The A-10 Thunderbolt II, known affectionately as the Warthog, is the U.S. Air Force’s most beloved and capable close air support craft. Its low airspeed and low altitude ability give it an accuracy unmatched by any aircraft in the Air Force fleet. No matter what anyone in an Air Force uniform tells you.
For one A-10 pilot, the CAS world was turned upside down in the First Gulf War. Captain Bob Swain was flying anti-armor sorties in central Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm. After dropping six 500-pound bombs and taking out two Iraqi tanks with Maverick missiles, he saw potential tangos several miles away, just barely moving around.
He was tracking what he thought was a helicopter. When his OV-10 Bronco observation plane confirmed the target, Swain moved in for the kill. One of the targets broke off and moved north (back toward Iraq), the other moved south. The A-10 pilot tracked the one moving south but couldn’t get a lock with his AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles because the target was too close to the ground, just 50 feet above.
So he switched to the A-10’s 30mm GAU-8 Avenger cannon – aka the BRRRRRT.
It would be the first air-to-air kill in the A-10’s operational history. But Swain didn’t know that. He was just concerned with taking it down and started firing a mile away from the helicopter. His shots were on target, but the helicopter didn’t go down.
“On the final pass, I shot about 300 bullets at him,” Swain recalled to a press pool at the time. “That’s a pretty good burst. On the first pass, maybe 75 rounds. The second pass, I put enough bullets down, it looked like I hit with a bomb.”
Swain’s A-10 became known as the “Chopper Popper” in Air Force lore and is now displayed on the grounds of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
If you ever watched “The Jetsons,” an animated sitcom (1963-1964) about a family living in fictional Orbit City in the 2060s, you likely remember the iconic depiction of a futuristic utopia complete with flying cars and robotic contraptions to take care of many human needs. Robots, such as sass-talking housekeeper Rosie, could move through that world and perform tasks ranging from the mundane to the highly complex, all with human-like ease.
In the real world, however, robotic technology has not matured so swiftly.
What will it take to endow current robots with these futuristic capabilities? One place to look for inspiration is in human behavior and development. From birth, each of us has been performing a variety of tasks over and over and getting better each time. Intuitively, we know that practice, practice, and more practice is the only way to become better at something.
We often say we are developing a “muscle memory” of the task, and this is correct in many ways. Indeed, we are slowly developing a model of how the world operates and how we must move to influence the world. When we are good at a task—that is, when our mental model well captures what actually happens—we say the task has become second nature.
‘WHAT A PIECE OF WORK IS A MAN’
Let’s consider for a moment several amazing tasks performed by humans just for recreational purposes. Baseball players catch, throw, and hit a ball that can be moving faster than 100 miles per hour, using an elegant fusion of visual perception, tactile sensing, and motor control. Responding to a small target at this speed requires that the muscles react, at least to some degree, before the conscious mind fully processes visually what has happened.
The most skilled players of the game typically have the best mental models of how to pitch, hit, and catch. A mental model in this case contains all the prior knowledge and experience a player has about how to move his or her body to play the game, particularly for the position.
The execution of an assumed mental model is called “feed forward control.” A mental model that is incorrect or incomplete, such as one used by an inexperienced player, will reduce accuracy and repeatability and require more time to complete a task.
We can assume that even professional baseball players would need significant time to adjust if they were magically transported to play on the moon, where gravity is much weaker and air resistance is nonexistent. Similarly, another instance of incorrect models can be observed in the clumsy and uncoordinated movements of quickly growing children; their mental models of how to relate to the world must constantly change and adapt because they are changing.
Nevertheless, humans are quite resilient to change and, with practice, they can adapt to perform well in new situations.
A major focus of much current research going on now at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) is moving toward creating a robot like Rosie, capable of learning and executing tasks with the best precision and speed possible, given what we know about our own abilities.
NOT QUITE ‘INFINITE IN FACULTY’
In general, we can say that Rosie-like robot performance is possible given sufficient advances in the areas of sensing, modeling self-motion, and modeling interactions with the world.
Robots “perceive” the world around them using myriad integrated sensors. These sensors include laser range scanners and acoustic ranging, which provide the distance from the robot to obstacles; cameras that permit the robot to see the world, similar to our own eyes; inertial measurement sensing that includes rate gyroscopes, which sense the rate of change of the orientation of the robotic device; and accelerometers, which sense acceleration and gravity, giving the robot an “inner ear” of sorts.
All these methods of sensing the world provide different types of information about the robot’s motion or location in the environment.
Sensor information is provided to the algorithms responsible for estimating self-motion and interaction with the world. Robots can be programmed with their own versions of mental models, complete with mechanisms for learning and adaptation that help encode knowledge about themselves and the environment in which they operate. Rather than “mental models,” we call these “world models.”
‘IN FORM AND MOVING HOW EXPRESS AND ADMIRABLE,’ SORT OF
Consider a robot acting while assuming a model of its own motion in the world. If the behavior the robot actually experiences deviates significantly from the behavior the robot expects, the discrepancy will lead to poor performance: a “wobbly” robot that is slow and confused, not unlike a human after too many alcoholic beverages. If the actual motion is closer to the anticipated model, the robot can be very quick and accurate with less burden on the sensing aspect to correct for erroneous modeling.
Of course, the environment itself greatly affects how the robot moves through the world. While gravity can fortunately be assumed constant on Earth, other conditions can change how a robot might interact with the environment.
For instance, a robot traveling through mud would have a much different experience than one moving on asphalt. The best modeling would be designed to change depending on the environment. We know there are many models to be learned and applied, and the real issue is knowing which model to apply for a given situation.
Robotics today are developed in laboratory environments with little exposure to the variability of the world outside the lab, which can cause a robot’s ability to perceive and react to fail in the unstructured outdoors. Limited environmental exposure during model learning and subsequent poor adaptation or performance is said to be the result of “over-fitting,” or using a model created from a small subset of experiences to maneuver according to a much broader set of experiences.
At ARL, we are researching specific advances to address these areas of sensing, modeling self-motion, and modeling robotic interaction with the world, with the understanding that doing so will enable great enhancements in the operational speed of autonomous vehicles.
Specifically, we are working on knowing when and under what conditions different methods of sensing work well or may not work well. Given this knowledge, we can balance how these sensors are combined to aid the robot’s motion estimation.
A much faster estimate is available as well through development of techniques to automatically estimate accurate models of the world and of robot self-motion. With the learned and applied models, the robot can act and plan on a much quicker timescale than what might be possible with only direct sensor measurements.
Finally, we know that these models of motion should change depending on which of the many diverse environmental conditions the robot finds itself in. To further enhance robot reliability in a more general sense, we are working on how to best model the world such that a collection of knowledge can be leveraged to help select an appropriate model of robot motion for the current conditions.
If we can master these capabilities, then Rosie can be ready for operation, lacking only her signature attitude.
DR. JOSEPH CONROY is an electronics engineer in ARL’s Micro and Nano Materials and Devices Branch. He holds a doctorate, an M.S. and a B.S., all in aerospace engineering and all from the University of Maryland, College Park.
MR. EARL JARED SHAMWELL is a systems engineer with General Technical Services LLC, providing contract support to ARL’s Micro and Nano Materials and Devices Branch. He is working on his doctorate in neuroscience from the University of Maryland, College Park, and holds a B.A. in economics and philosophy from Columbia University.
This article will be published in the January – March 2017 issue of Army ALT Magazine.
Subscribe to Army ALT News, the premier online news source for the Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (ALT) Workforce.
Serving as one of the fiercest weapons on the battlefield, the Multiple Launch Rocket System, or “MLRS,” is an absolute game changer in the fight against global terrorism.
With its unique ability to launch 12 rockets per-minute, this versatile weapon can accurately locate and destroy anything from bunkers, command and control sites, and even those hard to find high-valued terrorist leaders.
Manufactured by Lockheed Martin and Diehl BGT Defence, the MLRS system sets itself apart from the rest of the competition with a specialized GPS guided missile that travels to a high altitude before making a vertical dive to its target from 200 miles away.
Formerly known as the General Support Rocket System, it’s designed to fire airburst missiles, bunker busters, smart rockets, and its featured munition — the long-range guided missile.
MLRS’ long-range guided missile is like no other. (Image via Giphy)This work of martial art weighs in at 27.5 tons, has a max operational range of 400 miles and is packaged with two six-rocket pods.
The MLRS uses a special tactic to decrease its vulnerability from returning enemy fire called “shoot and scoot.” Once the highly trained crew fire off a round, the team can quickly drive away before the missiles hit their targets — long before the enemy ever knows what hit them.
During the Desert Storm, Iraqi forces refused to fight since they knew the MLRS would lock onto their position and bring the pain — which saved many enemy lives.
“You can’t get a product. You are not going to get a product for months.” That’s what Brian Edwards, a medical supplier in California, has been telling dozens of people per day when they call searching for critical medical supplies that, before this year, they took for granted would be in stock.
The Chinese government’s mismanagement of the novel coronavirus not only spread the virus worldwide, it shut down many supply chains that the U.S. and other countries had become accustomed to; indeed, that the U.S. deeply relied upon. As we consider how our post-pandemic country will look, we should be careful to avoid a repeat of these mistakes.
U.S. dependence on Chinese manufacturing was no accident. The Chinese government’s “Made in China 2025” strategy to consolidate manufacturing supply chains and impose itself as the world’s preeminent source of high-value manufactured goods has been well-known for years. While we have neglected to safeguard our industrial base, Beijing was aggressively subsidizing its country’s manufacturing plants and creating supply chains that maximized its economic and geopolitical leverage.
Some of my colleagues and I have worked the White House and the Department of Defense in the last two years to restrict purchases of Chinese-manufactured critical materials for use in U.S. military systems, and the Federal Communications Commission and other agencies have taken the first steps to stop Huawei and related entities from dominating next-generation communications hardware. But the COVID-19 crisis demonstrates that a broader approach is needed.
The U.S. government should develop better, near-real-time insight into supply chains. Occasional reviews of individual supply chains create blind spots that major crises will reach unexpectedly. With the tools that are out there, it should be easier than ever for the government and its critical suppliers to share data to provide resiliency and security.
The government also needs to take the lead in maintaining and expanding critical American supply capabilities. It will be crucial to prevent the pennies-on-the-dollar purchase of distressed American assets during or immediately after the pandemic by firms linked to the Chinese government. This includes many major Chinese firms (such as Huawei). The country that knowingly took steps that allowed the disease to spread worldwide should not be allowed to financially benefit from those decisions.
At the same time, the government should ensure that American businesses get the liquidity and capital they need to maintain and expand critical supply chains within the United States. This can be done through direct investment into manufacturing plants, but it could also be done by making purchase agreements and building national stockpiles of needed supplies. The much-discussed Defense Production Act allows the federal government to both expand and ensure manufacturing capabilities, and the id=”listicle-2645908630″ billion that Congress provided to the DPA program in the CARES Act should be promptly supplemented with the direction that the government identify gaps and fragile sectors of supply chains and build capacity to bulwark them against future crises.
Though the current focus is, deservedly, on China, we should not think that there are no other foreign countries that seek to identify, develop, and exploit critical gaps in U.S. supply chains. Russia has always been a leader in the production of critical defense materials and a known bad actor on the global stage. Indian companies are routinely cited by U.S. authorities for dumping materials in critical and noncritical sectors of the economy. As we have seen recently with everything from thermometers to toilet paper, though, the supply chains that we rely on for our normal lives can be stressed in any number of ways.
A strong national approach to securing our manufacturing base is a necessary step for security and prosperity. The federal government is the only entity both large enough and focused enough to lead this effort. Congress should, therefore, act quickly, as soon as the next stimulus bill, to establish a supply chain monitoring and investment framework that will get America back to work and provide for a cohesive and united future.
It’s hardly a secret at this point that there are enough nuclear weapons on Earth to kill us all and destroy everything on the planet many, many times over. That was kinda the point of the whole “mutually assured destruction” theory. If someone launched a nuke, everyone would die. Since that would be crazy or stupid, we could be reasonably sure that no one would do anything that crazy… right?
Well, that’s how it all turned out, despite a few of our best attempts to launch a nuclear war anyway — in true American fashion. Nixon even wanted the Communists to think he might just be crazy enough to do it as a way to gain leverage in Vietnam, a strategy he called the “Madman Theory.”
So, being the daredevils we all are, humanity decided some things were important enough to save for all history, just in case we decided to send ourselves back to the Stone Age. Government and businesses wanted to ensure their most important possessions would be there for generations, so these things were just built to last — literally.
Entrance to the Seed Vault at dusk, highlighting its illuminated artwork.
About 800 miles from the North Pole is a Norwegian island that holds more than 1,750 different kinds of seeds from all around the world. It’s an effort to protect the Earth’s biodiversity from accidents, disasters, and — surprise — nuclear wars. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a joint effort on behalf of Norway’s government, the Global Crop Diversity Trust, and the Nordic Genetic Resource Center. Its Arctic location makes it a perfect place to cold store some 4.5 million seeds, a genetic snapshot of the plants on Earth.
2. Family Genetic Research Records
Deep inside the Granite Mountains near Salt Lake City, Utah, there’s an underground vault that houses 3.5 billion microfilm images of the world’s family genealogical history. The Mormon Church runs FamilySearch, a non-profit family historian organization. Since 1965, 200,000 members of the worldwide church have gathered records from all over the world. They’ve collected civil registration records, church records, and probate, census, land, tax, and military records. The collection also contains compiled sources, such as family histories, clan and lineage genealogies, oral pedigrees, and local histories.
3. World Wrestling Entertainment
The WWE owns the single largest library of professional wrestling ever assembled — and it’s not just its original programming. It owns shows performed by ECW, AWA, WCW, and a slew of smaller wrestling federations from around the country. The trove is stored in a massive, climate-controlled bunker that is constantly maintained — in the Iron Mountains of Upstate New York’s Catskills range.
4. Steam Trains
Despite the idea that the country would be totally destroyed in the event of a nuclear war with the United States, The Soviet Union wanted the ability to move around its massive territory. The problem was that nuclear weapons release an electromagnetic pulse upon detonation, destroying electronics within range of the pulse. For the USSR, the answer was easy, just use engines that don’t need electronics — steam power. Only 12 steam locomotives are still intact at the preserved base of the Strategic Steam Resource near Roslavl in Smolensk.
5. The American Economy
While it’s no longer housed at one site (which was then called the Culpeper Switch), the entire American economy was prepared for a nuclear war. A bunker in Culpeper, Va. housed enough cash to replenish the U.S. economy east of the Mississippi River — to the tune of some billion. It also housed a switch that transferred the Federal Reserve Bank’s EFT system and provided data backup for the bank.
That facility has been moved from its original location and spread across the country so you can still owe your student loans in the event of a catastrophe.
6. The Constitution and Declaration of Independence
The foundational documents of the United States aren’t just going to be left on their own in the event of a nuclear war (or, actually, a zombie apocalypse — the responses for each are the same). The National Archives has a security plan in place for the most important documents it houses. The Library of Congress’ Top Treasures Inventory was housed in a special vault during the Cold War to ensure their survival in case of a nuclear attack on Washington — on the National Archives site.
If there was time, however, it was said the documents would be airlifted to another continuity of government site, like the Culpeper Switch. The documents’ current security plan is classified.
United States special operators needed a custom, remotely-controlled vehicle, one that had mapping abilities, infrared sensors, and the ability to send a video live feed back to a waiting vehicle. The defense industry told the operators it would take at least 10 months and cost $1.7 million.
That wasn’t going to cut it. So a group of operators decided to do it themselves. You can probably imagine what a group of people who get the U.S. military’s dirtiest jobs can do when pressed.
So can a lot of people, most of whom are dead now.
It took the U.S. military’s best-trained troops just four days and ,000 to do what the military-industrial complex said would take nearly a year. The industry’s proposal was “unresponsive,” according to Gen. Richard Clarke, the new head of Special Operations Command said on May 19, 2019. Rather than give up the mission because of big defense’s proposed waste of time and money, the operators put their thinking caps on.
They “took stock of their own in-house skills and commercially available equipment and they filled their own system that fulfilled the requirement,” Clarke said. The General went on to describe how this wasn’t the military’s first DIY defense project – and it likely won’t be the last.
Because improvising in tough situations is kinda what they’re known for.
“The nature of industry and SOF collaboration is changing as our personnel learn and adapt to new technological possibilities,” he said. “They are establishing their own garage labs, frequently well forward in the operating environment to develop solutions to technical and tactical problems they’re facing.”
Hollywood has the ability to spark every veteran’s imagination and when the big screen explores what future militaries may become, it’s enough to make even the most content retiree dream of taking the oath all over again.
Let’s explore the fantastic armies any veteran would love to be a part of.
U.S. Special Operations Command is making progress researching, developing and testing a next-generation Iron Man-like suit designed to increase strength and protection and help keep valuable operators alive when they kick down doors and engage in combat, officials said.
The project, formally called Tactical Light Operator Suit, or TALOS, is aimed at providing special operators, such as Navy SEALs and Special Forces, with enhanced mobility and protection technologies, a Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, statement said.
“The ultimate purpose of the TALOS project is to produce a prototype in 2018. That prototype will then be evaluated for operational impact,” Lt. Cmdr. Matt Allen, SOCOM spokesman, told Scout Warrior.
Industry teams have been making steady progress on the technologies since the effort was expanded in 2013 by Adm. William McCraven, former head of SOCOM.
“I’m very committed to this because I would like that last operator we lost to be the last operator we ever lose,” McCraven said in 2013.
Defense industry, academic and entrepreneurial participants are currently progressing with the multi-faceted effort.
The technologies currently being developed include body suit-type exoskeletons, strength and power-increasing systems and additional protection. A SOCOM statement said some of the potential technologies planned for TALOS research and development include advanced armor, command and control computers, power generators, and enhanced mobility exoskeletons.
Also, scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing a next-generation kind of armor called “liquid body armor.”
It “transforms from liquid to solid in milliseconds when a magnetic field or electrical current is applied,” the Army website said.
TALOS will have a physiological subsystem that lies against the skin that is embedded with sensors to monitor core body temperature, skin temperature, heart rate, body position and hydration levels, an Army statement also said.
“The idea is to help maintain the survivability of operators as they enter that first breach through the door,” Allen added.
Taking something that belongs to someone else is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, stealing. If an item that was personally owned goes missing and ends up in the possession of another person, they stole it. This applies to cars, televisions, and nearly everything else a troop may own. But, for some reason, few in the military bat an eye if the missing item was issued without a serial number — it happens far too often in the military.
There’re a few old sayings in the military about this very concept. “Gear adrift is a gift.” “There’s only one thief in the military — everyone else is just getting their stuff back.” And, of course, “it’s not stealing if it’s tactically acquired.” Meaning that if you see something left — you can take it. After all, standard-issued gear is so widely distributed that it’s hard to prove who the gear was issued to originally.
Take a medium-regular service uniform (the most average-sized service uniform that’s also the most sold-out at any Exchange) for instance. If someone takes it out of a washing machine and it doesn’t have the original owner’s name sewn onto it, it’s almost impossible to confront the person who took it. If they aren’t caught in the act, they get away with it.
Eventually, troops will have to turn in their gear to the Central Issuing Facility (CIF) before PCS/ETSing. If a troop is missing a piece of gear that must be returned, instead of taking the hit on the chin with integrity, person A jacks person B’s gear so they don’t end up with a hefty charge. Remember, “there’s only one thief in the military,” and so the cycle continues. Person B then needs to decide between eating the fine person A should have faced or pass the burden on to person C, who has conveniently left their gear unattended.
There is, however, a third option most troops don’t consider: reporting it to the MPs. If you can prove that your gear was taken and there’re signs of forced entry (broken locks, broken doors/windows, water on the ground of the washing machine), you can easily take the report to CIF and explain the situation.
…Or you could just sweet talk the supply NCO. That works, too.
A time-honored tradition in the U.S. military, contingency plans have been drawn up for the defense against, and invasion of, most major military powers. In fact, in response to recent events on the Korean peninsula, the U.S. and South Korea recently signed on to such a plan. One of the most interesting episodes in this rich history of preparing for things that will probably never happen came when Uncle Sam planned to invade Johnny Canuck.
In the years leading up to World War II, beginning in fact in the 1920s, the army began planning for wars with a variety of countries, designating each plan by a different color: Germany (black), Japan (orange), Mexico (green) and England (red); as a dominion of Great Britain, Canada (crimson) was presumed to be loyal to England, and thus was included in the plan against a supposed British invasion (not to be confused with that of the 1960s).
The paranoid U.S. military strategists who devised War Plan Red believed that if the Britain and America were to battle again, it would begin from a trade dispute. Whatever the cause, army planners anticipated that any war with England would be prolonged, not only because of British and Canadian tenacity, but also from the fact that Britain could draw manpower and resources from its empire, including at that time Australia, Hong Kong, India, Kenya, New Zealand, Nigeria, Palestine, South Africa and Sudan.
Canadian Invasion Plan
Different versions of the plan were proposed, and one was first approved in 1930 by the War Department. It was updated in 1934-1935, and, of course, never implemented. Although it was far reaching and addressed some of Britain’s greatest strengths, such as the Royal Navy, one of the chief areas of concern was the U.S.’s long border with Canada. As a result, the plan addressed our northern neighbors with great detail, to wit:
With its vital naval base, military strategists planned a naval attack on Victoria, launched from Port Angeles, Washington, as well as a combined assault on Vancouver and its island. Successful occupation of this area would effectively cut off Canada from the Pacific.
The central hub for the Canadian railway system was located in Manitoba’s capital city, Winnipeg; army strategists felt that a land assault could easily be launched from Grand Forks, North Dakota, and Canada’s rail lines neutralized.
New Brunswick and Nova Scotia
Military planners apparently hoped to stun the Maritime Provinces with a poison gas attack on Nova Scotia’s capital city, Halifax, then also home to a major naval base. The chemical battle would then be followed by a sea invasion at St. Margaret’s Bay. It that didn’t work, an overland invasion and occupation of New Brunswick would, hopefully, isolate the valuable seaports of Nova Scotia from the remainder of Canada, effectively stopping British resupply of its forces.
A three-pronged attack, arising from Buffalo, Detroit and Sault Ste. Marie would gain control of the Great Lakes for the U.S. In addition to causing a crushing blow to British supply lines, it would allow the United States to control most of Canada’s industrial production.
An overland attack launching from adjacent New York and Vermont was planned. Control of this French-speaking province would, when combined with control of the Maritime Provinces, stop Britain from having any entry point to the remainder of the country from the Eastern seaboard.
Revelation of the Plan
Although it was declassified in 1974, portions of the plan were inadvertently leaked long before. During what was supposed to be classified testimony by military brass to the House Military Affairs Committee, two generals revealed some of the details of War Plan Red. That testimony was mistakenly published in official reports, which were picked up and printed by the New York Times.
Also revealed in the New York Times was the fact that the United States Congress had assigned $57 million in 1935 (nearly $1 billion today) in order to build three air bases near the U.S./Canadian border in line with War Plan Red’s recommendations, in case the U.S. needed to defend against or attack Canada. These air bases were supposed to be disguised as civilian airports, but the Government Printing Office accidentally reported the existence of the air bases on May 1 of 1935, blowing their cover.
Interestingly, War Plan Red’s recommendations also proposed that the U.S. not just invade in such a war with Britain and Canada, but take over, adding any conquered regions as states to the United States.
The Sad History of Americans Invading Canada Badly
Americans have a history of underestimating the Canadians:
In September 1775, Benedict Arnold (when he was still on our side) led an unsuccessful assault on Quebec City overland through difficult Maine wilderness; over 40% of Arnold’s men were lost making the attempt, and yet, inexplicably, he was promoted to Brigadier General.
War of 1812
During the second war with Britain, Thomas Jefferson opined that to occupy Canada was a “mere matter of marching” for U.S. troops. Yet attacks in the Old Northwest, across the Niagara River, and north from Lake Champlain, all failed.
Proxy “War” for Ireland
Over a period of five years from 1866 to 1872, Irish Catholics from the U.S. engaged in a series of raids on Canadian targets, including forts and customs houses. Known as the Fenian raids, the Fenian Brotherhood had hoped that their actions would force the British to withdraw from Ireland. They were unsuccessful.
Post Cold War
In 1995, Michael Moore created a fictional war between the United States and Canada in the comedy, Canadian Bacon. Like the real-life Americans who went before them, the fictional invasion in this farcical political commentary failed.
What Comes Around Goes Around
Before you get the idea that only Americans are aggressive bastards, you should know that the Canadians had developed a plan to invade the United States before the U.S. ever started on its scheme.
Characterized as a counterattack, the 1921 plan more accurately resembles a preemptive war. The brainchild of Lieutenant Colonel Buster Sutherland Brown of the Canadian Army, the plan called for a surprise attack on the U.S. as soon as the Canadians had “evidence” that America was planning an invasion; it was felt that a preemptive strike was required, as it would be the only way Canada could prevail in a battle with its larger, southern neighbor, which benefited from a far greater arsenal and much more manpower.
Other advantages of the quick strike included the fact that the war would be fought on American territory, so losses in civilian life and infrastructure would be borne by the Americans. Finally, the colonel thought this plan would best buy the Canadians time for their allies, the British, to come to their rescue before the Americans could launch an effective counterstrike.
We all know military kids have grit. They are resilient. Gone are the days when the moniker of brat was the norm. These kids kick butt. But clearly, they didn’t get to be this awesome on their own. Along with genetics, military parents pass down life skills and civilian parents should take notice.
Not only that, military parents start at a disadvantage. We don’t have the luxury of choosing where we live, how much time we spend together as a family or if making friends at our new duty station will be easy or a string of awkward interactions or being repeatedly ghosted.
However, the byproduct of this lack of choice are parent life hacks that redefine parenting, military style:
1. The art of the cannonball
When you have to jump into friendships, school, new surroundings, etc. – ad nauseum – there is no room for hesitation. You must just take a leap, no matter the water temperature or the distance to the splash. Military parents model what it is to roll with life when plans that were already written in Jell-O change again when new orders are cut.
Military kids are often the new faces on the playground asking, “Wanna play?” As they get older it gets harder, but they still try. They never stop trying. They jump in because they know they’ll have to start the process all over in two to three years.
2. Let it go and embrace the suck
When you grow up without being able to control the world around you, your “normal” changes. Military kids know that “normal” is not a thing. This life lesson is one that all kids – and adults – need to learn. Of course, letting go of control is in no one’s comfort zone. It is ongoing — a choice to make the best of each crappy situation. Because as military kids and parents know, the crap will be closely followed by amazing – new favorite restaurants, friends and places to explore.
Sure, sometimes new is not better, and you find yourself stationed in rural Fallon, Nevada instead of sunny San Diego, California. But just as a cardboard box can be magically transformed into Star Wars X-wing fighter, rocks are actually buried treasure and white walls are blank canvases when presented with a permanent marker – hard is just an opportunity to invent a new perspective.
3. Herd parenting for the win
Because military spouses morph into solo parents during deployments, they are often forced to (begrudgingly) rely upon others. The kindness of strangers at grocery stores, parents who invite kids over for playdates and judgement-free friends who come over, bottle of wine in hand – these things save lives. They also help kids learn that asking for help is okay. Not only is it okay, it is usually more fun. There are also other adults to yell at your kids, so you don’t have to be the bad guy 24/7. Parenting takes a village, but for military families their lifestyle makes a village.
4. Yes sir/ma’am!
For those who are not from the south, calling someone ma’am or sir is risky. Using these pronouns could be considered an insult if addressed to someone of an insufficient age, and could be wise to avoid.
But the thing about the military is it sends people from all regions of the U.S., mixes them together and orders them to be polite. Respect is part of the culture, even if it is just surface level and mandatory. Military kids can certainly be wild, but they know the consequence of answering a question with “yea” instead of “yes ma’am” outweighs the use of extra syllables.
5. It is not about them
Well, a lot of it is about them. Older kids have the youthful wisdom to connect news stories about war to what their parents do. Their ears perk up when they hear someone mention the military. They have become so a part of this process that they know when it is NOT about them, but about a greater, larger purpose. Without being told, military kids know that a happy life is not always an easy life. They know what it is to sacrifice and the honor that comes through service. This value placed on service leads many to follow in their parent’s footsteps by joining the military themselves.
Life hacks aside, we know that despite their resilience, military kids have to grow up fast. Many have anxiety, struggle at school as a result of frequent PCS moves and act out when mom/dad is deployed. They have to say goodbye to parents as if it were the last time and worse yet, sometimes it is. Their lives are harder than most and we as parents do our best with what we have.
But sometimes, if we are lucky enough to stumble into solid friendships, awesome duty stations and model optimism more often than not, our kids will rebound from this lifestyle with character birthed from chaos.
The British Army has had many iconic recruitment ad campaigns over the years. From Lord Kitchener’s, “Your Country Needs You” that became the basis of nearly every other recruitment poster to WWI’s famous, “Your chums are fighting. Why aren’t you?”
Today, the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom are at some of the lowest numbers in centuries. Now, they’re trying out a new recruitment strategy:
On the surface, it might seem belittling to potential recruits and, to be fair, that’s how most people are interpreting it. But if you take a step back and read the full poster and evaluated the entire campaign as a whole, it’s actually brilliant.
The poster above is a part of the British Army’s “This is Belonging” campaign, which also includes TV ads that showcases young people who feel undervalued in their jobs. Other posters also call for “me me me millennials” and their self-belief, “binge gamers” and their drive, “selfie addicts” and their confidence, “class clowns” and their spirit, and “phone zombies” and their focus.
It’s a call to action to a younger generation that may not believe they’re right for anywhere. The TV ad for the binge gamer shows the person being scolded for playing too many games, but he keeps pushing himself after every “Game Over.” Next, the commercial cuts to this same gamer as a soldier, and he’s pushing himself further and further. At its core, that’s what this campaign is really about.
I don’t want to be the guy to point it out, but… the oldest millennials are now 37 and the youngest are 25. Let’s not get them confused with Gen-Z, the 17 to 24 year olds that are more commonly associated with these stereotypes. Just sayin’…
British Army recruiters have long labelled service as a means to better one’s self. Sure, it’s patronizing to call a potential recruit a “me me me millennial,” but it’s also breaking conventional by attributing a positive quality, “self-belief,” to that same person — a quality desired by the military.
The reception has been, let’s say, highly polarizing. One side is complaining that it’s demeaning and desperate while the other is complaining that the British Army doesn’t need snowflakes. The bigger picture is that it’s a marketing strategy geared towards getting the attention of disenfranchised youth who just happen to be the perfect age for military service.
Since it was just released, only time will tell whether it’s effective in bringing in young Brits. But it has certainly gone viral and everyone is talking about it, which was definitely the objective.
When people mention “Pappy” — otherwise known as Gregory P. Boyington of VMF-214 — the “Black Sheep Squadron” immortalized in the late 1970s series “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” comes to mind.
There is a good reason; Boyington, a Medal of Honor recipient, is the top-scoring Marine Corps ace with 28 kills. He was also an ace with the Flying Tigers (six kills).
But there is another Pappy who did much to help turn back the Japanese in the Pacific Theater. This was Paul I. “Pappy” Gunn.
“Pappy” Gunn had served in the U.S. Navy for twenty years before retiring to start airlines in Hawaii and the Philippines. When Pearl Harbor was attacked, he returned to the service — and received a Distinguished Flying Cross for flying in medical supplies to besieged troops on the Bataan Peninsula. He was evacuated to Australia, and in the summer of 1942, he began his major contribution to the war effort.
Gunn started to add M2 .50-caliber machine guns to the noses of A-20 Havoc light bombers. The planes had been okay, able to carry a ton of bombs, but bombing from high altitude often didn’t work with ships. So Gunn began modifying the A-20s, and later the B-25s, with M2s scavenged from fighters that had brought back their pilots, but which wouldn’t be repaired. He also developed the tactics these planes would use.
It was a very lethal masterpiece. Word filtered back to the manufacturers, Douglas and North American, and soon new versions of the B-25 and A-20 were out, built and inspired by Gunn’s field modifications. One version of the B-25 would carry 18 forward-firing M2s — the firepower of three P-51 Mustangs!
These planes would make their mark in the Southwest Pacific. Japan was trying to reinforce troops in New Guinea, where the Americans and Australians were fighting fiercely. Gunn’s modifications would be put to the test in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. Japan sent eight transports, escorted by eight destroyers to deliver nearly 7,000 troops to Lae from Rabaul.
On March 3, 1943, they began. The Japanese force was simply unprepared to handle the Allied firepower. Despite cover from 100 fighters, their convoy was savaged. The strafing, combined with skip-bombing and mast-height bombing, tore the transports and half the destroyers apart. Only 1200 troops and practically no equipment made it to Lae.
Gunn would serve throughout the war, retiring as a full colonel. He then went back to re-building the airline he had started prior to World War II breaking out. In 1957, he was killed when his plane crashed during a storm. While not well-known, Gunn’s legend is one that does the United States Air Force proud.