5 kid-friendly ways to get involved in politics - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

5 kid-friendly ways to get involved in politics

With the 2020 Presidential Election in full swing, politics is front of mind for a lot of us. There are plenty of opportunities for military spouses to be politically active, whether that’s campaigning for a candidate or promoting a cause you care about.

You may face some hurdles on the way to becoming politically active this campaign year. Luckily, having a child in tow doesn’t have to be one of them! As a parent, your time is precious and limited – your only option may be to include your kiddos in your activism. Not only is this totally doable, but it’s also a great opportunity to inspire your kids from a young age to be civically engaged.

Here are five beginner political activities that you can do with your kids:


Vote!

Making your voice heard at the voting booth is an incredibly empowering experience, which makes it an important occasion to share with little eyes. Bring your kid to your polling place, explain the process as you vote and let them wear your “I Voted” sticker. If you vote absentee, take them with you when you drop your ballot off at the post office. These little moments can inspire them to be lifelong voters someday.

5 kid-friendly ways to get involved in politics

Address postcards

Postcard campaigns are a great option for dipping your toe into activism. You get to write postcards on your own time, in your own words and there’s no risk of an uncomfortable confrontation.

If you’re plugged in with a candidate or cause, typically a campaign will send you a list of voters’ addresses where they want you to send a note. One of the more tedious parts of participating in a postcard-writing campaign is writing those addresses on the postcards. Ask your child who’s learning to read and write to help address the postcards for you. They take an annoying task off your plate and practice penmanship. That’s a win-win!

Attend a town hall

Candidates and elected officials schedule town hall meetings to hear directly from their constituents. Bring your kiddo along to witness democracy in action! Candidates have been known to meet one-on-one with parents who bring their kids and you can sometimes get front-row seats for better access.

5 kid-friendly ways to get involved in politics

communityvisionca.org

Canvass with kids

Canvassing — knocking on doors to have a casual chat with voters about why you care about your cause or candidate — is an easy political activity to include kids. Stroller-bound kiddos can ride along and older kids can get some energy out by walking around the neighborhood. Get them ready for Girl Scout cookie-selling! Bonus: kids are a great ice-breaker, and their presence may turn a grumpy homesteader into a cheerful, chatty neighbor.

Be a naptivist

In our digital world, you don’t even need to leave your home to participate in political advocacy. There are plenty of candidates and cause opportunities to volunteer for from home while kids are at school, napping, or tucked into bed. From phone-banking to texting to writing a Letter to the Editor, there is literally something for everyone.

Feeling inspired by these ideas? Join the Secure Families Initiative, a community of military spouses and family members getting more involved in voting and advocacy. We have resources on our website about registering to vote, learning about current events, and making your voice heard on important issues. We also offer training on how to be your best advocate self, which is especially useful for folks who might be new to all this politics stuff.

And we have kids, so we know what you’re going through!

5 kid-friendly ways to get involved in politics

Kate Marsh Lord is an Air Force spouse of 15 years and the Content Manager at Secure Families Initiative. A mother of 3, she is well-versed in “naptvism” and currently lives in northern Virginia.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Disney unveiled a free ‘bedtime hotline’ and it’s pure magic

There’s something special about the magic of Disney. With Disney’s continued support of our service members and military families with the Armed Forces Salute deep discount and the special military accommodations, we love supporting them.

Now, you can bring that magic to bedtime. Whether it’s for you, your little one, a grandchild or just that Disney lover in your life, calling for a bedtime message is easy, fun, and best of all, it’s free.

5 kid-friendly ways to get involved in politics

The author’s daughter sound asleep at Disney. Photo/Tessa Robinson

For a limited time (until April 30), ShopDisney.com is offering bedtime messages from some of our favorite Disney characters. Callers can choose a special goodnight greeting from Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy or Goofy. The messages are so endearing, tucking your little one in for the night and telling them to have sweet dreams.

Simply dial: 1(877) 764-2539 and after a quick message you’ll be able to select which character you’d like to hear from. Disney also offer free printable sleep activity cards and sleep progress cards to help your child see bedtime as special, not scary.

5 kid-friendly ways to get involved in politics

Even though spring break trips are canceled and the legendary theme parks have shut down all over the world in response to COVID-19, we all could use a little Disney magic.

When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires will come to you
If your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star as dreamers do.

Sweet dreams from Disney!

MIGHTY CULTURE

Five sobering 9/11 Memorials across the United States

After 9/11 we vowed that we would never forget. We set out to find those responsible for the horrific attacks and bring them to justice. To remember the people whose lives were taken that day, we erected memorials across the nation as focal points for grief and healing and as symbols of hope for the future. Here are five of the most beautiful, sobering and awe-inspiring.


5 kid-friendly ways to get involved in politics

(Frederic Schwartz Architects—Wikimedia Commons)

1. The Rising—Westchester, New York

Naturally, New York is home to the most 9/11 memorials. The Rising in Westchester remembers the 109 Westchester residents who lost their lives on 9/11 with 109 steel rods intertwined like strands. They rise 80 feet from the ground, “reaching upward to the heavens,” according to the architect. It also includes the names of 10 additional victims who were former Westchester residents etched on stones. A 110th victim from Westchester was unintentionally omitted from the memorial. Since their identification, their name has been added to the stones.

5 kid-friendly ways to get involved in politics

(9/11 Memorial Museum)

2. Postcards—Staten Island, New York

Dedicated on the fourth anniversary of the attacks, the Postcards 9/11 Memorial features two fiberglass structures that resemble postcards. It honors the 275 Staten Islanders who lost their lives on 9/11. Each victim is memorialized with a profile on a granite plaque that lists their name, date of birth and place of work at the time of the attack. The memorial frames the location across the water on Manhattan where the Twin Towers stood. Postcards was the first major 9/11 Memorial to be completed in New York City.

5 kid-friendly ways to get involved in politics

(Steve Tobin)

3. Trinity Root—New York, New York

Sculpted by artist Steve Tobin, Trinity Root measures 12.5×20 feet and weighs three tons. The bronze sculpture memorializes the stump of a 70-year-old Sycamore tree that shielded St. Paul’s Chapel from falling debris on 9/11. Unveiled in 2005, the sculpture has since been moved to Trinity’s Retreat Center in Connecticut.

5 kid-friendly ways to get involved in politics

(Boston Logan International Airport)

4. Boston Logan International Airport 9/11 Memorial—Boston, Massachusetts

Boston Logan International Airport houses a permanent memorial to the passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 175 and American Airlines Flight 11, both of which departed Logan for Los Angeles before they were hijacked and flown into the Twin Towers. A landscaped path leads to a large glass cube that houses two glass panels etched with the names of every person aboard the two planes.

5 kid-friendly ways to get involved in politics

(Public Domain)

5. Monument to the Struggle Against World Terrorism—Bayonne, New Jersey

Dedicated on the 5th anniversary of the attacks, this memorial stands 10-stories tall and was an official gift from the Russian government to the United States. The sculptor, Zurab Tsereteli, drove by the American Embassy in Russia every day for work. Following the attacks, this daily commute would bring him to tears, inspiring the teardrop focus of the memorial. It highlights the 26 Russians who were killed on 9/11 and also memorializes the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing. The memorial was originally gifted to the local government of Jersey City. After they rejected it, the memorial was placed in its current location in Bayonne.

There are dozens more memorials across the nation that honor the victims of the 9/11 attacks. In big cities and small towns throughout the United States, we keep our promise that we made all those years ago. We will never forget.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

American pirates? Us privateers could help win a war with China

After nearly two decades of counter-terror operations the world over, the United States military is now shifting its focus back toward great power competition with the likes of China and Russia. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the past two decades have left the U.S. military particularly well suited for the war at hand, but not very well positioned for the wars that are feasibly to come.

During this era of counter-terror operations, China has had the opportunity to seek higher degrees of technological and tactical parity, while having the benefit of not being actively engaged in expensive combat operations on the same scale. That has allowed China’s sea-faring power to grow at an exponential rate in recent years, with an active fleet of more than 770 vessels sailing under the banners of the People’s Liberation Army-Navy, their militarized Coast Guard, and a maritime miitia that takes its orders from the Chinese military as well.


5 kid-friendly ways to get involved in politics

Chinese Navy on parade (Chinese state television)

The addition of China’s massive ballistic missile stockpile, including hypersonic anti-ship platforms the U.S. Navy currently has no means to defend against, has further established China’s advantage in the Pacific. Even if the U.S. Navy leveraged every vessel in its 293-ship fleet, American forces would still be outnumbered by Chinese ships by more than two to one. Importantly, however, the United States likely couldn’t devote its entire fleet to any single conflict due to its global commitments to security and stability, especially regarding essential shipping lanes.

Today, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are both actively seeking ways to mitigate China’s numbers advantage, as well as the area-denial bubble created by China’s anti-ship platforms. Multiple possible solutions are being explored, ranging from hot-loading Marine Corps F-35Bs on austere airstrips on captured islands in the case of the Marines, to the Navy’s ongoing development of the MQ-25 aerial refueling drone that aims to extend the reach of America’s carrier-based fighters. Still, thus far, there has been no magic bullet. In fact, concerns about a near-peer conflict with China has even prompted several high-ranking defense officials to question the practicality of America’s fleet of super-carriers, both because of their immense cost, and because of the likelihood that they could be sunk by China’s hypersonic missiles long before they could get close enough to Chinese shores to begin launching sorties of F-35Cs and F/A-18 Super Hornets.

5 kid-friendly ways to get involved in politics

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Mohamed Labanieh/Released)

The fundamental challenges a war with China would present are clear: Finding a way to mitigate the risks posed by advanced anti-ship missiles and offsetting the significant numbers advantage Chinese forces would have within the region. In the past, we’ve discussed the possibility of arming commercial cargo ships with modular weapons systems in a “missile barge” fleet as a means to bolster American numbers and capabilities. Another feasible option that could even work in conjunction with this strategy would be issuing “letters of marque” to private operations, effectively allowing non-military forces to serve as privateers for the U.S. government.

5 kid-friendly ways to get involved in politics

The Capture of a French Ship by Royal Family Privateers by Charles Brooking

American Privateers or Pirates?

The concept of issuing letters of marque to American privateers was recently discussed by retired Marine Colonel Mark Cancian and Brandon Schwartz in the U.S. Naval Institute’s publication, “Proceedings.” Although the idea seems almost ridiculous in the 21st Century, the legal framework outlined by Cancian and Schwartz is sound, and one could argue that their assertions about the viability and strategic value of privateer fleets are as well.

Cancian and Schwartz argue that privateering is not piracy, as there are laws governing it and precedent for the practice established in past U.S. conflicts, including the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

“Privateering is not piracy—there are rules and commissions, called letters of marque, that governments issue to civilians, allowing them to capture or destroy enemy ships. The U.S. Constitution expressly grants Congress the power to issue them (Article I, section 8, clause 11).”
-“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings

However, despite their argument being technically right, it’s difficult to dismiss how the piracy narrative would almost certainly affect public perception of the use of privateers, and potentially even the conflict at large.

While the United States could argue that privateers operate with specifically outlined rules and commissions, even the American public would likely see American privateers as pirates. And because America has found itself trailing behind nations like China and Russia in terms of manipulating public narratives, that narrative could indeed hurt not only public support for the conflict; it could even jeopardize some international relationships.

5 kid-friendly ways to get involved in politics

The Pride of Baltimore, left, and the Lynx, two privateer vessels, reenact a battle of the War of 1812 in Boston Harbor during Boston Navy Week 2012. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elisandro T. Diaz/Released)

Privateers are not pirates in the literal sense only because a government is sanctioning their piracy. In the eyes of those who don’t recognize America’s authority to grant such permissions in far-flung waterways, the two terms would be interchangeable.

Regardless of vernacular, the United States has used this approach to great success in the past. Although the last time American privateers set sale was more than 200 years ago, their approach was modern enough to set precedent for a return to the concept.

“The privateering business was thoroughly modern and capitalistic, with ownership consortiums to split investment costs and profits or losses, and a group contract to incentivize the crew, who were paid only if their ship made profits. A sophisticated set of laws ensured that the capture was ‘good prize,’ and not fraud or robbery. After the courts determined that a merchant ship was a legitimate capture, auctioneers sold off her cargo of coffee, rum, wine, food, hardware, china, or similar consumer goods, which ultimately were bought and consumed by Americans.”
-Frederick C. Leiner in “Yes, Privateers Mattered

In the event of a large-scale conflict with a nation like China, that potential narrative blowback may be a necessary evil. However, the ramifications of that evil could be mitigated through a concerted narrative effort to frame privateer actions in the minds of the populous as an essential part of a broader war effort that has the American people’s best interests in mind.

In the War of 1812, privateering saw such public support (in large part thanks to the profits it drove) that some took to calling the conflict the “War of the People.” Managing the narrative surrounding American privateers could make the concept far more palatable to the American people.

As for the legal aspects of privateering, you can read a thorough legal justification for the practice in a separate piece written by Schwartz called “U.S. Privateering is legal.”

5 kid-friendly ways to get involved in politics

(Italian Center for International Studies)

The role of American privateers at war

China’s massive fleet of vessels in the Pacific can be broken down into their three command groups, all of which ultimately answer to China’s People’s Liberation Army. China’s maritime militia accounts for approximately 300 vessels, the militarized Coast Guard has 135 more, and the PLA-Navy itself boasts an ever-growing roster expected to reach 450 surface vessels by the end of the decade.

In the event of a war with China, the American Navy would have more than its hands full engaging with such a massive force, limiting its ability to cut China off from one of its most significant revenue sources, overseas trade. China’s reliance on shipping products to other nations has helped its economy grow rapidly, but it also represents a strategic disadvantage, as Cancian and Schwartz point out, if America can find the means to disrupt this exchange.

“Thirty-eight percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) comes from trade, against only 9 percent of U.S. GDP. Chinese social stability is built on a trade-off: The Chinese Communist Party has told the people they will not have democratic institutions, but they will receive economic prosperity.”
-“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings

In 2018, China’s merchant fleet was already approaching 2,200 total vessels, thanks to massive external demand for inexpensive Chinese exports. America’s Navy would likely be stretched too thin to actually blockade such an expansive merchant fleet. Like with aircraft, America’s preference for large and expensive ships that are capable of fulfilling multiple roles has offered increased capability but significantly decreased numbers. At its peak during World War II, the U.S. Navy boasted more than 6,000 ships. Today, the Navy has 293 far more capable vessels, but none can be in more than one place at a time.

5 kid-friendly ways to get involved in politics

(DoD Photo)

American Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, for instance, are too big and expensive to task with waiting out Chinese ships hiding in foreign ports, and would likely largely be assigned to Aegis missile defense operations. This is where American privateers could offer an important service.

American privateers wouldn’t be tasked with engaging the Chinese Navy or even with sinking merchant ships. Instead, they would be tasked with capturing Chinese cargo vessels, offering them a multi-million dollar bounty on each, and quickly compromising China’s ability to sustain its export sales.

“Since the goal is to capture the hulls and cargo, privateers do not want to sink the vessel, just convince the crew to surrender. How many merchant crews would be inclined to fight rather than surrender and spend the war in comfortable internment?”
-“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings

Of course, despite Cancian and Schwartz’ dismissive take on how apt Chinese crews would be to fight to maintain control of their ships, it’s important to remember that these privateers would likely be engaging in close quarters fighting with Chinese crews or security on board. As American privateers proved more costly to the Chinese government, an increased emphasis on protecting these cargo ships would almost certainly follow.

This begs an essential question: Where do you find privateer crews?

5 kid-friendly ways to get involved in politics

Private security contractors in Iraq (DoD photo)

Private infrastructure already exists

While the concept of American privateers seems borderline fantastical, the truth is, the United States has already leveraged the premise of using non-military personnel for security and defensive operations the world over. American security firm Blackwater (now Academi) is perhaps the highest-profile example of America’s use of private military contractors. In fact, contractors in Iraq have reached numbers as high as 160,000 at some points, nearly equaling the total number of U.S. military personnel in the region. At least 20,000 of those private contractors filled armed security roles.

So while the term “privateer” or even pirate suggests an entirely unconventional approach to modern warfare, the premise is already in play. Terminology may dictate perception to a significant degree, but in practice, privateering wouldn’t be all that different from existing relationships the United States maintains with private security outfits. Further, private security firms, including Blackwater, have already operated at sea in a similar manner to privateers, from Blackwater’s armed patrol craft policing Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa to countless armed and privately owned boats patrolling the Indian Ocean today.

5 kid-friendly ways to get involved in politics

In 2007, Blackwater acquired the McArther from the NOAAS. (WikiMedia Commons)

Many such organizations, with existing infrastructure and established relationships with the U.S. government, would likely seek and win contracts, or letters of marque, in the early days of a burgeoning Sino-American war, and stand up their own forces far more quickly than the United States could expand its naval force in the same volume. Rather than building ships and enlisting crews, the United States could simply authorize existing ships with existing crews to go on the offensive against China’s commercial fleets.

The American government’s experience with military contractors throughout the War on Terror means these relationships would not be as without precedent as they may seem, and the existing private military industry would make American privateers a quick and effective means to grow America’s offensive capabilities.

5 kid-friendly ways to get involved in politics

China claims sovereignty over much of the South China Sea (shown in red). A conflict with China would undoubtedly play out here. (WikiMedia Commons)

A complicated solution to a complex problem

Of course, there are many variables at play when discussing a future conflict with China. Incorporating privateers into such a strategy admittedly seems rather extreme from our vantage point in 2020, but it’s important to note that there is no precedent for what something like a 21st Century Sino-American war might look like. The massive sea battles of World War II may offer some sense of scale, but the rapid advancement of technology in the intervening decades creates a hypothetical war that is simply incongruous with the World War II models.

America does boast the largest and most powerful military in the world, but China’s rapidly expanding and modernizing force has not been growing in a vacuum. From space operations to warship construction, China has been developing its war-fighting apparatus with America specifically in mind. China isn’t interested in competing with the United States on its terms and instead has been focused on identifying potential American vulnerabilities and tailoring new capabilities to leverage those flaws.

5 kid-friendly ways to get involved in politics

China’s Type 002 Aircraft carrier (Tyg728 on WikiMedia Commons)

Large scale warfare between technological and economic giants would play out differently than any conflict we’ve ever seen. In order to emerge from such a conflict successfully, America has to do much more than win. Once the price of victory begins to compromise America’s ability to sustain its way of life thereafter, that victory becomes less pronounced.

In order to win in such a conflict, the United States will need to dig deep into its bag of tricks. On the home front, it would mean finding ways to rapidly expand America’s industrial base to replenish vehicles, supplies, and equipment as they’re expended or destroyed on the front lines. The U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, and Space Force will all be required to communicate and rely on one another in ways never before accomplished on a battlefield.

And China’s massive numbers advantage would have to be mitigated somehow. American privateers, or pirates as the press would surely call them, might just do the trick.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Spouses create safe haven for survivors of sex trafficking

Founded and led by military families, The Safe House Project (SHP) is a nonprofit dedicated to empowering victims of human trafficking by providing them a place to call home.

The group is focused on the development of safe houses for survivors of sex trafficking. Its 2030 mission is to eradicate child sex trafficking in America by strengthening networks.


Human trafficking is a global issue that affects roughly 40.3 million people and roughly 300,000 American children each year. Less than 1% of those victims will be rescued. And, if they are lucky enough to be rescued, what happens to them?

Thinking big

“In 2018, there were less than 100 beds in special care homes [in the U.S.],” Brittany Dunn, a Navy spouse and co-founder of SHP, said.

Without a place to go, many victims are turned over to the foster care system, juvenile detentions or mental institutions, with some even electing to return to their captors.

According to the US Department of Justice, finding adequate and appropriate emergency, transitional, and long-term housing is often the biggest service-related challenge that [human trafficking] task forces face.

Dunn, along with SHP co-founders and fellow Navy spouses Kristi Wells and Vicki Tinnel, began researching ways they could fill the gap. Rather than start a small non-profit organization focused on helping their local community, they thought big.

SHP accelerates safe house development through providing education, resources, funding and government contacts to local nonprofits who seek to establish safe houses within their local communities. These individual safe houses provide specialized counseling and resources to help victims get out of the cycle of abuse. By adopting a business-like organizational structure, SHP partners do not have to work in isolation to solve a problem. They are part of a larger network and better able to solve big-picture problems.

“What most people see as a disadvantage, moving around constantly, we’ve been able to use that to our advantage,” Dunn said. “A majority of our volunteers across the U.S. are military families. That creates networks that most people do not have as a natural resource.”

5 kid-friendly ways to get involved in politics

Many survivors find art therapy to be an important part of processingtheir past. Art allows them to express their pain, while also helping them find their wings.

Why is this so hard?

Like other national problems, sex trafficking issues are often complicated by the division of power between local, state and federal government. If a victim is rescued in a state that does not have an active safe house, SHP will attempt to have them transferred to a neighboring state that can provide the resources they need.

While this is the ideal model, according to Dunn, some CPS [Child Protective Services] don’t want to see their dollars flow out of state.

“That is where education and awareness come in,” she said.

Victim reintegration from a stable treatment environment back into the “real world” must be strategic. Without proper planning, victims could easily run into former “johns” and reenter the cycle of abuse. The reason safe houses are so essential is because victims have specialized needs and many shelters do not have the resources or government mandate to help them.

“There is a need domestically for improved victim services, trauma-informed support, better data on the prevalence and trends of human trafficking,” Congressman Richard Hudson, R-N.C., said at a Safe House Project’s Freedom Requires Action event held earlier this year. Hudson, a cosponsor of the 2019 Put Trafficking Victims First Act, hopes this legislation will “provide stakeholders — from law enforcement to prosecutors to service providers to government officials — with the guidance and information they need to better serve victims of trafficking.”

5 kid-friendly ways to get involved in politics

Congressman Richard Hudson, R-N.C. was a guest speaker at the Safe House Project’s Freedom Requires Action event in January 2020 event held in the U.S. Capitol building. Hudson is also cosponsor of the 2019 Put Trafficking Victims First Act

The victims

The majority of trafficked children are not victims of a snatch and grab.

“We live under a perception that our kids are safer because they are in a first world country, but they aren’t. It is the harsh reality,” Dunn said. “It just looks different. Instead of having a red-light district in Thailand, you have kids being recruited on Fortnite or being approached peer-to-peer in schools.”

Every time a child is exposed to sexually-explicit content in conversations, on television or online, underage sex becomes normalized. For some, abusive acts do not feel like the crimes and victims do not feel like they are being victimized.

“Child sex trafficking is a difficult subject to talk about but raising awareness and talking about it is the first step in solving it,” Ria Story, Tedx speaker, author and survivor leader, said.

5 kid-friendly ways to get involved in politics

Safe House Project and Coffee Beanery are teaming up to raise awareness in coffee shops across America. Advocates also marked their hands in red to support the #EndItMovement.

See something. Say something. Do something.

According to Dunn, “any epidemic has two sides to eradication. Prevention and treatment.” She encourages everyone to look for the problems that may lie under the surface.

In addition to providing safe houses, SHP has trained over 6,000 military personnel to recognize and report instances of sex trafficking and hope to more than double this number by the end of 2020. And for those who cannot attend an official training, SHP offers online tools (https://www.safehouseproject.org/sex-trafficking-statistics).

For more information or to donate to SHP, visit: https://www.safehouseproject.org/donate

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Failing Forward

Senior U.S. Air Force leaders are embracing and promoting the concept that if their Airmen are not failing, then they are, more than likely, not moving forward.

They believe pushing the envelope is necessary to keep the U.S. Air Force dominant and the occasional failure should be viewed by supervisors not as a negative, but as part of a greater positive.


In this series, we hear senior Air Force leaders give examples of how taking calculated risks and failing throughout their careers taught them valuable lessons, propelled them to future success and made them better leaders.

Failing Forward: Dr. Richard J. Joseph

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DR. RICHARD JOSEPH, AIR FORCE CHIEF SCIENTIST

Dr. Richard J. Joseph, Air Force chief scientist, believes failure is a necessary component and result of the scientific method. The failures of ideas and theories, when tested through experimentation and prototyping, inform, and are often the root of, future successes.

However, he also believes that project failures are often rooted in past successes of large technological bureaucracies. Large organizations with far-reaching strategic plans often stifle the creativity, experimentation and risk acceptance necessary to achieve game-changing technological advances.

5 kid-friendly ways to get involved in politics

Dr. Richard J. Joseph, Chief Scientist of the U.S. Air Force, looks through virtual reality goggles at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Nov. 29, 2018. The harness training was a requirement before flying on a B-52 Stratofortress with the 20th Bomb Squadron. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // SENIOR AIRMAN PHILIP BRYANT)

Joseph serves as the chief scientific adviser to the chief of staff and secretary of the Air Force, and provides assessments on a wide range of scientific and technical issues affecting the Air Force mission. He has more than 40 years of experience as a physicist, directed energy researcher, senior program manager, national security advisor and executive.

Failing Forward: Dr. Will Roper

vimeo.com

DR. WILL ROPER, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF THE AIR FORCE FOR ACQUISITION, TECHNOLOGY AND LOGISTICS

As the Air Force’s Service Acquisition Executive, Dr. Will Roper oversees Air Force research, development and acquisition activities with a combined annual budget in excess of billion for more than 465 acquisition programs.

He promotes the concept of “Fail Fast, Fail Forward” as a foundational culture shift necessary to keep the U.S. Air Force dominant.

This philosophy is manifested in his promotion of rapid prototyping and funding innovative ideas through Air Force Pitch Day and AFWERX’s Spark Tank.

Roper believes that by spending money to develop fledgling technologies and ideas quickly, and then prototyping them rapidly, flaws are found much earlier in the development process.

5 kid-friendly ways to get involved in politics

Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, speaks to a crowd of small businesses, venture capitalists, and Airmen during the Inaugural Air Force Pitch Day in Manhattan, New York, March 7, 2019. Air Force Pitch Day is designed as a fast-track program to put companies on one-page contracts and same-day awards with the swipe of a government credit card. The Air Force is partnering with small businesses to help further national security in air, space and cyberspace. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // TECH SGT. ANTHONY NELSON JR.)

This method avoids committing to the huge cost of the much longer traditional system and weapons development and acquisition where flaws are only found years and hundreds of millions of dollars later. Then the Air Force is stuck with that flawed system for decades.

However, in order for “Fail Fast, Fail Forward” to work, Roper believes the Air Force must adjust its attitude towards risk.

He points out that his own success actually points to a persistent flaw in the Air Force’s tolerance for risk – people are only rewarded for taking a risk that pays off. Roper insists that to foster an innovative culture, people must be rewarded for taking a good risk in the first place.

“Why are the people who succeed the only people we cite when we talk about risk taking as a virtue?” Roper said. “I’m trying to be very mindful with Air Force program managers and people taking risk that they get their evaluation and validation for me at the point that they take the risk.”

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Son of Russia: Former Special Forces officer charged with espionage

A former U.S. Army’s Special Forces officer has been arrested in Alexandria, VA, and charged with passing secrets of American military units and personnel to the Russian military intelligence arm (GRU) for over a decade.

Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins, 45, was recruited by Russian intelligence operatives as he considered himself a “son of Russia,” according to a 17-page indictment that was released after his arrest.


John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security said that,

“Debbins violated his oath as a U.S. Army officer, betrayed the Special Forces and endangered our country’s national security by revealing classified information to Russian intelligence officers, providing details of his unit, and identifying Special Forces team members for Russian intelligence to try to recruit as a spy [sic]. Our country put its highest trust in this defendant, and he took that trust and weaponized it against the United States.”

Debbins is the second person this week charged by the Justice Department for transmitting U.S. secrets to a foreign country. In the other case, a former CIA officer in Hawaii (Alexander Yuk Ching Ma) was arrested and charged with spying for China.

Debbins first agreed to spy for Russia back in 1996 when he was an ROTC cadet. His mother had been born in the former Soviet Union and Debbins told Russian GRU operatives who were trying to recruit him that he considered himself “a son of Russia.” He had told his Russian handlers that he considered the United States “too dominant” in world matters and that it “needed to be cut down to size.”

The GRU gave Debbins the code name “Ikar Lesnikov.”

In 1997 he married a Russian woman, the daughter of a Russian military officer from the Russian city of Chelyabinsk.

After graduating from the University of Minnesota and being assigned to a Chemical Co. in Korea, Debbins returned to Russia. He briefed his handlers on his unit, its mission, and personnel during a subsequent visit to Russia.

He offered to take a polygraph test for his handlers when they asked if he was working for an American intelligence agency. He told them that he wished to leave the military, but they encouraged him to stay. They further urged Debbins to apply for and join the Special Forces. He was told that “he was of no use to the Russian intelligence service as an infantry commander.” Debbins passed Special Forces Selection (SFAS) and the qualification course (SFQC) and was assigned as a captain in the 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (1-10 SFG).

On another trip to Russia, he briefed his GRU contacts about his SF unit, its personnel, locations, and mission. Debbins had his security clearance suspended and command of his A-Team revoked for an unspecified security violation in 2004 or 2005. He then left the military in 2005 with an honorable discharge, according to the indictment.

In subsequent meetings with his GRU handlers, Debbins disclosed information about his unit’s deployments to Azerbaijan and Georgia that were deemed “SECRET/NOFORN.” Debbins also gave the GRU the names of his former team members knowing that the Russians sought the “information for the purpose of evaluating whether to approach the team members to see if they would cooperate with the Russian intelligence service.” He also passed the names of two American counter-intelligence agents who tried to recruit him for an operation.

Once his active duty service was over he began to work for a Ukrainian steel company in Minnesota through his Russian contacts. He remained a member of the Reserves until 2010. During this time his security clearance was reinstated by an Army adjudicator, although he was warned that his family and business connections to Russia might make him “the target of a foreign intelligence service.”

Debbins was a “true believer” and not motivated by monetary gains. In fact, when the Russians (who are notoriously cheap in the intelligence world when it comes to paying agents) offered him id=”listicle-2647079043″,000 he initially declined it stating that he “loved and was committed to Russia.” He only reluctantly accepted the money as “gratitude for his assistance to the Russian intelligence service.” At a 2003 meeting, he was given a bottle of Cognac and a Russian military uniform.

The Justice Department did not divulge how it came to know that Debbins was spying for Russia. His last contact with his handlers was in 2011 when he told them that moved to the D.C. area (Gainesville, VA).

He will be indicted formally on Monday. He faces life imprisonment if convicted.

“The facts alleged in this case are a shocking betrayal by a former Army officer of his fellow soldiers and his country,” Alan E. Kohler Jr., FBI Assistant Director of the Counterintelligence Division, said in a statement.

The entire indictment can be read here.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

The Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment had an unusual start as the service aims to be more unpredictable

The US Navy’s latest aircraft carrier deployment began in an unusual way, and it appears to be part of efforts to make the service less predictable.


In a break from the norm, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and its strike group deployed immediately after completing a final certification exercise instead of first returning to the carrier’s home port.

Carrier Strike Group 10, a formidable naval force consisting of the Eisenhower, two cruisers, three destroyers and more than 6,000 sailors, set sail on deployment right after completing the Composite Unit Training Exercise, the Navy announced Thursday.

“Upon the successful completion of C2X, strike groups are certified and postured to deploy at any time,” US 2nd Fleet spokeswoman Lt. Marycate Walsh told Insider.

“IKE’s timeline for departure was demonstrative of the inherent agility of our naval forces,” she continued. “There is no one size fits all policy; operations at sea routinely flex for a variety of reasons.”

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Eisenhower in the Atlantic.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class James Norket

At times, the Navy has adjusted deployments in response to unexpected problems.

For example, when the USS Harry S. Truman suffered an electrical malfunction in August, its strike group deployed without it, forming a surface action group instead.

As the Truman underwent repairs, the USS Abraham Lincoln, the carrier sent to deter Iran, had its deployment extended — one of several extensions that allowed the Lincoln to set a record for longest carrier deployment since the Cold War.

But the Eisenhower’s latest deployment, as The Virginian-Pilot notes, appears to be a part of the Navy’s efforts to implement dynamic force employment, which the Navy argues makes the fleet much less predictable and strengthens deterrence against potential adversaries.

The Truman executed the first DFE deployment in 2018, when it sailed into the North Atlantic and Arctic shortly after returning from the Mediterranean.

After that deployment, Adm. James G. Foggo III, commander of US Naval Forces Europe-Africa and Allied Joint Force Command Naples, Italy, said: “The National Defense Strategy makes clear that we must be operationally unpredictable to our long-term strategic adversaries, while upholding our commitments to our allies and partners.”

5 kid-friendly ways to get involved in politics

It is unclear where the Eisenhower is currently headed.

“The sailors of IKE Strike Group are trained and ready to execute the full spectrum of maritime operations in any theater,” Rear Adm. Paul Schlise, commander of Carrier Strike Group 10, said in a statement.

“Carrier Strike Groups,” he said, “are visible and powerful symbols of US commitment and resolve to our allies and partners, and possess the flexibility and sustainability to fight major wars and ensure freedom of the seas.”

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing

Content warning: the following article features an open and frank discussion about suicide. If you or someone you love is struggling with thoughts of self-harm or suicidal ideation, don’t hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255.) There’s not a damn thing wrong with asking for a helping hand when you need it most.

Times are rough right now. We’re at the brink of a global pandemic, schools and places of work are closing and people are panic buying things that aren’t usually in short demand. But the factor that is hitting the closest to home for most folks is, well, everyone staying home.


This is what is known at social distancing. It’s an important step in ensuring that the most vulnerable of our population stays away from anyone who may have contracted the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. It’s a drastic measure that’s annoying to most, but it’s going to save lives in the long term. And that’s not something that should ever be understated.

Yet, there’s also an unseen side effect that could potentially harm another group if it’s not handled properly. The disruption of a daily rhythm, potential loss of work and social isolation could impact a vast number of people already fighting through depression and that ever present thought of suicide: veterans.

The Centre for Clinical Interventions lists two determining categories for depression – biological and psychological. Genetics, hormones and neurotransmitters all play their part in making someone more likely to be genetically predisposed to depression but loss, stress and a sense of unfulfillment can hit anyone. At this moment, there’s plenty of that going around.

Even going back a few months before COVID-19 took the world stage, finding a steady paying job wasn’t that easy. Bills can pile up and somehow it feels we’re always just one paycheck above water. But at least some of us had a handful of buddies we could go out to drink with or to see a movie with. Now, it feels like all of that was swept away and we also have to worry if we’ll have enough toilet paper to get through the week.

Right now, many people have lost their jobs or had their hours cut drastically. Even if you haven’t, you’re probably working from home without seeing anyone but the ones you live with. You might be kicking yourself in the butt because you didn’t go to the grocery store before it turned into a scene from The Walking Dead. Thankfully, this isn’t the end times and the internet can still connect us while we’re standing more than six feet from anyone.[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FJZP-ebOe0UsmSOlFfx-ZfSK_kjHJYNlYtsKgqF9pcHBDg-KTQd6WrP7GrC6yOOEmkEOZgfG7-23RF-6K-55opWeLwa3lLvpZjENRl93zQRfL6dyNpY4lkV71IyGukrJg2nKxFxeSCDcXW9fmPQ&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh3.googleusercontent.com&s=298&h=e86267c4c48c91b3d540173ed586769b65668149f0538cb5eebc136b98f92f20&size=980x&c=744452975 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FJZP-ebOe0UsmSOlFfx-ZfSK_kjHJYNlYtsKgqF9pcHBDg-KTQd6WrP7GrC6yOOEmkEOZgfG7-23RF-6K-55opWeLwa3lLvpZjENRl93zQRfL6dyNpY4lkV71IyGukrJg2nKxFxeSCDcXW9fmPQ%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh3.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D298%26h%3De86267c4c48c91b3d540173ed586769b65668149f0538cb5eebc136b98f92f20%26size%3D980x%26c%3D744452975%22%7D” expand=1]

Quick sidenote: toilet paper is something that is typically used at a set rate. Unless you’re planning on hiding for months or TPing your neighbor’s place, you don’t need to stockpile TP.

(Photo by Ingrid Cold)

I urge you, please keep in regular touch with anyone you love who’s been hit hard by this social isolation. Chances are they’re not doing so well. Check up on them. Call to see how they’re doing.

Depression is a real disease and the final symptom could be suicide.

This advice goes for everyone but us in the veteran community already had compounding factors before the outbreak. The “22 a day” is still thrown around, albeit those often-cited numbers come from a 2012 study and they’re more accurately at around 17 a day after a much needed cultural shift within our community. That’s still not great; it’s still far above the national average. Often, we’ve been able to find the one ember that kept our flame burning. But for a lot of veterans, that fire could be extinguished with social distancing.

Don’t take this out of its intended context. Social distancing is crucial at this moment. We just need to adjust to the shift in how things are done. Hotlines are still open. The VA Mental Health facilities are still open. And if you’re concerned and feel symptoms of the coronavirus, there are always video conference calls available to connect you with a mental health specialist or doctors.

You are never truly alone.

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For health and safety reasons, the hand sanitizer stations are everywhere. For good reason.

(U.S. Navy photo by Diana Burleson)

I say all of this… because I found myself in that dark place. The part where I wrote about how people are feeling is mostly pulled from what’s going on with myself.

I recently attempted to end my own life. I’ve been fighting through my own depression for some time now and it reached its boiling point. It probably wouldn’t be wise to go into details, but I will share the thought that got my feet back on the ground. It was the thought that no one would ever be able to explain to my cat why I’m never coming home. Make of it what you will, but thoughts like that can help pull you out of an irrational moment.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FgwEPSSrF4w9G4pRrmNBSg3a7ckuLZWxCqEcgWogP08M7FvwoLNO3p56RKsUHxyG-ndIgrX5NudLMw3l_fX_hwLGgRou71D4AXZKzZ4oJHvc8aH8crbhIazUV_4vrIIAN4fzMCB2FkJOkTa7-4g&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh4.googleusercontent.com&s=823&h=e2472f3fc89658bd13bf47b04f1cf74b58c6a71c9946254ae6c2d16a2c1c6e82&size=980x&c=1328651676 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FgwEPSSrF4w9G4pRrmNBSg3a7ckuLZWxCqEcgWogP08M7FvwoLNO3p56RKsUHxyG-ndIgrX5NudLMw3l_fX_hwLGgRou71D4AXZKzZ4oJHvc8aH8crbhIazUV_4vrIIAN4fzMCB2FkJOkTa7-4g%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh4.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D823%26h%3De2472f3fc89658bd13bf47b04f1cf74b58c6a71c9946254ae6c2d16a2c1c6e82%26size%3D980x%26c%3D1328651676%22%7D” expand=1]

I mean, I love my family and friends. But I wouldn’t ever want to hurt this good boy.

(Picture by Eric Milzarski)

It was through the help of my buddy from the Army and my loving wife that I was able to come back. I see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I’m still in that damn tunnel. I’m now seeing a mental health specialist at the VA regularly and I can honestly say that it was the right choice. No judgement. No negative consequences. And I feel silly for hesitating this long. Just open arms –metaphorically speaking, of course. I kept my six feet of distance and sanitized my hands, because the VA also houses elderly and immuno-vulnerable veterans. And if need be, they’re still doing video calls for anyone feeling any symptoms.

If you know anyone who’s in that dark place, reach out to them. Go in person if you have to, but there’s always the phone. There are always online video games. There’s always a meme you can tag them in. Anything will help. It may not feel like it while we’re self-isolating until things go back to normal, but we are never truly alone.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why I’m strong: How one military daughter feels about deployment

The day my dad left for deployment brought me hard feelings – feelings that were hard for me to process. The thought of him being in harms way made me afraid. Knowing how much I would miss him made be unbelievably sad. All that I knew for sure is that I did not want to take him to the drop off point.

I wanted him to stay.


5 kid-friendly ways to get involved in politics

(Military Spouse)

Once we arrived at the squadron, I tried to convince myself to hold everything together, hiding how I was feeling and I put on a brave face. I certainly did not want to lose control of my emotions in front of a room full of strangers. But when I heard the loud slam of the van door closing and I realized that my Daddy was about to drive away, I stopped caring about who was around.

I sprinted toward the vehicle, wildly yanking at the door handle. “I just want you to stay. Please. Please stay.” I started to cry. The feeling of dread loomed over me. He opened the door and gave me one last hug. My Dad held me close and promised that everything would be okay.

But it wasn’t okay.

Living without my Dad was harder than I thought. I wanted to talk to him -to tell him about all the things I was learning and fun things I was doing. He missed a lot. He missed Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. It was awful. Christmas was not the same. I was glad we could open presents over video chat, but all I wanted for Christmas was to have him home.

Everything about life without him stressed me out and I began to be overly anxious. There were several times where my head felt like it was spinning. I was overwhelmed with worry. Many nights, I wouldn’t sleep. I cried a lot. Living life without my dad home just made me feel blue.

Nothing felt normal. When Dad is home, he takes me out to dinner and spends time with me. I can tell him all about what is happening and how I feel. I really missed these nights. We could really only talk for a few minutes because there was a seven-hour time difference. Night time was the worst. I feel safer when he is here.

It wasn’t all bad. We went on a few family vacations and even went to Great Wolf Lodge. I mean, we only went to Great Wolf because of the eight million delays for dad’s homecoming- making Dad miss my brother’s birthday. But it was fun.

If I had to do all over again (which I hope won’t be for a while), I would do a few things differently. Maybe, if you are a kid in the middle of a deployment -or getting ready for one – here are a few things I learned.

You can’t control everything. Don’t try. Stop trying to make everything perfect. You can’t. Recognize the things that you can control, like yourself or how clean your room is, and control what you can. I organized my books, made slime, and did things that made me feel comfortable.

Be patient with your family. Everyone is sad or stressed. Emotions are running hot and even the littlest things feel more annoying. Do your best to give people a break and stay calm. When I got overwhelmed, I would retreat to my room and count backwards from sixty. I would count colors or patterns in my room. Also, I bout “Pinch Me” dough, which smelled like the beach. Find something that brings you joy and peace.

Have lots of comfort food. (Oreos are always a good choice.) Nothing beats a snack. Snacks are wonderful, and sharing them with a friend is even better. When I was feeling sad or frustrated, I would invite my next-door neighbor over for a snack and a chat. It always made me feel better.

Lastly, call your friends. The beauty of military life is that you have friends everywhere. When I needed to, I would call my best friends, Talia and Aurea. They would cheer me up, help me think through what I feel, and give me encouragement. They know what this is like. Both of them, like me, are military kids.

Deployment seasons might not always be “okay,” but they are only temporary. They don’t last forever. I know that my dad does hard things, like being away, because he wants to serve our country. I can do hard things, too. He believes in freedom and he tells me that I can do my part too. I’m strong because he is strong. I love you, Daddy. Thank you for all you do.

5 kid-friendly ways to get involved in politics

(Military Spouse)

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Social worker embarks on 50-state tour to mow lawns for veterans, Gold Star families

Rodney Smith is preparing to pack his trusty Toro lawn mower into the back of his vehicle — the one with 320,000 miles on the odometer — and hit the road again.

Smith is scheduled to begin his “Thank you for your service and sacrifice” tour on Friday, Sept. 18, in Huntsville, Alabama. During a condensed three-week window, Smith plans to cut the grass of veterans, Gold Star families, Purple Heart recipients, POWs, those missing in action and families of active-duty service members in 48 states. He intends to fly to Alaska and Hawaii to complete his mission, but those dates are undetermined.


“It’s an honor just to hear those stories firsthand and thanking them for their service,” Smith said. “A lot of them never heard a ‘thank you’ before. They have, but they need to hear it more.”

Smith, a 31-year-old social worker, started the Raising Men Lawn Care Service in 2016. The organization, which began including girls in 2018, pairs youth with veterans, the elderly, the disabled and single parents to perform outdoor chores such as cutting grass and raking leaves.

5 kid-friendly ways to get involved in politics

(Military Families Magazine)

According to weareraisingmen.com, 700 youths in the program have mowed a total of 15,000 lawns. Smith’s 50-state tour is a one-man job, though. He goes it alone but follows a similar pattern. He cuts one or two lawns per state, interviews the homeowner, takes a picture with him or her and asks for a photo of the person in his or her military uniform.

“There have been a lot of World War II veterans that I met,” Smith said. “Meeting them, I feel like a little kid because I get to hear the stories firsthand. They were telling me [stories] like it was yesterday.”

Smith, who never served in the military, recalled meeting a veteran who served as a former medic in Vietnam. The veteran was awarded five Purple Hearts and told Smith about soldiers dying in his arms, the sense of despair and hopelessness returning with each tragic memory. Smith gave a boy whose father was killed in Afghanistan his lawn mower on the spot.

“The feedback that I’m getting is, they did it because they loved their country,” Smith said. “They would do it again if they had to.”

While growing up, Smith hated cutting the grass in much the same way that most children dislike eating broccoli. That changed for the native New Yorker while he was a student at Alabama AM University. Smith noticed an elderly man struggling to mow his lawn one day. Smith offered to help.

“[God] was preparing me for that moment,” Smith said.

5 kid-friendly ways to get involved in politics

(Military Families Magazine)

Smith developed that chance encounter into the idea behind his foundation. The veterans tour will be his ninth such 50-state odyssey. He did a similar one for veterans last year, but not all of his trips support the military.

Others, for example, have benefited breast-cancer survivors and promoted increasing dialogue between police and the communities they serve.

Smith is excited to get behind the wheel of his 2012 Ford Edge again. He purchased the used vehicle in 2018, when it had only 58,000 miles. All those lonely stretches of road later, Smith still does not mind the drive because of the payoff at each stop.

“They’re everyday heroes,” Smith said of veterans. “They [gave] their all for this country. We need to appreciate them and honor them while they’re here.”

Smith will auction off each lawn mower at the end of the tour and donate the proceeds to charities supporting veterans.

The schedule of cities where Smith plans to be is posted at Raising Men Lawn Care Service. Families with military ties can sign up there by clicking on the “More Info” tab and selecting “Service Sacrifice.”

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Ramped-up counternarcotics op has denied drug traffickers $2.5 billion, Navy says

Ordinarily, patrolling the waters near Central and South America for drug traffickers is a job largely left to the U.S. Coast Guard. But since April 1 of this year, the U.S. Navy has surged assets to the region to assist with the mission — and helped reel in more than $2.5 billion worth of contraband to date.

The operation has gotten presidential attention and is ongoing, with the Navy destroyer Pinckney publicizing a recent major bust this week. The Pinckney, homeported in San Diego, executed a seizure with an embarked Coast Guard law enforcement detachment July 24, seizing more than 120 kilograms, or 265 pounds, of suspected cocaine from a single ship. In total, the haul was worth some $4.5 million.


“While on routine patrol, approximately 200 nautical miles southwest of Jamaica, a helicopter assigned to the ‘Wolf Pack’ of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 75 located the vessel and Pinckney soon arrived on scene,” Navy officials said in a release. “After coordination with the Government of Colombia and Colombian Navy, the vessel was searched and six suspected drug smugglers detained. The mariners are now in Government of Colombia custody.”

The crew of the Pinckney also secured medical evacuation for one detainee for whom treatment was deemed necessary for survival.

Heads of U.S. Southern Command have long expressed their wish for more U.S. Navy assets in the region to stop a drug trade tied to tens of thousands of U.S. deaths every year. Under the enhanced counternarcotics mission, those ships and aircraft are in place, at least for now.

Top officials say the billion drug trade, which thrives in unstable regions, has taken advantage of the added instability of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“Since the end of March, we have employed, in the U.S. Southern Command Area of Responsibility, 75% more surveillance aircraft and 65% more ships than normal for drug interdiction,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a July 10 news conference from Doral, Florida. “These additional assets include four Navy destroyers, five Coast Guard cutters, and eight aircraft. Currently, nearly a dozen Navy and Coast Guard ships and over 15 aircraft from across the interagency are supporting our efforts, in addition to security forces deployed to the region.”

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Navy’s 4th Fleet, Cmdr. Katherine Meadows, said in a statement to Military.com that additional Defense Department capabilities added in the ramp-up include a continuous rotation of Navy destroyers and MH-60 Seahawk helicopters; Navy littoral combat ships; P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft; Air Force E-3 AWAC and E-8 JSTARS aircraft for reconnaissance; and an Army Security Forces Assistance Brigade company for advisory support. The Coast Guard has also increased its cutter and helicopter presence, and 22 partner nations have aided the effort.

“All of our ships have an embarked [Coast Guard] Law Enforcement Detachment onboard,” Meadows said. “The Navy supports the detection, while the Coast Guard has the authorities to seize narcotics and detain illicit trafficking suspects.”

To date, she said, the Navy has participated in the seizure of 16,396 kilograms of cocaine — more than 36,000 pounds — and 16,601 marijuana. The overall enhanced mission has “disrupted or seized” more than 38,000 pounds of marijuana and more than 98 metric tons of cocaine, she said.

“The operation has denied transnational criminal organizations more than .5 billion in criminal profits from the smuggling of narcotics that kill thousands of people every year and cause substantial human suffering in the U.S. and around the world,” she added.

That’s up from under billion on July 10.

Meadows did not provide comparison figures for the same period last year, but Esper said the U.S. military had been able to increase targeting of known drug operations by 60%. And at the Doral news conference, SOUTHCOM Commander Adm. Craig Faller said drug “disruptions” had increased by 15%.

“And 60 percent more targeting is a big deal for us because that means we can put more assets on more targets. And the enemy has seen that,” Faller said. “We’ve gotten information from our intelligence agencies that says the enemy has watched that and they’re waiting, and they’re stockpiling and they’re trying to change their tactics.”

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family

The last words of a heroic Iraqi interpreter who sacrificed himself to save American soldiers from a suicide bomber were: “Take care of my son. Take care of my wife.” US Special Forces troops are now fighting to honor that dying request.

When a suicide bomber detonated his vest during a vehicle inspection near the Syrian border in September 2007, Barakat Ali Bashar put himself between the bomber and then-Staff Sgt. Jay McBride. Bashar, a new father of only a week, was critically wounded in the attack, and he died at a military hospital in Mosul.


Bashar “had dozens of ball bearings in his body causing injuries that nobody could have survived,” McBride, a former medic, told Stars and Stripes, adding, “I owe him my life.”

Bashar, described as “kind of young and a little more western than your typical Iraqi,” served as an interpreter for US Special Forces fighting Al Qaeda in northern Iraq. After his death, his family received some financial compensation from the US government, but they remained in Iraq, a country later overrun by the Islamic State.

The family, already a target because of their Yazidi heritage, was also in danger because of Bashar’s work with the US military. They fled their home near Mount Sinjar, leaving behind their personal possessions and all evidence Bashar had served with the US Army, and headed to a refugee camp in Kurdistan, where they still live today. Bashar’s family emailed Stars and Stripes and revealed that they live in constant fear.

One of the problems encountered during the visa application process was the lack of proof that Bashar had served with the US military. The family has since obtained written proof that Bashar “was declared dead in a U.S. Army hospital and he was an interpreter who served with [U.S. forces].” They are awaiting a follow-up interview with the State Department.

McBride and other US veterans have been writing letters and petitions in support of the family’s special visa application since 2015. “Is this how you treat a family of someone who worked five years with the U.S. Army; someone who was loyal to the U.S. and Iraq; someone who gave his life serving with U.S. Army soldiers and trying to protect them?” McBride told Stars and Stripes, adding that he would happily put the family up at his house if that was an option.

Bashar “never faltered in his commitment to help American forces, even after his family was threatened and their names were placed on a list that was circulated around the region describing him as a traitor for supporting American forces,” Sgt. 1st Class Michael Swett, another Special Forces soldier, wrote in support of the family. “He believed in the American dream even more than we did. Unfortunately, [Bashar] never realized his opportunity to see the country that he sacrificed so much for.”

“We, the people of the United States of America, put this family at risk and I feel it is our duty as a civilized nation to [ensure] their safety,” Army Master Sgt. Todd West wrote in a separate letter.

Featured image: U.S. Army Pfc. Jacob Paxson and Pfc. Antonio Espiricueta, both from Company B (“Death Dealers”), 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, attached to Task Force 1st Battalion, 35th Armored Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, provide security from a street corner during a foot patrol in Tameem, Ramadi, Iraq.

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