MONEY Military

Are You a Service Member Returning to Civilian Life?

military mom at home in kitchen with two children
Catherine Ledner—Getty Images

MONEY magazine would like to tell your story—and get you free financial advice.

Are you a member of the U.S. armed forces returning to civilian life? MONEY magazine would like to tell your story—and give you free financial advice as well.

For an upcoming story in MONEY, the nation’s largest personal finance magazine, we’re looking for a member of the armed forces who has recently left the military, or is about to leave the military, after at least 15 years of service. In the article, we hope to illustrate the financial challenges a veteran and his or her family face in making the transition to civilian life—challenges that might include finding new employment, adjusting the family’s budget, or preparing for a secure retirement.

As part of the story, we’ll provide to the family a free, in-depth consultation with a financial planner who can study the family’s finances and give advice relevant to the family’s financial goals. Participants also have the opportunity to help publicize challenges faced by veterans.

The key criteria for the service member or veteran we’re looking for:

  • Military service of at least 15 years
  • Either leaving the service or retired from the service within a year
  • Willingness of veteran and family members to share details of their personal lives and their finances in the magazine
  • Willingness to be photographed for the story

To get an idea of our magazine’s approach (and the amount of financial disclosure that the story will entail), here’s a link to a similar story the magazine has run, focusing on the financial challenges faced by a couple after the husband, a soldier, was blinded in combat in Iraq: How a Blinded Soldier Pieced Together His Life — And His Finances

If you think you might be interested in participating, please fill out the confidential form below.

Along with your contact information, please include a brief description of your situation plus a little about your family’s finances, including household income, assets, and debts. All of this information will be kept private unless we follow up with you for an interview and you agree to appear in the magazine.

We’ll follow up with potential candidates.


TIME Turkey

Turkey Launches First Coalition Airstrikes Against ISIS

A Turkish Air Force F-16 fighter jet lands at Incirlik air base in Adana, Turkey
Murad Sezer—Reuters A Turkish Air Force F-16 fighter jet lands at Incirlik air base in Adana, Turkey on Aug. 11, 2015.

Turkey came to a decision to actively participate in efforts against ISIS after months of hesitation

(ANKARA, Turkey) — Turkey announced Saturday that its fighter jets have carried out their first airstrikes as part of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group in Syria.

A Foreign Ministry statement said the jets began attacking IS targets late Friday across the border in Syria that were deemed to be threats to Turkey.

After months of hesitance, Turkey agreed last month to take on a more active role in the fight against IS. Turkish jets used smart bombs to attack IS positions in Syria, without crossing into Syrian airspace and later Turkey granted U.S. jets access to a key air base close to the Syrian border.

The Turkish attacks that began Friday were the first launched as part of the U.S.-led campaign and came after Turkish and U.S. officials announced they had reached a technical agreement concerning their cooperation, which calls for Turkey to be fully integrated into the coalition air campaign.

“Our fighter aircraft together with warplanes belonging to the coalition began as of yesterday evening to jointly carry out air operations against Daesh targets that constitute a threat against the security of our country,” the Foreign Ministry said, using the Arabic acronym for IS. “The fight against the terrorist organization is a priority for Turkey.”

The statement did not give more details on the targets.

On Thursday, IS militants seized five villages from rebel groups in northern Syria as they advanced toward the strategic town of Marea near the Turkish border. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and other groups said IS carried out a suicide bombing on the outskirts of Marea amid fierce fighting in the area.

The IS advance was in the northern Aleppo province near where Turkey and the United States have agreed to establish an IS-free safe zone.

TIME Military

Retired Generals Wage Letter War Over Iran Nuclear-Deal Vote

Controversial Heavy Water Plant Nears Completion In Iran
Majid Saeedi / Getty Images The Obama Administration argues Iran's Arak nuclear facility won't be capable of producing fuel for nuclear weapons under the proposed deal.

The Pentagon's new dead-letter office

Last week, nearly 40 retired U.S. generals and admirals urged Congress to endorse the deal the U.S. and five other nations have struck with Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions. “We, the undersigned retired military officers, support the agreement as the most effective means currently available to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons,” they wrote.

The other side, nearly 200 strong, lobbed a return brass barrage Wednesday. “In our judgment as former senior military officers,” they said, the deal “would threaten the national security and vital interests of the United States and, therefore, should be disapproved by the Congress.”

Sure, brigades of special interests, including arms-control organizations, foreign-policy shops and even rabbis have been urging Congress to vote the pact up or down. But these ex-military officers are different, aren’t they? They spent their careers fretting over national security. Maybe that’s why, if you doubt the deal makes sense, you squirmed over last week’s letter. But you cheered this week’s, with five times as many signatures.

What’s a poor fence-sitting American to think? Not much, according to a sampling of retired general officers. “Having signed neither is about all I wish to say about this sort of thing,” says one former four-star, although he declined to say so on the record. “Those with the most insights and knowledge of the deal,” adds another, also speaking privately, “were not among the signatories.”

“I’m convinced that 90% of the guys who signed the letter one way or the other don’t have any clue about whether it’s a good or bad deal,” says Anthony Zinni, a retired four-star Marine officer who says he refused requests from both sides to sign their letters. “They sign it because somebody’s asked them to sign it.”

So how would he vote? Zinni says he can’t say, because he hasn’t had the closed-door intelligence briefings offered to lawmakers that he says would answer his two critical questions:

First, how airtight is the inspection regime? The more intrusive the inspections, the better the deal for the U.S. and its negotiating allies.

Secondly, how united are the allies in re-imposing economic sanctions if Iran is found to be cheating? The weaker the prospect of future sanctions, the worse the deal is for Washington.

“Everyone is speculating on worst case or best case,” says Zinni, who oversaw U.S. military dealings with Iran from 1997 to 2000 as chief of U.S. Central Command. “The guys who like the deal are saying `It’ll all work!’,” he says. Among those signing are Marine general James Cartwright (vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, 2007-2011), Marine general Joseph Hoar (chief of Central Command, 1991-1994) and Air Force general Merrill McPeak (Air Force chief of staff, 1990-1994).

“Those who oppose it,” Zinni adds, “are saying `They can cheat here, and here, and there!’” Opponents include Navy admiral Leon Edney (vice chief of naval operations, 1988-1990), Navy admiral Timothy Keating (chief of U.S. Pacific Command, 2007-2009) and Air Force general William Bigert (commander, Pacific Air Forces, 2001-2004)

Their views, Zinni argues, are driven largely by their politics. “It’s basically a Democrat-Republican issue,” he says. Like the lawmakers they are trying to influence, the signers who oppose the deal tend to be conservative. Those supporting it lean liberal (at least for retired military officers). It’s no surprise the generals against the deal outnumber those who support it. Surveys show that conservative military officers handily outnumber their liberal comrades.

“The agreement’s fine, if you think it can work. But if this is a Neville Chamberlain,” Zinni adds, citing the British Prime Minister who signed a peace pact with Adolf Hitler shortly before World War II, “then you’re in a world of shit.”

TIME Military

This Is the U.S. Army’s Replacement for the Famous Humvee

Defense Project Camden
Danny Johnston—AP Prototype of a Lockheed Martin Joint Light Tactical Vehicle parked in front of the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark. on May 26, 2015.

The replacement will be called the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle

The U.S. Army this week picked the vehicle that will succeed the current Humvees.

The Army awarded a $6.7 billion contract to Oshkosh Corporation, which beat out Lockheed Martin and AM General, to build 17,000 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles, CNN reports.

“The Oshkosh JLTV allows troops to travel over rugged terrain at speeds 70% faster than today’s gold standard, which is our Oshkosh M-ATV. Looking to future battlefields, we know that our troops will face a myriad of threats. Soldiers and Marines can be assured that the highly capable Oshkosh JLTV will perform the mission,” said retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. John M. Urias.

The Army felt it needed more modern vehicles than Humvees equipped with extra protection to defend against explosive devices.

TIME animals

What Happened to the Wild Camels of the American West

Getty Images

Initially seen as the Army's answer to how to settle the frontier, the camels eventually became a literal beast of burden

In the 1880s, a wild menace haunted the Arizona territory. It was known as the Red Ghost, and its legend grew as it roamed the high country. It trampled a woman to death in 1883. It was rumored to stand 30 feet tall. A cowboy once tried to rope the Ghost, but it turned and charged his mount, nearly killing them both. One man chased it, then claimed it disappeared right before his eyes. Another swore it devoured a grizzly bear.

“The eyewitnesses said it was a devilish looking creature strapped on the back of some strange-looking beast,” Marshall Trimble, Arizona’s official state historian, tells me.

Months after the first attacks, a group of miners spotted the Ghost along the Verde River. As Trimble explained in Arizoniana, his book about folk tales of the Old West, they took aim at the creature. When it fled their gunfire, something shook loose and landed on the ground. The miners approached the spot where it fell. They saw a human skull lying in the dirt, bits of skin and hair still stuck to bone.

Several years later, a rancher near Eagle Creek spotted a feral, red-haired camel grazing in his tomato patch. The man grabbed his rifle, then shot and killed the animal. The Ghost’s reign of terror was over.

News spread back to the East Coast, where the New York Sun published a colorful report about the Red Ghost’s demise: “When the rancher went out to examine the dead beast, he found strips of rawhide wound and twisted all over his back, his shoulders, and even under his tail.” Something, or someone, was once lashed onto the camel.

The legend of the Red Ghost is rich with embellishments, the macabre flourishes and imaginative twists needed for any great campfire story. Look closer, though, past the legend — past the skull and the rawhide and the “eyewitness” accounts — and you’ll discover a bizarre chapter of American frontier history. In the late 19th century, wild camels really did roam the West. How they got there, and where they came from, is a story nearly as strange as fiction.

In 1855, under the direction of then-Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, Congress appropriated $30,000 for “the purchase and importation of camels and dromedaries to be employed for military purposes.” Davis believed that camels were key to the country’s expansion westward; a transcontinental railroad was still decades away from being built, and he thought the animals could be well suited to haul supplies between remote military outposts. By 1857, after a pair of successful trips to the Mediterranean and the Middle East, the U.S. Army had purchased and imported 75 camels. Within a decade, though, each and every one would be sold at auction.

The camels were stationed in Camp Verde, in central Texas, where the Army used them as beasts of burden on short supply trips to San Antonio. In June 1857, under orders from Washington, the herd was split: more than two dozen were sent on an expedition to California, led by Edward Fitzgerald Beale. Five months later, Beale’s party arrived at Fort Tejon, an Army outpost a few miles north of Los Angeles. A California Historical Society Quarterly paper, written by A.A. Gray in 1930, noted the significance of that journey: “[Beale] had driven his camels more than 1,200 miles, in the heat of the summer, through a barren country where feed and water were scarce, and over high mountains where roads had to be made in the most dangerous places…He had accomplished what most of his closest associates said could not be done.”

Back east, the Army put the remaining herd to work at Camp Verde and at several outposts in the Texas region. Small pack trains were deployed to El Paso and Fort Bowie, according to a 1929 account by W.S. Lewis. In 1860, two expeditions were dispatched to search for undiscovered routes along the Mexican border. By that time, though, Congress had also ignored three proposals to buy additional camels; the political cost seemed to be too high. “The mule lobby did not want to see the importation of more camels, for obvious reasons,” Trimble says. “They lobbied hard, in Washington, against the camel experiment.”

If the mule lobby didn’t kill off the experiment, the Civil War did. At the dawn of the war, after Texas seceded from the Union, Confederate forces seized Camp Verde and its camels. “They were turned loose to graze and some wandered away,” Popular Science reported in 1909. “Three of them were caught in Arkansas by Union forces, and in 1863 they were sold in Iowa at auction. Others found their way into Mexico. A few were used by the Confederate Post Office Department.” One camel was reportedly pushed off a cliff by Confederate soldiers. Another, nicknamed Old Douglas, became the property of the 43rd Mississippi Infantry, was reportedly shot and killed during the siege of Vicksburg, then buried nearby.

By late 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, the camel experiment was essentially finished. The California camels, moved from Fort Tejon to Los Angeles, had foundered without work for more than a year. In September, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton ordered the animals be put up for auction. An entrepreneur of the frontier named Samuel McLaughlin bought the entire herd in February 1864, then shipped several camels out to Nevada to haul salt and mining supplies in Virginia City. (McLaughlin raised money for the trip by organizing a camel race in Sacramento. A crowd of 1,000 people reportedly turned up to watch the spectacle.) According to Gray’s account, the animals that remained in California were sold to zoos, circuses, and even back to Beale himself: “For years one might have seen Beale working camels about his ranch and making pleasure trips with them, accompanied by his family.”

The Texas herd was auctioned off shortly thereafter, in 1866, to a lawyer named Ethel Coopwood. For three years, Coopwood used the camels to ship supplies between Laredo, Texas, and Mexico City — and that’s when the trail starts to go cold.

Coopwood and McLaughlin sold off their herds in small bunches: to traveling zoos, to frontier businessmen, and on and on. I spoke with Doug Baum, a former zookeeper and owner of Texas Camel Corps, to learn where they went from there. As it turns out, the answers aren’t so clear. When the Army brought its camels to Texas, private businesses imported hundreds more through Mobile, Galveston, and San Francisco, anticipating a robust market out West.

“Those commercially imported camels start to mix with the formerly Army camels in the 1870s,” says Baum. The mixed herds made it increasingly difficult to track the offspring of the Army camels. “Unfortunately, it’s really murky where they end up and what their ultimate dispositions were, because of those nebulous traveling menageries and circuses,” he says.

That’s not to say the fate of every Army camel was unknown. We know what happened to at least one: a white-haired camel named Said. He was Beale’s prized riding camel during the expedition west, and at Fort Tejon, he was killed by a younger, larger camel in his herd. A soldier, who also served as a veterinarian, arranged to ship Said’s body across the country to Washington, where it could be preserved by the Smithsonian Institution. The bones of that camel are still in the collections of the National Museum of Natural History.

And as for the rest? Many were put to use in Nevada mining towns, the unluckiest were sold to butchers and meat markets, and some were driven to Arizona to aid with the construction of a transcontinental railroad. When that railroad opened, though, it quickly sunk any remaining prospects for camel-based freight in the southwest. Owners who didn’t sell their herds to travelling entertainers or zoos reportedly turned them loose on the desert — which, finally, brings the story back to the Red Ghost.

Feral camels did survive in the desert, although there almost certainly weren’t enough living in the wild to support a thriving population. Sightings, while uncommon, were reported throughout the region up until the early 20th century. “It was rare, but because it was rare, it was notable,” Baum says. “It would make the news.” A young Douglas MacArthur, living in New Mexico in 1885, heard about a wild camel wandering near Fort Selden. A pair of camels were spotted south of the border in 1887. Baum estimates there were “six to ten” actual sightings in the postbellum period, up to 1890 or so. The legend of the Red Ghost — a crazed, wild monster roaming the Arizona desert — fit snugly within the shadow of the camel experiment.

“Do I think it happened? Yes,” Baum says. “And it very likely could’ve been one of the Army camels since it was an Arabian camel.” In other words, the fundamental details behind the legend might contain some truth. A wild camel, possibly an Army camel that escaped from Camp Verde, was spotted in Arizona during the mid-1880s. A rancher did kill that camel after spying it in his garden. And when that rancher examined the animal’s body, he found deep scars dug across its back and body.

Fact or fiction, the story of the Red Ghost still leads back to the inevitable, the unanswerable: Could a person really have been lashed onto a wild camel? Who was he? And if he did exist, why did he suffer such a cruel fate? Says Trimble, “There’s just all kinds of possibilities.”

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TIME Military

Meet the Military’s New Humvee

William Kapinski/Oshkosh

Oshkosh beat out three competitors with this new design

After the Army tested Humvee prototypes from Lockheed Martin Corp., AM General LLC, and Oshkosh Corp. back in January, it offered the latter a $6.75 billion contract on Tuesday to build military vehicles, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Over the next 25 years, Oshkosh will produce up to 55,000 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTVs) to replace a good portion of the military’s aging Humvees and larger trucks. The Army plans to purchase 49,909 for itself and 5,500 for the Marines.

Oshkosh has been in the business of building military vehicles for a long time, but has recently faced rough times as the Pentagon decreased its spending. This long-term contract gives the company some much needed stability. Its stock declined by about 20% this year, but after it locked in this deal on Tuesday shares rose by 12%, reaching $43 apiece in after-hours trade. This upsurge erased over half of its 20% drop.

The new design is lighter than the previous one produced by AM General, making it easier to transport by air. They will also provide superior protection against mines and roadside bombs, with greater range and durability to transport troops and gear.

Oshkosh chief executive Charles Szews told the Journal that its role in the defense business “supports the whole infrastructure for the company,” making this “a historic win.”

TIME Military

The Air Force’s $25 Billion Bomber Blunder

Northrop Grumman An artist's rendering of what the Long Range Strike Bomber might look like.

Are these the same people picking targets?

No one knows what the Air Force’s top-secret new bomber will look like. But the service keeps saying it knows how much it’s going to cost. That’s what makes the Air Force’s $25 billion price tag error so disconcerting.

The problem began last year, when the service told Congress the yet-to-be-built Long-Range Strike Bomber would cost $33.1 billion between 2015 and 2025. It recently updated the estimate (from 2016 to 2026) to $58.4 billion—a hike of $25.3 billion, or 76%.

That works out to a swing of $169 for each of the roughly 150 million Americans who file federal tax returns. But, the Air Force acknowledged last week, the latest cost estimate to develop and buy the aircraft over the coming decade is pegged at $41.7 billion. Apparently, the fledgling stealth bomber can elude fiscal reckoning as well as enemy radar.

The pair of multi-billion-dollar snafus—$9 billion too low last year, $17 billion too high this year—is head-spinning. It leads to a simple question: is anyone minding the store?

Calculating the cost and timetable of new weapons is always difficult. Military hardware is constantly pushing the boundaries of what is possible (the new bomber, for example, will be “a long-range, air-refuelable, highly survivable aircraft with significant nuclear and conventional stand-off and direct-attack weapons payload,” according to the Air Force). The military hierarchy has strong institutional incentives to lowball costs and tighten schedules despite the state-of-the-art systems under development that challenge both. Lower costs and quicker production make it more likely that a weapon will be bought.

That helps explain why a weapon’s final cost, at the end of a production run, usually bear little resemblance to initial projections (and the inevitable delays drive up costs, which reduce the numbers of aircraft, tanks or ships to be bought, which drives up costs, and so on).

But none of that explains why the Air Force flubbed its numbers for the new bomber. Sure, early cost projections (drafted by an alliance of a military service that wants to buy what’s being built, and by contractors who want to sell it), are squishy.

But the Long-Range Strike Bomber was supposed to be different. Ever since 2011, the Pentagon has been saying the new warplane will cost $550 million a jet (although that estimate uses 2010 dollars, requires buying up to 100 of the new planes, and doesn’t include an estimated $20 billion more in research and development efforts that will be required to build it). In other words, it will cost a lot more than $550 million apiece, and taxpayers will invariably foot the higher bill.

The Long-Range Strike Bomber (it’ll eventually get a nifty name, like the B-3 Stealthstratofortress soon enough) isn’t a run-of-the-mill program. After all, it’s one of the service’s top programs, something the Air Force says is a vital replacement for the aging B-52 and B-2 bomber leg of the nuclear triad, which also includes land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched missiles. A team of Boeing and Lockheed Martin is competing against Northrop Grumman to build it. The service announced last June it expected to select a contractor by this past spring, but that announcement has slipped until fall.

Rebuilding the nation’s nuclear triad is serious business. The cost estimates, contained in annual reports to Congress on how much the nation is modernizing its atomic forces, should have been double-checked, coordinated, scrubbed and double-checked again to ensure their accuracy.

While they’re only estimates—and need to mesh only with other estimates—their integrity is key to building support for a program that some believe isn’t worth the cost.

So what happened?

“It occurred in part because of human error,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said Monday. “And in part because of process error, meaning a couple of our people got the figures wrong and the process of coordination was not fully carried out in this case.”

Those who erred have been “counseled,” James said. “The key thing is there has been no change in those cost figures.”

In other words, that recent $41.7 billion estimate is rock solid, at least for now. As they say of the nuclear weapons the new bomber is being designed to carry: close enough.

TIME center for public integrity

Lockheed Martin Nuclear Subsidiary Fined for Paying Lobbyists with Federal Funds

Nuclear Security Klotz
Susan Montoya Bryan—AP National Nuclear Security Administration Director Frank Klotz, center, listens to reporters' questions during a new conference at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M., on Thursday, May 8, 2014.

The Sandia Corporation has agreed to reimburse the Energy Department after allegedly spending federal funds on lobbying instead of national security

A private corporation that operates a U.S. nuclear weapons laboratory agreed on Aug. 21 to pay the federal government $4.79 million to settle Justice Department allegations that it illegally used taxpayer money to lobby for an extension of its management contract.

The payment by the Sandia Corporation, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin that operates Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque, resolved claims that the corporation violated two laws that bar such a use of federal funds.

It followed by nine months a restricted-access report by the Energy Department’s inspector general that accused Sandia of improperly trying to win a new contract without competition by lobbying senior Obama administration officials and key lawmakers with funds taken from its existing federal contract.

In his report, Inspector General Gregory Friedman described the company’s tactics as “highly problematic,” “inexplicable and unjustified,” and recommended that the Energy Department pursue reimbursement of the funds. A heavily-redacted copy of the report was obtained by The Center for Public Integrity in June under the Freedom of Information Act.

“The money allocated by Congress for the Sandia National Laboratories is designed to fund the important mission carried out by our national laboratories, not to lobby Congress for more funding,” Benjamin C. Mizer, chief of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, said in a six-paragraph news release late Friday announcing the settlement.

Sandia admitted no wrongdoing, the department’s release said, but a spokeswoman for the lab expressed the corporation’s regret in a statement. “At the time of the activities, Sandia believed our actions for a contract extension fell within allowable cost guidelines,” Heather Clark said. “However, in looking back at the activities, Sandia acted too early and too independently in planning for a possible contract extension.”

The settlement leaves open the door for the Justice Department to file criminal charges associated with the investigation, according to the eight-page formal agreement signed by representatives of Sandia and the Justice Department, which was obtained by the Center.

Sandia and Lockheed documents cited by Friedman described an extensive lobbying plan that targeted then-Energy Secretary Steven Chu, his family, friends and former colleagues at another nuclear lab, as well as key members of Congress. The effort, which occurred between 2008 and 2012 according to the Justice Department, was meant to block other companies from competing for a $2.4 billion a year contract to manage and operate Sandia National Laboratories. Its contract was set to expire in 2012.

The Justice Department barred Sandia Corporation from paying its multi-million dollar settlement and associated legal costs from its direct federal contract revenues. But Clark said the corporation planned to pay the fine from award fees – essentially bonuses for good performance – that it has previously received from the federal government. The amount represents 8 percent of the bonus payments Sandia Corporation received while the lobbying effort was under way, according to federal contract records.

Both sides agreed to the terms of the settlement “to avoid the delay, uncertainty, inconvenience and expense of litigation,” according to the formal settlement agreement.

Jay Coghlan, executive director of the nonprofit watchdog organization Nuclear Watch New Mexico, called the sum Sandia Corporation agreed to pay “a slap on the wrist.” He said “there should be criminal prosecutions for clear violations of federal anti-lobbying laws.”

Since 2012, Sandia Corporation has received a series of one-year contract extensions from the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which oversees the production of U.S. nuclear warheads. In May, the NNSA issued a notice to prospective bidders that it plans to use a competitive process to decide who will run the laboratory after the corporation’s existing contract expires in 2017.

The troubles uncovered by the inspector general’s investigation could affect Sandia Corporation’s chances if it pursues a contract extension, according to Michelle Laver, spokeswoman for the NNSA. “Federal acquisition regulations require that past performance be looked at as part of any and all contract awards,” she said.

TIME Terrorism

Defeating Terror on a Train: What the U.S. Heroes Proved

Trio's heroics may offer insights into the future of war

What does it tell us that three unarmed men—including a pair of U.S. military personnel—won the latest battle in 21st Century warfare?

The heroics of three California buddies may offer an insight into the evolution of war. No one is arguing that state-on-state warfare has gone the way of the cavalry, but Friday’s clash aboard a train in Belgium should lead to some questions about continuing investments in high-tech, high-cost weapons and counter-terrorism efforts.

The U.S. military increasingly finds itself battling poorly-trained, barely-equipped militants armed with little more than will and ideology. Too often, it seems, will and ideology trump GPS smart bombs and laser-guided missiles fired from fleets of unmanned drones and fifth-generation warplanes.

As Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone, National Guard Specialist Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler detailed how they took down Moroccan native Ayoub El Khazzani on Sunday at the U.S. embassy in Paris, the Pentagon issued its daily press release detailing the latest air strikes against targets in the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria.

The contrast between futility and utility was bracing. The Pentagon’s target list was the latest in a year-long series of sorties that—despite Pentagon protests to the contrary—shows little signs of progress. In contrast, the train takedown represented a quick victory that won congratulations from around the globe.

“Airman Stone and Specialist Alex Skarlatos are two reasons why—on duty and off—ours is the finest fighting force the world has ever known,” Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said in a statement. “These men are heroes,” added Air Force General Philip Breedlove, the top U.S. military officer in Europe. President Obama telephoned the men to thank them, and French President Francois Hollande presented them with the country’s Legion d’Honneur medal on Monday.

The three were aboard a Paris-bound train packed with more than 500 passengers late Friday when an armed Khazzani stormed into their car, after firing a shot in another carriage. “I turned around and I saw he had what looked to be an AK-47, and it looked like it was jammed or wasn’t working,” Stone said.

“He clearly had no firearms training whatsoever,” said Skarlatos, 22, who has just finished a tour in Afghanistan. “If he knew what he was doing, or even just got lucky…we would have all been in trouble and probably wouldn’t be here today—along with a lot of other people.”

The fumbling proved the undoing of Khazzani, 25. “Alek just hit me on the shoulder and said ‘let’s go’ and ran down, tackled him,” Stone said. “We hit the ground.” Stone, 23, put the attacker in a chokehold, who responded by slashing Stone in the neck and hand with a box-cutter, the same weapon used by the 9/11 hijackers. The three, aided by Briton Chris Norman, ultimately subdued Khazzani. He is now in custody; one of his lawyers says he claims to be a would-be robber, not a terrorist.

Armed with the AK-47, nine clips of ammo, a pistol and the box cutter, Khazzani could have killed dozens of train passengers. More strikingly, he was able to get aboard the train with his arsenal despite appearing on the terrorism warning screens of three countries—Belgium, France and Spain—as a possible risk. French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Saturday that Khazzani was believed to have been a member of “the radical Islamic movement.”

The brief battle illustrates a few lessons:

—The hundreds of billions of dollars the West’s militaries and counter-terrorism agencies have spent since 9/11 to combat radical Islam (or radical Islamists masquerading as train robbers) can’t defeat an ideology. So long as a few Islamic leaders incite their followers to attack Western targets—and some do so—no investment can do that.

—If Islamic militants are determined to launch lone wolf attacks that threaten everyone in the West, everyone in the West is on the front lines. The solution isn’t to put undercover soldiers wherever the public gathers, or to arm every civilian. Instead, it simply requires donning a new mindset. Ever since the 9/11 attacks, airline passengers have no longer been willing to give strangers the benefit of the doubt if they appear threatening. Such an attitude will become more common, in more places, so long as such attacks persist. Importantly, as Friday’s outcome shows, attackers are not invincible. “Basically, in times of crisis…do something,” Sadler, 22, said.

—Lone wolves, even operating in packs, generally can’t cause massive death and destruction. While this is no solace to those caught in their sights, it needs to be emphasized to keep things in perspective. The corollary also should not be forgotten: keeping nuclear materials from terrorists is vital.

—A balance needs to be struck between those attacking and those who talk about attacking. Even as the trio conducted their press conference, U.S. and allied warplanes were flying bombing runs against targets in the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria. The West will never be able to kill all of those eager to declare their willingness to kill Westerners. Continuing Western attacks against such targets could do more, in the long run, to spur Islamic recruits to launch more attacks. The West, and the greater Islamic community, must do more to wean Muslim fanatics from violence without fanning their fervor.

—Industrial warfare—where nation-states produce tanks, ships and aircraft (as well as youth) in an effort to defeat one another—is ebbing. That’s happening because of U.S. supremacy on the battlefield, and greater economic interdependence among nations. Industrial warfare isn’t going away, but it looks increasingly like terrorism will remain atop the national-security to-do list for the foreseeable future.

—Any deliberate move away from industrial warfare will have powerful opponents, including those who produce the armaments found on the modern battlefield, and those who have spent careers training young warriors how to use them.

Friday’s fight on the high-speed Amsterdam-to-Paris train can be viewed a miniature version of the clash of civilizations that some fear may now be unfolding. If so, Sadler, Skarlatos and Stone stepped up to the plate. “He seemed like he was ready to fight to the end,” Stone said of Khazzani. “So were we.”

Read next: Americans Recount How They Subdued Gunman on French Train

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ISIS Second-in-Command Killed in U.S. Air Strike

Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali's influence spanned finance, media, operations and logistics for the IS group

(OAK BLUFFS, Mass.) — The Obama administration says the No. 2 leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) militant group is dead, killed in a U.S. military air strike in Iraq earlier this week.

National Security Council spokesman Ned Price says Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali was traveling in a vehicle near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul when he was killed Tuesday.

As the senior deputy to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, al-Hayali was the primary coordinator for moving large amounts of weapons, explosives, vehicles and people between Iraq and Syria.

Price characterized Al-Hayali’s death as a blow to ISIS operations because his influence spanned finance, media, operations and logistics for the group.

Also killed in the air strike was an ISIS media operative known as Abu Abdullah.

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