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How to Use the GI Bill to Pay Your Kid’s College Tuition

Ariel Skelley—Getty Images

Parents who don't use the benefits for their own education can transfer them to their kids.

Ingrid Bruns admits that she and her husband, Arch, probably didn’t save as much for their two daughters’ college educations as they should have. Though the couple is careful with their money (Ingrid became an Accredited Financial Counselor while living overseas as a military spouse, and now serves as director of Military Life Advice at USAA), college savings took a back seat to other savings goals, including the “forever home” they recently purchased.

“We both used personal savings and worked our way through college, so we assumed our kids would do the same,” she says. But college costs have increased dramatically since she and her husband earned their degrees, and their approach simply isn’t feasible for their daughters, one of whom is a college freshman and the other a junior.

But the Bruns family doesn’t have to scramble as much as some, because they have one ace in the hole: the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Arch’s career in the Air Force earned him benefits through this valuable program, and because he hasn’t used them himself, he was able to transfer them to his daughters.

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The Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits include up to 36 months of tuition and fees, a monthly housing allowance and a books and supplies stipend of up to $1,000 a year. For servicemembers to be eligible to use these benefits for themselves, they must have served at least 90 aggregate days on active duty after September 10, 2001, or have been honorably discharged from active duty for a service-connected disability after serving 30 consecutive days after September 10, 2001. (Thirty-six months of service on active duty is generally required to earn full benefits.)

Benefits pay full in-state tuition and fees, and recent changes to the law mean many state schools offer in-state tuition to veterans, even if they otherwise wouldn’t qualify as residents. In addition, benefits may pay up to just more than $21,000 for private schools, and The Yellow Ribbon Program provides additional support for those in college.

The requirements for transferring benefits to a dependent (spouse or child) are different, though, and require planning. Generally, a servicemember must have six years of service, apply to transfer benefits, and agree to serve an additional four years after the transfer is approved. That means parents serving in the military who have children and aren’t sure they will use the benefits themselves are wise to explore their options sooner rather than later.

Joseph Montanaro, a Certified Financial Planner with USAA, offers these tips to military families interested in using the Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits for their children’s educations:

    • Use it yourself first,” he says. “The program was designed to help vets, so take advantage.” The additional training or degree you get may help boost your earning power, which could improve your quality of life and, in turn, allow you to save more for your children’s educations.
    • Transfer early,” he recommends. Because you must commit to an additional four years of service, you want to make sure you elect the transfer as soon as you are eligible. There’s no penalty if you later decide to use the benefits for your own education.
    • Transfer to all,” he suggests. You can divvy up benefits among your spouse and/or children ahead of time, and then change the allocation later, but you can’t add a transferee after you separate from service. “I typically suggest that folks transfer a month to all their potential users (for example, one month to all kids/spouse),” Montanaro says.

With college costs rising, military tuition benefits can be a lifesaver for families trying to pay for college without debt. These benefits, while valuable, are not retroactive. So whether you come from a military family or not, if you already have student loan debt, make sure you explore all your options for student loan repayment. Often the first kind of credit many young Americans have access to, student loans can wreak havoc on your credit if they’re mishandled. This guide has some helpful info on student loan forgiveness programs that can ease or eliminate your debt load as well.

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TIME Military

The Pentagon Will Increase Drone Flights By 50%

american unmanned reaper drone
Dominique Faget—AFP/Getty Images A US made Reaper drone flies over the Nigerian military airport Diori Hamani in Niamey, Niger on Jan. 2, 2015.

The use of the Army and contractor drone aircrafts will give the Air Force time to recover and rebuild its drone staffing

(JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va.) — Faced with escalating aggression from Russia and China, the Pentagon is planning to increase its use of drones by about 50 percent over the next several years, using the Army and civilian contractors to put more of the unmanned aircraft in the air.

The decision to add Army and civilian-operated missions to the mix was triggered because the Air Force — which had been running about 65 combat air patrol missions a day — asked to decrease that number to 60 because of stress on the force. But 60 patrols don’t come close to meeting the demands of top military commanders facing growing security threats around the world.

Senior U.S. officials said that while drones have been used largely to target terrorists and collect intelligence over combat zones, those needs may shift in the coming years.

Top military leaders, including the incoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, have named Russia as the nation’s most serious security threat. And China’s rising military power and island-building program in the South China Sea have increased tensions and prompted a greater demand for U.S. surveillance and intelligence across the Pacific.

One senior defense official said Pentagon leaders are taking those security challenges into account as they decide how armed and unarmed drones will be used across Europe and the Pacific. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the issue publicly.

Pentagon leaders have been wrestling with the problem for some time, as the need for more airstrikes and surveillance by drones over Iraq and Syria to battle the Islamic State group offsets a decline in unmanned flights over Afghanistan as the war there winds down. Under the plans laid out by senior defense officials, the Air Force would continue to provide 60 daily drone missions, while the Army would conduct about 16, and U.S. Special Operations Command and civilian contractors would do up to 10 each.

“It’s the combatant commanders, they need more. They’re tasked to do our nation’s business overseas so they feel that stress on them, and it’s not getting better,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. J.D. Harris, Jr., vice commander of Air Combat Command at Joint Base Langley-Eustis. “There’s just not enough of the Air Force to go around.”

The civilian contractors would fly surveillance drones, not the armed aircraft. But senior defense officials said they need at least a small contractor contribution in order to reach the total of 90 combat air patrols per day.

The key unanswered questions, however, are how the Pentagon will pay for the additional patrols and how the military will sort out and analyze the growing torrent of data pouring in.

Officials said some of the costs could be borne by war funding — the overseas contingency operations in a separate account approved by Congress. The account funded some of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as some counterterrorism operations in the Middle East and Africa.

The use of the Army and contractor flights will give the Air Force time to recover and rebuild its drone staffing. Over the past decade, the Air Force had to very quickly expand the number of unmanned flights over Iraq and Afghanistan. To do that, it made fighter pilots switch to unmanned Predator and Reaper drones, and moved trainers into operations missions.

“Five, six years ago, we overmatched our system and we said we could provide more than what we were capable of providing on a sustained basis,” Harris told The Associated Press in an interview at his Langley office. “We actually decimated our training units. We pulled crews that were instructors that should be training the next round of students, and we put them on the operational lines flying missions overseas just to provide everything we could to the combatant commanders.”

As a result, the Air Force has trained about 180 air crew members per year, far short of the goal of 300.

Harris and other military leaders thought that the demand for drones would dip as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan waned. But the renewed conflict in Iraq, the fighting in Syria, the terror threat in North Africa, the Russian invasion of Ukraine’s Crimea region and the simmering tensions in the Pacific have only increased commanders’ appetite for drones.

To relieve the burden on the Air Force, the military has already begun using Army Gray Eagle drones in Afghanistan and could expand to other regions as required.

But, as the missions increase, the amount of video and other data being funneled to analysts will also spike.

Officials said they are working on ways to filter the data more efficiently so that key intelligence is identified and gets to the right people.

“The intelligence analysts who process the information coming from these flights are a critical part of this,” said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman. “So, as we talk about expanding the number of UAV (drone) flights, we also have to look at the workload of the analysts who process that. We have to have the supporting backbone to be able to process that information and turn it into actionable intelligence.”

TIME Turkey

Turkish Warplanes Strike Kurdish Rebel Targets in Southeast

Turkey Syria
Emrah Gurel—AP A missile-loaded Turkish Air Force jet after taking off from Incirlik Air Base, in Adana, southern Turkey, July 29, 2015

The Turkish military said jets overnight hit 17 targets

(ANKARA, Turkey) — Turkish warplanes struck Kurdish rebels positions in southeast Turkey, the military said Tuesday, a day after heavy violence in the country left at least nine dead.

In a statement, the Turkish military said jets overnight hit 17 targets of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, around the Buzul mountain and the Ikiyaka region in Hakkari province, which borders Iran and Iraq.

In further violence Tuesday, Kurdish rebels attacked an infantry brigade command in nearby Sirnak province, seriously wounding a soldier who later died in hospital.

On Monday, nine people, including five police officers, were killed in separate attacks in Istanbul and in the southeastern Sirnak province. The attacks were blamed on the PKK.

Turkey has seen a sharp spike in clashes between security forces and Kurdish rebels in recent weeks. At least 48 people have died during the renewed violence that has wrecked an already fragile peace process with the Kurds.

Turkish warplanes have raided PKK targets in Iraq and in southeast Turkey in tandem with airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria since late July.

The PKK has been fighting for Kurdish autonomy in southeast Turkey. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people since 1984.


TIME Drones

This Is How the Air Force Plans to Fix its Drone Pilot Shortage


You can up your salary by $15,000 by taking this job

If you’ve ever thought it would be cool to join the military, the United States Air Force is sweetening the deal, offering a $15,000 per year bonus to people who sign up to be drone pilots for either five or nine years.

The plan is being implemented due to a shortage of drone pilots, according to The Wall Street Journal. The offer is available to existing Air Force Pilots, although the Journal also notes that 80 pilots graduating flight school this year will be automatically placed in the corps of drone pilots.

The United States has used drones for both airstrikes and surveillance throughout the world. The Obama administration’s use of drones in the “War on Terror” has garnered ferocious criticism from both sides of the political aisle, but if this program is any indication, the mechanization of war looks to be something that will expand, not recede.

One other change that could be made to expand the pool of drone pilots would be to allow enlisted airmen, rather than just officers, to pilot drones. As of now, that’s not happening.

TIME indonesia

The Death Toll in the Indonesian Plane Crash Has Risen to 141

Security forces and rescue teams examine the wreckage of an Indonesian military C-130 Hercules transport plane after it crashed into a residential area in the North Sumatra city of Medan, Indonesia
Roni Bintang—Reuters Security forces and rescue teams examine the wreckage of an Indonesian military C-130 Hercules plane after it crashed into a residential area in the North Sumatra city of Medan, Indonesia, on June 30, 2015

Recovery teams continue to search through the rubble for bodies

Officials said early Wednesday that the death toll from Tuesday’s military plane crash on the Indonesian island of Sumatra had risen.

“We have received 141 bodies,” a police official named Agustinus Tarigan told Agence France-Presse at a local hospital.

The Indonesian air force, whose C-130 Hercules aircraft crashed in the highly populous city of Medan on Tuesday before exploding, revised the number of people on the plane to 122, 12 of whom were crew members. Authorities had earlier said there were only 113 people on board, and that they do not expect to find any survivors.

The plane hit a massage parlor and a hotel in one of the city’s residential areas, and recovery teams continue to clear debris in search of more bodies. Officials have thus far confirmed only three deaths on the ground.

The Aviation Safety Network, an agency that tracks air disasters worldwide, says this has been the sixth fatal crash involving Indonesia’s air force within the past decade.


TIME Veterans

See Powerful Photos of Wounded Warrior Athletes

More than 600,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans have been left partially or totally disabled from physical or psychological wounds received during their service. Ever year, hundreds of Wounded Warriors from every branch of military service compete in a variety of sports over 10 days at the Department of Defense's Warrior Games. What they have in common is the will to overcome

TIME Companies

Elon Musk’s SpaceX Is About to Tap a Huge New Market

Elon Musk SpaceX Dragon
Robyn Beck—AFP/Getty Images SpaceX CEO Elon Musk introduces SpaceX's Dragon V2 spacecraft, the company's next generation version of the Dragon ship designed to carry astronauts into space, at a press conference in Hawthorne, Calif. on May 29, 2014.

It'll take on Boeing and Lockheed

The U.S. Air Force certified SpaceX to launch satellites for the Pentagon, it was announced Tuesday.

This is significant news for Elon Musk’s 13-year-old aerospace company, which has long been involved in a court case over certification from the Pentagon. As the Washington Post reports, obtaining Pentagon certification means SpaceX can compete with United Launch Alliance, a joint space venture formed in 2006 by Lockheed Martin and Boeing Defense, Space & Security.

ULA provides launch services to government entities like NASA and the Department of Defense—customers SpaceX also wants to service.

The certification process began when SpaceX sued the U.S. Air Force in April of last year, arguing its bidding process for awarding contracts to launch Pentagon satellites had turned ULA into an unfair monopoly. (In 2012, the Air Force awarded 36 launches to ULA, which was the only contractor certified to launch under the EELV, or Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program.) Musk framed the lawsuit as a broader effort to get future launches reopened to widespread competition.

The suit was a rare and risky example of a company suing the organization that would be its biggest customer if it won the suit. In January of this year, SpaceX dropped the lawsuit and the certification process began.

Now Musk has earned what he sought—the right to compete. It’s a big win for Musk and SpaceX, which last year won a contract to fly astronauts to NASA’s International Space Station. In a statement about earning Pentagon certification, Musk said it is an “important step.”

He’s not the only one that thinks so. The news is getting big reactions from major names in the defense industry. Republican Senator John McCain, for instance, said in a statement: “The certification of SpaceX as a provider for defense space launch contracts is a win for competition . . . I am hopeful that this and other new competition will help to bring down launch costs and end our reliance on Russian rocket engines that subsidizes Vladimir Putin and his cronies.”

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TIME Aviation

Meet the First Female U.S. Pilot to Fly the F-35 Lightning II Jet

Lt. Col. Christine Mau, 33rd Operations Group deputy commander, puts on her helmet before taking her first flight in the F-35A on Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
Staff Sgt. Marleah Robertson—33rd Fighter Wing/Public Affairs Lt. Col. Christine Mau, 33rd Operations Group deputy commander, puts on her helmet before taking her first flight in the F-35A on Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., on May 5, 2015.

It's not her first brush with Air Force history

Meet the first female F-35 fighter jet pilot.

The U.S. Air Force said that Lt. Col. Christine Mau on Tuesday piloted the F-35 Lightning II — a state-of-the-art fighter jet often described as one of the most technologically complex planes ever built.

It said that Mau, 33rd Fighter Wing Operations Group deputy commander, had completed 14 virtual training missions in a flight simulator before taking to the skies from Florida’s Elgin Air Force Base on Tuesday and joining the ranks of 87 other F-35 pilots who’ve trained there.

“It wasn’t until I was taxiing to the runway that it…

Read the rest of this story from our partners at NBC

TIME Military

Air Force Security No Longer Banned From Saying ‘Have A Blessed Day’

The greeting was briefly changed to "have a nice day"

After a brief hiatus, Air Force security guards at a Georgia Air Force base can once again wish visitors a “blessed day” after a rule change stemming from a complaint was overturned Thursday.

Mikey Weinstein, CEO of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, spoke with officials after receiving comments from 13 service personnel — nine of whom were practicing Christians. He convinced a commander to change the greeting to “have a nice day,” the Air Force Times reports.

News of the rule change at Robins Air Force Base quickly went viral, prompting officials to review the decision and eventually have it reversed.

“The Air Force takes any expressed concern over religious freedom very seriously … ‘have a blessed day’ as a greeting is consistent with Air Force standards and is not in violation of Air Force Instructions,” the Air Force said in a statement.

Weinstein said he plans to consult with lawyers to discern if any of his company’s clients wish to sue over the matter.

TIME Military

The Real Star Wars: Air Force Heads to the Heavens for Weapons Guidance

An armoured vehicle of US Marines from 1
DMITRY KOSTYUKOV / AFP / Getty Images The Air Force wants to harness stars like these in the Milky Way over Iraq to guide future weapons if the GPS system is attacked.

If a foe disables or destroys GPS, Pentagon still needs to drop bombs accurately

The success of precision-guided bombs in 1991’s Gulf War was a revelation. The world watched transfixed as U.S. generals briefed before screens showing scratchy black and white videos of American weapons blasting bridges, buildings and brigades with amazing precision. Potential foes were dutifully impressed, and have spent a lot of time figuring out how to disable or destroy the satellite-based Global Positioning System that have since cheaply turned dumb bombs into smart ones—and gets the planes carrying them to the right spot.

“Over the last several years, many potential adversaries have invested significantly in counter measures associated with Global Positioning System (GPS) guided weapons,” the Air Force warns in its formal Mar. 5 call for help developing something to replace GPS if a foe knocks it off line. “The Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL’s) response to this challenge is the Celestial-aided Strike at Any Range (CStAR) program.”

GPS is a constellation of roughly 24 satellites that offers the precise location of your smart phone, your car, an airplane or pretty much anything else. The satellites, orbiting about 13,000 miles above the Earth, do this by sharing timing signals that pinpoint a GPS unit’s whereabouts. But the radio signals are weak, making them vulnerable to jamming. And killer-satellite tests by nations like China have unnerved the Pentagon’s high command, given the U.S. military’s reliance on GPS to track and guide everything from bunker-busting bombs to shipping containers.

Jody Dole / Getty ImagesAn antique brass sextant

The growing threat to the GPS system is leading the Air Force to seek what amounts to a 21st Century sextant, an updated navigation tool created in the 16th Century to help sailors chart their ocean voyages with help from the stars. The new version’s goal: “to reduce the technical risk to future weapon systems by demonstrating an integrated navigation solution that can later be tailored to a specific weapon platform.”

Easier said than done, of course. The Air Force didn’t offer many details about CStAR in its plea for assistance. Further information about it is contained in the Celestial-aided Weapons Navigation Technology Security Classification Guide, available only to companies eligible to receive what the Pentagon calls “military critical technical data.”

Let’s just hope the stars stay out of reach.

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