Why only 29 percent of young people are eligible for service - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Why only 29 percent of young people are eligible for service

Military service isn’t for everyone. Many potential recruits are passionate about enlisting but can’t due to some limitation while others who would make perfect applicants have no interest. The Pentagon doesn’t sweat the loss of young adults who aren’t eligible or have no interest, however, because of the many able troops willing to raise their right hand and pick up the slack.


But, in more recent years, the number of eligible enlistees has been getting smaller and smaller.

According to recently released data from the Pentagon, only 10 million of the 34 million young Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 are eligible to serve in the military. This is the continuation of a trend observed in 2014. To properly sustain the ranks, recruiters need to find the U.S. Army 80,000 new troops, the Marine Corps needs 38,000, the Air Force needs 33,000, and the Navy needs 31,000 annually. This brings the total to 182,000 troops per year. To make those numbers, 1.82% of the total 18-24-year-old American population that can enlist must do so.

And 4,000 new Coast Guardsmen, but they never have to worry about meeting their numbers. (Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Mark Barney)

The military relies on a constant flow of new recruits to fill in the gaps left by troops who left the service that year. That number grows and shrinks with each passing year, but if a manpower shortage becomes too great, it could spark a national security emergency.

But that’s a long ways off.

There are many reasons for disqualifying potential recruits. In recent years, the biggest disqualifier has been obesity. Basic training isn’t designed to get unhealthy people into fighting shape — it’s about getting reasonably fit people combat-ready. It’s not uncommon for potential recruits to get fit before they even step in a recruiter’s office.

Working hard is a virtue shared by troops. Being fit means they’re one step closer mentally. (Photo by Scott Sturkol)

The recruits who spend work months slimming down often take their service much more seriously. The same goes for other disqualifying factors, like education (which can be fixed with studying for the ASVAB or earning a GED) and financial concerns (which can be overcome through aid and personal perseverance).

If they’ve worked to earn their spot on the team, they won’t take it for granted.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 things that have already happened without safety briefs

On September 4, 2018, the Secretary of the Army signed a memo that shifted the Earth under the U.S. Army by declaring that the Safety Brief, a longtime weekend ritual of every formation across the primary land forces of these United States, was no longer required.

For soldiers everywhere, the news was met with a sudden intake of breath and widening of the eyes.


And then, after careful reading, an eye roll and long sigh — because the memo only removed the requirement for the safety brief, it didn’t prohibit them. So, yeah, most soldiers are probably still getting safety briefs every weekend. But, through a network of squirrels, pigeons, and the occasional honey badger, WATM has learned about these 7 events that totally happened since the safety briefs were dropped at some units:

An investigating officer enters one of the stolen Army wreckers.

(U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret)

An unknown Fort Bliss corporal stole everything he could get his hands on, including the flagpole

An unidentified corporal assigned to Fort Bliss, Texas, went on a wild crime spree, stealing everything from a humvee to the keys to the dropzone to the physical flagpole from which the base colors fly. That last theft was only made possible by the multiple wreckers which he stole beforehand. Worse, the corporal ate the dropzone keys, and has not yet passed them.

When reached for comment, a Fort Bliss spokesman would only mutter, “We didn’t even think the dropzone could be locked. How the hell are we going to train there, now?”

No, it doesn’t make any sense that a sergeant first class led the fireteam, but this article is clearly satire — of course there are no real photos of the fireteam entering Canada.

(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Haley D. Phillips)

A fireteam from Drum invaded Canada under the incorrect assumption that “it’s basically polite Russia”

Meanwhile, at Fort Drum, a single fireteam, working under the assumption that all countries under a certain temperature are basically Russia, invaded Canada with no warning, capturing two banks, a law office, and the Chamber of Commerce of a large town before the Canadian Army arrived and eventually captured them despite heavy losses.

The Fort Drum commanders quickly apologized, but were surprised when the Canadians simply offered to fly the fireteam to Moscow just to “see what the little hellions can do there.”

A rapid response team made up entirely of officer candidates were the first on scene after Pvt. Skippy’s actions were reported. They apparently took the threat of his captured “Charizard” seriously, while local NCOs shook their heads in disbelief.

(U.S. Army National Guard Maj. Matt Baldwin)

Pvt. Skippy of Joint Base Lewis-McChord went on a rampage

A common refrain of the weekend safety brief is, “Don’t beat your fish, don’t beat your dog, don’t beat your neighbor’s dog. You can beat something else of your own, but not your neighbor’s — unless it’s consensual.”

Apparently, that was the only thing stopping Pvt. Skippy, because he attacked every animal he could find in the vicinity of the barracks, according to MP reports. When apprehended, he explained that he was “playing Pokemon Go when the damnedest Pikachu showed up. It was all brown, smaller, and eating acorns,” and he asked the MPs why they hated video games.

His toxicology report has not yet come back.

By all reports, the girls, girls, girls survived, but will have to find new work in the harsh light of day.

(Rick Hall, CC-BY 2.0)

Three bars and two stripclubs have been declared total losses in the Fort Hood area

Base officials aren’t talking about what happened at a series of business right outside of South Fort Hood last weekend. At most, you can hear them mutter things about “tornadoes” and “wildfires” under their breath as they rapidly walk away.

But, insurance companies on the hook for the damages have pointed out that every damaged business caters to soldiers, was operating normally on Friday, and was expecting a slow weekend since the weather was normal and it wasn’t a paycheck weekend.

Instead, five businesses have been completely demolished and are currently littered with debris, broken teeth, and a few stray dog tags.

It only took one report of less-than-horrible meals at the facilities for the senior brass to know something was up.

(U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. Zach Tomesh)

Multiple detention specialists at Guantanamo Bay are facing charges of renting out cells on Airbnb

With the low numbers of prisoners currently housed at Gunatanamo, some specialists there apparently decided that a rules-free weekend was the perfect time to transition empty cells into small apartments, renting out the rooms to tourists on Airbnb.

The scheme was discovered quickly as guests kept wandering into the facility’s kitchens to steal ingredients and oven space for their personal meals. When soldiers on base started enjoying the food that came out, the brass knew something was up.

Fort Bragg Paratroopers are tested for the new STDs. With an average of less than two infections per soldier, the situation is much closer to normal than epidemic specialists had dared to hope for.

(Department of Defense Brenda Gutierrez)

Every D.A. civilian in North Carolina has contracted an STD

In a surprise twist on Fort Bragg, every Department of the Army civilian has contracted at least one STD, despite the fact that no one was trying to sleep with them.

Experts from the Center for Disease Control are working off the theory that the soldiers went so crazy when they weren’t reminded to not sleep with strippers, spouses, and local women, that they created a cross between multiple major STDs and an upper respiratory infection that was prominent in Fayetteville, N.C. at the time, allowing the previously sexually transmitted diseases to become airborne.

Either that, or the paratroopers left so much fluid on all of the base’s surfaces that now it’s just dangerous to be on or near the installation.

A new memo has been drafted making the safety brief mandatory once again

Amidst all the chaos, the Department of the Army is quietly preparing to reinstate the mandatory brief, hopefully while they still have an army to administrate. While retention rates have suddenly jumped, hospital admissions and police bookings have more than wiped out the retention advantage.

MIGHTY TRENDING

No one was ready for President Trump’s next VA secretary

Questions have emerged about the managerial ability of White House physician Admiral Ronny L. Jackson, President Donald’s Trump pick to run the Department of Veterans Affairs, the federal government’s second-largest agency.

If confirmed, Jackson would replace David Shulkin as the secretary of veterans affairs. Trump announced his decision to fire Shulkin on March 28, 2018.


Though Jackson has an impressive resume as a career naval officer who served as an emergency trauma doctor in Iraq, as well as a White House physician for the 12 years, he seems to lack any management experience.

Considering the VA has 360,000 employees and a $186 billion annual budget, that has some people worried.

“It’s great that he served in Iraq and he’s our generation. But it doesn’t appear that he’s had assignments that suggest he could take on the magnitude of this job, and this makes Jackson a ­surprising pick,” Paul Reckhorn, the chief executive of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told the Washington Post.

Admiral Ronny L. Jackson

Shulkin had managed several hospitals before, including some that were part of the VA, and almost all of his predecessors were either high ranking managers in the private sector, or military leaders.

Senior White House officials told the Washington Post that Jackson “was taken aback by his nomination,” and was reportedly hesitant to take the position. One official described an “informal interview” process, without the traditional Cabinet-level vetting.

The White House had reportedly planned to announce that Shulkin would leave on March 28, 2018, with an interim director to run the department until a permanent head could be found. Trump apparently changed that plan when he tweeted that Jackson was his pick to lead the VA.

Virtually nothing at all is known about Jackson’s views on the issues that currently face the VA, like Trump’s views on privatization of elements of the VA.

David Shulkin
Photo by James Lucas

“We are doing our homework on Dr. Jackson,” Amanda Maddox, a spokeswoman for the chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Sen. Johnny Isakson, told the Washington Post.

“His name was never floated around,” Maddox said, “so we are doing our due diligence.”

It is unclear if Democrats will support Jackson’s nomination. Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, an Iraq veteran who lost both of her legs when the helicopter she was co-piloting was shot down, released a statement saying that she would “carefully review” his qualifications.

“The next VA Secretary must be able to protect the department from becoming consumed by partisan politics,” Duckworth said.

“I hope Dr. Jackson is someone who is willing and able to do that by continuing the important tradition of VA Secretaries working in a bipartisan manner.”

MIGHTY SPORTS

The Warrior Games trials have begun

More than 120 wounded warriors from the Air Force and Army gathered March 1, 2019, to officially open the sixth annual Air Force Trials at Nellis Air Force Base.

The Air Force Trials, which run through March 7, 2019, are part of an adaptive and resiliency sports program designed to promote the mental and physical well-being of the wounded, ill and injured service members who participate.


Retired Capt. Rob Hufford, Air Force Wounded Warrior Program ambassador and athlete, celebrates as he is honored for his Invictus Games achievements.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Corey Parrish)

The Paralympic-style competitive event showcases the resiliency of wounded warriors and highlights the effectiveness of adaptive sports as part of their recovery. It also highlights the impact the Wounded Warrior program, or AFW2, has in helping with the restorative care of wounded warriors enrolled in the program.

Members from the Air Force Wounded Warrior team pay respect to the flag during the 6th Annual Air Force Wounded Warrior Trials opening ceremony.

The Trials are also a test of the athletes’ resiliency, strength, and endurance, according to Col. Michael Flatten, Air Force Wounded Warrior Program director.

“It’s vitally important for their recovery we rebuild their sense of purpose, their sense of self and their sense of confidence,” said Flatten, during remarks at the ceremony. “Everybody in the world is going to tell them what they can’t do, we’re here to tell them what they can.”

A member of the U.S. Air Force Academy Wings of Blue Parachute Team glides into the 6th Annual Air Force Wounded Warrior Trials opening ceremony.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Corey Parrish)

The event features 10 different adaptive sports: powerlifting, cycling, wheelchair rugby, swimming, shooting, rowing, track and field, archery, wheelchair basketball, and sitting volleyball.

The Air Force Trials is the primary selection location for the 40 primary and 10 alternate members of Team Air Force at the 2019 Department of Defense Warrior Games June 21-30, 2019, in Tampa, Fla.

Chief Master Sgt. Kenneth Lindsey, Air Force Personnel Center command chief, speaks during the 6th Annual Air Force Wounded Warrior Trials opening ceremony.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Corey Parrish)

“It’s an awesome day here at Nellis,” said Air Force Personnel Center command chief Chief Master Sgt. Kenneth Lindsey. “The intent of this event is to promote the health, wellness and recovery of seriously wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans,” said Lindsey. “During these trials, participants will build comradery and confidence as they continue to recover.”

This year, the participants are made up of 53 active duty, 15 Air National Guard and Reserve and 72 Air Force veterans. Also attending the Trials are 32 caregivers, who play an important role in athlete care and recovery.

Col. Michael J. Flatten, Air Force Wounded Warrior Program director, speaks during the 6th Annual Air Force Wounded Warrior Trials opening ceremony.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Corey Parrish)

During the ceremony, the athletes were recognized by service, the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Wings of Blue performed a parachute demonstration, two HH-60 Pave Hawks from the 66th Rescue Squadron flew a two-ship formation and the Trials torch, carried by Air Force members from the 2018 U.S. Invictus Team, was lit.

Athletes pose for a group photo during the 6th Annual Air Force Wounded Warrior Trials opening ceremony.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Corey Parrish)

The Trials are part of the Air Force’s Wounded Warrior program (AFW2), which is a congressionally mandated and federally funded organization administered by AFPC in San Antonio, Texas. The program includes recovery care coordinators, non-medical care managers, and other professionals who work with wounded warriors, their families and caregivers to guide them through various day-to-day challenges.

The DoD Warrior Games is an annual event recognizing the importance adaptive sports plays in the recovery and rehabilitation of the wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New technology will protect four-legged heroes from hearing loss

A new, flexible hood a little more than an inch thick is expected to better protect military working dogs at risk for short-term or permanent hearing loss on the job, the Army Research Office announced Nov. 20, 2019.

Funded by an Army small business innovation grant, Zeteo Tech Inc. and the University of Cincinnati developed the Canine Auditory Protection System (CAPS) to replace often rigid products that are hard to put on dogs, according to a recent news release.

Dr. Stephen Lee, senior scientist at the Army Research Office, said in the release that CAPS could extend dogs’ working lives, protecting them from high-decibel noise during training, transport and operations.


“Even a short helicopter flight can affect a dog’s hearing, resulting in impaired performance and inability to hear the handler’s commands, which can hinder the mission,” he said.

The Canine Auditory Protection System, resembling a close-fitting hood, uniformly distributes the pressure required to hold the dogs’ hearing protection in place, while avoiding challenges associated with straps.

(Zeteo Tech)

The researchers found a “significant” reduction in short-term hearing loss when wearing the product during helicopter operations.

CAPS is also compatible with other gear, like goggles, and was tested for usability and comfort on canines working in the military or federal law enforcement. It is designed to conform to each dog’s unique head shape, and its flexibility ensures a proper sealing around their ears for maximum sound reduction.

Lee said CAPS could broaden the use of military working dogs in operations in the future, extending their ability to work in a wide range of environments with soldiers and autonomous systems.

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

Articles

That time a B-1 Lancer bomber made a $75 million drug bust

The B-1B Lancer is perhaps America’s most underrated heavy bomber.


For some perspective, let’s look at the specs. The Lancer can carry 84 Mk 82 500-pound bombs internally — that’s more than the B-52 or the B-2. It can carry a bunch of other weapons as well – from the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile to the CBU-97 cluster bomb.

And the B-1 may be the one thing holding back Russia from an all-out invasion of the Baltics.

But did you know that a B-1 even foiled a plan to bring over 1,000 pounds of cocaine into the country? Here’s how that happened:

A B-1B Lancer takes off from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., March 27, 2011, on a mission in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Marc I. Lane)

According to an Air Force Times report from last year, the B-1 had been on a routine training mission off the Florida coast in March when the crew noticed something suspicious. When they went to check it out they saw a speed boat with drug smugglers and a fresh load of cocaine.

The smugglers had no idea that they were followed until they looked up and saw the humongous bomber coming right at them. They did what just about anyone would do in that situation: They panicked.

The B-1 crew caught them on tape dumping an estimated 500 kilos of cocaine overboard. According to an Oct. 2016 report by Business Insider, each kilo was worth up to $150,000 on the street – meaning that some drug lord took a $75 million hit to his bottom line.

Now that’s a good thing.

Photo: Courtesy US Coast Guard

You might think the crew of that B-1B got into trouble for violating the Posse Comitatus Act. Guess again – in fact, this incident inspired then-Secretary of the Air Force Deborah James to see if other training missions could be used to help in the War on Drugs. This past September, DodBuzz.com reported that a five-day training exercise last August was used to assist in a counter-drug operation that seized over 6,000 kilos of cocaine.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The revolutionary fuse that won World War II

Jet engines, air-to-air rockets, drones. World War II was filled with flashy technological breakthroughs that would change warfare, both during that conflict and in wars to follow. But it was one humble piece of equipment that got an early upgrade that may have actually tipped the war in America’s favor: the fuse.

Specifically, impact and timed fuses were switched out for a weapon that had been hypothetical until then: the proximity fuse.


Anti-aircraft guns fire during World War II. Air defenders using timed fuses had to fire a lot of rounds to bring anything down.

(U.S. Army)

Anti-aircraft and other artillery rounds typically consist of an outer shell packed with a large amount of high explosives. These explosives are relatively stable, and require the activation of a fuse to detonate. Before World War II, there were two broad categories of fuses: impact and timed.

Impact fuses, sometimes known as crush fuses, go off when they impact something. A split-second later, this sets off the main explosives in the shell and causes it to explode in a cloud of shrapnel. This is great for hitting armored targets where you need the explosion pressed as closely as possible against the hull.

A U.S. bomber flies through clouds of flak with an engine smoking. While flak and other timed-burst weapons could bring down planes, it typically took entire batteries firing at high rates to actually down anything.

(U.S. Air Force)

But for anti-personnel, anti-aircraft, or just wide-area coverage fire, artillerymen want the round to go off a couple feet or a couple yards above the ground. This allows for a much wider spread of lethal shrapnel. The best way of accomplishing this until 1940 was with a timed fuse. The force of the shell being propelled out of the tube starts a timer in the fuse, and the shell detonates after a set duration.

The fuses could be set to different times, and artillerymen in the fire direction center would do the math to see what time setting was needed for maximum shrapnel burst.

But timed fuses were less than perfect, and small math errors could lead to a round going off too early, allowing the shrapnel to disperse and slow before reaching personnel and planes, or too late, allowing the round to get stuck deep into the dirt before going off — the dirt then absorbs the round’s energy and stops much of the shrapnel.

The Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University succeeded in creating a revolutionary fuse that would tip battles in America’s favor.

So, in 1940, the National Defense Research Committee asked the Carnegie Institution and Johns Hopkins University to complete research on a tricky project, proximity fuses that worked by sending out radio waves and then measuring the time it takes for those waves to bounce back, allowing it to detonate a set distance from an object. This required shrinking down a radio transmitter and receiver until it was small enough to fit in the space allotted for a fuse.

This, in turn, required all sorts of breakthroughs, like shrinking down vacuum tubes and finding ways to cradle all the sensitive electronics when a round is fired out of the tube.

The scientists accepted the challenge and began work in total secrecy. Top-tier talent, like Dr. James Van Allen, the one the “Van Allen radiation belt” is named after, managed to create a working fuse that detonated near its target approximately half the time.

That may not sound like a great rate, but it was actually a bit of a miracle. Air defenders had to fire thousands of rounds on average to bring down any of the fast, single-engine bombers that were becoming more and more popular — and deadly.

So, to suddenly have rounds that would explode near their target half the time, potentially bringing down an enemy plane in just a few dozen or few hundred shots, was a revelation.

This solved a few problems. Ships were now less likely to run out of anti-aircraft ammunition while on long cruises and could suddenly defend themselves much better from concerted bomber attacks.

Sailors man anti-aircraft guns during World War II on the USS Hornet.

(U.S. Navy)

In fact, for the first while after the rounds were deployed, gains were only made at sea because the technology was deemed too sensitive to employ on land where duds could be captured and then reverse-engineered.

The fuses’ combat debut came at Guadalcanal where the USS Helena, one of the first three ships to receive it, fired on a dive bomber heading for its task force. The Helena fired two rounds and the fuses’ first victim burst into flame before plunging to a watery grave.

Two rounds, at a time when thousands used to fail to bring down an enemy plane.

From then on, naval commanders steered ships loaded with the advanced shells into the hearts of oncoming enemy waves, and the fuse was credited with 50 percent of the enemy kills the fleet attained even though only 25 percent of the ammo issued to the fleet had proximity fuses.

That means the fuse was outperforming traditional rounds three to one in routine combat conditions.

A fireball from a kamikaze attack engulfs the USS Columbia during a battle near the Philippines in 1945. The Columbia survived, but 13 crew members were killed.

(U.S. Navy)

It even potentially saved the life of one of its creators, Dr. Van Allen. During the Battle of the Philippine Sea, where U.S. planes and gunners brought down over 500 Japanese planes, Dr. Van Allen was exposed on the USS Washington when it came under kamikaze attack. He later described what happened next:

“I saw at least two or three 5-inch shell bursts in the vicinity of the plane, and then the plane dove into the water several hundred yards short of the ship,” he said. “It was so close I could make out the pilot of the plane.”

The rounds were finally authorized for ground warfare in 1944, and their greatest moment came during the Battle of the Bulge when Gen. George S. Patton ordered them used against a concentration of tank crews and infantry.

The rounds were set to go off approximately 50 feet above the ground. Shrapnel tore through men and light equipment and took entire armored and infantry units out of play due to the sheer number of wounded and killed service members.

“The new shell with the funny fuse is devastating,” General Patton later wrote to the War Department. “I’m glad you all thought of it first.”
Articles

The Marines are looking for a few good Tigers

The Marine Corps wants to buy some second-hand Tigers. No, they’re not trying to replace Sigfried and Roy; they want to buy some F-5E/F Tiger fighters.


According to a report at Soldier of Fortune, the Marine Corps is looking to bolster its force of aggressors. The F-5E/F had long seen service as an attack airframe. In fact, F-5E/F aggressors portrayed the fictional MiG-28 in “Top Gun.”

A Swiss Air Force F-5E Tiger. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

So, why is the Marine Corps looking to expand the aggressors? One reason is the age of the fighters. The Marine F/A-18Cs are in some of the worst shape — it’s so bad that last year, the Marines had to pull Hornets out of the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

Currently, the Marines have VMFAT-101 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, in Arizona. The goal is to place detachments of F-5s at three other Marine Corps air bases. This will help meet the needs of the Marine Corps.

Northrop F-5E (Tail No. 11419). (U.S. Air Force photo)

One of the reasons ironically had to do with a new capability for the AV-8B Harrier force in the Marines: the ability to shoot the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile. The AMRAAM capability required training to help the pilots use it.

So, why not just ask the other services? Well, the Navy and Air Force are having similar problems in terms of airframe age.

SOF also notes that the Air Force has resorted to using T-38 Talon trainers to provide high-speed targets for the F-22, largely because the F-22 force is both very small and expensive to operate. The Marines face the same issue with operating costs if they were to use the F-35B as aggressors.

A Republic of Singapore Air Force F-5S armed with AGM-65S Mavericks. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The Marines are also looking to add light attack capability, possibly using one of two propeller-driven counter-insurgency planes, the AT-6C Coyote and the AT-29 Super Tucano.  If such a unit were to be created, it could very well be assigned to the Marine Corps Reserve’s 4th Marine Air Wing.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

5 activities for rainy days at home

When spending more time at home, especially with kids in tow, outside time can be essential to getting through the day. But when rain strikes — or the cold makes its way back into our supposed spring — weather throws an entire wrench into the mix. That means finding new and creative ways to stay busy all day long. From playing indoor games, to streaming movies from resources offering up free material during the pandemic, you can use these tips for a household that’s happily entertained.


Cooking

The best part about cooking is that once you’re done, you get to eat! Keep your kids — or just yourself — busy with cooking, baking or all of the above. Get creative with whatever ingredients are in the house (it’s weird times when it comes to groceries these days!), or opt for family faves that everyone will love, like desserts, dinner and more. This is no DFac experience, of course, so pull out all the stops and truly enjoy your time.

Grab an apron and put on a favorite song and spend a few hours in the kitchen to pass this rainy, dreary day!

Make a fort

Set up a tent inside the home, or even in the garage. Suddenly every activity is fun and overt, simply because you’re playing with toys in a tent! Parents looking to make real soldiers out of their kids can even encourage an outdoor tent to teach survivalist skills that can be used later in life. However, there’s a fine line between fun and ridiculous tasks, walk it lightly.

Either way, marshmallows are encouraged.

Science experiments

Make a tornado in a jar. Explore with sensory bins. Drop food coloring into different liquids, mix colors to make new colors, and more. Put your best Pinterest searching skills to work and find fun science experiments that can keep kids of all ages busy throughout the day.

Or, for the adults among us, see what cleaning supplies you can make from items in your house.

Stream free resources

Now more than ever you can find tons of free content online. Get your use out of your Internet subscription and take advantage of unique content you can’t normally watch!

For instance:

  • Frozen’s Josh Gad is reading bedtime stories
  • Trolls is Free for Download
  • The Metropolitan Opera is streaming past performances
  • Classic sporting events and documentaries can be streamed

Pick your poison! There’s so much free stuff to choose from right now, you can truly take in some new scenes, without ever leaving the comfort of your cozy living room.

Look at old photos

Who doesn’t like looking at days of the past? Pictures are a fun reminder of who and where you used to be. Previous duty stations, old friends and younger days abound. With kids, you can tell stories about each picture for a fun way to teach them about their past and yours, too.

How do you stay occupied on a rainy day inside?

Articles

These are the only 3 countries America hasn’t invaded

The United States military gets around. There are the countries with which it’s gone to war – Iraq, Germany, and Japan. There are countries it helps protect – Turkey, Poland, and Bahrain. And there are countries most people don’t even know that America sends troops to, like Thailand, Pakistan, and Antarctica.


There are so many countries.

In fact, there are only three countries in the world America hasn’t invaded or have never seen a U.S. military presence: Andorra, Bhutan, and Liechtenstein.

Do they need freedom?

American historian Christopher Kelly and British historian Stuart Laycock are the authors of “America Invades: How We’ve Invaded Or Been Militarily Involved With Almost Every Country on Earth.” They define “invasion” as “an armed attack or intervention in a country by American forces.”

Americans have been invading other countries since before America was a thing, as early as 1741, when the North American battleground for the War of Austrian Succession was called King George’s War – one of the French and Indian Wars.

That’s a lot of wars.

According to Kelly and Laycock’s book, the United States has invaded or fought in 84 of the 193 countries recognized by the United Nations and has been militarily involved with 191 of 193 – a staggering 98 percent.

The authors pose mixed, apolitical ideas. Without America’s worldwide military involvement, the U.S. would be smaller with less clout, and Mexico would be bigger, with more clout. American invasions checked the spread of totalitarianism in the 20th Century, and without such opposition, the spread could have been much worse.

Finally, despite the image of an “imperial” United States, *only* America can meet some of the transnational challenges faced by the world in the 21st Century.

1. Andorra

The tiny landlocked country of Andorra is a parliamentary democratic diarchy, run by two princes — which should be easy for Gen X-ers to remember.

Andorra has no standing army. Instead, they have a militia ready to take arms if necessary. Since they are landlocked, they have no navy. Still, they were the longest combatant of World War I, technically remaining at war with Germany until 1958.

2. Bhutan

Bhutan is also landlocked between two countries. Unlike Andorra, the countries surrounding Bhutan would probably roll over the tiny country in the event of a war. Bhutan’s 16,000-strong army is trained by the Indian army, and the country has no navy or air force.

The Nepali Hindus – called Lotshampa –refugees in Beldangi Camp. (used by permission)

Bhutan is a constitutional monarchy with some Buddism sprinkled in – which meant the expulsion of 1/5th of its population of ethnic Nepali Hindus who would not conform.

3. Liechtenstein

This little principality is locked between Austria and Switzerland. At just 62 square miles, one of the reasons America has never been here is that they might have trouble finding it on a map, just like two U.S. Marines famously did. They missed Liechtenstein and hit Germany instead.

Liechtenstein doesn’t really need the help. They’re a constitutional monarchy with a democratically-elected legislature, low taxes, high employment, and a 100 percent literacy rate.

Articles

First 10 women graduate from Infantry Officer Course

Ten female lieutenants completed the first step in becoming U.S. Army infantry platoon leaders on Wednesday by graduating from the first gender-integrated class of Infantry Officer Basic Leader Course.


Twelve women started the 17-week course at Fort Benning, Georgia, and 10 met the standards to graduate alongside 156 male classmates.

“The training of an infantry lieutenant is a process until they step in front of that rifle platoon, and this is but the very first step in that process,” Lt. Col. Matthew Weber, battalion commander of the course, told reporters Wednesday at Fort Benning. “It’s a critical one because we are very much focused on training and preparing the soldiers, the lieutenants, to ultimately lead a rifle platoon.”

FILE – Soldiers participate in the U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s Cultural Support Assessment and Selection program. | US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Klika

The graduation of first 10 women from the infantry course comes a little more than a year after Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver became the first women to graduate Army Ranger School in August 2015. Maj. Lisa A. Jaster became the third woman to graduate from a gender-integrated Ranger course two months later.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter in December ordered all military jobs, including special operations, opened to women. His directive followed a 2013 Pentagon order that the military services open all positions to women by early 2016.

Army officials maintain that it hasn’t taken long for gender integration to become the norm in training.

“We have been integrating women into the military for years; they have fought and bled beside us for years,” said Maj. Gen. Eric Wesley, commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning. “This is an important moment, but this is something that is in many ways business as usual.”

Fort Benning officials would not release the names of the 10 female graduates. Their next stop is Ranger School, Weber said.

Then, whether they are successful or not, they will go into other courses, including Airborne School, Striker Leader Course and then Mechanized Leader Course — a process that will take about a year to complete.

“Once they have completed all those courses, then we will have deemed them fit to lead whatever type formation out in [Forces Command] and they will depart Fort Benning,” Weber said.

Female infantry officers will leave Fort Benning and go to Fort Hood, Texas, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Wesley said.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has directed that gender-integration first focus on leaders at those two installations, Wesley said.

“We are priming the pump and enabling success by initially focusing on two installations and then ultimately they will start to migrate out to other installations,” he said.

Griest and Haver are following the same path.

Griest, a military police officer from Connecticut, was granted transfer to the infantry branch April 25, 2016. Haver, an AH-64 Apache helicopter pilot from Arizona, has been approved to transfer into the infantry, and “we are still awaiting final word on when that is going to come down,” said Brig. Gen. Peter Jones, commandant of the Infantry School.

“Upfront, I will tell you this makes us a better Army and the reason it makes us a better Army is that this whole issue has driven us — it has been a forcing function, to ensure that we had the right standards aligned to each occupational specialty in the Army,” Wesley said.

Establishing gender-neutral standards has been the “culmination of two years of different work done by Training and Doctrine Command, with physical scientists looking at what is the physiology of moving weight and what is the difference between infantrymen and field artillerymen?” Jones said.

“We have the scientific data that shows these are the propensity skills that you have to do and the physiology to do those.”

Benning officials maintain that gender integration has not lowered standards.

“There has been no change in the standards,” said Infantry Officer Basic Leader Course Command Sgt. Major Joe Davis. “There is no change in the course … we are in the business of producing leaders. It doesn’t matter if they are male or females.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

Drones vs. Delta: Who do you think won the first round?

Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.

It was 1994 when my Delta Troop and I were training in the desert in preparation to deploy to the Mid-Eastern theater where there was much misbehaving going on. We spent a particular day primarily calling in anti-armor attacks from MH-60 Blackhawk (Hawkers) helicopters toting the venerable and extraordinarily deadly Hellfire missile.

We rotated ourselves onto a hilltop as Forward Observers choosing targets and directing the helo strikes. We used a Vietnam-era LASER designator called the MULE. The MULE “painted” the target with a LASER that the helo-mounted Hellfire could track all the way to the target.


ANPAQ-3 Modular Universal Laser Equipment (MULE)

Some men laughed at the MULE, but theirs was a shallow laugh as none of us could find fault with the noble seeker, and “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” I intentionally picked armor targets as far away as possible, some 8,000 meters and beyond, to challenge the Hellfire capabilities. The challenge was always accepted, and the missiles never missed.

In addition to calling in fire from aircraft, we also launched Hellfires from our six-wheel drive Austrian-made assault vehicles using an improvised launch pedestal welded by our mechanics. Success was enjoyed as well with that highly mobile platform.

Vehicle-mounted Hellfire launch; we often joked that we got sleepy waiting for the Hellfire to reach its distant targets

Toward late afternoon our troop leadership introduced us to an Air Force lieutenant colonel who heard there was a group of Delta men training nearby and just had to come show off his latest Research and Development endeavor — a remote control pilotless aircraft. None of us really cared about him, or his drone but rank still had its privileges so ok…

He stood proudly amongst us and beamed as he bragged on his miniature airplane. He held his Ground Control Unit in his hands explaining that his drone was at the moment several kilometers to our southwest and that it had a ,000 instrument payload that included a pilot’s Situational Awareness (SA) camera focused ahead of the aircraft.

It was a gasoline-powered, propeller-driven drone with a wingspan of about 12′. Just as interest waned, he brought the drone in tight and had it scream a few feet over our heads. That was actually pretty cool, and questions started coming out for the colonel: how fast, how high, what duration, how many pounds payload… all measure of questions about the drone’s capabilities.

This tragic friendly fire incident destroyed this Abrams tank with a Hellfire

“Sir, what’s the learning curve like on piloting that craft?” came my question.

“I’ll tell you what,” the colonel began as he stepped toward me. “I’ll let you see for yourself; give her a spin!” and he reached the ground control unit with its long whip antenna toward me. I immediately recoiled, not wanting to fool with all this expensive enigma.

“Fly it, a$hole!” the brothers started in on me.

“Yeah, get you some-o-that, chicken $hit!”

“Fly the damn plane, jacka$!”

And so it went, with the colonel thrusting the unit in my hands. All flight controls were there; all health inputs for the drone were displayed: speed, altitude, heading, fuel level, and others that I didn’t recognize. In the center of the unit was a screen displaying the done’s SA camera video feed.

It was very basic. All that was readily recognizable was black for the ground, and white for the sky. The black was toward the bottom of the screen with the majority of the screen white. There was a crosshair that cut across the screen representing an artificial horizon. I had seen similar instruments in the cockpit of an airplane, but as for flying these drones, I was fresh out of any experience whatsoever!

The true horizon on the screen was, of course, the line where the black (ground) met with the white (sky). The true horizon then should be under the aircraft’s artificial horizon for safe, unobstructed flight. To keep level flight like the colonel told me, all I had to do was keep the two horizon lines parallel… and not breathe.

A representative artificial horizon from an aircraft cockpit. Here, brown represents ground and blue represents sky; where the two meet is the true horizon. The yellow horizontal line represents the aircraft’s artificial horizon as it appears with the aircraft parked on the ground.

“Just keep that baby flat and stable; just hold with what you got,” directed the colonel who then stepped back, turned and addressed the men in regard to how any plain-ol’ idiot could fly the thing, just not in those exact words. He really was proud of and loved his job so.

As he babbled to the boys, I imagined somehow that the amount of black seemed to be expanding into the white somewhat… and then I was sure that the black was indeed encroaching more on the white, headed up toward that artificial horizon line… “Hey, Sir…”

“Just keep her flat and stable,” the colonel yawned as he yapped to the yokels. Now the black rose up above the drone’s artificial horizon on the screen. It was time to hit the ejection lever!

“Sir I think you better see this!” I insisted as I stepped up and thrust the control unit in his face.

“Juuuust keep’r flaaaaa… DOH!!”

With that, the colonel snatched the unit from my hands and yanked back on the joystick with Ren and Stimpy bulging eyes. When the colonel had passed off the controls to me, there was flat terrain below. Unfortunately, while he was delivering his dissertation, the drone approached a hill mass that was taller than the drone was high. The video screen blipped out.

“OH MY GOD YOU’VE… YOU’VE… FLOWN IT INTO A MOUNTAIN!”

You see, that right there… that is why I did NOT want any part of the colonel’s toy. That thing was not such a piece of cake to operate as the man would have us believe. Let’s face it, all I was doing was standing with a box in my hand — I was not operating it at all!

A typical modern control unit for a drone; note the SA video feed screen and joy sticks

I was fire-spittin’ mad thinking about that ,000.00 waste. The boys were howling like banshees now which salted the wound. I knew as well as the next man you can’t bleed in the presence of sharks. Visions of myself in the squadron cartoon book filled my head. This event had certainly been most fitting fodder… ah, but as it is with photography, so it is with being the cartoonist: the photographer never has to be in the pictures.

The colonel could see I was mad as hell as he quickly called out:

“Ok, ok… it was absolutely not his fault, not his fault at all… he was just doing exactly what I told him to. It was entirely my fault!” That was true and gracious of him, but I was mad. I was mad at him, at myself, at that stupid airplane… and especially at that Goddamned mountain!

It was two days later my troop leader pulled up in a jeep and approached me carrying… a stick? He reached it out toward me and said:

“Hey, that drone colonel made it out to the crash site and wanted you to have this.”

I held in my hand a two-bladed wooden propeller about 18-inches long. I’m pretty sure that Colonel meant no dig or sarcasm by the gesture, but now I was mad at the world again, and didn’t like his little gift, not one little bit. I walked up to a trash dumpster near our tents. With a swoop of my arm, I cracked that propeller in two on the corner of the dumpster and flung the halves inside.

So twenty-six years ago we scoffed at the colonel’s drone. What was it good for? What was the application? He was some boyish dude out playing with his toy. Little did we know at the time what an impact that research would have on the world, eh? Today the likes of drones are all but taking over in their application in our everyday lives.

Just yesterday my 13-year-old son and I went out to a nearby field to fly a remote Radio Controlled (RC) hobby airplane. After many successful laps my son reached the control my way and asked:

“Want to give it a try, Dad?”

…to which I replied to my now confused son:

“NO, DAMNIT… NO, NO, NO!!!”

Articles

You can thank the military for the McDonald’s drive-thru

Now that we can thank McDonald’s restaurants for serving breakfast all day, we should take the time to thank fatigue-clad troops for not having to leave our cars to get it.


Despite the Army and Air Force’s current relationship with Burger King, their first love was McDonald’s and Mickey D’s was more than willing to accommodate that love by mediating the one thing which kept our troops from easy access to the Golden Arches.

In 1975, Army regulations near Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, Arizona prevented soldiers wearing their olive-drab fatigues to leave their cars.

McDonald’s heard their plight and added its first drive-thru to McDonalds stores in Arizona, then to Oklahoma and Georgia to serve the soldiers in those areas.

The first drive-thru came way earlier, however. In 1931, a Los Angeles franchise called the Pig Stand opened the first restaurant where motorists could roll around and get a bag of food, packaged to take home. The first burger chain to feature a drive thru was an In-n-Out in Baldwin Park, California in 1948.

In May 1999, that historic location closed forever so that a new McDonald’s restaurant could open next to it. The first McDonald’s drive-thru was torn down and replaced by a parking lot to serve the new McDonald’s.

Burgers, cars, and troops: the triad of American life.

NOT Covered by the Post-9/11 GI Bill.