The USS Hancock burns after being struck by a kamikaze pilot. (Navy History and Heritage Command)
Everyone knows that, in World War II, you couldn’t find nearly as much information on Twitter or Google. No, if you wanted to learn what was happening on the frontlines of the war in the early 1940s, you had to rely on newsreels played before movies and newspapers.
But the newsreels were the much more visceral way to learn about the conflict. Often, censors would tone down depictions of combat and remove reports of some ship sinkings. But at other times, particularly when personnel were especially heroic, the military would allow reports of a ship sinking and even release the footage.
That was the case with this footage of the fighting on Okinawa and the near-sinking of the USS Franklin, an aircraft carrier hit by a kamikaze strike. The Franklin erupted in flames after the explosion ripped through it, but hundreds of sailors remained at their post even after the fleet’s admiral gave the captain permission to abandon the ship.
Instead, the crew evacuated non-essential personnel and got to work battling the flames and securing volatile ammunition and fuel stores to prevent further explosions. The ship’s chaplain even stayed on duty, performing last rites for the hundreds of young men dead and dying in the stricken ship.
And this footage, much of it shot by military combat cameramen, was released by the military in order to show the heroism of the sailors to moviegoers back home. And, it was combined with footage from the action ashore where soldiers and Marines enjoyed a lightly resisted landing but then had to fight fiercely for every additional yard as cave after cave after cave was found to contain fanatical defenders, well-armed and well-trained to bleed the landing forces dry.
A quick warning before you play the footage, though: This is some of the most visceral footage released by the military during the war, and it contains images of combat on Okinawa and at sea. There are multiple shots of combatants on both sides of the fight as they are dead or dying. So, only forge ahead if you’re prepared to see all of that.
Most troops take it easy and try to finish up the last things on their checklists before leaving. For most of us, the final weeks of our military service meant it was time to clean gear, say farewells, and hand off duties to the next guy. Many other short-timers, however, mentally ETS well before crossing the finish line.
The last couple of weeks in the military are often treated as a gentle glide back into the civilian world, but some guys take it to the next level and nosedive into laziness while still wearing their uniform. If you’re looking to make the most of your lazy days, use these tips:
Just say you’re at CIF or you’re cleaning your gear for CIF. It’s enough of a pain in the ass that everyone will just accept it.
(Photo by Spc. Devona Felgar)
Do some next-level skating
This is one of the few moments in your military career where it’s perfectly acceptable to focus on you and what you’ll be doing for yourself after you’re out. In other words, treat yo’ self.
Sham, skate, and be lazy. After a long career in the service, you’ve earned it.
Then again, reminding staff duty that you’ve been gone is fun, too…
(Photo by Chief warrant Officer Daniel McGowan)
Remind everyone of your ETS date
There’s a practical aspect to this. Nobody wants to get calls from staff duty asking why you’re not there when you’ve been out for months.
So, be loud about it. Everyone in the unit should know that you’re almost at the finish line — and that they shouldn’t expect sh*t from you.
No more barracks haircuts for you!
(U.S. Army photo)
Start growing that civilian hairstyle
You can’t start growing that sick, veteran-AF beard just yet, but you can start growing your hair out.
It still needs to be within regulations, but nobody will bother getting in your face if it’s just barely acceptable.
Let some other unfortunate soul handle cleaning connexes.
Hot potato every one of your responsibilities
Before you’re gone, you’ll need to successfully hand off your responsibilities to your replacement. What better way to get them used to your workflow than by giving them all of your work?
Divert all work the expected of you from here on out. If you think about it, you’re really just helping the replacement.
Dental is unsurprisingly expensive in the real world. Get as much done as you can while you’re in.
(Photo by 1st Lt. Rashard Coaxum)
Spend all of your time at health and dental
One of the biggest regrets among veterans is not logging every single service-related pain and injury. If you get a nagging ailment it verified while you’re still in, it’s much easier to get taken care of later.
We know — this is a bit of legitimate advice in an otherwise humorous article. If you’re determined to simply waste time, swing by the aid station all day, every day.
The only hard part of the classes is staying awake.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Rachel Kocin)
Actually go to out-briefing classes
The classes can be helpful and you will need to go for accountability reasons, but it’s entirely on you how much you care.
Put in enough effort and maybe take a few extra classes, just to be safe. Your leadership won’t want to stop you from trying to improve your odds in the civilian world.
French tank designers had an ambitious idea before World War I: What if they could create a vehicle with the protection of an armored car but the firepower of an artillery gun?
The design that eventually emerged packed a massive 75mm artillery gun into the nose of a tank named the Saint Chamond, but the offensive focus of the designers left glaring oversights in mobility and armor, allowing even pistol rounds through in some circumstances.
While French officers had considered designing an armored weapon platform before the war, the outbreak of hostilities put the effort on old. As Britain started building their first tanks, France got in on the action with two heavy tank designs of their own, the Schneider and the Saint Chamond.
But the design compromises needed to make space for the massive cannon were significant. The vehicle drove on relatively thin and short treads, and the weight of the vehicle pushed it hard against the soil, making it questionable whether the tank would be able to navigate the muddy craters of No Man’s Land.
Worse, the cannon needed to be mounted at the front, and it couldn’t fit properly between the treads while leaving room for the cannon’s crew. So, instead, the entire length of the cannon had to sit forward of the treads, causing the tank’s center of balance to be far forwards of the center of the vehicle. As the French would later learn, this made it nearly impossible to cross trenches in the St. Chamond. Instead, crews would tip into the trench and get their gun stuck in the dirt.
Thanks to the limited traction from the treads, the tank couldn’t even back away from the trench and get back into the fight. Once tipped forward, they usually needed towed out.
But, worst of all, in an attempt to keep the already-heavy vehicle from getting too much heavier, they opted for light armor on the sides of the tank. While the front was only a little thicker, it was, at least, sloped. Col. Jean Baptiste Eugene Estienne, a French artillery officer who is now known as the Father of French Tanks, saw the Saint Chamond and tested its armor by firing his pistol at it.
The pistol round passed through the quarter-inch armor.
In the designers’ defense, the St. Chamond’s armor was soon upgraded to 11mm at a minimum, a little under a half-inch. The front armor was up to 19mm, almost .75 inches.
But still, when the British and French tanks made their combat debuts, the shortcomings of early tank design were quickly made apparent. Crews from both countries complained of bullets punching through the sides or, nearly as bad, impacting the armor so hard that bits of metal exploded off from the hull and tore through the crew.
French tanks had even worse trouble crossing muddy sections than their British counterparts, getting bogged down quickly. And that was if the engines held up. Often, they would breakdown instead.
As the war continued, though, France did find a successful design: the Renault FT, a light tank with a rotating turret, 37mm gun, and decent speed. It did have even lighter armor than the St, Chamond, but its configuration allowed the road wheels to help protect the crew from the sides, and the speed let them overwhelm German defenses before too many rounds could hit them.
Best, the Renault FT could be produced in much higher numbers, meaning that German defenders couldn’t often concentrate fire on any single target.
The design was so successful that it was one of the designs America licensed for its tank corps as it joined the war and stood up its armored forces. America ordered over 4,000 of the tank, known in American inventories as M1917s, but none of them reached the actual forces in France until after the armistice.
Still, the design was liked by U.S. Army Capts. Dwight D. Eisenhower and George S. Patton, officers who would create America’s armored strength and later rise to even greater fame in World War II.
Today, the closest modern equivalent to the St. Chamond isn’t even a tank. After all, the vehicle was created to carry a large cannon into battle, and, by the end of the war, it was used more as mobile artillery than to directly attack enemy trenches. As such, it’s more like the M109 Paladin than the M1 Abrams.
And, as artillery, the St. Chamond wasn’t bad. Its weak armor wasn’t a big deal when far from the front lines, and it wasn’t important that an armored artillery platform couldn’t quickly cross a trench.
In 1942, the culmination of a crazy idea from a British officer — known as Project Plough — yielded one of the most top-notch fighting forces of World War II.
The project called for a small, highly-trained group to parachute into Norway to conduct guerrilla operations against the Germans there. When the plan came across the desk of Lt. Col. Robert Frederick at the War Department in 1942, he reported to his boss, then-Maj. Gen. Eisenhower, that the plan was unworkable.
However, Eisenhower needed to build cohesion between the British and Americans and decided to form the unit anyway. To Eisenhower’s knowledge there was no man more well-versed in Project Plough that it’s biggest detractor, Robert Frederick.
Frederick was an interesting choice to lead this new guerrilla unit. He had graduated middle of his class from West Point and had been commissioned into the Coastal Artillery. He had never made much of an impression on anyone, though he soon would.
Frederick’s new unit, the 1st Special Service Force, was activated July 9, 1942, at Fort William Henry Harrison, Montana. The unit would be a joint venture of the Americans and Canadians.
The unit also had a different structure made up of three “regiments” of 800 men each consisting of two battalions. Frederick was in overall command while a Canadian served as his executive officer.
Every member was to be parachute qualified and trained to be adept at cold weather combat. They also trained on a variety of weapons, both American and German, and even developed their own fighting knife, the V-42.
In late 1942, the Norway mission that the unit had been training for was scratched. However, the men continued to train and by 1943 a suitable mission presented itself: the battle for the Aleutian Islands.
After further training, the 1st Special Service Force embarked for its first mission along with other American forces to liberate the Aleutian Islands. For the rough and ready men of the force, the campaign was a letdown. Their only action was storming ashore on the abandoned island of Kiska. They left eager for a new mission.
With the Allied invasion of mainland Italy, a new opportunity presented itself. Lt. Gen. Mark Clark, commanding U.S. forces in Italy, requested the unit to help break through the German defenses in the cold and treacherous Italian mountains.
The unit arrived in Italy on Nov. 19, 1943, and began preparations for an assault on the German position at Monte La Difensa.
At the beginning of December, the unit began moving into place through freezing rain and bitter cold. Their plan was to climb up a sheer cliff face and to attack the German position from the most unlikely direction. Col. Frederick had personally surveyed the route and planned his units’ first combat action.
On Dec. 4, 1943, with men and equipment in place, they began to climb up the 200-foot cliff face in a freezing rain. Stealthily, they ascended the cliff and crawled into positions so close to the German lines they could hear the men talking and smell their food cooking.
The attack began not with overwhelming force but by surprising German sentries and quietly killing them with their knives. There was to be no shooting until 0600, but a slide of loose rocks alerted the Germans that something was amiss. As German flares and mortars began to rain down, the commandos sprang into action.
The fighting was close and intense but the unit had secured the hilltop. Within just two hours, Frederick’s men accomplished what numerous other units had failed to do.
Still, their work was far from done.
The top of Monte La Difensa was only weakly held by Frederick’s small force. Rather than wait for the inevitable counterattack, Frederick decided to launch an attack of his own. The Special Service Force, perpetually outnumbered by the Germans, fought on taking out position after position and helping to open the path for the Fifth Army.
Not content to simply hold the line, the unit began launching small patrols to harass the Germans and gather intelligence. The men became quite adept at capturing prisoners and were known to bring back entire formations — platoons and companies — of Germans.
An enterprising lieutenant also declared himself the mayor of an abandoned town behind German lines, renaming it “Gusville” after himself. The unit even began circulating a newspaper (“the Gusville Herald-Tribune”) and reporters in the Anzio area would make the trek to the town — through German fire — in order to file their stories from “Gusville, Italy”.
However, despite their antics, there was also serious combat around the Anzio beachhead. Frederick, now a Brigadier General, would be wounded on numerous occasions leading his men from the front.
When the Allies broke out of the beachhead, the force was a leading element in the drive towards Rome. Who entered Rome first is often disputed but a patrol by the Devil’s Brigade was certainly one of the first to get there.
After the successful capture of Rome, the men were given a reprieve from combat. It was also announced that Frederick was leaving the force to take command of the 1st Allied Airborne Task Force that would be spearheading Operation Dragoon.
Although airborne capable, the unit would not jump with the task force and instead was assigned to assault several small islands near the landing beaches that had been fortified by the Germans. This would be the last major effort undertaken by the unit.
After light action along the French coast, the 1st Special Service Force was disbanded on Dec. 5, 1944, in France. Most of the men, American and Canadian, were sent as replacements to airborne units.
The modern day 1st Special Forces Group traces its lineage to the 1st Special Service Force.
Anyone can get in movie-star shape. All it requires is working out every day for two to four hours, skipping carbs, hiring trainers, and having a Hollywood studio foot the bill and then pay handsomely for your time. It’s how Ryan Reynolds and his superhero peers look the way they do on the big screen. That’s not to say their workouts aren’t impressive. They’re typically the kind of upper-body-heavy exercise routines that only someone who does this for a living could finish. Because of this, they’re worth following.
Take the workout that Reynolds was tackling while filming “Deadpool 2.” When he enlisted celebrity trainer Don Saladino to create a routine that would build muscle, add definition, and improve overall fitness, he got what he asked for. Saladino designed a variety of circuit-style workouts that covered most major muscle groups with a focus on the upper body. While he didn’t report how often he worked out, let’s just say he ended up looking like a pretty unrealistic dad of two in the end. Mission accomplished.
What does this have to do with us mere mortals? Well, the workouts Reynolds did are pretty great for full-body strength and agility because (little known fact) Reynolds does a lot of his own stunt moves. But, yeah, it’s too hard. We get that. Which is why we took the principles from one of the sample workouts he shared with Men’s Health, and dumbed it down for us regular dads. Here’s your streamlined version, with moves modified to fit the schedule and skills of everyday dads.
(Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)
Reynolds’ version: 15 minutes of stretching, foam rolling, and deep breathing.
Your version: Your time is precious, so you can do this 3 minutes. Stand with feet wide apart. Reach arms overhead, inhale deeply. Exhale and release, bending your knees and allowing your torso to fall forward so that your hands rest on the floor. From here, bend your right knee deeply, shift weight to right side, and move into a side lunge. Hold as you breathe in and out. Shift weight to left side and repeat. Return to center, straighten your back and legs and raise arms out the side. Twist right, then left, five times. Relax — you’re ready to go.
Move #1: Kettlebell swing
This full-body move works your arms, back, glutes, and quads. Start standing with feet hip-width apart. Hold the handle of a kettlebell with both hands, arms straight in front of your body. Bend your knees into a squat, and let the kettlebell drift back between your legs, keeping your back straight. With a single movement, push through your heels and explosively return to a standing position, allowing the kettlebell to swing forward so it reaches chest height as you do. That’s one rep.
Reynolds’ version: 5 reps with as heavy a weight as possible.
Your version: You can nearly keep up here! Make it 3 reps with a 25-pound weight.
Move #2: Front squat
Start standing, feet hip-width apart and toes slightly turned out. Hold a barbell with both hand (palms facing forward and tilted upward) just below your chin. Bend knees and allow your hips to drift back as if you were sitting in a chair. Keep back straight. Aim to get your quads parallel to the floor, but stop lowering as soon as you feel your form begin to slip. Return to standing to complete one rep.
Reynolds’ version: 5 reps with a heavy weight (about 85% of a max load)
Dad’s version: Keep it at 5 reps, but skip the weight altogether and go for air squats. Focus on the form — that’s what really matters here.
Lie back on a flat bench, holding the barbell above your chest with an overhand grip, arms straight. Keep hands shoulder-width apart. Bend elbows, keeping them close by your sides, and lower bar to chest height, then straighten again.
Reynolds’ version: 5 reps with a weight that is probably more than you can lift, placing hands close together to increase difficulty.
Dad’s version: Let’s go with 3 reps using a weight that’s about 75% of your max load (roughly around 150 if you’re a 200-pound guy, although it’s a wide range). Place hands slightly wider than shoulder-width to help with bar stability — even wider if you’re new-ish to the move.
Move #4: Pull-up
Stand in front of the pull-up bar and grab it with an overhand grip. Keeping your back straight and eyes focused on the wall just above eye level, bend arms as you hoist your chin over the bar, then straighten back down.
Reynolds’ version: 5 reps maintaining a plank position with his body (i.e. board-straight) and fully extending arms with every lowering.
Your version: Stick with the 5 reps, but use an assist. See that resistance band? Tie it around the bar so it creates a long loop. Place your feet inside the loop, allowing band to stretch as you lower your body, then add support as you lift yourself up. Another alternative: Perform reverse pull-ups by gently jumping off the floor to begin in a contracted position, chin above the bar, then feel the burn as you lower yourself down to the floor.
Reynolds did various versions of the weighted walk in his workout to prep for “Deadpool 2” — it’s one of the most efficient ways to build overall strength and tone your muscles. You can choose between a suitcase carry (carry dumbbells or kettlebells down by your sides), overhead carry (raise the weight directly over your head, arm straight, doing one arm at a time as you walk), or bottom-up carry (bend your arm at a 90 degree angle in front of you and carry the kettlebell upside-down by its handle so that the weighted endpoints up into the air). In all cases, focus on good form.
Reynolds’ version: 5 reps of 75-foot carries with a weight that is 35-40 pounds.
Your version: Challenge yourself here with 3 reps of 50-foot carries. Still, don’t go too heavy. Start with 25 pounds and work up from there.
Rest and repeat
Reynolds’ Version: No rest for Merc with a Mouth. Do this circuit five times in a row.
Your version. Take 30 seconds between reps and 5 minutes between sets. You’ve earned it. Start by hitting this circuit twice and work your way up from there (capping at four).
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Master Sergeant George Hand U.S. Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.
Officer: “Guys, if this job were easy monkeys could do it.” NCO: “Yeah, and if monkeys could do it… then we wouldn’t need officers.”
When I was stationed with Special Forces Dive Academy in Key West Florida as an instructor, I took to immortalizing events as I witnessed them in person: the good, the bad, the smart, the stupid, and always the funny. Heck, as a cartoonist I could always make events funny even if they weren’t; that’s just what a cartoonist does.
The beauty of being the cartoonist is that I got to choose the events that were going to get the attention. Sure, guys could come up and present their ideas to me and plead their case, but if I didn’t like it I simply could… ignore it! It was easy to become intoxicated with power.
I carried the tradition with me to the Delta Force. I anonymously hung my first cartoon in the day room to test the waters. The sterling response from the pipe-hitters meant I could claim my work, and I kept a working log of my cartoons in a binder on the bar in our squadron lounge titled: A-Squadron Tymz.
Most of the guys loved being featured in the Squadron Tymz and roared with laughter at their plight or praise. Others lamented their incidental turn to be in the book. I consoled them in all seriousness:
“Brother, you’re looking at this all wrong… you WANT to be in the book; everyone should WANT to be in it because you are then immortalized for all time!” They thought that the book was a record of their mistakes but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
I really am quite certain that piece of cheerleading in earnest gifted them peace of mind, and none of the features I added to the book were ever in poor taste. Brothers from the other squadrons tended to mosey over to our break room to have a casual gander at the latest cartoons and beg the backstory from any standers-by. Other squadrons even began to keep their own versions of my Squadron Tymz.
As for the back story of the featured cartoon, there are two parts depicting events that both happened on the same assault on a complex target objective. My assault team was designated to move in behind an initial ground floor clearing team. Once they cleared that ground floor of threats using assault weapons and flash-bang grenades, my team was to flow through quickly to the stairs and gain access to the top floor.
All went particularly well, if I may brag; assault rifles belched smoke, fire, lead, and hate as bangers thundered smashing out glass in the window pains and tearing holes through gypsum wall boarding. Calls rang out:
“CLEAR,” “CLEAR HERE,” “ALL CLEAR,”!!
Each of the guys on my team peered out and down the hall where our bro Guido had just swaggered out of a room and stood in the middle of the hall where you weren’t ever supposed to stop and stand. It was time for Guido-style post-assault levity as we had become accustomed to it. He stood with his rifle on his hip like a duck hunter, other hand on hip, head cocked to the side and stated in his best cool-guy voice.
“I think there’s something you guys don’t realized but need to know right now, and that is that this top floor is now officially… CLEAR!”
With that, the floor under his feet creaked and sagged, and Guido went instantly crashing through the floor of the old condemned building. His body fell roughly to its waist then jammed in the hole. On the floor below, startled men cursed as a half-dozen little red dots from visible lasers danced across his kicking legs.
We dashed to extract him. He cried out as we tugged and pulled him finally through the hole in the floor. Once out we headed back downstairs, Guido limping heavily. He had tweaked his hip in the fall, an injury we all insisted for days was actually his ass, a notion that he strenuously objected too at every opportunity.
Outside a car sped away with three more assaulters who had blocked the road leading to the target during the assault. Once we reported the objective secured, the men intended to push out farther away from the target to provide more advance notice to the assault force of approaching vehicles.
The vehicle they were in was purchased by the Unit from a local car dealer, and in need of repair, and fixed up by our crack mechanic shop. It was known by us all to have mushy breaks. As the driver, Jester, came up fast on the second security position in the dark he chose to right-leg break the car to a definitive stop, but didn’t have time to warn his riders.
As the car screeched to a halt, passenger Chainsaw came flying off his vinyl seat and slammed his head into and shattered the windshield. Poor Chainsaw… as Jester describes: “The brother is an accident magnet,” and indeed that may well be, as Chainsaw wrecked a motorcycle his first week in squadron plunging the kickstand through one of his calves.
Later he was blown up by the premature detonation of an explosive breaching charge. He is famous in the Unit for taking a .45 caliber ACP bullet to the forehead and surviving. The bullet struck his head at a shallow angle and bounced off just above his hairline. It snapped his neck back, injuring it, but otherwise he was ok. Only in the shower when his hair was wet could you see the .45 bullet-shaped scar on his scalp.
Sadly, Chainsaw was hit again in the head by an HK G3 rifle at the border with Afghanistan and Pakistan. This time he was gravely injured and still suffers to this day from that head wound. We two remain friends on Facebook, catching up and busting chops just like in the day.
“How’s your ass, Guido?”
“I told you guys it’s my hip… my hip is what is injured; not my ass!”
“Ok, whatever you say, Guido… you take care of that ass, ya hear?”
“I TOLD you it’s not my ASS!”
“Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha… sure thing, Guido.” And so it went.
Let’s chat retirement for a quick minute. You took the Blended Retirement System training, right? Probably because your boss told you to get it done so she could report 100 percent completion for your unit, right? And it was probably the most boring two hours of your life, right? So, now that we’re halfway through 2018, how much do you actually remember about BRS and retirement from that training? Not much, am I right?
Exactly. So let’s break it down.
Who’s eligible for BRS?
Anyone who was in the military as of Dec. 31, 2017, is automatically grandfathered into the High-3 Legacy retirement system. Remember, that’s the one where you multiply the number of years you serve by the average of your highest 36 months of basic pay by 2.5%. This option requires you to serve at least 20 years to qualify for retirement. However, if you have less than 12 years of service (active duty) or less than 4,320 points (Reserves/National Guard), then you have a choice to make. You can either stick with the High-3 system or opt into BRS.
First, let’s be frank. This is a highly personal decision, and quite honestly, we support you either way. But we (the Department of Defense) want to ensure you have the right tools and information to make the best choice for you and your family.
So. You need to take a hard look at your finances and your goals. Chat with your spouse or family. Make an appointment with your installation’s personal financial manager or another trusted advisor and run the BRS calculator. See which choice is best for you.
If you want to stick with the High-3, great! Enjoy that retirement and ride off into the sunset!
If you choose BRS, that’s great too! There are some great benefits to BRS, IF you decide it’s the best choice for you. So let’s look at how you can 1) take ownership of your retirement, and 2) make the most of it.
(National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson)
Remind me again what BRS is?
Through the Blended Retirement System, you don’t have to serve 20 years to walk away with government-provided retirement benefits. So, if you don’t think you’ll make a career out of your military service (and that’s FINE!), BRS would be a great choice for you. If you do plan to serve 20 years, the important thing to remember is that if you opt into BRS early and maximize your Thrift Savings Plan contributions, you could have a retirement that is potentially equal to or more than what you might earn with the legacy retirement system.
There are three main parts of BRS that make it different from the High-3 Legacy system:
Defined benefit: Monthly retired pay for life after at least 20 years of service. This is part of BOTH retirement options. However, under BRS, the defined benefit multiplier changed from 2.5% to 2.0%. So apply this to the formula:
High-3: Number of years you serve X Average of your highest 36 months of basic pay X 2.5%
BRS: Number of years you serve X Average of your highest 36 months of pay X 2.0% (This results in about a 20% reduction in monthly retired pay. However, you have the opportunity to make up the difference by maximizing your TSP contributions and receiving the government matching funds.)
Defined contribution: Government automatic and matching contributions of up to 5 percent of basic pay to your Thrift Savings Plan. Even if you’re sticking with the legacy system, TSP is still something you should consider. While the government won’t match your contributions (that’s BRS only), TSP is a great way to augment your monthly retired pay.
Continuation pay: A one-time, midcareer bonus in exchange for an agreement to perform additional obligated service. It’s a direct cash payout, much like a bonus, and is only available to service members enrolled in BRS. Service members who are eligible may receive a payment of at least 2.5 times your monthly basic pay. Reservists and members of the National Guard are eligible to receive 0.5 times their monthly basic pay as if serving on active duty. However, this is unique to each service, so ensure you check with your Manpower/Personnel office to find out more information. You can find more information on continuation pay here.
So, if you opt into BRS and serve 20 years or more and qualify for retirement, you have a pretty sweet deal. But the cool part is that even if you DON’T stay for retirement (which again, is totally OK), you still walk away with your TSP. And don’t worry, you’re always vested (entitled to) your own contributions and earnings. However, to become vested in the Service Automatic Contribution (1%), you must have completed two years of service. After two years of service, you are considered fully vested.
AND what’s even cooler is that, say you get out of the military completely and you get a civilian job with a 401(k) — you can roll your TSP into that company’s retirement fund. Or, you can choose to leave your TSP alone until you’re of the age to tap into it (which is 59 1/2, btw). Even if you’re not contributing to it anymore, your TSP will continue to grow over time based on the market’s performance. So, you could potentially have a tidy sum that you can access when you finally retire from working. Let’s just call this what it is … a win-win.
First and foremost, like we said already, it’s critically important that you make this decision fully armed with the information you need to make the best choice possible for your financial future. That means going to your installation’s financial manager, talking with your spouse or someone you trust. Deeply consider what you want your life after the military to look like, how you’ll get there and how either the High-3 system or BRS can help you get there.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Michael E. Davis Jr., Maryland National Guard Public Affairs Office)
If you are one of those folks who is grandfathered into High-3 and choose to stay there, then there’s nothing you need to do. Just keep going to work, doing great things and getting closer and closer to retirement.
If you decide that BRS is the way to go, remember that you have until Dec. 31, 2018, to opt in. That can be done via MyPay if you’re a Soldier, sailor, Airman or Coast Guard member, or MarineOnline for you Marines. Once it’s done though, you can’t change your mind. The decision is final.
Then, after that, double check your TSP contribution to ensure that you receive the government matching benefit. If you opt in, you automatically receive the 1 percent government contribution. But YOU have to physically adjust anything after that to ensure you receive the government matching. If you don’t make any TSP changes, your existing contribution rate stays the same, even if that is zero. And if you can’t afford to contribute the full amount right now, that’s totally OK. But think about what you can contribute now and then factor in pay raises or bonuses for potential opportunities to increase your contribution when you can.
If you’re a Reservist, this applies to you, too. But your TSP contributions come from your weekend drill pay. But, any time you’re on long-term active duty orders, your contributions will continue, but come from your basic pay.
So, let’s recap for a hot minute.
While planning for retirement might not be on your mind now, it’s really, really important that you take a second to thoroughly think through your options: BRS v. High-3. And if you’ve made your decision and BRS is it, ensure you opt in by the deadline, Dec. 31, 2018. However, after Dec. 31, 2018, your retirement choice will be irrevocable. If you’ve already opted in, or once you do so, ensure your TSP contributions are adjusted to maximize your TSP and ensure you receive the government matching capability. You’ll be able to adjust your TSP contributions at your leisure any time moving forward.
We just ran through a lot of pretty dense stuff. But, like we said, we, the Department of Defense, are totally cool with whatever choice you make. We just want to ensure you have the tools and resources to make an educated decision. Your retirement is your future – be sure you’re financially prepared for it — and give yourself a high five for making the right choice for you!
The SR-71 Blackbird was developed by Lockheed Martin as a long-range reconnaissance aircraft that could hit air speeds over Mach 3.2 ( 2,455 mph) and climb to an altitude of 85,000 feet.
In March 1968, the first operational Blackbird was flown out of Kadena AFB in Japan. With the Vietnam war in full swing, the intent was to conduct stealth missions by gathering photographs and electronic intelligence against the enemy. The crew would fly daily missions into sensitive areas where one slight mishap could spark an international incident.
After climbing to 60,000 feet, the crew switched off its communication system so that only a select few would know the mission’s target. The aircraft didn’t always rely on its speed for defense; it was equipped with a jammer that would interrupt the enemy’s communication between the radar site and the missile itself.
On occasion, the enemy would fire missiles without radar guidance, which would sometimes get so close that the pilots could spot the passing missiles 150-yards away from inside the cockpit.
When reaching its target area, The SR-71’s RSO (reconnaissance systems officer) would engage the high-tech surveillance equipment consisting of six different cameras mounted throughout various locations on the Blackbird.
The system could survey 100,000 square miles in an hour, with images so clear analysts could see a car’s license plate.
With so many successful missions, enemy nations did their best to blow the SR-71 Blackbird right out of the skies. Five countries attempted that near impossible feat.
The Marine infantry has been fighting for our nation’s freedoms for the last few hundred years in every clime and place where they can take a gun. Today, the U.S. Marine Corps is one of the most respected and well-recognized branches of any military, the world over. From a mile away, you can identify a Marine by their unique Dress Blues and their high-and-tight haircut. But the Marine getup wouldn’t be so well-known if it weren’t for the many hard-fought victories they’ve earned on the battlefield.
Historically, Marines have won battles through tough training, world-famous discipline, and, of course, the weapons they bring to the fight. So, let’s take a look at a few of those impressive weapons system used to fight those who threaten our freedoms.
This pistol is the standard for the Marine infantryman. The Beretta fires a 9mm bullet and holds up to 15 rounds in the magazine and one in the pipe. Although this pistol is standard-issue to those who rate, most grunts would prefer a .45 Colt due to its stopping power.
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. John Brancifort, a rifleman with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa, fires an M4 carbine in the lateral movement portion of a stress shooting exercise held by U.S. Army Special Forces in Germany, Apr. 12, 2016.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tia Nagle)
This is the lighter and shorter version of the M16A2 semi-automatic assault rifle. The M4 is a direct impingement gas-operated, air-cooled, magazine-fed weapon that shoots a 5.56x45mm round. Many M4s are retrofitted with a .203 grenade launcher that is sure to clear the bad guys from their defensive positions.
A Marine fires an M240 Bravo medium machine gun during a live-fire training exercise at a multipurpose machine gun range at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tyler Andersen)
This medium-sized machine gun is a belt-fed and gas-operated weapon that fires a 7.62mm round. The weapon can disperse between 650 to 900 rounds per minute while on a cyclic rate of fire. The M240 Bravo enables its operator to put down a wall of lead when ground forces need to win the war of fire superiority.
“The battlefield is a dance floor, and the machine gunners are the jukeboxes.” — Marine Lance Cpl. Dixon.
A U.S. Marine with II Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, fires a Mark 19 40mm grenade machine gun during the II MIG Field Exercise at Camp Lejeune. The Marines fired the weapon to become more proficient with different weapon systems.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Larisa Chavez)
This belt-fed, air-cooled 40mm automatic grenade launcher has a cyclic rate of fire of 325 to 375 rpm. The weapon system operates on a blow-back system, which uses chamber pressure to load the next grenade, launching each round a maximum distance of 2,210 meters.
A sniper attached to Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment takes aim at insurgents from behind cover, during a firefight in Helmand province. Patrols have been increased in an effort to push the Taliban back and create a buffer for villages friendly towards coalition forces in the region.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. James Clark)
The M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System is mainly for multiple target engagements, firing 7.62x51mm NATO rounds. This highly accurate sniper rifle is a favorite on the battlefields of Afghanistan as it weighs just 15.3 pounds and has a muzzle velocity of 2,570 feet per second.
A Marine racks a round into his .50 caliber Browning M2HB on the training range at Camp Leatherneck in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
This .50 caliber machine gun is the stuff of nightmares for NATO’s enemies as it’s terrorized the bad guys for years. This insanely powerful weapon system can be mounted in a turret or the back of an aircraft. This belt-fed machine gun has a max range of 2,500 meters and weighs approximately 127-pounds while attached to a TE (traverse and elevation) mechanism.
This anti-tank system can nail targets moving laterally at 45 to 50 miles per hour at a range of approximately 3,500 meters. What’s more impressive is that this weapon system has a 95-percent hit-to-kill ratio.
In the social media age, U.S. military planners know it is near impossible to move large equipment, like ships and aircraft, without being spotted and having the activity broadcast to the world.
As the Defense Department continues to posture itself to counter China and Russia, one Air Force command is strategizing ways to throw off the enemy by doing everything in plain sight, according to the top general for the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command.
“That may mean not going into the predictable places or setting up new predictable places,” Gen. Maryanne Miller said. Miller spoke with Military.com during a trip with Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein to the base here.
Executing that strategy could be as simple as sending a C-5 Supergalaxy aircraft instead of a C-17 Globemaster III, on a cargo mission, or by placing cargo in spots the U.S. typically doesn’t operate in, making movements more difficult for observers to interpret.
US Air Force C-5 in flight.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Brett Snow)
“An example is, if you drive by a 7-11 [store], is that really a 7-11, or what’s really going on in there?” Miller said. “We land places all the time. You can land at MidAmerica [St. Louis] Airport and there may be some customers that are using some of those hangars that do some very special things. But yet when you see that place operate every day, it looks normal.”
She continued, “We need the capacity and the capability to just get to where we need to get to, [and that may be] off the beaten track sometimes.”
The initiative is part of a larger effort to actually shrink the Air Force’s footprint while expanding its reach, added Goldfein. The service has been working on modular bases that would act as small hubs designed to house a quick-reaction force. The Air Force has conducted exercises in Eastern Europe in recent months to see how effectively it can build up, tear down and move to get closer to a potential crisis.
The Air Force may also be able to make use of positions and infrastructure not designed for military purposes.
US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III.
(US Air Force photo)
“For me, the number one [thing] is, ‘Do we have the right amount of basing and access to be able to perform the global mobility mission?'” Goldfein said. “The global mobility mission requires a number of bases … military and civilian, that we routinely exercise and use. Because in a time of crisis or conflict, you don’t want to start building your basing access at that point. You actually have to have it.”
The Defense Logistics Agency, for example, is working fuel contracts with civilian ports to get more fuel access for Air Force planes, he said.
“We’re going to all these different places all the time to make sure that we can move an airplane; every three minutes, there’s somebody taking off or landing to do that,” Goldfein said.
There are also lessons to be learned from close international partners, Goldfein said.
For example, “India, in the global mobility business, actually operates the highest-altitude C-17 operations on the planet,” Goldfein said.
“We have a lot to learn from India in high altitude and mobility operations. And we have a lot to offer India when it comes to global mobility and how we operate back and forth. So that’s one example where … we’re more competitive because we … build trust and confidence at a different level,” Goldfein said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
When Mariya Oktyabrskaya learned her husband Ilya was killed in action fighting the Nazis near Kiev, she didn’t get mad, she got a tank — a Red Army T-34 — and drove it to the Eastern Front to get even.
She named it “Fighting Girlfriend,” and drove it to the Eastern Front to exact revenge.
On the eve of the war, Oktyabrskaya worked in a cannery and as a telephone operator. She was also a proud military wife. She led the Military Wives Council and trained as a nurse, marksman, and driver – modern military skills she would need in the coming days.
When she learned of her husband’s death, she sold all her belongings and sent a message to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.
My husband was killed in action defending the motherland. I want revenge on the fascist dogs for his death and for the death of Soviet people tortured by the fascist barbarians. For this purpose I’ve deposited all my personal savings – 50,000 rubles – to the National Bank in order to build a tank. I kindly ask to name the tank ‘Fighting Girlfriend’ and to send me to the frontline as a driver of said tank.
On January 21, 1968, North Vietnam achieved an impossible feat. With its Viet Cong counterparts, it managed to launch a large-scale, coordinated assault on American and South Vietnamese military bases and cities across South Vietnam, and they caught their capitalist enemy completely by surprise.
Nowhere was this surprise felt stronger by the Americans and South Vietnamese than in the ancient city of Hue, which was situated near the demilitarized zone between North and South. The communists caught the city completely unprepared. The U.S. response in its wake was so piecemeal because military planners couldn’t believe they could capture the city.
When a division of North Vietnamese soldiers attacked the city in the early morning hours, the defenses were minimal. Much of the force from the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) was away for the Tet holiday. No matter what the remaining forces could muster, it would not be enough to repel the communists.
The Americans, at first, didn’t fare much better. United States Marines responded with a counterattack but had no idea what they were actually walking into. In fact, in the immediate aftermath, almost no one in the U.S. Army command knew the extent of the losses or of the enemy’s real strength in the city.
But those inside the city knew. Defenders of a small Military Assistance Command – Vietnam compound and a South Vietnamese Army Base were under heavy assault from the Viet Cong and had taken many casualties. Inside of Hue, they were fighting for their lives. The enemy quickly took control of the old citadel and were assaulting the ARVN base.
U.S. troops in an American UH-1 Huey helicopter were shot down over the ARVN installation. Once on the ground, they were surrounded by North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers. Luckily for them Chief Warrant Officer Frederick Ferguson was flying nearby in a Huey of his own.
The Americans knew Hue was under attack. While they may not have known yet the full scope of the situation, they knew it was bad. Ferguson was advised not to try to assist the survivors of the crash but he wasn’t going to let them just die.
He immediately disregarded his resupply mission and made his way to Hue, where he also started taking anti-aircraft fire. He took his bird on a low-level flight along the Perfume River at maximum airspeed as he flew to the city and found the isolated ARVN compound where the remains of the downed helicopter still lay.
Under heavy small arms fire, he landed his aircraft in a space so tight it was almost impossible to operate the helicopter. The bird kicked up a storm cloud of dust as it landed and CWO Ferguson began to jettison everything aboard the airship that wasn’t necessary or nailed down.
As they loaded the wounded and exhausted survivors of the crash, the Huey began to take an enormous amount of small arms and mortar fire, nearly crippling it where it sat. Somehow, though, Ferguson skillfully got the ship airborne in spite of the damage and flew it and the survivors to safety. He flew back at the same speed and altitude at which he came in, taking even more damage to the aircraft.
His swift decision and cool head under fire saved the lives of five fellow soldiers, safely returning them to Phu Bai.
On Flag Day, 1969, Frederick Ferguson was presented with the Medal of Honor by President Richard Nixon. It was the first one presented to an Army aviator in the Vietnam War. That was far from the end for Ferguson, though. Over the course of his career he was awarded two Silver Stars, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star Medal, and 39 Air Medals. He is even one of a handful of Americans to appear on a postage stamp while still living.
Almost seven years ago, Spc. Dakota Williams lost more than his stepbrother. He lost his hero.
His stepbrother, Spc. Dylan Johnson, had been deployed in Iraq’s Diyala Province just north of Baghdad for less than a month when a bomb detonated next to his vehicle. The explosion killed him.
Inspired by his service to the country, Williams later joined the Army to follow in his footsteps.
On May 24, 2018, he personally honored his stepbrother when he placed an American flag at his headstone in Section 60 of the Arlington National Cemetery during the annual Flags In event.
“He’s not here, but he’s here,” said Williams, 23, of Salina, Oklahoma. “He’s still such an important part of my life.”
All Soldiers, including Williams, in the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as “The Old Guard,” participated in some way in 2018’s Flags In. The regiment has conducted the event before every Memorial Day since 1948. It was then when the regiment was designated as the Army’s official ceremonial unit.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)
Over a course of four hours, more than 234,000 small flags were laid in front of headstones across the 624-acre cemetery. Flags were also placed inside the Columbarium as well, where the cremated remains of service members reside. In all, enough flags were placed to account for the more than 400,000 interred or inurned within the cemetery. Regiment Soldiers also placed about 11,500 flags at the nearby Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery.
“It’s a great commitment by these Soldiers to do this, to place them at the hundreds of thousands of graves here,” said Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper. “What it does is it pays respect and homage to those who served before them, going all the way back to the Civil War and signals the importance of their service and that they will never be forgotten for what they did. So that they know, these young Soldiers today, much as I knew when I was in uniform, that should I have to pay that ultimate price, I would not be forgotten either in America’s hearts and minds.”
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)
Col. Jason Garkey, the regiment commander, said Flags In is also a time of reflection for the Soldiers who participate.
“For every one of those headstones where we put a flag at, we have the solemn honor to put that flag in for a family member who can’t be here to do it themselves,” he said. “That’s a privilege.”
Each Soldier who took part in the event had the opportunity to place hundreds of flags into the ground, about 1 foot centered in front of every headstone.
When doing so, Garkey encouraged his Soldiers to read the name engraved onto the headstone.
“I tell them that the cemetery is alive,” Garkey said. “If you pay attention, it will tell you things.”
Buried throughout the cemetery are Medal of Honor recipients, young service members who were killed in war, retirees and spouses — all with a story to share.
Garkey, who took part in his sixth Flags In, recalled one time seeing two graves next to each other with the same last name. From the dates on the headstones, he believed they belonged to a father who had served much of his adult life in the military and his son who had died in combat years before him.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)
“There’s no worst thing than for a parent to bury their child,” he said. “But they ended up there for eternity.”
When his Soldiers recognize those sacrifices, he said, it helps put things into perspective while they perform their ceremonial duties.
“You realize there are many stories in the cemetery and that brings the cemetery to something more than just a place where we go to work,” the colonel said. “It makes it a living, breathing entity where we honor our fallen.”
For Sgt. Kevin Roman, who serves with Williams in the regiment’s Presidential Salute Battery that is responsible for firing blank howitzer rounds during ceremonies, Flags In gives him the chance to appreciate those who came before him.
“Memorial Day is a day to pay your respects to the [service members] who have made the ultimate sacrifice or who have served honorably,” said Roman, 23, of Bronx, New York. “For some people, it’s just a holiday and the unofficial start of summer.”
Before he participated in his fourth Flags In, he said every time he gets to place flags it is still meaningful to him.
“When you get out there and start reading tombstones, you gain that respect back that you may have lost during those hard days in the cemetery,” he said. “Everything comes flooding into you and you get that sense of proudness and that American spirit.”
Some gravesites are even more significant to other Soldiers in the regiment, whether they belong to a family member or a service member they once served with.
Garkey places a flag at the headstone of retired Lt. Col. Toby Runyon, a Vietnam War veteran and a family friend who died two years ago.
“I’ll take a photo and send it to his spouse just to say that we were thinking of Toby today,” he said.
Meanwhile, he said, the regiment’s sentinels who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier will stop at the gravesites of former sentinels.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Lane Hiser)
“Everybody has got their specific places that they go to,” Garkey said. “There’s a healing aspect that goes into it for us. It’s more than just a task, it’s an experience.”
Esper also placed flags at gravesites in the cemetery. A former Soldier himself, he said, he knows comrades in arms who have died in service to their country.
“On a day like this, I think about also my West Point classmates,” Esper said. “I know one for sure who passed away during my war, Desert Shield/Desert Storm. I had another one who was killed when the Twin Towers were felled on 9/11. And another one killed in Afghanistan. And I think about them as well, because they are peers, and like me, I can relate more to their point in life, where they got married or had children, or maybe never had the opportunity to do either. I think about them especially.”
Over Memorial Day weekend, Esper said, he hopes that Soldiers, family members, and Americans across the country will be thinking about those who fought for and died to secure freedom for the United States.
“Hopefully they will all reflect upon the great sacrifices that America’s Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines make in defense of our country and in defense of our liberties,” Esper said. “Particularly those fallen heroes that are here in Arlington National Cemetery.”