speaking on an unannounced trip to Afghanistan where he met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, and other senior officials at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul, Tillerson said the Taliban must understand that they will never win a military victory and should prepare to negotiate with the government.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah. Photo from US Department of State.
“Clearly, we have to continue to fight against the Taliban, against others, in order for them to understand they will never win a military victory,” Tillerson told a small group of reporters allowed to accompany him from the Qatari capital of Doha. “And there are, we believe, moderate voices among the Taliban, voices that do not want to continue to fight forever. They don’t want their children to fight forever. So we are looking to engage with those voices and have them engage in a reconciliation process leading to a peace process and their full involvement and participation in the government.”
“There’s a place for them in the government if they are ready to come, renouncing terrorism, renouncing violence and being committed to a stable, prosperous Afghanistan,” Tillerson said.
Tillerson outlined to Ghani and Abdullah the Trump administration’s new South Asia policy, which the president rolled out last month and views the region through a lens that includes Afghanistan as well as Pakistan and India, both of which he will visit later this week. The approach is heavy on combatting and beating extremist groups in all three countries.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Photo from US Embassy Consulate in Korea.
“We also want to work with regional partners to ensure that there are no threats in the region,” he said. “This is very much a regional effort as you saw. It was rolled out in the strategy itself, demanding that others deny safehaven to terrorists anywhere in the region. We are working closely with Pakistan as well.”
Tillerson will visit Islamabad on Oct. 21 and said he would be telling Pakistani officials that their cooperation in fighting extremists and driving them from hideouts on their territory is imperative to a good relationship with the US.
“It will be based upon whether they take action that we feel is necessary to move the process forward for both creating opportunity for reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan but also ensuring a stable future Pakistan,” he said. ” Pakistan needs to, I think, take a clear-eyed view of the situation that they are confronted with in terms of the number of terrorist organizations that find safehaven inside of Pakistan. So we want to work closely Pakistan to create a more stable and secure Pakistan as well.”
The administration’s strategy for South Asia envisions it as part of what Tillerson referred to in a speech last week as Indian-Pacific Ocean platform, anchored by four democracies: India, Australia, Japan, and the United States. The US is placing high hopes on India’s contributions in South Asia, especially in Afghanistan where Tillerson said New Delhi could have significant influence and presence by creating jobs and “the right environment for the future of Afghanistan.”
Gen. John Nicholson. Photo from Dept of Defense.
Tillerson also met at Bagram with senior members of the US military contingent, including Army Gen. John Nicholson, the top US commander in Afghanistan. He underscored the ongoing US commitment to stabilizing Afghanistan but stressed it is “conditions based,” meaning that the government must meet certain benchmarks. He praised Ghani for his efforts to curb corruption and prepare for the country parliamentary elections next year.
“It is imperative in the end that we are denying safehaven to any terrorist organizations or any extremists to any part of this world,” Tillerson said.
He arrived in Afghanistan cloaked in secrecy and under heavy security. He had slipped out of Qatar in the pre-dawn hours and flew a gray C-17 military plane to Bagram, jettisoning his public schedule, which had him meeting with staffers at the US Embassy in Doha.
Tillerson, a one-time private pilot, rode in the cockpit wearing a headset and chatting with the crew as the plane took off from the Al-Udeid Air Base outside Doha.
Elijah Riley lines up to defend Chance Warren during the 120th Army-Navy Game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa., Dec. 14, 2019. The United States Naval Academy defeated the United States Military Academy this year. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. James Harvey)
After months filled with as much uncertainty as tomorrow, Army and Navy are about to begin their respective football schedules.
Air Force will have to wait.
Army is set to kick off against Middle Tennessee State at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 5, at West Point, New York. Navy is expected to open its season when it hosts BYU at 8 p.m. on Sept. 7 on ESPN in Annapolis, Maryland.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced college football programs to be flexible in myriad ways, none more so than with their schedules. Some conferences and teams will forgo playing this fall, with hopes of returning in the spring, while other schools lost appealing non-conference matchups.
Then there is Air Force, whose schedule consists of two games: Oct. 3 against Navy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Nov. 7 at Army. Air Force belongs to the Mountain West Conference, which postponed fall sports in August.
“We were allowed to look at the possibility to play Army and Navy since we all have similar 47-month physical requirements for graduation, have similar testing protocols and have a cadet population that is secured from the public,” Air Force athletic spokesman Troy Garnhart said in an email.
The Falcons are not looking to add other games, Garnhart said.
Regardless of the pandemic, the service academies have said they plan to play each other this year.
Army and Navy are scheduled to meet for the 121st time on Dec. 12 in Philadelphia. They first met in 1890, when Benjamin Harrison was president, and have played every year since 1930.
Army is scheduled to host eight games at Michie Stadium in 2020, but the Black Knights lost a marquee home matchup against Oklahoma when its conference, the Big 12, canceled non-league road games. The Sooners were scheduled to visit West Point on Sept. 26.
Attendance at Army’s first two home games, the opener against Middle Tennessee State and Sept. 12 against Louisiana-Monroe, will be limited to the corps of approximately 4,400 cadets, athletic spokeswoman Rachel Caton said.
“Attendance at games is typically mandatory for the corps, so all should be expected to be in attendance,” Caton said in an email. “They will just be sitting in a different area of the stadium than usual and will be socially distanced.”
Decisions about fans for the Black Knights’ other home games have not been determined, Caton said.
Unlike Army’s on-campus stadium, Navy does not play its home games on federal land. Because Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium is off campus, the Midshipmen are subject to regulations imposed by the Maryland Department of Health, which banned fans from outdoor sports events in June, Navy spokesman Scott Strasemeier said in an email.
“We are still optimistic there will be home football games this season where our season-ticket holders will be extended the opportunity to personally attend,” Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said in a statement. “Improving conditions may dictate justification to open our gates in a setting with extensive safety protocols being appropriately administered.”
Whether fans will be allowed at Air Force’s home game against Navy is not expected to be decided until mid-September, Garnhart said.
While Navy intends to play a full American Athletic Conference schedule and didn’t lose its games against Army or Air Force, the Midshipmen won’t face Notre Dame because of the pandemic. Navy originally was scheduled to open the season with that matchup in Dublin, Ireland, then it was moved to Annapolis before being canceled.
Navy and Notre Dame had met in football every year since 1927.
Navy and Air Force finished 11-2 in 2019. Army, whose football program does not belong to a conference, went 5-8 last season.
One of the things that often shocks new pilots is how brutally honest our debriefs can be. After nearly a full day of planning, briefing, and flying a mission, we’ll gather in a room and spend hours picking apart everything that went wrong. Even if all our objectives were met and the mission was a success, we’ll still comb through a “god’s eye view” of the flight, along with the various recordings from inside our cockpit.
Rank comes off in the debrief, meaning the most senior officer, or the most senior pilot, are open to just as much criticism as the newest wingman. I’ve been in debriefs where a young Captain held the Wing Commander’s feet to the fire over mistakes he made in the air. This usually comes as a shock to many in the military who are typically required to follow a strict hierarchy.
When is comes to mistakes, fighter pilots worry more about improvement than they do about rank. (USAF Photo)
As with all things related to flying, prioritization is key—we’ll start with the biggest things that went wrong and try to uncover their root causes. I was recently explaining to a civilian pilot that in the debrief we spend 90% of our time on the 10% that didn’t go according to plan. They were amazed that 10% doesn’t go according to plan. In reality though, it can often be much higher.
The type of flying we do has more in common with sports than a typical commercial flight. We are fighting a thinking adversary that is specifically targeting our weaknesses. We, in turn, are making decisions that are trying to exploit theirs. As we fight to seize the initiative inside this decision loop; dozens of potential outcomes can occur at each phase of the mission. A mission therefore almost never goes exactly according to plan. It’s a dynamic environment that forces the pilot to perceive, decide, and execute in a harsh environment, often with limited information and time.
A three-ship formation of Air National Guard F-16 Fighting Falcons flies over Kunsan City, South Korea. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)
In training, if the bomber we were escorting was shot down, or if an enemy aircraft bombed the point we were defending, it’s usually multiple overlapping mistakes that led to the failure. In fact, everyone probably had an opportunity at some point to intervene and save the day. The fighter pilot debrief works because everyone is willing to take ownership of their mistakes.
Taking ownership is a skill. As fighter pilots, most of us are predisposed to win at all costs—within the rules and regulations. In the debrief though, with the mission already flown, the way to win is to accurately identify lessons that will make everyone better for the next flight. It’s a fragile environment that only works when everyone is willing to first look inward for failures to the mission.
U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors fly in formation with F-35A Lightning IIs (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)
It only takes one person trying to pass the blame for the collaborative environment to fall apart. Because it’s not stable, it requires constant maintenance, especially by those who could use their status to get by. The mission commander must be the first person to call themselves out for a mistake they made. Likewise, the pilot with the most experience must be willing to say they made a basic error that even a new pilot shouldn’t have made. The officer with the highest rank must be willing to set the example that rank doesn’t shield mistakes.
By treating everyone equally in the debrief, the mission can be analyzed in a sterile environment. We can figure out what went wrong and capture those lessons for future flights. To the casual observer it’s a brutal environment, but to the pilots in the debrief it’s just a puzzle on how to get better.
One of the most wide-reaching and significant changes to military pay and benefits over the last 70 years goes into effect Jan. 1 with the implementation of the Uniformed Services Blended Retirement System, known as BRS.
All new entrants into the uniformed services on or after Jan. 1 will be enrolled in this new retirement system, Pentagon officials said. The uniformed services are the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps.
Some Can Choose Between Systems
Nearly 1.6 million current service members will have the option to remain in the current legacy “high-3” retirement system or to choose the BRS when the opt-in period for eligible service members opens Jan. 1. Opt-in eligible service members from all seven of the uniformed services will have an entire year to make their retirement system election. The open period for the majority of service members is from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2018.
U.S. Public Health Service personnel should contact the USPHS Compensation Branch.
Service members who believe they are eligible to opt in, but do not see the opt-in option available online should contact their local personnel/human resources office to verify eligibility, officials said.
The decision to opt in is irrevocable, officials emphasized, even if a service member changes his or her mind before the Dec. 31, 2018, deadline. Eligible service members who take no action will remain in the legacy retirement system, they added.
Prior to opting in, officials recommend that service members take advantage of all available resources to assist in making an informed decision on the financial implications specific to their retirement situation. The Defense Department endorses several training and informational tools to support a service member’s decision, including the BRS Opt-In Course, the BRS Comparison Calculator, and numerous online BRS resource materials. Service members can receive no-cost, personal support from an accredited personal financial manager or counselor available at their installation’s military and family support center or by calling Military OneSource at 1-800-342-9647.