Was Mr. Rogers a deadly sniper in Vietnam? - We Are The Mighty
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Was Mr. Rogers a deadly sniper in Vietnam?

Beloved children’s show icon Fred Rogers, who passed away in 2003, has long been the subject of an unusual urban myth – that before his days of red cardigans and puppeteering, he was a decorated battlefield veteran. The fact of the matter is that despite receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from George W. Bush, Rogers never served in the armed forces. How, then, to explain this popular but mystifying narrative?

Born near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Fred Rogers was raised by a mother who volunteered at a hospital and a father who presided over the McFeely Brick Company in Latrobe. In his childhood, Rogers was a shy introvert, overweight, and prone to asthma attacks. Luckily, life improved for him in high school. As he told NPR’s Terry Gross, “I made a couple friends who found out that the core of me was okay. And one of them was…the head of the football team.” He went on to serve as student council president and editor-in-chief of the school yearbook, as well as National Honor Society member.

Rogers’ early adulthood was occupied with college at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1962. Rather than becoming a pastor, his mission as an ordained minister would be to minister families through television. As he later told CNN, “I went into television because I hated it so, and I thought there’s some way of using this fabulous instrument to nurture those who would watch and listen.” 

fred rogers
Mr. Rogers in Chicago, 1994 (Derek Wolfgram, Wikipedia)

After a brief TV stint at NBC in New York City, Rogers returned to Pittsburgh to work at public television station WQED, where he developed the children’s show The Children’s Corner, which was the seed from which Mister Rogers Neighborhood would grow ten years later (airing in 1968), running for nearly 900 episodes.

To better understand why the public would assign such a well-scrubbed paragon of decency as Mr. Rogers with a blood-soaked war record, History.com spoke with Assistant Professor Trevor J. Blank, who teaches communication at SUNY Potsdam. According to Blank, “Urban legends sometimes distort the positive to create a sense of intrigue,” and, ““Mr. Rogers, by all accounts, seems like a very mild-mannered, Puritan-esque character…Him having a very macho back story or being a ruthless killer is kind of titillating; it runs counter to what you’re presented as true in your day-to-day experience.”

One lesser-known chapter in Fred Rogers’ story is his visit to Moscow in 1987 during the height of the Cold War. The goal was to teach Russian children compassion and kindness, but in a broader sense it was an effort to build a bridge between warring nations. An East-West crossover was filmed, with Rogers appearing on Goodnight Kiddies and Russian star Tatyana Vedeneyeva guesting on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Blake Stillwell, a contributor here at We Are the Mighty and Military.com, writes, “Through a translator, Rogers is introduced to the Soviet show’s host, Tatyana Vedeneyeva, as well as her friends Khryusha the piglet and Styopa the rabbit. The exchange is nothing short of heartwarming.”

Fred Rogers’ work in children’s television can be defined as something of a humanitarian effort. Some of these qualities owe to Rogers’ mother Nancy Rogers, who always engaged with him as an adult, never talking down to him. In Maxwell King’s book The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers, he writes “She loved to talk. And she loved to talk with Fred,” writes King. But “never to Fred; always with Fred.” His religion extended to the programming he diligently crafted for so many years, but he never put too fine a point on it in the episodes. He once said “You don’t need to speak overtly about religion in order to get a message across.”

Navy Times writes: “Rogers attuned children and their developmental journeys to the most significant attributes of what it means to be a human: love, compassion and kindness for others. In many ways, this is also what he meant by being a good neighbor.” 

The man and his message are in many ways antithetical to the battlefield experience, making the urban myth of his time as a warrior all the more confounding. But while he was no legend on the battlefield, he was definitely still a hero.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Everything you need to know about the Taliban’s special forces unit

On the increasingly crowded battlefields of Afghanistan, a feared, commando-style Taliban unit is gaining attention for a series of deadly attacks on Afghan security forces.


Known as “Sara Kheta” — Red Unit or Danger Unit in Pashto — it is said to be the Taliban’s elite special-forces group. Unlike regular Taliban fighters, analysts say the outfit is better trained and armed and is sent on special operations targeting bases and posts of the Afghan National Army and police force.

The so-called Red Unit’s rise has raised concerns among government forces struggling to fend off the Taliban since the withdrawal of NATO troops in 2014 and suffering record casualty rates on the battlefield.

Was Mr. Rogers a deadly sniper in Vietnam?

When did it emerge?

The first mention of a Taliban “special-forces unit” was in June 2015, when Taliban fighters published photos on social media purportedly showing a training camp where recruits were being trained on heavy machine guns and anti-aircraft guns.

In December 2015, the Taliban said it was unleashing its special forces to eliminate fighters allied with the militant group Islamic State (IS) that had emerged in Afghanistan earlier that year.

In August 2016, Afghan military officials confirmed the existence of the Taliban’s Red Unit in the southern province of Helmand.

But the unit has fought its way to greater prominence in the past month or so. On Nov. 1, the Taliban uploaded photos of the unit on its official Telegram account. The photos show members of Red Unit in new uniforms and armed with the kind of tactical assault gear worn by soldiers and law enforcement teams around the world.

Also Read: The Taliban killed 15 Afghan police in separate attacks

Weeks later, Afghan officials blamed it for a spate of attacks on Nov. 13 and 14 during which dozens of Afghan security personnel were killed in the southern province of Kandahar and the western province of Farah.

On Dec. 3, Afghanistan’s intelligence agency said the commander of the new unit, Mullah Shah Wali, also known Mullah Naser, was killed in an air operation in Helmand Province the week before.

How is it different from other Taliban units?

“What distinguishes this force from other fighting units is its intensive and longer training, the degree of vetting, its tactics, weapons and equipment, and structure,” says Borhan Osman, senior Afghanistan analyst at the International Crisis Group (ICG).

Was Mr. Rogers a deadly sniper in Vietnam?

“The unit is mainly used for quick interventions, high-value targets, special operations, or offensives such as capturing a highly strategic area, breaking major sieges of regular Taliban forces, jailbreaks, and escorting important leaders,” Osman adds.

Military analysts estimate the size of the unit at anywhere from several hundred to up to 1,000 fighters.

Those tactics and capabilities were on show in the November attacks when Afghan officials said the unit, equipped with lasers and night-vision gear, attacked police checkpoints and army bases and rapidly left the scene to avoid NATO air strikes. On Nov. 14, the unit drove a pickup truck loaded with explosives into a police checkpoint point and then launched attacks on 14 nearby posts, killing over two dozen police officers.

In Farah Province the same day, Taliban units with night-vision scopes killed eight police officers in their beds early in the morning. Three police officers in the province were also killed in night attacks around the same time.

Was Mr. Rogers a deadly sniper in Vietnam?
Screengrab from released Taliban video.

The U.S. military has equipped many Afghan soldiers with night-vision equipment, but police forces rarely possess them.

“The Red Unit and regular Taliban forces use the same types of weapons: small arms, RPGs, and machine guns,” says Bill Roggio, senior fellow at the Washington-based think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies and editor of the Long War Journal. “Typically, the Red Unit has newer weapons, and is occasionally seen with night-vision devices that have been seized from Afghan forces.”

The unit is believed to equipped with the Taliban’s most advanced weaponry, including 82-millimeter rockets, laser pointers, heavy machine guns, and U.S.-made M-4 assault rifles. They are also known to have used and possess dozens of armored Humvees and Ford Ranger pickup trucks stolen from Afghan forces.

Ahmad K. Majidyar, a South Asia and Middle East expert for the Washington-based Middle East Institute, says it is misleading to call the unit a special-forces outfit because it lacks elite commando capabilities of even the Afghan Special Forces, let alone advanced elite commando units such as the U.S. SEAL Team Six.

“The Red Team is more a heavily armed group used in surprise attacks against vulnerable Afghan security check posts,” he says. “It also has well-trained snipers that aid ordinary Taliban militants in their attack against the Afghan forces.”

The unit has also spread from southern Afghanistan, where it was established, and has expanded into eastern and western regions.

 

 

How much of a threat is it?

“The Red Unit poses a significant threat to Afghan forces,” Roggio says. “It has had great success on the battlefield when going head to head with Afghan units.”

Roggio says the unit operates like shock troops, often leading assaults on Afghan district centers, military bases, and outposts.

The NATO-led mission in Afghanistan has said it has not seen any evidence of the Taliban possessing advanced weaponry like night-vision equipment, which Afghan officials say the militants have purchased on the black market or have accumulated after overrunning Afghan army bases.

But Afghan military officials have confirmed the unit’s capabilities.

Kandahar’s powerful police chief, General Abdul Raziq, has said the Red Unit is part of the Taliban’s “new approach and new tactics,” adding that it was “well equipped and highly armed.”

Majidyar says he expects the Red Unit to come under increasing pressure if President Donald Trump relaxes U.S. rules of engagement.

“The Taliban will suffer more significant losses on the battlefield in the coming months,” he predicts.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis has tough words for China: ‘We will not be intimidated’

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis called on America’s allies to combat Chinese efforts to dominate the contested South China Sea during a trilateral meeting in Singapore Oct. 19, 2018.

“I think that all of us joining hands together, ASEAN allies and partners, and we affirm as we do so that no single nation can rewrite the international rule to the road and expect all nations large and small to respect those rules,” Mattis said during a meeting with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts, according to The Hill.


“The United States, alongside our allies and partners, will continue to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows and our national interests demand. We will not be intimidated, and we will not stand down, for we cannot accept the PRC’s militarization of the South China Sea or any coercion in this region,” he added.

Mattis doubled down on statements made by Vice President Mike Pence in a forceful speech at the Hudson Foundation in October 2018 that came immediately in the wake of a showdown between US and Chinese warships.

“China wants nothing less than to push the United States of America from the Western Pacific and attempt to prevent us from coming to the aid of our allies,” Pence explained. He called attention to the recent showdown in the South China Sea as evidence of “China’s aggression.”

Was Mr. Rogers a deadly sniper in Vietnam?

An EA-18G Growler assigned to Electronic Attack Squadron (VFA) 141 lands on the flight deck of the Navy’s forward deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kenneth Abbate)

“A Chinese naval vessel came within 45 yards of the USS Decatur as it conducted freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea, forcing our ship to quickly maneuver to avoid collision,” he said, describing a dangerous encounter that the US military characterized as “unsafe” and “unprofessional.”

The Trump administration has taken a hard-line stance against China, targeting Beijing for perceived violations of the rules-based international order. In the South China Sea, tensions have been running high as the US challenges China through freedom-of-navigation operations, bomber overflights, and joint drills with regional partners — all aimed to counter China’s expansive but discredited territorial claims.

A pair of B-52H Stratofortress bombers flew through the disputed South China Sea Oct. 16, 2018, in support of US Indo-Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence mission, which is notably intended to send a deterrence message to potential adversaries.

Mattis met with his Chinese counterpart Gen. Wei Fenghe Oct. 18, 2018, for an hour and a half on the sidelines of a security forum in Singapore. The talks, described as “straightforward and candid,” focused heavily on the South China Sea, but it is unclear if the two sides made any real progress on the issue.

“That’s an area where we will continue to have differences,” Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs Randall Schriver said after the meeting concluded.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy’s restored 2nd Fleet unveils its crest and motto

Commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet (C2F) revealed a new crest and motto, designed to represent the fleet’s new mission, Aug. 22, 2018, prior to the establishment ceremony on Aug. 24, 2018, in Norfolk, Virginia.

The symbolism is rich and reflective of the purpose of C2F. The logo’s centerpiece is a shield divided into two points. The top of the shield, the chief, is blue and signifies vigilance, perseverance and justice, while the bottom of the shield, the base, is divided into red and white pales. The red signifies military strength and courage, while white signifies integrity and peace.


The field is charged with the number “2,” indicating the numbered fleet, as well as unification in achieving the Navy’s mission in addressing changes in the security environment. Atop the shield is perched a bald eagle, the ultimate symbol of freedom, with its fierce, dominant talons representing the lethal maritime capabilities of the command. The shield is supported by a trident, an ancient symbol of the sea representing power and control over the ocean.

Furthermore, the crest is emblazoned in full color on a geographical map centered on the North Atlantic Ocean, adjoining land masses signifying our enduring relationships with partners and allies. The three stars signify the rank of a vice admiral, who will command C2F.

Was Mr. Rogers a deadly sniper in Vietnam?

The official crest for the re-establishment of Commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet, which will report to Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command.

The motto, “Ready to Fight,” personifies the spirit and dedication of the command, which maintains and equips maritime assets enhancing interoperability and lethality against foreign and domestic enemies who threaten regional or national security.

“Our new crest signifies our dedication and renewed focus on naval operations on the East Coast and North Atlantic,” said Vice Adm. Andrew “Woody” Lewis, commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet. “Building from our rich legacy, we wanted to pay homage to the old 2nd Fleet by including some aspects of the original crest – the eagle, the trident, the shield, and the map in the background – but the new crest signifies our mission going forward, which addresses a new security environment and the modern warfighter.”

U.S. 2nd Fleet, to be headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia, will exercise operational and administrative authorities over assigned ships, aircraft and landing forces on the East Coast and the North Atlantic Ocean. Additionally, it will plan and conduct maritime, joint and combined operations and will train and recommend certification of combat-ready naval forces for maritime employment and operations around the globe. C2F will report to USFF.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why Navy combat planes used these risky rockets to take off

Most people have heard of Jet-Assisted Take-Off, also known as “JATO.” Unfortunately, it’s usually in connection with a story involving a Chevrolet Impala and a Darwin Award that may or may not have actually happened. Despite this blemish on its reputation, JATO was in use for almost a half-century before the infamous award — and is still used today.


Was Mr. Rogers a deadly sniper in Vietnam?

A Lockheed P-2 Neptune is launched from the aircraft carrier USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV 42) with the use of JATO rockets.

(U.S. Navy)

First of all, the “jet-assisted” part of JATO is actually a misnomer. There’s no jet involve. JATO systems actually use a rocket – or several rockets. These rockets were capable of cutting the takeoff run by almost 60 percent. That sort of advantage is huge when your airfield has been bombed and the runways have been dotted with potholes. It’s also important for taking off in a heavily loaded plane, whether it’s full of cargo or bombs.

Was Mr. Rogers a deadly sniper in Vietnam?

Perhaps the most prominent use of JATO: When the Blue Angels’ C-130 Hercules takes off.

(U.S. Navy)

Early jet engines didn’t have good performance during takeoffs and landings. As a result, they needed long runways to safely operate. This made the early jet fighters vulnerable to propeller-driven planes. For example, P-51s would often lurk around the bases used by Me-262s and hit the Nazi jets as they took off. JATO systems were designed to get jets off the ground faster — and they help with performance.

Early jets were tricky to fly (those who flew the YP-80 reported that the engine would sometimes cut out mid-flight — not a good situation to be in). America’s ace of aces, Major Richard Bong, was killed in an accident involving a prototype P-80 Shooting Star, and the top ace of the Korean War, Joseph McConnell, was killed while test-flying the F-86H. A JATO rocket provided assistance to early-model jet engines during takeoff, allowing the plane’s ejection seat to function properly.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O930YRruewQ

www.youtube.com

However, the need for JATO systems has declined as jet technology improves. Vertical or Short Take Off and Landing technology also emerged in the form of lift fans and vectored thrust.

Although JATO isn’t widely used, it makes for a spectacular moment when the Lockheed C-130 assigned to the Blue Angels makes its takeoff.

See how the Navy discussed JATO over 70 years ago in the video below:

Humor

7 life lessons we learned from Gunny Highway in ‘Heartbreak Ridge’

The 1986 movie “Heartbreak Ridge” took the Marine Corps community and audiences by storm as it showcased Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Highway’s rough and tumble personality. Clint Eastwood took on dual roles as he starred in and directed this iconic film role about a man who is on the tail-end of his military service.


Related: 7 life lessons we learned from watching ‘Full Metal Jacket’

Behind Gunny Highway’s tough exterior lies a man who knows plenty about being a career Marine, but also has a need to build relationships as he moves forward in life.

So check out these life lessons that we could all learn from our beloved Gunny.

1. Don’t let anyone punk you

In Gunny’s own words, “be advised that I’m mean, nasty, and tired. I eat concertina wire and piss napalm and I can put a round through a flea’s ass at 200 meters.”

You tell them, Gunny. (images via Giphy)

2. Know exactly who you are

Although the majority of the film’s characters were out to discourage him, that didn’t stop him from being true to himself.

(images via Giphy)

3. Be semi-approachable

Yes, Gunny is a hard ass, but giving a treat to somebody to shut them the hell up is an excellent networking technique.

Gunny always finds a way to make friends. (images via Giphy)

4. Size doesn’t matter

You can have the biggest muscles in the room, but if you don’t have that “thinker” sitting in between your two ears, you don’t have sh*t.

Gunny doesn’t back down. (images via Giphy)

5. Grunts vs. POGs

The rivalry is real.

When you have some trigger time under your belt and know you’re right, sound off to make your point loud and clear.

Get him! (images via Giphy)

Also Read: 8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan

6. Lead from the front

Leadership is about showing your men that you will fight with them and for them.

(images via Giphy)

7. Being patriotic is a turn on

No matter how hardcore you are, after a long day of kicking ass and taking names, it’s always good to have someone to come home too.

And Gunny lives happily ever after. (images via Giphy)We told you this movie was about relationships.

MIGHTY TRENDING

One of Pearl Harbor’s last survivors dies at age 97

Donald Stratton, who served aboard the USS Arizona when it was attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, passed away on Feb. 15, 2020. He was 97 years old.


Stratton was born and raised in Nebraska and joined the Navy in 1940 at the age of 18 right after finishing high school. He heard rumors of war and figured it was best to join sooner rather than later.

When he was asked why he joined the Navy he said, “My theory was you either had a nice place aboard a ship and were high and dry or you didn’t have anything. In the Army, you were crawling around in the mud and everything else, and I didn’t want to do that.”

After finishing training, he was sent to Washington state, where he would be assigned to his first duty station, the USS Arizona. When he saw the ship for the first time, she was in dry dock. He said, “It was quite a sight for an old flatlander like me to see a 35,000-ton battleship out of the water.”

The Arizona was a Pennsylvania-class battleship that was commissioned during the First World War. While she didn’t see action then, the Navy made good use of her first in the Mediterranean and later in the Pacific. She was 908 feet in length and had twelve 45 caliber, 14-inch guns as part of her armament.

When the Arizona made its way down to Pearl Harbor, Stratton went with her. Stratton and the rest of the crew settled into the routine of training and exercises, both in port and out at sea. There was no doubt in his mind that the U.S. was preparing for war. Like most Americans, though, he was still shocked at how the war began.

The “day that would live in infamy” started out pretty routinely for Stratton and the thousands of other Sailors and Marines at Pearl Harbor. He woke up for Reveille and went to get chow. After bringing oranges to a buddy in sick bay, he stopped at his locker and headed up top. He heard screams and shouts and followed everyone’s points to Ford Island. There he saw an aircraft bank in the morning light and the distinctive rising sun emblem on the plane. Stratton quipped, “Well, that’s the Japanese, man – they’re bombing us.”

Stratton ran to his battle station, calling out coordinates for his anti-aircraft gun crew. His crew soon realized that they didn’t have range on the bombers and watched in horror as the Japanese made their bombing runs.

The Japanese had 10 bombers assigned to attack the Arizona. Of the bombs dropped, three were near misses, and four hit their target. It was the last hit that would prove catastrophic for the Sailors and Marines on board. The bomb penetrated the deck and set off a massive explosion in one of the ship’s magazines. The force of the explosion ripped apart the Arizona and tore her in two.

Stratton had the fireball from the explosion go right through him. He suffered burns over 70% of his body and was stuck aboard a ship that was going down rapidly. Through the smoke, he could make out the USS Vestal and a single sailor waving to him. He watched as the Sailor waved off someone on his own ship and tossed a line over to the Arizona. Stratton and five other men used the rope and traversed the 70 foot gap to safety. Stratton never forgot the sailor yelling, “Come on Sailor, you can make it!” as he struggled to pull his badly burned body to safety.

Two of the men who made it across died alone with 1773 other men on the Arizona. Only 334 men on the ship made it out alive. The Arizona burned for two days after the attack.

Stratton was sent to San Francisco where he spent all of 1942 recovering from his wounds. His weight dropped to 92 pounds, and he couldn’t stand up on his own. He almost had an arm amputated too. Shortly thereafter, he was medically discharged from the Navy

Stratton then decided that he wasn’t going to sit out the rest of the war. He appealed to the Navy and was allowed to reenlist, although he had to go through boot camp again. He was offered a chance to stay stateside and train new recruits, but he refused. He served at sea during the battles of the Philippines and Okinawa where he worked to identify potential kamikaze attacks. He called Okinawa “82 days of hell.”

Stratton left the Navy after the war and took up commercial diving until his retirement. He settled in Colorado Springs, and he actively participated in Pearl Harbor reunions and commemorations. Stratton wanted to make sure people didn’t forget about the men who died that day.

It was at one of those reunions in 2001 that Stratton’s life found another mission to complete. He found out the Sailor aboard the USS Vestal was named Joe George. When the attack commenced the Vestal was moored to the Arizona. After the catastrophic explosion, an officer ordered George to cut lines to the Arizona as it was sinking. George frantically motioned to men trapped on the Arizona, burning to death. The officer told them to let them be and cut the lines.

George waved him off and threw a safety line and saved men, including Stratton. Stratton learned that George had passed away in 1996, so he wouldn’t get a chance to thank him. But to his disbelief, George had never been commended for saving his fellow Sailors.

The Navy looked at the incident and decided they couldn’t award a Sailor for saving lives because he disobeyed an order from an officer. (Some things never change.)

Stratton and fellow rescued Sailor, Lauren Bruner, took up the cause to get George awarded. They met nothing but resistance from the Navy. From 2002 to 2017 Stratton repeatedly tried to get George honored but was ignored. It wasn’t until 2017 when he was able to meet with President Donald Trump and then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis that the ball started rolling. Shortly thereafter, George’s family was presented with a Bronze Star with “V” for George’s heroic actions that day.

Stratton wanted to make sure people never forgot that day. He recounted his life’s journey in his memoir, “All the Gallant Men: An American Sailor’s Firsthand Account of Pearl Harbor.

He also helped with a documentary about George’s life, which was narrated by Gary Sinise.

Stratton had the option to have his remains cremated and scattered at the Arizona memorial. But after a life at sea, he instead chose to go home and will be buried in Nebraska.

Of the men who served on the USS Arizona that day, only two surviving crew members are still alive: Lou Conter, 98, and Ken Potts, 98.

Fair Winds and Following Seas.

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Everything Guardsmen need to know about their retirement options

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.

Was Mr. Rogers a deadly sniper in Vietnam?
(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.

What’s next?

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.

Was Mr. Rogers a deadly sniper in Vietnam?
(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!

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch F-35s in ‘beast mode’ on a war mission in the Middle East

Two F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters recently flew a mission in the Middle East in “beast mode,” meaning they were loaded up with as much firepower as they could carry.

The F-35s with the 4th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron took off from Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates to execute a mission in support of US forces in Afghanistan, Air Forces Central Command said. The fifth-generation fighters sacrificed their high-end stealth to fly with full loadouts of weaponry on their wings.


“Beast mode,” the carrying of weapons internally and externally to boost the overall firepower of the aircraft, is also known as the “Third Day of War” configuration. At the start of a fight, the F-35 would store all of its weapons internally to maintain low observability, as the external weapons would likely increase the surfaces that enemy radar could detect.

Was Mr. Rogers a deadly sniper in Vietnam?

An F-35A Lightning II in “beast mode” during an operation in support of US forces in Afghanistan in May 2019.

(US Air Force)

The fighters carried six GBU-49 Paveway laser-guided precision bombs and two AIM-9X Sidewinder infrared-tracking short-range air-to-air missiles externally. Air Forces Central Command released a video on Friday of 380th Expeditionary Maintenance Group teams loading the weapons onto the jets.

US Air Forces deployed the F-35A to the Middle East, the US Central Command area of responsibility, for the first time in April 2019. The aircraft flew their first sortie on April 26, 2019.

Was Mr. Rogers a deadly sniper in Vietnam?

A F-35A Lightning II.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Thornbury)

Four days later, the F-35s, which were pulled from the active-duty 388th Fighter Wing and Reserve 419th Fighter Wing, conducted a strike in Wadi Ashai, Iraq. The mission, carried out in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve marked the F-35A’s first combat mission, according to the US Air Force.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base

Airmen from the 822nd Base Defense Squadron, Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, are always primed to deploy at a moment’s notice to secure and defend bases around the world. On Oct. 11, 2018, that moment came.

However, they weren’t traveling to faraway lands to set up security in foreign territory. They were driving to Tyndall AFB, Florida, to protect a base that had been ravaged by a category four hurricane one day prior.


“Our sole purpose is to be a global response force,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Beil, 822nd BDS base defender. “We have to be prepared to deploy anywhere in the world, anytime, just like that, and secure an entire base.”

Tyndall is only a three and a half hour drive from Moody, but what the 822nd BDS defenders found when they arrived was outside of the expectations many had when setting out.

Was Mr. Rogers a deadly sniper in Vietnam?

Airmen from the 822d Base Defense Squadron depart Moody Air Force Base, Ga., as they convoy en route to Tyndall AFB, Fla., to provide base security during Hurricane Michael recovery efforts, Oct. 11, 2018.

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Greg Nash)

“Our group commander told us before we left to keep a sympathetic and empathetic mindset,” Beil said. “I tried to keep that in my head, but nothing could have prepared me for the damage that was done. The first thing that went through my head was that they definitely needed all the help they could get.”

For airmen accustomed to rapid global response, the call to action so close to home brought a whole new set of experiences.

“For them to have us come down here, this was definitely something new,” Beil said. “We’ve never done anything like this before. Once we took over, we had new procedures for making sure the right people were getting access to the base.”

Was Mr. Rogers a deadly sniper in Vietnam?

Defenders from the 822d Base Defense Squadron load ammunition prior to departing Moody Air Force Base, Ga., to provide base security at Tyndall AFB, Fla., during Hurricane Michael recovery efforts, Oct. 11, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Greg Nash)

The many airmen who have joined the recovery team at Tyndall AFB have undertaken a demanding task and produced real results that lend hope to the future of the base.

“The key here has been adaptability,”Beil said. “That’s always been ingrained in us at the squadron, but coming out here to do this has been a true test of that.”

Among the experiences unique to securing a base within the United States, Beil has found comfort in lending a hand while at home.

“For me, it’s heartwarming,” Beil said. “These are Americans I’m surrounded by. They appreciate the work that we do for them. They appreciate how we’re here trying to represent the Air Force and making sure everyone is safe. We’re the first faces that they see when they come through the gate.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

Articles

Watch the Marines’ F-35 fire an 80-round burst from its gun pod

On July 6, at the Naval Air Station at Patuxent River, Maryland, US Marines carried out the first successful test of the F-35B’s GAU-22 gun pod, Business Insider has confirmed.


Five days later, the gun pod fired it’s first 80-round burst. Both tests were resoundingly successful, and the video is posted below.

Business Insider previously reported on the first test of the F-35A’s integrated gun, but the gun pod, which will be used on the F-35B and C variants, is an entirely different animal.

Was Mr. Rogers a deadly sniper in Vietnam?
Pilots with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 exit F-35B Lightning II’s after conducting training during exercise Red Flag 16-3 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, July 20, 2016. | US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Harley Robinson

Instead of the integrated design of the US Air Force’s F-35A, the Marine Corps’ F-35B and the US Navy’s F-35C will feature a 220-round, 25 mm gun in a modular pod.

This means that the Navy and Marine variants, which launch from aircraft carriers or amphibious assault vessels, will have the option of excluding the gun to save weight and increase fuel efficiency.

Here’s the GAU-22 ripping a target with pinpoint accuracy:

While the F-35 has fielded some criticism for its gun, which at 55 rounds per second can empty its entire magazine in under four seconds, the gun actually makes sense for the type of close air-support environment that the F-35 is expected to operate in.

The much-loved A-10 Warthog, which holds 1,350 rounds, is ideal for flying low and slow, loitering in the sky, and delivering its precise fire to provide close air support. But this makes sense in only uncontested air space.

The F-35’s smaller magazine capacity reflects the future of close air support as military planners envision it. The F-35 will usher in an era of quick and precise strikes that leverage a suite of sensors, electronic-warfare capabilities, and stealth.

Watch the full video of the GAU-22 gun pod firing an 80-round burst for the first time below:

MIGHTY GAMING

This is how much human blood you need to make a longsword

There’s a meme that occasionally makes the rounds on social media that claims you’d have to kill 359 people in order to save up enough human blood to get the iron required to make a longsword. Forging a weapon of war from the blood of your enemies? Sign us up.

But that number seemed a little suspect, so we decided to dig deeper.

It’s true, there is iron in red blood cells — mostly in hemoglobin — but trying to extract that iron from someone’s blood is no simple process. And, with a little math, we’ve determined that if you’re somehow able to get the iron out, the number of people you’d need to drain would be way higher than the meme suggests. Let’s explore this bloody question.


Was Mr. Rogers a deadly sniper in Vietnam?

Yes, this scene. Side note: This is why they had Mystique inject iron into the blood of the guard — to keep this scene scientifically accurate.

(20th Century Fox)

First of all, there are roughly 5 million red blood cells in a microliter of blood. Accounting for the tiny fractions of iron in red blood cells and the amount of blood in the body, the amount of iron within an average human body totals 4 grams, enough for about eight paperclips. We’re thinking that whoever invented the meme took this number, did the division, and came to the conclusion that you’d need 359 unfortunate souls to complete the diabolical process. But we’re not finished — not by a long shot.

A single molecule of hemoglobin is comprised of 2952 carbon atoms, 4664 hydrogen atoms, 832 oxygen atoms, 812 nitrogen atoms, eight sulfur atoms, and a whopping four iron atoms. You’d have to strip away the rest of the elements in the molecule to get to said iron. So, now we have to talk extraction — and since you’re probably already thinking of that scene from X2, let’s talk magnets.

Was Mr. Rogers a deadly sniper in Vietnam?

The quality of the iron in the blood might be tied to the healthiness of each individual — but we’re just going to assume that’ll average out over the several thousand souls required…

(Photo by Tamahagane Arts)

The iron in the metalloprotein hemoglobin isn’t in a metallic state, which is great for anyone who has ever encountered a magnet. This is why you don’t immediately collapse from a clogged artery when a magnet comes close to your veins. Instead, oxygenated hemoglobin is diamagnetic — meaning it repels magnets — at an extremely low level. The blood that travels between the heart and the lungs is deoxygenated, however, making it paramagnetic, so that’s the first place any chaotic-evil blacksmith should begin.

If you could manage to create a machine to pump and deoxygenate large quantities of blood, like a modified, artificial heart, it would then be prepped for a super-magnet to pull the raw iron out of the blood. Take the blood that’s been pulled out by a super magnet and set it on fire to burn away any remaining oxygen and hydrogen and, voila, you have something to work with — in theory, anyway. Nobody’s tested this, probably because they don’t feel like being labelled a mad scientist.

What you’d be left with is something similar to iron sand. You officially have a workable material for first step in the smelting process. But there’s a huge difference between raw materials and iron that’s able to be forged.

In the real world, for every 1 kg of workable iron ingots created, you end up with an average of 3.181 kg of impurities and slag byproduct — and that’s when working with the highest quality iron sand, stuff from Gampo, South Korea. We’ll give our theoretical blood-iron the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s about the same in terms of quality.

So, you’ll need a total of 4.181 kg of blood-iron sand to get 1 kg of workable iron. Now, let’s get back to the math.

Was Mr. Rogers a deadly sniper in Vietnam?

At this point, you’d already be considered a monster, so let’s keep going! To get 25 kg of usable blood-steel for a full suit of armor would require a messy 179,376 blood bags — which, surprisingly, is less than the amount of people killed annually by sugary drinks worldwide.

(Bethesda Game Studios)

An average longsword has a finished weight of around 1.5 kg — but typical generates an additional 0.75 kg of waste. That means we’ll need 2.25 kg of workable iron to make the sword. 2,250 grams of workable iron, factoring for the ratio of impurities, means we’ll need 9,407.25 grams of raw material — of blood-iron sand — to start. At 4 grams per person, you’d need at least 2,352 completely drained donors to make a iron longsword out of blood.

But if you’re going that far, why stop at iron? Why not work it into steel, which makes objectively better weapons?

Continuing folding and forging, removing the impurities, and adding carbon (which, presumably, could be found in the garbage shoot after all the work you’ve done so far) can harden that bad boy into something more durable. Granted, you’d need more blood-iron sand at a magnitude of 1 kg of blood-steel ingots to 27.7 kg of waste. That puts you at 64,749.9 grams of blood-iron sand, or a genocidal 16,188 doomed souls to create a single steel blade.

To put that in perspective, you’re looking at killing roughly half as many people as the bubonic plague did in 1625 London.

Brutal.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

North Korea is secretly asking for coronavirus aid from other countries while publicly denying that it has any cases

North Korea has been quietly soliciting coronavirus aid from other countries even though it has publicly denied the existence of any cases on home soil, according to a new report.

Officials in the isolated country have privately reached out to their counterparts in other countries asking for urgent help in fighting the outbreak, the Financial Times reported, citing several people familiar with the matter and an unidentified document.


The country has also asked hospitals in South Korea and several international aid agencies for masks and test machines, Reuters reported last Friday, citing two sources with knowledge of the matter.

North Korea has officially reported no cases of the coronavirus, and, in late January, shut its border with China after the outbreak started to spill out of the central Hubei province into other regions near the border.

According to the FT, the country has tested at least 590 citizens — all of whom had arrived from outside the country in January — but all of them tested negative.

Was Mr. Rogers a deadly sniper in Vietnam?

Foreign media and experts doubt the official infection toll, however.

Some South Korean media outlets have reported that North Korea has recorded deaths from the coronavirus, but that the regime is concealing them from the world.

Daily NK, a news site focusing on North Korea, also reported that 180 North Korean soldiers died of the virus in January and February, and that another 3,700 were sent to quarantine.

South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo said that there were at least two suspected cases of the illness in the city of Sinuiju, which borders China. Daily NK also reported that as many as five people had died of the coronavirus in Sinuiju.

North Korea’s lack of medical supplies and weak healthcare system have left it ill-equipped to handle an outbreak like the coronavirus, Business Insider’s Paulina Cachero previously reported.

“There’s not enough medicine for the country. I’m really concerned about them facing an outbreak,” Nagi Shafik, a former World Health Organization and UNICEF official in Pyongyang, told Business Insider.

The country currently fears it doesn’t have enough testing kits for its citizens, the FT reported.

“The government has testing kits for COVID-19 and they know how to use them, but [the number of kits are] not sufficient, hence, [officials are] requesting all organizations … to support them in this regard,” a source told the FT.

Non-governmental aid agencies have also been trying to help North Korea prepare for an outbreak, but are struggling to get supplies across its shuttered border with China, Reuters reported.

Médecins Sans Frontières told the news agency that emergency supplies bound for North Korea were currently in Beijing and Dandong, a Chinese city bordering North Korea, and that officials were working to get the kit across the border despite the closure.

Was Mr. Rogers a deadly sniper in Vietnam?

In a rare admission of weakness, Kim acknowledged on March 18 that his country did not have enough modern medical facilities and called for improvements, the Associated Press reported, citing the state-controlled Korea Central News Agency (KCNA).

On the orders of Kim, construction began on the new Pyongyang General Hospital on Wednesday, according to KCNA.

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

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