Considering where to live? Take a look at this list of common pros and cons. After all, a housing situation is one that should not be taken lightly. Even if a location will be short-term, there’s no reason to give up preferred amenities or preferences!
Thankfully, military families are given a choice on where they’d like to live. Take a look at the rundown of each scenario in order to find the best overall housing fit.
The pros of living on post
Living on location can come with a number of perks, including standby maintenance, a choice at housing sizes or styles, and avoiding the hassle of paying.
-Safety Factor: Living on post means background checks before folks can enter the premises. Guards at the ready, etc. If you’re headed to an area where safety might not be as high as you’d like, remember this.
-Nearby Amenities: Pools, parks, rec centers, and more, all within a few blocks!
-Choice of Sizes and Styles: Usually by rank, military members and their families can choose from a few styles of homes.
-Less Work in Requesting Maintenance and Payments: Repairs, maintenance, and more, is there at the ready.
-Access to Social Events/Ability to Make New Friends: Living on post means you have neighbors who are in a similar situation to you. Let the kids play and make nice with the folks on the street for quick friendship opportunities.
The cons of living on post
On the flip side, there can be stress and red tape when moving to on-base housing. Consider what could go wrong before committing to your next home.
-So. Much. Paperwork. As with anything military-related, there’s paperwork galore!
-A Lack of Communication Between Civilian Housing Management and Military Rules/Entities: Many on-post housing entities are run by civilian companies, which can lead to misunderstandings or discrepancies in military standards.
-Inability to Get Away From Work. For the Service member, it’s riiiiiiight down the block.
-Possible Wait Times or Unavailable Units: There are busy moving seasons, which can mean a backlog of available houses, or that the house you want isn’t available at all. This is a common scenario when waiting to move on post.
-Additional Standards That Must be Followed: There are rules on yards, pets, and more. When living on post you’ll have to pay close attention so as not to break any ordinances.
The pros to living off post
Living away from base comes with its own positives. Determine if this is a move you’d like to make.
-Opportunity to Invest. Ready to buy? With off-post options, the real estate market is your oyster.
-Getting Away From the Office … and away from military life. Sometimes you just need a break.
-More Housing Choices in Price and Location: Scan the neighborhoods and find the spot that best suits you and your family’s needs. For instance, not having next-door neighbors, etc.
-Can Potentially Save Funds: With more choices comes more pricing options, too.
The cons to living off post
Here, too, come potential downsides. Be sure to weigh the possible risks.
-You’re On Your Own: When dealing with a bum landlord or testy neighbor, you have to go about things the old fashioned way. There’s always JAG, but you’ll have to do the legwork.
-Distance From Work: Remember that living off post comes with a daily commute.
-Distance From Community Events and Programs: It can be harder to stay in the know or get to on-post events when you don’t live within the action.
-Removal From Community: In the same light, it can be harder to feel included or involved when living as a civilian.
-Stigma: When applying for housing, dealing with neighbors, etc., there could be a stigma involved with military life.
When choosing your next housing situation, be sure to weigh the pros and cons of each scenario so you can find your best housing outcome. But wherever you decide, home is where the heart is.
At a military parade on Saturday to mark the 75th anniversary of the ruling Korean Workers Party, North Korea unveiled a new and massive intercontinental ballistic missile, which arms experts say may be capable of delivering multiple nuclear warheads to targets as far away as the US homeland.
Experts say the new North Korean ICBM is probably called the Hwasong-16. Measuring some 82 to 85 feet in length, about 9 feet in diameter, and likely weighing between 220,000 and 330,000 pounds at launch, it’s the world’s largest mobile missile, according to an Oct. 10 assessment from 38 North, a North Korea-focused intelligence and analysis website.
The 38 North authors estimate the new ICBM, which is an upgrade of the existing Hwasong-15 missile, could “in principle” deliver a payload of 4,400 to 7,700 pounds “to any point in the continental United States.”
North Korea also reportedly unveiled a new solid-fuel, submarine-launched missile at Saturday’s parade. Yet, the massive, liquid-fueled, road-mobile ICBM is what caught the eye of US officials and nuclear arms experts, sparking concerns that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un might try to exploit this new weapon to extort diplomatic concessions from the US.
“It’s not clear why the North Koreans invested in huge missiles. All I can think of is that they are replicating those parts of the old Soviet ICBM force that worried us the most in the 1970s and 1980s, and hope to get some kind of favorable reaction from us, something that will make us trade something [North Korea] wants, such as international recognition and lifting of sanctions, in exchange for getting rid of the missiles,” Peter D. Zimmerman, a nuclear physicist, arms control expert, and former chief scientist of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Coffee or Die Magazine.
North Korea’s new intercontinental ballistic missile. Photo by Lokman Karadag via Twitter.
North Korea’s nuclear weapons arsenal comprises some 30 to 40 weapons and enough fissile material on hand for six or seven more, according to the Arms Control Association. A US government study in 2017 estimated that North Korea’s production of weapons-grade material may be enough to build some 12 nuclear weapons a year.
“An unexpected ‘super heavy’ ICBM would be a classically Khrushchevian statement of North Korea’s technical prowess, the robustness of its ability to threaten the US, and the permanence of its nuclear weapons status,” wrote the 38 North authors, referring to the former Soviet premier, Nikita Khrushchev, whose decision to place nuclear-armed missiles in Cuba in 1962 sparked the Cuban missile crisis.
“Thanks to our reliable and effective self-defense nuclear deterrence, the word ‘war’ would no longer exist on this land, and the security and future of our state will be guaranteed forever,” North Korea’s Kim reportedly said during a July 28 speech.
Although North Korea has not tested a nuclear weapon since September 2017, a report by a panel of UN experts, released last month, determined that Pyongyang has likely developed the ability to manufacture miniaturized nuclear warheads. North Korea is also reportedly working to develop multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles, also known as MIRVs, for its biggest ICBMs.
If those assessments are accurate, Pyongyang may already be capable of arming a single missile with multiple warheads, each of which can target a different location after release from the mother missile. Such a missile system would be much more difficult for America’s missile defense shield to destroy. However, its presence on North Korean territory also offers America’s strategic military forces a “lucrative” option for a nuclear counterstrike, Zimmerman said, adding that North Korea was “putting all their nuclear eggs under one shroud.”
“I don’t see an increase in the overall nuclear threat to the United States, because I think that deterrence is pretty robust. That said, very large ICBMs with multiple warheads increase the consequences should anything go wrong. That cannot be a good thing,” said Zimmerman, who is now emeritus professor of Science and Security at King’s College London.
The 38 North authors doubted whether Pyongyang has developed a “militarily useful” MIRV system, noting that North Korea’s military has not yet flight-tested an operational MIRV from the second stage of an ICBM. The massive new ICBM revealed over the weekend has also not been flight tested, raising questions about its operational utility.
Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles, designed to carry nuclear weapons, on display in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro. Photo by Nolan Peterson/Coffee or Die Magazine.
“We don’t know what we don’t know,” Thomas Moore, a former senior professional staff member for the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, told Coffee or Die Magazine.
“[North Korea] may need larger missiles for heavy payloads. They may also simply be faking it,” Moore said, adding that trying to derive useful intelligence from parade images is “useful speculation, but still just speculation.”
Pyongyang’s new missiles mark the latest in a series of incremental upticks in the overall global nuclear threat against the US.
US and Russian leaders appear to be at an impasse in negotiations to save the New START agreement — the last remaining nuclear arms limitation treaty between the two Cold War-era foes — before it expires in February. The US side says China is in the midst of a “crash nuclear program” and any future deal with Russia must impose limits on China’s nuclear arsenal, too.
“The antiquated Cold War construct of a bilateral, two-country-only solution does not work in a world where a third party — in this case China — is rapidly building up,” Ambassador Marshall Billingslea, the US special presidential envoy for arms control, told reporters in June.
“So we think and what we seek to do is avoid a three-way arms race, and we believe the very best way to do that is to arrive and achieve a three-way nuclear deal,” Billingslea said.
China is expected to “at least double” the size of its nuclear arsenal in the next decade, US officials have said. China is also reportedly developing a so-called nuclear triad — comprising the ability to deliver nuclear weapons by ground-based ICBMs, by sea-launched missiles from submarines, and by aircraft.
In April, the US State Department published a report raising concerns that China had conducted low-yield nuclear tests in 2019 at a site called Lop Nur. And last year China test-fired more than 200 ballistic missiles, “far more than the rest of the world combined,” Billingslea said in August.
An unarmed Trident II D5 missile launches from the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Nebraska (SSBN 739) off the coast of California. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ronald Gutridge/Released.
According to the Arms Control Association, the US possesses some 6,185 nuclear weapons, while Russia has 6,490 such weapons in its arsenal. The US-based Federation of American Scientists estimated China has about 320 warheads — roughly on par with France’s number of 300.
“While Beijing has long focused on maintaining a minimum deterrent, it is likely that its nuclear stockpile will increase in the next few decades,” the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation said in an April 2020 report.
The report’s authors added: “Additionally, if the United States continues to expand and strengthen its missile defense program, China may modify its nuclear posture to include a significantly larger nuclear force with the potential to strike the United States.”
Signed by former Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev in 2010, the New START treaty limits Russia and the US each to 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and heavy bombers. The original START I was signed in 1991, six months before the Soviet Union dissolved.
In addition to China’s inclusion, the US also wants New START to enact limits on Russia’s newest weapons, including hypersonic missiles and nuclear-powered cruise missiles, which were not included in the original deal. So far, Russia has balked at meeting America’s requirements, setting up a contentious final few months of negotiations in advance of New START’s expiration in February.
President Donald Trump is trying to secure a deal with Moscow to extend the strategic arms treaty before the upcoming presidential election, Axios reported Sunday. Putin, too, has said he’s open to renegotiating the pact. However, in June the Russian president raised some eyebrows in Washington when he signed an executive order authorizing the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear attacks that “threaten the existence” of Russia or its nuclear forces.
Meanwhile, in defiance of US and international sanctions, Iran has not abandoned its uranium enrichment program. In June the International Atomic Energy Agency estimated it would take Iran three to six months to manufacture enough weapons-grade material to produce a nuclear weapon.
“The Iranians continue to enrich uranium, and to a much higher degree than they have committed themselves to. And this amount is growing by the month,” International Atomic Energy Agency head Rafael Grossi told the German newspaper Die Presse in an interview published Saturday.
Maj. Philip D. Ambard was killed in 2011 in Kabul, Afghanistan. A decade after the death of her husband, a Gold Star wife continues to go the distance to carry her airman’s memory around the globe.
Air Force Maj. Phil Ambard deployed to Afghanistan to serve on a NATO team training the Afghan Air Force when he was killed during a shooting at Kabul International Airport, according to the Air Force. He was 44. His widow, Linda Ambard, describes him as a husband and father who exuded kindness and fun. She refers to him as the “Disneyland parent.”
Linda said she didn’t mind being the rule maker, knowing that Phil’s childhood shaped so much of who he was. Phil was a French-Venezuelan immigrant who didn’t even know English when he arrived on American soil at the age of 12. A self-taught linguist, he would go on to learn 10 languages and, in 2003, started a career at the Air Force Academy’s Department of Foreign Languages.
A fellow professor described Phil’s impact on his student.
“You would always see a line of cadets at his office,” Lt. Col. LeAnn Derby said in an interview with the Air Force shortly after Phil’s death. “It was easy to see the impact he had on them.”
Growing up in Venezuela was a tumultuous experience for Phil, Linda says, but it also inspired him to always prioritize his family and value all people in his adult life.
“One thing that I learned from my husband was to really love my country, warts and all,” Linda said with a smile.
But he almost wasn’t her husband. Phil asked Linda out more than a dozen times before she said yes.
“I didn’t want anything to do with him because he was almost six years younger than me,” she said. “We became friends through the course of him asking the first 19 times and it became a joke. Then one day he said, ‘This is the last time I am going to ask you out if you say no.’”
Four months later they eloped.
“He was the kindest and most humble person I knew … He saw the invisible people. You know, the people who come and do the cleaning at your workplace? He would practice any of his 10 languages to figure out which one they spoke,” Linda said. “He’d find out about their families or sodas and snacks they liked, then he’d show up with them. He felt like you could change people more by being kind and meeting them where they were.”
Phil enlisted in the Air Force to not only serve but also to earn his citizenship. He would go on to become an officer and teacher. Despite the security of his position teaching at the Air Force Academy, he volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan in 2011.
One of the hardest parts about the day he lost his life was that he knew his assassin, Linda explained. The Afghan soldier who ambushed those airmen was someone Phil considered a friend. They often lunched together and conversed in different languages. Phil’s death changed everything for his family and there was more trauma to come.
“Two years after he was killed, I was at the Boston Marathon when all hell broke loose,” Linda said. “I was one stop away from the finish line and I was smiling; it was a good day. I was running to honor and remember Phil. They had chosen me to do that. Then the first boom hit … I became terrified and it lives on in my nightmare and it overlaps with Phil. But it woke something up in me. I can’t let terrorism have anything else from me … I have to fight to thrive, and by doing that I am honoring Phil.”
Linda went on to earn a master’s degree in military resiliency counseling and began using her voice.
“The military is very good at recognizing the funerals … but they aren’t so good at what comes next,” she explained. “The cost keeps going. It doesn’t go away just because it’s been 10 years.”
Linda shared that trauma severely impacts those who experience it and can continue to wreak devastation on lives. It’s with this in mind that she continues to counsel, train, and educate, hoping to change and improve the lives of other military families.
A decade later, Linda is still running marathons to honor Phil on every continent except Antarctica — but that’s coming in March 2022. She also found love again and is engaged to be married. One lesson she’d like people to take away from her story is to love more deeply and take the time to show it because we never know how much we have left.
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The latest jobs report shows 21 million Americans out of work, largely attributed to the effects of the coronavirus and efforts to contain it, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Double-digit unemployment rates are nothing new for spouses who have seen increased efforts over the years to elevate the plight of a demographic working to establish a career around military life. But is there a career field immune from PCS moves and pandemics? The CEO of Squared Away thinks so.
Michelle Penczak, a Marine spouse, co-founded Squared Away in 2017 to give military spouses opportunities that demand a range of skills, like social media, project management, and human resources. The company has now grown to 95 and she says the field is “extremely sustainable” even with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“Most of our clients are taking their businesses remotely and are leaning on us to make the transition as smooth as possible. We also add a great amount of value to teams who have been forced to downsize but still have the need of an assistant,” Penczak said in an email interview.
Squared Away was inspired by Penczak’s own challenges in maintaining employment as her husband, a Marine officer, received orders to different duty stations around the U.S. She initially worked as a personal assistant to a lobbyist in Washington, DC. until relocating to Jacksonville, North Carolina, near Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. The transition from a large city to a small military town was difficult in terms of finding comparable employment.
“No one would hire me … it was so defeating and I didn’t want anyone to ever feel that way,” she said.
Eventually, after many interviews and rejections, she found employment as a virtual assistant with Zirtual. However, it was not long after the business closed, but lingering clients wanted her to remain with their companies. Then her husband received orders to Hawaii.
“I was terrified I would lose my clients,” Penczak said because her clients operated on Eastern time. “So, I got up at 3 am to work with my East Coast clients.”
She said she told herself it would never work, but six months into it her husband encouraged her to change her thinking.
“He said, ‘It’s working.’ I would drive myself out of bed [at 3am PCT] and do my stuff. Then I’d have all the rest of the day to hang out in Hawaii which wasn’t a bad deal. I became more productive and it worked better for me. My co-founder [Shane Mac] told me, ‘I need you to build a company.’ I told him he was crazy. I had no idea how to run a company,” she said. “I thought about it for a couple of days and said let’s do this.”
Squared Away places virtual assistants with a myriad of companies to include venture capital firms, startup companies, and marketing firms. Penzcak added that the company does not invest in marketing. She notes her client base has grown exponentially over the past year strictly from a referral base.
“Anyone who needs extra supports … They become their righthand man … All of our clients are saying how much they love us, working with amazing people who believe in our mission. I’ve never felt more blessed in my life. My team is amazing,” she said.
Squared Away employs military spouses stationed within the U.S., along with remote assistants in Germany as well.
“Nothing feels better than one of my girls coming to say … you are making such a big difference to me and my family,” Penczak said.
The company’s structure also allows its team members to balance personal and professional responsibilities.
“All of our spouses have a unique story … We can be dedicated to our clients, but also be flexible to be there for our kids. Currently, we have 110 clients … it’s growing steadily. The more clients the more assistants we can hire,” she said.
Penczak’s 2020 goals include expansion of her team.
It’s no doubt that those who haven’t lived the military lifestyle have a difficult time with some of the logistics. In everything from decoding thousands of acronyms, to seemingly “hard” dates that change at the drop of a hat, to the mindset of doing without a loved one for months on end, if you haven’t lived it, it’s a foreign reality.
That’s not to say non-military folk aren’t empathetic, simply that they haven’t experienced military happenings firsthand. However, that is to say they should remain impartial at all times. And they definitely shouldn’t tell a milspouse the following three things:
You knew what you were getting into.
Yes. That is an actual thing that people say to military members and their spouses alike. A quite common thing.
Sure. We know the main points. But all the details? Some surprises are sure to come along the way with anything in life. No matter how prepared you are, no one can anticipate the emotions of that first deployment (or the tenth).
Saying that a milspouse can’t talk about a situation being hard just because they knew about it upfront, is wholly unfair. We are communicators. When things bother us, we discuss them. When we are having a rough time, we tell others … that’s part of what helps the situation get better.
But to be shut down by someone who has zero idea of what they’re going through and to have them tell you your feelings don’t matter because you knew a military marriage would be hard? Hold me back.
It’s a harder situation than anyone thinks – and instead of being told their feelings are invalid, military spouses should be celebrated and supported for their help within the armed forces community.
The guided-missle cruiser USS Monterey (CG-61) Homecoming
At least … it could be worse.
Sigh. Another common response to military lifestyle changes is “at least.”
“At least he won’t be gone that long.” “At least he gets to come home for the birth.” “At least he’s not deploying.” It’s a minimizing statement that makes us want to pull our hair out.
Why can’t it just be hard? Why do milspouses have to be told their feelings aren’t as big as they feel them?
Yes, it could be worse. That’s true of anything in life. But we don’t need the Debbie Downers of the world pointing out stats about how much worse off life could be. If you can’t muster up a sincere, “That’s tough! It’s ok to be upset,” then maybe just don’t say anything at all.
But you get great benefits.
And? Anything else you’d like to toss in from left field, Karen? Sure, milspouses are grateful for how wonderful it is to get free flu swabs or take courses via the GI Bill. But we promise, that’s not the first thought that comes up.
There are great benefits of military life. But it’s not exactly an even trade-off for the sacrifices the entire family makes. Really, it’s apples and oranges, and if you talk to milspouses about how they should be grateful for all the benefits during month seven of a deployment, they just might throw said fruit in your direction.
When talking to military family members, be careful what you say. Even when ill intentions aren’t in mind, be careful not to belittle their experience or denounce what’s been gone through. It’s a lifestyle that you can’t understand unless you’ve lived it, and sometimes, when things are hard, we just want to be heard.
The United States needs to “up its game” in the Arctic, which is an increasingly important region as global warming opens up new sea lanes and makes oil and mineral resources there more readily available, the U.S. defense secretary has said.
The Arctic, which lies partly within the territories of Russia, the United States, Canada, and a handful of other countries, by some estimates holds more oil and natural gas reserves than Saudi Arabia and Russia, and Moscow has been intensifying its energy development there.
Russia has also embarked upon its biggest military push in the Arctic since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, beefing up its military presence and capabilities.
Under President Vladimir Putin, Moscow is moving to re-open abandoned Soviet military, air, and radar bases on remote Arctic islands and build new ones as it pushes ahead with a claim to almost half a million square miles of the Arctic.
“Certainly America’s got to up its game in the Arctic. There’s no doubt about that,” U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters in Alaska before leaving on a trip to Asia.
Part of that would be an increased Coast Guard presence, with more icebreakers and other specialized vessels needed in the Arctic, he said.
Mattis said the Pentagon already relied on Alaska as a base for operations in the Pacific, and the interceptor missiles the United States maintains there already constitute the cornerstone of the U.S. homeland defense.
But he said that the warming of the Arctic had spurred a new rush for resources in the region that the United States has been reluctant to join.
“So the reality is that we’re going to have to deal with the developing Arctic… It is also going to open not just to transport but also to energy exploration,” Mattis said.
The United States and Russia have both expressed interest in boosting Arctic drilling, but Russia has gone further in developing its Arctic resources. Currently, the United States prohibits oil drilling in wildlife refuges in its Alaskan Arctic wilderness areas and most offshore areas.
Beyond the competition between Russia and the United States, early 2018 China outlined ambitions to extend President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative to the Arctic by developing shipping lanes that have been opened up by global warming.
(Photo by Michel Temer)
China also has been helping Greenland, whose territory covers a major portion of the Arctic, develop its vast, mostly untapped mineral resources.
China itself has no Arctic territory or coastline, so its increasing interest in the region has prompted concerns from Arctic states over its long-term strategic objectives, including whether that includes military deployment.
Alaskan Senator Dan Sullivan, standing alongside Mattis, said there was bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress to view the Arctic in more strategic terms.
“I agree with the secretary, I think we’re behind, but I think we’re finally starting to catch up,” Sullivan said.
Studies show that much of the oil and gas resources in the Arctic is concentrated in Alaska, which the United States purchased from the Russian Empire in 1867 for $7.2 million. It became the 49th U.S. state in 1959.
When you think of joining the military, a ton of images shoot through your mind. You think of that badass grunt running toward some unnamed, burning city, rifle in hand as aircraft rip through the skies above. When you actually start your service, you’ll quickly realize that reality is a far cry from your fantasy. In fact, grunts don’t even spend all of their time fighting wars.
Some things might surprise you, but then there are a ton of things you never saw coming.
It’s not even that your recruiter lied to you, it’s just that much of life in the military isn’t as advertised on posters or in TV ads. Some of thee surprises are cool, many of them suck, but at the end of the day, they’re what keeps the machine running.
You probably didn’t expect the following when you signed on the dotted line:
It’s hard to lie about getting hit when you have paint splattered on you.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Leon M. Branchaud)
If you’re a prospective Marine, then you’ve probably seen Jarhead (maybe one too many times). You know that one part where they train with paintball rounds? Most of us thought it was Hollywood bullsh*t — until we got to do the same. Granted, it doesn’t hurt as bad as they make it seem in the movie, but it’s actually a lot of fun. Hell, it’s probably some of the best training you can get.
You see what the aircraft does with the ammo, though.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade)
Loading ammo onto an aircraft
We’ve all seen videos of jets flying overhead and raining pain onto the ground below. In those moments, with our jaws dropped, we’re thinking, “whoa… that’s so cool.” That is, of course, before you’re the one loading the ammo.
Remember, there are a lot of people behind every dropped bomb.
Some may use their anger more than others.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Aaron Bolser)
Feeling emotional extremes of every type
Troops are tough bad*sses — but we’re definitely not emotionless. In fact, what makes veterans so stoic is that they’ve already felt every emotion in its most extreme form. You’ll never be more happy than when you get to sleep in an actual bed after months of sleeping in dirt, you’ll never be as angry as you were in a firefight, and you’ll never be more sad than when you lose a dear friend.
You might even earn their accolades.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alexander Mitchell)
Hanging with another country’s troops
You might expect to go to another country and train with their military, but you can’t really foresee the time you’ll spend hanging out with the Germans, Aussies, Koreans — you name it. You’ll quickly realize that you have a lot in common; you share a lot of the same, bullsh*t experiences.
And you all have that one a**hole in your chain of command.
If you’ve got time and you’ll be using that model for a while, why not go all out?
Building a terrain model
Did you ever think that a squad leader would tell you to go out and buy a pack of plastic army men? Probably not.
You also probably didn’t expect to build a terrain model to plan a mission and yet here you are. If you don’t mind spending a little extra time, you can actually have fun with this one.
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.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The residents of Bishopville, a small South Carolina town, filled the streets, Aug. 29, for a special celebration honoring their hometown hero. The motto “Heritage, History, Home,” proudly painted on the Main Street mural perfectly embodied the town’s spirit as everyone gathered for the return of retired Major James “Jim” Capers Jr.
Maj. Capers, described by his comrades as the “utmost Marine”, is the recipient of a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars with “V” for valor, and three Purple Hearts. Most notably for his time in Vietnam, he is one of the most decorated Marines in Force Reconnaissance history. He became the first African American to command a Marine Reconnaissance company and to receive a battlefield commission.
“This is what you call a great moment in America. What’s most amazing about Jim is not necessarily his combat career. . . .The greatest thing about Jim is who he is, it’s him as a man, him as a person. . . . He never asked anyone to do something he wasn’t willing to do. He always led by personal example and always led from the front.” retired Maj. Gen. Mastin Robeson, former commander, Marine Forces Special Operations Command
The townspeople cheered and waved small American flags as the celebration began with the “Parade of Heroes.” Led by the recently turned 83-year-old Capers, veterans and active duty, from near and far, marched proudly in uniform, veteran’s attire, old unit gear, or simply an American flag T-shirt.
Followed by speeches from the Bishopville mayor, South Carolina state senators and representative, retired Maj. Gen. Mastin Robeson, a letter written by the Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue read by his council, and the presentation of the highest civilian award in the state, every speech or letter addressed Maj. Capers’ service beyond the battlefield.
“This is what you call a great moment in America,” former commander, Marine Forces Special Operations Command and friend of Capers since 2009. “What’s most amazing about Jim is not necessarily his combat career. . . .The greatest thing about Jim is who he is, it’s him as a man, him as a person. . . . He never asked anyone to do something he wasn’t willing to do. He always led by personal example and always led from the front.”
When asked to describe Maj. Capers in one word, common choices included hero, brave, brother, patriot, family, strong, inspiration and American. After retiring from the Marine Corps, he continued his life of service by working closely with those with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and always lending a helping hand to anyone in need. After losing his wife and son, those who consider him family are those he “adopted” along the way.
The crowd stood in awe, followed shortly by an eruption of applause as an elaborate plaque titled “The Place, The Legend, The Man” was unveiled in the town’s Memorial Park. The Place, showing North and South Vietnam; The Legend, a textured recreation Maj. Capers’ iconic Marine Corps recruitment campaign poster with the text “Ask a Marine;” and The Man, his story from the beginning in Bishopville.
Capers addressed the crowd stating he was overwhelmed with emotion. “All of the awards that were bestowed upon me this morning, I don’t deserve any of this,” said Capers. “It really doesn’t belong to me, I’m just a caretaker.”
Family and friends standing teary eyed close by, he continued to address all the service members who never had a parade held for them, the ones who weren’t taken care of when they came home, and the ones who never returned.
The celebration concluded with a gathering at the Veterans Museum, where the man who proudly became the face of the Marine Corps when he could barely stand after being wounded 19 times, the man who devoted his life to a country who continued to judge him based on the color of his skin, the man who turned strangers into family, stood in astonishment at the number of people willing to come see him on a Saturday morning.
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
Our family is discovering a new adventure as the pandemic continues and a normal school year is not on the horizon. I never, ever planned to be a homeschool mom. But when the pandemic hit and my boys were home each day, I realized how much I enjoyed their company and oddly how much I missed them each day they went to school. And while it requires a lot of flexibility to continue running my business, I know that homeschooling is the best option for our family. As a family, we have learned a lot about the advantages of homeschooling. And I’m quickly realizing my past life as an Air Force Officer is playing into my strengths when it comes to homeschooling. Here are a few ways the military prepared me to be a homeschool mom.
Moving forward with confidence
The military teaches you to make a choice and move forward. When our school district came out with the options for the upcoming school year, the options laid forward by the district didn’t feel like the right choice for our family. So, my husband and I decided to start looking into homeschooling. The more research we did the more confident we were in the choice to homeschool. Now that school is starting all over the country, I realize homeschooling was the best option for our family and I am thankful we made this choice months ago. I did the research, made a choice and am now moving forward with confidence. Just like the military trained me to do.
Know the Objectives, Create a Mission Plan
When people hear I am homeschooling they often ask what curriculum I am using. My answer: I’m not. I have done enough research on the standards that my boys need to meet by the end of the school year and am working to create tools we need to get there. I guess I have always been part of the unschooled philosophy and find lesson plans too restrictive. We have a schedule and a plan for each week, the military trained me for that too, but I also know where we need to go and don’t need any one person to tell me how to get there. My military background has me focused on the mission and I even have created waypoints throughout the school year to help access where we are, where we are going and I am ready to make adjustments along the way.
Delegate when necessary
While I’m really excited about teaching math and science, oddly enough, even though my job is to write, I don’t feel confident in teaching my son how to read. He is entering second grade and is behind in reading. Most of the homework around reading last year was filled with frustration on both my son’s and my part. So, my husband and I decided to delegate this responsibility. My husband and I did our research and we have started using the Easy Read System. It is a program that helps my son while I work along with him. It is a team effort and the best part? There is no yelling or frustration. It is actually fun, for both of us. He is making progress with reading and writing with this tool and I am excited to see what he learns over the next few months.
We also have been long time subscribers to Kiwi Co Science Crates. Each month we get a new Kiwi Crate for both my seven and four year olds. In the past, we focused on the activity and often didn’t dive into the extra resources provided. But now we are planning to not only enjoy the project that comes each month, but use the additional resources for science learning.
We are also relying on our Disney+ subscription, but not to watch Mickey Mouse. Both our boys also have a love of animals so we have been using Disney+ Natural Geographic Channel to learn about different animals each week. We also are big fans of PBS Kids, Khan Academy Kids and Sesame Street’s Alphabet Kitchen.
Think outside the box
I’m also planning lessons throughout the year for things I have always wanted to do and never have had the time to do. We are planning to use Truth in the Tinsel’s Advent calendar and crafts for the Christmas season. We already planted pumpkins in the Spring and have been using them to learn about how things grow throughout the summer. And we are planning to plant a garden in the Spring. We use the kitchen to expand our classroom by creating yummy treats like Taffy and Blueberry Pie.
Almost every question my boys ask can turn into a classroom adventure. And as long as we stay focused on the standards set by the school, we are finding a lot of flexibility in our home classroom.
Yes, the military training even applies to homeschooling and oddly enough it isn’t as rigid as I expected. What does your school year plan look like? What tools from your life experience are you using to help get through this unsettling time?
NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps may finally be traveling to space.
The agency said Tuesday that it has assigned the 49-year-old rookie astronaut to Boeing’s Starliner-1 mission, slated to launch sometime in 2021.
The mission is actually the second that NASA picked Epps to fly. But she never made the first one, a Russian Soyuz flight that lifted off in June 2018, because the agency abruptly bumped her from the crew about five months ahead of launch.
“I don’t know where the decision came from and how it was made, in detail, or at what level,” Epps said during a conference in 2018 conference, but noted it was not medically related. “There were Russians, several of them, who defended me in the sense that it’s not safe to really remove someone from a crew that has trained together for years.”
NASA told Business Insider in a statement that a “number of factors are considered when making flight assignments,” adding that “decisions are personnel matters for which NASA doesn’t provide information.”
Despite the disappointing turn of events, Epps kept her composure over the years.
“Sometimes things don’t go the way that you planned,” she told “Business Insider Today” in 2019. “But I’m still in the astronaut corps.”
With her fresh assignment, Epps is once again poised to make history. The mission is to scheduled to be the first operational flight of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, which should follow an uncrewed launch (possibly later this year) and a crewed flight test in 2021.
Epps will live and work aboard the space station for half a year
NASA selected Epps, an aerospace engineer, to be an astronaut in 2009. Prior to that, she worked at Ford Motor Company as a research scientist before moving on to the Central Intelligence Agency, where she was as a technical intelligence officer for more than seven years, according to her biography.
The Starliner-1 mission’s destination is the International Space Station, a facility that orbits 250 miles above Earth, and which people have inhabited continuously for 20 years. During her new upcoming mission, Epps will live and work aboard the 0 billion, football field-size laboratory for about six months.
Epps has not yet flown to space. She will join fellow spaceflight rookie Josh Cassada and veteran Sunita Williams. Williams, the Starliner-1 mission’s commander, has worked with Boeing and SpaceX over the past six years on the design and functionality of their new spaceships through NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
“I can’t wait for her to join our crew,” Williams said in a video she tweeted on Tuesday.
Cassada tweeted a humorous video congratulating Epps, who grew up in Michigan, on her crew assignment.
“Just a couple of things I think we need to get sorted out. I know we both claim Michigan, I’m not going to arm-wrestle you for it — I’ve seen you in the gym. So maybe we can split it?” Cassada said. “The only other thing we need to get sorted out is, on the Starliner, I call shotgun.”
Starliner launched and landed on its first uncrewed mission, called Orbital Flight Test, in December 2019. However, the spacecraft experienced two “high visibility close calls” that might have resulted in the loss of the spacecraft, NASA said earlier this year.
The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is seen after it landed in White Sands, New Mexico, on December 22, 2019. Bill Ingalls/NASA
Boeing is now fixing its software, systems, and procedures to rectify the problems, and — at a cost of 0 million to the company — plans to refly the mission later this year. Assuming there are no further issues, veteran astronaut Mike Fincke, retired astronaut Chris Ferguson, and rookie astronaut Nicole Mann will fly the first experimental crewed flight in 2021.
NASA appears unfazed by a small air leak aboard the ISS, which a three-person crew is currently helping root out and repair.
Had NASA allowed Epps to fly on the 2018 Soyuz mission, she would have been the first Black astronaut to live and work aboard the ISS for an extended amount of time. However, that honor will likely go to Victor Glover, who’s slated to fly NASA’s next commercial mission with people, called Crew-1. (SpaceX successfullylaunched and returned its first astronaut crew on an experimental flight earlier this year.)
Similar to Starliner-1, the Crew-1 mission will be SpaceX’s first operational flight of its commercial spaceship, called Crew Dragon. That mission is slated to fly to the space station as soon as October 23, and Glover will launch with fellow astronauts Shannon Walker and Mike Hopkins, as well as JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Soichi Noguchi.
The Starliner-1 mission could prove especially important to Epps’ career, in that she is one of 16 active female astronauts in NASA’s corps who may return humans to the moon. Jim Bridenstine, the agency’s administrator, has repeatedly said NASA’s Artemis program will fly the first woman and the next man to the lunar surface in 2024.
“Business Insider Today” asked Epps about that possibility during a 2019 interview.
“It’s mind-blowing to think about being the first [woman] to step on this object that you see in the night sky,” she said. “I would hope that my mission would inspire the next generation of women, of all engineers and all scientists to kind of propel us forward, even beyond Mars.”
Pfc. Kanayochukwu Onyejeli, with Platoon 3235, Kilo Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, conducts the fireman carry during the maneuver under fire portion of the Combat Fitness Test at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif., on Dec. 22, 2014. Marines will have to wear a cloth face covering during events where social distancing cannot be maintained. (Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jericho Crutcher)
Marines‘ brief reprieve from fitness tests and dreaded body-tape measurements is over.
The service announced Tuesday that the combat and physical fitness tests, along with the Body Composition Program, will resume immediately. That’s after Commandant Gen. David Berger announced in April that some of those requirements were suspended at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Marines will be required to complete the Combat Fitness Test by the end of the year, a new administrative message released Tuesday announced. And even though the Physical Fitness Test, which normally runs the first half of the year, was previously waived, anyone who failed it in 2019 must be ready to pass it in the next 90 days.
The tape test is also back for Marines outside height and weight standards who need body composition evaluations. Any Marine who couldn’t get a tape test during tight restrictions due to the pandemic must now be measured by the end of the month, the message states.
Marines will wear cloth face coverings during fitness tests if they’re not able to keep at least six feet apart. The distancing requirement will be impossible for some events, including one on the CFT that requires Marines to carry and drag a teammate. Marines also hold each other’s legs for the crunches portion of the PFT, though the test allows them to swap out that event and opt to hold a push-ups-like plank position.
During the tests, Marines must follow Defense Department guidance issued during the pandemic that requires frequent cleaning of gym equipment. Items that might require disinfection include the ammunition cans Marines lift during the CFT and the pull-up bar they use during the PFT.
The pandemic has changed a host of military policies, affecting everything from boot camp to deployments and unit physical training. When canceling some fitness tests earlier this year, Berger stressed that Marines’ fitness must remain a priority.
“I expect each of us to continue to maintain our fighting condition,” he said in April.
I was both excited and anxious the day I got my orders to Minot Air Force Base. I requested to be sent to a nuclear missile base because of the challenges and opportunities the mission presented. Every day, Airmen at Minot and its sister nuclear missile bases operate, maintain, and secure weapons that have an immediate and direct impact on US strategic policy. The thought of leading those Airmen was awesome but also daunting. In the weeks leading up to my first day in Minot, I was concerned with whether I had what it took to be the right leader in my unit. Unsure of what to do, I simply decided that I would approach everything with optimism and enthusiasm.
In time, I found (miraculously) my plan to simply throw my energy and passion into the job actually worked. I had a great relationship with my commander, my airmen appreciated my effort (or at least found their lieutenant’s attitudes novel/humorous), and I worked well with my peers to accomplish the mission. As a reward for my efforts, I was given an extremely unique opportunity that was the highlight of my time at Minot; the nuclear weapons convoy mission.
It was a major change of pace for me. I had my own unique vehicle fleet, command and control systems, specialized weapons, and an entire flight of hand-picked airmen. I also had to take responsibility for my own mission tasking and planning, work independently, and ensure the dozens of different agencies involved in every convoy were working in harmony with each other. But by far the biggest change for me was that I suddenly found myself with a significant degree of authority and responsibility to accomplish a mission that had very real consequences on US strategic policy.
What I humbly share here are the lessons I learned from long, cold days on the road, ensuring the safe and secure transport of the world’s most destructive weapons. They were hard-won lessons delivered to me in the form of long nights, strange situations, and a desire to do right by the most talented and motivated airmen in the Air Force. I hope these lessons help the next round of lieutenant’s taking up the watch in the great, wide north.
Perhaps my biggest lesson, which was taught to me time after time, was the most important thing I could do in any sort of situation was remain calm. Your troops will reflect your attitude. If you panic, they will panic and start making poor decisions. Their panic will be mirrored and then amplified down the chain. But if you remain cool and calm, your troops will try to emulate your attitude even if they are upset internally. When you talk over the radio, speak clearly and calmly. When you give orders, act naturally and with confidence.
Low emotional neuroticism is what you should seek within yourself. This trait does not mean that you have to be an unfeeling robot as that would be just as bad as being an emotionally reactive person. You should figure out what your “trigger moments” are and then seek to balance your emotions in front of your troops. Remember, don’t sweat the small stuff.
2-Learn to Let Go of Control
Many will find this ironic, but one of the keys to successfully moving a nuclear weapon is to actually let go of control. Not control of the weapon of course, but rather control of the programs and processes that surround the mission. I quickly discovered a nuclear weapons convoy had way too many moving pieces to effectively manage on my own. As a result, I had to rely heavily on my NCOs to manage these moving pieces on my behalf. I did this by providing a clear, guiding intent for their programs and squads, and then giving them as much freedom and power as I could to let them achieve that intent.
While it seems like common sense leadership advice to trust your NCOs, it is still very hard to let go of things that you know you will have to answer for if they go wrong. But trust me, it will work out. We have the most talented airmen in the world and they will find great solutions to the unit’s problems, even if it is not the solution you envisioned.
3-Don’t Let Yourself Get Tribal
As stated before, moving a nuclear weapon across North Dakota requires the coordination of dozens of different units and agencies. It is truly a whole-base effort and a fantastic example of the bigger Air Force in action. This kind of mission requires that the various participants act selflessly to become a “team of teams.”
While unit morale and espirit-de-corps are must haves in any military unit, it should never come at the expense of cooperation with other friendly forces or devolve into petty rivalries. Unfortunately, too often leaders tend to destroy the larger picture under the delusion that we they looking out for our tribe. I had an obligation to build relationships with partner units, learn their processes, and make the whole-base effort happen in order for the nuclear convoy mission to succeed. If you always think in terms of “them” versus “us”, you will find it’s only “us” in the fight and no “them” will be coming to save you.
4-Give Your Leadership the Information They Need
Because of the nature of the position, I frequently found myself in meetings and discussions that other lieutenants were not normally allowed to participate in. I was also the subject matter expert for a very high visibility mission, and thus officers and commanders who were much more senior to me looked to me for my honest opinions on issues that affected the convoy. When questions about the risks involved in a particular mission came up, the heads in the room would turn to me to help determine the outcome (a feeling that I never got used to).
When you do find yourself in a situation where senior leaders want your viewpoint, be respectful and honest. It is your responsibility to provide your leadership with truthful answers and to do so in a way that is not antagonistic. At the same time, you must also be willing to accept your leadership’s decisions based on the information you provide. Trust goes both ways. My leadership trusted me to lead the convoy mission and I trusted them to make decisions on those missions that would keep me and my Airmen safe.
5-Embrace Failure and Avoid Fear
I once read in a history class that a popular saying in the old Strategic Air Command was “to err is human, to forgive is not SAC policy.” While that may sound clever and certainly carries the bravado of General Curtis LeMay with it (the founder of SAC and the modern nuclear Air Force), I can tell you that zero forgiveness makes for an abysmal unit culture.
If you refuse to accept failure while learning from it, you will create a unit culture where members are afraid to come forward, speak up, or sound the alarm to major problems. Your troops will hide things from you, and that type of behavior is what gets people hurt or killed. Show your airmen, through both action and words, honest mistakes are forgiven and embraced as a learning opportunity.
During my entire time at Minot, I made it a point to find the bright side of things and enjoy my job. Like any duty station or mission series, Minot had its fair share of challenges. There is no way to sugarcoat the experience of having to walk out into sub-freezing temperatures and still get the work done. Yet when these situations happened, I looked to others to keep a good attitude and make the best of the situation. I was always able to find a reason to laugh or smile(even if icicles started to gather on my face).
You too can find success with something as simple as finding a reason to smile more often or to laugh at stupid, silly things. Staying calm in front of your airmen can have a similar effect to having a happy attitude and can be contagious in a unit.
I am grateful to the proud Defenders of the 91st Missile Security Operations Squadron who were patient with me as I worked to develop the mission, the airmen, and myself. In the face of -20 degree temperatures and a demanding nuclear mission, they chose to follow me in giving their all towards building a lethal, combat-ready team.
Andrew is an Air Force Security Forces officer currently assigned to Buckley Garrison, US Space Force, Colorado. He oversees base security operations for the installation. He loves taking road trips with his wife and dog, snowboarding beautiful mountains, and enjoying great Colorado beer.