Under President Donald Trump, the US is starting to prepare for a great-power war and has set its sights on two countries run by powerful men — Russia and China.
Both Vladimir Putin in Russia and Xi Jinping in China are set to stay in power for years to come. Putin is widely expected to win Russia’s upcoming election in March and China recently announced plans to end presidential term limits, which could allow Xi to keep his position for decades.
Evan Osnos, a New Yorker staff writer who lived in China from 2005 to 2013, charted the differences between the two leaders in an article on Xi and China’s term limit decision. He noted that the similarities between Putin and Xi are “limited.”
“In matters of diplomacy and war, Putin wields mostly the weapons of the weak: hackers in American politics, militias in Ukraine, obstructionism in the United Nations,” Osnos wrote.
Osnos argued that Putin’s Russia uses “the arsenal of a declining power,” while Xi’s China is “ascendant.”
“On the current trajectory, Xi’s economy and military will pose a far greater challenge to American leadership than Putin’s,” according to Osnos.
Xi, he said, “is throwing out the written rules, and to the degree that he applies that approach to the international system — including rules on trade, arms, and access to international waters — America faces its most serious challenge since the end of the Cold War.”
The US has largely avoided weighing in on China’s planned term limit change.
“That’s a decision for China to make about what’s best for their country,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Feb. 26, 2018.
However, Osnos is not alone in thinking the US should be worried about China under Xi.
“For the United States, the idea of an absolute dictator running the most powerful peer competitor nation-state-and soon to be the most powerful economy — with a single-minded obsession to ‘Make China Great Again’ who is going to be around for another 10 to 15 years must give us pause,” former State Department official and China expert John Tkacik told the Washington Free Beacon.
Retired Gen. James Thurman recently told Army aviation officials they’ve got to “quit apologizing” to the Pentagon and ask for what they need to win the next war.
“The Air Force doesn’t apologize, the Navy doesn’t apologize, so don’t apologize. You’ve got to go forward and put the bill on the table, and you’ve got to have the analytical data to back it up. That’s what happens in the Pentagon,” he said during a panel discussion last week at the Association of the United States Army’s Hot Topic event on aviation.
Thurman, who commanded U.S. Forces Korea from 2011 to 2013, made his comments during a discussion on the Army’s effort to track training and readiness against the backdrop of the service’s six-priority modernization effort.
Future vertical lift is the Army’s third of six modernization priorities. Aviation officials must compete for the same resources advocates of the other priorities — long-range precision fires, the next generation combat vehicle, a mobile network, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality — are vying for if the service is going to field a new armed reconnaissance aircraft and a new long-range assault aircraft by 2028.
“You’ve got to fight for it … if we don’t modernize this force, we are going to lose the next fight. It’s as simple as that,” Thurman said, warning of the progress potential adversaries are making in battlefield technology. “If you look at what the Russians are doing and what the Chinese are doing, in my mind, the Chinese are number one right now.”
The Lockheed-Boeing SB-1 Defiant.
In addition to modernizing, Army aviation officials say the branch needs to use training resources more effectively to ensure units are at the appropriate readiness levels.
“I think we do ourselves a disservice anytime we are funded to a certain level and under-execute for multiple reasons,” said Maj. Gen. William Gayler, commander of the Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker, Alabama. “If we fly less and we still call ourselves trained, that is doing a disservice to us … because the Army will resource us at a lesser level.”
Army aviation accounts for 25 percent of the service’s budget for training and sustainment, said retired Lt. Gen. Kevin Mangum, vice president for Army Aviation Programs, Rotary and Mission Systems at Lockheed Martin. But, he said, “aviation is the only branch where the number of [Training and Doctrine Command] seats is limited by budget.”
“For every other branch, we determine how many seats are required and fund it,” he said. “For aviation, seats are based on funding available.”
Mangum said he agrees with Thurman’s advice. “Don’t apologize, but we’ve got to use that 25 percent of the Army budget as effectively and efficiently as we can.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
A former NFL Arizona Cardinals cornerback is training for his new team — the Army.
Spc. Jimmy Legree is in his second week of Basic Combat Training; after he graduates he’ll continue training at Fort Gordon, Georgia, to become a communications specialist.
Serving in the military was one of his childhood goals, said Legree, who is assigned to D Battery, 1st Battalion, 19th Field Artillery.
“I went a different route by going to college and playing football, but once that window was closed I reverted back to my Plan A, which was joining the military,” said Legree, who graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2013.
There are similarities between football and BCT, and it was an easy transition for him, he said.
Spc. Jimmy Legree, D Battery, 1st Battalion, 19th Field Artillery, is in his second week of Basic Combat Training at Fort Sill, Okla.
(Fort Sill Tribune staff)
“You have your head coaches and that’s similar to drill sergeants who are correcting any mistakes that you make, said Legree, who played two seasons for the Cardinals.
“In football you wear a helmet and shoulder pads, and here you wear your ACH (Advanced Combat Helmet) and all your equipment.”
Former Arizona Cardinal and Army Ranger Cpl. Pat Tillman is an inspiration for him, said Legree.
“He is definitely inspiring — his passion for the game, and his passion for the country was motivation for me,” Legree said.
Legree’s parents were not in the military, but other extended family members and some of his friends have served in the armed forces, he said. His brethren of former teammates supported his decision to join the military.
Legree enlisted at Charlotte, North Carolina.
“Once they (recruiters) found out I played for the NFL they were all ecstatic, but definitely excited to get me enlisted, get me going.”
Legree is treated no different than the other 215 trainees in the battery, said Capt. Steven Paez, D/1-19th FA commander. The trainees came here to become professional American soldiers and everyone is treated the same.
Spc. Jimmy Legree (with mouthpiece) practices combatives Dec. 11, 2019, with Pvt. Anthony Randolph at Fort Sill, Okla. Legree, who played two seasons for the Arizona Cardinals, is in his second week of Basic Combat Training.
(Fort Sill Tribune staff)
Paez said he learned Legree had played in the NFL when he was serving him Thanksgiving dinner. (It’s an Army tradition where senior leaders serve junior soldiers the holiday meal.)
“I noticed he was a little older (age 28) than everybody else, and I asked him what he was doing before he got here. He said, ‘I was in the NFL.'”
Legree is not the oldest trainee in the battery, Paez said. The oldest is 34 years old; the youngest is 17.
Senior Drill Sergeant (Staff Sgt.) Jason Aqui, D/1-19th FA, described Legree as a mature, humble, positive, and quiet trainee.
“I’ve definitely noticed that he brings the platoon together to accomplish its tasks,” Aqui said. He was also one of the more physically fit trainees coming into BCT.
Drill sergeants will take advantage of Legree’s maturity and put him into leadership positions as the 10-week BCT progresses, Aqui said.
The battery will graduate Feb. 21, 2019, and Legree said he is already thinking of a long military career.
An American-born ISIS fighter has been captured in Syria by Kurdish forces, Betsy Woodruff and Spencer Ackerman of The Daily Beast report.
The Beast report cited multiple US military spokespersons as being “aware of reports” that a US citizen was captured, while a source familiar with the situation told the site the unnamed fighter had “surrendered.”
US military officials confirmed the capture to CNN and Fox News. CNN’s Ryan Browne reported the American was in the custody of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the US-backed militia spearheading the push into the ISIS capital of Raqqa.
“We are aware of that report,” a State Department spokesperson told Business Insider, referring to The Daily Beast. “We have no information to share at this time.”
A spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve, the US military-led coalition leading the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
This would not be the first case of an American being captured while fighting for the terror group. Mohamed Khweis, 27, originally from Virginia, joined the group and later surrendered to Kurdish authorities in 2016, according to NBC News. He was later convicted of providing material support to ISIS and faces a minimum sentence of five years imprisonment.
The USS Eagle 56 was only five miles off the coast of Maine when it exploded.
The World War I-era patrol boat split in half, then slipped beneath the surface of the North Atlantic. The Eagle 56 had been carrying a crew of 62. Rescuers pulled 13 survivors from the water that day. It was April 23, 1945, just two weeks before the surrender of Nazi Germany.
The United States Navy classified the disaster as an accident, attributing the sinking to a blast in the boiler room. In 2001, that ruling was changed to reflect the sinking as a deliberate act of war, perpetuated by German submarine U-853, a u-boat belonging to Nazi Germany’s Kriegsmarine.
Still, despite the Navy’s effort to clarify the circumstances surrounding the sinking, the Eagle 56 lingered as a mystery. The ship had sunk relatively close to shore, but efforts to locate the wreck were futile for decades. No one could find the Eagle 56, a small patrol ship that had come so close to making it back home.
German submarine U-853 and crew.
Then, a group of friends and amateur divers decided to try to find the wreck in 2014. After years of fruitless dives and intensive research, New England-based Nomad Exploration Team successfully located the Eagle 56 in June 2018.
Business Insider spoke to two crew members — meat truck driver Jeff Goodreau and Massachusetts Department of Corrections officer Donald Ferrara — about their discovery.
Goodreau and Ferrara, along with their crewmates Ryan King, Danny Allan, Bob Foster, Nate Garrett, Josh Cummings, and Mark Bowers, are featured in “The Hunt for Eagle 56,” a Smithsonian Channel documentary series set to air at 9 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019.
Goodreau works as a meat truck driver in Massachusetts. But diving has been his passion since the age of 18, after his employer hosted a number of scuba excursions.
“I was hooked from the first dive,” Goodreau said. “It was really cool. I found out early shipwrecks are what I’m meant to do. I really believe that that’s what I was put here to do, to find shipwrecks.”
Ferrara said he was first sucked into the world of diving by watching famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau on television, as a kid.
Goodreau described becoming interested in pursuing “deeper and darker” dives as time went on; or, as Ferrara puts it, “crazier and stupider” underwater adventures. They became immersed in the world of technical diving, which National Association of Underwater Instructors defines as “a form of scuba diving that exceeds the typical recreational limits imposed on depth and immersion time (bottom time).”
King, Allan, and Goodreau first teamed up to find the Eagle 56 in 2014. The rest of the crew came together in the subsequent years. The Eagle 56 was an obvious choice for the for the Nomad team.
“I’m a shipwreck nerd, always have been,” Goodreau said. “The Eagle 56 was always the shipwreck to find. That was the great ghost of New England. A lot of people looked for it. Nobody could find it.”
But the Eagle 56 was never going to be an easy find. Goodreau described the ocean floor north of Cape Cod as a labyrinth of rocky mountains and canyons. The Eagle 56 was a “fairly small” boat. And, though the crew didn’t know this at the time, it was lodged in a trench.
“It’s kind of like the equivalent of dropping a soda can into canyon and putting on a blindfold and going and finding it, because you can’t just look down and see it,” Goodreau said. “Visibility’s 10 feet. It’s pitch black.”
Even worse, the crew’s expensive magnetometer ended up being somewhat of a bust, thanks to the undersea terrain.
“It turns out that the rocks off of Maine aren’t only big, they’re full of iron,” Goodreau said.
Again and again, the crew would finish out a summer diving season empty-handed. They spent the winters intensively reading up on the sinking, trying to pinpoint the ship’s coordinates. That research had an unintended side effect.
A plaque on the grounds of the Portland Head Light at Cape Elizabeth, Maine, describes the loss of USS Eagle-56.
“You kind of get to know these guys,” Goodreau said, of the Eagle 56 crew members.
Ferrara added that, as a Marine veteran, he feels an affinity for the crew members who died in the attack. He said that most of the men on board were quite young.
“They were lost for 73 years,” he said.
But the team stuck with the search and, ultimately, found the wreck in June 2018. Goodreau and Ferrara say that, as a result, they’ve gotten to know plenty of relatives of the lost crew members.
The Nomad team members were even invited to the July 2019 Purple Heart ceremony for Seaman 1st Class James Cunningham, who died in the Eagle 56 sinking. Cunningham was 21-years-old at the time of the sinking. Goodreau and Ferrara say that Cunningham came from a family of Tennessee sharecroppers, and that he enlisted in the Navy when he was 18. Cunningham sent them his Navy paychecks so that they could buy a house, a property which the family still owns today.
Sadly, one group that the Nomad team will never be able to share their discovery with are the 13 survivors of sinking. They have all died.
“Some of the survivors were engineers,” Goodreau said. “Some went to their graves feeling that people blamed them for the explosion.”
The Nomad diving team will now search for the torpedo that took down the Eagle 56. And, in the meantime, they will remain cautious when diving in the area where the ship sank.
“You don’t want to disturb them,” Ferrara said. “You want to be very respectful, when you’re there.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Great aircraft and vehicles aren’t very useful without somewhere to park them, and troops need good cover to keep them safe from attacks. So, for all the innovations coming out of DARPA and the weapons being developed by the military, it’s the humble Hesco barrier that became an icon of security in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The barriers are a staple of deployed-life where they formed many of the outer perimeters and interior walls for NATO installations.
Originally invented by a former British miner to shore up loose earth in his backyard, the Hesco was first used for military defense in the Gulf War. The basic Hesco design is a wire mesh crate with fabric liner that can be folded flat for storage and transportation. To deploy them, engineers simply open them up and fill them with dirt and rocks. When they want to get fancy about a permanent wall, they can then apply a concrete slurry to the sides and top to seal them.
Even without a slurry added, the walls provided impressive protection. A group of engineers in Afghanistan in 2005 had a limited space to build their wall and so modified the barriers to be thinner. They then tested the modified version against static explosives, RPGs, and 40mm grenades. This thinner version was heavily damaged but still standing at the end of the test. In the video below, go to the 0:45 mark to skip straight to the tests.
Hescos even provide concealment from the enemy while troops are putting them in.
The famous Restrepo Outpost was constructed by soldiers who slipped up to a summit they needed to capture at night and began building fortifications around themselves. They dug shallow trenches for immediate cover and then began to fill Hescos with dirt and rocks for greater protection. When the enemy fired on them to stop construction, some troops would fire back while others would get down and keep pitching rocks into the barriers.
Though the original Hesco were great, the company still updates the design. When the military complained that breaking down Hesco walls took too long, the company created a recoverable design with a removable pin that would allow the dirt to fall out. Later, they developed an apparatus that could be attached to a crane to remove multiple units at once.
To rapidly build new perimeter walls like those needed to expand Bagram Airfield as the NATO footprint grew, a trailer was developed that could deploy the barriers in a long line. Each trailer can deploy a barrier wall over 1,000 feet long.
The barriers were so popular with troops that multiple people named animalsrescued from Afghanistan after them.
With each passing day, tensions flare anew on the Korean Peninsula. By now, we all know that North Korea’s been hard at work dong what they do best: Launching test missiles and fiery rhetoric.
On Dec. 4, the U.S. and South Korea kicked off their largest joint air exercise yet, dubbed Vigilant Ace 18, involving hundreds of aircraft and tends of thousands of troops on the ground. As you might expect, Pyongyang wasn’t too happy about the drills, going as far as saying Dec. 2 that Trump’s Administration is “begging for nuclear war.”
While we’re at a point now where North Korean threats are as routine as the sunrise, China has sent an aggressive message in passive support of the belligerent state that warrants more serious attention.
People’s Liberation Army Air Force Spokesman Shen Jinke announced Dec. 4 (the same day as Vigilant Ace 18 kicked off) that China would be running drills through “routes and areas it has never flown before.” These new routes are expected to cover airspace over the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan. The exercises will involve all variety of aircraft, from reconnaissance planes to fighter jets, in joint operation with surface-to-air missiles. Simultaneously, China launched drills Dec. 2 that involve sending new Shaanxi Y-9 transport aircraft over the South China Sea, simulating an airdrop over an island in contested waters.
Though Chinese military officials will likely claim that the new drills are not in direct response to U.S. and South Korean actions, military experts agree that this show of force warns against the continued provocation of North Korea.
The U.S. and China have a rocky history, but are far from going to blows. That being said, should conflict erupt on the Korea Peninsula, we’ll quickly see how the chips fall.
Iraqi forces “swiftly and thoroughly” ejected ISIS fighters from Al Qaim — a city at the western edge of Iraq’s Anbar province and the terrorist group’s last stronghold on the Iraq-Syria border — in early November.
ISIS has lost most of the land it once held and has largely disappeared as an organized fighting force. All that’s left of the group’s so-called caliphate, which once stretched from northwest Syria to the edges of Baghdad, is chunks of territory along the Euphrates River in Iraq and Syria.
For the close to 1,000 US Marines assisting Iraqi forces in the area, the campaign has led them back to familiar terrain to continue the fight against an enemy that appears set to evolve into a different kind of threat.
“Marines, in particular, understand western Iraq,” Marine Corps. Brig Gen. Robert Sofge told Marine Corps Times this month — an area Sofge called “old stomping grounds” for US Marines.
“We spent most folks’ career there and there are relationships there that endure,” Sofge said. “Even while priorities may shift in and around [US Central Command], that doesn’t make what’s going in Anbar [province] less important.”
ISIS fighters have mostly withdrawn from Iraqi cities, Sofge said, but a Marine Corps task force is still in the area assisting Iraqi forces around Al Qaim with airstrikes and artillery support, as well as with intelligence and surveillance. But the expanse of empty desert in Anbar presents its own challenges in a new phase of the anti-ISIS effort.
Clearing and holding territory recaptured in Anbar will be “much more challenging,” said Marine Corps Col. Seth Folsom, commander Task Force Lion, which oversaw fighting in Al Qaim.
Folsom told the Associated Press that it was easy to motivate troops to fight to regain their country. “What’s less easy to motivate men to do, is to stand duty on checkpoints,” he said.
Added to that challenge is the potential for a shift to irregular warfare.
“We believe that the enemy is in the deserts and also fading into the civilian population,” Sofge told Marine Corps Times. “There’s still a great deal of work to be done, even if it’s not against traditional formations in the cities.”
Sofge said the remnants of ISIS in the area have yet to adopt insurgent tactics that Al Qaeda, the group’s predecessor in Iraq, used against US personnel and Iraqis in the mid- and late-2000s. Marines on the ground there are not advising Iraqi forces on counterinsurgency tactics because such operations are not being conducted.
‘It’s quiet before the storm’
Resources in Anbar are stretched increasingly thin among a growing number of coalition troops stationed in the area.
Marines in Al Qaim ration water, according to the AP, while water-shortage notices adorn bathrooms and showers at Al Asad, the coalition’s main base in the province. Weather conditions and a lack of Iraqi escorts often delay supply convoys dispatched to outposts in Anbar.
Unlike coalition forces in northern Iraq, forces in western Iraq now also face the “tyranny of distance” as a complicating factor for their operations, Folsom told the AP.
A Marine staff sergeant who was in Anbar in 2007 told the AP that while mood among US personnel after ISIS’ ouster was one of accomplishment but not of finality. He said that while he initially didn’t think he’d be back, he now expects US forces to be there for generations.
“When my son joins the Marines, he’ll probably be deployed to Iraq,” he said with a laugh.
Some Iraqis in the area are anxious about things to come.
In Fallujah, a city in eastern Anbar that became a flashpoint for sectarian tensions and insurgent fighting during the US occupation in the 2000s, the mood remains tense, as Sunni-Shiite tension simmer.
While ISIS’ ouster has brought Iraq together in some ways, the success of the campaign has allowed old divisions to resurface in some parts of the country. At an military outpost in Fallujah, Iraqi Col. Muhammad Abdulla said the local population, largely Sunni in a Shiite-majority country, remained wary of the central government, which has been dominated by Shiite officials in the post-Saddam era.
Some in the area were still sympathetic to extremists, while others doubt US or Iraqi forces can protect them, leading most to not cooperate, Abdulla said.
“We say it’s quiet before the storm,” Sheikh Talib Hasnawi Aiffan, head of the Fallujah District Council, told Ben Kesling, a Wall Street Journal reporter who was stationed in Fallujah as a Marine lieutenant in 2007.
“We are scared,” Aiffan told Kesling. “We have experienced it before.”
As troops walk through the bazaars of Afghanistan, they’ll always see the same collection of things for sale. Bootleg DVDs of shows that weren’t even interesting during their time, horrible knockoffs of brand-name clothing, souvenirs with the names of neighboring countries (mostly) scraped off, and gorgeous, handcrafted rugs depicting the mujahedin fighting the Soviets.
It’s almost surreal. Among the piles of junk are these masterpieces marred with spelling errors.
Afghanistan has a history filled with constant warfare. So, it makes sense that their cultural art reflects this. Afghan carpets have been a staple of the culture’s art for hundreds of years, but it was during the 1979 Soviet invasion that the rugs were used as a form of quiet protest.
Their AK-47s and tanks were woven into the rugs next to geometric shapes and flowers. The Baluch or Tup-e-Tung (or just “war rugs”) began appearing all over the country. The tradition continued well into America’s intervention in 2001. Contemporary war rugs now include the attack on the World Trade Center and drones.
(Photo by Sgt. Heidi Agostini)
Funnily enough, the Afghan people prefer not having a constant reminder of the warfare that has plagued their homeland for generations. However, Westerners go crazy for them. War rugs almost exclusively sold to foreigners can fetch up to $25,000 at auction — but are often bartered for much less.
While it’s true that they’re very well-crafted and are the cause for much employment in the country, it still needs to be said that the U.S. Department of Labor recognizes that some are created using child labor. The rugs sold on U.S. and NATO military bases in Afghanistan are carefully vetted to avoid the exploitation of children.
San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS John P. Murtha (LPD 26) is underway to conduct Underway Recovery Test (URT) 7 in conjunction with NASA off the coast of Southern California.
URT is part of a U.S. government interagency effort to safely practice and evaluate recovery processes, procedures, hardware, and personnel in an open ocean environment that will be used to recover the Orion spacecraft upon its return to Earth.
This will be the first time John P. Murtha will conduct a URT mission with NASA. Throughout the history of the program, a variety of San Antonio-class LPD ships have been utilized to train and prepare NASA and the Navy, utilizing a Boiler Plate Test Article (BTA). The BTA is a mock capsule, designed to roughly the same size, shape, and center of gravity as the Crew Module which will be used for Orion.
NASA and Navy teams have taken lessons learned from previous recovery tests to improve operations and ensure the ability to safely and successfully recover the Orion capsule when it returns to Earth following Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) in December 2019.
San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS John P. Murtha arrives to its new homeport Naval Base San Diego.
(U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Lucas T. Hans)
EM-1 will be an uncrewed flight, whose successful completion hopes to pave the way for future crewed missions and enable future missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.
During URT-7, John P. Murtha will conduct restricted maneuvering operations. Small boats carrying Navy and NASA divers will deploy alongside the BTA to rig tending lines, guiding the capsule to Anchorage as the ship safely operates on station.
Conducting both daytime and nighttime recovery operations, NASA crew members will work alongside the Navy to manage how the capsule is brought in, set down and safely stored.
NASA plans to conduct two more URT missions before EM-1 takes place.
John P. Murtha is homeported in San Diego and is part of Naval Surface Forces and U.S. 3rd Fleet.
Commander, U.S. Third Fleet leads naval forces in the Pacific and provides realistic, relevant training necessary for an effective global Navy. They coordinate with Commander, U.S. Seventh Fleet to plan and execute missions based on their complementary strengths to promote ongoing peace, security, and stability.
This article originally appeared on DVIDS. Follow @DVIDSHub on Twitter.
Military Marriage Day will be celebrated for the first time August 14th! In preparation of the holiday, I looked for a word to sum up military marriage. I knew my limited perspective couldn’t possibly take on the task alone, so I reached out to a vibrant military spouse group on Facebook to find my answer. Surely I’d see a pattern of responses that would lead to that one magic word I was looking for. Maybe it would be a short word like fun or more interesting words like amorous or idyllic. I posted my prompt asking, “How would you describe your military marriage in one word? Bonus if you add a gif.” Once it posted I closed my phone and finished making dinner for my littles.
Hopeful to get some great feedback, I opened my phone to see 600 comments and many more rolling in. Success! This is just what I needed. Surely there will be a clear outcome with a few outliers of course. I started scrolling fully expecting gifs of hugging teddy bears or Fez from That ’70s Show drawing a heart with his figures while mouthing “I Love You,” you know the ones. That was until I read the comments that busted the bubble of a one-sided reality filled with hot air and laughing gas, which clearly had me in this delusional state. My rose colored glasses cracked and all I could say was, DANG!
For perspective, the spouses who responded are roughly between 20 and 46 years old. Some have been married for over a decade while others are still in their honeymoon of under a year of marital bliss. This beautiful array of perspective was the reality check I needed. The truth is that there was no one word to describe military marriage. Although the majority of military spouses are women married to men, the military is not a monolith. We have male military spouses that are married to women as well as a growing LGBTQIA population meaning that everyone brings a different word to the conversation. On top of that, each branch, rank, career field, and current event experienced within a couple’s marriage will determine the challenges faced or encounters they’ll walk through. That one single word became more and more impossible to reach as I scrolled.
I did see some themes, which I believe gives a good array of what military marriage really is. Nearly everyone responded using a gif. Below is a breakdown of the groupings of words the milspouses shared.
10% – Confused/Mixed Emotion
I love this population that posted the confused gifs. I’m leading with them as not only because they were the smallest percentage, but mostly because they were the most honest. The perplexed faces of Ice Cube, Bill Cosby and other celebrities were popular in this group along with bipolar expressions like Anne Hathaway using a fan to transition her facial expression from happy to sad. This group alone shows that there is not one word for our relationships.
15% – On the Down Side
Lonely, sad, patiently or impatiently waiting. These are the gifs that showed the reality of the down side of military marriage. A popular gif was the character Oleg of Compare the Meerkat’s. Oleg’s sweet yet sad face outstretched hands had a caption of “Come Back.” A sucker punch to the gut of emotion I felt as a young spouse counting down yet another deployment. Others used SpongeBob or Pikachu to relay their feelings of grief due to separation.
17% – Illusion or Adventure
Rollercoaster rides, circus acts, and oblivious characters sitting calmly amongst chaos was a common description for military marriage. Although most are referring to military life in general, it definitely tells the story of how military marriages endure. The crowd favorite was a cartoon gif of a room on fire while the dog calmly sips coffee from a mug with a captain that says, “That is fine.” The clip comes from a 2013 webcomic called On Fire, but is a humorous depiction of the fires that surround military marriages as we try to maintain an illusion of an unbothered attitude.
28% – Letting Off Steam
From actress New York of Flavor of Love rubbing her temples to Stitch of the Disney movie Lilo Stich scratching his eyes out, this majority was not afraid to show some frustration. Gifs depicting chaos through dumpster fires, disasters and screaming let loose the realities of the stress that military couples deal with. Marriage takes work and is definitely not a simple cake walk. It takes intentionality and overcoming obstacles thrown at you from different directions. The emotion shared in these posts were real.
30% – Positive Vibes
I was relieved to see that the highest percentage of responses were in a range of positivity. Everything from a simple “okay,” thumbs up or Finding Nemo’s Dory singing “Just Keep Swimming” to dynamic duo gifs like Batman flapping Superman’s cape as if he were flying, hand holding and romantic gifs for grownups eyes only.
In the end, love wins!
A gif is worth a thousand words and the fact that I was looking for just one made it an impossible task. Many responses were sent in humor, yet there is a lot of truth in those pictures of sadness, anger, and lack of desire to acknowledge troubling realities. Military marriage is complex and filled with highs and lows. Those who expressed love and excitement where not the overwhelming majority, which tells me that there is some work to do in our relationships. I may have been searching for one word to describe military marriage for Military Marriage Day, yet what I discovered is all the more reason why our couples need a reason to celebrate.
Monty Hutson knows a little something about post-traumatic stress. Hutson served in the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne, and while he was in, he studied language patterns and hypnosis in order to better communicate with others. By the time he got out, he was starting to develop his own method of helping veterans deal with the psychological demands of military service. Now, with his non-profit, For Veterans Sake, he is able to take his efforts even further for a new generation of veterans.
The newest division of For Veterans Sake is its service dog division. It’s well-known to many by now that man’s best friend is one of the veteran’s most powerful guides on the road to post-traumatic stress recovery. Monty Hutson not only recognized this too, he added it to his non-profit.
For Veterans Sake pairs a veteran up with a dog, then specially trains the animal to respond to the unique needs of the veteran. The vet will train the service dog, who will be able to recognize the scent of a veteran who is being triggered and often responds to the veteran’s need before the vet even knows what’s happening. Best of all, For Veterans Sake uses many, many dogs from shelters and kennels, giving the animal a purpose and a much-needed and much-appreciated pal for life.
Hutson and his service dog.
Monty Hutson is uniquely poised to help our nation’s newest generation of veterans with not just PTS, but what he calls “the Military Condition” – a unique and demanding lifestyle that starts with your recruiter and continues through our time in service. For this and PTS, he developed a unique treatment called Neuro-Traumatic Resourcing (Non-Therapeutic). For Veterans Sake is founded on dealing with both PTS and the Military Condition and helping veterans improve their quality of life.
The help (of dogs) Hutson and For Veterans Sake offer American veterans is free of charge. But his organization, like every non-profit, runs on donations. Check out what Monty Hutson is doing for his fellow vets and maybe drop by his donation page and send him what you can spare. Remember, you’re also rescuing dogs – how can you go wrong?
In recent years, the medical marijuana industry has quickly gone mainstream, as many studies have linked the active ingredient of cannabis to treating ailments like chronic pain, diabetes, and even post-traumatic stress.
In the latest Netflix comedy called “Disjointed,” Tone Bell plays “Carter,” an Army veteran who works as a security guard in a marijuana dispensary. A veteran of the Iraq war, Carter suffered serious losses while deployed and has a tough time dealing with the stress when he returns to civilian life.
He’s diagnosed with post-traumatic stress and is looking for a way to alleviate the symptoms.
Once Ruth Feldman — the dispensary owner/former lawyer/cannabis advocate played by award-winning actress byKathy Bates — gives Carter his first hit of pot, his mind transports through a clever and well-design animated montage of how cannabis travels through the body treating the mental illness.
The medical marijuana that is sold at the fictional dispensary allows Carter to cope with his PTS from his deployment — at one point making him believe he’s seeing an exaggerated gunfight between some bacon and eggs in a refrigerator.
Recently, WATM had the opportunity to speak with “Disjointed’s” showrunner and co-creator David Javerbaum about his thoughts on veterans being treated with cannabis.
“I certainly feel that cannabis should be legal and people should have the option,” David proudly states. “It’s ridiculous that it’s not better known as a treatment and people are such dicks about it.”
Earlier in January 2018, Netflix will proudly release the show’s next episodes. So stay tuned to watch Carter’s transition out of the Army and back into civilian life.