By 2021, Amazon has pledged to hire 25,000 U.S. military veterans across all of its operations. More than that, they are also dedicated to hiring veterans reservists, spouses, and family members – regardless of rank or military specialty. These “Amazon Warriors” as the company calls them, come to Amazon through a number of programs, each focused on a different aspect of veterans’ lives. This includes wounded warriors, active and transitioning veterans, student vets, and more.
You can catch Amazon and its employees active in all area of veteran culture, from the Old Glory Relay to RED Fridays and even doing 22 pushups every day. Amazon even partners with the Department of Veterans Affairs to create certification programs for vets with no costs.
One of Amazon’s best programs is an employment plan for wounded vets designed to fill skill gaps due to service-related wounds, injuries, and illnesses. Through education, advocacy, and training for wounded warriors, this one-of-a-kind program seeks America’s wounded vets to show the world the possibilities and potential these prior-service workers still have.
Amazon also launched the Amazon Military Leaders Program in an effort to find innovative, experienced talent to transition from military service and into the senior leadership at Amazon. It just makes sense – in order to fill the most necessary roles at the top of one of the world’s biggest and most profitable companies, Amazon wants to look for those people who volunteered for some of the most dangerous and critical jobs out there.
This company also goes above and beyond for National Guardsmen and Reservists who are activated or called away to training. Not only does the company ensure the member has job when they come back, as required by law, Amazon seeks to place the employee in a role they would have worked if they had never left their Amazon job at all. What’s more, if the pay the military member receives from serving is significantly less than their Amazon pay, Amazon will make up the difference.
“There are veterans and active duty service members from the Guard and Reserve at every level of the company,” says Ardine Williams, Amazon Web Services’ Vice-President of Talent Acquisition, who also happens to be a former Army officer. “That population, that community, makes it really easy for us to not only do the right thing but also do what we say we will do.”
When Amazon isn’t hiring veterans and preparing service members for their post-military careers, they are supporting other organizations with the same intent, mission, and drive. Amazon is a sponsor of the Military Influencer Conference, a three-day business development and networking event that brings together non-profit startup accelerators geared toward vet-owned businesses, successful veteran entrepreneurs, and like-minded veterans who are looking to change their lives by starting their own enterprises.
To learn more about what Amazon is doing for veterans in terms of training and employment, check out Amazon’s military page. To learn more about the Military Influencer Conference, check out the speakers list, or find a Military Influencer Conference close to you, visit MilitaryInfluencer.com and take a look around. It could be the first step to an entrepreneurial career.
Dressed in civilian clothes with long hair, the men looked like any other on the streets of East Berlin.
Their German accents didn’t give away their true identities as American Special Forces soldiers, part of a clandestine military unit operating during the Cold War.
Berlin, a divided city located 100 miles behind the Iron Curtain, was a focal point in the tensions that developed between NATO forces and the Soviet Union after World War II.
With a literal line drawn between the forces — American troops and their allies in West Berlin and Soviet troops and their supporters in East Berlin — the city became the “Grand Central Station of East-West espionage” and a “playground for all sorts of secret agents,” according to Bob Charest, a retired Army master sergeant and former Green Beret.
It was there that, for nearly 30 years, an elite Special Forces unit operated. Today, those veterans are decades removed from their secretive mission, but are only now receiving recognition for their efforts.
The little-known unit, called Detachment A, held various missions during its short-lived history, but the longest-standing was the “stay behind” mission.
In the event of World War III — with Soviet forces expected to come pouring across the Berlin Wall — members of the detachment, who never numbered more than 100 men, were expected to blend into the city and make life difficult for the much larger Communist force.
Teams were assigned sabotage missions, ready to destroy key transportation lines, military equipment, and other targets. They also would be expected to train and lead guerrilla forces that would then be tasked with harassing the Soviet troops from behind enemy lines, buying important time to allow NATO forces to mount a counterattack.
Charest, twice a member of Detachment A, recalled one of his team’s forays across the Berlin Wall recently during a visit to Fort Bragg.
Despite the soldiers’ efforts to go unnoticed, it was not unusual for the men to realize they were being followed, Charest said.
When that happened, the soldiers were trained to evade the extra attention and disappear into the city. Failure was not an option.
“You’re a spy,” Charest said, decades after having served in the city. “You didn’t have any dog tags. You weren’t there, officially.”
“If they caught you, they would either kill you or put you in jail,” he said.
Despite the high stakes, Charest said, the men were highly trained and able to stay calm under pressure.
Part of that training involved how to surveil targets amid the busy city and, if needed, lose the enemy when under unwanted scrutiny.
“We knew we were being watched,” Charest said.
Luckily, the men also knew their way around the city. Unlike other American troops in Berlin, these soldiers were trained to blend into Berlin. They had to immerse themselves in the city, becoming as knowledgeable on its nooks and crannies as the locals.
As the team led their tail through the city, Charest said, the soldiers made their way to a train station, part of the city’s subway, or U-Bahn, network.
Instead of stepping onto a train, the men let the first one pull out of the station. A second train arrived and the men were seemingly set to let that one pass, too.
But at the last moment, just before the doors closed, Charest said, the soldiers stepped onto the train.
He turned just in time to lock eyes with the man who had been following them. Charest is unsure who he worked for. It could have been the East German Secret Police, known as the Stasi, or the Soviet KGB.
As the train pulled out of the station, Charest looked at the man. Then he smiled, and as he pulled out of sight, Charest waved goodbye.
For most of its history, Detachment A — sometimes known simply as “the detachment” or “Det ‘A'” — was as elusive as the men who served in the unit.
When it was formed in 1956 with the cover story of a “security platoon” assigned to another US Army unit in Berlin, only about 10 officers knew the true makeup of the unit, according to James Stejskal, a Special Forces veteran who spent two tours of duty in Berlin and later served with the CIA.
Stejskal, a retired chief warrant officer 4 who now lives in Alexandria, Virginia, has written what might be the only definitive history of Detachment A.
His book, “Special Forces Berlin: Clandestine Cold War Operations of the US Army’s Elite, 1956-1990,” was published this year by Casemate Publishers, following a two-and-a-half-year effort to research and write the book and another year-long review by the Department of Defense.
Stejskal was one of dozens of Detachment A veterans who gathered on Fort Bragg earlier this month.
Once covered in shadows — to the point that even the US Army has little official documentation on the unit — the veterans of Detachment A are becoming increasingly vocal, with the hopes of bringing the unit the recognition it deserves before all of its former members are gone.
Charest, who now lives in Campobello, South Carolina, has been a key part of those efforts.
Since Detachment A was first publicly acknowledged in early 2014, he has worked to tell the unit’s untold story.
Previously recognized by veterans of the unit as “The Man Who Brought Detachment A In From the Cold,” Charest is the group’s webmaster, maintaining a website — detachment-a.org — along with his wife, Linda. He’s also become their organizer, facilitating annual reunions.
The most recent gathering was at Fort Bragg, the same place where veterans of the unit unveiled a monument stone honoring Detachment A outside of U.S. Army Special Operations Command in early 2014.
Detachment A has long been a small, elite group. Over its nearly 30-year history, an estimated 800 men served among its ranks or with the Physical Security Support Element-Berlin, a similar unit that replaced the detachment from 1984 to 1990.
Charest said the annual gatherings, which once attracted more than 100 veterans, are starting to dwindle. Detachment veterans are growing older. They’re dying, he said. Or they don’t travel as well as they used to.
“We’re starting to slow down,” Charest said. “I can see the handwriting on the wall.”
That makes his mission to spread the word about the unit even more important.
“We’re getting the recognition we didn’t have,” he said.
In the years after the Cold War, the Army declassified many of Detachment A’s secrets. But its veterans were largely unaware that they were now free to speak about their experiences.
The breaking point came in 2014, Charest said. The ceremony outside the USASOC headquarters was a first for Detachment A.
In addition to unveiling the monument stone, the veterans also took the symbolic step of casing the unit’s colors, a flag used to identify the detachment, for the first time.
“No force of its size has contributed more to peace, stability, and freedom,” Army Special Operations Command officials said during the ceremony.
Lt. Gen. Charles T. Cleveland, then-commander of USASOC, said the men operated amid untold risk, fraught with uncertainty.
“Detachment A was literally in the eye of the Cold War hurricane,” he said.
The next day, a story about the ceremony was on the front page of The Fayetteville Observer.
Charest said it was the first public exposure for the unit, whose existence and missions had been highly classified secrets. It began a flurry of queries from veterans of the detachment, some of whom had never even told their families about the unit.
“We were out of the cold,” Charest said. “This unit — nobody knows about it. Nobody knew we ever existed.”
Stejskal, who interviewed 65 veterans of Detachment A for his book and dug through what little information was available from official sources, said it was long past due for the unit to receive its recognition.
“No one became famous because of his exploits in Berlin; they were classified,” he said. “The Army has no history on us. They know of it, but they don’t know anything about it.”
Stejskal said that when he visited the Army’s Center for Military History to research his book, the organization had six pages of documents and little information. Most of the unit’s actual documents have been lost or destroyed.
“After 25 years, I figured it was about time,” Stejskal said of his decision to put together a history of the unit. “We’re on the verge of dying out and losing it all, all that historical knowledge.”
Detachment A, also known by its classified name — the 39th Special Forces Operational Detachment — was formed in August 1956 from carefully screened and selected members of the 10th Special Forces Group based in Bad Toelz, Germany. The unit was first housed at McNair Barracks and later, at Andrews Barracks in West Berlin.
Over the years, the men assigned to Detachment A remained a select group. They were highly trained, often with experience in World War II or, later, in Vietnam.
Members of the unit had to be Special Forces qualified. They needed to have a top-secret clearance. And they needed to be able to speak fluent German or another Eastern European language.
In the early days, nearly half of the unit came from soldiers who joined the Army under the Lodge Act — often refugees from Europe whose families remained under Soviet rule. Those immigrants provided important knowledge to the detachment members, who needed to appear to be German.
Charest, who served with the clandestine unit from 1969 to 1972 and again from 1973 to 1978, said the slightest mistake could blow a soldier’s cover.
“The Germans handle a knife and fork different than we do,” he said. “They count with their fingers different.”
Detachment members had to study the habits of locals, Charest said. They needed to dress like a local, wear their hair like a local, and talk like a local.
They carried paperwork provided by German authorities or passports from Eastern European nations that supported their cover stories. Even their ranks were classified, Charest said. Instead, members usually referred to each other by their first names.
Even within the Special Forces community, Charest said, the detachment was largely an unknown.
Some soldiers were assigned to the unit assuming it was a conventional support unit. They wouldn’t learn the truth until they were in Berlin being debriefed by leaders.
“They knew it existed, but nobody knew what they did,” Charest said.
At first, Detachment A had about 40 soldiers, but it would grow to about 90 troops for most of its history. Most soldiers stayed in Berlin for three years.
Amid the backdrop of the Cold War, the detachment would have been little more than a speed bump against Soviet forces in a conventional fight.
But Charest said the detachment never intended to “fight fair.”
With Berlin more than 100 miles behind enemy lines, encircled by what could have become the front lines of a war, those allied forces stood little chance at stopping the Soviet forces.
Stejskal wrote that the city would likely have become the world’s largest prisoner-of-war camp. He compared the hypothetical plight of the detachment to the 300 Spartans who faced a superior Persian force at the legendary Battle of Thermopylae.
“If the Russians decided to roll across the wall, that would have been World War III,” Charest said. “It was a suicide mission.”
“The odds were against us,” he added. “But that’s part of the game.”
The most the detachment could hope for, Charest said, was slowing the Soviet juggernaut.
Stejskal described the detachment mission as a “Hail Mary plan.”
He said the soldiers were there to buy time and disrupt the enemy, much like World War II’s famed Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor of the modern CIA.
Charest said the soldiers were constantly “poking and prodding” German and Soviet defenses. Sometimes, that would mean sneaking into East Germany via canals and tunnels.
“We were constantly trying,” he said. “If you heard the stories, you wouldn’t believe them.”
As the Cold War stayed cold, the detachment would see its missions expand.
It was tasked with probing and testing allied security vulnerabilities across Europe.
At the same time, it would become more of a counterterrorism force, training to respond to hijacked airplanes and participating in the famed Operation Eagle Claw — the failed mission to rescue American hostages in Iran in 1980.
Detachment soldiers were tasked with rescuing three diplomats being held by Iran, and two detachment members were stationed in Tehran, providing information on the target buildings and preparing to receiving the rescue force.
When the mission was scrapped and disaster struck a staging site — resulting in the deaths of several troops — the detachment members in Iran were left to escape the country on their own.
Retired Maj. Gen. Sidney Shachnow, who commanded Detachment A from 1970 to 1974 and later commanded all American forces in Berlin, said the city was full of spies and the Soviet KGB had known about the detachment since the late 1960s.
But, Shachnow said, the Soviets greatly overestimated the size of the unit, assuming it was about 500 men instead of less than 100.
“They knew our capabilities but did not know what our targets were,” he said.
Shachnow is a Holocaust survivor who was born in Lithuania and spent three years imprisoned in a Germany concentration camp as a young boy. He moved to the United States in 1950 and became a legend in the Special Forces community.
He said he had the privilege of deactivating the Special Forces presence in Berlin.
“It was a sad ceremony in an empty room with only about 12 guest spectators seated in folding chairs,” he said. “I awarded some medals, made some short remarks, and the ceremony was over in a matter of minutes.”
“Det A was a small, covert unit staffed with incredibly talented people willing to make the ultimate sacrifice,” Shachnow said on Fort Bragg earlier this month. “They served on the front lines of the Cold War and never fired a shot in anger. No force of its size in history has contributed more to peace, stability, and freedom.”
“Worry about the dollars and the pennies take care of themselves.” — anonymous
It’s worthwhile to keep that adage above in mind when you are being pitched to buy a franchise business.
One of the most costly mistakes veterans can make is paying too much upfront for a franchise that you can’t sell for the same price the next day. It’s the venture equivalent of buying a used Chevy for the price of new BMW.
I hate it when I receive letters from veterans who “want out” of a franchise they just bought. They feel snookered, trapped, and annoyed at themselves for not looking at the details before signing on the dotted line.
The best way to avoid buyer’s remorse is to become a smart shopper of franchise opportunities. Here are five tips to help you assess if you are more likely to make money or lose money in the franchise world.
1. Set higher standards
If your objective is to merely “go into business for yourself” or “own a franchise” then your aspirations are not high enough to be a successful business owner. After all, you will achieve your goal of business ownership the day you sign the franchise contract! Then what?
A more purposeful objective is to own a franchise that will make money for you. When you set high standards for your financial return on your invested time and savings your tire-kicking “due diligence” questions become more precise and purposeful.
2. Understand sales rep motivations
When you start to explore different franchise opportunities, you will come in contact with franchisor representatives and business brokers who have just one purpose—to sell you a franchise as fast as possible. These individuals are not your trusted friends or unbiased financial advisors. Certainly don’t sign any franchise agreement without prior review from an experienced corporate attorney who understands franchise valuations and royalty obligations.
3. Add up cost of acquisition
Sneaky franchise brokers are adept at hiding the true investment cost of a franchise purchase. If you sign up to buy a franchise, your cost of acquisition is more than the down payment. Include the amount you have to borrow to acquire the franchise plus other savings you may have to apply to the business until it achieves at least cash flow breakeven. (when net sales revenues exceed expenses every month) This is the total amount you will have at risk in your new business. How comfortable are you with this amount? What would happen if you lost it all?
4. Evaluate owner’s compensation
Another trick of franchise sales reps is to present impressive financial projections of average franchise unit performance. Look closely at these projections. Do they include a budget allocation for the owner’s salary, healthcare, adequate insurance and other real world expenses associated with running a business? If there is no allocation for an owner’s salary and benefits and you intend to work full time in the business, beware!
Remember, year-end profits should be your financial return on your invested capital, not your sole source of compensation for working 40 to 70 hours a week to keep the franchise alive! Of course, the business could fail to generate a profit too which means you as the founder earns nothing for a lot of work.
5. Understand market value
Buy low, then sell high. If you pay $25,000, $50,000, or $100,000 to buy into a franchise, then you should find evidence that other franchises can be sold at least for that much or more. Unfortunately, the opposite is often true.
Research the market for this brand of franchise. What are the average resale purchase prices in your state? Who buys up franchises when the owner wants out? Does the corporate office buy back franchises? What does the franchise agreement call for? Frequently, one regional franchise operator buys distressed properties at deep discounts.
Given all the risks associated with owning a business and personal obligation to repay debt, you should walk away from any franchise that cannot eventually be sold for at least two times your invested capital.
Unfortunately, I get too many letters from franchise buyers who are desperate to get out of a money-losing franchise. They realize they overpaid for a franchise usually within a year of purchase. They didn’t pay attention to the quantitative issues where they could lose hard cash because the sales reps kept their attention on how great it will be to at last be the boss of a money making business. At the end of the day, they didn’t make any money and didn’t have any fun as a business owner.
Now you know better.
Susan Schreter is a devoted Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program workshop presenter and founder of Start on Purpose, a service organization that empowers business owners anywhere in America to find and manage business funding with confidence. Connect with her at Susan@StartonPurpose.
Having a baby is supposed to be a happy and joyous time. You imagine having a perfect delivery with your spouse by your side, and grandparents filling the waiting rooms. Within our military community as we understand all the change of plans that may happen, we are often forced to plan for a different scenario. A plan that includes giving birth to our sweet bundle of joy while our husband is half a world away on deployment.
As a first-time mom it can sometimes be devastating to think that you won’t have everyone together during this time. You will be angry and upset and wonder if there is any miracle that can happen to bring your husband home to join you. Sometimes it can happen, but other times the timing just does not work out. This is something that my family has now experience twice during our military journey.
My husband was deployed in 2007 as part of the troop surge in Iraq on a 15-month deployment when we welcomed our oldest into the world. While I was giving birth, my husband was patrolling the streets of Baghdad. I had this huge fear with this being our first child that my husband would be home for the birth, but I would not deliver in time before he went back. If that happened, then our son would be 8 months old by the time he returned home. Due to this fear of mine, we opted to have my husband come home on his RR after the due date to ensure he had time with his son and to meet him. So, when it came time to deliver, two of my friends and my mom joined me in the delivery room.
In 2010, my husband would again be on deployment when we were due with our second son. This time we planned for my husband to be home for the birth on his RR during his 12-month deployment to Iraq again. We had this perfect plan about him being home a week before hand to make sure there was adequate time for us to all be together. In true military fashion I would go into labor early this time and have our child 2 days before my husband landed back on US soil. This time I would call a friend who lived an hour and a half a way to come join me during labor and delivery. My husband would learn of the birth of our new son when he called me right before boarding his plane from Kuwait to Germany on his way home.
Twice my husband met his children as newborns next to airport security.
While giving birth without your husband with you is not a plan anyone wants to prepare for, it is often one we need to consider. While it does completely suck, there are things you can do to lessen the hard blow of your spouse not being with you.
First, know it could be a possibility. Knowing that this scenario might happen will help lessen the disappointment blow if it becomes reality. Having that realistic expectation can help put other plans in place so you will not be giving birth alone.
Make your contingency plan. If your spouse cannot be there with you then who can be? Having a close friend, sister or your mom as your support person can make a big difference and makes sure that you will not be by yourself. Find someone who either already plans to be in town during the time or has a flexible schedule to be there.
Use that technology. We have come a long way since my experiences in giving birth without my husband. Now we have the ability of facetime, video chat, and other apps that can allow you to skype your husband in and have him still be apart of the moment. Worst case is that you video it for them to watch later.
Make your husbands presence known in the room. I had several pictures of my husband throughout the room, and one taped to the side of the plastic clear crib the hospital uses. I also had several of his shirts that smelled like him – one I wore at times, and the other was used as a sheet, again in the hospital’s plastic clear crib. For me, it was important for our sons to know their dad was still with them.
As a military spouse we are used to planning, making a back up plan, and a back up to the back up plan. If you think there is any chance of the possibility that your spouse might miss the birth due to a deployment or even a school (because we know flights can be delayed), make the plan now. Having it in place and never needing it will be much easier than scrambling at the end.
In whatever plan that happens, just know that it will make for a beautiful story!
Veterans in California will soon be able to adopt dogs and cats from public shelters for free.
The more than two million veterans living in that state will have adoption fees waived at public shelters beginning Jan. 1, 2020, if they show their driver’s license or ID card with the veteran designation on it to shelter personnel. So those wanting a new puppy or kitten from Santa may have to wait a few weeks after the holiday if they want to get the discount.
Although the bill waives adoption fees, additional costs such as licensing and microchipping may apply.
While the language of the new law specifically mentions only dogs and cats, other animals — including reptiles, livestock, and birds — may also be available for free adoption depending on the individual shelter’s policies.
The law limits the free dog and cat adoptions to one every six months.
Private shelters are not affected by the new law.
State Sen. Ling Ling Chang (R-Diamond Bar), who introduced the bill, said, “This is a big win for veterans and shelter animals. I’m glad we can reduce the barriers for bringing together veterans seeking companion animals and pets in need of a home.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
While the Pentagon’s new strategy is being released in 2018, it feels more like the year 2000 on Capitol Hill with members itching for the maverick spirit of then-presidential candidate John McCain’s campaign bus, the Straight Talk Express.
The substance of the document is classified at the request of Capitol Hill, but there is a growing consensus about how to grade its success or failure. It is past time for a new National Defense Strategy that seeks to break the mold in honesty, clarity, conciseness, and fresh thinking. As an official articulation of Pentagon doctrine, this is an opportunity to mend the broken dialogue between the military and the government and people they serve.
To be relevant beyond a few news cycles, the Pentagon’s new defense strategy must:
7. Connect the strategy with geopolitical reality.
The most recent generation of strategies has repeatedly watered down the Pentagon’s force-sizing construct with each iteration — from the aspirational objective of fighting two wars at once to the declinist “defeat-and-deny” approach. Since a 2014 defense strategy was published, the dangers of a lack of credibility in American military power and political willpower have become evident in Ukraine, Iraq, and North Korea — just to name a few.
The newest defense strategy should emphasize three theaters of importance. As it is getting harder for planners to differentiate between war and peace, the need for a strong American presence in Asia, Europe, or the Middle East cannot be wished away as politically inconvenient. Planners should size forces to maintain robust conventional and strategic deterrents forward in all three of these theaters while equipping a force for decision in the event deterrence fails.
To effect this change, the strategy must clearly differentiate between forces and capabilities required to prevent a war versus those needed to win one. Unfortunately, the panoply of threats spanning from North Korean ICBMs to ISIS demands the American military maintain a broad array of capabilities.
6. Tie means with ends.
Even with declining force-sizing constructs, U.S. forces have largely continued to do all that they have done under previous super-sized strategies. The armed forces have been asked to do more with less, resulting in various missions being shortchanged, ignored, or dropped altogether as the supply of American military power is consistently outstripped by demand.
Consequentially, there is now a general dismissal of strategy because the reductions in force structure proposed in each iteration have not resulted in substantive changes in operations of the force. Nowhere is this more tragically clear than in the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Command. It is time to stop putting the cart before the horse by constructing budgets and then diving strategies, as the budget caps have encouraged but unrealistic strategies have exacerbated.
5. Identify what missions the military can stop doing.
Effective strategy is about choices and tradeoffs. In the last year, cargo shipments to Afghanistan were delayed due to hurricane relief, a private contractor evacuated U.S. troops after the fatal ISIS ambush in Niger, and the Air Force outsourced “red air” adversary training to non-military pilots. Instead of papering over these realities, the new strategy should identify what needs to be restored and which ancillary assignments may actually be more efficiently conducted outside the military.
Combat missions should not be exempt, either. For example, the sustained use of naval aviation to provide fire support to counterterror fights in the Middle East that could be resourced with light attack aircraft or artillery is expensive and ties up increasingly scarce aircraft carriers better employed elsewhere, particularly in Asia.
4. Prioritize among threats.
Claiming the five challenges of China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and persistent counterterrorism operations are all equally important is not a strategy — it is the absence of one.
Policymakers must clearly rank the relative severity of these threats to help planners prioritize and make tradeoffs. Given the limited supply of American defense resources, not all of these threats can receive the same amount of attention or bandwidth — nor should they.
3. Don’t let perfection get in the way of good enough.
The military needs more extant force structure and capabilities rather than an obsessive hunt for technological silver bullets. Putting too much stock in the wonder weapons of the future could be the military’s ruin — not its salvation — if it comes at the expense of immediate and medium-term needs.
If enemies know we are weak today but will be strong tomorrow, they have every incentive to strike sooner rather than later. Leaders should balance the acquisition risks introduced by speculative technological gambles with tried-and-true systems suited for immediate use to diminish any window of opportunity for aggression.
2. Recognize the Pentagon is a more than a Department of War — it is a Department of Defense.
As the largest federal agency, the Pentagon engages in a bewildering variety of deterrence and presence missions every day, in addition to fighting. It also supports part-time forces, families and children all over the world.
It is called the Department of Defense for a reason, and the strategy should reflect these large organizational, financial, educational, and bureaucratic demands. For example, while achieving reforms and efficiencies are noble goals, the belief that ongoing organizational changes will result in tens of billions in potential savings that can be reinvested elsewhere within the defense budget has yet to be proven.
1. Finally, stop scapegoating Congress and tackle problems head-on.
While sequestration has degraded the military’s capacity and capability gaps and encouraged the self-destructive practice of constructing budgets before inventing strategies to justify them, budget caps must cease to be the blame for all the military’s woes.
An over-emphasis on budgetary neglect creates the false expectation that a higher topline alone will solve the Pentagon’s problems overnight. The National Defense Strategy will need to address not just America’s declining fiscal ability to support all instruments of national power, but also the deteriorating international situation. Higher spending can alleviate the former, but new investments will need to be tied to clear strategic goals to address the latter.
It took years for the Pentagon to realize its current predicament, and it will likewise be years before it overcomes its contemporary challenges. To get there will require a redoubled commitment to the military by Congress through stable, sustained, and sufficient defense funding. But the Pentagon must also do its part to ensure that when fiscal relief arrives, there is a thoughtful strategy in place commensurate with the multitude of threats assailing the United States today. Now is the time to go big and bold.
Massive missile strikes conducted by US, UK, and French air and naval assets on April 13, 2018, hit three targets that were allegedly related to the Syrian government’s chemical weapons program. The strikes appear to have been largely successful.
US Marine Corps Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff, described the operation as “precise, overwhelming, effective,” and said that it “significantly crippled” the Syrian government’s chemical weapons capabilities.
In all, 105 weapons struck the Barzah Research and Development Center outside of Damascus, the Him Shinshar bunker, and a storage site near Homs.
“Taken together … these attacks on multiple axes were able to overwhelm the Syrian air defense systems,” he said.
(U.S. Department of Defense photo)
McKenzie also said that Syrian air defenses fired up to 40 surface-to-air missiles “without guidance,” and that they were “largely ineffective” as they had not managed to shoot down any US aircraft or prevent the intended targets from being destroyed.
Often overlooked in the assessment of the operation is the fact that two new weapons, the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range, known as the JASSM-ER, and the Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine both made their combat debuts during the operation — and appear to have performed perfectly.
The JASSM kept bombers out of Syrian airspace
The JASSM is a standoff air-launched cruise missile made by Lockheed Martin. It is usually dropped from a bomber like a B-1B Lancer or B-2 Spirit, but can also be carried by F-15s and F-16s.
Its standoff capability enables it to be launched well away from its target, meaning its carrying vehicle may not even need to enter hostile airspace. This appears to be what happened in Syria, as Air Force spokesman Lt. Col Damien Pickart told Military.com that the B-1B was able to “launch stand-off weapons from outside Syrian airspace.”
(Lockheed Martin photo)
The JASSM has a range of 200-500 nautical miles, a 1,000 pound penetrator/blast fragmentation warhead that can strike within 10 feet of its target, and a stealthy airframe that, in Lockheed Martin’s words, make it “extremely difficult to defeat.”
The missile has been in service since 2009, and at least 2,000 of them were delivered to the US Air Force. They are also in service with Australia, Finland, and Poland.
A total of 19 JASSMs were launched from B-1 bombers on April 13, 2018, all of which struck the Barzah Research Center. The bombers flew from the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar with an escort of EA-6B Prowlers that are designed for electronic warfare.
The Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine is one of the quietest submarines in service
Made by General Dynamics Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Industries, the Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine is one of the newest classes of submarines in the US Navy, and is considered by some to be one of the quietest submarines in service.
It has 12 vertical launch missile tubes that can fire 16 Tomahawk submarine-launched cruise missiles, as well as four 533mm torpedo tubes.
(U.S. Navy photo)
A Virginia-class submarine, the USS John Warner, was one of four US Navy vessels that took part in April 13, 2018’s operation, firing six Tomahawks. The other vessels were the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Monterey, and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers USS Higgins and USS Laboon.
USS Laboon and USS Monterey fired 37 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the Red Sea, while USS Higgins fired 23 from the Persian Gulf.
The Warner was notably the only US Navy vessel firing weapons from the Mediterranean Sea, where Russia reportedly has a considerable naval presence. Before the strike, a former Russian navy admiral said the Russian navy would sink the USS Donald Cook, a guided-missile destroyer in the Mediterranean, if it carries out a strike on Syria.
In the end, the Cook didn’t fire, and the Warner, a submarine, fired missiles while submerged, presenting a much more difficult target than a destroyer on the surface.
The Navy released footage of USS John Warner launching its cruise missiles, which you can see here:
Fortunately, the two pilots training with jets from the 57th Wing were able to eject safely and are currently receiving medical attention at the base’s Mike O’Callaghan Military Medical Center. The medical status of the pilots is unclear at this point. At the time of the crash, the weather was reported as cloudy with a light wind.
The cause of the crash is unknown, but a board has been convened to investigate.
A day prior to the A-10 crash, Iraqi student pilot Capt. Noor Falih Hizam Rasn crashed an F-16 in Southeastern Arizona. Unlike the A-10 incident, Rasn died immediately. The Iraqi Air Force owned the F-16, and Rasn was taking part in a US-run training program to help teach Iraqi pilots to fly military aircraft.
The training was conducted with the 162nd Wing of Arizona’s Air National Guard.
The hullabaloo surrounding the future of the US Air Force’s A-10 Thunderbolt II has been endless.
Its effectiveness on the battlefield has been proven with servicemembers on the ground going as far as calling it their “guardian angel” in the heat of battle. Equipped with an arsenal of weapons, including its notorious 30mm Gatling gun, it’s not hard to see why the A-10 commands such respect.
However, even with its impressive resume, the Air Force continues to float plans to replace the A-10 after 40 years of service.
Even so, a Defense News interview with a US Air Force official indicated that a compromise may be on the negotiating table.
Lt. Gen. James M. Holmes, the US Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Requirements, explained that a new light attack aircraft could be introduced that would not outright replace the fleet of nearly 300 A-10s, but instead, supplement them starting as early as 2017.
In doing so, Defense News reports that this new light aircraft, called Observation, Attack, Experimental (OA-X), would give commanders a cheap alternative to fight insurgents, compared to the costs of operating the A-10 and other fighter aircraft.
“Do you believe that this war that we’re fighting to counter violent extremists is going to last another 15 years?” Holmes asked in the Defense News interview. “If you believe it does, and our chief believes it will, then you have to think about keeping a capability that’s affordable to operate against those threats so that you’re not paying high costs per flying hour to operate F-35s and F-22s to chase around guys in pickup trucks.”
However, that doesn’t necessarily preclude the A-10 being outright replaced. Defense Newsreported that the Air Force began floating an A-10 replacement possibility in July. Under the proposal, the Air Force would conduct close air support (CAS) missions with the A-10 with a supporting cheap OA-X in low-threat environments.
Under the proposal, the Air Force would at a later date also acquire a fleet of future A-X aircraft that would perform in medium-threat environments and eventually replace the A-10.
Also on the table was the possibility of pushing back the projected retirement date of the A-10 from 2022 due to the high operational costs of the Air Force’s latest fifth-generation fighters.
It should be noted, however, that the annual cost of the A-10 program costs less than 2% of the Air Force’s budget. In 2014, it was also reported that the A-10 costed about $11,500 per hour to operate — about a third of the hourly cost of the military’s latest F-35 Lightning II.
Maria Lewis was probably the most unlikely person to have ever fought in the American Civil War. She was an escaped slave, a woman, and was underage; all three of these factors barred individuals from serving. But Lewis was much smarter than the average person, let alone the average enslaved American. She fought in the war as a free white man, distinguished herself during her service, and was even part of an honor guard that presented captured rebel flags to the Secretary of War.
Kinda like this but with way more violence.
Born into slavery in 1847, Lewis and her family spent her younger years in Virginia around Albemarle County, near Charlottesville. At the age of 17, she assumed a new identity and a new life as an emancipated slave. The only real hitch was that she presented herself as something totally different when it came time to join the Union cavalry.
She enlisted as Private George Harris, a nod to the character in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s antebellum classic who escapes slavery as a Spanish man, in New York’s 8th Cavalry, which took part in many major battles throughout the war, including Antietam, Gettysburg, and the Confederate surrender at Appomattox Court House. She first participated with the 8th at the Battle of Waynesboro, near where she was born and enslaved.
The battle at Waynesboro ended the fighting in the Shenandoah for good.
Her service saw her join Union General Philip Sheridan’s army in the Shenandoah Valley, where the Union Army soundly defeated Confederate General Jubal Early and devastated the Confederate economy in the area and beyond. After the war, however, George Harris/Maria Lewis had no home to go back to and very little is known about her postwar life. She traveled to Rochester, New York, where the 8th Cavalry was originally formed, to live with the family of one of her officers. Historians believe this officer hid her secret during the war and, as a result, would naturally have been a close confidant.
Lewis Griffin was an abolitionist lieutenant in the 8th Cavalry. His sister, Julia Wilbur, wrote about the “colored woman [who] has been here who has been with the 8th N.Y. Cav. for the last 18 months.” She wrote a few more details:
“She knows Mr. Griffin. She wore a uniform, rode a horse and carried a sword and carbine just like a man. The officers protected her and she was with them mostly. The regiment didn’t know that she was a woman. She was called Geo. Harris, but her real name is Maria Lewis. She is from Albermarle Co. Va. and escaped to the Union army.”
Rochester, NY in the days following the Civil War’s end.
Many knew Lewis when she wore a dress on the streets of Rochester. She was more than happy to don a petticoat and perform the tasks of a woman of the time. But she was also known to celebrate her veteran status with those who fought alongside her.
When celebrating her service, she wore her full military uniform.
Hey, remember in your last cyber awareness re-certification when you had to click through a whole scenario based on whether or not you would share industrial secrets on message boards with friends you had met at a science and engineering convention? Has anyone besides a senior officer or civilian engineer ran into that particular conundrum literally ever?
If the security pros were really going to prepare standard soldiers on the line for how to defend Army networks from unsavory actors, they can probably jettison entire sections of the cyber awareness training and add a short text document like the one below:
Seriously, everyone, we let the USO build so many centers on our bases for a reason. Get some pizza, watch the game, and do your shady downloads there.
(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Eric M. Fisher)
Download your movies (porn) on the USO or morale networks
Yeah, we know you guys find more and more ways to download things you shouldn’t on the Army networks. We try to limit the sites you can connect to, the types of files you can download, and even what ways you can get the files off of the computer afterwards. But still, you find ways to email each other .jpgs and .movs of disgusting stuff.
Disgusting stuff that has viruses hidden in it. No, not HPV — computer viruses. We let the USO set up wifi on base, we set up morale wifi on base. And we don’t monitor what you download directly to your personal devices. Please, please stop downloading your movies to the government computers.
(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Neysa Canfield)
Stop clicking on email links. Just stop. Google the sites and stories you want.
We’ve given so many warnings about phishing and spear phishing attacks, but soldiers keep getting caught in these kinds of attacks. So, from now on, when you see an email you want to click on, please just Google the keywords for the site you wanted to visit.
Google will typically screen out malicious sites, making it much better at this than you are. So stop even trying to decide which links are safe and which aren’t. Just stop clicking on things.
Stop clicking past all the security warnings
The Army has a problem with security certificates, meaning that you’re going to have to tell a few of your browser tools to make security exemptions for the army.mil sites. Obviously not best practice, sorry about that, but please stop adding security exemptions for other sites all over the web.
Army.mil sites flag security checks because it takes an act of Congress to update all of our certificates. The other sites you visit flag security checks because they’re trying to turn on your camera while you’re watching the vids so they can blackmail you with the resulting imagery. Oh, speaking of blackmail bait:
Civilian teaches a soldier how to use a tactical smartphone without sending pictures of his junk to social media contacts who aren’t actually hot girls.
(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. James Avery)
The 19-year-olds messaging with you aren’t real and don’t want your dad bod
Hate to tell you this, but most of you’ve gotten up in pounds as you’ve gotten up in rank, and even those of you who have not have gotten up in age. And, I know it’s a big surprise, but 19-year-old girls are typically into college boys with six packs. So, please, start feeling more suspicious than horny when you get texts, Tinder matches, or private messages from people way too attractive to be interested in you.
Otherwise, these people engage in lengthy conversations where you incriminate yourself in conspiracies to meet them in hotels, and then they blackmail you for money or government secrets. Just watch adult sites instead. (But, again, use the morale or USO internet, not the NIPR. Not. NIPR.)
Sgt. Hercules can lift any load, but can he set a secure password?
(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Brian Cline)
Change your passwords and stop using nicknames for your genitals
Whether you’re accessing your premium subscription on that adult website, getting into your email, or opening a new Grindr account, please stop using the same passwords for everything. And please, please stop using your children’s names, birthdates and anniversaries, and favorite car manufacturer for passwords.
No, your genital nicknames aren’t any better, especially since you all keep bragging about the names on Reddit and Facebook.
We’re tired of putting up pictures of soldiers in front of computers or holding smartphones, so here’s an Army colonel addressing a conference as a video game avatar.
Why do you update your Steam games every day but virus scans only when you buy new computers?
You know how your Steam library is automatically updated, all you gamers out there? For everyone else, it’s sort of like when Flash player needs another update. It happens frequently, you won’t notice the difference unless you read the patch notes, and it’s actually essential that you do the updates.
So, new rule, please set your virus protections to automatically update. If you won’t or can’t do that, then update your virus definitions every time Flash or Steam initiates an update.
Also, please figure out how computers work
This, by the way, gets to a larger issue that isn’t necessarily a direct cyber threat, but it’s honestly just sort of grating, and even the game-playing nerds aren’t immune to this: figure out how your computers work. Not only would this help you avoid cyber threats better, but it would also cut down on the number of times we hurt ourselves biting our tongues.
It’s just so exhausting hearing people talk about buying a new hard drive to improve their frame rates or graphics, or people getting 4K monitors when their video cards can’t support it. Just, please, learn how computers actually work before you get a new MILITARY STAR card to fill with ill-considered purchases.
The world is less peaceful than at any point in the past 10 years as the number of refugees worldwide reached the highest level in modern history, according to a new report.
The Institute for Economics and Peace released its 12th annual Global Peace Index on June 6, 2018, which ranks 163 independent states and territories on their level of peacefulness.
The study looks at three factors to measure the state of peace in a state or territory: safety and security in society, extent of ongoing domestic or international conflict, and the degree of militarization.
The research found the world became 0.27% less peaceful over the course of 2017, which marked the fourth consecutive year global peace declined. Overall, 92 countries became less peaceful while 71 saw improvement over the past year.
Steve Killelea, the founder of the Institute for Economics and Peace, told Bloomberg, “Increased numbers of refugees, terrorism, and heightened political tensions were behind the deterioration.”
“Refugees on their own would make one of the world’s biggest nations,” Killelea added.
Refugees now account for about 1% of the global population. There are approximately 65.6 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, including roughly 22.5 million refugees, according the UN’s refugee agency.
2018’s Global Peace Index also found the US became less peaceful in the last year and ranked 121st overall. Comparatively, it ranked at 114th in 2017 and 103rd in 2016.
According to the study, the five most peaceful countries in the world are Iceland, New Zealand, Austria, Portugal, and Denmark. Meanwhile, the five least peaceful countries in the world are Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Iraq, and Somalia.
The economic cost of the decline in peace across the world was estimated to be roughly $14.8 trillion in 2017, the report found, which is equivalent to 12.4% of the world’s economic activity or roughly $2,000 for every person.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
New satellite photography from the South China Sea confirms a nightmare for the U.S. and champions of free navigation everywhere — Beijing has reinforced surface-to-air missiles sites in the Spratly Islands.
For years now, China has been building artificial islands in the South China Sea and militarizing them with radar outposts and missiles.
Related: China says it will fine U.S. ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea
China has not yet deployed the actual launchers, but Satellite imagery shows the new surface-to-air missile sites are buildings with retractable roofs, meaning Beijing can hide launchers, and that they’ll be protected from small arms fire.
“This will provide them with more capability to defend the island itself and the installations on them,” said Glaser.
Nations in the region have taken notice. Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay told reporters that foreign ministers of the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) unanimously expressed concern over China’s land grab in a resource-rich shipping lane that sees $5 trillion in commerce annually.
The move is “very unsettlingly, that China has installed weapons systems in these facilities that they have established, and they have expressed strong concern about this,” Yasay said, according to the South China Morning Post.
But Chinese media and officials disputed the consensus at ASEAN that their militarization had raised alarm, and according to Glaser, without a clear policy position from the Trump administration, nobody will stand up to China.
“Most countries do not want to be confrontational towards China … they don’t want an adversarial relationship,” said Glaser, citing the economic benefits countries like Laos and Cambodia get from cooperating with Beijing, the world’s third largest economy and a growing regional power.
Instead, U.S. allies in the Pacific are taking a “wait and see” approach to dealing with the South China Sea as Beijing continues to cement its dominance in the region and establish “facts in the water” that even the U.S.’s most advanced ships and planes would struggle to overcome.
According to Glaser, China has everything it needs to declare an air defense and identification zone — essentially dictate who gets to fly and sail in the South China Sea — except for the Scarborough Shoal.
“I think from a military perspective, now because they have radars in the Paracels and the Spartlys,” China has radar coverage “so they can see what’s going on in the South China Sea with the exception of the northeastern quarter,” said Glaser. “The reason many have posited that the Chinese would dredge” the Scarborough Shoal “is because they need radar coverage there.”
The Scarborough Shoal remains untouched by Chinese dredging vessels, but developing it would put them a mere 160 miles from a major U.S. Navy base at the Subic Bay in the Phillippines.
Installing similar air defenses there, or even radar sites, could effectively lock out the U.S. or anyone else pursuing free navigation in open seas and skies.
While U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly floated the idea of being tougher on China, a lack of clear policy has allowed Beijing to continue on its path of militarizing the region where six nations claim territory.
“For the most part, we are improving our relationships. All but one,” Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, the commander of U.S. 7th Fleet, said at a military conference on Tuesday.