There’re no two groups of Americans that get along quite as well as the military and the first-responder community. It makes sense on a broad level; they’re both occupations filled by people who hope to help their fellow man and make the world a slightly better place.
But it goes much deeper than that — it’s not just a shared, we-got-10-percent-off-our-meal-at-a-restaurant connection.
They share the same culture
Part of what makes the Armed Forces fun is the inter-service banter exchanged between branches. Funnily enough, first responders playfully mock one another as well.
EMS will throw some jabs in jest at firefighters and firefighters will tell jokes at the police’s expense. Hell, even within the different bureaus, police will riff on each other. Law enforcement officers and firefighters, just like Marines and airmen, will happily mock one another all day long, but treat each other as family when push comes to shove.
This is just one of the many areas in which the two cultures overlap.
They share the same lingo
Troops say a lot of little things that they don’t realize are uncommon in the civilian world, but the lingo is easily understood by first responders.
The phonetic alphabet is an obvious one, but it makes my veteran heart grow knowing that police also call each other blue falcons.
They share the same bad days
The sad reality is that the bad days both groups experience can be hard to explain to civilians.
There are fantastic moments that you can be proud to share with your children and your spouse, but helping the world will also show you things that’ll keep you up at night — you can’t know this feeling without experiencing it.
They share a strong bond of brotherhood with their peers
It’s no secret that troops are close to one another — and first responders are no different.
They grow together through shared pain, mockery, and brief moments of brevity until the sh*t hits the fan again. This level of camaraderie is respected across both groups.
Many have served in both
The main reason why so many of each community can relate with one another is because many troops leave the service and make a living as a first responder, and vice versa.
During a moment of peace in Basic or Boot Camp, it’s not uncommon to hear a new troop say that they were a volunteer firefighter for a few semesters in college.
When Japan was looking to replace aging F-1 fighters (dedicated anti-ship aircraft), they were thinking about an indigenous design. The F-1, based on the T-2 trainer, had done well, but it was outdated.
According to aviation historian Joe Baugher, the Japanese eventually decided to go with a modified version of the F-16C/D, giving Lockheed Martin a piece of the action.
However, Japan didn’t go with a typical F-16. They decided to give it some upgrades, and as a result, their replacement for the F-1 would emerge larger than an F-16, particularly when it came to the wings – gaining two more hardpoints than the Viper.
This allowed it to carry up to four anti-ship missiles — enough to ruin a warship’s entire day.
It was also equipped from the get-go to carry radar-guided missiles like the AIM-7 Sparrow and Japan’s AAM-4. MilitaryFactory.com notes that the F-2 was delayed by issues with the wings, and eventually sticker shock hit the program when the initial versions had a price tag of $100 million each.
In the 1990s, that was enough to truncate production at 98 total airframes, instead of the planned 140.
AirForce-Technology.com reported that F-2s deployed to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam for joint exercises in 2007. In 2011, 18 of the planes suffered damage, but most were returned to service. In 2013, the F-2s saw “action” when Russian planes flew near Japanese airspace.
For its long development and its truncated production, the F-2 has proved to be very capable. It has a top speed of 1,553 miles per hour and it carries over 17,800 pounds of ordnance.
While I’d never give up Christmas at home, there are some things I miss about celebrating the holidays with my brothers in arms.
As I sit here comfortably at my desk, nursing a scotch in a plastic cup after my guard unit Christmas party, I can’t help but feel nostalgia for my time spent away from home. While I wouldn’t trade Christmas morning at home with my wife and daughter for anything, I will forever recall those Christmases spent overseas fondly. Surprisingly, the things I miss the most about Christmas in Afghanistan are the same things that I missed when I was stuck there among my fellow Army members.
5. We shared the holidays with our military families.
One of the great things about Christmas overseas is that there are no awkward family interactions, like trying to remember the name of your cousin’s boyfriend or watching Uncle Cletus get drunk and set the Christmas tree on fire. The bond and fellowship that soldiers try to create when they are stuck away from home is a thing of magic. Granted, I’m pretty sure that they either made some barracks hooch or got some stuff in the mail, but in the midst of rural Afghanistan, they found a way to have a good time and take care of each other. I fondly remember watching the original Indiana Jones and Star Wars trilogies back to back while making concept of operations and fragmentary orders in 2010. And though I’m pretty sure my wife won’t let that fly this year, being stuck in a plans cell was halfway nice that day.
4. We gorged ourselves on the food.
The Army always tried hard to get quality food to all locations, even to the most remote bases, on Christmas. Entire missions with combined arms and air support were involved in transporting ham and turkey to all the outposts. At our little base in Kunar, Afghanistan in 2008, our cook and his band of merry Afghan helpers worked two nights to cook enough food for the soldiers at our base and those flown in from a neighboring outpost. The giant cow femur from a bone in roast beef was left for “Pork Chop,” the black and white dog who served as the mascot to multiple outposts in the Kunar River Valley, who would trek from Monti to Fortress south of Asadabad between 2007 and 2009.
It wasn’t the way grandma cooked it, but between the noble efforts of Army cooks and care packages from home, I count it among my favorite meals.
3. We improvised holiday decorations.
(Image from Warner Bros’ National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation)
Clark Griswold from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation would have been jealous of our Christmas tree. One of the remote outposts in our area of operations, which was under nearly constant attack with over 200 firefights in their six months in position, strung lights up through their base as a message to the Taliban. My wife mailed me a small artificial Christmas tree that I put in our small tactical operations center and gave our soldiers the mission to decorate. Slowly, we fleshed it out with M67 fragmentation grenades and individual ornaments of 7.62 rounds hung with care using the innards of a parachute cord. Lastly, we topped it with a Santa Claus Mr. Potato Head and a claymore at the base. We were full of Christmas cheer, surrounded by emergency munitions.
2. We had unique Christmas shenanigans.
Santa Claus (Lt. Jon Sunderland) directs aircraft movement during flight operations aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) Christmas Day. Nimitz Carrier Strike Group is on a routine deployment to the region. Operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations are focused on reassuring regional partners of the United States commitment to security, which promotes stability and global prosperity. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class David Mercil / Released).
One of the few days of the year when there was a general consensus for shenanigans to improve morale, the antics throughout were a thing of magic. From the secret targeting packets circulated on Santa Claus to the fellow staff officer that erected an inflatable Christmas decoration on the roof of our building to welcome the commander back from his Christmas tour, the practical jokers of the Army tried their best to make light of an otherwise crap situation being away from home.
1. There were occasional inexplicable Christmas miracles.
Somehow, some way, on Christmas the near impossible happened. It was eerily quiet — maybe because we weren’t out stirring up trouble — the Taliban generally left us alone and we enjoyed it. After weeks of no mail due to weather issues and unknown complications, a Chinook appeared on the horizon bringing hope in the Ring Route. We unloaded several thousand pounds of mail and other goodies on Christmas eve, and though it may seem silly, it was a real miracle to us.
There is a long history of the magic and merriment of Christmas for soldiers at war. From the Christmas Day Truce in 1914 to the ring route miracle of eastern Afghanistan, as I look at more inevitable deployments and more holidays away from home, it makes me cherish what I’ve experienced just a little bit more. As always it reminds me to enjoy this glass of scotch a little bit more for my friends and comrades overseas this season, and to not fear being gone from my family in the future. For those overseas this year, have a Merry Christmas and stay safe, but remember to have some fun while you are there.
President Donald Trump has stated several times his desire to acquire Greenland, according to The Wall Street Journal. In addition to its beauty and natural resources, Greenland is located between the US and Russia, making it strategically important in a Cold War-like conflict between the two.
Greenland is an autonomous Danish territory, with its own government that handles domestic issues. On Aug. 16, 2019, Greenland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted, “We’re open for business, not for sale.”
The US has operated Thule Air Base in Greenland’s high Arctic since the 1950s. While the mission of the base has changed over time, the base is now charged with warning North America about incoming intercontinental ballistic missles (ICBMs).
Read on to learn more about Thule Air Base.
A sunny view of the ramp at Thule Air Base, Greenland, shortly after the NASA P-3B research aircraft arrived on Mar. 18, 2013.
(NASA photo by Jim Yungel)
Thule Air Base is 750 miles north of the Arctic Circle and midway between New York and Moscow. The base is home to the 12th Space Warning Squadron, which detects ICBMs headed toward North America with its Ballistic Missile Early Warning System.
1st Lt. Ariel Torgerson (left), 821st Support Squadron Communications Flight commander, issues the oath of enlistment to Staff Sgt. Eric Jennings, 821st SPTS.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Darrell Kinsey)
The orientation letter for new Thule Airmen welcomes them to “The Top of the World.” It also stresses just how remote the installation is: “There is no ‘local town.’ The closest Inuit (native Eskimo) village, Qaanaaq, is located 65 miles away. There is no ‘off-base’ except for the bay, the ice cap and what appears to be thousands of miles of rocks and/or ice.”
Thule is located on Greenland, the world’s largest island. Construction was completed in 1953. Thule’s population is about 600 military and civilian personnel — 400 Danes, 50 Greenlanders, 3 Canadians, and 140 Americans.
U.S. Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, Commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) visits units and tour facilities at Thule AB, Greenland, April 24, 2019.
(Preston Schlachter / North American Aerospace Defense Command)
Thule is locked in by ice nine months each year. A Canadian Icebreaker ship comes in during the summer to clear a path for cargo ships from the US, Canada, and Denmark to replenish the base’s supply of fuel, construction supplies, cargo, and food.
A seasoned Greenlandic hunter and his dog sled racing team speeds into the home stretch toward the finish line March 30. Thule Air Base celebrated Armed Forces Day March 30-31 by inviting native Greenlandic residents to the base, some of whom traveled up to three days across the extremely cold environment by dog sled to attend the celebration.
(U.S. photo by Master Sgt. Robert Brown)
In the summer months, Thule sees 24 hours of sunlight. Flowers like poppies bloom, and cotton and moss grow. Birds like peregrine falcons fly in, and mosquitos proliferate — to the extent that locals refer to them as the “Greenlandic Air Force.”
Storm conditions at Thule can be extreme, and are divided into five categories: Normal, Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and Delta, with Delta being the most threatening. Under Delta storm conditions, personnel are required to shelter in place, and no travel is allowed at all, with the exception of emergency vehicles.
The NASA P-3B research aircraft is being prepared outside the hangar at Thule Air Base for a science mission across the Arctic Ocean to Alaska.
(NASA photo by Michael Studinger)
While there is limited internet and opportunities for outdoor activity during the summer months, there’s a lot Thule doesn’t have: A bank or ATM, paved roads or sidewalks, or a clothing store. It also doesn’t have a view of the Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights — it’s too far north.
As interviewer David Begnaud said, “The world is looking for some good news right now.”
This interview with 87-year-old Marine veteran Frank Eller who contracted COVID-19 on a cruise is it. Eller has emphysema, heart disease and all sorts of underlying medical conditions, but also the USMC in his blood.
Facebook photo/Frank Eller
Eller was feeling pretty rough a few days into a two week cruise when he finally went to the medical center on the third day of symptoms at his wife’s insistence. Barely able to breathe, Eller got a chest x-ray which revealed his lungs were filled with infection. The doctor started antibiotics and he was evacuated by the United States Coast Guard to a hospital in Puerto Rico, where he was finally administered a test for COVID-19.
Eller spent 25 years with the Marines and as you can see, is tough as nails with a great sense of humor and an awesome family.
87yo U.S. Marine survives #COVID19 after being evacuated from cruise ship & treated in Puerto Rico
Many of us have heard the expression, “Canary in a coal mine.” It refers to a time when miners would carry caged birds with them as they entered mine tunnels. If the miners encountered dangerous gases such as carbon monoxide, the gases would kill the canary before killing the miners, allowing them to escape safely. It turns out the military has a similar warning process in the event of a chemical attack, but instead of using canaries, they could use… you.
That’s right, Field Manual 3-11.4 “Unmasking Procedures Without the M256-Series Chemical Detector Kit” states: “If an M256-series kit is not available … the senior person should select one or two individuals. They take a deep breath, hold it, and break the seal for 15 seconds, keeping their eyes wide open.” The procedure is called, “Selective Unmasking,” which is surprisingly calming for what is actually happening.
Basically, if the $H%T hits the fan, you can be ordered by your command to take off your mask and take one for the team … just like a human canary. (Worth noting: the U.S. Air Force determined that this process is not within their acceptable range of risk. Not shocking.) Now, before you decide to run for your DD-214, know that we can’t find one recorded event of Selective Unmasking ever happening with deadly consequences. There have been false alarms, such as during the chemical threats from Saddam’s forces during the 2003 invasion, but everyone walked away safely, except for a few angry individuals.
While seemingly insane, Selective Unmasking is based on the same logic used to test poisonous plants in the wild, I.e., expose yourself to a limited dose for a short period of time and wait to see what happens. According to the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Defense handout from the Marine Corps The Basic School, senior leaders will use the following steps when ordering a Selective Unmasking:
Designate two-three Marines
Brief them on the procedures to be followed
Have them sit in a shaded area out of direct sunlight
Ensure they are unarmed ——(Wonder why?)
The selected Marines will:
Take a deep breath.
Keep their eyes open.
Break the seal of their masks for fifteen seconds.
Then reseal and clear their masks.
Wait for ten minutes.
Now, if you’re a gung-ho hard charger you can always volunteer to be a human canary. But, if you’re facing some real chemical threats such as Anthrax, Sarin or Mustard, you might want to think twice. Certain agents can cause blistering, choking or even seizures. To avoid the chance of being chosen, you will have to play some unit politics.
Here’s our advice on how to avoid Selective Unmasking:
1. Rank has its privileges.
Officers, NCOs and unit leaders are mostly vital to the mission and will most likely not get picked. That leaves junior enlisted or new arrivals to the unit. So take promotion seriously before you enter a chemical battlefield.
2. Don’t be a dirtbag (or the new guy).
Your CO and NCO’s know how much value you are bringing to the unit on a daily basis. Dirtbags can cause their chain of command endless hours of paperwork and new arrivals haven’t even had a chance to prove themselves. If you aren’t fitting into the team good luck and on that note.
In a chemical attack, get your MOPP gear on and keep your head down. That being said, fighting during a real chemical attack is going to suck so start racking up karma points now.
Selective Unmasking is by far a last resort in one of the worst situations on earth. All of this can be avoided with proper planning and pre combat checks so bottom line….bring your test kits!
Lt. Gen. Brian T. Kelly is the deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, the Pentagon, Arlington, Virginia. He serves as the senior Air Force officer responsible for comprehensive plans and policies covering all life cycles of military and civilian personnel management, which includes military and civilian end strength management, education and training, compensation, resource allocation and the worldwide U.S. Air Force services program.
During an interview with Airman Magazine, Kelly discussed his mission and the Air Force’s responsibilities of managing talent, identifying toxic leadership and the role of emotional intelligence in readiness and lethality.
Airman Magazine: As the AF/A1 (manpower and personnel), what are your priorities for 2020?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: There are lots of things going on, but there are three big priorities. Number one, it’s exciting times and we’ve got to help and make sure we have a successful stand up of the United States Space Force and our resource allocation team will have a big role to help and make sure we get that on track.
Number two for us, we’ve got to ensure that we continue to make sure the right number of the right types and the right skill sets of Airman exists in our Air Force. So, the size and shape of the force has to be what it needs to be in order for us to meet our requirements in the National Defense Strategy.
Number three for us is we want to continue to transform and work on our talent management system so we can make sure we’re attracting, recruiting, developing and retaining the Airmen we need to do what the country needs to do. So those will be our three big priorities for 2020
Airman Magazine: Can you talk about the Air Force’s philosophy on managing talent and why it’s important?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: First and foremost, we’ve got to recognize that we’ve got some incredible talent in the United States Air Force and in our Space Force that we are standing up as well. But, it’s an all-volunteer force and so the talent management system we have has to be able to recognize that we’ve got to have a system that is attractive for people to be in. It also has to be agile to meet our requirements as requirements and threats change. It’s got to know what’s going on with those requirements that are out there. The talent management system has to understand – what does the talent market look like? What does the market for talent in the United States look like? And if you have an all-volunteer force, how do you become an attractive employer? How do you make sure that you are an employer of choice? If people have a way to choose between going to work for Google or coming to work for the United States Air Force or United States Space Force? The talent management system has a role to play in that and so that’s what we’re trying to do.
The Ground-Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance System is responsible for tracking thousands of objects in space. The telescopes fall under the 21st Space Wing and is positioned at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. Here, 216 photos captured over a 90 minute period are layered over one another, making the star trails come to life.
Airman Magazine: Have there been any changes to your talent management philosophy, and what drove those changes?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: I’d say a talent management system always has to evolve as requirements change, as threats change, as the talent market pool of eligible people changes and as skill sets change. And then there’s technology. You know, when I first came into the Air Force in 1989, the technology then was not what it is in 2020, right? And so, whether it’s artificial intelligence, machine learning, all these different things have changed the way we look at our talent management system. It’s also changed how we communicate with our Airman and how we’re able to get information out and how we’re able to get feedback. All these things have led to and sort of influence the changes in the talent management system from when I first came in to where we are now.
I would say to you the system today is driving to be more agile than it was before. It was a one size fits all discussion before, but now it’s trying to be more agile and it’s certainly more collaborative. I hope the system is becoming more transparent so that all of our Airmen understand what’s going on and that they have a say in what happens to them in the talent management system and they have an insight to what happens.
Airman Magazine: What has changed throughout your career pertaining to talent management and your leadership development?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: We (Air Force leadership) always talk about situational leadership and being able to adjust your leadership styles and that has to continually happen. We’ve seen the advent of different leadership styles needed for the population of the all-volunteer force we have today and one of the key things I think we need to touch on is our leaders need to have the right balance of emotional intelligence to be successful. So, what does that mean? I would start by saying, emotional intelligence is first and foremost the skill set to know yourself, to understand your own behaviors and to control your own emotions so that you then can have good interpersonal relationships and be able to lead others. And that’s the important part for us and I think we’ve become more cognizant and we’re trying to understand and teach that in ways that will make our leaders more effective.
As we move into the modern discussions of the national defense strategy, we’re in wars of cognition and wars of thinking, wars of understanding and wars of information and so we have to be able to develop and lead our skills in that same direction.
Capt. Taiwan Veney, cyber warfare operations officer, watches members of the 175th Cyberspace Operations Group, from left, Capt. Adelia McClain, Staff Sgt. Wendell Myler, Senior Airman Paul Pearson and Staff Sgt. Thacious Freeman, analyze log files and provide a cyber threat update utilizing a Kibana visualization on the large data wall in the Hunter’s Den at Warfield Air National Guard Base, Middle River, Md., June 3, 2017.
Airman Magazine: You’ve previously said “We must be responsive to the Air Force’s needs, must be agile with our talent, focused on rewarding Airmen on performance and be transparent on how the system works.” What’s the plan to meet those attributes for a talent management system?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: I think those four attributes are where we’re trying to drive and trying to make sure our talent management system is so let me cover those a little bit and I’ll tell you how our strategy fits against that.
So, first and foremost the talent management system has to deliver and has to be responsive to the requirements of the organization. I mentioned for 2020 one of our priorities is to have the right size and shape of the force and that’s what it’s about, whatever the Air Force requires us to be, whatever the Space Force will require, the talent management system has to be responsive and it has to be agile for responding to new technologies, new threats, but it’s also going to be agile for individual Airman.
We are a military organization, but we have to understand agility and we want performance to shine. We want people’s performance to be the deciding factor in our meritocracy, if you will, for when we decide who gets promoted, who gets what key jobs.
Those Airmen who distinguish themselves by performance, that performance needs to be driven forward and incentivized and rewarded.
Lastly, I think it’s important to make sure with the communication within our force that we are transparent, open in what we do and simple.
All the things that we’ve been doing on the officer side, enlisted side and civilian side are sort of wrapped around those areas.
I’ll give you some examples, on our enlisted side, we made a change in our senior noncommissioned officer’s promotion selection process where we no longer use testing as part of that process. We did that to drive and empower performance, where performance becomes the driving factor for us being able to select our senior noncommissioned officers and it’s no longer test taking or some other skill set that might have been augmenting that decision. Now, it’s performance based.
On the officer side, we recently went to new developmental categories for our line of the Air Force system, the same system that we had in place since 1947 and we made some changes. Those changes were to help us with development to become more agile, to drive our agility and drive our responsiveness.
We had to recognize not all officers need to develop in the same way. The way that we develop and the opportunities we have for our pilots are different than what we have for our space operators, were different than what we have for our cyber operators, our support personnel, like my career field and so we had to develop the agility if you will, to be able to develop in different ways so that we can maximize everybody’s potential, while at the same time driving ourselves to be more responsive to requirements.
We can help ourselves develop the right size, the right shape and the right skill sets we need to meet the requirements for the Air Force. So, all the things we’ve been doing are all really designed around those four attributes to build the talent management system that we need.
Airman Magazine: How does the AF identify leadership potential?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: There are lots of ways to identify potential throughout someone’s career to recognize different traits and characteristics. I think there’s testing factors. I think there’s observation factors. Certainly, there’s evaluation factors at some point in time you are observed in different time phases, different jobs. You look at how did they do? How did they respond? We try to identify those people who have the skill sets to be leaders.
One of the important things we’re working on is, can we get better in identifying who’s going to be a good leader? Is it just the born characteristic or can you actually teach it and develop it and go forward? We (Air Force) say you can teach leadership, develop it and be better at it. So, we’re working on how to identify it more accurately early. It’s not just to screen people out, because I think people often think you’re trying to identify who’s not a good leader, so that you can screen them out. There’s part of that, but it’s even more important to identify where people have some shortcomings in their leadership capabilities so that we can help them and give them an opportunity to develop into the leaders we need, because we need a lot of leaders in our Air Force.
Airman Magazine: Revolutionary changes to how officers are developed and selected for promotion have been made, like the creation of developmental categories and transitioning from Below the Zone to merit-based timing for promotions. How will this help with officer development and getting the right people in key leadership positions?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: Sometimes the Air Force had the tendency in the past to rush some of our folks through key developmental opportunities and not fully immerse them and give them a chance to learn all the competencies and all the experiences they needed. At the same time, when we did that, we added the below the zone piece that gave us a chance to incentivize performance. What we’ve transformed that to now is with merit-based promotion, I can still incentivize performance, I can give people a chance to let their performance shine and let their performance advance them among their peers, but at the same time, I make sure I balance that with the developmental time that’s needed to truly get the skill sets that we’re going to require.
Airman Magazine: Can enlisted personnel expect similar changes to their promotion system in the near future?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: We made some adjustments and changes to our enlisted system, even prior to the work and transformation that we’re doing the officer system. I think you’ll see similar things. When we talk about, what do we value as an Air Force and how we’re going to evaluate you, for the officer corps, we talk about now four things. We talk about how do you execute your mission? Whatever mission you are assigned to do. How do you lead people? Whether that’s an informal way where you’re actually a supervisor or a squadron commander or even informal as part of a squadron or group. How do you manage the resources you’ve been put in charge of? Whether they be dollars and equipment or even Airmen’s time? You know Airmen’s time is a resource. And then how do you improve whatever unit you’ve been put in charge of? Those four factors are probably pretty familiar to a lot of people. Those are the same four factors we use to evaluate units, that’s the unit effectiveness inspection, the UEI that our inspector general uses to evaluate. So we said, look, let’s line those up. Let’s have those four factors be the same way we evaluate performance in our officers. I think we’re going to see the enlisted system transition towards those same four factors. Let’s evaluate our airmen as a whole on those four factors. How do I execute my mission? How do I lead people? How do I manage resources? And what did I do to improve whatever unit I’m assigned to? So, I think you’ll see commonalities. I think they’ll also be some differences. It won’t be exactly the same system because we look for different things from our officer enlisted corps. I don’t think we want them to be exactly the same to accomplish the things that we need, but there’s going to be a lot of overlap and I think there is already a lot of overlap and you’ll see some more.
Air Force Basic Military Training trainees work to complete an obstacle during the Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training, a weeklong training simulation at Air Force Basic Military Training (AFBMT). The BEAST is where trainees get to put everything they’ve learned about combat skills into practice in a simulated environment.
Airman Magazine: Toxic has been this year’s buzzword. Do you think the Air Force has a toxic leader problem or is it something different that can be fixed?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: I agree with you toxic gets used a lot and I’m not always sure everybody has a framework of what toxic leadership means, because the term gets used in a lot of different ways. Sometimes it’s really appropriate and other times I’m left wondering if people understand what they refer to as toxic.
The Air Force is working on developing a definition of toxic leadership, so we can all understand.
I would say in a working definition right now on toxic leadership for us is a series of adverse behaviors that have an adverse impact on the unit or individuals. So, it’s not a one time series of negative behaviors, but it’s a continuous series of negative behaviors, that an individual would manifest that has a negative impact on a unit or on individuals, that’s toxic leadership for us.
I think that exists in our force from time to time, and it’s sometimes it’s a result of individuals who don’t have all the leadership tool sets that they need to handle the situations that they’ve been put in.
We are working to identify early what people’s shortcomings might be and give them an insight to that. It’s not to not allow them to become commanders, although that will be part of the discussion, but if we identify them in the right ways, can we give people the ways to develop and overcome those shortcomings?
There’s a fantastic course down at the Air University called the Leadership Development Course or LDC, the course sprung out of Gen. Goldfein’s work in revitalizing squadrons. They’re working to teach emotional intelligence and to teach understanding of interpersonal relationships and understanding how to lead in a positive way and inspiring way without having to revert to any of those adverse behaviors that might be characterized or seen as toxic.
I’m excited about that work. I wish that was available when I was going to go be a squadron commander. I learned a lot of things from watching other people. And luckily, I had some really good role models, but I would have loved to have some of that training and insight, so I could have known more about myself to help myself and to lead my organization in a better way.
Airman Magazine: Can you explain how changes in the talent management system might combat toxic leadership? Do you believe these changes will benefit all officers, regardless of when they peak in their careers?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: It starts with developing people the right way. The talent management system is going to identify short shortcomings in and where you’re missing a skill set, and hopefully give people a chance to correct course going forward. If I’m evaluating you on how you execute the mission, how you lead people and I’m grading that in the in the environment that we’re talking about it will help combat toxic leadership traits.
We’re driving the talent management system to reward the right behaviors in terms of leading people so that those people who are leading people in an inspirational way, in a positive way, are going to be the right people that we reward and move forward.
As a military organization we have some tough things to do. We’re going to ask people to go in harm’s way and put themselves in harm’s way from time to time. Positive leadership doesn’t mean it’s easy; it’s demanding. There are high standards and there needs to be high standards. We need to be a high standard, high performing organization, but we can do it in a positive way so that the leadership we get out is inspiring and caring leadership and that’s what we’re looking for.
Airman Magazine: What is your definition of emotional intelligence and what role does it play in the development of our leaders and what role has it had in your career?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: I think emotional intelligence is the ability first and foremost, to know yourself, your emotions and to control your emotions. So that you can use that understanding to have better interpersonal relationships and have a better understanding of others and your interaction with others.
When I first came into the Air Force, I don’t think I ever heard this terminology. I think it was there, we just didn’t know what it was. We used to talk about your ability to communicate effectively speaking, writing, leading, different things that we would focus on as leadership attributes. The idea of being able to understand yourself and understand others was always there. I just don’t know that we were as sophisticated and understood exactly what it meant. Labeling it as emotional intelligence and consciously understanding how to train it and how to get better at it and that’s where we’re going now, which is really exciting.
We have this great strength in our Air Force. We have people from all kinds of diverse backgrounds and ways of thinking. It’s difficult for you to lead diverse groups of people to be a high performing organization if you can’t understand and recognize where people are coming from or understanding yourself.
Air Force Basic Military Training trainees walk across a completed obstacle of bridge making during the Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training, a weeklong training simulation at Air Force Basic Military Training (AFBMT). The BEAST is where trainees get to put everything they’ve learned about combat skills into practice in a simulated deployed environment.
Airman Magazine: Air University is developing an augmented reality exercise helping young officers shape their ability to interact effectively in social situations and to recognize and manage their emotions. How could programs like this have helped you in your career?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: I would have loved to have some of those programs and the idea of what they’re doing right now at the leadership development course at our air university is fantastic, because it’s a free training gym without any worries or any risk of failure.
You can train in a virtual training gym in what most of us learned from our actual experiences, whether it was purposeful or just un-purposeful trial and error. If I did something it didn’t work very well, if it didn’t feel so good, I learned and tried to do better. I modeled myself around the people I was lucky enough to observe and gain mentorship from. Now to have a place for us to try things, to fail and learn and learn about yourself in the process so that you have a much better opportunity to apply that in your interactions in a leadership role. Knowing what already works and doesn’t work for you, that’s a really powerful concept.
Airman Magazine: The Chief of Staff talks about the power of Failing Forward, not just with programs and ideas, but also with individuals. Can recall a specific time when you failed or took a calculated risk and failed which ultimately propelled you forward, either personally or in a specific mission?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: First, I failed a bunch of times. It wasn’t just once I failed, I failed quite often and I make mistakes a lot. I think all of us do. First and foremost, I think as an Airmen and leaders, we all have to recognize and understand that.
I can recall when I was a captain and I had a program I was in charge of, I was sort of a section chief of a program. And I had I had a three-star general stand in front of me, asking me questions. I was really excited about my program and I was really proud and convinced that everything I was saying was true. In the middle of me explaining, the general kept asking me questions and I felt like I could never get my answer out. So, I think I said, “Sir, if you’d let me finish, I’ll be able to tell you,” to which he turned and looked at me and said, “You don’t understand the questions I’m asking. You need to listen before you respond.” I felt like a big failure. It was a dressing down in front of everybody, but he was right. I was so sure that I knew what I was doing that I wasn’t listening. I was already thinking about my answer before he finished his questions.
It hurt for a couple of weeks, I had a little sore spot in my brain and my soul. But, you know, it made me understand that I needed to listen better and to know that I wasn’t going to be the only one with good ideas. It served me well as I went forward. I was lucky that particular general took it well and didn’t use it as a permanent failure experience for me.
Airman Magazine: What did that experience teach you or influence how guided other Airmen through failures?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: It made me double down on the idea that failure is not the end. You can recover from failure and that failure is probably a good thing periodically. If we never fail, we probably don’t push the envelope far enough forward to be better than what we can be.
That certainly influenced me to say, look, others around you are going to fail, how you respond to their failures and what you do with their failures is going to help shape them. So, I make sure they get the same opportunities I had to learn and grow. That’s really what became important for me out of that situation.
There’s been other times when I failed and that’s okay. I know we pushed the envelope and we got to where we needed to be and it didn’t quite work out, but we enjoyed the experience. It wasn’t very enjoyable for me when I had that first experience, but there have been other cases since then.
Airman Magazine: We have an intelligent force of high achievers who are afraid to fail and tend to try and solve problems on their own and believe failure can be a career killer. How do we move to a fail forward culture? Are the days of the one mistake Air Force behind us?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: I challenge that assertion. I don’t think we have a force of people who are afraid to fail or are risk averse. We are really blessed to have great talented Americans volunteer to come serve in our United States Air Force and in our Space Force. When we get them and they have that enthusiasm and they’re being innovative and they’re going forward and they’re failing, how we react to their failure will tell us whether they’re going to be risk averse or not.
If little mistakes are treated the same way as crimes or large mistakes, then I think you’re going to get a risk averse force. Periodically, we’ve probably had ourselves there. I don’t think we’re one mistake Air Force, I think we’re pretty mature in understanding that. But at the same token, I think we’re a force that says you have to learn from the mistakes you’ve made. Repeated failures or repeated mistakes for the same things isn’t something we can have. Because eventually, those repeated mistakes are going to translate to actual combat and an actual battlefield.
Airman Magazine: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: It’s an exciting time for the Air Force. This idea that we have to make the force as a whole raise our acumen if you will, on what does it mean to be an Airman? What does it mean to be in the United States Air Force or United States Space Force? How do we build better leaders? How do we build a more lethal force for what is going to be required in the future? It’s an exciting time for us. I believe there’s lots of good thinking going on, there’s some great innovation and it’s a time to make a difference, so I’m excited to be part of it.
The announcement of the Space Force has plenty of us waiting for the day that the first recruitment office opens up. After all, who wouldn’t want to go into space?
Sure, the Space Force isn’t going to be doing a bunch of sci-fi bad*ssery for a long while yet. In fact, the Space Force is likely going to spend more time monitoring satellites than training space shuttle door gunners, but let’s pretend that the day will eventually come where we need to send grunts into the great, dark beyond…
I hate to say it, but it’s still going to suck — and for some unexpected reasons, most of which stem from being outside of the Earth’s atmosphere.
I’m highly confident that it’d be a terrible idea.
(20th Century Fox)
5. You’re going to have to ration everything
When it comes to the essentials, resupplies are going to be limited. When it comes to the extras, you know, the little things that make life comfortable? Ha! Good luck getting mom to ship those out to you. If you want something, you’re going to have to bring it yourself and make it last.
Right off the bat, you’re going to have to go without most of the junk that everyone takes for granted. Chances are extremely slim that you’ll be able to convince the next wave of spacemen (in lieu of an official demonym, let’s assume they’ll be called ‘spacemen,’ like ‘airmen’) to take up valuable cargo space just to bring you a bag of chips.
The Earth is pretty and all, but you can only stare down at the Big Blue Marble so many times…
4. You won’t have many pastime options
Astronauts have a very strict schedule they need to follow or else they’ll be too weak to survive their eventual return. The average astronaut needs to exercise at least two hours a day to just to prevent bone and muscle loss. Since most troops tend to need more exercise to stay at peak performance, this figure will more than likely double.
Combine all that self-maintenance with an actual mission and troops are going to find themselves with barely any time to take a break.
Just imagine, you could pay off your Ford Mustang by the time you get out of atmosphere.
3. You probably won’t get any extra incentives for being in space
Colonel Buzz Aldrin was one of the finest airmen to ever grace the Air Force. He made history alongside Neil Armstrong by being the first men to ever step foot on the moon. Since he was on active duty, he submitted a travel voucher. For his 483,636-mile journey, he got a whole .31.
Once upon a time, you’d get a load of cash at the end of a TDY trip, but that per-mile rate is probably going to be non-existent when you’re travelling 4.76 miles per second.
It’s like being in a slightly less comfortable Humvee for weeks. Only slightly, though.
(NASA photo by Bill Bowers)
2. You shouldn’t expect any kind of personal space in space
Once you’re on a space ship, that’s it. You obviously can’t leave the ship, so get comfortable, because you’re going to be packed in with your unit. If you’re claustrophobic, you’re probably going to go nuts.
This isn’t unlike what some submariners deal with, but subs surface every once in a while — and there’s a difference of magnitude here. The Apollo 11 capsule was roughly the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. Granted, the crew was in there for only eleven days and modern astronauts have a bit more leg room, but if you’re up there for months at a time…
“Well, guys. I’m out. Have fun in space!”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Volkmar Wentzel)
1. After a while, your body won’t function like you’re used to
There’s no real order to the fairly terrible things listed here, but this one definitely takes the top spot. To put this in the most delicate way possible to stay in line with the family-friendly vibe we strive for here at We Are The Mighty, it has to be noted that astronauts run into health concerns after spending extended periods of space time. First, you’ll find your red blood cell count has dipped. Zero-gravity also makes the circulation of blood more evenly spread throughout the body, as opposed to it being able to concentrate in the lower extremities, like it does in regular gravity.
Within the confines of U.S. Air Force ranges there are things that exist nowhere else in the world.
Vast expanses of natural habitat containing unique plants and animals, archaeological sites and artifacts of Paleolithic Native Americans and cultures past, are contained in these, sometimes misunderstood, restricted spaces.
In fact, U.S. Air Force ranges support conservation efforts which strive to expand beyond man-made borders to increase numbers of threatened and endangered species to a healthy and sustainable population.
“I think the public has the perception that the training range is a bombing range in that we obliterate the entire range but that is a very large misconception,” said Anna Johnson, Nellis Air Force Base Natural Resource manager. “The target areas are a very small portion of the range and those target areas have remained the same for decades … going into the future the target areas are not supposed to change at all.”
These ranges, which are utilized for a wide variety of military training and or testing, try to strike a balance between responsible land stewardship and mission accomplishment.
A very small area of the range is used for missions and targets while the surrounding area is left virtually untouched.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Perry Aston)
According to Johnson, ranges require a lot of land area because of the distance and speed at which aircraft travel and for safety buffer zones during weapons employment.
Roads, targets and infrastructure account for less than 10 percent of the Nellis Test and Training Range landscape and the rest of the 2.9 million acres has been undeveloped and untouched. In fact, the only litter of note found on the range, according to Johnson, comes in the form of mylar balloons which travel extremely long distances.
The same can be said for ranges across the U.S. including Avon Park Air Force Range, which covers 106,000 acres, in Central Florida.
“Plain and simple, if we as the Air Force don’t take care of this property we’re going to lose the ability to use it,” said Mr. Buck MacLaughlin, APAFR range manager. “This is natural real estate and this is land we have been entrusted with to be able to do our training.”
That trust is granted by the American people and backed by U.S. federal regulations.
“The stewardship of the land is a responsibility that falls upon the Department of Defense and by proxy the Air Force, through the Sikes Act, where essentially we are mandated to partner with conservation organizations,” said Col. Chris Zuhkle, NTTR commander.
“In this case [with the NTTR] it’s the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Nevada Department of Wildlife that make sure that we meet not only our mission needs but also that we do everything in our power to meet the conservation requirements and sustainment for those lands.”
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over 300 federally listed species live on Defense Department land. Range environmental management offices must always be mindful they’re falling within the guidelines of the endangered species act to keep the best interest of the mission and environment on their radar. Avon Park has 12 endangered species, which are spread throughout the entire range area. The large habitat poses some unique challenges when it comes to mission planning.
‘I hear people call this place, the last bit of wild Florida or real Florida. You know, it’s pretty cool’ said Aline Morrow, a Fish Wildlife Biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, assigned to Avon Park Air Force Range, Florida.
(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Tech. Sgt. Perry Aston)
“If we are putting undue impact on these threatened and endangered species, and really not even just the threatened and endangered ones, all the natural species in Central Florida that make this range their home, if we’re not balancing the requirements between taking care of those species and doing the military mission the military mission is going to get curtailed,” said MacLaughlin.
“That costs money in terms of fuel, it costs money in terms of manpower and more importantly the units that need this training, those men and women who are going to go in harm’s way, they don’t get the ability to practice their craft if we’re not doing that other part.
According to Brent Bonner, APAFR environmental flight chief, the wildlife management piece takes a lot of moving parts to ensure mission accomplishment.
As part of the Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan species are constantly monitored so range operations knows their location and status, especially during critical times, such as nesting season for endangered birds, to help protect future generations of these rare creatures.
Aline Morrow, a USFWS biologist who works closely with the environmental flight, helps survey and track animals, such as the Florida Bonneted Bat, which some consider to be the most endangered bat in North America. She says the first natural roost of the bat was found on an impact area of Avon Park in 2014.
Once a roost is found, it’s marked and mission planners know to buffer a certain area around the roost so as not to disturb the bats.
“It’s just 110 percent support from everybody who’s out here,” exclaimed Morrow. “They’re [the Air Force] always asking us, ‘what are you doing?’ and they get just as excited as we do when, for example, just a couple weeks ago, we had a sighting of a Florida Panther and the commander sent an email out with the pictures to everybody. Now everyone has the picture as their background on their laptop … I never felt like someone from the Air Force sees us as a regulator, they see us as a partner. We’re there to help you guys [the Air Force] see your mission as much as ours.”
While most of the efforts focus on managing the landscapes inhabited by wildlife to ensure they are able to thrive, it’s just a piece of the bigger picture.
Tabatha Romero, BLM Wild Horse and Burro specialist, knows first-hand how important management practices are.
She says people have an idealized version of how these horses are and the animals should just be left alone, but they don’t see the harm caused when the horses are overpopulated and they overgraze or run out of water and mothers have foals that can’t nurse because they can’t produce milk.
“With the NTTR it goes to show how sound our management practices can be,” said Romero. “When we are allowed to use the tools available to us and conduct comprehensive environmental management programs we have healthy horses on healthy ranges and that’s the ultimate goal of our program.”
Sound management practices are essential to ensuring the mission is accomplished, but with ranges providing pristine landscapes and safe havens for several endangered species it can sometimes become the only place these plants and animals live. In order to protect these species, and more effectively accomplish training, ranges have started looking at growing conservation efforts outside their physical boundaries.
Range borders protect against development leaving a majority of the range land as a safety buffer zone and therefore untouched. This pristine habitat (right) sometimes ends where the range fences end leaving the outside land (left) open for development or public usage.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Perry Aston)
According to MacLaughlin, it all started with the Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program. This program works with willing landowners that border ranges, and partners with conservation organizations such as the Nature Conservancy, using federal money to purchase conservation easements.
“This is a real estate negotiation with a landowner that comes to the table and says ‘I want to protect my property’,” stressed MacLaughlin.
The REPI program presented potential for conservation efforts and education to expand in a big way, but sometimes there were unforeseen issues.
Agencies such as the Department of Interior or Department of Agriculture may be trying to accomplish the same thing on the same lands but due to existing laws, where federal money could not be used from one account to the other, the efforts may be halted.
This is where the Sentinel Landscape Program, which APAFR was declared an official Sentinel Landscape in 2016, came in that allowed multiple agencies to leverage each other’s programs and focus on combined efforts.
“It’s a direct sustainment of the mission,” said Bonner. “As we increase the species on our property and they’re decreased off property they become more valuable to the public … we want to make sure we don’t get in a situation where we are the only people with Red Cockaded Woodpeckers – that will impact our mission. So, we want to go outside the fence on those conservation efforts, protecting those species.”
The Red-Cockaded Woodpecker is an endangered species thriving on the Avon Park Air Force Range. About the size of a cardinal, the RCW calls the longleaf pines located on the range home. Marked and protected by the range mangers. The goal of the range is to expand the RCW habitat off the range and increase the population.
(U.S. Air Force courtesy Photo)
While the natural resource management team is focused on current issues, facing threatened and endangered species, they are also looking at preserving the past. Many Air Force ranges are homes to thousands of years of cultural history which could potentially be lost forever if it weren’t housed in the safety of the range’s fences.
When a base or range requires building a new structure or beginning a new mission, it’s much more complicated than just planning for operations and making it happen.
Surveys and studies are done to ensure the space isn’t on ground that contains a culturally significant site, meaning it contains vital information such as relevant tools, or qualifying traces of history, that are eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.
A map of the cultural dig sites on the Nevada Test and Training Range.
(Nellis Cultural Resource Office)
According to Kathy Couturier, APAFR cultural resource manager, she helps determine the Area of Potential Effect for a particular site and what the mission impacts will be on the site.
She then provides guidance or alternative solutions to operating around those sites and runs the plans up to the State Historic Preservation Office for review and approval. This process ensures that time, money, and resources are utilized in the best way possible to effectively accomplish the mission while still ensuring eligible sites remain protected.
Federal laws, regulations, and procedures, such as determining the APE, have been put in place to ensure these sites are preserved and treated with respect so as to not repeat the mistakes of the past when significant cultural resources were destroyed as highways and cities were built on top of potentially significant cultural sites.
Environmental teams across the nation’s ranges such as the NTTR, which has sites dating back 10,000 years and works closely with 17 Native American tribes, try to ensure that cultural ownership of the land is not lost.
“These tribes are very intact in their language, they still speak it fluently, they teach it in their schools to their children,” says Kish LaPierre, NAFB cultural resource manager. “They have amazing oral history so we work very closely with them and they give us information to help us protect the prehistoric and ethno historic sites.”
LaPierre says the conditions around the NTTR are perfect for the preservation of artifacts. There are several sites where, often times, there are baskets sitting still full of seeds and tools laying around as if the inhabitants just left and were planning to come back but they didn’t.
While cultural sites on public lands are sometimes vandalized (left), sites on ranges remain pristine (right) due to limited access.
(Bureau of Land Management) (Nellis Cultural Resource Office)
“We have almost 3 million acres of land and it is virtually untouched,” said LaPierre. “The NTTR has been blocked off from the public since 1940 so it’s a huge prehistoric time capsule – it’s like a living museum.”
Understanding and mitigating the impact of how land use can have long lasting and far-reaching effects is on the forefront of the Air Force’s environmental programs.
Range teams across the country take great care when executing their mission to make sure they are not only following federal laws but also taking a vested interest in the lands they have been granted the ability to use so the past and present are preserved for future generations.
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
We’ve all seen the famous painting, Spirit of ’76. In it, a young Revolutionary War drummer boy is marching alongside two other musicians. The boy is in his Continental Army uniform, looking up to an older drummer who is not in uniform. Another uniformed musician is wounded, but marching and playing the fife.
(Painting by Archibald Willard)
Today, Civil War veteran Archibald Willard’s 1875 painting still evokes patriotism in many Americans. It was, after all, painted on the eve of the United States’ centennial. Willard was the grandson of one of the Green Mountain Boys who, led by legendary patriot Ethan Allen, invaded Canada and captured Fort Ticonderoga during the Revolution. But there are a few errors in the painting: The scene it depicts never happened, the flag in the background wasn’t approved by Congress until much later, and the musicians are not wearing the right uniforms.
None of that really matters, it’s still a painting that resonates with Americans 100 years later. However, questions remain. What did the musicians wear in the Revolution? And why was it a different uniform from their fellow colonials?
In those days, musicians in an army existed to expedite communications on the battlefield. Music was loud enough to be heard over the din of combat and varied enough so that American troops would be able to respond to orders given from battlefield commanders without confusing them for other orders. They could even tell the enemy that the rival commanders wanted a parley. Incredibly (and accurately depicted in the painting), these communications were done by old men and boys who were either too old or too young to fight.
Boys that were younger than age 16 and men older than age 50 were enlisted as musicians. At the time, the average life expectancy for an American colonist was around 36 years, so a man older than 50 was both honored for his longevity and hard to find. Finding them on a dirty, smokey battlefield was just as difficult, so the uniforms they wore needed to be slightly more visible. There was also an economic component involved with the decision.
The regular Continental soldier wore a blue coat with red cuffs. Musicians, on the other hand, wore a red coat with blue cuffs. The red made them stand out on a battlefield where visibility was limited. It also made them stand out to the enemy, so if they were discovered, it was immediately clear that the small figure ahead was a musician — unarmed and not a threat (drummers were considered noncombatants). As an added bonus, the inverted uniforms were made from leftover materials in creating soldiers’ garb.
By the time Ohioan Archibald Willard was serving in the Civil War, musicians were wearing the same uniforms as their armed, regular battle buddies. Their purpose on the battlefields and in camp were the same — and Civil War armies still, by and large, used young boys (some as young as age 9) as drummers and buglers, but many also included full bands, with as many as 68 members in some units.
As battlefield communication methods improved, drums soon gave way to the bugle and, eventually, musicians disappeared from the battlefield altogether. Their role has since been replaced by radio and satellite communications, but for the time that musicians served in their battlefield communications role, the boys and men that filled those ranks were some of the bravest who ever marched with an army.
For many people, music is a form of therapy. A song can help you get through tough times, great times, or just get you through the day. So we’ve put together the ultimate list of music playlists that are perfect for those in the military. Whether you’re child just left for basic training, your spouse deployed, or you’re just looking for some great patriotic music – here are some of the perfect military song playlists.
In Honor of Our Fallen Protectors – Memorial Day Tribute
Memorial Day is often times misinterpreted as a celebratory holiday, but for many it’s a very solemn day filled with heavy hearts. While Memorial Day marks the unofficial to summer and a season of fun, this is a great military song playlist to remind us all the importance of Memorial Day and those that made the ultimate sacrifice.
Country Music 101: The Military
If you love country music and you love the USA, then both of these playlists are for you. Both playlists feature a mix of oldies and new songs that are sure to bring out the red, white, and blue in you.
4th of July Party
Summer is practically here which means outdoor bbqs, late night bonfires, and enjoying the outdoors. This playlist is perfect for a laid back relaxed day in the sun with a mix all of different genres from pop, country, alternative, and rock.
Looking for the perfect playlist to hit the gym with? Whether you’re preparing for military basic training or looking to keep up your physical fitness this playlist is sure to get you in the mindset for ultimate strength building. This playlist features rock and alternative music.
Letters From Home
Writing letters to someone at basic training? This military song playlist will give you all the feels as you write letters to your recruit.
Basic Training Graduation
Graduation ceremonies might be canceled, but that doesn’t mean you have to pass on celebrating your new service member’s accomplishment. This playlist is the perfect mix of songs to get you in the celebration mood.
Looking for more playlists? Spotify is a great place to browse.
A Russian-American crew of three has arrived at the International Space Station (ISS), marking success in the second attempt to reach the craft after an aborted launch in October 2018.
The Russian Soyuz rocket carrying U.S. astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch along with Russian cosmonaut Aleksei Ovchinin arrived at 0101 GMT/UTC on March 15, 2019, a few minutes ahead of schedule after a six-hour flight.
The craft lifted off without incident from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 14, 2019.
The Soyuz MS-12 flight reached a designated orbit some nine minutes after the launch, and the crew reported they were feeling fine and all systems on board were operating normally.
NASA astronauts Nick Hague (left) and Christina Hammock Koch (right) and Alexey Ovchinin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos (center).
On Oct. 11, 2018, a Soyuz spacecraft that Hague and Ovchinin were riding in failed two minutes into its flight, activating a rescue system that allowed their capsule to land safely.
That accident was the Russian space program’s first aborted crew launch since 1983, when two Soviet cosmonauts safely jettisoned after a launch-pad explosion.
The trio were joining American Anne McClain, Russian Oleg Kononenko, and Canadian David Saint-Jacques, who are currently on board the ISS. They will conduct work on hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science, and Earth science.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new transnational organized-crime task force on Oct. 15, 2018, furthering a crackdown on crime that he said has been a Trump administration priority since Day 1.
“The same day I was sworn in as attorney general, President Trump ordered me to disrupt and dismantle these groups,” Sessions said in remarks delivered in Washington, DC.
The Justice Department, following Trump’s lead, has intensified its efforts against the transnational gang MS-13, which started in the US and is now based in Central America. Sessions designated the group a priority for the department’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, which he said had been able to hit it “from all angles.”
Sessions directed that task force, as well as Justice Department officials, the FBI, and the Drug Enforcement Administration to name the top transnational criminal groups threatening the US. Subcommittees within the new task force will focus on the five groups named by those officials.
“I have ordered each of these subcommittees to provide me with specific recommendations within 90 days on the best ways to prosecute these groups and ultimately take them off of our streets,” Sessions said.
Below, you can see the five groups on which the Justice Department’s new task force will focus.
The gang started among migrants from Central America, El Salvador in particular, who fled civil wars in the 1970s and 1980s. Many of them ended up in Southern California, where, without family networks or other connections, they gravitated toward gangs.
Deportations returned many members to their home countries in the 1990s and 2000s, where the gang blossomed in the post-conflict environment.
The gang’s influence has since spread throughout the region, including to the US, where it often carries out extortion, robberies, and other crimes in areas with large migrant communities, like the Washington, DC, suburbs or Suffolk County on Long Island.
Though MS-13 members have committed particularly heinous crimes, experts have said the Trump administration misunderstands the reach and power the gang.
“Our research found that MS-13 is hardly a lucrative network of criminal masterminds,” Steven Dudley, a senior fellow at the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies at American University, wrote in early 2018. “Instead, it is a loose coalition of young, often formerly incarcerated men operating hand to mouth across a vast geographic territory.”
The Jalisco New Generation cartel, or CJNG
The Mexican organized-crime group CJNG is the youngest group on the list compiled by the Justice Department. It is believed to have sprung from one faction of the Sinaloa cartel, which is also on the list, around 2010.
Based in the southwest state of Jalisco, the CJNG has grown rapidly since then, expanding throughout the country. It often violently forces out competitors and has corrupted numerous law-enforcement officials.
It has focused on synthetic drugs like crystal meth, and it has helped push up homicide rates along Mexico’s Pacific coast, fighting for control of ports needed to bring in precursor chemicals needed to make those drugs. The CJNG has expanded into other criminal enterprises; in some parts of Mexico it is believed to be fighting for a piece of the lucrative oil-theft trade.
Perhaps the group’s most high-profile crime was shooting down a Mexican army helicopter over Jalisco in May 2015. The shoot-down killed six soldiers, who were among 15 people killed in wave of violence in the state that day. (Mexican authorities said in 2018 they caught the suspects responsible for bringing down the helicopter.)
In the years since, the CJNG and its leader, Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, aka “El Mencho,” have become high-profile targets. The capture of a number of CJNG financial operators, including the wife of “El Mencho,” in recent years likely indicates Mexican authorities are trying to go after the gang’s money. (Though the wife was released on bail in September 2018.)
The group also appears to be facing competition at home. A group called the Nueva Plaza cartel, believed to be led by a one-time confidant of Oseguera, is thought to be challenging it on its home turf in Guadalajara, with backing from groups like the Sinaloa cartel.
Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is escorted by soldiers in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, as he is extradited to New York, January 19, 2017.
(Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office)
The Sinaloa cartel
Over the past two decades, the Sinaloa cartel has risen to the top of Mexico’s narco hierarchy, operating throughout the country and around the world, linking coca fields in South America and drug labs in Mexico to consumers in the US, Europe, and parts of Asia.
Formed in the western state of the same name, the Sinaloa cartel emerged in the 1990s, after the breakup of the powerful Guadalajara cartel. Led by cartel chief Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the Sinaloa cartel muscled rivals out of valuable territories, including cities bordering the US.
In the process, the cartel helped stoke dizzying bloodshed in Mexico, making its cities some of the most violent in the world.
The cartel’s outlook has been cloudy since Guzman’s January 2016 arrest, which came about six months after he broke out of jail for the second time. Rumors of a looming third breakout appeared to be snuffed out in January 2017, when Mexican officials whisked him to New York and turned him over to the US.
Since then, the Sinaloa cartel appeared ready to crack up. Guzman’s sons and presumed heirs to the cartel were kidnapped by rivals in late 2016, and in early 2017 they were challenged by Guzman’s former right-hand man and his son.
But Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, a shadowy cartel chieftain who helped form the group with Guzman and is backing Guzman’s sons, appears to have reestablished some of the cartel’s “cohesion” and avoided a major fracture.
The Sinaloa cartel is better understood as an alliance of factions rather than a hierarchical cartel — a organizational structure that is believed to give it some resiliency in the face of law-enforcement pressure.
The Gulf clan, or the Gulf cartel, was long one of Mexico’s most powerful criminal groups moving cocaine from South America to the US and meting out shocking violence along the way.
Gulf cartel’s formation can be traced to the mid-1980s in northeast Mexico, where criminal elements and officialdom have long intertwined. Around that time, it began cutting deals with Colombian traffickers and soon vaulted from a relatively small-time marijuana and heroin business to a billion-dollar cocaine smuggling operation.
The cartel also corrupted government officials, federal and local police forces, and attorneys general. In the late 1990s, it also began developing a military wing, recruiting former Mexican special-forces soldiers to help form a group of enforcers known as the Zetas.
The Gulf cartel and the Zetas began to split in the late 2000s, sparking inter- and intra-cartel fighting that still makes northeast Mexico one of the country’s most violent regions.
In recent years, the Gulf cartel has “lost strength and has experienced rapid turnover in leadership,” the DEA said in its 2017 National Drug Threat Assessment. But the group remains influential in northeast Mexico, moving drugs into South Texas and controlling distribution hubs in US cities like Houston and Atlanta.
Hezbollah posters in the aftermath of the 2006 Lebanon War.
Hezbollah, or the “Party of God,” is the only group on the Justice Department’s list with its origins outside the Western Hemisphere.
It emerged after Israel’s 1982 invasion and occupation of southern Lebanon, which came amid a civil war in the latter country that ran from 1975 to 1990.
A Shiite Muslim political party and militant group, Hezbollah receives significant support from Iran and has fought with Iran in Syria to support that country’s dictator, Bashar Assad.
That campaign has improved Hezbollah’s operational capabilities and added to its weapons stockpiles, now believed to include weapons like guided missiles, armed drones, and anti-tank missiles.
Israel has launched strikes in Syria to deter Iran and Hezbollah and has increased its readiness to counter Hezbollah and Iranian action there. Hezbollah’s growing role in Lebanon and its expanding military capabilities have led experts to warn a future war between it and Israel could be bigger and more violent that the 2006 Lebanon War.
The US, which considers Hezbollah a terrorist organization, has pushed Lebanon to cut Hezbollah’s access to its financial sector.
The group has also been active in the US and the Western Hemisphere for some time, though its focus there is believed to be on money laundering.
People in the region with links to the group are almost all considered not to be active members but rather “associates,” though at least one man has been accused of conducting surveillance in the US in support of potential Hezbollah attacks.
The US has also accused numerous Venezuelan officials of links to Hezbollah, including through an alleged black-market scheme to sell passports. Though some intelligence officials have said those allegations are overstated.
Hezbollah-linked actors in the region’s “activities have largely been involved in logistics support, providing funds back to Lebanon to Hezbollah itself,” Adm. Kurt Tidd, the former head of US Southern Command, told the Senate in early 2016.
The threat to the US
“Transnational Criminal Organizations — whether they are gangs, drug trafficking cartels or terrorist groups — are a scourge,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who will lead the new task force, said alongside Sessions on Oct. 15, 2018. “They sow violence and sell poisonous drugs. They bribe public officials and fuel corruption. They terrorize law-abiding citizens.”
While the groups named are responsible for violence and criminal activity in the US and the region, experts have differed with the Trump administration’s assessment of them.
While the gang’s members have committed heinous acts in the US, their crimes mostly target immigrant communities. Though the group’s members in the US have contact with leaders in Central America, the organization itself is decentralized and largely involved in crimes like extortion, drug possession, and homicide, as it isn’t powerful or organized enough for transnational drug-trafficking.
“The cartels use gang members. They use individuals that are living here in the United States to basically do the distribution and the logistics here in the United States,” Mike Vigil, former director of international operations for the DEA, told Business Insider in 2017.
Even as violence in Mexican border cities has risen over the past decade, violence in US cities next to them has been below-average. And incidents of cartel-related violence in the US have usually been limited to people with ties to the cartels (though there have been cases of mistaken identity).
Hezbollah is also active in the US, but it appears largely focused on fraud and money laundering. Throughout the region, the group’s activities appear limited to financial and logistical support for the organization based in Lebanon.
Intelligence officials have also disputed assertions by US politicians that the Venezuelan government is collaborating with Hezbollah and other militant groups.
“The whole Hezbollah line has been distorted for political purposes by the more extreme elements of the US right wing,” a former CIA senior official told Reuters in early 2018.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.