Yes, shopping at the Commissary really does save you money - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Yes, shopping at the Commissary really does save you money

When asked about the current level of savings for commissary shoppers in an era of sweeping reforms, the interim director of Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA), retired Navy Rear Adm. Robert Bianchi, referred to results of a price comparison survey conducted in 2016 and released in late January 2017.


It showed average savings at commissaries “globally” were 23.7 percent compared to prices at commercial grocery stores. More specifically, patron savings averaged 20.2 percent at stateside commissaries and 44.2 percent overseas.

The same survey also showed average patron savings varied widely across U.S. regions, from a high of 32.6 percent in Alaska and Hawaii to a low near 18 percent for commissary shoppers across the South Central and Mountain states.

Bianchi and staff said it is the regional cost-saving targets that DeCA monitors monthly and, in finer detail, quarterly, to ensure that steps to transform commissaries into more business-like stores are not diluting patron savings.

Also read: Commissary savings overhaul might cost shoppers extra

Price savings by region are being tracked on “a monthly basis via our syndicated data and [on] a quarterly basis via manual shops [of local stores] and using syndicated data,” a DeCA spokesman explained.

The larger price comparison survey released a year ago established a new method for calculating savings that included a proportion of prices for private label or store brands. This irked patron advocacy groups because, at the time, commissaries didn’t sell their own private label goods. The concern was that the timing served to dampen the baseline savings targets set, which DeCA, by law, must sustain forever more.

Yes, shopping at the Commissary really does save you money
A front view of the Bridgeport Commissary’s produce section. (DeCA photo by Nancy O’Nell)

This occurred long before Bianchi become interim DeCA director in November 2017 to lead commissary transformation while also serving as chief executive of the Navy Exchange Service. Bianchi said he believes the baseline for savings, which use regional price comparisons and private labels, more accurately reflects the real value of the benefit. The previous method, which led to claims that patrons saved more than 30 percent, compared commissary prices against average commercial prices for brand goods only nationwide, ignoring popular private labels.

Steps transforming commissaries include: replacing the traditional cost-plus-a-surcharge pricing with variable pricing based on regional markets; offering DeCA-brand or private label goods as low-priced alternatives to name brands; cutting the assortment of national brands on shelves and negotiating more competitive pricing for surviving brands with brokers and manufacturers.

Related: Veterans can now register for an early shot at online military exchange shopping

Patron savings are real and substantial, Bianchi said. “But messaging that, connecting that for the customer, becomes important,” and variable pricing is key.

Commissary savings can get distorted, Bianchi said, when, for example, a shopper walks into a commercial supermarket and the first item seen are bananas selling for 39 cents a pound versus 52 cents seen at the commissary.

“Even though we may be saving them lots of dollars on chicken or other commodities, they get that initial impression and say ‘Hum, am I really saving money or not?’ We know they are. So, part of what I have our team looking at are image items. As we introduce variable pricing, it will give us the capability to compete with those other retailers and manage pricing in the market.”

Patrons need to be made more aware of average savings, Bianchi said.

“So, the part I have to do is message that so they aren’t dissuaded when they see a loss leader item” in a commercial market and think their commissary benefit has lost value. “The value proposition has got to be real and clear to them.”

Readers of last week’s column, which described a sharp decline in commissary sales, reacted with emails. Many blamed falling sales on a perceived narrowing of savings. Other criticized empty shelves and popular items out of stock.

Yes, shopping at the Commissary really does save you money
Energy efficient ice cream freezers inside of a Commissary. (DeCA photo by Nancy O’Nell)

Manufacturers and brokers shared recent scanned sales data from commissaries that, they contend, show variable pricing and private labeling accelerating the sales drop as patrons discover favored brand names are gone.

One industry analysis noted how Duracell batteries were removed from commissaries last year. While sales data show Energizer battery sales climbing, as would be expected, battery sales overall in the commissaries have fallen.

Bianchi said it’s premature to be sounding alarms over variable pricing or the introduction of DeCA brands Home Base, Top Care, and Freedom’s Choice.

Every commissary now has some variably priced items and “initial data suggest customers are responding positively,” Bianchi said. “In fact, we are beginning to get more competitive on the items that are most relevant to our patrons, which we expect will only help our sales performance.

“However, we still have a relatively small portion of the total assortment variably priced.” In mid-January 2018 that total was only 7000 of 38,000 stocked items.

Also read: House-Senate to negotiate key military benefit changes

“It is, therefore, too early to draw conclusions about how this will impact commissary-wide sales trends. Initial item-level sales data and customer input make us confident this is the right approach.”

Initial private label results on bottled water, cheese, health care products, paper towels and more also are encouraging, said Bianchi. The goal is to sell 3000 to 4000 items with commissary labels.

“We continue to see sales growth and penetration levels increase, and our customers regularly tell us they are happy to have these low-cost, high-quality alternatives on the shelf. None of the items introduced to date give us any concern for the acceptance of our brands, and we will continue to roll out these products aggressively given the very positive response from patrons.”

In fact, he added, many product categories with private labels “have seen an uptick in sales relative” not seen in product categories without private labels.

Bianchi said he came to DeCA with a lot of retail experience and a fresh set of eyes. He found shortfalls in customer service, expense control and sales planning, all critical for shifting to a profit and loss environment.

More: Slump at ‘The Stumps:’ Commissary closes because of rat infestation

“You just have a different perspective” when store expenses are covered by appropriated dollars, he said.

He found commissary shoppers uncomfortable with having baggers handle groceries for tips, Bianchi said, which might explain the popularity of self-checkout.

Yes, shopping at the Commissary really does save you money
Rear Adm. Robert J. Bianchi, commander, Navy Exchange Service Command, greets a local Djiboutian Navy Exchange employee at the Navy Exchange at Camp Lemonier during a visit to the camp to assess the progress of the facilities under his area of responsibility. Camp Lemonier, located in the Horn of Africa, is the only U.S. military infrastructure located in Africa. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan P. Idle)

“How many people carry cash nowadays,” he said. “And if you go to an ATM machine you’re only getting 20s. So, we’re kind of looking at” the bagger issue.

Bianchi said he spent his first months at DeCA focused on patrons, employees and having store partner with commands and local communities. He will turn soon to repairing relationships with brokers and manufacturers who might have felt bulldozed by all the recent changes at commissaries tied to profit and loss.

“Quite honestly, as these initiatives were rolled out, there was probably a lack of transparency, which created some concern and doubt on industry’s part [and] some bad feelings,” said Bianchi. “Some folks are still remaining critical, which I think is a carryover from that.”

Industry reps who also dealt with base exchanges, which have long generated profits, likely were less startled by mindset shift at DeCA, he said.

“The reality is the business model does have to change as we move to a profit and loss environment. We want to create a win-win situation. But I will tell you, from walking floors at commissaries, we [need] an assortment rationalization,” meaning more cuts to the number of brand goods. “So, there may be winners and losers but that’s not any different than the private sector goes through every day.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China probably lying that J-20 is ready for mass production

Chinese military sources told the South China Morning Post in early September 2018 that the new engine for its J-20 stealth fighter would soon be ready for mass production.

“The WS-15 [engine] is expected to be ready for widespread installation in the J-20s by the end of 2018,” one of the military sources told SCMP, adding that “minor problems” remained but would be resolved quickly.

China currently has about 20 J-20 stealth fighters in the field, but the aircraft are equipped with older Russian Salyut AL-31FN or WS-10B engines, which means they are not yet fifth-generation aircraft.


“It seems interesting that [the WS-15] would be ready for production so quickly,” Matthew P. Funaiole, a fellow with the China Power Project at CSIS, told Business Insider.

The South China Morning Post report “might indicate that there was a major milestone in what they consider to be a ready-for-production engine,” Funaiole said, but there would likely be more reports out there if the whole package was truly ready.

“I imagine this would be a very proud moment for the PLA Air Force, and that they would want to promote that as much as possible,” Funaiole said. “It’s an impressive engine.”

Yes, shopping at the Commissary really does save you money

China’s J-20 stealth fighter.

The WS-15 is reported to have a thrust rating of 30,000 to 44,000 pounds. The F-22 Raptor, for example, has a maximum thrust of 35,000 pounds.

Nevertheless, “there’s a difference between something being production ready, and an engine being ready to be outfitted on a particular airframe,” Funaioloe said.

“There’s the initial process of them testing [the J-20 with the WS-15], it being ready for limited production, and then the first outfits training and testing it,” Funaiole added.

In other words, there’s still a ways to go before the J-20 will be mass-produced with the WS-15, even if the WS-15 is almost ready for mass production.

But it’s unclear how long that process will take.

“It’s really hard to put a particular date on it,” Funaiole said, “I think that most people sort of expect there to be progress on it over the next couple years.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Petition demands military funeral for JROTC hero killed in shooting

The Parkland community is petitioning the government to provide a military funeral with full honors to a slain 15-year-old cadet student, who helped students flee danger during the Florida school shooting Feb.14, 2018.


Peter Wang died in his junior ROTC uniform helping students, teachers, and staff escape from the shooting rampage at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Seventeen students and teachers died.

Lin Chen, Wang’s cousin, told The Sun-Sentinel that she was not surprised to learn of his actions.

“He is so brave. He is the person who is genuinely kind to everyone,” she told the publication. “He doesn’t care about popularity. He always liked to cheer people up. He is like the big brother everyone wished they had.”

Jesse Pan, a neighbor, told the paper that Wang was “very polite, smart” and had hoped one day to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point to be of “service to our country.”

Also read: US Army simulation will prep teachers for school shootings

An online petition started on Feb. 16, 2018, urges Congress to honor Wang with a burial fit for a military hero.

“Peter Wang, 15, was one of the students killed in Florida this past week,” the petition states. “He was a JROTC Cadet who was last seen, in uniform, holding doors open and thus allowing other students, teachers, and staff to flee to safety. Wang was killed in the process. His selfless and heroic actions have led to the survival of dozens in the area. Wang died a hero, and deserves to be treated as such, and deserves a full honors military burial.”

JROTC does not provide basic training so it does not count as “being in the military.” Wang’s funeral would require intervention from the government.

By the following morning, nearly 20,000 people had already signed the petition. It needs to gather 100,000 signatures by March 18, 2018 to get a response from the White House.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is what Boeing’s new stealth tanker looks like

The Navy wants a drone tanker that can launch from ships. And Boeing Co. has thrown its hat in the ring with a futuristic design.


On Dec. 19, Boeing offered a public peek at its design for what the Navy is calling the MQ-25 Stingray: an unmanned aircraft system that can offer in-air refueling to the service’s fighters, including the F-35C.

Yes, shopping at the Commissary really does save you money
A Navy F-35C Lightning II is drogue refueled by a KC-10A during a training mission near Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., April 10, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Kelly)

General Atomics revealed concept art of its proposal for the MQ-25 earlier this year, publishing photos of an aircraft with wide wings, almost fighter-like in silhouette. The prototype aircraft Boeing revealed today has a domed top and thicker body.

In all, four companies were expected to compete for the MQ-25 contract, including Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp. However, Northrop, expected to compete with its X-47B blended-wing-body UAS, dropped out of consideration in October.

To date, Lockheed has only published teaser images of what its unmanned tanker prototype would look like.

“Boeing has been delivering carrier aircraft to the Navy for almost 90 years,” Don ‘BD’ Gaddis, the head of the refueling system program for Boeing’s Phantom Works, said in a statement. “Our expertise gives us confidence in our approach. We will be ready for flight testing when the engineering and manufacturing development contract is awarded.”

Also Read: The Navy wants this drone to extend its fighter range beyond 1k miles

According to the Boeing’s announcement, the prototype aircraft is now completing engine runs and had yet to take its first flight. Deck handling demonstrations are set to begin in early 2018.

The Navy’s unmanned tanker program had been renamed and re-envisioned multiple times as officials juggle requirements and capabilities. The program was formerly called CBARS, Carrier-Based Aerial-Refueling System, before being renamed the MQ-25.

According to Naval Air Systems Command, the MQ-25 will not only deliver “robust organic” refueling capability, but will also interface with existing ship and land-based systems, including those providing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.

The competing companies have until Jan. 3 to get their full proposals in; Boeing expects to pick a design in the second quarter of 2018.

Articles

Sen. John McCain calls Gen. Mattis one of the ‘finest military officers of his generation’

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) just released a glowing endorsement of retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to serve as Defense Secretary.


In a statement released Monday, McCain called the 66-year-old retired four-star general “one of the finest military officers of his generation” who, he hopes, “has an opportunity to serve America again.”

Related: When Gen. James Mattis talks, we listen — and so should you

The senator knows Mattis quite well, since he serves as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. While he was in charge of Central Command and leading troops in Iraq, Mattis testified to that committee regularly.

Yes, shopping at the Commissary really does save you money
General Mattis speaks to Marines in 2007. | U.S. Marine Corps photo

“I am pleased that the President-elect found General Jim Mattis as impressive as I have in the many years I have had the privilege of knowing him. General Mattis is one of the finest military officers of his generation and an extraordinary leader who inspires a rare and special admiration of his troops. He is a forthright strategic thinker. His integrity is unshakable and unquestionable. And he has earned his knowledge and experience the old-fashioned way: in the crucible of our nation’s defense and the service of heroes,” McCain wrote in his statement.

“General Mattis has a clear understanding of the many challenges facing the Department of Defense, the U.S. military, and our national security. I hope he has an opportunity to serve America again.”

Mattis is seen as a top contender for the position at the Pentagon. He met with President-elect Donald Trump on Saturday to discuss whether he might be interested in coming out of retirement to oversee roughly 3 million military and civilian personnel.

Afterward, Trump praised Mattis on Twitter as “a true General’s General” who was “very impressive.”

If he were tapped to be defense secretary, Mattis would need a waiver from Congress to take the position, since it requires a military officer to have been off active duty for at least seven years. Mattis retired in 2013.

Mattis currently splits his time between Stanford and Dartmouth as a distinguished fellow, conducting research and giving lectures on leadership and strategy.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How China plays it both ways in disputes over sea territory

China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea and its broad interpretations of international law often lead it to protest what many other countries consider to be normal naval maneuvers in the area. But farther afield, Beijing’s activity indicates that it doesn’t abide by the standard it applies to others.

China frequently protests military operations by US and other countries in its Exclusive Economic Zone, which can extend up to 230 miles from a country’s coast. Beijing has referred to those operations as “close-in surveillance.”


The US and other countries have countered that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS, permits military activity inside EEZs. (The US is not a signatory to the UNCLOS.) An international tribunal has also ruled that China’s claims in the South China Sea have no legal basis.

In addition to its protests about military operations inside its EEZ, China has also protested ships passing within the territorial waters — which extend nearly 14 miles from a coast — of disputed islands in the South China Sea where China has constructed military facilities. The international tribunal also rejected those claims.

Yes, shopping at the Commissary really does save you money

According to the US Defense Department, however, China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy has carried out a number of military operations inside the exclusive economic zones of other countries, seemingly contradicting the stance it takes in waters closer to home.

“Although China has long challenged foreign military activities in its maritime zones in a manner that is inconsistent with the rules of customary international law as reflected in the [law of the sea convention], the PLA has recently started conducting the very same types of military activities inside and outside the first island chain in the maritime zones of other countries,” the department said in its annual China military-power report, released this week.

“This contradiction highlights China’s continued lack of commitment to the rules of customary international law,” the report adds.

Since 2014, the Chinese navy has conducted what the Defense Department refers to as “uninvited” operations throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

In 2017, a Chinese spy ship entered Australia’s EEZ to observe US and Australian ships during military exercises; entered the US’s EEZ around the Aleutian Islands, in what was likely an attempt to monitor testing of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system; and carried out air and naval operations inside Japan’s EEZ.

Chinese naval vessels also carried out a delivery to Beijing’s base in Djibouti, which is China’s first overseas base and is near a major US outpost.

In 2018, China dispatched a spy ship to monitor the US-led Rim of the Pacific exercise around Hawaii, as it has done in years past, after the US rescinded Beijing’s invitation to the exercise over the latter’s actions in the South China Sea.

Yes, shopping at the Commissary really does save you money

US Navy destroyer USS John S. McCain conducts a patrol in the South China Sea.

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class James Vazquez)

The US and other countries involved in those incidents have not protested the presence of Chinese ships in their EEZs, seeing it as allowed under international law. Some have cited China’s presence in foreign EEZs as justification for similar movements in China’s EEZ and as a tacit acknowledgement by Beijing of those rules.

In the South China Sea, the US has continued to carry out freedom-of-navigation operations around disputed islands, in part to show it does not recognize China’s claims there as valid under international law.

Days after one of the most recent FONOPS, as they are known, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis promised more and underscored their significance.

“They’re freedom of navigation operations. And you’ll notice there’s only one country that seems to take active steps to rebuff them or state their resentment of them,” Mattis said in late May 2018, adding that the US would continue “confront what we believe is out of step with international law, out of step with international tribunals that have spoken on the issue.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

One of the Navy’s newest ships is finally free from Canadian ice

The USS Little Rock, a US Navy littoral-combat ship commissioned in late December 2017, finally left the port of Montreal late March 2018, more than three months after docking there for a short stop on its maiden voyage.

The Little Rock was commissioned in Buffalo, New York, on Dec. 16, 2017, but its journey to Mayport Naval Station in northeast Florida was delayed when the ship became stuck in Montreal a few days after Christmas. Unusually cold temperatures, icy conditions, and a shortage of tugboats to guide it out of port all contributed to the Little Rock staying in Canada.


The Navy said in January 2018 that the Little Rock would remain in Montreal “until wintry weather conditions improve and the ship is able to safely transit through the St. Lawrence Seaway.”

That stay lasted until 6:15 on the morning of March 31, 2018, port officials told the CBC. Navy spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Courtney Hillson confirmed the departure. “Keeping the ship in Montreal until weather conditions improved ensured the safety of the ship and crew,” Hillson told Business Insider.

The Little Rock is expected to reach Florida later in April 2018, making several stops along the way.

The decision to keep the ship at Montreal was made on Jan. 19, 2018. Hillson told Business Insider at the time that the Little Rock’s crew was carrying out routine repair work and focusing “on training, readiness, and certifications.”

Yes, shopping at the Commissary really does save you money
US Navy littoral combat ship USS Little Rock heading toward Montreal, December 27, 2017.
(Photo via USS Little Rock Facebook)

The ship was outfitted with temporary heaters and 16 de-icers to prevent ice accumulation on the hull and its roughly 170-person crew given cold-weather clothing in response to the delay, according to the CBC.

“We greatly appreciate the support and hospitality of the city of Montreal, the Montreal Port Authority and the Canadian Coast Guard,” the Little Rock’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Todd Peters, said in a statement. “We are grateful for the opportunity to further enhance our strong partnerships.”

Canadians living near the port complained about constant noise coming from the ship’s generators. The Port of Montreal dimmed lights illuminating the ship and adjustments were made to the soundproofing around the Little Rock’s generators.

The Little Rock was the fifth Freedom-class littoral combat ship to join the US Navy. It is 389 feet long with a draft of 13.5 feet, according to the US Navy. It has a top speed of over 45 knots and displaces about 3,400 tons fully loaded. The ship is scheduled for more training and combat-systems testing in 2018, its commander said in late December 2017.

Littoral combat ships are designed to operate near shore, and their modular design is meant to enable them to perform a variety of surface missions, mainly against small, fast attack craft as well as anti-mine and anti-submarine missions.

The LCS program has struggled with accidents and been criticized for cost overruns. The Navy said in January 2018 that LCS mission modules, designed to allow the ships to perform their three mission types, will enter service in 2019, 2020, and 2021.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

12 important things that need to be in your bug-out bag yesterday

With the entire world focused on COVID-19, it’s a great time to build your bug out bag.


A bug-out bag isn’t just for secret agents anymore.

Yes, shopping at the Commissary really does save you money
Although a secret agent’s is probably a lot more fun.

We Are The Mighty’s resident operator, Chase Millsap, served three combat tours as a Marine Infantry Officer in Iraq and as a Green Beret leading counter-terrorism missions in Asia.

Yes, shopping at the Commissary really does save you money
Isn’t he beautiful?

We asked him what he’s packing in his bag in case he needs to escape on short notice for any reason. Here’s what he says you must have, at minimum.

12. Water filter.

Yes, shopping at the Commissary really does save you money
Millsap recommends a Katadyn water filter.

Given optimal conditions, a person can last up to a week without water. Extreme conditions are likely to cut that time (and yours) short. Additionally, drinking water from untreated sources can lead to a number of infections and diseases.

11. Woobie.

If you’re unfamiliar with a “woobie,” it’s how some U.S. troops refer to their issued poncho liner. It makes for a great blanket, cushion, or pillow. It’s not waterproof, but in temperatures above freezing, it’s very effective at keeping in body heat.

Yes, shopping at the Commissary really does save you money
It also doesn’t retain odors.

10. Two days of food.

This should be self-explanatory, but in case it isn’t, remember: You can go for weeks without food. If you’re on the move, however, that time is cut short. You can’t carry all the food you need with you, but you should have enough to last until you can make it to an area where you can get more or be rescued.

Yes, shopping at the Commissary really does save you money
And if you’re keeping your bug-out bag at the ready, be sure to get food that doesn’t spoil.

9. Lockpick kit.

Yes, shopping at the Commissary really does save you money
Not just for thieves anymore.

The reason one carries lockpicks is fairly obvious: to get into things that are locked. We can’t predict why you’ll be evacuating your home, but if you’re going to be out on foot for a while, you may need this. Think about it: When the looting stops, everything that was easy to get is already gone. What’s left is under lock and key.

8. Fire starter with dryer lint.

You can’t depend on a lighter or matches. You’re going to need to start a fire the old-fashioned way: with sparks and kindling.

Yes, shopping at the Commissary really does save you money
Make sure yours is ultra light. You have to carry this stuff.

7. Solar or hand-crank battery.

You should have electronic devices with you, namely your means of communication. A zombie apocalypse notwithstanding, you’re going to want to be rescued at some point, so secure the means of keeping your phone and/or radio alive and at the ready.

6. 550 cord and a carabiner.

Anyone who’s served in the military knows how useful 550 cord and carabiners are. If you want to augment their usefulness, learn to braid and to tie knots.

Yes, shopping at the Commissary really does save you money
It’s not just for woven bracelets.

5. Medical kit.

Let’s be honest, most of you are not Green Berets — and if you were Navy SEALs, you would have told us by now. Since the name of the game is surviving in a potentially hostile environment, we should be prepared for injuries sustained on our way out of the disaster area. If we want to be prepared to help ourselves and others, we need a med kit.

Yes, shopping at the Commissary really does save you money
We should also probably learn to use this stuff.

4. Face mask.

Dirt and debris fly everywhere during a disaster or in a disaster area. Heck, the air itself can be chalked full of dirt and harmful particles.

Yes, shopping at the Commissary really does save you money
Or did you forget?

Be prepared for it.

3. Gloves and boots.

You shouldn’t need to be told this: Bring your boots. The best part about these items is they don’t add to the weight on your back.

2. Knife and multi-tool.

Slow down, Rambo. Don’t go out and get the largest knife you can. Get something with some utility. Go ask a Marine about their KA-BAR utility knife — it’s one of the best survival knives you can get.

Yes, shopping at the Commissary really does save you money
Just be sure to buy your own. I hear Marines are very attached to theirs.

1. Air panels.

Yes, shopping at the Commissary really does save you money
Any color will do.

If you need to be seen from a distance (namely, by rescue aircraft), nothing is more effective than what the U.S. military already uses, the VS-17 signal marker is the thing for the job. Best of all, that’s exactly what search and rescue teams are trained to look for.

Yes, shopping at the Commissary really does save you money
This isn’t always going to work.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Watch this WW2 pilot take to the skies in his old trainer aircraft

WWII pilot Capt. Jerry Yellin decided to join the military after the attack against Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.


I decided at that moment that I was going to fly fighter planes against the Japanese.

And he did. A P-51 driver, he flew 19 missions in total — including the very last combat mission over Japan on Aug. 14, 1945. After the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb over Hiroshima, Yellin said he didn’t think they’d ever have to fly again, but when Japan refused to surrender, he and his wingmen took to the skies.

On Aug. 13, four days after the bombing of Nagasaki, Yellin was ordered to fly a mission over Nagoya, a hub for Japanese aircraft manufacturing and war equipment production. Before takeoff, his wingman, Phil Schlamberg, told Yellin, “If we go on this mission, I’m not coming back.”

 

(American Veterans Center | YouTube)

 

Yellin told his wingman to stay on his wing. They exchanged a thumbs up from their cockpits, but Schlamberg’s feeling proved to be true — he went missing during the mission.

It was the last combat mission of World War II, and according to Yellin, Schlamberg was the last casualty. To his dismay, Yellin learned that the Japanese had surrendered three hours before, but the pilots didn’t receive the message in time.

Also read: This WW2 veteran recalls guarding Nazi POWs and the Dachau concentration camp

This year, Yellin took to the skies again in a Stearman PT-17, just like the one he trained in during the war at the once-called Thunderbird Field II at the Scottsdale Airport. His flight was part of a Veterans Day event to build a memorial to honor early aviation pioneers and veterans.

Having a museum to remind people of who we were then and what we are now is extremely, extremely important.

Check out Capt. Yellin’s flight and hear the inspiring vet talk about what it meant to serve during World War II right here:

 

(Sequence Media Group | YouTube)
MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is Russia’s new standard issue infantry rifle

The Russian military will be replacing its standard issue AK-74M rifle with the AK-12 and AK-15, according to Military Times, citing Russian state-owned media.

The “5.45mm AK-12 and 7.62mm AK-15 are officially approved and recommended by Russian Ministry of Defense for issue to Infantry, Airborne and Naval infantry troops of Russian Armed Forces,” the Russian defense manufacturer, Kalashnikov Concern, which also made the AK-47 and AK-74M, said in a press statement in January 2018.


The AK-12 and AK-15 have 30-round magazines and can shoot 700 rounds per minute, the Kalashnikov statement said. They’re also equipped with “red dot, night and IR sights to underbarrel grenade launchers, forward grips, lasers and flashlights, sound suppressors and more.”

The two new weapons will be part of Russia’s “Ratnik” program, a futuristic combat system that includes modernized body armor, a helmet with night vision and thermal imaging, and more.

The first-generation Ratnik suit was reportedly given to a few Russian units in 2013, and some pieces of the suit were spotted on Russian troops in Crimea.

Russia claims the second-generation suit will be operational in 2020, and the third-generation suit will be operational in 2022.

See more about the AK-12 and AK-15 in the short Kalashnikov video below:

Articles

This civilian ‘navy’ is deploying to help Florida after Hurricane Irma

Louisiana’s famous Cajun Navy, the volunteer civilian group that with its small boats helped rescue victims of Hurricane Harvey, wants to assist Florida after Hurricane Irma.


Rob Gaudet, one of the volunteer network’s organizers, spoke Sept 7. to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio to find out how the grassroots group might be of most help.

“They’re ready to go,” Rubio told the Miami Herald.

Irma is not expected to dump as much rain as Harvey, but forecasters worry about storm surge up to 10 feet in the state’s southern peninsula.

Yes, shopping at the Commissary really does save you money

The Cajun Navy drove boats into Houston to pick up people stuck in the massive floods — turning into the so-called Texas Navy — but is now back in Louisiana, tracking Irma as it makes its way to Florida.

“There’s already boaters on their way and there already,” Gaudet told the Herald.

Gaudet, a software engineer, founded the Cajun Relief Foundation after boaters came together last year to rescue victims of a no-name flood in his hometown of Baton Rouge. During Harvey, the organization used social media to handle requests for assistance, alleviating crushed emergency responders.

Yes, shopping at the Commissary really does save you money
Image from Cajun Relief Facebook.

“There’s a team of dispatchers that dispatch the Cajun Navy, that work from their homes or they work from coffee shops, literally taking request off of social media,” Gaudet said, noting dispatchers can be — and are — anywhere in the country. “We use mobile technology that the boaters carry along with them, and so we dispatch them to perform rescues.”

Rubio’s suggestion: that Gaudet’s volunteers, with their shallow-water boats, consider navigating narrow canals in South and Central Florida to reach victims if Irma’s storm surge leaves wide areas unreachable by car or deeper-water vessels.

“Biscayne Bay is like a basin,” said Rubio, a recreational boater himself. “It’s like a bowl of water that’s going to get potentially pushed inward.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s president just gave a huge threatening speech

President Xi Jinping said China will “fight the bloody battle against our enemies” in a speech on March 20, 2018, striking a nationalistic and hawkish tone.


In his closing speech of the country’s annual legislative meeting, Xi discussed the benefits of China’s socialism, the Belt and Road initiative, and a string of domestic policies, zeroing in on Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Also read: The hilarious reason Winnie the Pooh is banned in China

“We are resolved to fight the bloody battle against our enemies … with a strong determination to take our place in the world,” Xi said, according to CNN.

Xi also said any separatist action to seek independence in these territories would be doomed to fail.

“The Chinese people have strong determination, full confidence, and every capability to triumph over all these separatist actions. The Chinese people and the Chinese nation have a shared conviction which is not a single inch of our land will be and can be ceded from China,” Xi said.

While it was not clear if China’s president was referring to any particular incident, state-run media one day earlier threatened “military pressure” and drills would resume if US and Taiwanese officials began visiting one another under the new Taiwan Travel Act.

China considers the self-ruled, democratic island to be a province of China that will one day be reunified with the mainland. Beijing refuses to have diplomatic relations with any nation that treats Taiwan as a country, and relations between China and Taiwan worsened since Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s independence-leaning leader, became president in 2016.

Yes, shopping at the Commissary really does save you money
Taiwan’s President, Tsai Ing-wen.

Xi, who oversees all Taiwan affairs, also focused on reunifying Taiwan and China during a major speech to the Communist Party in 2017. Analyzing that speech, some experts estimate that Xi’s is hoping for reunification by 2050 — by peaceful means, or by force, if necessary.

In 2013, Xi said the issue needed to be resolved, and couldn’t be passed on “from generation to generation.” Even still, Taiwan has noticed a tougher stance coming from Xi of late as he begins to focus on his goal of “national rejuvenation.”

Xi also focused on increasing the “national identity” and patriotism of citizens in Hong Kong and Macau.

Related: Why the US should worry more about Xi Jinping than Putin

On March 20, 2018, Human Rights Watch issued a report on plans for Hong Kong legislators to discuss a law that criminalizes the insulting of the Chinese national anthem. The punishment for those who alter the lyrics, score, or sing in a derogatory manner, could be up to three years in prison.

“Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has played down fears the bill could be politicized, saying it merely aims to encourage ‘respect’ for the anthem. Yet she has not acknowledged citizens’ concerns about forcing their political loyalty to Beijing, or how mainland authorities’ frequently jail people for peaceful criticism,” Maya Wang, Human Rights Watch’s senior researcher on China.

“Enacting this law will merely remind Hong Kong people just how tenuous their rights to free speech are.”

 

 

An excerpt of Xi’s speech:

“We will continue to implement One Country, Two Systems principle: Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong, Macau people governing Macau, and a high degree of autonomy in the Special Administrative Regions (SARs). We will continue to stick to the constitution and basic laws in governing the two regions and support the SARs and its chief executives in implementing its functions and supporting Hong Kong and Macau in integrating into the larger picture of the country.

We will continue to strengthen and foster the national identity and patriotism of people in Hong Kong and Macau SARs and maintain long-term stability and prosperity in Hong Kong and Macau SARs.

We should continue to stick to the One China principle, 1992 consensus, advance the development of cross-strait relations, and expand the economic and cultural exchanges between the two sides. By doing so, we will make sure that people both in Taiwan and the mainland will share in the development and improve its well-being and also advance the unification of the country.

More: China’s president is kind of a big deal

We should safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country and achieve full reunification of the motherland. This is the aspiration of all Chinese people and this is also in line with the fundamental interests of the Chinese nation. Faced with this very important question of our nation and history, any action that aims to separate the country is doomed to fail.

And these separatist actions will be met with the condemnation of the people and the punishment of the history. The Chinese people have strong determination, full confidence and every capability to triumph over all these separatist actions. The Chinese people and the Chinese nation have a shared conviction which is not a single inch of our land will be and can be ceded from China.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia just tried to claim they took on US fighter jets

Russian media on Jan. 28, 2019, sparked a social-media frenzy after the release of photos that seem to show a US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet locked in the crosshairs of a Russian fighter jet.

Online, a source claiming to represent a Russian fighter-jet pilot surfaced with the picture and said two Su-35s tailed and “humiliated” the US jets until a Japanese F-15 surfaced to support the F/A-18s, which the Russians also said were out-maneuvered and embarrassed.


Russian commenters rushed to brand the incident as proof of the “total superiority of the Russian and the total humiliation of the Americans.”

Yes, shopping at the Commissary really does save you money

A U.S. Navy F/A-18C in flight.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

The same source previously said they beat a US F-22 stealth fighter in a mock dogfight — a fighting scenario that involves close-range turning and maneuvering — in the skies above Syria, but this incident supposedly took place over Russia’s far-east region.

The source recently became the first to feature images of Russia’s new stealth combat drone, suggesting some degree of official linkage or access to the Russian military. Russian media, for its part, accepts the source’s claims.

Lt. Cmdr. Joe Hontz, a US European Command spokesman, told Business Insider that US “aircraft and ships routinely interact with Russian units in international airspace and seas, and most interactions are safe and professional.”

“Unless an interaction is unsafe, we will not discuss specific details,” Hontz added.

This suggests that either the encounter happened and was deemed totally safe, or that the encounter did not happen.

The US did have an aircraft carrier, the USS Ronald Regan, in Russia’s far-east region and in Japan in late January 2019. Japanese fighter jets regularly train with the US.

Russia’s Su-35 holds several advantages over US F/A-18s in dogfights. But, as Business Insider has extensively reported, dogfighting — the focus of World War II air-to-air combat — has taken on a drastically reduced importance in real combat.

The F-15’s dogfighting abilities more closely match up with the Su-35, but, again, these jets now mainly seek to fight and win medium-range standoffs with guided missiles, rather than participate in dogfights.

Additionally, Russian media has a history of running with tales of military or moral victories in their armed forces that usually end with something for Russians to cheer about at the expense of US, which is usually exposed as incompetent.

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

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