5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY BRANDED

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans

There are a lot of choice for veterans to leverage their time in the military to get great financial services at a competitive cost. The fact that so many businesses and bank are geared towards veterans is a blessing but one institution stands out among the rest – and has for nearly a century.


The financial institution was founded in 1922 after a group of Army veterans took it upon themselves to secure their own need for auto insurance. In doing so, they provided for their fellow veterans. The USAA of today carries that tradition on, with 12.4 million members and offering auto insurance, along with insurance for homeowners and renters, retirement planning, and, of course, banking services. When other banks were teetering on the edge of failure during the financial crisis, USAA actually grew. This is an institution that is as solid as a dollar.


5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans

Auto Insurance

USAA’s original purpose is still one of its best offerings – and one of the best offerings. Even in competition with the civilian world’s best insurers, going with USAA can save its membership at least 0 on their premiums, even for high risk drivers who may have a DUI or more on their records. JD Power even gave USAA a 5/5 rating on their customer service and satisfaction records.

They also offer a car buying service that can sometimes save their members money in buying any kind of vehicle.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans

Credit Cards

Everyone knows too much credit debt is not a good thing, but having a card open with a low balance enlarges your purchasing power and is actually good for your credit report. Still, it’s important to be responsible with your credit. That being said, that kind of responsibility includes deciding which card is right for you. USAA offers a few credit cards designed to fit the lives of military members, veterans, and their families. The USAA Rewards American Express Card and Reward Visa offers the best cashback bonuses a military member can find. USAA’s credit cards also offer some of the lowest interest rates and APRs found anywhere.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans

Easy banking services

Any bank or financial institution who says they offer the best interest rates on savings accounts may have a bridge to sell you. Most savings accounts can offer two percent at the most. While USAA doesn’t offer quite that much, its banking services are stellar. Since they have few physical locations or ATMs, the bank offers reimbursements on ATM fees and no monthly service fees. On top of that, there’s no minimum balance and their rates are still competitive. They also offer free funds transfers between accounts.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans

Retirement services

If you’re planning for retirement and want a low-risk security, you could hardly do better than some of USAA’s mutual fund offerings. USAA manages its own mutual funds and, in the face of the 2008 financial crisis, the USAA Income Fund (USAIX) posted a 19 percent return while much of the rest of the market struggled to break even or even minimize their expected losses. The reason? While USAIX invests heavily in corporate debt, the fund’s mantra is still about minimizing risk.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans

TV doctor pose!

Other services and support

There are a couple of life insurance options, including one for military members only if SGLI isn’t enough. On top of that, they can get great rates for health, dental, and vision insurance as well as umbrella insurance for protection against things not covered by other kinds of insurance, like legal judgements. For per month you can be protected from lawsuits up to id=”listicle-2640236181″ million. But this veteran-oriented financial institution does so much more

USAA sponsors amazing veteran-oriented events and organizations – like the Military Influencer Conference, a three-day conference of service members, veterans, and spouses who work to elevate the military veteran community. The 2019 Military Influencer Conference is sponsored by USAA and brings together the brightest stars in the military-veteran entrepreneurial community to learn and share their business-building knowledge.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A military death row inmate will appeal to the Supreme Court

The nation’s highest court may soon decide the fate of one of Fayetteville’s most infamous criminals.


Ronald A. Gray, a former-Fort Bragg soldier and convicted serial killer, has filed a petition with the Supreme Court to answer several legal questions still hanging over his case.

Gray, who committed a series of murders and rapes in Fayetteville and on Fort Bragg in the 1980s, is the longest-serving inmate on the military’s death row.

He is also the only military prisoner whose execution has been approved by a president.

Lawyers for Gray filed their petition to the Supreme Court in February 2018. Lawyers for the U.S. government have a March 19, 2018 deadline to respond, according to the court.

At issue is which court system — military or civil — is responsible for hearing appeals Gray has filed since 2008, when then-President George W. Bush approved Gray’s eventual execution.

Also read: Two SEALs are under investigation for the murder of a Green Beret

Timothy Kaine, Gray’s lawyer, wrote in his petition to the Supreme Court that Gray’s appeals have been delayed by a “nearly decade-long contest of hot potato between military and civil courts.”

Numerous appeals were dismissed or delayed in recent years as the courts struggled over how to handle Gray’s appeals.

During that time, Gray has sought a review of claims of constitutional error during his military trial and subsequent appeals. He has claimed that his original appeals lawyer was ineffective, that his sentence is the result of racial discrimination and that military authorities failed to disclose evidence about his competency.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans
Fort Bragg, the home of the Airborne and Special Operation Forces. (Fort Bragg Official Facebook)

In recent years, the case has been heard by officials from a U.S. District Court in Kansas, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Army Court of Criminal Appeals and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.

In Gray’s petition, Kaine wrote that the military and civil courts have repeatedly declined to review his client’s claims “in the vain hope that the other court system would do so.”

The “litigation ping pong” has resulted in a system in which convicted enemy combatants have a clearer system in which to appeal their cases than do many military prisoners, Kaine said.

Related: The first man killed in the Vietnam War was murdered by a fellow airman

The latest appeals are part of a nearly 30-year legal battle related to Gray’s crimes, which the Supreme Court declined to review in 2001.

Appeals have taken on an added urgency since late 2016, when a federal judge removed a stay of execution that had been in place since 2008, potentially clearing the way for the Army to schedule Gray’s death.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans
(USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Samuel Morse)

A former resident of Fairlane Acres near Bonnie Doone in Fayetteville, Gray was an Army specialist working as a cook before he was convicted of a series of rapes and murders that were committed in 1986 and 1987 on Fort Bragg and near Fairlane Acres Mobile Home Park off Santa Fe Drive.

Gray killed cab driver Kimberly Ann Ruggles, Army Pvt. Laura Lee Vickery-Clay, Campbell University student Linda Jean Coats and Fairlane Acres resident and soldier’s wife Tammy Wilson.

Gray was convicted during two trials. A Fort Bragg court sentenced him to death in 1988, after convicting him of the rape and murder of two women and the rape and attempted murder of a third woman, among other offenses.

More: This reporter covered war up close before he was murdered by ISIS

A civilian court in 1987 sentenced him to eight life sentences, including three to be served consecutively, after convictions on charges of two counts of second-degree murder, five counts of rape and a number of other offenses all related to different victims.

Gray has been confined at the U.S. Army Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, since he was sentenced to death.

If he is executed, it would be the first death sentence carried out by the U.S. military since 1961. An execution would likely take place at the United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana — the same facility where, in 2001, terrorist Timothy McVeigh was executed for the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

MIGHTY MOVIES

How the 6 armies in a North Korean war would be like ‘Game of Thrones’ houses

While on a Christmas tour in the Middle East, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert Neller, spoke to the troops and brought up the potential of a future fight in North Korea. He told the troops, “It would be Game of Thrones-like, and a lot of people would get hurt. I might be wrong, but it’s a very complicated issue.” He’s not entirely wrong.


While his words were in reference to the bloodshed and brutality of war, the build up to conflict isn’t too much of a stretch. The fighting in Game of Thrones is brutal and many of the foot soldiers are up against insurmountable odds — much like a full-scale war between several nations. Many of the events in Game of Thrones happen because of a war that took place before the series began — much like the real world after the Korean War.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans
Grunts on deployment, am I right?

It also doesn’t hurt that both military life and the show have a lot of fighting, sex (including prostitution, unfortunately), and alcohol in them.

Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t caught up to the season finale of season seven, we recommend viewing one of our other great articles. If you have been keeping up with the series or just don’t care about spoilers, please enjoy a nerdy tongue-firmly-in-cheek response proving the Commandant of the USMC is more correct than he lead on.

6. North Korea is basically House Lannister

If you think about it, Kim Jong-un and King Joffery Baratheon have countless similarities. They’re both spoiled, rich, psychopathic brats who paint an image of godliness, who are very privileged thanks to the work of their predecessors, and yet they both demand unwavering respect without doing anything to earn it themselves.

As much as we laugh at the young dictators, they have plenty of power and control. One reason the Lannisters and North Korea weren’t eliminated right away was because of how they retaliate. The Starks won every battle in the War of Five Kings, but were slaughtered at the Red Wedding. The Tyrell line was straight up murdered in a holy place — along with thousands of innocent civilians. Hell, even the Lannister song Rains of Castermere is about how they’ll obliterate anyone in retaliation (damn, it’s a great song, tho…).

In real life, Seoul could suffer the same ruthless fate. Even if without the threat of nuclear warfare, just the conventional artillery on the border laying siege on the South Korean capital could put the death toll in the millions.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans
They both also throw large feasts while their people starve.

5. South Korea is basically House Targaryen

South Korean history is rich and beautiful, dating back to when the Korean Empire stood tall  much like House Targaryen. They were both overthrown and crushed to near nothingness, but quickly rose to be key powers in their conflicts.

The post-Korean War economy of South Korea was devastated and their military might was worse, just like how the Targaryens would eventually dwindle to just Daenerys Targaryen. With the simple push from a friend (Daenerys’ gift of the dragon eggs and South Korea’s support from the U.S), they are now each among the most intimidating militaries in the world.

The Republic of Korea Armed Forces is one of the most technologically advanced modern militaries, which will be the cornerstone of the next battle, should it come to that.

Just like a Dragon.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans
That, and they both definitely have air superiority over their enemies.

4. Japan Self-Defense Force is basically the Freefolk from Beyond the Wall

Once a primary enemy of many others on this list, they’re refocused on turning foes into allies to face the real threats.

Now their small populations are the most threatened, making them willing to do whatever it takes to survive.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans
They are now hand in hand with the Starks/Americans, but we’ll get to that in a second.

3. China is basically House Greyjoy

Each have the most intimidating naval forces in their given worlds, even if they’re not the largest. While the Lannisters (North Korea) could talk a big game and maybe hold their own currently, their strong arm is still House Greyjoy (China.)

The Chinese government also “does not sow” when it comes to taking islands in the South China Sea. On the bright side, the rebels (Theon and Yara Greyjoy AKA Taiwan) who left the main land/house are devoted allies to the Targaryens.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans
They both also somehow get impressively badass ships out of nowhere.

2. The United States of America is basically House Stark

Which leaves the honorable and — hardest fighting — armies, the Starks and the Americans. Each of the four remaining Starks make up the four branches of the Department of Defense.

The toughest fighter is definitely Jon Snow, our Marine. They even have experience fighting in the last war in the frozen north at (Battle of Chosin Reservoir for Marines and Beyond the Wall for Jon Snow). The special operations of the Special Forces and over all battle skill matches Arya Stark. The invaluable support and “eyes in the sky” that both the Air Force and Bran Stark have will be what makes this war. This leaves Sansa Stark for the Navy, because neither are really fighters — they’re more tactical support.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans
And are both their militaries lead by someone who the internet thinks is possibly a deity? Yep!

1. Putin is basically a White Walker

The sleeper threat. Though they emerge as the real enemies of the balance in their respective worlds, everyone turns a blind eye to them while they destroy, conquer, and expand their reach. Neither seem interested in having allies, just minions.

It also doesn’t hurt their cause when everyone focuses on them; the Lannisters (North Korea) and Greyjoys (China) benefit. They’re also the primary enemy of the Freefolk (Japan) and, eventually, the Starks (Americans.)

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans
Putin would probably ride a dragon into battle shirtless or something equally douchey though…

Articles

US military examines whether Russia aided in Syrian chemical attacks

Senior U.S. military officials said April 7 that they were looking into whether Russia aided Syrian forces in this week’s deadly chemical attack on civilians in Idlib province.


“We think we have a good picture of who supported them as well,” one senior military official told reporters at the Pentagon, adding that the Pentagon was “carefully assessing any information that would implicate the Russians knew or assisted with this Syrian capability.”

The officials said that at a minimum, the Russians failed to rein in the Syrian regime activity that has killed innocent Syrian civilians. They said Russia also failed to fulfill its 2013 guarantee that Syria’s chemical weapons would be eliminated.

The U.S. military officials noted that they had not seen evidence of Russian involvement in the chemical attack. However, the officials said the Russians had an aviation unit based at the airfield where the attack originated and have “chemical expertise in country.”

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans
The U.S. commander of coalition forces in Iraq and Syria says a Russian air strike in northern Syria accidentally struck U.S.-backed Syrian Arab forces who are part of the fight against so-called Islamic State (IS) militants. (YouTube screenshot: Kurdistan24.net)

U.S. military officials have shown reporters the Syrian aircraft flight path that was taken April 4 from al-Shayrat airfield to the town of Khan Sheikhoun, where more than 80 people were killed in the attack that local doctors said involved sarin nerve gas.

On April 7, U.S. military officials said that after the attack, they watched a small drone, also called a UAV, flying over the hospital in Khan Sheikoun where victims of the chemical attack were being treated.

“About five hours later, the UAV returned, and the hospital was struck by additional munitions,” one official said.

The senior military official said the U.S. did not know why the hospital was struck or who carried out the strike, but had determined that it was potentially done “to hide the evidence of a chemical attack.”

Meanwhile, senior military officials said the United States and Russia would maintain a line of communication aimed at preventing midair collisions of their warplanes in Syrian airspace. That contradicted Moscow’s earlier assertion that it had suspended those communications in protest against the Tomahawk cruise missile strike on al-Shayrat airfield.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans
In early 2017, a Russian plane buzzed a U.S. destroyer. (Dept. of Defense image)

The communication line is primarily used to ensure that Russian and U.S. planes conducting combat missions in Syria do not get into unintentional confrontations. The U.S. is using the airspace to conduct strikes against Islamic State terrorists.

The U.S. used the line to inform the Russians of the intent to strike in order to warn any Russians who were at the base, officials said.

The April 6 U.S. strike used 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles to hit targets on the Syrian airfield, including about 20 aircraft, aircraft storage facilities, ammunition supply bunkers, and radars, officials said.

A U.S. military official told Voice of America there was an area on the airfield known to have been used as a chemical weapons depot. The source said that the U.S. military did not know whether chemical weapons were still in that area, but out of an abundance of caution to avoid potential casualties, the missiles did not strike that area.

Other U.S. military officials told Voice of America the strikes did not target the airfield runways so as to not threaten Russians, adding that the Tomahawk type used was for “precision strikes, not cratering.”

One military official deemed the strikes as “appropriate, proportionate, precise, and effective.”

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans
The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2017 (local time). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams

The office of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad described the strikes in a statement on April 7 as “reckless” and “irresponsible.” The statement added that the attacks were “shortsighted” and a continuation of a U.S. policy of “subjugating people.”

Russia, which is providing troops and air support to the Assad government, condemned the U.S. military action, calling it “aggression against a sovereign state,” and said it was suspending a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. for flight safety over Syria.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on April 7 that the United States “took a very measured step last night.” She added, “We are prepared to do more, but we hope that will not be necessary.”

VOA’s Margaret Besheer contributed to this report.

Articles

Army attack helicopter crashes off Texas coast

Even peacetime training has its hazards, and that has been demonstrated with reports that an AH-64 Apache with the Texas National Guard crashed Dec. 28 in Galveston Bay, killing both crewmembers.


According to a report by KHOU.com, the helicopter was with the 1-149 Attack Helicopter Battalion of the Texas Army National Guard.

 

“It is with our deepest sympathy that we tell you both service members on board the air craft are deceased, our thoughts and prayers are with their family,” CW5 Glen Webb of the Texas Army National Guard said in a statement.

The AH-64 Apache is the Army’s helicopter gunship. According to a fact sheet released by the United States Army, it entered service in 1984, and can carry AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, 70mm Hydra rockets, and is also armed with a M230 cannon holding 1,200 rounds of ammunition. The Army plans to manufacture 690 Apaches for service.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Daniel Johnson

Apache crashes are not unheard of, with ArmyAirCrews.com listing 43 incidents involving 73 fatalities over the last 36 years, to include one during a test flight. The list includes seven combat losses due to enemy fire (six during Operation Iraqi Freedom, one during Operation Enduring Freedom).

The cause of the crash is under investigation, but KHOU.com reported that bystanders were taking photos of parts from the stricken attack helicopter that were lying near the crash site off the Bayport Cruise Terminal.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Veterans will get access to the most advanced clinical trials in cancer research

Veterans with cancer who receive treatment from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will now have easier access to clinical trials of novel cancer treatments, thanks to an agreement between VA and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health.


The NCI and VA Interagency Group to Accelerate Trials Enrollment, or NAVIGATE, which is launching at 12 VA facilities across the country, will enhance the ability of veterans to participate in trials carried out through NCI’s National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN) and the NCI Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP). As part of the agreement, NCI will provide infrastructure funding support needed for the VA facilities to participate in NCI-sponsored trials, enhancing the ability of veterans with cancer to receive promising treatments locally. In turn, VA will manage organizational and operational activities within its national healthcare system to establish a network to focus on NCI trial goals.

“NAVIGATE is an opportunity for VA and NCI to partner at the national level to make clinical trials more accessible to veterans,” said James H. Doroshow, M.D., deputy director for Clinical and Translational Research, NCI. “This agreement will not only provide veterans greater access to NCI clinical trials, it will enhance accrual to NCTN and NCORP trials, resulting in more timely completion of these studies. This interagency collaboration will also work to help veterans overcome barriers they’ve faced trying to access clinical trials as part of their cancer care.”

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans

VA has a robust clinical research program that includes clinical trials in cancer and other diseases at approximately 100 sites nationwide. However, VA facilities often face challenges initiating and completing externally funded trials because of the need for partners to navigate the system. This program aims to overcome these challenges with dedicated staffing and a sustainable infrastructure, and to address existing barriers to trial enrollment that veterans, including minority patients, often experience. In addition, NAVIGATE will increase the participation of VA investigators in clinical cancer research, and provide opportunities for these researchers to identify studies that may be of particular importance to veterans with cancer.

After an application process, the 12 VA sites picked to participate in NAVIGATE are: Atlanta VA Health Care System; James J. Peters VA Medical Center in New York City; Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston, South Carolina; VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System in Denver; Durham VA Medical Center in North Carolina; Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital in Hines, Illinois; Tibor Rubin VA Medical Center in Long Beach, California; Minneapolis VA Health Care System; VA Palo Alto Health Care System in California; Portland VA Medical Center in Portland, Oregon; Audie L. Murphy VA Hospital/South Texas Veterans Health Care System in San Antonio; and VA Connecticut Healthcare System in West Haven.

The program will be jointly managed by VA and NCI for up to three years. It is expected that, during this time, the participating VA sites will establish long-term capabilities to continue participation in NCI trials after this program ends. The NAVIGATE program sites will also establish best practices and share insights to help VA sites nationwide to initiate new studies and enroll more veterans in cancer clinical trials.

“By increasing enrollment in cancer clinical trials, VA and veterans will be contributing to important oncology research,” said VA Chief Research and Development Officer Rachel Ramoni, D.M.D., Sc.D. “This will not only help our veterans, but also advance cancer care for all Americans, and people around the world.”

VA’s involvement in NAVIGATE is being managed through the Cooperative Studies Program, part of VA’s Office of Research and Development. NAVIGATE is overseen by an Executive Committee comprised of VA and NCI leadership responsible for ensuring effective coordination on key activities between the agencies and that program milestones are achieved.

About the National Cancer Institute (NCI): NCI leads the National Cancer Program and NIH’s efforts to dramatically reduce the prevalence of cancer and improve the lives of cancer patients and their families, through research into prevention and cancer biology, the development of new interventions, and the training and mentoring of new researchers. For more information about cancer, please visit the NCI website at cancer.gov or call NCI’s Contact Center (formerly known as the Cancer Information Service) at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

This article originally appeared on the National Institutes of Health. Follow @NIH on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the Air Force helps fight American wildfires

Staff Sgt. Timothy Dawson was trying to get some rest before work the next day. The phone rang twice before he answered it. His neighbor, who lives just above his apartment complex on the hill, told him the fire was really close and they were evacuating.

That neighbor was 1st Lt. Mike Constable, a pilot with the 146th Airlift Wing, Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, California. Dawson said he could see Constable and his roommates packing things into their cars.


The Thomas Fire started on Dec. 4, 2017, in Santa Paula, near Thomas Aquinas College. Driven by Santa Ana winds gusting up to 70 mph, the flames screamed across the hillsides toward Ojai and Ventura. Numerous fires leapfrogged across Ventura and Los Angeles Counties the following day.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans

Chino Valley firefighters watch the oncoming flames of the Thomas Fire from the yard of a home in Montecito, California, Dec. 12, 2017. C-130Js of the 146th Airlift Wing at Channel Islands Air National Guard Base in Port Hueneme, carried the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System and dropped fire suppression chemicals onto the fire’s path to slow its advance in support of firefighters on the ground.

(Photo by J.M. Eddins JR.)

“I looked out my window, and could see the sky above the ridge by my home was glowing really orange and red already. My wife and I decided at that point to just grab what we could get and go somewhere safe,” Dawson said.

Dawson’s three-level, 52-unit apartment complex burned to the ground a few hours later.

Ironically, Dawson is a C-130J Hercules crew chief for the 146th AW, one of five wings in the Air Force equipped with the module airborne firefighting system, or MAFFS. This system is loaded onto C-130s and is designed to fight the very thing that took his home, wildfires.

The 146th AW was activated Dec. 5 to fight what became the largest California wildfire by size in the state’s recorded history, covering 281,893 acres. The Thomas Fire is now 100 percent contained.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans

“We got the word and everybody sprung into action. Our maintenance folk got the airplane ready for us, our aerial port guys went and got the MAFFS units pulled out and loadmasters got the airplanes ready. It was really a well-oiled machine on that day. We got things done really quickly,” said Senior Master Sgt. Phil Poulsen, a loadmaster with the 146th AW.

Most of the airmen stationed at Channel Islands ANGS are from Ventura County or the surrounding area. Approximately 50 people from the 146th AW evacuated their homes during the fire and five airmen lost their homes.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans

Residents of a 52-unit apartment complex search for belongings, Dec. 13, 2017, after the Thomas Fire roared through their neighborhood. Staff Sgt. Timothy Dawson, a C-130J Hercules aircraft maintenance technician with the 146th Airlift Wing, was also a resident of the apartment complex.

(Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)

“I can see the smoke from my house and we know people who live there,” Poulson said. “My daughter went to day care up there and I think I flew over that house. I think it’s gone. So it really hits close to home when you are this close to home.”

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CAL FIRE, requested MAFFS aircraft and personnel support through the state’s governor and the Adjutant General of the state’s National Guard. Once activated, CAL FIRE incident commanders assigned to the Thomas Fire, and based at the Ventura Fairgrounds, generate the launch orders for the MAFFS. The aircraft sit ready at Tanker Base Operations, a few miles south of the fairgrounds at Channel Islands Air National Guard Station.

Once requested, the C-130s would join the fight at a designated altitude in the protected flight area, typically 1,500 feet above ground. An aerial supervisor, or air attack, would fly at about 2,000 feet, directing and controlling the aircraft. Lead planes, at 1,000 feet, guide the tankers to their drop points, approximately 150 feet above the ground.”

Once we enter the fire traffic area, we join on the lead plane. He’ll typically give us a show me [puff of smoke] which shows us where he’s intending us to drop,” said Lt. Col. Scott Pemberton, a C-130J pilot with the 146th AW. “We try to be very precise with that because you know it’s a high value asset and you get one shot at it.”

The mission requires the crews to fly the C-130s very close to the fires.

“You’re taking the fight directly to the ground,” Pemberton said. “We are 150 feet above the ground at 120 knots, at the edge of the airplane’s envelope. You’re demanding a lot of yourself and your fellow crewmembers. So that’s why you are typically very highly trained and are very prepared to do this mission.”

The MAFFS can hold 3,000 gallons of retardant, which is released from a nozzle placed in the left rear troop door of the aircraft. It takes approximately 15 minutes to load retardant into the MAFFS, another 15 minutes to reach the Thomas Fire, 10 more to join the lead plane and drop and then another 15 minutes to return to base. With 10 hours of daylight and two planes, the 146th AW drops an average of 60,000 gallons of retardant each day.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans

Lt. Col. Scott Pemberton, a C-130J pilot with the 146th Airlift Wing, has been with the 146th for 30 years and has lived in the Ventura/Santa Barbara, California community for about 48. He has been flying the modular airborne fire fighting system for approximately 20 years. The 146th was activated Dec.5, 2017, to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state.

(Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)

“Many times if you are close to a fire line and you’re doing direct attack you’ll see the guys standing down there,” Pemberton said. “On the second, third or fourth drop you’ll come by and you will see that you have gotten close enough to where they are a different color. But I’ve also seen the whites of their eyes where they’re diving behind their bulldozer because you’re that close, and they know that the retardant is coming.”

Still, the dangers of this mission are not lost on Pemberton.

On July 1, 2012, MAFFS 7, which belonged to the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 145th Airlift Wing based at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, crashed while fighting the White Draw Fire in South Dakota’s Black Hills. Four of the six crewmembers aboard died.

“There was a thunderstorm approaching from the north and as they were waiting for the lead to coordinate and get his bearings… The thunderstorm moved closer and closer,” Pemberton said. “They made a first run and I think they got off half of their retardant.”

As they made their second run, they had a wind shear event and a microburst took away their lift and forced them to fly straight ahead into the terrain.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans

Senior Master Sgt. Phil Poulsen, 146th Airlift Wing loadmaster, checks the level of retardant in the module airborne firefighting system as redardant is loaded, Dec. 9, 2017. The 146th AW is one of five wings in the Air Force equipped with MAFFS. This system is loaded onto C-130s and is designed to fight wildfires.

(Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)

“As a result of that incident we completely changed our training. We incorporated a lot of the wind shear escape maneuvers, and we built new seats for the loadmasters in the back and made crashworthy seats for those crewmembers,” Pemberton said.

This training and the 146th AW’s capabilities benefit everyone involved in the wildfire fighting community, too.

The 146th AW plays a big role in extinguishing fires, said Tenner Renz a dozer swamper with the Kern County Fire Department, but it’s something he sees on almost every fire. Whether a 100-acre or a 250,000-acre fire, the guard shows up.

“Some of these guys are crazy. I mean dipping down into some of these canyons, flying through smoke, buzzing treetops,” Renz said. “They have a talent that most people don’t have.”

Having the MAFFS capability means the 146th AW can be federally activated to support firefighting operations around the United States by the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. An Air Force liaison group, led on a rotating basis by one of the five MAFFS unit commanders, staffs the center.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans

A C-130J Hercules from the 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard, sprays fire retardant ahead of the leading edge of the Thomas Fire, Dec. 13, 2017. The 146th was activated to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state. The C-130s from Channel Islands Air National Guard Station are capable of spraying fire retardant from a modular airborne firefighting systems loaded in the cargo bay.

(Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)

This wide-ranging operational experience and capability gives CAL FIRE an extra capability when things are at their worst.

“We currently have low humidity, Santa Ana winds, we haven’t had rain in a number of days and we’re in areas that haven’t burned in 50-60 years,” said Dan Sendek, MAFFS liaison officer for CAL FIRE. “You can never have enough equipment for every eventuality. What the guard brings to us is that surge capacity when we’re in a situation where we need everything we can get.”

Six days after he lost his home, Dawson was back at work.

“The routine of going about the mission and getting things done is probably better,” Dawson said. “I needed to get back and get involved in the fire mission. The show must go on. The world doesn’t stop spinning and the guard doesn’t stop flying missions.”

For Dawson, it’s also a chance to combat the fire that took his home and save some of his neighbor’s property.

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Tanner Renz, Kern County Fire Department, looks on as a C-130J Hercules from the 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard, sprays fire retardant ahead of the leading edge of the Thomas Fire, Dec. 13, 2017. The 146th was activated to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state. The C-130s from Channel Islands Air National Guard Station are capable of spraying fire retardant from a modular airborne firefighting systems loaded in the cargo bay.

Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)

Dawson and his wife were able to return to their apartment a few days after the fire destroyed it, however, they were not able to search for personal items because the fire was still smoldering.

“Every single tenant in the 52 units was able to get out ahead of the fire. When we went back for the first time it was it was pretty emotionally taxing,” he said. “There were two stories worth of apartments that collapsed into a carport. There’s nothing left that we could really find.

“To me, then and even now, it still feels a little surreal. I know it’s happening to me, but it feels like it’s happening to someone else.”

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This US warship just teased Beijing in latest South China Sea maneuvers

A U.S. destroyer reportedly put China’s extensive claims to the South China Sea to the test October 10th.


The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee challenged China’s “excessive maritime claims” near the Paracel Islands by sailing close to but not within 12 nautical miles of the Chinese-occupied territories, Reuters introduced, citing multiple U.S. officials.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans
Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG 105) transits the South China Sea before a replenishment-at-sea with fleet replenishment oiler USNS John Ericsson (T-AO-194) and Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett (DDG 104). (U.S. Navy Photo By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kryzentia Weiermann/ Released)

The Trump administration conducted two other freedom-of-navigation operations in May and August, challenging China’s claims to the Spratly and Paracel Islands. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey sailed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands in May, and the USS John McCain followed suit a few months later.

The U.S. has also conducted bomber overflights in the South China Sea, putting additional pressure on China.

The latest operation comes at a time when President Donald Trump is urging China to rein in North Korea to ensure stability on the peninsula. While China calls for dialogue, the president has made it clear that now is not the time for talk.

Many in the Trump administration have acknowledged that while North Korea is a serious short-term threat, China remains the greatest challenge to U.S. hegemony in the world.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New Defiant helicopter probably won’t fly in 2018

The Sikorsky-Boeing SB1 Defiant helicopter program will miss its first scheduled flight tests due to “minor technical issues” discovered during ground power tests, officials involved in the program revealed Dec. 12, 2018. The tests were originally scheduled for 2018.

While the aircraft “has been completely built,” discoveries were made in recent weeks during Power System Test Bed (PSTB) testing, said Rich Koucheravy, Sikorsky director of business development for future vertical lift. Sikorsky is partnered with Boeing Co. on the project.


“We’re working those fixes, and our goal will be to get the PSTB back in operation shortly…within the next week or two,” Koucheravy said in a phone call with reporters. Because of the prolonged PSTB tests, the Defiant flight will be pushed back into early 2019, he said.

Randy Rotte, Boeing director of global‎ sales and marketing for cargo helicopters and FVL, said the program must also be certified in 15 unblemished hours within PSTB — which collectively tests the aircraft as a system — before it’s cleared for first flight.

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U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno is briefed about the newest invitation, the SB1 Defiant by a Boeing representative at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Convention and exposition show in Washington, D.C., Oct. 14, 2014.

(U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Mikki L. Sprenkle)

The two officials said the unspecified, mechanical issues have not and will not impact or alter the design or configuration of the aircraft, nor should they impact the supply chain.

Program officials previously reported problems with the transmission gearbox and rotor blades.

“Those issues are behind us,” Rotte said Dec. 12, 2018.

The co-developers have been transparent with the Army with the delays, they said. “Only time will tell” if other discoveries during prolonged ground testing will dictate when the flight tests occur, Rotte said.

The news comes one year after Defiant’s competitor, the Bell Helicopter-made V-280 Valor next-generation tilt-rotor aircraft, made its first flight.

In October 2018, the head of the Army’s Future Vertical Lift effort said the service was not worried that the Sikorsky-Boeing SB1 Defiant had not conducted its first test flight yet.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans

A mock-up of a Bell V-280, exhibited at HeliExpo 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.

“We need them to fly; we need them to prove out more fully their lift-off … technologies and some of their manufacturing technologies,” Brig. Gen. Wally Rugen, director of the Future Vertical Lift, Cross Functional Team, said during the 2018 Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition.

But, he added, “we have been in close communication with the Defiant team and understand where they are at and what they are doing.”

Sikorsky, part of Lockheed Martin Corp., and Boeing Co. built the SB1 Defiant, which is based on Sikorsky’s X2 coaxial design.

The Defiant was expected to conduct its first test flight in 2017, but Sikorsky-Boeing officials predicted it would instead conduct its maiden flight in late 2018 at the Sikorsky Development Flight Test Center in West Palm Beach.

Rugen at the time said it was still too early to say whether the service will lean toward the Valor’s tiltrotor or the Defiant’s coaxial rotor design.

“We want the most efficient and the most capable platform,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

6 outside activities for kids that don’t involve public places

Imagine a summer with no camps, no daycares, no pools, no libraries or open parks to take your kids to enjoy. No play-dates, sleepovers, theme parks or road trips. It’s just you and your kids. All day.

There’s no need to imagine because this is our reality. Summer came early. And it’s doubly intense for spouses who already have little to no relief because their service members are deployed.

On March 13, our country was declared to be in a National Emergency. The spread of the coronavirus has not only dictated our social interactions, but schools and public facilities shutting down as well have left us with no choice but to stay in with our families. But “in” doesn’t have to exactly mean IN the house. So don’t lose hope or think you have no choice but to go stir crazy.

Here are a few ways to get creative with your outdoor activities that don’t involve public places.


5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans

Go for a cruise through the city

If you’re newly PCS’d to your area, this is a good chance to get a lay of the land. Load up the kids and take the scenic route around the city. You can turn the music up loud and roll down the windows to feel the breeze. Take turns choosing the songs, so everyone feels involved.

Make chalk drawings or games like hopscotch on your driveway

You may have to dig for it, but reach through all your crafting items to get the old faithful sidewalk chalk. You can have a different theme for your drawings each time or make it a free for all.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans

Do some gardening/exploring

I have some stubborn weeds, but my kids love picking them with me. If you garden, spruce up the yard as a family. Or you can explore your yards perimeters. Have everyone walk around the edges and count how many steps it takes to complete the trek around your home. Water your plants or dig for worms. Get good and dirty together.

Have a picnic

Picnics seem so vintage right now. Make sandwiches, fruit or whatever you like and eat out on a blanket in the yard. Then lay back and bask in the sun! Don’t forget the SPF.

Neighborhood dance party from your driveways

Make a time with your neighbors close by and come out front. Play some music loud enough for them to enjoy as well, and boogie down. This is also a good icebreaker if you haven’t made friends yet.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans

Contests

Everyone likes to win at something. Make the contest a hulahoop, jump rope, or basketball game, if you have a net. Or even four square. Choose a prize for the winner each day. For example, the winner gets to choose what’s for dinner, or what the family movie will be for that evening.

The key is to get some sun and fresh air. A bonus is to find something your kids enjoy that requires them to use A LOT of energy. This makes for a great nap time. And yes, we’ve reintroduced naps now that they are out of school. It keeps everyone sane!

MIGHTY TRENDING

Anonymous missile strike hits Syrian town with Russian base

Syria’s coastal city of Latakia, which hosts a large Russian naval base and military presence, has come under attack from an unclaimed missile strike that Syria attributes to Israel.

“Air defenses have confronted enemy missiles coming from the sea in the direction of the Latakia city, and intercepted a number of them,” Syrian state-run media said, according to Reuters.

Syrian officials blamed Israel for the strike, but Israel rarely takes credit for its air raids in Syria and has frequently fired missiles from outside of Syrian airspace before.


The strikes followed Israel releasing satellite images of Damascus International Airport and the palace where Syrian President Bashar Assad lives in a possible threat. Syria also blames Israel for a Sept. 16, 2018 strike on the airport.

Syria and Israel have fought wars against each other in the past and Israel has taken military measures to resist Iran’s influence and ability to transfer arms in southern Syria near Israel’s borders.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said missiles targeted ammunition depots of the technical industry institution in the eastern outskirts of Latakia, according to Reuters.

www.youtube.com

Russian protection?

Unlike the semi-regular strikes that hit Iranians-aligned forces in southern Syria, this strike hit an area rich with Russian forces and missile defenses. In past US-led strikes, Syria has shown little proof that its air defense can actually fend off large-scale naval cruise missile strikes.

Russia recently concluded naval exercises in the Mediterranean near Latakia and maintains a consistent naval presence in the region.

So far nothing indicates Russian military bases have been targeted, but Syria-based correspondents have reported Russian air defenses operating.

Russia has, since 2015, stationed warships at Latakia and operated some of the world’s top missile defenses near Latakia. Video and photos claiming to show the air battle over Latakia show what look like massive surface to air fires with missiles streaking overhead, indicating a state military rather than a rebel or terror group.

Featured image: A video claims to show a massive missile strike in Latakia.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis calls North Korea a ‘threat to the entire world’

The regime of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un remains a danger to the world, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said Jan. 26 in Honolulu, while emphasizing diplomatic efforts to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue.


The goal remains the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, Mattis told reporters at U.S. Pacific Command‘s headquarters at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, with South Korea Minister of Defense Song Young-moo.

“The Kim regime is a threat to the entire world,” Mattis said. “It’s an international problem that requires an international solution.”

He noted three unanimous United Nations Security Council Resolutions on North Korea.

“Our response to this threat remains diplomacy-led, backed up with military options available to ensure that our diplomats are understood to be speaking from a position of strength,” the secretary explained.

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis gives the keynote address to kick off the 2017 annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., Oct. 9, 2017. (DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

U.S.-South Korea ‘ironclad and irreplaceable’ alliance

Mattis and Song reaffirmed the strength of their countries’ alliance and America’s pledge to defend South Korea and maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

The U.S.-South Korean alliance is “ironclad and irreplaceable,” Mattis said.

“Our combined militaries stand shoulder-to-shoulder ready to defend against any attack” on South Korea or the United States, he said.

Mattis praised South Korea’s “steadfast action upholding United Nations sanctions at sea,” noting South Korea has impounded two ships that were found violating the U.N. Resolutions using ship-to-ship transfer at cargo at sea.

Also Read: South Koreans are not happy to be Olympic partners with the North

South Korea “leads by example in carrying out the United Nations’ sanctions,” Mattis said, adding North Korea is reminded that “risking its economy to boost its rockets makes it less secure, not more.”

Enduring Pacific power

Mattis said Song is always welcome at the Pacific Command headquarters in Honolulu. This was the last stop of the secretary’s trip that also took him to Indonesia and Vietnam.

“Here in beautiful Hawaii we’re reminded that America is an enduring Pacific power — five of our states plus territories all touch on this shared ocean,” he said.

Reckless rhetoric, dangerous provocations

Mattis said the United States and South Korea welcome the Olympic Games talks between North Korea and South Korea, but at the same time, “remain steadfast with the international economic pressure campaign to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.”

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans
‘2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games’ Medal. (Image Republic of Korea Flickr)

The talks for the Olympics, Mattis explained, do not address the overarching problems with North Korea.

“Diplomacy should repose reason on Kim’s reckless rhetoric and dangerous provocations,” he said.

North Korea is sending athletes, including hockey players for a unified South Korea-North Korea team, to the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea. The games begin Feb. 9.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Watch this EOD guy dismantle an IED with a pickaxe and pliers

We’re spending a lot of time on the internet these days watching plenty of useless information — cat videos, TikToks, Tiger King all the Netflix in the land. Finally, here’s something useful, with a heart-stopping, compelling element: an EOD badass dismantling IEDs with only a pickaxe and pliers and no protective equipment. DISCLAIMER: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. OR ANYWHERE.


Forget everything you thought you knew about dismantling IEDs. As this Peshmerga EOD guy clearly shows, all you need is a pickaxe and a pair of pliers.pic.twitter.com/hZOoP9m291

twitter.com

Researcher Hugo Kaaman posted a clip of a “Peshmerga EOD guy” dismantling IEDs with only a pickaxe and a pair of pliers (Did we mention? Do not try this!). After a little more digging, another Twitter user cited that the subject was Major Jamal Bawari who is/was a part of a Peshmerga EOD unit.

BBC Four, Storyville did a documentary on ‘Crazy Fakhir’, a Kurdish colonel in the Iraqi army and legendary bomb disposal expert, who was in the same unit as Jamal, titled “Hurt Locker Hero” in 2018.

The description of the documentary on BBC Four is: The heart-stopping story of ‘Crazy Fakhir’, a Kurdish colonel in the Iraqi army and legendary bomb disposal expert who single-handedly disarmed thousands of landmines across the country with just a pocket knife and a pair of wire clippers.

Between the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and the chaos and destruction wreaked by IS ten years later, Fahkir’s unwavering bravery saved thousands of lives throughout Iraq. ‘Hurt Locker Hero’ tells Fakhir’s story through the raw and visceral amateur footage captured by his soldiers on a camcorder intended for filming family occasions. Instead, it records Fakhir endlessly snipping wires, searching family homes and digging out roadside IEDs, insisting it’s too dangerous to wait hours for the highly trained American bomb disposal teams to arrive.

Whilst their father and husband becomes a hero, Fahkir’s wife and eight children struggle to make ends meet and worry endlessly about his safety. Fakhir will be remembered as the man who risked his life to save others -‘If I fail, only I die, but if I succeed, I can save hundreds of people.’.

This is definitely better than cat videos.

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