The worst things about every Army rank - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

The worst things about every Army rank

Do you need an introduction to this? I mean, really? You all know what the Army is, and that all the ranks have their virtues and their vices. Lot’s of vices. That’s why it’s easy to hate all of them.


(Disclaimer: It’s all in fun. If you might be offended by a few jokes about your rank, please just close the page before you spit your coffee all over your screen and write letters to my editor.)

An Army private first class watches out the window for enemy targets, probably while imagining his next kill streak on Fortnite because, seriously, these guys can not focus.

(U.S. Army Spc. William Dickinson)

Junior Enlisted

Privates and Privates Second Class

Basically the same rank. They’re either a “Pubic Patch Private” with no rank to Velcro on or a Mosquito-Wing Private with rank that’s barely worth Velcroing on. Either way, they almost certainly need their hands held to be able to differentiate their fourth point of contact and a hole in the ground.

Even if they’re just left sweeping a room, chances are they’ll end up with two STDs and a warrant for their arrest before you get a chance to check on them again.

Privates First Class

Finally, you can look away for three seconds without them getting into trouble. But they still probably have no initiative, unless it’s grabbing more fatty cakes from the chow line.

Fatty cakes that you have to run off of them mile after grueling mile. If they would just eat some lean chicken, instead, maybe you could finally do a little physical training in the gym or at the pull-up bars, for once. But nope. Time to run the carbs off the privates for the third time this week.

Specialists and Corporals

Just smart enough to know how to shirk their duties, too dumb to realize they should do them anyway. The specialists will spend days setting up elaborate networks to get out of hours worth of work.

And the corporals, ah the corporals. They’re eager enough to show a little initiative and get an extra stripe, but few of them can actually assert their authority without having to whine about military customs and courtesies. It takes more work for the others NCOs to back up the corporal than they would have to do if the corporal just became a specialist again.

“See how your shots are barely on the paper? That’s because you don’t know how to shoot.”

(U.S. Army Spc. Tynisha L. Daniel)

Noncommissioned Officers

Sergeants

Finally, a rank that can get stuff done without hand-holding or tons of guidance. Too bad this is when they start diddling subordinates, racking up unpaid alimony, and dying of caffeine and nicotine overdoses.

Seriously, buck sergeants, if you don’t have a staff sergeant or platoon sergeant’s tolerance for stimulants, stick to the Fun Dips like the other children.

Staff Sergeants

The E-6 ranks are filled with both hard-chargers and the laziest of the careerists, you can never tell if a staff sergeant is going to be capable or slowly counting down to retirement until you meet them in person and see whether they’re more likely to bust out some pull-ups on the nearest door sill or bust tape on the next PT test.

But at least they don’t have control of a whole platoon, yet.

Sergeants First Class

Out there in front of a whole platoon, the good ones will inspire heroics and, even better, diligence in all the soldiers they lead. The others will just provide their preferred customer discount numbers at strip clubs and the tobacco counter.

But hey, at least they take themselves too seriously and will lose their tempers at literally anything.

Master Sergeants and First Sergeants

Half of them need to retire, the other half basically already have. Counting time until they get to give the Army the old double deuce with the middle fingers on either hand, these E-8s are probably so crabby because you can’t spend this much of your life using communal Army toilets and not literally catch crabs.

Sergeants Major

The staff sergeants major are supposedly just there to make sure section OICs don’t forget to take their meds and actually run every once in a while. But they actually run the show in most staff sections and absolutely will not let you forget it. And command sergeants major act like they’re the second-in-command like no one knows what a deputy commanding officer or executive officer is.

And no matter what you’re complaining about, be sure they will let you know how much worse it was before you were born. Doesn’t even matter if they took part in the war they’re complaining about. Fifty-year-old sergeants major will tell you how much worse they had it in the Korean War than you do now.

Absolute subject matter expert. Will not tell you what you’re doing wrong until he gets a good laugh about it.

(U.S. Army Sgt. M. Austin Parker)

Warrant Officers

Warrant Officers 1

All the training in the world couldn’t prepare warrant officers to be true subject matter experts on every aspect of their domain, and luckily for warrant officers 1, they’re not burdened by all that much training. Seriously, hope these guys learned some stuff before they went warrant, ’cause otherwise, they’re less useful than a user’s manual and even harder to find.

Chief Warrant Officers 2-4

Finally, a little expertise, but mostly in how to disappear before formations. They’ll always have a coffee cup in their hand, but there’s still a 15 percent chance they will feign falling asleep while talking to you. They’ll actually fall asleep while briefing the commander.

Chief Warrant Officer 5

Literal unicorns, but they hide their horns and hoofs wherever it is that they hide the rest of themselves, probably an entire office building that fell off the books three years ago, and only they know about. They know literally everything about their job area but will only tell you anything under duress or after they’ve gotten a few laughs at your ignorance.

An Army captain crawls through the dirt, sleeves rolled like he’s ready to adorn a movie poster.

(U.S. Army Capt. Daniel Parker)

Officers

Second and First Lieutenants

These men and women are children. Please, do not let them use anything as dangerous as a microwave without supervision. They will ask questions that brand new recruits are supposed to know before basic training, and then make the subject matter expert stand at attention while answering.

Captains

Give a guy a chance at company command, and they will puff up like newly born demigods. They always have the most self-satisfied smiles on their face, which is ironic since chances are they haven’t satisfied anyone personally or professionally in years.

Majors

Will only communicate with non-majors under duress. Seriously, these folks either hate the Army for existing or else hate it for not promoting them sooner. Maybe that’s because they always get stuck in battalion XO and other staff positions. Must suck to spend eight years climbing from company XO just to be the XO one level up.

Also, when you see one, there’s a 90 percent chance they’ll be standing and watching something happen. Not speaking, not guiding, just watching. It’s creepy.

Army lieutenant colonels will absolutely watch the Army pee on you while swearing it’s rain.

(U.S. Army Claudia LaMantia)

Lieutenant Colonels

Somehow, all lieutenant colonels are majors but, half of them got their optimism back, and the other half hate you because they’re still in the Army. Half will lie to you and tell you that everything’s peachy, the other half will tell you dark truths even if they don’t apply to you.

Colonels

Believe so much in the mission that they will sacrifice their very lives to get it done, but they’d much prefer to sacrifice someone else’s. Yours might be alright. They will write a real nice letter to your family afterward, though. So that and your life insurance policy will pay off the house, at least.

Brigadier and Major Generals

This marks the transition from where senior officers are generally in charge of managing downwards and become mostly tasked with managing up to the other generals and politicians, and boy do they ever forget what sense they had. General Officer Bright Idea is a commonly understood term for the total nonsense that these folks come up with.

That’s not an endorsement of their ideas.

Generals are some of the most accomplished ground combatants in history. Also, they will absolutely send you into a sacrificial cult if they think it will advance their mission one iota.

(U.S. Army Sgt. Jonathan Fernandez)

Lieutenant Generals and Generals

Ugh, almost no one can tell these folks no anymore, and it shows. Their GOBIs are usually turned into multi-million dollar programs that require thousands of junior soldiers to jump through all sorts of hoops. Half the time, it turns out these ideas could’ve been shot down from the outset by a competent warrant officer or noncom.

They give real inspiring speeches, though, usually by emailing them out to everyone in their command, even though a solid half of the recipients are in forward bases with no internet access. Thanks, boss!

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army’s new sidearm has a few issues to address

The Army began issuing the M17 handgun, the newest addition to its soldiers’ gear, in late November 2017, distributing them among members of the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell in Kentucky.


The new sidearm is only the third handgun the Army has fielded widely in the past century. It will replace the M9 pistol and will be distributed to a broader segment of the force than previous sidearms, which were mainly carried by officers and soldiers in special roles.

Wider distribution of the sidearm comes after 16 years of combat operations in which U.S. troops often found themselves in close-quarters engagements, and it’s the Defense Department’s first step toward better preparing and training soldiers for the demands of combat operations in the future — whether that means fighting in dangerous, close-in situations or meeting with local leaders.

Sgt. 1st Class Rocky Butler, a signal support systems specialist from Regimental Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, lays in the prone position with the new M17 Modular Handgun System for the first time during the troop’s weapons qualification range Jan. 19, 2018 at Fort Hood, Texas. The 3rd Cavalry Regiment received the new weapons system at the beginning of January, making it the first unit on Fort Hood to receive the Army’s upgraded pistol.

The decision to arm the 101st’s team leaders with sidearms in addition to their main weapons stemmed directly from feedback from soldiers’ battlefield experiences, an Army official told Army Times, and commanders will have the option to put the pistol in the hands of soldiers at even lower levels.

“It just improves our lethality as a force to have more soldiers armed with this weapon,” 2nd. Lt. Connor Maloney told Army Times. Maloney’s company in the 101st Airborne Division now has 46 M17s, rather than just nine M9s.

But a review of Pentagon programs in fiscal year 2017 conducted by the Office of the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation found that the M17, and its counterpart, the more compact M18, both exhibited persistent problems during testing.

The DOTE report was compiled from April through September 2017, but the problems it documented were not revealed until the report was issued in January 2018.

Also Read: Here’s a detailed look at the Army’s new M17 and M18 handgun — and how it shoots

During drop-testing the weapons accidentally discharged — a problem that appeared in the another version of the Sig Sauer-made pistol. The manufacturer introduced safety upgrades for the problem, though the fix may have contributed to the splintering of two triggers during testing, the DOTE report states.

Both versions of the pistol also “experienced double-ejections where an unspent ball round was ejected along with a spent round,” the report found. The Army established a root-cause analysis team to find the reason for double ejections, but, the report notes, “As of this report, this analysis is still ongoing.”

Both the M17 and M18 experienced a higher number of stoppages — a deficiency that keeps the pistol from operating as intended, but can be fixed through immediate action — when firing with ball ammunition than they did when firing special-purpose ammunition. Both failed the mean rounds between stoppage reliability requirement when firing with ball ammunition.

Officials from the Army’s Program Executive Office Soldier, which oversees the programs that provide most of a soldier’s gear and weapons, and from Sig Sauer, which won the 10-year, $580 million Modular Handgun System contract to provid M17s and M18s in January 2017, have both downplayed the concerns raised in the DOTE report.

A Soldier with C Company, 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) fires the new M17 or Modular Handgun System at the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) indoor range, Nov. 28.  (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Samantha Stoffregen, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Public Affairs)

A Sig Sauer spokesman said many of the problems outlined by the report were from the weapon’s early testing period and that the company stood by the thousands of M17 and M18s it has shipped so far.

Army PEO Soldier spokeswoman Debra Dawson told Army Times that all of the MHS weapons currently field meet all safety and operation requirements. Even though the weapon fell short of reliability requirements for ball ammunition, it was still safe to use with that type of round, the spokeswoman said.

The drop-test problems had been publicly addressed, Dawson said, noting that the weapon had passed the Army’s drop test. She added that the trigger-splintering incidents only happened to two of some 10,000 purchased weapons and were not related to design flaws or manufacturing issues.

While it doesn’t appear the root cause of double-ejection issue has been found, Dawson said it may be related to the magazine and could potentially be resolved with minor adjustments.

Also Read: This is a first look at soldiers firing their new M17 handgun

Slide stoppages led to 50% of the M17 stoppages and 75% of the M18 stoppages, the DOET report said.

The predominant cause of such stoppages was the slide failing to lock after firing the last round in a magazine, which is meant to tell the shooter when to reload.

The report noted that the stoppages appeared to stem largely from the use of a high pistol grip and cited Army marksmanship experts who called it an “insignificant problem” that could be resolved with more training and experience with the weapon.

PEO-Soldier officials told Army Times the “anomaly” would be addressed by modifying marksmanship training.

Officers and senior noncommissioned officers from Regimental Headquarters and Headquarters Troop and the Regimental Support Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, qualify with the M17 Modular Handgun System for the first time during a weapons qualification range Jan. 19, 2018 at Fort Hood, Texas.

Despite the issues raised by the DOTE report, the M17 had been well received by the troops who have gotten it.

“It is easier to fire and simpler to operate,” Sgt. Matthew J. Marsh, a member of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, said at the end of November 2017. “The pistol felt very natural in my hand. I am excited to take my experience back to my unit and share it with my soldiers.”

“It handled really well, very reliable,” Cpl. Jory Herrman, a team leader in the 101st Airborne, told Military.com at the time. “We slung a lot of rounds down range today had little to no problems out of them… I think it is going to be a great sidearm.”

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Mighty HEROES: Meet Louisiana ER Attending Physician Pat Sheehan

Pat Sheehan, a 32 year-old attending physician in New Orleans, Louisiana, is no stranger to the fast-paced environment of the emergency room.

“The ERs are always the frontlines,” he told We Are The Mighty. “We treat every patient that comes through the doors 24/7/365, whether it’s a gunshot wound or a stubbed toe, great insurance or no insurance, any race, religion, [or] creed.”

When cases of the novel coronavirus began popping up around the country, Sheehan admits that his response was likely similar to many other medical professionals.


“I think I responded how most ER docs did, thinking that this is probably like all of the previous viruses that we were told could become a public health crisis – SARS, MERS, ebola, etc. – and never came to be,” Sheehan said. “I’ll be the first to admit that as an ER doc, I am not a public health expert. We are great at treating the critically ill and/or dying patients within our own emergency department, but we certainly defer to public health officials regarding crises like this. When we started to see things unfold in Seattle [and] NYC, we immediately buckled down and tried to prepare.”

Sheehan works at the second busiest emergency department in the entire state of Louisiana.

“[We see] about 85,000 patients per year, so luckily we have significant resources at our disposal,” he shared. “Our hospital was one of the first to implement an action plan and we actually built an entirely separate triage/waiting room area to siphon off all potential COVID patients from others presenting to the ER. We created several dedicated ‘COVID Shifts’ so that certain doctors and staff members would be treating all of the COVID patients rather than exposing everyone. I’ve certainly been lucky to work at a hospital where administration took the threat seriously and gave us all of the resources we needed.”

While Sheehan takes a ‘head down and treat the patients as they come in’ approach, the weight of the situation is omnipresent.

“Seeing patients dying, not being able to have their family with them at the end, because of a sad, but necessary, no visitor policy,” Sheehan said when asked about a low point of the pandemic.

Even outside the emergency room, he admits coronavirus remains top-of-mind.

“The hardest part is probably worrying about bringing it home to my family,” he shared. “We have a newborn at home, so obviously that’s constantly on my mind. We’re being as careful as we can be, I strip off my scrubs on the front porch and go straight to the shower when I get home. I take my temperature twice a day. Washing my hands constantly. Wearing PPE all the time at work. It’s impossible to be perfect though, so there is always a chance of me getting my loved ones sick.”

Through the crisis, Sheehan has documented his experience on Instagram, creating posts and videos with easy to understand information, terminology simplification and even explanations of how equipment, like ventilators, work.

“More than anything I would just want people to understand how hard ERs work across the country work to treat the sick and dying every day, not just during COVID-19,” Sheehan said. “If you have to wait a few hours or somebody forgets to get you that blanket you asked for, just remember that it might be because in the room next to you staff is trying to revive an unresponsive infant, performing CPR on an overdose, or comforting family of a patient that didn’t make it. We’ll do our best to help you and make you comfortable, but sometimes we just need a little understanding.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis speaks out on failures to prevent Texas shooting

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says he has directed the Pentagon’s watchdog to examine the circumstances of the Air Force’s failure to report the Texas church shooter’s domestic violence conviction to the FBI.


Mattis says we have to “find out what’s going on.”

The shooter in the Texas church massacre allegedly used a Ruger AR-556 similar to these shown. (Image Ruger)

Under Pentagon rules, convictions of military personnel in crimes like assault should be shared with the FBI for its National Criminal Information Center database. Devin Patrick Kelley, the gunman in the Nov. 5 attack, was convicted of assault against his wife and stepson in an Air Force court-martial in 2012.

Related: Husband and wife veterans are among dead in Texas shooting

Mattis says the Pentagon must make certain it’s got “the right direction.” And he says he must “define what the problem is.”

Mattis says, “if the problem is we didn’t put something out, we’ll correct that.”

Articles

The Marine Corps version of the Spectre gunship provides firepower and fuel

The AC-130 Spectre gets a lot of the headlines.


It should.

This is a plane that kicks a lot of butt. But the Marine Corps has its own version. And theirs is far more versatile than the Spectre.

Let’s get a closer look at the AKC-130J Harvest HAWK.

Now, before AC-130 fans prepare the flames, we have nothing but respect for the AC-130. With a 25mm GAU-12, a 40mm Bofors, and a M102 105mm Howitzer, the AC-130 can blast the hell out of just about any target.

It is a circling angel of death. J.R.R. Tolkien’s Nazgul have nothing on the Spectre — and would be advised to learn their lesson from the Fellowship of the Ring when Arwen called in that flash flood: Don’t bother running, you’ll just die tired.

But the Harvest HAWK is more versatile. As GlobalSecurity.org points out, the AKC-130J started out as the KC-130J. This provided a number of benefits.

First, the Marines already had the airframes flying over Afghanistan to refuel their F/A-18 Hornets and AV-8B Harriers that provided air support.

What makes the Harvest HAWK so lethal? It can carry (or drop) a variety of weapons. One of them is the AGM-114 Hellfire missile, the one commonly used on Predator drones to make the world a better place by blowing terrorists to smithereens.

With a range of five miles and a 20-pound warhead, this missile was intended to take out tanks. The Harvest HAWK carries four, usually on the left wing, according to a 2012 NAVAIR release.

The Harvest Hawk equipped KC-130J rests on the runway at Camp Dwyer, Afghanistan, March 24. The one-of-a-kind Harvest Hawk system includes a version of the target sight sensor used on the AH-1Z Cobra attack helicopter as well as a complement of four AGM-114 Hellfire and 10 Griffin missiles. This unique variant of the KC-130J supports 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) in providing closer air support and surveillance for coalition troops on the ground in southwestern Afghanistan. Plans for a 30mm chain gun are in the works. (USMC photo)

The Marines also say another weapon the Harvest HAWK uses to deadly effect is the AGM-176 Griffin. Designation-Systems.net describes the Griffin as a tube-launched missile that is smaller than the Hellfire (Predators can carry three Griffins for each Hellfire).

NAVAIR says that the Griffin can be fired through a modified cargo door. The is only about 13 pounds, though. But that can still do in a terrorist — or a tank, even.

The Harvest HAWK also can use the GBU-44 Viper Strike. Originally known as the Brilliant Anti-Tank submunition (or BAT), it had one problem: its missiles kept getting cancelled.

In 2007, Strategypage.com noted that the Army eventually put a modified BAT on the MQ-5 Hunter. With a 2.5-pound warhead, it can take out a target without damaging the structures nearby.

Oh, and the Harvest HAWK also is slated to get a 30mm cannon in the future, according to a Pentagon report. The likely choice will be the Mk 44 Bushmaster II used on the M1296 Dragoon, a modification of the M1126 Stryker.

With all that, the Harvest HAWK can still refuel the AV-8B, F/A-18, and F-35B jets the Marines use to support infantry. Firepower and fuel, in one airframe – now, that’s awesome!

Articles

VP welcomes Honor Flight vets to the White House

Veterans of World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars gathered at the White House May 8, honored for their selfless service and the freedoms that endure to this day because of their brave actions.


The veterans at the White House ceremony were part of an Honor Flight from northern Colorado. Honor Flights are conducted at no cost to the veterans and enable them to see the national memorials of the wars in which they fought.

The men and women who have served and fought for freedom are the nation’s most cherished citizens, and are owed a debt of gratitude that will never be fully repaid, Vice President Mike Pence said.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Pence and his wife Karen Pence, and the secretary of Veterans Affairs, David J. Shulkin, hosted the approximately 200 guests today at the White House’s Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

“Today it is my great honor, on behalf of the first family, here on National Military Appreciation Month, to welcome so many heroes to this special place,” he said.

The veterans are “patriots of the highest order” who stepped forward and served with courage to “protect our nation and the values that we hold dear,” Pence said.

The vice president said it is especially humbling to welcome the veterans since he had not served in the military himself.

Pence noted the event comes on the 72nd anniversary of Victory in Europe Day.

“It’s an honor and privilege more than I can say to be here with so many who fought in the greatest conflict of the 20th century, and who won freedom in World War II,” he said.

Debt of Honor and Gratitude

The Honor Flight trips to Washington are deeply meaningful, Pence explained.

“All the people that make these honor flights possible know that this is just about paying a debt of honor and a debt of gratitude that our nation will never be able to fully repay to all of you,” Pence said. “But we hope this experience fills your hearts with the absolute assurance that we’ll never forget what you’ve done for us.”

Because of the service and sacrifice of those in the room, freedom endures to this day, the vice president said. They fought on the front lines of freedom.

“You are among the rest of us, but make no mistake about it, you are the best of us,” he said. “On behalf of your commander in chief, I’m here to say thanks and to salute your service.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Air Force is fixing up a base that could keep an eye on Russia

US airmen ventured north to the island of Jan Mayen in the Norwegian Sea in November to survey the isolated island’s airfield.

Members of the 435th Contingency Response Squadron “assessed runway surfaces, glideslope obstructions and firing capes,” the Air Force said in a release.

Jan Mayen is north of Iceland and between Greenland and Norway, the latter of which administers and supplies it with regular flights by C-130 aircraft.


It has been used for centuries for whaling, hunting, and, more recently, meteorological monitoring. During the Cold War, it was a base for communications and navigation systems. Though it doesn’t have a usable port, its airfield can be used for research and search and rescue.

The island is also above the Arctic Circle and, the release noted, “along sea-routes connecting Russia to the Atlantic Ocean.”

The runway on Jan Mayen Island around 1968.

(US Navy)

The assessment and survey took place from November 17 to 24, but the squadron “spent several months working with the host nation to find the optimal time” to do it, US Air Forces Europe said in an email.

The visit by the survey team was its first airfield assessment there, and before the survey, US aircraft could not land there.

“The 435th CRS was there to conduct a landing zone survey and assessment so C-130J Super Hercules aircraft can land at the Jan Mayen airfield in order to provide transport and resupply to the station located there,” US Air Force Staff Sgt. Kyle Yeager, a member of the squadron, said in the release.

Members of the 435th Contingency Response Squadron conducting a landing-zone survey.

(US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Kyle Yeager)

The 435th CRS is the “unit of choice” for these airfield surveys because of its “cross-functional makeup,” comprising more than 25 Air Force specialties that train together for unique challenges, Air Forces Europe said.

Its members were joined by members of the 435th Security Forces Squadron, which was there to do “a security assessment of the airfield to ensure that it met Air Force security requirements for C-130 operations,” said Tech. Sgt. Ross Caldwell, a member of that squadron.

“We must be trained and certified on many different tasks to counter any threat and survive in any environment we are tasked to operate in,” Caldwell said.

“If the [Contingency Response Group] goes, we go,” Caldwell added, referring to the US Air Forces Europe unit that assesses and opens air bases and performs initial airfield operations.

Gunner’s Mate 1st Class Christopher Carlson watches the Royal Norwegian navy frigate Thor Heyerdahl pull alongside the USS Harry S. Truman in October 2018.

(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist Seaman Joseph A.D. Phillips)

The European Arctic has become an area of increasing focus of the Navy and the Air Force.

The Norwegian Sea in particular has also gotten more attention, as Russia’s growing submarine fleet — which is far from the size of its Cold War predecessor but much more sophisticated — would need to traverse it to get to the Atlantic.

The USS Harry S. Truman became the first US carrier to sail above the Arctic Circle since the 1990s when it arrived in the sea in late 2018 for Trident Juncture, NATO’s largest exercise since the Cold War.

Navy ships carrying Marines to the exercise first stopped in Iceland, where the Navy has spent millions refurbishing hangars at Naval Air Station Keflavik to accommodate more US Navy P-8 Poseidons, considered the best sub-hunting aircraft out there. P-8s will visit Keflavik more often, but the Navy has said it’s not reestablishing a permanent presence, which ended in 2006.

In November, the Navy publicized visits by surface ships and submarines to Norway for exercises, tweeting photos of the nuclear-powered attack sub USS Minnesota loading MK-48 torpedoes at Haakonsvern naval base in Bergen.

A P-8A Poseidon aircraft in Keflavik, Iceland.

(US Navy/Lt. j.g. Grade Matthew Skoglund)

US Air Force B-2 stealth bombers also recently made their first visit to Iceland, landing at Keflavik in late August to exercise it “as a forward location for the B-2, ensuring that it is engaged, postured and ready with credible force,” US Air Forces Europe said at the time.

That deployment also saw B-2s fly into the Arctic, performing “an extended duration sortie over the Arctic Circle” in early September. US Air Forces Europe called it the B-2’s “first mission this far north” in Europe.

While the Jan Mayen airfield may be able to handle cargo and mobility aircraft like the C-130J, strategic bombers like the B-2 or the B-52, which also flew into the Arctic in late 2019, may not be able to operate there.

But it’s always better to have more places to land.

“You’ve got Fairford, you’ve got Keflavik, you’ve got other places … It’s not just one spot that if you crater the runway that’s it,” Jim Townsend, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and a former Defense Department official, told Business Insider after the B-2s visited Iceland last year.

US Air Force fuel-distribution operators conduct hot-pit refueling on a B-2 Spirit bomber at the Keflavik air base in August.

(US Air Force/Senior Airman Thomas Barley)

Jan Mayen’s airfield “would add another option in that region, and the surveys are often a critical piece of the Global Air Mobility Support System, ensuring unfamiliar airfields are safe to land for a variety of Air Force mobility aircraft,” US Air Forces Europe said in its email.

During the Cold War, Iceland sat in the middle of the Greenland-Iceland-UK gap, through which Russian subs would have to pass to reach the North Atlantic. Russian submarines’ newfound ability to strike cities and infrastructure in Europe with sub-launched missiles has led to arguments that NATO needs to operate farther north, closer to the Barents Sea, to keep an eye on them.

Jan Mayen is closer to the Barents — but if there’s a role it could play in operations up there, the US military isn’t saying.

“It would be inappropriate for us to speculate about possible future operations by US or partner nation forces,” US Air Forces Europe said when asked about the island’s future.

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

Articles

The journalist behind ‘Whiskey Tango Foxtrot’ loved embedding with the troops

To be clear, Paramount’s new film, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is not a war movie; it’s a memoir about a journalist covering a war zone. Specifically, that journalist is Kim Barker, whose book, The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, is the basis for Tina Fey’s new film.


“I was always more curious about what it was like to live through war than what it was like to die in it,” Barker says. “You’ve got aspects of real people in the movie and things that actually happened … but they make Tina Fey braver than I ever was.”

Barker, who is now a Metro reporter at the New York Times, was a war correspondent covering Afghanistan for the Chicago Tribune starting in 2002. Her time in the field was her first real experience with U.S. troops. Sometimes, those deployed soldiers talked to her as if she was their therapist.

“I love to embed with the troops,” Barker recalls. “But I found that they just wanted to talk to me about living, their lives back home, and how grueling this was on relationships to have deployment after deployment after deployment.”

In her time embedded with deployed troops, Barker saw the stress of fighting two wars take its toll on the U.S. military and those who served.

“It made me so grateful to all the people who were willing to share their stories and were super honest with me,” she says. “Those were the stories I really loved to tell, not going out and getting shot at — because I’m a chicken, and I’m not that reporter.”

Barker looked for stories that described the daily life of troops and everyday Afghans, the people who lived the war day in and day out for years.

“You wanted to be true to what they were telling you and not censor yourself, yet you really cared about the people that you were meeting there,” Barker adds. “Watching them adjust to going from Afghanistan to Iraq and back again… the stress that’s been put on our military fighting two fronts at the same time changed my view of my troops because I actually got to know them.”

Many of the Afghans in her circles want Western troops to stay in Afghanistan longer. While Barker admits she’s a reporter and not a Washington policy maker, she says the troops do provide stability for the coming generations of Afghan people.

Kim Barker with warlord Pacha Khan in 2003. Khan’s forces ousted the Taliban from Paktia Province during the 2001 invasion, with American backing. (Photo by Ghulam Farouq Samim)

“They [Afghans] are a bit more modern, they live in the cities,” she says. “I think their feeling is, ‘Hey, just give us enough security and enough civility here to let the next generation take over, and to let some sort of stability to come underneath democratic institutions.'”

For anyone who might be anxious to get out and do some war reporting in this environment, Barker believes it’s a great opportunity, but cautions the uninitiated against going in completely unprepared.

“There are openings to be able to sell stories,  great stories,” she says. “When I went overseas the first time I had no clue, but I had these people around me who did, and I had a newspaper that would back me. I didn’t know what I was doing and I worry about folks going into these places without any kind of safety net at all.”

“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” opens in theaters on Friday, March 4th.

Humor

7 of the top ways the military ages you

Much like dogs, it is said that servicemen and women age at seven times the rate of civilians while on active duty.


Long hours, high standards, and a constantly combat-ready mindset are key factors in this unpublished (read: not real) scientific study that has been conducted by the subjects themselves for over 243 years.

Not convinced? Well, as they say, “the proof is in the pudding,” and what follows is evidence that cannot be denied.

1. Growing gray hair.

There really isn’t too much needed to qualify this statement. Serving in the military will give you gray hair due to the crazy stress service members face during their time in uniform.

A 24-year-old Sgt. after two deployments (Photo by Sgt. Jacob H. Harrer)

2. Making awful noises when standing up.

All branches are included, but we’re highlighting Army and Marine Corps infantry specifically on this one.

Humping heavy packs, digging fighting positions, sleeping outdoors, and sprinting in full battle rattle has left these once-youthful specimens grunting like f*cking elephants any time they try to stand from a seated position.

3. Complaining about kids today.

Deploying overseas can sometimes make it seem like time stands still. You get no new music and you have limited contact with the outside world as pop culture grows and transforms.

This, combined with the mass re-prioritization of values that happens during basic, cultivates some condescending views towards civilians of the same generation.

Accurate. (Image via Terminal Lance)

4. Talking about the good ol’ days.

It’s been said that you must earn your happy memories through hard times. The greater the shared hardship with friends, the happier the memories when reminiscing about it later.

There is no shortage of shared hardship while in good company in the military, so a group of veteran 20-somethings getting together and sharing war stories from the “good ol’ days” is not uncommon.

Just a couple of buddies (Photo by Airman 1st class Alexis C. Schultz)

5. Enjoying black coffee and quiet mornings.

It’s just nice to wake up an hour or so before you need to and enjoy some peace and quiet with a cup of joe.

Most people don’t fully understand this majesty until they are well into their fifties, but sleeping in the field is generally uncomfortable, so appreciating the joys waking up early and having hot coffee is instilled in troops at a much younger age.

6. Talking about driving directions and the weather.

This bleeds over from route selection and weather statuses with regard to mission accomplishment.

It becomes a habit to ensure that when you’re going and how you’re getting there is planned appropriately and military members love discussing these tactics — even if it’s at a BBQ with some beers and buddies.

7. Reading books about war.

People like to read about things that apply to them — subjects they relate to. So, it comes as no surprise that books about war are of interest to the GWOT generation.

That and the exploits of our fathers and grandfathers always seems more badass because of the lack of technologies we are blessed with today.

Articles

9 Must-Watch Post-9/11 Documentaries

DoD’s embed program and other mechanisms have given journalists and filmmakers substantial access to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, so it’s no surprise that those conflicts have been some of the best documented in history. Here is WATM’s list of 11 post 9-11 documentaries that did the best at capturing what really happened:


The Hornet’s Nest

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBt-GTfgLh4

A father-son journalism team embedded on what was supposed to be a three-day raid but ended up being nine days of intense fighting by the 101st Airborne.

Restrepo

A group of paratroopers is deployed to the Korengal Valley, one of the most dangerous spots in Afghanistan, for 15 months. During that time, they fight smugglers and insurgents, attempt to win over the locals, and try to save themselves. A camera crew followa them for much of the deployment, documenting their interactions with Afghans and the deep love the men have for each other.

Armadillo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ta5tT0d86A8

A group of Danish cavalry soldiers deploy on a six-month tour of Helmand and a Danish filmmaker goes with them. The film includes a lot of the tedium of a soldier’s life as well as a raid where the soldiers find themselves within a few meters of a Taliban machine gun team.

Hell and Back Again

Nominated for a Best Documentary Feature Academy Award, this film tells the story of a Marine injured in Afghanistan who, after returning to the states, struggles with his post traumatic stress disorder and a badly broken leg. “Hell and Back Again” gives a visceral look at how hard it can be for wounded troops to return to civilian life.

Drone

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i43vSC-dTC0

This is a very critical look at the American drone program. Drone explains the factors that make drones so popular with troops while also looking at the moral burdens on drone operators and emotional pain of those who’ve lost family members to drone strikes.

The War Tapes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32L-yuqpEqEw=560h=315

Directed by Deborah Scranton and shot by National Guard soldiers over the course of their training and deployment to Iraq, the documentary focuses on three men with very different views on the war and their commander in chief. This film is arguably the best in terms of capturing the burdens on the modern-day citizen soldier.

Taxi to the Dark Side

An in-depth look at torture during the opening years of the War on Terror, including the decisions made by the Bush administration. It covers Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and the leadership (or absence of it) that governed actions in two prisons. Made by the son of a former Navy interrogator, the film went on to win an Academy Award.

No End In Sight

Although “No End In Sight” was released in 2007, the film concentrates on Iraq in the first year after the invasion. It features interviews with White House and State Department officials who were frustrated with missteps that fueled the growing insurgency and caused extra misery for both Iraqi citizens and the U.S. troops assigned to police them.

The Ground Truth

“The Ground Truth” follows a group of Marines and soldiers from the point they’re recruited and then on to their experiences in war. Troops tell their stories in their own words from their initial training through deployments and struggles once they get home.

Lists

8 haunting photos from an abandoned Air Force Base

There is one acronym no commander wants to hear. The very hint of this process-who-must-not-be-named drives generals, congressmen, and entire communities to the edge of panic: BRAC.


The Base Realignment and Closure process started in 1988 as a way to streamline the post-Cold War U.S. military for more efficient and cost-effective defense planning. The commission recommends moving certain military functions to other installations to clear the way to completely closing military bases worldwide. Chanute Air Force Base, Illinois was among the first to go in 1993.

Opened in Rantoul, Illinois in 1917 to train pilots flying in World War I, Chanute would become a major training center for pilots and support personnel for 75 years. Today, some of the buildings are repurposed and privately owned but many are left empty and deteriorating, untouched for decades.

Enter Walter Arnold, an North Carolina-based, self-taught fine art photographer and his project “The Art of Abandonment.” In this series, he strives to create nontraditional images and scenes in forgotten, historic places many people will never see.

“These abandoned buildings and locations speak volumes when you enter them, even in their abandoned and decaying state,” Arnold told WATM. “Every room you look into tells a story and every artifact from a bygone era holds years of meaning and lost purpose.”

While he usually gets permission to access abandoned sites, he did not get such permission to get into Chanute. With the help of his brother, he found his way onto the base, braving a rapidly decaying infrastructure, asbestos and rumors of Agent Orange contamination.

Interior of White Hall

“Of all the locations that I have showcases online, Chanute has had the most response,” Arnold said. “So many people passed through those hallways and classrooms and so many have connections and memories with this location.”

“It’s my job to create evocative scenes that tell stories and stir emotions and I think these images from Chanute really do just that. There’s a melancholy aspect to my work and a lot of times the same people who see the sadness and shame in letting a building get to this state also see the beauty of what remains and the stories they still hold.”

All photos are used with permission from Walter Arnold. To see more of Chanute AFB or the Art of Abandonment, visit Arnold’s site, The Digital Mirage.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army wants huge 40mm cannons on Bradleys and Strykers

BAE Systems showed off its new 40mm cannon at Fort Benning in Georgia late March 2018, as the US Army looks to add more fire power to its Strykers, Bradleys, and perhaps other combat vehicles, according to Defense News.

“Everything went perfectly,” Rory Chamberlain, a business development manager at BAE Systems, told reporters after the cannon was fired, Defense News reported. BAE Systems is one of the largest defense companies in the world.


CTA International, a joint venture between BAE Systems and Nexter, began developing the weapon in 1994, and the gun was recently chosen by the UK and France for their new Ajax and EBRC Jaguar armored vehicles, according to The War Zone.

The cannon has six kinds of cased telescoped ammunition (meaning the projectile is in the cartridge with the charge), including aerial airbust rounds, airbust rounds, armor piercing rounds, point detonating rounds, and two more designated for training.

(Photo by BAE Systems)

The 40mm rounds are up to four times stronger than 30mm rounds, according to BAE Systems.

Depending on which round is used, the cannon can take out a variety of armored vehicles and even older tanks, like the Russian T-55, The War Zone reported.

One of the most benefitial features of the gun is that it can fire at a high angle, making urban fighting easier, according to Defense News.

Chamberlain told Defense News that “Stryker lethality is open, as much as they got the Dragoon, that is a fat turret and it’s doing its job and it’s what they wanted,” adding that the lethality and requirements for the upgrade are still to be decided.

He said the same is possible for the Bradley, but Maj. Gen. David Bassett told Defense News in late 2017 that the Army is looking to replace its 25mm Bushmaster with a 30mm cannon.

Articles

The Army is offering $5K bonuses to join new training brigade

The U.S. Army is authorizing $5,000 bonuses to woo top-performing troops into a new training brigade as the service once famous for shouldering the burden of America’s wars works to meet the growing demand for advisers in places ranging from Iraq and Syria to Afghanistan and Africa.


The plan recognizes the new reality of America at war: Army soldiers are more often training and building local security forces rather than doing the fighting for them on foreign soil. It replaces what has been a hodgepodge of programs over the past dozen years with projections for five new, permanent, fully-trained brigades that can be deployed around the world as professional advisers.

“It’s a recognition that this is an enduring requirement for the conventional Army,” Gen. Robert Abrams, head of U.S. Army Forces Command, told The Associated Press in an interview.

A Marine assigned to Task Force Taqaddum (TF TQ) advises and assists designated Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in Anbar Province to enable ISF to degrade and defeat Da’esh (an Arabic acronym fro ISIL) and support the Mosul counterattack. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ethan Hutchinson/Released)

“Most times we’re falling in on existing institutions that are probably failing, and bringing them up to a certain competency level so they can secure themselves. And we’ve got to be able to do that on a large scale.”

The new program and its signing bonuses also illustrate how the Trump administration has endorsed the Obama administration’s emphasis on working “by, with and through” local forces.

That policy emerged from the deadly and tumultuous years after the 2003 Iraq invasion, when as many as 160,000 American troops were on the ground battling insurgents while struggling to transform a rag-tag mix of often ethnically-opposed Iraqi troops into a functioning fighting force.

U.S. troops left Iraq in 2011. Less than three years later, the Iraqi security forces largely collapsed as Islamic State militants seized control of large swaths of territory. U.S. troops then returned to Iraq, training, advising and enabling the Iraqis to oust IS from the country.

Also read: Here’s how the Army is assisting Iraqi forces in the fight for Mosul

The $5,000 bonus got final authorization on May 3 and is expected to be available beginning in June. The Army has chosen a colonel to lead the first training brigade and he will travel to a number of military posts in the coming weeks to recruit soldiers for the unit. Joining is strictly voluntary.

Since it’s a new program, Abrams acknowledged some soldiers may be reluctant to shift away from current career paths by taking a chance on something they fear may fail or lose support over time.

“There is natural apprehension in the field: ‘Is this a flash in the pan?’ It’s not a flash in the pan,” Abrams said. “The chief is committed and the Army senior leadership is committed, I’m committed. This is going to be an enduring capability.”

The challenge, he said, is getting mid-grade non-commissioned officers to sign up. That’s where the bonus will help.

Of the 529 soldiers in the brigade, 360 will be officers who don’t qualify for the bonus. The rest will be enlisted soldiers and non-commissioned officers who can earn the extra money.

The objective is to fix some problems created by the current training programs. In Iraq and Afghanistan, chunks of combat brigades have been deployed to serve as trainers and advisers to local forces, often leaving the remainder of their units back at home. Right now, for example, portions of three brigades are in Afghanistan and Iraq.

U.S. Army and Iraqi soldiers cross an intersection during a routine security patrol in downtown Tal Afar, Iraq (U.S. Navy photo)

“It separates the leaders from those they lead, and it degrades (unit) readiness significantly,” Abrams said, adding that Army leaders have expressed frustrations over breaking units apart to staff the mission.

The plan calls for a military assistance training academy to be created at Fort Benning, Georgia. About 90 civilian and military staff members are being recruited. The first class will begin in October.

Members of what is being called the new Security Force Assistance Brigade will go through a training course of six-to-eight weeks. Almost 200 will receive 16 weeks of intensive language instruction. Others will get an eight-week language course.

More reading: SEAL Team 6 is experimenting with sensory deprivation chambers to learn languages faster

The first brigade could be ready to deploy by the end of 2018, Abrams said, but there has been no decision on where they will go. Iraq and Afghanistan are the most likely locations, he said.

As more brigades are created, they would deploy to other areas of the world. While the Army initially conceived of one base in each geographical military command around the globe, it’s more likely they’ll simply be sent where most needed.

The Army will select soldiers for the second brigade in about a year. All five brigades will be created by 2022.