- Trump Might Not Be Giving Us A Parade We Want, But It’s The One We Deserve
- The Mother Of All Bombs Is Waiting Patiently For An Encore In Afghanistan
- Are Military Parades Worth it?
- Take Your Military Parade And Drop It In Your Gold-Plated Toilet
- ‘Continuum Of Harm’: The Military Has Been Fighting Sexual Assault In Its Ranks For Decades, But Women Say It’s Still Happening
- Tom Hanks Wants Veterans To Audition For His Next War Movie
- How One Air Force Veteran Found Shared Values At BP
- In Boot Camp, A Drill Instructor Taught Me The True Meaning Of Practice
- Mattis To Lawmakers: Another Shutdown Will Have ‘Terrible Ramifications’ For Military
- Watch An Army Veteran Take Down A Casino Robber Wearing A Batman Mask
- This Is The Definitive Book On What Went Wrong In Afghanistan
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 04:20 PM PST
Desert Storm was one of the most lopsided conflicts in modern history. For several weeks in the spring of 1991, an American-led coalition of 32 countries pummeled the military of Saddam Hussein as it retreated from Kuwait into the heart of Iraq. Casualty estimates vary widely, but it's safe to say that tens of thousands of Iraqis — soldiers and civilians — were killed in the offensive. Coalition ground forces stopped short of Baghdad. Commanders theorized (correctly) that taking out Saddam would plunge the country into a civil war. In the years that followed, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis perished as a result of malnutrition, preventable diseases, and other causes attributable to the international sanctions that the United States advocated for to punish Saddam. We obliterated Iraq. Mission accomplished.
Every war has a unique set of stakes and challenges. What it takes to win one is not the same as what's required to win another. That's obvious. So is the fact that to win anything — a war, a sports match, a video game — there needs to be a clear objective. What had qualified as a victory for the coalition in Desert Storm was fairly straightforward: Drive Saddam's army out of Kuwait. Every evening, millions of Americans, my 7-year-old self included, gathered in front of our televisions and watched our troops carry out that mission with awesome efficiency. The ground campaign was over within 100 hours. And when our troops returned home, we flooded the streets of New York City and Washington and celebrated their return. Of course we did. The fact that the operation was far more devastating for the Iraqi people than Saddam's regime didn't matter. We were the winning team and winners get to party.
So then why, 27 years later, would President Donald Trump order the military to stage another parade through the nation's capital — but this time in the midst of a conflict that America hasn't won? Your guess is as good as mine. Competing theories abound. But here's a question that everyone, including those who find the president's order appalling, can help answer: Why hasn't this country held a national military parade since 1991?
The youngest person who could have served with the U.S. military in the opening phase of the War on Terror would now be somewhere around 35 years old. The closest he or she has ever come to experiencing a big victory moment occurred on May 1, 2003, when President George W. Bush stood aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln under a banner emblazoned with the words "Mission Accomplished." However, this time, there were no ticker tape parades in New York and Washington for the troops who crushed Saddam. Same goes for those who fought in the battles in Fallujah, and Sadr City, and Ramadi, and Marjah, and all of the other engagements the military has chalked up as "wins" over the years. Did those victories deserve to be celebrated? By the service members who participated in them, sure. But by the rest of us? That, it seems, would require something that our troops have not yet accomplished: a victory that all of us can call our own.
Commentators have been quick to point out that dictators and despots are fond of national military parades. However, that doesn't mean that such parades are quintessentially un-American — and I don't say that simply because we've conducted quite a few of them ourselves. For 17 years, we have leaned on our military with increasing pressure to pursue complex foreign policy objectives on multiple fronts around the world. To millions of people beyond our borders, America epitomizes the militant society we are pretending not to be when we gasp at the thought of Trump putting that dark little secret on a pedestal. At the very least, a multi-million dollar procession of tanks, fighter jets, and missile launchers rumbling through our nation's capital might remind us that for nearly two decades those very same tools of death have been regular — and extremely destructive — fixtures in the countries where our troops are still fighting on our behalf.
Do I find the idea of forcing service members to perform a charade that will cost a lot of time, money, and resources and ultimately do nothing to make our country stronger or more safe repulsive? Yes, I do. But lest we forget, we've been treating them that way since 2001. We've sent them into battle after battle in a growing list of countries without a logical explanation for why they're killing people, and why their buddies are dying, and why they're getting their legs blown off. Until we come up with a clear definition of success — say, a hill to conquer or an army to vanquish — it's just war for the sake of war. That's a dog and pony show. Soldiers don't go to war. Countries do. Trump might not be giving us a parade we want, but it's certainly one we deserve.
I imagine that most of the soldiers who'll participate in the parade are too young to have served in those battles I mentioned, which is probably a good thing. Few hearts would swell with national pride at the sight of a bunch of old mutts and hobbled clydesdales trudging down Pennsylvania Avenue. And, really, this isn't about them. It's about the people in the crowd and the big whigs in the viewing stands. They're not there to hear war stories or listen to more complaints about the VA. They just want to see the troops march, and march, and march.
The post Trump Might Not Be Giving Us A Parade We Want, But It's The One We Deserve appeared first on Task & Purpose.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 01:55 PM PST
The U.S. military is still holding the Mother of All Bombs over the Taliban's heads like 21,600-pound GPS-guided sword of Damocles.
In April 2017, a U.S. aircraft dropped a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb on a cave complex being used by the Islamic State's affiliate in Afghanistan, marking the first time the weapon had been used in combat.
Although U.S. forces in Afghanistan have not used the MOAB again since then, "It's there if we need it," said Air Force Maj. Gen. James Hecker, commander of coalition air forces in Afghanistan.
"We never take anything off the table," Hecker told reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday. "Right now, we don't have a use for it, but if we do, it's there for us."
The bomb was rapidly designed and built between November 2002 and March 2003, ahead of the initial invasion of Iraq. It was designed to be a replacement for the massive BLU-82 "Daisy Cutter," according to the Air Force. When it was first tested on March 11, 2003, the explosion created a mushroom cloud that could be seen from 20 miles away.
By the time the MOAB arrived in theater, coalition forces were close to Baghdad. It would be 14 years before the weapon would make its debut when it was dropped in Afghanistan's Nangarhar province following the death of a Special Forces soldier fighting ISIS-Khorasan.
News that the bomb had finally been used created a media sensation that made Hecker's mother concerned about him.
"Quite honestly, after only being here a week and my mom heard that a MOAB was dropped, she immediately sent me a note and asked if I was OK," Hecker said at Wednesday's news conference. "I let her know that we won't drop on ourselves. This is meant for the enemy."
With ISIS fighters going underground in Iraq and Syria, U.S. Central Command has made Afghanistan the priority for air operations.
U.S. forces in Afghanistan now have 50 percent more MQ-9 Reaper drones to find targets, as well as an A-10 squadron to provide close air support, Hecker said. A combat search and rescue squadron is also being deployed to the country.
On Feb. 4, a B-52 dropped a total of 24 precision-guided bombs – a new record – during three airstrikes against Taliban and East Turkestan Islamic Movement training camps in northeast Afghanistan, Hecker said. Previously, B-52s only had room for 16 precision-guided bombs, but in late November, the bomber was modified for an increased payload at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.
Meanwhile, the Afghan air force is dropping or launching weapons at the enemy at nearly double the rate of U.S. aircraft, Hecker said. However, he clarified, most of those strikes come from the Afghan fleet of 25 MD-530 helicopters, which are equipped with laser-guided rockets and machine guns.
Hecker conceded that strikes from a light attack helicopter and a B-52 don't exactly make for an apples-to-apples comparison. "But I wouldn't say it's apples to oranges either," he said.
"If you're on the other side of that rocket and you're a Taliban, you probably don't care if it's a rocket or if it's a [precision-guided munition] that's hitting you in the forehead," Hecker said.
The post The Mother Of All Bombs Is Waiting Patiently For An Encore In Afghanistan appeared first on Task & Purpose.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 10:55 AM PST
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 09:47 AM PST
I'll make this short. Nobody likes a long, forced display of emotion. Except Donald Trump.
The stock market, previously the president's favorite benchmark of national success, is tanking severely and whiplashing back up, and no one seems to fully understand why. Sixty-four thousand Americans are dying of drug overdoses per year — 175 per day, double the rate a decade ago — and nobody knows how to stop them. The suicide rate in America is higher than it's been in decades, and it's highest in the rural areas that economic progress and politicians of every stripe have left behind.
This is the America that our military is defending. It is not going well. The Afghanistan War, the United States' longest in its history, has no obvious end; the generals in charge now were field grade officers when the war started. The forever war is turning out so many veterans that the VA can't keep up — and the department is largely trying to fire its way out of the problem, without filling any of its top spots or hiring for any of its nearly 50,000 job vacancies. Some American war veterans are facing deportation. Others, with other-than-honorable discharges, are foundering with next to no help. The U.S.'s forward-deployed naval force, steaming away to back up the belligerence of a novice president's tweets, is stretched to its breaking point, with groggy nav teams breaking ships and killing sailors. The entire military establishment, shot through with waste, fraud, and abuse, can't even audit itself, and Congress is too broken to even fund it, except through short-term continuing resolutions, because we have reached a point in America where Americans have their political teams to root for and no incentives to be humane or conciliatory to each other for a greater cause.
Let's do it for the duly elected commander-in-chief, who was born on third base and blames the world for not just scoring it as a run. Whose entire "military" service consists of a private boarding-school diploma and five draft deferments. Who used the commissioning ceremony of the Coast Guard Academy's graduating cadets to bitch about the media's coverage of him, when he wasn't confusing the Coast Guard with the Navy. Who couldn't stand still or remember the words for the National Anthem at Arlington on Memorial Day next to his secretary of defense and Joint Chiefs chairman (but he's still pretty sure NFL players of color who don't show sufficient anthem-patriotism should be fired). Who doesn't have a clue what evening colors are, but surmises they must be for him. Who accessorizes with troops. Who likes "people who weren't captured;" tells Gold Star families he's "made a lot of sacrifices;" calls safe sex in the 1990s "my personal Vietnam;" and blames "the generals" for battle casualties.
Let's throw a military bash with missiles and troops and bands for this rampaging golf-course rentier, because nobody's ever done anything like that before, except the Soviet Union, the People's Republic of China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Cuba, Libya under Qaddafi, Iraq under Saddam, Zaire under Mobutu, the Nazi Reich under Hitler, Spain under Franco, Chile under Pinochet, Iran under the Shah, Uganda under Idi Amin, Yugoslavia under Tito, Romania under Ceausescu, Serbia under Milosevic.
Let's do it like France does it on Bastille Day, because Lord knows that's really fixed their country and the imperial colonies they occupied. Let's emulate the fading great power that tried vainly to "win" Vietnam before handing it off to us shrugging, and these days can't decide if its fifth republic will be socialist or ultraconservative or somewhere in between.
Let's pause the wars for a minute to garrison the troops, spit-shine them, transport them, train them for a new pompous and circumstantial evolution, invite the networks, adore the leader, and then go back to failing at war, a few million dollars lighter, to get a poll bump for a man who loves the troops and America but derides as "the deep state" all the constitutional oath-takers who are investigating his campaign's connections to Russia; his reliance on a national security adviser compromised by multiple foreign states; his pressurings and firings of top investigators; his role in making false statements about campaign meetings with Russians promising dirt on his opponent.
Let's make America a banana republic. Let's have a fucking parade. For Don.
You don't need this. I don't need this. But he sure does.
Update: 1:10 p.m. EDT: This post has been updated to clarify that 64,000 Americans die of drug overdoses annually.
The post Take Your Military Parade And Drop It In Your Gold-Plated Toilet appeared first on Task & Purpose.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 09:06 AM PST
As a noncommissioned officer in the Army, Jenna McGinnis often told her team members that she hated drinking and driving, and if they ever needed a ride when drunk, she'd come to get them.
"I would rather be woken up in the middle of the night to pick up a drunk troop if it means I do not have to watch another parent lose a child to drunken tomfoolery," she said.
One night, while she was serving at Eglin Air Force Base, a major on her team called to take her up on the offer. It was midnight, but she jumped in her car and went to collect him. At the bar, the major was visibly drunk. "The bartender gave me a 'you need to get him out of here now' look," McGinnis said.
Once he got in her car, the major began groping her. He continued to do so in the elevator to his apartment, even as she tried to push him away. When finally she got him home, he tried to pull her into his bedroom. "I ended up putting my elbow in his solar plex," she said.
The next morning, ironically, the unit had SHARP training — a mandatory course in sexual harassment/assault response and prevention. But what was an uncomfortable situation for McGinnis didn't seem to faze the major at all. He acted "like nothing happened," she said.
McGinnis hadn't decided whether or not to report the incident, but as she watched her assaulter laughing and chuckling with female airmen at the session, she knew she had no choice. "I'm thinking what if he didn't call me, and he called one of them?"
Unfortunately, that decision puts her in the minority. According to the most recent Department of Defense data, 14,900 service members were sexually assaulted in 2016 — more than 40 per day on average. More than two-thirds of those assaults went unreported, the Defense Department estimates.
Since the news of Harvey Weinstein's alleged serial sexual misconduct broke last October, industries across the spectrum from media to agriculture have begun grappling with the prevalence and implications of workplace sexual harassment and assault. But in the U.S. military, where colleagues are comrades-in-arms and working is often a 24/7 full-life experience, the issue has long been a serious concern.
"The modern era of sexual assault and sexual harassment awareness in the military started with Tailhook," said Col. Don Christensen, referring to the 1991 scandal that erupted after more than 100 Navy and Marine Corps officers allegedly sexually assaulted dozens of women and men at a conference in Las Vegas. A former JAG who retired from the Air Force in 2014 after serving as its chief prosecutor for four years, Christensen is now president of Protect Our Defenders, a nonprofit dedicated to ending sexual assault in the military. "There were clearly issues before then but that was when it was really brought into the national consciousness."
In the decades since Tailhook, more high-profile incidents have come to light, steadily revealing the cultural and systemic problems that have enabled sexual harassment and assault to persist across all branches of the military. In 1996, 12 drill sergeants were prosecuted for alleged sex crimes committed at Aberdeen Proving Ground, and in 2003, a special investigation revealed that 12% of the women who graduated from the Air Force Academy that year were the victims of rape or attempted rape while at the academy. The Air Force was back in the headlines in 2012 when dozens of female trainees came forward to say they had been sexual assaulted during basic training at Lackland Air Force Base. Each story sparked a renewed focus on addressing sexual violence in the military.
"But once the story was no longer in the headlines, the focus went away and it went back to business as normal," Christensen told Task & Purpose.
Some progress has been made. In 2004, the DoD created the Care for Victims of Sexual Assault Task Force to review the military policies for treating and preventing sexual assault. One result was the eventual establishment of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Office, which now serves as the single point of authority on sexual assault in the DoD. In 2013, the National Defense Authorization Act required increased training around sexual assault for military service members and required the branches to allow anonymous reporting of crimes.
"Each year since 2013, we've seen changes passed by Congress to the [Uniform Code of Military Justice], an acknowledgement that things aren't where they should be," Christensen said. "But we still haven't gotten a major change."
2013 also saw a spike in the number of reported sexual assaults, a change the military and some advocates have attributed to survivors' increased willingness to come forward. The numbers have continued to go up, albeit more slowly. In 2016, the military received 6,172 reports of sexual assault, up 1.5% from 2015.
"Reports as a proportion of estimated assault have been rising over the past decade, and I think that's reflective of the efforts SAPR has made to make reporting safer and more likely to produce benefits to the person who was assaulted," said Andrew Morral, co-author of the 2014 RAND Military Workplace Study. "It's working better for women than for men," he noted.
But what do these numbers represent, and why do the majority of incidents still go unreported? To find out, Task & Purpose surveyed service members and veterans, asking them whether they had ever felt they needed to work harder to gain respect because of their gender or sexual orientation, whether they had been sexually harassed, and whether they had been sexually assaulted.
We received a total of 147 responses from men and women across all branches and service statuses, with a variety of ranks ranging from E-3 to O-6. None of the respondents identified as transgender; 27 described themselves as members of racial and ethnic minorities. We also collected approximately 80 open-ended comments from survey participants (some anonymous and some not), and conducted in-depth interviews with over a dozen current and former service members who were willing to speak in more detail. The survey methodology was not scientific, so we are not publishing the percentages of respondents who said they had experienced harassment or assault in the military. Rather, we wanted to highlight sexual misconduct in the military using published data and the experiences of servicewomen who were willing to step forward with their stories.
According to DoD research, the two most common reasons for reporting assault were wanting to stop the alleged perpetrator from hurting others and wanting to prevent oneself from being hurt again. The most common reasons given for opting not to report an assault were wanting to forget about it and move on, not wanting other people to know, and feeling ashamed or embarrassed. One active-duty Army captain who asked not to be named said she felt all of those things after being sexually assaulted by a first sergeant when she was a private serving at Fort Stewart.
She was one of several soldiers the first sergeant regularly invited over to his house for pool parties and barbeques. One night, he asked her and another woman to join him for drinks in town. The other woman didn't show, and while they were out, the first sergeant kept putting his hand on her thigh. "It wasn't enough for me to get upset," she said. "I was kind of like, stop it."
Later, as he gave the private a ride back to her car, the first sergeant pulled over and began telling her how unhappy he was in his marriage.
Suddenly, "he reached across my seat and let my seat back as far as it would go, and he got on top of me," she told Task & Purpose. He began attempting to give her oral sex. "I was telling him to stop, but when I saw he wasn't going to stop, I kind of just froze."
He stopped after a few minutes, allowing her to go home to her barracks, where she showered and cried until she fell asleep. At 4 a.m., she woke up to more than a dozen missed calls. The first sergeant was knocking loudly at her door. "I'm kind of like, I have to let him in because I don't want everyone in my business," she said. "I don't want to cause a scene."
She said she was silent as he apologized. But as soon as he'd done so, he pulled her to the edge of her bed and started assaulting her again, this time putting his fingers in her. Eventually, he left. She later found out that the woman who she had expected to meet them in town was never planning to come at all: The first sergeant had lied. Another specialist told her he had done the same thing to her, including the setup.
She decided not to report the incident, but word eventually got out among her peers. "People were like, 'She shouldn't have been there in the first place, she wanted it.'"
In 2006, Christine, a former enlisted Army mechanic who asked her last name not be shared, was assaulted one night during MOS training by an noncommissioned officer who had just "spent two weeks telling me about his daughters, his wife."
"I woke up and he was on top of me in my room," she said. A group of men from her unit who were smoking outside heard her shouts, rushed upstairs, pulled the man off of her and beat him up. She didn't report the incident.
"I felt that him getting beaten up was a bigger punishment than anything he would have gotten through the system," she said. "In my head it had been handled."
Other victims of assault opt not to report their abusers for fear that doing so will get them branded "troublemakers" or prompt retribution from their chain of command that could limit their career advancement. A senior officer who asked that her name not be disclosed said she was anally raped by an American service member while serving in Iraq in 2006 but chose not to report it because she didn't want to be sent home from the deployment. She told Task & Purpose she believes her career wouldn't have progressed as far had she come forward back then. She also said she's been surprised to learn, over time, how many of her high-ranking peers have been assaulted.
As the military faces scrutiny over sexual assault in its ranks, less attention has been focused on the wide array of behaviors that reinforce a culture in which assault is allowed to occur.
Not all of the survey respondents said they had been assaulted or harassed, yet the vast majority spoke about being sexualized at work and viewed as prizes by their male colleagues, being forced to navigate a narrow line between being perceived as a "bitch" or a "slut," and often feeling like their rank was disrespected. Most of these women said the inappropriate comments and sexual harassment usually came from higher-ranking men, making them feel like they couldn't speak up or push back without career repercussions. Many women said male colleagues routinely commented on their sexuality in workplace settings.
"Sexual harassment is quite common in the military," said Morral of RAND. "Across all ranks and pay grades, 75% of women say it's common or very common, and it's super highly correlated with sexual assault experiences."
A 2016 DoD survey on workplace and gender relations found that active-duty service members who have experienced "unwanted gender-related behaviors" are more likely to be sexually assaulted. In that survey, 21.3% of women and 5.6% of men said they had experienced a "sexually hostile work environment" in the past 12 months.
The DoD has identified a number of factors that contribute to a "continuum of harm" in which a profusion of seemingly lesser offenses such as sexist jokes and bullying create an environment in which assault not only takes place but is tolerated. These include high levels of workplace hostility, the underrepresentation of females in the workplace, and "an unhealthy enlisted and officer climate with respect to sexual assault."
"There's lots of evidence that tolerance of the use of words that are harmful can lead to an environment of harm and bolsters the likelihood of more harmful actions taking place," notes Lydia Watts, CEO of the Service Women's Action Network, an advocacy organization for servicewomen. "There needs to be a culture change in which those kinds of comments are seen as contrary to military readiness and troop cohesion and morale."
Long before Jenna McGinnis was assaulted at Eglin, she had become used to the many ways in which servicewomen are sexualized and treated differently from their male peers.
Her first duty station was Hunter Army Airfield — home to 1st Ranger Battalion. When she arrived, she and the other female soldiers were told, "You're not allowed to be around Rangers because they'll make you whores," McGinnis recalled.
"'Don't be the platoon ink that everyone can dip their pen in' — that was one of my favorites," McGinnis told Task & Purpose.
Not only were men she worked with not given similar warnings, they were encouraged to pursue the women as prizes. "There was a competition or pool everytime a new female soldier came to our platoon as to who would have sex with her," she said.
Multiple women told Task & Purpose a nearly identical story.
Maggie Seymour, a Marine Corps major who's currently in the reserve, said one of her bosses called her a "party girl" simply because she was not married and didn't have any kids at the time.
"I told him that was somewhat unfair because I was in school at the time and in class four nights a week," Seymour told Task & Purpose. But as a single woman, she was seen as a risk factor in her unit. "Someone once said, 'You need to hurry up and get married and have kids'," she recalled. "And I said, 'Why?' And they said, 'So we can invite you to things.'"
Seymour said she was never sexually assaulted, but was eventually worn down by the "little" things, like her male friends making crude jokes about her breasts during work hours, in front of junior Marines.
It's not that she believes every sexual joke is, by definition, sexist. Seymour said she herself has a "dirty" and "crude" sense of humor ("For example, the penis skywriting thing, I thought it was hilarious," she explained.) It's that she's uncomfortable when those jokes are made at her expense in a professional setting.
"It's tricky," she said. "You can't be sexual and respected as a woman, almost."
When Katie, a first lieutenant in the Marine Corps, was a "brand-new enlisted," she was made to feel uncomfortable by a martial-arts instructor who kept singling her out demonstrate with him on the mat and then asked her out repeatedly after class, even after she said no.
"I think back and I'm like dang, as a young Marine I didn't even recognize that was an issue," she told Task & Purpose (Katie asked her last name not be published). "People don't realize that they're crossing the lines because the lines get blurred consistently. It's a learned behavior and you get desensitized to it."
An active-duty Army captain who asked to remain anonymous because she's still in the service told Task & Purpose in an interview that although she has never been assaulted, she has been on the receiving end of many "highly inappropriate comments" and harassment.
When she was a second lieutenant, for instance, a male captain in her unit joked about her virginity and repeatedly pulled on her bun. "I would be at my desk, sitting there minding my own business," she said. "He would walk by and just grab my hair. He thought it was funny." She said she "didn't think to report it" at the time because she had become habituated to his behavior.
Coretta Gray, a JAG who left the Air Force as a major in 2014, said enlisted men often approached her on base to comment on her appearance. "They would say something about the way I looked, like, 'You're too pretty to be in the military,' until I pointed out or they noticed that I am an officer," she explained.
"As a black female, people do not expect you to be an officer," she added. "They're not looking for rank on your neckline. They're looking for rank on your sleeve."
For women of color and LGBTQ women, unwanted gender-based comments and incidents come with extra layers of complication.
According to the DoD, members identifying as LGBTQ are more likely to experience "unwanted gender-related behaviors." In 2016, the rate of sexual assault was 4.5% for service members who identify as LGBTQ, and 0.8% for those who do not. "It's obviously a risk factor, or these people are targeted," according to Morral.
Several women who identify as lesbian told Task & Purpose that they were sometimes treated like prizes whom men would try to "turn" or "straighten out."
Lauren Kent, a former Army National Guard heavy truck driver, said men in her unit often felt more comfortable "throwing sexist language around" because she is a lesbian. "The guys thought I was on their side," she explained.
Once, before a deployment, a fellow enlisted soldier offered her $100 to take a picture of another female soldier in the shower.
"I told him no, obviously," she said. "I didn't tell her, because I didn't want to shatter her trust in her platoon-mates. I didn't tell anybody. I wish I had."
Because Don't Ask, Don't Tell was still policy at the time, Kent said she didn't feel comfortable pushing back against inappropriate comments for fear she might be outed. The policy, which was in effect from 1993 to 2011, prohibited homosexual and bisexual service members from disclosing their sexual orientation while in the armed forces.
"I had another soldier in my unit go to my commander and say, 'You should investigate her because she's the only girl not sleeping with anybody in the unit,'" recalled Christine, the former enlisted Army mechanic. On many occasions, she was forced to refer to her girlfriend as her boyfriend just to avoid violating the DoD policy.
Protect Our Defenders' Christensen said true change in the military will only ever come with a cultural shift — one that needs to start with leadership.
"As long as general officers view women who work for them as part of the dating pool, we're never going to have equality," he said. "All too often that's what's happening, and when it does there aren't many repercussions."
He added that "an office atmosphere that makes it all right to sexualize women in the workplace sends a message to people who have been sexually assaulted to just be quiet. And it sends a message to those who are inclined to sexually harass someone that it's okay."
Changing the culture that breeds sexual harassment and assault will be difficult, Christensen and other advocates say. In the meantime, they believe legislative fixes are in order.
In 2013, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York, introduced the Military Justice Improvement Act, a bill that aims to restructure how sexual assault cases are processed through the military justice system. Most notably, the law would take the decision of whether to prosecute serious crimes out of the hands of victims' commanders. Instead, the decision would be left to professional military prosecutors.
The bill has been blocked and re-introduced several times. Gillibrand most recently submitted it in November with 27 co-sponsors, including a handful of Republicans. It has also received the support of several high-profile veterans advocates groups, including Protect Our Defenders and the Service Women's Action Network. In the wake of the Marines United Facebook scandal that broke almost one year ago, Gillibrand has been a leading voice for reform within the armed forces.
Christensen said civilians often underestimate the power dynamics of a military rank structure, which tends to put commanders on a pedestal. "You can't just tell the boss to go to hell, you can't not show up to work," he said. "You know that to a degree much greater than in any other industry, this person is controlling your entire future. It's almost like a master/serf relationship in some ways."
Watts of the Service Women's Action Network agreed. "There is an innate conflict of interest if the assault came from somebody in the unit or squad and the commander is the same commander of the assailant," she said.
In a 2017 survey conducted by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, 40% of women military survivors of sexual assault said they reported their assault. Of those, 71% said they had experienced retaliation after reporting. Of all the survivors polled, 46% of women said they would have reported their assault if a trained military prosecutor, and not their commander, were in charge of moving forward with the case. In the DoD's 2016 survey, 58% of women said they experienced some sort of retaliation or ostracism after reporting their assault.
Most of the women we spoke who did not report their assault said they would have been more likely to do so had their commanders not been involved.
When she reported the assault, Jenna McGinnis said her team leader peppered her with questions that made her wonder if she should have stayed quiet. "What was I wearing when I went to pick him up? Is the unit going to have to worry about my husband? Why didn’t I go directly to the police? I had already been hesitant to report, so when my leadership came at me like this, it felt like I was the one that did something wrong," she said.
Later on, McGinnis said she was ostracized by fellow soldiers and received little support from her command when it came time for her to testify against her attacker at a board of inquiry. "So many people said, 'I don't think this was worth his entire career' or 'he shouldn't lose everything over one indiscretion,'" McGinnis said. "The response was about protecting him more than it was about taking care of me."
She believes the changes proposed by the Military Justice Improvement Act would have helped in her case, given the fact that her battalion commander "had no idea how to respond" to what happened to her. "There is a big difference between describing sexual assault to someone trained in sex crimes and describing it to a commander that operates in the military’s current culture," she said.
McGinnis left the Army as a sergeant first class in 2016, after 14 years of service.
"I just kind of quit," said McGinnis, who now works as a civilian contracting officer. "I didn't want to be part of an organization that would treat somebody like that."
She believes her decision points to a bigger, systemic issue. "If an E-7 is willing to ETS five years before she can retire, maybe we have a problem."
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 07:27 AM PST
Ever catch yourself abruptly pulled out of a war movie? The squad's cut off, outnumbered, outflanked, and ready to make their last stand. As the camera pans slowly past all those beautiful and heroic Hollywood faces, you catch a glimpse of some random GI in the background — his unit patch is upside down, finger on the trigger, and he's leaning on his rifle, with the muzzle in the mud, like an old man's walking stick.
Heroic moment ruined, all because an extra never got a safety brief (or hazed for poor weapons handling.) Fortunately, as with most problems in life, Tom Hanks has a solution.
Hanks is looking for extras to play Navy crewmen in his upcoming World War II naval flick, Greyhound, specifically those with a military background, We Are The Mighty recently reported. The upcoming film is based on The Good Shepherd, a fiction novel by C.S. Forester, and follows a Navy destroyer during the grueling Battle of the Atlantic — one of the longest campaigns of the war. No stranger to big-budget war films and television shows, Hanks is writing, producing, and starring in The Good Shepherd.
Now for those troops looking to play troops, here's what you need to know if you want to get a little screen time on the bow of a destroyer (and when no one's looking, act out scenes from the Titanic with your battle buddies. "I'll never let you go, bro. Psych, get off my door.")
While military experience is preferred, it's not required, and the casting agency is looking for men between 18 and 49 to apply. Actors must be willing to be clean shaven, and need to have a 1940s' Navy crewman-style haircut. But seeing how military-ish fades with long tops are all the rage right now — thanks Macklemore, Peaky Blinders, and Fury — many applicants probably have an appropriate do already.
The deadline to apply is Feb. 18 and shooting takes place between mid-February and early April, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Say what you will about pretending to be a 1940s-era sailor, their fictional duty stations are a hell of a lot better than our real ones.
And check this, just like being a real-life service member, playing one on the set of Greyhound also comes with "some pay."
They're gonna nail it on realism, guys. Find all the details here »
The post Tom Hanks Wants Veterans To Audition For His Next War Movie appeared first on Task & Purpose.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 07:00 AM PST
Editor's Note: The following story by Career Coach Will Leineweber highlights job opportunities at BP. Committed to filling its ranks with talented members of the military community, BP is a client of Hirepurpose, a Task & Purpose sister company. Learn more here.
Roughly 230,000 service members transition into the civilian sector each year, according to the Department of Defense. For many, the structured environment of the military is the only job they have had since high school. That factor makes companies with similar cultures a highly-attractive post-military career option. Former airman Matt Copps found that culture in BP — a leading international energy company employing about 74,000 individuals across 72 countries.
Copps was 19 years old when he started working as a ground radio communications craftsman in the U.S. Air Force. His eight years as an airman took him across seven duty stations until he made the decision to leave in 2008. He was already working on his resume when a friend first introduced him to the idea of working for BP. Copps said at the time, the civilian hiring process was completely foreign to him and transition assistance programs were not what they are today, he says.
"I used the bullet points from the (Air Force) performance report to build a resume," Copps explained.
Copps recommends that service members use these documents — which each service branch has a version of — because they outline key duties and highlight strengths. Other tips he adds are to emphasize all relevant experience during the screening process and show personality in the interview.
From the onset, Copps said BP's recruitment process had crossover appeal from what was familiar to him.
"I applied through email, took a test, and had two interviews. There was a very structured process for hiring," he said. "There is an emphasis on hiring veterans."
[Tip: BP offers details on the company website about how to prepare for telephone and virtual interviews with recruiters: Candidate top tips.]
Nearly a decade later, Copps is an operations simulator testing instructor in the Cherry Point refinery in Washington, his home of record prior to the military. Part of his job requires him to make rounds, check pumps and oil pressure, and have an overall feel for the equipment. BP places high priority on its core values of safety, respect, excellence, courage, and one team. Copps said the environment shares commonalities with the military.
"We have to use our instincts, there's trainings and evaluations," he said. "I think the team aspect is very relatable – everyone has different strengths."
The company also offers upward mobility and career advancement opportunities, which has motivated Copps to set his sights on progressing to the next step: foreman.
BP strives to attract military talent by having several veteran initiatives in place, such as a military placement program that will accept applications in 2018 for positions in Houston, Chicago, and London. Successful participants receive 12 months of paid training and development in commercial experience.
Other job offerings translate directly from military occupational specialties, making it critical that applicants use keywords on their resume that help hiring managers see the correlation between prior experience and what the job vacancy is asking for. Once hired, veterans get access to groups, known as business resource groups, that connect employees with shared military service. Currently, local chapters exist in more than 12 locations.
BP uses a multipronged strategy to support transitioning service members through the unfamiliar civilian hiring process. A mix of local partnerships and STEM-style engagement aid the company in recruitment efforts, and national strategic relationships with prominent veteran groups, like Student Veterans of America, Hirepurpose, and Hiring Our Heroes help BP understand the needs of the military job seeker.
It can be challenging to leave what you're used to, Copps said. BP has allowed him to rely on skills like leadership gained in the Air Force, but it has also given him the opportunity to expand his team-building skills because many co-workers come from non-military backgrounds. The company's thorough training programs create cohesion leading to a positive work environment.
Copps advises other veterans to remain optimistic as they search for their next career.
"Be flexible, there's good jobs," he added.
The post How One Air Force Veteran Found Shared Values At BP appeared first on Task & Purpose.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 07:00 AM PST
When people say Columbia Journalism School is like boot camp for journalists, they are not kidding.
Instead of carrying a rifle and a 100-pound pack on my back, I'm lugging around camera gear and tripods in either the hot, cool, or freezing cold streets of New York City.
Moreover, you force yourself to speak with strangers, or at least, try to get them to speak with you, just to find a story to write or record for your class assignment, and possibly, publish on your Medium page.
And sometimes, our professors demand a lot from us, which I understood. One professor had us go over story pitching at every class. This professor also had us do weekly posts that must include people with their names and where they were from, not just photos or videos of people without any information.
Some of my classmates did not understand why the professor made us work on story pitching and posting, in addition to completing the class assignments, and the rest of our arduous course load. I felt as if I was the only one who didn't mind this "mad" course load. In fact, I enjoyed it. Which was probably I did not comprehend my classmates' point-of-view.
Nevertheless, I tried to share some wisdom with my classmates on our professor's mad syllabus and ways, by telling them there is a purpose, as well as sharing a quote from a drill instructor I had in boot camp.
It all started with drill. Drill is usually performed in ceremonies and is a part of military tradition. It is taught in boot camp and is one of the ways the military teaches discipline to the new service members.
When I was in boot camp, we had to practice drill on an almost daily basis. Our drill instructors would sometimes have us practice first thing after we speedily dressed up, or in between scheduled training.
One action we had to perform was slapping the barrel of the rifle on the command of "Order, ARMS!" We had to slap the barrel in a certain way to give it that sound, that hard blap. And when we had to lower the rifle on the command, there was a way to slowly lower the butt of rifle to the ground, so cool, calm collected.
One of my drill instructors, then-Staff Sgt. Rosie Suarez-Woods, made it all look so easy. My November company platoon sisters and I tried repeatedly to duplicate her drill actions. A handful I believe were successful. Most of us were not.
As easy as Suarez-Woods made it look, it was hard. Hard as fuck, really.
During one drill practice, she said something that stayed with me to this day, and it’s something I always return to when professors or bosses have me and my colleagues or classmates do something repeatedly: “An amateur practice until she gets it right. A Marine practice until she can’t get it wrong.”
After I told my classmates Suarez-Woods quote, I was met with silence. I added that they can replace "Marine" with "journalist" or "professional." Perhaps they had to see her in action to get it.
As for me, I'll keep practicing. Maybe I am masochist, or maybe it's a challenge I'm loving. Whatever the case, here’s to practicing through the cold and the snow, the heat and humidity, the heavy rain, the sardine-packing in a subway car, the carrying of heavy gear, the constant sounds of “No” until I hear a “Yes.”
After all, there’s a purpose, and I want to do it until I can’t get it wrong.
Sara Samora served in the Marine Corps from 2009 to 2013. She never deployed but was stationed in Okinawa, Japan, and Camp Pendleton, Calif., where she made IDs and worked admin. She is now pursuing a master's degree at Columbia Journalism School. Send her tips at email@example.com, and follow her on Twitter @SaraESamora. This column represents her own opinions, which are not necessarily those of her classmates, Columbia University, nor Columbia Journalism School.
The post In Boot Camp, A Drill Instructor Taught Me The True Meaning Of Practice appeared first on Task & Purpose.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 04:48 AM PST
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited Capitol Hill on Tuesday to testify about two recently released Pentagon strategy documents and chastised House lawmakers over Congress' failure to provide a full budget to the military, warning of dire consequences from more stopgap funding measures.
As lawmakers clambered to strike a deal to keep the government open past Thursday, when funding is set to expire, Mattis warned another year operating under continuing resolutions would have far-reaching consequences – potentially even hampering military pay.
"For too long we have asked our military to carry on stoically with a success at any cost attitude," Mattis told the House Armed Services Committee. "Our troops work tirelessly to accomplish every mission with increasingly inadequate and misaligned resources simply because Congress has not maintained regular order."
The retired 4-star Marine general warned troops might not be paid by the end of the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, if Congress continued to pass continuing resolutions without a proper Defense Department budget. That would also hinder Army efforts to recruit 15,000 new soldiers, the Air Force's goals of adding 4,000 airmen and it would mean continued maintenance issues on ships and aircraft, he said.
Mattis' warning comes after an especially troubling 2017 that saw an uptick in high-profile deadly incidents outside of combat zones. Aviation mishaps increased by 38 percent from 2016, with 22 reported crashes in non-combat situations. Included among those crashes were 37 troop deaths. Another 17 servicemembers – all Navy sailors – were killed in two rare, at-sea collisions between merchant ships and the USS John S. McCain and the USS Fitzgerald, two U.S. guided-missile destroyers.
Meanwhile, Russia and China have been investing heavily in their own military forces, including their nuclear weapons, putting a significant dent in the U.S. military's advantage in battlefield capabilities, should it ever be drawn into conflict with those powers. That re-emergence in "great power competition" is at the center of the two documents – the National Defense Strategy and the Nuclear Posture Review — that Mattis and Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were called to Capitol Hill to discuss Tuesday.
Those strategies each call for increased funding to boost the size of the U.S. military and expand its training, but also to modernize infrastructure and conventional and nuclear weapons systems. Such investment, Mattis argued, is necessary to deter Russia, China, North Korea or Iran from miscalculating America's military strength and starting a fight.
House lawmakers were expected to pass a continuing resolution later Tuesday that would keep the government funded through March 23 while also providing $659 billion to the Pentagon for the remainder of fiscal year 2018. That measure, however, was not expected to survive the Senate, where Democratic leaders have demanded increased domestic spending to match any hikes in defense appropriations.
The votes on the new short-term funding proposal are just weeks after lawmakers failed to reach an agreement Jan. 19, kicking off a three-day partial government shutdown. That shutdown resulted in missed training for thousands of National Guardsmen and reservists and forced furloughs on thousands more Defense Department civilians.
Mattis said another such shutdown would have "terrible ramifications" for the military.
House Republicans' proposed funding would allow the Pentagon to achieve its goals for the remainder of the year, Mattis told the House committee's Republican chairman, Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas.
"I would tell you that with it we can … begin on the trail to restoring the competitive advantage that has been eroded," Mattis said. "I would tell you, additionally, that without it we will be put into the position where the strategies would have to be changed and we would have to accept greater risk."
Thornberry and the committee's top Democrat, Rep. Adam Smith of Washington echoed Mattis' comments, encouraging their colleagues to find a way to fund the Defense Department.
"It is morally wrong to send brave men and women out on missions under any strategy for which they are not fully trained, equipped and supported with the best that this country can provide," Thornberry said. "That support should not be conditioned on any other issue. And we can never forget that there is a real, human cost to failing to fully support them."
Smith added the United States cannot continue to operate on "wasteful continuing resolutions" and pushed lawmakers to find a way to eliminate sequestration and the mandatory budget caps imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011.
"I worry that will wind up costing the men and women who serve … the training and the equipment they need to carry out the missions that we all hear that we need," he said, while also admonishing President Donald Trump's requested $4.1 trillion federal budget alongside the recently passed $2 trillion tax cut.
Smith said he bristled at accusations that Democrats were responsible for the budget situation, calling Republican's proposed cuts to non-defense appropriations including education and infrastructure projects and shrinking State Department, Justice Department and Homeland Security Department budgets problematic.
"You are going to gut everything else [outside the Defense Department] … and if you gut everything else you create problems," he said. "Defense is incredibly important. It's not the only thing that's important at keeping the peace."
©2018 the Stars and Stripes. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
The post Mattis To Lawmakers: Another Shutdown Will Have ‘Terrible Ramifications’ For Military appeared first on Task & Purpose.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 04:14 AM PST
It was past midnight last summer when former U.S. soldier Elliot Montalvan unexpectedly drew on his Army combat training at a casino in the small Bavarian town of Heidingsfeld.
A 48-year-old masked, armed man entered the gambling hall where Montalvan was working.
When Montalvan, 35, who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, saw the robber approaching him, he thought it was a joke. The man was wearing working gloves, a ski mask, a Batman mask and a scarf.
The perpetrator, who was not named by German authorities, was sentenced on Jan. 30 to three years and three months in prison for attempted armed robbery, with help from Montalvan's testimony.
On Monday, Montalvan shared the story and a surveillance video of how he took the robber down.
"I thought someone wanted to play a prank on me," Montalvan said. But then he heard the guy saying in German: "Give me the money."
When Montalvan saw the gun, his first thought was that he needed to get control of the situation. He leaned on his infantry training from his Army service from 2004 to 2010, which included time with the 172nd Infantry Brigade, 1st Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment out of Schweinfurt, Germany.
When the robber walked in front of him toward the front counter, Montalvan saw a chance to attack.
He grabbed the robber's gun hand, put his arm around him and brought him to the ground.
"We went down with such a force that, I (thought) the robber was for a moment unconscious or shocked," Montalvan said.
When the robber squeezed his hand, Montalvan realized that this guy "would not give up."
"I started pounding him with a closed palm," he said, using a technique he had learned in the Army.
Even that wasn't enough. After a few minutes of scuffling, he used a wrestling hold and choked the man until he lost consciousness.
Montalvan said that immediately after he took the robber out, his "first aid reflexes" took over.
He checked the robber's pulse and turned him facedown so he wouldn't choke on his own blood. One of the robber's cheekbones was broken, according to German media reports about the incident.
The former soldier went to call the police but couldn't remember the number. He called his wife, who called them for him.
When he heard the sirens, Montalvan went outside, knelt down, held his hands up and told the police he was not the bad guy.
Montalvan said his wife was actually supposed to work that night at the gambling hall, but their children got sick and she had to stay at home.
This was the first time he filled in for his wife, he said. Montalvan, who is from Arkansas, said he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after he saw his best friend, Eric Palacios, die next to him during a deployment to Iraq. Montalvan’s back was injured when a vehicle he was in hit a roadside bomb.
The injuries led to six pins in his back and a 100 percent disability determination, Montalvan said. But that didn't stop him when it counted.
"I never thought that what I learned could one day really save your life," Montalvan said. "I never realized it until this night."
©2018 the Stars and Stripes. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
The post Watch An Army Veteran Take Down A Casino Robber Wearing A Batman Mask appeared first on Task & Purpose.
Posted: 07 Feb 2018 04:00 AM PST
The next time you hear someone dismiss journalism as "fake news," pass them a copy of Steve Coll's Directorate S. Coll draws on decades of experience in South Asia, nearly 600 interviews over a decade, and thousands of pages of documents to give the most balanced and comprehensive picture to date of the unraveling of U.S. policy in Afghanistan. Few writers can match Coll's length of time on the topic, range of contacts, or personal knowledge of realities on the ground. Coll, the Pulitzer-winning author of Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001, The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century, and On the Grand Trunk Road: A Journey into South Asia, brings decades of experience and an unmatched network of contacts to his work. I suspect, too, that Coll's extraordinary behind-the-scenes access to CIA officers rests on contacts he developed covering the 1989 Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and subsequent Stinger recovery program.
Coll pulls no punches, whatever his personal ties. He argues feckless policy and competition among the CIA, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI), and Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security empowered al Qaeda and the Islamic State. Washington's strategic failure was its inability to address Pakistan's duel game as Islamabad traded access to land routes to Afghanistan and some counterterrorism collaboration for U.S. aid, even as it sponsored Taliban terror. Meanwhile, Afghan corruption and former President Hamid Karzai's paranoia undercut attempts to negotiate peace. Coll argues America's elected leaders bear the ultimate responsibility for the failure to develop a viable Pak-Afghan strategy, but documents how inter-agency battles and clashing egos also eroded U.S. leverage. Coll's interviews with former Pakistani Army Chief of Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, former President Karzai, and CIA sources highlight competing interests and grievances, anticipating current Trump administration struggles to respond to Islamabad's double-dealing.
Coll writes that he sought to explore the "important secret operations, assumptions, debates, decisions, and diplomacy at the highest levels of government in Washington, Islamabad, and Kabul." Directorate S does this and more, highlighting the mix of organizational folly and individual heroism that led to our current impasse.
Someday, we will have access to now-classified records from the NSC, CIA, State, and Defense. Until then, it is hard to imagine a more complete and thoughtful account of how the United States went wrong in Afghanistan.
Diana Bolsinger is a doctoral student at the LBJ School of Public Policy at the University of Texas, Austin. She specializes in U.S. national security strategy and is a Graduate Fellow at the Clements Center for National Security. She served as a Political Officer in the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad in the 1990s.
The post This Is The Definitive Book On What Went Wrong In Afghanistan appeared first on Task & Purpose.
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