Everyone has heard the old stories of judges forcing someone guilty of a small-time crime to choose between a hefty jail sentence or joining the Army. Or the Marine Corps. Or the Navy.
It seems like back in the old days, getting pinched for lifting car parts or selling bootleg cigarettes could end up with the defendant doing a two-year stint in Korea – which could be just as bad as jail, except you get paid.
The practice isn’t as common as it used to be as it turns out. The U.S. military isn’t engaged in a global effort to defeat communism anymore and the days of a peacetime draft are long gone. With the benefits set aside for people joining what is now an all-volunteer force, the military isn’t hurting for new employees.
At least for the most part. It definitely doesn’t require people who would be considered convicts if they hadn’t become soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines.
But in the courtroom, the judge is the absolute ruler. Ruling from the bench means ruling by decree and, within the limits of the Constitution and existing law, the judge can pronounce whatever sentence he or she deems fit.
For a long time, that meant the choice between military service or jail time. But the individual branches of service aren’t a part of the judge’s court and though the judge can order such a sentence on a defendant, that doesn’t mean the military has to take them.
The most recent and notable case of such a choice was that of Michael Guerra of Upstate New York. In 2006 Guerra was facing a conviction of aggravated assault. According to Stars and Stripes, the judge was willing to discharge Guerra if he joined the military. Guerra agreed. The Army did not.
Keep in mind, this was at the height of the Iraq War, when the Army needed soldiers more than anything. The Army preferred to take the PR hit of instituting stop-loss programs rather than take cons like Guerra.
The policy of not taking “jailbirds” is actually part of the Army’s recruiting regulations. Regulation 601-210, paragraph 4-8b reads:
“Applicants who, as a condition for any civil conviction or adverse disposition or any other reason through a civil or criminal court, is ordered or subjected to a sentence that implies or imposes enlistment into the Armed Forces of the United States is not eligible for enlistment.”
The US Army on Feb. 6, 2019, announced that it would buy an Israeli missile-defense system to protect its soldiers in a de facto admission that existing US missile defenses just don’t work.
“The U.S. Army has announced its intent to procure a limited number of Iron Dome weapon systems to fill its short-term need for an interim Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC),” a US Army statement sent to Business Insider read.
Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system, indigenously designed with a 9 million US investment backing it, represents the world’s only example of working missile defense.
While the US, Russia, and China work on high-end missile systems meant to shoot down stealth aircraft in ultra-high-tech wars with electronic and cyber warfare raging along the sidelines, none of these countries’ systems actually block many missiles, rockets, or mortars.
Iron Dome launches during operation Pillar of Defense, November 2012.
On the other hand, Israel’s Iron Dome has shot down more than 1,200 projectiles since going operational in 2011. Constant and sporadic attacks from Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iranian-aligned forces in Syria have turned Israel into a hotbed of rocket and mortar activity, and the system just plain works.
Not only do the sensors and shooters track and hit targets reliably, the Iron Dome, unlike other systems, can tell if a projectile is going to miss a target and thereby save a 0,000 interceptor fire.
While the system does not run entirely without error, US and Israeli officials consistently rate the dome as having a 90% success rate on the Gaza border, one of the most active places in the world for ballistic projectiles.
But the US already has missile defenses for its forces.
The US, unlike Israel, which is surrounded by enemies bent on its ultimate destruction, doesn’t get many enemies firing ballistic missiles at its forces. Still, to protect its soldiers, the Army typically deploys Patriot defenses to its bases to protect against short-range missile attacks. In Iraq, the US Army also experimented with a Phalanx gun system that would rapid fire 20mm rounds at incoming rockets and mortars.
Overall, the US Army’s statement announcing the Iron Dome purchase made it clear that this would just be a short-term buy while the US assesses its options.
“The Iron Dome will be assessed and experimented as a system that is currently available to protect deployed U.S. military service members against a wide variety of indirect fire threats and aerial threats… it should be noted that the U.S. Army will assess a variety of options for” the long term, the statement continued.
But the Army is well aware of its own Patriot system and any planned or possible updates.
By buying an Israel system with a great track record and overlooking a US system with a checkered past, the US may have finally admitted its shortcomings in missile defense.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
“Look, there’s the big dipper!” my oldest son said pointing to a constellation brightening a gathering dark over our campsite.
“You’re right!” I said, genuinely impressed. I didn’t know he could spot constellations. We don’t hang out much at night. I’m not a night owl and he’s seven years old.
Why were we outside at 10:30 p.m. on a weeknight, beside a crackling campfire, still talking long after our fellow campers had gone to bed? Because I’d made a decision and the only way to figure out whether it was going to prove disastrous was to watch. So, I watched my 7-year-old pull his knees up to his chest in a folding camp chair and stare, glassy-eyed at the flickering flames. I watched his 5-year-old brother sing softly to himself in the nearby tent. I watched fireflies and reflected on the fact that I could count on my fingers how many times I’d been outside with my boys in the dark of the night. I liked it a bit.
I got the idea to let bedtimes slide and embrace the dark from, well, Russia. Russian parents have a notoriously lax approach to bedtimes and, in very Russian style, embrace parenting in the dark. This intrigued me not only because I work when it’s light out but also because it feels weird to enforce a sort of separation between children and the night. There’s nothing, after all, wrong with the night. Perhaps, I thought, Russian parents knew something I did not.
Again, there was only one way to find out.
(Photo by Csaba Berze)
My family had long adhered to strict and largely immoveable bedtimes. Our bedtime routine began at 7:30 p.m. and our children were under the covers by 8:00 p.m. every night without fail. Admittedly, the inflexibility injected a certain amount of stress into our evenings. That stress would inevitably lead to my wife and I getting loud and our children dragging their feet and doing everything in their power to avoid having to lay down. It was not ideal and, yes, the Russian experiment may have been at least in part an act of avoidance.
If so, it wasn’t the first. We’d recently decided to remove some of the stress by making a rule our kids could stay up as long as they wanted, provided they were in their bed. The rule allowed my wife and I to stop yelling “go to sleep,” but it did nothing to solve the stress of getting to the bedroom in the first place. I wanted to know how things would change if we simply let our children stay up, out of bed, like a Russian kid.
We decided to start our experiment on a camping trip. It made sense, in a way. After all, it was nearly the summer solstice and neither my wife nor I were particularly interested in forcing our children into a tent to sleep while the sky was still blue. Besides, it meant we could make s’mores and tell stories, which is exactly what we did.
But at some point, the situation felt increasingly ridiculous. I did have to tell my child to go to bed at some point, right? The only other option was they would eventually pass out where they stood. At least, that’s how it seemed to me. So, as it approached 11 p.m., my wife and I guided the 7-year-old to the tent. Very soon, they were both quiet.
The next morning the 7-year-old was up with the birds. A few hours later, though, he was a whiny mess. Clearly, he’d not had enough sleep. The 5-year-old, on the other hand, slept until nearly 10 in the morning and popped up refreshed and as rambunctious as ever. It was a disastrous combination. The 5-year-old could sense weakness in his brother and did just about all he could to piss him off. Soon the 7-year-old was in tears. Hikes planned for the day were canceled. We packed up camp and headed home.
But we weren’t giving up on the experiment. That night we watched a couple family movies, staying up until 9:30 p.m. When we noticed the boys were quiet, drowsy, and suggestible, we nudged them towards toothbrushing and bed. They complied easily and went to sleep quickly.
The following night was much of the same. The boys appeared to be adjusting well to the new rhythm. And without the stress of hitting a precise mark, my wife and I were calmer. When reading the nightly bedtime stories, our voices now lacked that sharp tone of desperation and frustration, and that made Dr. Seuss sound far more friendly than he had in several months.
But by the middle of the week, it appeared our boys had habituated to the new routine. They were sleeping in more, which meant they had more energy late, which meant that as my wife and I watched TV in our room we could hear the boys down the hall giggling with each other well into the night.
Finally, one evening they continued to play after my wife and I had turned off our lights to sleep. This would not do. Worse, they were failing to sleep in past 8 a.m., which was making everyone tired and cranky. My family, craving structure as they do, blamed the problem on me. To be fair, it was entirely my fault — though my heart was in the right place.
“Can we stop being Russians, now?” my wife asked me with deep exasperation.
“Yes,” I said. And we did.
That’s not to say, however, that I willingly gave up on Russian thinking. I found a lot to like in the flexibility of the approach to bedtime and in exposing our kids to the night, which is a country unto itself. I think that in our zeal for a rigorous sleep schedule, my wife and I had forgotten how much magic the night could hold for a kid awake and ready to explore. Over the week, I’d watched my kid listen for the sounds of the night calling birds and catch fireflies in his hands. I’d watched them play flashlight games in the dark and wonder at the beauty of the stars.
Our bedtimes had also been much less stressful. There was a certain ease in knowing we weren’t racing the clock, which made the nightly routine far more pleasant for everyone. That, in itself, was revelatory.
I understand that when my boys were babies, a strict sleep routine was essential. But the experiment had shown me that everyone had grown up a lot. The ease of bedtime had become more important than the structure of it. While we won’t allow our boys to stay up until midnight anymore, I think we will keep a looser grip on the thing. It is easier, after all, to hit a bigger target.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
“For us being Special Forces, we are the first on the battlefield, then we are the last to leave,” said a Bulgarian Special Operations Tactical Group Commander.
The captain was the commander of the SOTG for exercise Saber Junction 19. Approximately 5,400 participants from 15 NATO and partner nations including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Italy, Kosovo, Lithuanian, the Republic of Northern Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine and the US took part in the exercise at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, Sept. 3-30, 2019.
The exercise partnered about 100 Multinational SOF from Bulgaria, the US, and members of the Lithuanian National Defense Volunteer Defense National Force, or KASP, with conventional forces to improve integration and enhance their overall combat abilities.
A US Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldier provides security for paratroopers from the Italian Army’s Folgore Brigade as they parachute onto a drop zone as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 16, 2019.
(US Army photo Sgt. 1st Class Whitney Hughes)
US Army Maj. Nathan Showman of the 173rd Airborne Brigade watches as paratroopers from the brigade land during a joint forcible entry as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 18, 2019.
To determine the best use of SOF capabilities to support larger combined maneuver, the Bulgarian SOTG Commander coordinated directly with his conventional force counterpart US Army Col. Kenneth Burgess, the commander of the 173rd Airborne Brigade.
The SOTG also placed SOF liaison officers within the brigade staff to facilitate communication directly between the staff and SOF on the ground.
A US Army 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldier provides security for paratroopers from the Italian Army’s Folgore Brigade as they parachute onto a drop zone as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 16, 2019.
This gave the SOTG the ability to support critical portions of the exercise such as the joint forcible entry, a multinational airborne operation delivering paratroopers from Ramstein Airbase into the exercise to seize key terrain.
Paratroopers from the Italian Army’s Folgore Brigade jumped from Kentucky Air National Guard C-130 aircraft to set the drop zone for the 173rd Airborne Brigade.
Bulgarian and US SOF provided early reconnaissance of the drop zone and secured the area for the pathfinder’s jump, ensuring they had up to date information from the moment they hit the ground.
Italian Army paratroopers from the Folgore Airborne Brigade coordinate with US Army 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldiers after the Italian paratroopers parachuted onto a drop zone secured by special operations forces as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 17, 2019.
(US Army photo Spc. Patrik Orcutt)
This multinational coordination was one of the key objectives of the exercise.
“From my point of view, this is the most important exercise for my unit in that it helps prepare us for future NATO missions,” said the Bulgarian commander. “We are currently on standby in my country [as a quick reaction force], so this exercise is beneficial for us.”
Bulgarian special operations forces exit a US Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter from the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade during combined aviation load training as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 13, 2019.
(US Army photo Spc. Patrik Orcutt)
Lithuania’s KASP also worked alongside SOF to set conditions for the conventional force. Exercising their real-world mission of unconventional warfare, the KASP integrated with Special Forces soldiers from the US Army’s 5th SFG(A).
This combined time conducted operations ahead of friendly lines in enemy-occupied territory to enable the multinational conventional joint force.
US Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldiers deploy light tactical vehicles from CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 13, 2019.
(US Army photo Spc. Patrik Orcutt)
The KASP are structured similar to the US National Guard, with about 500 professional soldiers and 5,000 reservists, but have a very different mission.
“Our mission is to conduct territorial defense, so we must be ready to defend our country against any type of threat, either hybrid or conventional,” said Col. Dainius Pašvenskas, the KASP commander.
Pašvenskas added that the demand to come to exercises like these within his unit is so high that they have placed internal requirements to be selected. After completing rotations in exercises like Saber Junction 19, they share the techniques they have learned within their units, and teach the unconventional warfare tactics to the rest of the force.
US Army 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldiers deploy light tactical vehicles from CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 13, 2019.
(US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Whitney Hughes)
The KASP’s missions at Saber Junction 19 included long-range reconnaissance, direct action and personnel recovery.
“We may have different tasks but we will operate in a similar area as Special Operation Forces,” said Pašvenskas. “Working with Special Forces and learning from their experience is an excellent opportunity for us.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The U.S. Coast Guard has served in every American war since the Revolution, but there was a major shift between World War II and Korea, thanks in part to the critical peacetime role the Coast Guard had assumed in 1946: training and preparing the South Korean Navy and Coast Guard before the war.
Commander William Achurch discusses the value of training aids with a Korean naval officer and another U.S. adviser.
(U.S. Coast Guard)
See, in Korea, the Coast Guard ceased to fight as a subordinate of the Navy and started to fight as its own branch, even during war.
Even where Coast Guard officers were holding senior ranks over other Coast Guardsmen, the senior officers were still folded in with their Navy brethren. So, you could be an enlisted Coast Guardsman who was receiving orders from Coast Guard officers and Coast Guard admirals, but that admiral still fell under the fleet admirals and you were all tasked to the Navy Department.
The destruction at the South Korean capital of Seoul was extensive. The last Coast Guard officers left the city as it fell to the North Korean communists.
So, in 1950, the Communist forces in North Korea invaded South Korea. The initial invasion was wildly successful, and democratic forces were forced to consolidate and withdraw, giving up most of the country before finally holding a tiny toehold on the southern coast.
By 1950, the active duty Coast Guard had been withdrawn from Korea and a few retired officers remained, drawing paychecks from the Army. After the invasion, even these men were withdrawn. One escaped Seoul as the city was destroyed, barely passing one of the key bridges before it blew up.
A Coast Guard Martin PBM-5G commonly used in search and rescue operations.
(U.S. Coast Guard Bill Larkins)
So, as the war drug on, the Coast Guard was forced to build its own infrastructure to perform its new wartime duties. Two of the most important tasks were to provide weather observations and to conduct search and rescue missions. Both of these tasks required extensive deployment across the Pacific Ocean.
Weather operations rely on observations from a wide area, especially before the advent of satellites. And while search and rescue is typically restricted to a limited area, the Navy and Army needed search and rescue capabilities across their logistics routes from the American west coast to Korea.
So, the Coast Guard was forced to establish stations on islands across the Pacific, placing as many cutters along the routes as they could to act as radio relays and to augment search and rescue stations.
A Navy P2V-5 maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare plane like the one that was downed while spying on China in January 1953.
The Coast Guard crew managed to land in the seas and pull the seven Navy survivors aboard, but they still needed to get back out of the sea. The Coast Guardsmen placed jet-assisted take-off devices onto the plane and the pilot attempted to get airborne.
Unfortunately, the rough waves doomed the takeoff attempt, and the plane broke up as it slammed into an oncoming wave.
Five Coast Guardsmen were lost before the remaining survivors of the dual wrecks were rescued. All five were posthumously awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal.
Of course, the Coast Guard also had duties back home, guarding ports and conducting investigations to ensure that the people working at docks were loyal to the country to prevent sabotage.
The lifesaving service’s Korea performance would help lead to their role supporting Air Force combat search and rescue in Vietnam. But all of this was a massive departure from World War II where they saw extensive combat but worked almost solely as an entity folded into the U.S. Navy.
Red Flag is legendary among fighter pilots. This exercise, held several times a year at Nellis Air Force Base, located near Las Vegas, is where American combat pilots have gone to hone their skills since the end of the Vietnam War.
“Red Flag-Nellis was originally created to give fighter pilots their first 10 combat missions in a large force exercise before deployment to contingency operations,” Lt. Col. Christopher Cunningham said in an Air Force release. “Vietnam War analysis had proven that pilot survivability increased dramatically after surviving 10 combat missions.”
The success of the original Red Flag has left Air Force pararescue personnel, like those taking part in a 2016 demonstration, little to do.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy)
In terms of military exercises, Red Flag has been a blockbuster hit. The first major conflict since Vietnam, Desert Storm, saw very few pilot losses. While new technology certainly contributed, Red Flag played a vital part as well, giving pilots their first taste of “combat” over the course of two weeks. Other countries, like Israel and the Netherlands, have come up with their versions of this exercise. One of the unintended consequences of this improved readiness, however, is that it has made combat search-and-rescue missions less frequent. Less real-world experience means an increased need for specific training exercises.
To address that need, a spin-off of Red Flag was created. Red Flag Rescue took place last month at Davis Monthan Air Force Base. This exercise replaced Angel Thunder, a program for Air Force pararescue personnel (along with foreign air forces) who are responsible for carrying out the combat search and rescue mission.
Red Flag Rescue was not just for the Air Force. Army personnel, like this soldier taking part in a 2017 demonstration, also took part, as did the Marines and Navy.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brian Calhoun)
Red Flag Rescue brings together Air Force pararescuemen and the other armed services for fifteen days to practice combat search and rescue in contested, degraded, and operationally-limited environments. While Air Force pararescue personnel — and others who handle combat search-and-rescue — have gained much from this, the ultimate beneficiaries will be the pilots saved from dire circumstances in the real world.
In the hours before the Arizona Cardinals kicked off against the Los Angeles Rams, an even more special thing happened in the Cardinals’ end zone. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, it was only one of two events that took place in their end zone all night. Arizona fell to Los Angeles 31-9, but 45 U.S. troops were sworn in or reenlisted that night.
You win some, you lose some.
West Point NFL player conducts mass oath of enlistment ceremony
But wait a minute. According to 10 U.S. Code § 502, the oath has to be administered by a commissioned officer. So who is swearing in these kids and troops? That’s 1st Lt. Brett Toth, who is a beneficiary of the recent rule changes to service academy athletes. Toth’s military service requirement was deferred in order to play offensive tackle for the Arizona Cardinals while he was in prime physical condition. Toth is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and a former player for the Army Black Knights football team. He played in two of Army’s most recent wins over Navy.
The group of 45 future soldiers and Marines gathered in front of him before the game’s kickoff were recruits from the Phoenix Recruiting Battalion and was part of the local Salute to Service celebration within the Cardinals franchise. The Cardinals, former home of a deceased Army ranger and former Cardinal Pat Tillman, are very excited to celebrate Salute to Service every November. It doesn’t hurt to have an actual lieutenant on hand, either.
(U.S. Army photo by Alun Thomas)
As Toth, who is currently on the team’s disabled list, led the mass Oath of Enlistment, the crowd began to cheer wildly. After taking the oath, the 45 newly-christened U.S. troops were able to stay for the game. When the Cardinals took the field, the first people out of the locker room were Capt. Edward Donaghue, commander of the Phoenix Recruiting Battalion, and Staff Sgt. Gregory Hunter, one of the battalion’s recruiters.
Though the game started on a very high note for the Cardinals players and for America’s newest troops, it didn’t take long to turn for the worst. The Cardinals were soundly defeated in a 31-9 loss to the Rams.
Iran’s latest attempt to put a satellite in space in spite of US opposition ended in failure, an Iranian defense ministry official told state media, Reuters reported Sunday.
“It was launched with success and … we have reached most our aims … but the ‘Zafar’ satellite did not reach orbit as planned,” the official told state television Sunday.
The latest failure marks the fourth time in a row Iran has been unable to successfully put a satellite in space.
In January 2019, the Iranian rocket carrying the satellite into space failed to reach the “necessary speed” during the third stage of flight, a senior telecommunications official told state media, the Associated Press reported at the time.
The US has criticized Iran’s efforts, arguing that its satellite program is a cover for the development of long-range ballistic missile technology.
President Donald Trump has said that Iran’s space program could help it “pursue intercontinental ballistic missile capability.” Iran argues that the Simorgh rocket is nothing more than a satellite launch vehicle.
In February of last year, Iran made another attempt. Iran’s foreign minister revealed in an interview with NBC News that it failed as well. He added that his country was looking into the possibility of sabotage after a New York Times report suggested the US could be behind the failures.
Iran tried again in August, but the rocket apparently exploded on the launchpad.
In denying US culpability, Trump inexplicably tweeted out an image of the scorched Iranian launchpad from a classified briefing, a photo that appeared to have come from one of the US’ most secretive spy satellites.
After the second failed test, Dave Schmerler, a senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, told NPR that this is a “trial and error” situation, explaining that “eventually they’re going to get it right.”
Iran managed to put a satellite into orbit in 2009, 2011, and 2012, but lately their efforts have been unsuccessful.
MOSCOW — You might think governments seeking digital oversight of their citizens would avoid invoking the author who coined the phrase “Big Brother is watching you” and implanted the nightmare of total state surveillance in the imaginations of millions of readers.
Think again, because Russian officials appear to disagree.
According to the business daily Vedomosti, contracts exceeding 2 billion rubles ($29 million) have been signed for the procurement and installation in schools across Russia of surveillance cameras linked to a system that has facial-recognition capability and is called Orwell, after the British author of dystopian novels 1984 and Animal Farm.
The company tasked with executing the project on behalf of regional governments is the National Center of Informatization (NCI), a subsidiary of state defense and technology conglomerate Rostec, Vedomosti reported on June 15.
The video surveillance systems have been delivered to 1,608 schools across Russia, an unnamed representative of the company told the newspaper, adding that the equipment was intended to keep tabs on students’ comings and goings and identify strangers who attempt to enter school grounds, among other things.
Elvis-Neotech, a subsidiary of state nanotechnology company Rosnano, is responsible for preparing the systems for sale, according to Yevgeny Lapshev, a representative of that company. Lapshev told Vedomosti that the Orwell system will become a security feature in all of Russia’s schools in the coming years — more than 43,000 in all.
On June 16, the media outlet RBK cited an anonymous NCI representative who disputed aspects of the Vedomosti report, saying that the company had not signed contracts for the delivery of video equipment to 43,000 schools.
The representative told RBK that NCI had taken part in a pilot program to equip 1,600 Russian schools with video surveillance systems that were not equipped with facial recognition, and that a decision on expanding the program to all Russian schools was yet to be made.
The reported plans come after a rise in recent years in violent incidents at Russian schools, including a spate of stabbings in late 2017 and early 2018 that prompted renewed calls from lawmakers for increased security measures and strict monitoring of visitors.
“The requirements for training and certifying employees of private security organizations, especially those guarding schools and kindergartens, must be as strict as possible,” Vasily Piskarev, chairman of parliament’s Committee on Security and Corruption Control, said after a knife incident in October 2019.
But amid the push to expand monitoring capabilities and beef up security at schools, rights activists in Russia are warning that facial recognition and other surveillance technologies are being used much more widely and with minimal oversight, leading to a curtailment of freedom of speech and movement and ultimately toward a loss of data privacy.
Since March, when Russia’s coronavirus epidemic began, the authorities have used facial-recognition technology to identify and fine quarantine violators, deploying — in Moscow alone — a network of over 100,000 cameras that link to a central database accessible to thousands of law enforcement officials at any time.
In addition, a range of smartphone apps and digital passes unveiled since March — some of which remain mandatory for people with COVID-19 symptoms despite the lifting on June 9 of many lockdown restrictions — have prompted fears among data-privacy campaigners that those and other new digital tools may integrate into a ratcheted-up, post-pandemic surveillance apparatus.
Alyona Popova, an activist who launched a lawsuit in October 2019 against Moscow’s use of facial-recognition cameras, warned that “under the guise of fighting the coronavirus,” officials are working to implement “total surveillance.”
Last fall, Russia’s Education Ministry clarified the criteria under which facial recognition could be used in schools. All parties, including school employees and the parents of students, would have to give permission, the newspaper Izvestia quoted an official as saying.
Just as the Army has been saying for almost thirty years, they are finally working out the details of what will be the replacement for the current push-ups/sit-ups/2-mile-run version of the Army Physical Fitness Test. For a quick primer on what the new test will entail, read our previous article — but know that, if implemented, this new test is going to fundamentally change how the Army operates.
Obviously, the Army Combat Readiness Test (this is what they’re calling the new test) will demand new capability from troops, but it’s more than that. Everything from how the test is conducted to the way it’s graded and the overall logistical nightmares that it will bring are going to have wide-reaching ramifications.
Now, that’s not to say that the new test is a bad thing — but this one small change will ripple into the rest of life in the Army. Here’s how:
Fridays will always be run days. How else is the commander going to listen to ‘Thunderstruck’ by AC/DC?
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Steven Lopez)
New PT schedules
The current APFT makes sure that three elements of a soldier’s fitness are up to standard: upper body, core, and endurance. Morning PT schedules created by NCOs reflect these requirements. Regardless of your unit, you’ll almost always go on a long run on Mondays, work your upper body on Tuesdays, do sprints on Wednesdays, enjoy core or leg days on Thursdays, and finally, have unit “fun runs” on Fridays.
The new test will include a two-mile run, so you can expect to keep logging the “fun run” alongside the officers who want to claim they work out with their guys. The other five events required by the ACRT, however, will have to be worked into the other four days, which may mean cutting down on Monday runs.
Let’s play a game: Spot all the problems in this picture that make it unsafe…
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Hull)
A considerable amount of training
Mark my words: This new PT test is going to be the sole cause of some serious injuries to good soldiers.
Soldiers will likely blow out their backs by improperly deadlifting, toss a medicine ball on someone’s head, jack up their wrists by doing the “hand release push-up” wrong, or incur some type of injury during sprint-drag-carry mishaps — with so many technically demanding events, it’s going to be impossible to ensure that nobody gets hurt.
The fact is that deadlifts aren’t something that beginners or overly cocky soldiers can just pick up. If the powers that be insist on inserting deadlifts into the PT test and younger soldiers aren’t given the training required to do them properly, well… Expect many more visits to sick call among soldiers with bad backs.
Motrin and a bottle of water isn’t going to solve this problem, doc.
(U.S. Army photo)
How we view sick call
That being said, there is no way to mitigate the risk of injury entirely. No amount of training can eliminate the possibility ofunintentionally harming oneself. Training and the initialadjustment period will likelysee most of the accidents,but there will be soldiers years from now who bend in a way the human body isn’t meant to be bent.
The Army is fairly good at putting precautions in placeto mitigate risks,but there will need to be an overhaul in the way that aid stations see and treatsoldiers. As of rightnow, countless soldiers “suck it up” and deal with the pain instead of visiting sick call, but one can only stoically endure so much before beingtruly broken.
A major problem thatvetsruninto when theyseekhelp from the VA stems from alack of kept records. In the absence ofdocumentation specifically referencing an ailment, the VA often assertsthat a givenproblem “wasn’t military related.” Unless there’s a major change in how sick call is viewedby soldiers, the many accidents that will likely befall takers of the new ACRT will cause unaddressed problems down the line.
Supply NCOs are wizards, but you can’t expect the impossible from them all the time.
(U.S. Army photo by Cpt. Kristoffer Sibbaluca)
Logistics behind the equipment
The new test makes use of plenty of specialized equipment. To successfully administer a PT test, units will need:
Deadlift bars plus weights,
10-lbs medicine balls,
40-lbs kettle bells,
and a steady track on which to do the run.
From here, things will go one of two ways: Either the Army is going to have to shell out a load of cash to get every unit enough equipment to facilitate the test in an organized manner (and pay for somewhere to store all that equipment and someone to maintain it) or there will be a dedicated gym for every Brigade-level that contains the equipment and sends it out on request.
In either case, there will be an entirely new level of logistics involved in connecting troops with the gear.
There are some running tracks on bigger installations in the Kuwait and Afghanistan, but installing one on FOB Out-in-the-middle-of-f*ck-nowhere just won’t happen.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Angela Lorden)
PT on deployments
As it stands at this instant, PT tests are a required for active duty soldiers twice per year. There are rare exceptions, but in most cases, your commander will insist that tests be administered, even if you’re overseas. All you need is ground to do the test on.
Much to the dismay of that sergeant with muscles so big that he can’t stand at parade rest, this, too, will change. All that equipment won’t be making its way into a shipping container since the Army needs to send mission-relevant gear (and the test would be null and void without the previously-mentioned steady track anyway).
Without the need to maintain fitness standards in order to pass PT tests administered during deployments, soldiers just won’t. That negates the entire purpose of fielding a “combat-oriented” PT test — unless, you know, the Army is willing to stubbornly handle that insane logistical nightmare just to prove a point.
Which basically means the only way lower-demand MOS’s will get close to 798 points is if they spend all their time outside work doing college courses.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Raquel Villalona)
The current version of the PT test is simple. Your performance in each event gives you a certain amount of points. Max out at a perfect 300 and you’ve netted yourself 180 promotion points — which comes in handy if you’re looking to be a sergeant. It’s stupid simple math that can be easily printed out and posted in any training room.
But the new test isn’t like that at all. It’s now a “Go/No Go” system. Each event is simply measured: You can either do it or you can’t. You can either run a 2-mile in 20 minutes or you can’t (which, by today’s standards, would award just 3 points to a 17-year-old male but 85 points to a 47-year-old female). Ripping these potential 180 points out of the current promotion system means that soldiers in a lower-demand MOS will lose the easiest way to pad their points.
They served in battles on the Great Plains, Cuba, Mexico, the Philippines and France. They fought the Native Americans, protected American pioneers, took on ranchers to protect farmers, battled with Pancho Villa, protected our southern border, charged up San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt, served under Black Jack Pershing, served as the first park rangers for our National Parks, inspired the Smokey Bear and Drill Instructor hat, had Bob Marley write a song about them and earned Medals of Honor along the way.
They also did all this in the face of extreme racism and prejudice from the people they served with, people they protected and the government who put them in harm’s way.
The Buffalo Soldiers first came into existence immediately after the Civil War. The Union Army had seen the bravery of African Americans in the war and set about creating units for them. In 1866, they drew up what would eventually be 2 Cavalry Regiments (9th and 10th) and 2 Infantry Regiments (24th and 25th)
The United States reduced the number of its soldiers to 25,000 at the end of the war, and African Americans made up 10% of the Army’s ranks. They were paid $13/month, which was the same as a white man who served (which was unheard of at the time). They were also prohibited from being stationed East of the Mississippi River as Congress and the Army feared reaction to black troops (especially in the South during Reconstruction) would not be civil.
So the newly formed units were sent West.
The origins of the name ‘Buffalo Soldier’ are contested to this day. Some believe they were given the name as a sign of respect from the Cheyenne or Comanche. Others say it was because they wore buffalo hide coats to keep warm on the prairie or because they fought with the nobility of a buffalo. Another legend that is less politically correct is that the Apaches saw the hair of the African American soldiers and likened it to a buffalo’s mane. In any case, the troops gradually adopted the name as their own and wore it as a badge of honor.
The first part of the history of the Buffalo Soldiers takes place during the Indian Wars. Americans were expanding out West and into direct conflict with the Native Americans who fought to maintain their lands. The Buffalo Soldiers had plenty of tasks outside of fighting. They built roads, protected mail carriers, enforced land settlement disputes, protected farmers from free-range cattlemen and fought the Native Americans.
Fighting over 177 engagements, the Buffalo Soldiers went up against the Apache, Comanche, Kiowas, Cree, Cheyenne, and Arapahoe Indians. They worked to keep Indians on reservations, protected settlers from raids, and protected settlers’ interests from as far north as Montana down to southern Texas. They also enforced settlement rules, making sure that land wasn’t (ironically) illegally taken by settlers.
In the midst of all this, the Buffalo Soldiers experienced extreme racist behavior from their fellow soldiers and the people they were protecting. African Americans, for a long time, could not become officers and command Buffalo Soldiers. White officers would sometimes refuse to take commands in Buffalo Soldier units, thinking it was beneath them. George Custer famously refused to command black troops convinced they wouldn’t fight (they came to his rescue later on). They were also subject to abuse from the very people they were protecting. White settlers would ask for help only to attack Buffalo Soldiers when they were the ones who were sent to help.
(Who knew Blazing Saddles was based on a true story?)
At the turn of the century, as the Indian Wars wound down, the Buffalo Soldiers were sent overseas as part of America’s foray into foreign affairs. They were sent to the Philippines to help put down insurrections and also fought in the Spanish-American War. When Teddy Roosevelt charged up San Juan Hill, the Buffalo Soldiers charged alongside him. One of their 1st Lieutenants was a young man named Jack Pershing.
Cuba was not Pershing’s first command with the Buffalo Soldiers, nor would it be his last. Pershing was so impressed with the courage of the soldiers he commanded, he sought for other units to emulate their discipline and standards. Ironically when he ended up at West Point as an instructor and tried to enforce the same standards, he earned the despicable nickname N***** Jack. This was eventually softened to ‘Black Jack’ Pershing. Pershing would later command the Buffalo Soldiers on the border but bow to political racism when it came to the Great War.
After Cuba, the Buffalo Soldiers were sent to California. At the time, several National Parks had been established and there was a need to protect the lands. At Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks, the Buffalo Soldiers became the first park rangers chasing after poachers, ejecting settlers and squatters, keeping illegal logging in check, and building infrastructure so that people could visit.
On a side note, the Buffalo Soldiers adopted the ‘Montana crease’ in their hats in Cuba. When they ended up at Yosemite the creased hats became synonymous with the park. The style was later adopted by park rangers, Smokey Bear, border patrol agents, highway patrolmen, and your ferocious drill instructor.
In the lead up to World War I, the U.S. at first took an isolationist role. That said, there was worry that the Germans would try to interfere with U.S. sovereignty. The Buffalo Soldiers were sent to the border with Mexico as the Mexican Revolution had caused instability on the border, and the U.S. was worried about Mexican and German interference with the border.
Back under the command of Black Jack Pershing, the Buffalo Soldiers chased after Pancho Villa after his incursion into New Mexico. They later battled Mexican forces and German military advisors in the Battle of Ambos Nogales in 1918.
Although successful in that battle, there was a bittersweet element to it.
The Buffalo Soldiers watched as Black Jack Pershing, one of their biggest advocates, took command of the American Expeditionary Force as they headed over to Europe to fight in the Great War.
The Buffalo Soldiers did not go. President Woodrow Wilson was openly racist and did not want them to fight alongside white soldiers. They were kept home, while segregated support units were sent to work behind the lines. It only added to the hurt when some of those support units were lent to the French to fight under their command.
In World War II, the reorganization of the Army led to the creation of the 92nd Infantry Division, the Buffalo Division. Other segregated units were organized, and many took on the name and traditions of the Buffalo Soldiers.
After World War II, the legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers was instrumental in desegregating the Army. By the time the Korean conflict started, the descendant units of the Buffalo Soldiers were absorbed into other units as part of integration.
The legacy of the Buffalo Soldier cannot be denied. Given the opportunity to serve, African Americans came through time and time again, even in the face of racism and prejudice. The history of these men goes hand in hand in the expansion into the West, the establishment of our National Parks, protection of our borders and the fight for freedom.
After troops leave the service, many of us are left feeling like the skills we learned while on active duty don’t perfectly apply to the civilian world. While that couldn’t be further from the truth, the idea rings true in the back of many veterans’ minds. The truth is that countless employers around the country would scoop up a veteran in a heartbeat.
Now, whether the civilian job will match the high-energy, high-risk, high-reward aspects of military life is another question. But if you’re looking for your next challenge, your local fire department is usually taking applications.
The most rewarding part of serving was the ability to give back to your country and your community. Working in the fire department is another way for vets to take a hands-on approach to helping out.
Ever wonder why firefighters are always on the scene during emergencies? Because they’re often just as good as paramedics and are usually more readily available.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Jack J. Adamyk)
The skillsets are a near-perfect match
If you look at the entrance requirements for becoming a firefighter, you’ll notice they’re all things satisfied for or by military service: Be 18-30 years old. Be able to pass knowledge-based and physical ability tests. Have a moderate amount of medical training (and be willing to learn more). Finally, you must earn certain third-party certifications, which you can pay for by using your GI Bill by going through an accredited associate’s degree program.
Don’t worry, the mundane is still there… Paperwork and pre-safety checks and all that…
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Eugene Oliver)
The workload is similar
There’s no doubt about it: firefighting is one hell of a job. Despite what pop culture teaches us, it’s not all about getting cats out of trees or high-stakes rescues from burning buildings. Firefighters are called in for nearly every emergency, from bad traffic accidents to responding to natural disasters, even when things aren’t on fire.
Many veterans find the average 9-5 job too mundane and could use a little bit of excitement. What better way to keep your life moving than by being on-call for an emergency 24/7?
You won’t get featured as “Mr. June” in the sexy fireman calendars without working for it!
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Bryan Boyette)
The physical intensity is the same
All of those fireman carries you did back in the military make for a regular day as a firefighter. We hate to put it so bluntly, but most people just aren’t physically capable of cutting it in either field. The average weight of society keeps growing higher and higher, but the physical fitness required of firemen remains extreme.
Thankfully, the average day in the military does your body favors when it comes to applying for a role at the fire department. Why not put that body that Uncle Sam gave you to good use and help extinguish fires?
No one ever said being a firefighter was easy. But then again, no one ever dressed up as an accounts manager for Halloween.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock)
Both roles share a burden of responsibility
The life of a firefighter isn’t as glamorous as many are led to believe. There will be bad days. The kind of bad days that you won’t be able to fully explain to your friends and family because it hurts in a certain, unique way.
That pain is nothing new to veterans. Time spent in the military teaches you (implicitly) how to handle those hard times cand your experience with those coping mechanisms might just come in handy for your brothers and sisters working in the fire department.
Oh, and just so you know, all of the firefighters in the images in this articles are military firefighters. Just goes to show how much crossover there really is between our two worlds.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Charles Haymond)
There’s that same sense of camaraderie
In the service, downtime is sacred. It’s where you get the know the guys to your left and right who will lay their life in the line just to make sure you get home. Honestly, it’s something that can’t be easily be explained to someone who hasn’t experienced it firsthand.
It’s a feeling that only comes with professions that can put you in harm’s way – and it’s something firefighters know well.
America’s entry into World War I began with a year-long buildup beginning in April 1917. By late spring and early summer of 1918, that buildup was nearly complete.
In response, the Germans launched a series of offensives, desperate to defeat the French, British and other allies. But ultimately, they would be overwhelmed with the addition of fresh American troops and firepower, according to Brian F. Neumann, a historian at the Center of Military History who compiled the pamphlet: “The U.S. Army in the World War I Era.”
One of the final German pushes occurred in the early morning hours of July 15, 1918, in the Champagne-Marne area of northern France, where German assault troops and artillery pounded the U.S. 3rd Division lines.
The weight of the attack came against Col. Edmund Butts’ 30th Infantry and Col. Ulysses Grant McAlexander’s 38th Infantry. After heavy fighting in the morning, when the 30th Infantry “inflicted horrendous casualties” on the Germans, Butts’ men were forced back to a line along the hills where they stopped the Germans.
U.S. Soldiers engage the Germans in the trenches during the Champagne-Marne campaign in northern France, July 15, 1918.
(U.S. Army artwork by Travis Burcham)
Elsewhere, five miles beyond the Marne River, McAlexander faced a more precarious position when the adjacent French division hastily retreated, leaving the 38th Infantry’s right flank exposed, Neumann said.
Turning some of the regiment to defend that flank, McAlexander also had to deal with a penetration of his main line. Although fighting on three sides, the riflemen and machine gunners of the 38th Infantry held their ground, earning the sobriquet “Rock of the Marne.”
The 3rd Infantry Division is still known by that moniker, and its soldiers are proud of the heritage that inspired it.
By the end of that July 15th day, the 3rd Division had stopped the German attack.
Together, the 30th Infantry and 38th Infantry had defeated six regiments from two German divisions. One German 1,700-man regiment was so badly cut up that the German leaders could only find 150 survivors by nightfall, Neumann noted.
Bad news also mixed with good that day. Four rifle companies of the 28th Division from the Pennsylvania National Guard had been attached to a French division to the east of the 38th Infantry. When the French retreated, they neglected to inform the Pennsylvanians, and the riflemen became surrounded. Most of them were killed or captured; only a few fought their way to the south to rejoin their parent division.
Heavy fighting involving U.S. forces occurred near Paris in mid-to-late July, in what became known as the Aisne-Marne Campaign.
By the first week of August, the U.S. Army’s I Corps and III Corps had successfully wrapped up that campaign, removing the threat against the French capital and liberating several important railroads for allied use. That effort also eliminated the German high command’s plans for another offensive against the British in Flanders.
French infantrymen and “Doughboys” of the Army’s 3d Division.
(Illustration by George Matthews Harding)
“More important, the campaign effectively seized the initiative from the Germans and gave it to [French supreme allied commander, Gen. Ferdinand] Foch and his national commanders. The chance had passed for Germany to defeat Britain and France before the United States could intervene in force,” Neumann said.
The leader of the American Expeditionary Force, Gen. John Pershing, finally got his chance to command a large American-led campaign that included many French soldiers. The campaign in northern France, known as the St. Mihiel Offensive, lasted Sept. 12 to 16. Up until that time, U.S. units were used mainly in a piecemeal fashion.
Firepower included over 3,000 artillery pieces, 1,400 planes and 267 tanks, mostly supplied by the French and British, but manned to a large extent by Americans, Neumann said.
Pershing, at the suggestion of Gen. Henri-Philippe Pétain, commander of French forces, developed an elaborate scheme to deceive the Germans into thinking that the first blow would come to the south near Belfort on Sept. 12.
French and U.S. forces under Pershing’s leadership executed a four-hour long artillery bombardment against the German lines, an action commonly considered a prelude to attack by infantry and cavalry forces, Neumann noted.
The scheme worked well enough to get the Germans to move three divisions into that sector, while allied forces, led by both I Corps and IV Corps infantrymen and tankers, began their attack in other more vulnerable areas.
“The Germans put up a determined defense long enough to retreat in good order,” Neumann noted.
On the afternoon of Sept. 12, Pershing learned that columns of Germans were retreating on roads from Vigneulles. The general urged both the 1st and 26th Divisions to continue their attacks through the night to press their advantage. The 1st Division was under IV Corps and the 26th Division came under V Corps.
The 26th Division moved quickly throughout the night, capturing the strategic town of Vigneulles by 2:30 a.m., Sept. 13. The 1st Division then linked up with them, securing nearly all of their objectives, he said.
In two days the U.S. soldiers suffered some 7,000 casualties, while inflicting 17,000 on the German defenders.
By Sept. 15, the St. Mihiel Offensive was successfully concluded. This operation paved the way for further offensives that would doom the German army in the coming months, Neumann said.
Neumann added that the offensive gave Pershing and his staff “experience in directing a battle of several corps, supported by tanks and aircraft.”
Such an operation today is referred to as combined arms maneuver. But back then, it was a new approach to fighting.