MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

2:20 p.m. on February 20, 2020, is not a time Nikki James Zellner will soon forget.


Zellner received an emergency notification from the daycare her two sons, Ronan and Owen, attend in Virginia Beach, where the Navy family is stationed. The facility alerted parents to come pick up their children due to a carbon monoxide leak.

“When we arrived, the children and staff had been evacuated and I was starting to hear stories related to what was going on behind the scenes,” she said. “The one that gave me the biggest pause was that a teacher’s husband had to bring in a detector because the teachers and students were getting sick after hours of symptoms, and there was no detector on site, because there was no Virginia law requiring them to be.”

At that moment, the narrative for Zellner went from “this happened to my child” to “I’m not going to let this happen to anyone else’s child.”

She started by communicating directly with the daycare, asking direct questions, and refusing to jump to conclusions.

“While waiting for their feedback, I got busy researching,” Zellner explained. “I learned that carbon monoxide (CO) detectors weren’t required in Virginia schools, regardless of if they had a source for CO on-site (common sources are fuel-fired sources like furnaces, HVAC systems, kitchen appliances), if the school was built prior to 2015. It wasn’t part of the state code – and in Virginia, it wouldn’t be retrofitted to existing unless legislation was passed to make it apply.”

But Zellner’s research also uncovered a scary reality nationwide.

“Only five states require CO detectors in educational facilities like daycares, public schools, private schools and any place where children are taken care of,” she said. “How many kids and educators aren’t being protected because people just assume carbon monoxide detectors are on site?”

Zellner’s first points of contact were Senators, Representatives and Delegates that represent Virginia and her district. Then, she spoke to the Director of State Building Codes at the Department of Housing and Community Development to make sure she had a firm understanding exactly of the law and when it applied.

“I also started a petition making folks aware of the situation,” she shared. “Within three days, we had 1,000 signatures. Within the week, we had a breaking news story and a commitment from one of the Delegates to work with us on possibly introducing legislation in the 2021 session.”

To date, Zellner’s petition has more than 1,200 signatures, and her determination landed her on the front page of the Sunday edition of Virginia’s leading newspaper.

“There’s this strange feeling that comes over you when you know that you’re the person that’s supposed to do something,” Zellner emphasized. “That you have the means to do something, and you have the unique perspective to tell the story on why something needs to change. I have a background in media relations and content development, I know how to investigate and ask direct questions, I know how to navigate the political landscape after working in a nonprofit and I’m not afraid to put myself in the line of fire and make a ruckus about it. These are our children. These are our educators. It’s too big of a risk. I feel compelled to raise awareness about it – I can’t explain it any other way. All stakeholders are accountable for solving this – hopefully before it upgrades from close call to tragedy.”

What inspires you about the military community?

The most inspiring thing to me about the military community is their ability to problem solve any situation. What’s today’s mission? How can we help each other? What’s our end goal? This isn’t just the service members – these are the wives, the mil-kids, the support givers – it truly is a community of givers. And it’s up to each member of the community to give more than they take – and I think that really sets the military community apart.

What piece of advice would you give to fellow military spouses?

The biggest piece of advice I have for military spouses is to share your stories. Get comfortable talking about the uncomfortable. Humanize your experiences and make those connections. If we as a group want people to understand our lives, we have to share our lives not just inside but outside of the military community.

What is your life motto?

“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re going to stay silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”

If you could pick one song as the theme song of your life, what would it be and why?

‘No Hard Feelings’ by The Avett Brothers. The Avett Brothers have some of the most honest music out there – and this one just really hits home for me. For me, it’s really about forgiving and being forgiven – and just being able to distinguish what’s important and what’s not so you can live a meaningful life. I think it’s my theme song because even after some really impossible hardships, I’m still able to take gifts from those moments instead of just pain.

What’s your superpower?

I have a fierce love for my people. I will turn superhuman when it comes to their needs – regardless of how much time I have or what’s going on in my life. If you’re someone I trust and love, I will spring into action for you in the biggest way possible.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Unrealistic war movies that still nail military life

It’s no secret that Hollywood has a knack for getting the military wrong in war movies. Whether it’s diverging from reality in movies that are “based on a true story” or it’s pretending grenades create massive fireballs when they explode, the movie industry will always favor drama and spectacular visuals over realism… and to be totally honest, I’m cool with that.

Over the years, I’ve devoted a great deal of my professional life to analyzing the way narratives take shape in the public consciousness. I’ve dug into how different nations leverage media to affect public perceptions (I even wrote a book about it). I’ve explored the ways cultural touchstones like exchanging engagement rings manifested inorganically in corporate board rooms. I’ve even pointed out the ways World War II propaganda still shapes our dietary choices. That’s a long-winded way of saying that my professional interests have long been tied to exploring the undercurrent in mass communications, and further analyzing the ways that undercurrent can shape our perspectives of the world.


With the understanding that I’ve devoted so much of my time to exploring the narrative behind messaging, you can probably imagine that I can be a real party pooper when it comes to watching war movies. Like most vets, I get frustrated when I see uniforms worn incorrectly or when dialogue between service members feels forced or clunky… but unlike many vets, I also can’t help but look past the surface level messaging to try to figure out what filmmakers are trying to say with their choices in presentation.

Film, like any art form, is really an exercise in evoking emotion. When we really love a movie, it’s almost always because we loved the way the movie made us feel as we watched it. Whether we were excited by incredible action sequences or we were enraptured by a budding romance, it’s the experience, our experience, that we actually cherish. Good filmmakers know that, so they often choose to place a larger emphasis on creating an experience than they do on recreating a realistic event. Good movies aren’t good because they’re real–in other words–they’re good because the feelings they create are.

When a movie sucks, however, it’s usually because the director fails to evoke real emotions in the viewer. Bad filmmaking can be just as realistic or unrealistic as good filmmaking. Warner Brother’s famously bad “Green Lantern” movie, as a good example, is often made fun of for its use of an entirely CGI costume on Ryan Reynolds. You might think that’s because CGI costumes are just too unrealistic to be taken seriously… until you realize that most of the costumes you see in the wildly successful Marvel movies are entirely CGI as well. The difference isn’t that one is realistic while the other isn’t–the difference is that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is better at making you care about its characters. Iron Man’s CGI suit simply becomes set-dressing for the character that you’re emotionally invested in.

Marvel isn’t the only studio to get the feeling right, even when it gets facts or realism wrong. In fact, there are a number of war movies that manage the same feat.

(Warner Brothers)

Full Metal Jacket (the first half)

Marines, in particular, tend to hold the first half of Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” in high esteem, and we tend to disregard the second half of the movie as an auteur opining about Vietnam (in a way that doesn’t leave the audience nearly as invested in the characters). Depending on who you ask, they’ll tell you that Marine recruit training is exactly like the movie or not like it at all–and that likely has a lot to do with individual experiences and feelings from one’s own time at the depots.

But whether you ever had to choke yourself with a drill instructor’s hand or not, most Marines feel a distinct kinship with J.T. “Joker” Davis’ platoon. It’s safe to say that most of us didn’t see a fellow recruit shoot our drill instructor in the bathroom (or head, as we call it), but that scene does capture something about recruit training that’s not easy to articulate. For many of us, Marine Recruit Training is the first place we’d ever been where violence is a commodity. We’re learning to fight, to kill, and when you begin broaching the subject in your mind, the experience can be jarring. I recall distinctly the first time I ever truly thought about taking another person’s life and what it would entail, and it was inside a squad bay just like the one you see in “Full Metal Jacket.”

(Paramount Pictures)

The Hunt for Red October

If we’re grading war movies on realism, it would be tough to gloss over the fact that Sean Connery’s Marko Ramius is a Russian submarine captain that talks with a thick Scottish accent. But in terms of capturing the reality of the Cold War as a feeling, “Red October” hits the nail right on the head.

In real life, would we pull a CIA analyst out of his cubicle and drop him into the ocean to climb aboard a nuclear submarine hot on the tail of a rogue Russian captain? Probably not–but by doing so in the film, “The Hunt for Red October” effectively captured the sense of urgency, confusion, and distrust that characterized so much of the Cold War for both American and Soviet officials. Many defense initiatives in the U.S. were driven by concerns that the Soviet’s had developed a technological or strategic advantage, and in a real way, intelligent men and women like Jack Ryan devoted their entire lives to both offsetting those perceived capability gaps, and of course, to preventing nuclear war amid an international, nuclear-fueled, staring contest.

“The Hunt for Red October” may not be the most realistic exploration of Cold War tensions, but it expertly crafts the feeling that permeated the defense community throughout the conflict.

(Universal Pictures)

Jarhead

I won’t lie to you, I still take great issue with certain elements of “Jarhead” — specifically its depiction of Marines as singularly driven by the desire to take lives. However, as an exploration into the emotional ride that is Marine training and service, the desire to get a confirmed kill in “Jarhead’s” second act that I find so abrasive actually perfectly captures the feelings so many service members and veterans have about not seeing combat.

The vast majority of people in the military never take that “kill shot” “Jarhead’s” Anthony Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal) is so focused on, and to be honest, lots of service members wouldn’t want to–but therein lies the point. “Jarhead” is a war movie that tells the story of training extensively for a job that you never get to do, and then returning to a world full of other people’s expectations that you know, inside your head, you’ll never amount to.

Lots of veterans find that they don’t feel “veteran enough” after their time in uniform is up. Maybe they didn’t see combat, or they didn’t see as much combat as others. Maybe their job had them mopping floors in Japan instead of kicking in doors in Iraq, or maybe they never left the wire during their time in the sandbox. Whatever the reason, many veterans (and even active service members) carry a chip on their shoulder created by society’s expectation that we all return home like John Rambo. The truth is, every veteran is veteran enough–but “Jarhead” does an excellent job of sharing that insecurity on film.

(Sony Pictures)

Tears of the Sun

This nearly forgotten 2003 action drama starred Bruce Willis as Lieutenant Waters, a U.S. Navy SEAL charged with leading his team into Nigeria to evacuate a U.S. citizen and medical doctor amid a bloody coup d’etat. When Waters and his SEAL team arrive, however, the doctor refuses to leave without the rest of the members of her small community who will likely be wiped out by rebel soldiers in the area.

What follows is a fairly unrealistic depiction of how military operations are carried out, complete with bloody last stand on the nation’s border in which many of the SEALs ultimately give their lives to protect the fleeing civilians. The movie is, to be honest, some pretty heavy handed American military propaganda (honestly, some of the best war movies are), but it’s precisely because of that arguably jingoistic idealism that this movie so effectively captures the feeling that drives so many of us to sign our enlistment papers.

Most folks in the military chose to join because of a combination of personal interest and idealism. We could use a good job, some help with college, and benefits for our families–but we also want to make a difference in the world. We want to help protect not just our nation’s people, but the ideals our nation represents. “Tears of the Sun” is a story about American service members giving up their lives to do what’s right, and because of that, it strikes the patriotic chord in many of us in a way that resonates deeply, even if the movie itself isn’t a masterclass in filmmaking.

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


MIGHTY TACTICAL

Pepper Spray? There’s an app for that

Time brings continued improvement to the world of CCW handguns. Smaller, lighter, new cartridges, new projectile designs, innovative sighting systems.

On the other hand, you don’t see that sort of innovation in the pepper spray market. Pretty much since its inception, an OC dispenser has been an aerosol can that squirts oleoresin capsaicin. Your choices have been pretty much limited to the size and color of the dispenser, and whether it dispenses the spicy treats in stream, spray, or gel form.


But it’s 2019, and if you want innovation in OC dispensers, it turns out there’s an app for that. More than one, actually.

Sabre is releasing a new Smart Pepper Spray in 2019, which will communicate with your phone via Bluetooth. The app on your phone will alert designated contacts or first responders, marking your position on a map.

Additionally, the app can be used independently of the spray, since the map will show where and when pepper spray has been deployed previously. This function could prove useful if the user is in an unfamiliar town. “Probably don’t want to go jogging there; fifteen OC uses in the last month.”

Also new from Sabre is a combination OC dispenser and auto rescue tool, with a seatbelt cutter and glass breaker. The position of the glass breaker, on the bottom of the canister, opposite the dispensing button, doesn’t seem ideal. Giving yourself a faceful of OC spray while trying to escape a rollover would make an already bad day worse.

Another manufacturer was showing off their own Bluetooth-enhanced Smart Pepper Spray. Plegium, based out of Sweden, packs even more functions into theirs. In addition to the automatic alert function, there’s an audible 130dB alarm. Next to the OC nozzle are a trio of bright LED emitters that strobe 19 times a second to disorient your attacker and make it easier to aim the spray in low light conditions.

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

Articles

SEAL, Purple Heart faker gets 4 years in prison

A man who pretended to be a SEAL has now landed in some very hot water stemming from the fish story he peddled for veterans benefits.


According to an August 2016 release from the United States Attorney’s office for the Northern District of Ohio, Kenneth E. Jozwiak of Kenosha, Wisconsin, was charged with unlawfully exhibiting a military discharge certificate, theft of government money, making false statements to federal agents, and attempting to obstruct an official proceeding. He pleaded guilty on Feb. 23 to all of the charges.

“This defendant’s lies about his service are an affront to those who saw combat and those wounded fighting on behalf of our nation,” said Carole S. Rendon, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. “This defendant did neither, and falsely inflated his service record in an effort to get additional benefits.”

The 67-year-old Jozwiak claimed he had been awarded the Purple Heart on four occasions, and had seen combat as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam. The crimes he was indicted on carry a maximum sentence of 36 years in prison combined, but according to a May 18 Justice Department release, Jozwiak will serve four years in federal prison for conning the VA out of $2,289 in 2014.

Members of U.S. Navy Seal Team One move down the Bassac River in a Seal team Assault Boat (STAB) during operations along the river south of Saigon. (US Navy photo)

Assistant U.S. Attorney Benedict S. Gullo prosecuted the case, which was handled by the Cleveland office of the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General-Criminal Investigative Division.

The Stolen Valor Act of 2005 made lying about being awarded military medals a crime. The law was overturned in 2012 by the Supreme Court in United States vs. Alvarez in a 6-3 ruling. The Stolen Valor Act of 2013 made lying about a veteran status or awards for to gain benefits to be a crime.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 Army jobs that civilians get all wrong

Civilians sometimes try to understand the military, but between media depictions, the stories of bygone eras, and common misconceptions, there are a lot of jobs within the service that the public just doesn’t understand at all.

Here’s a list of just six jobs from the Army that civilians don’t understand:


This guy has to be able to provide emergency first aid under fire, read a battlefield to exploit enemy missteps, and call in helicopters and supporting fire when necessary, all while dodging bullets and attempting to outmaneuver an enemy who likely grew up in the fields he’s fighting in.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kenneth Pawlak)

Infantry

It’s easy to understand the infantry stereotypes of dumb grunts. In the old draft Army, lots of guys were shucked into the infantry and other combat arms branches to simply fill uniforms and foxholes. If they were dumb — oh well, their draft would end soon anyway.

Modern infantry is very different. While grunts today have a well-earned reputation for being occasionally immature and often crude, they also have a well-earned reputation for precision and tactical and strategic foresight.

Today, we expect 19- and 20-year-old specialists and corporals to lead small teams, positioning themselves and two other soldiers in the exact right position to have the maximum impact, sometimes without guidance from squad and platoon sergeants too busy with other tasks. It’s the age of the “strategic corporal,” and we simply can’t afford dumb grunts.

Soldiers bow their head in prayer during a Memorial Day Ceremony while deployed to Afghanistan.

(U.S. Army photo by Maj. Richard Barker)

Chaplain’s assistant

People imagine the nerdiest kid from their Bible study class — and those kids do join as chaplain’s assistants sometimes — but the mission they’re required to do is less, “badly sing songs on guitar” and more “kill any threats to the chaplain while providing religious support to members of your faith, as well as Christians, Jews, Wiccans, Pagans, and members of any other faith who happen to be in your unit.”

See, chaplains and their assistants are tasked with tending to the spiritual needs of all members of the unit, even the atheists. The chaplain can only fire a weapon in a purely defensive way — and that very, very rarely happens. So that means the assistant, who also helps everyone, has to eliminate any threats to the chaplain when they’re working near the front.

Meanwhile, the chaplains and their assistants also provide counseling services to soldiers with various issues, from marital infidelity to survivor’s guilt to suicidal thoughts or actions.

That’s an Army tug, one of the service’s smaller watercraft. Larger vessels are big enough to carry multiple tanks and trucks at once.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Thomas Belton)

Watercraft operator

Most people assume that the Army has no ships or boats and, if they do, it must just be a couple of jet skis or landing crafts for hitting beaches. Well, the Army doesn’t have any ships, but they do have quite a few boats that are key logistical assets, moving massive amounts of much-needed supplies between ports and beaches. The vessels are both larger than people think and more capable than they appear.

Some of the vessels can carry everything from humvees to tanks. The larger vehicles can carry trucks, armor, and literal tons of ammunition, weapons, or food. The Army also has tugs and dredges to keep rivers and ports open. Some of the ships can cross the ocean, but typically operate near the shore or on rivers. And yes, watercraft operators deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, where they provided a key logistical service on rivers and canals.

These are military police. That is not a radar gun.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jameson Crabtree)

Military police

Yes, military police break up bar brawls and issue speeding tickets like you see in the movies. But many of them are also trained in maneuver warfare and have that as their primary role, meaning that they’re much more focused on defending American convoys from determined Taliban attacks — complete with machine guns, rockets, and IEDs — than whether you’re driving 22 in a 20-mph zone.

They’re equipped and trained for the maneuver mission with Mk. 19 automatic grenade launchers, M2 .50-cal. machine guns, and AT-4 anti-tank recoilless-rifles. The military police branch also includes investigators who serve as true detectives on base, solving crimes from petty theft to sexual assault to murder.

Truck drivers load ammo during an exercise.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Joshua Boisvert)

Truck driver

Like infantry, these guys have a reputation for being dumb. Worse, they’re also assumed to be “in the rear with the gear.” But there’s an old strategy that states tactics win battles and logistics wins wars — and smart enemies know to attack the supply chains.

There’s a reason that so many images from Iraq and Afghanistan are of burning trucks. The insurgents were smart enough to target the fuel trucks and supply convoys to starve out remote outposts, putting the truck drivers in the crosshairs. Meanwhile, training the drivers takes a long time since most of them have to learn to drive everything from humvees to armored semi-trucks with loads ranging from two tons to over five.

An Iraqi-American soldier refuels vehicles during a drivers training class.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jessica DuVernay)

Fuelers

Notice that mention of fuel trucks above? Yeah, Army petroleum supply specialist may sound like a glorified gas attendant, but these guys have to build and maintain fuel points across the battlefield, sometimes within range of enemy artillery or mortars.

Imagine a gas attendant who’s willing to stay at their post as enemy shells are blowing up the huge bags of fuel surrounding them, trying desperately to get a final few, crucial gallons of fuel into the helicopter before it takes off the beat back the attack.

It’s more intense than you think.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s what Spec Ops vets and female soldiers think of the first female Green Beret

For the first time in American history, a female Soldier has completed U.S. Army Special Forces training and has earned the right to don the legendary Green Beret.

Despite how often people get the moniker wrong, Special Forces is only a title that applies to the U.S. Army’s elite special operations Green Berets. SEALs, Rangers, Marine Raiders and others all fall under the broader term of “Special Operations,” but only the Green Berets are rightfully called Special Forces.


“Good for her! It was only a matter of time and I would guess it will become more and more common over the next few years, across USSOF.”
-Former Navy SEAL/CIA Officer Frumentarius

Special Forces Assessment and Selection (US Army)

In 2013, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta removed the formal ban on women serving in combat roles, and in 2016 all military occupational specialties were opened up to female service members, including those in elite special operations fields.

“There will be no exceptions,” former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said in 2015. “They’ll be allowed to drive tanks, fire mortars and lead infantry soldiers into combat. They’ll be able to serve as Army Rangers and Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Marine Corps infantry, Air Force parajumpers and everything else that was previously open only to men.”

The identity of the woman that fought her way through all six phases of Special Forces training has not been revealed, citing privacy concerns for the Army’s newest Green Beret, but the impact of her accomplishment remains.

We don’t need to know her name or see her to be inspired by her, just knowing that there is a female green beret can motivate any Soldier to do better or to reach for their goals.”
-Specialist Hannah Johnson, Utah National Guard

What we do know about this history-making Soldier is that she was among only a handful of females that made it through the initial 24-day assessment that serves as a screening to eliminate those who may not have the mental or physical capacity to complete the training. Now, even with Special Forces training behind the America’s female Green Beret, her days of training are far from over. Once you earn a spot in a Special Operations unit, training is continuous to ensure special operators are well prepared for any challenges they may face.

Special Forces Green Beret soldiers from each of the Army’s seven Special Forces Groups stand silent watch during the wreath-laying ceremony at the grave of President John F. Kennedy (U.S. Army Photo)

Former Green Beret NCO and Warrant Officer Steve Balestrieri used to oversee portions of the selection process, and earlier this year wrote an article for Sandboxx News entitled, “Women Passing Special Forces Selection? Yes you can,” in which he outlines the challenges all aspiring Green Berets must face, as well as some that are specific to females serving in that capacity. We asked Balestrieri how he feels about seeing this historic event unfold.

“I think that (from what I heard from those who know), this woman had no corners cut for her, and not only met but exceeded the standards. For her, now the journey really begins. I truly wish her all the best.”
-Former Green Beret Steve Balestrieri

As Balestrieri writes in his piece, some members of the Special Operations community may well harbor some outdated beliefs when it comes to women serving in these elite roles, but as he points out (and our discussions with other Special Operations veterans seem to further prove), many of America’s elite warfighters are happy to see their female peers work their way into their elite company.

“I wish her all the best, I hope she crushes it. There are a lot of outside opinions that ultimately don’t matter so long as she does her job and does it well.”
“At the end of the day, SOF is a place where politics don’t really matter as long as you can do your job to standard.”
-Luke Ryan, Former Army Ranger

A U.S. Army Special Forces soldier with the National Guard shares best practices to U.S. and Chile counterparts. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Osvaldo Equite/Released)

Green Berets are tasked with a number of difficult mission sets in combat environments, from direct action operations to training foreign military forces to provide their own defense. Alongside their peers in the Special Operations community, Green Berets have served as part of the backbone of America’s presence in Global War on Terror operations the world over.

Earning the right to wear the Green Beret is an incredible feat for any Soldier, but becoming the first female to earn one is not only historic, it’s an important message to Soldiers of all types across the force: Being a man is not a prerequisite to becoming one of America’s most elite war fighters. Because the history-making Soldier serves in the National Guard, it also shines a valuable light on the opportunities service members of both genders have in both active and reserve capacities.

“I mean it’s a major win for females everywhere, it’s bigger than just the Army, especially the National Guard. It’s proof that women are capable and that institutions are capable of change. She’ll be able to bring her own strengths and capabilities to that community, which will make it better. “
-Specialist Hannah Johnson, Utah National Guard

In 1981, a female Soldier named Capt. Kathleen Wilder was failed as she very nearly completed Special Forces training. After an investigation into her dismissal, it was found that she had “been wrongly denied graduation.” Now, nearly four decades later, significant challenges remain for women in military service, but this momentous occasion is a step in the right direction.

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

Articles

Trump’s federal hiring freeze could impact veterans who’ve already been offered a job

President Donald J. Trump arrives at the Inaugural Parade during the 58th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C. Jan. 20, 2017.


In a moved that shook the federal workforce, President Trump ordered a freeze in the hiring process of all executive branch departments, effective at noon on January 22, 2017.

A report from the Office of Personnel Management estimates that veterans made up about 44 percent of new hires in the executive branch during fiscal year 2015. The total number of veterans employed was 623,755, or roughly 31 percent of the entire executive branch.

So what does this mean for veterans now in the process of seeking employment with the government? Unfortunately, even federal employees currently working in the executive branch aren’t sure.

We Are the Mighty consulted with a Division Director at one of the federal departments, who asked to remain anonymous due to the department being ordered to cease all public communications.

“We just don’t have many answers,” the source told WATM. “This is a very different political environment and we don’t know what to expect.”

We Are the Mighty obtained the “Memorandum for Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies,” signed by acting director of Office of Management and Budget Mark Sandy.

Sent to the heads of the departments, the memorandum read, in part, “An individual who has received a job offer/appointment prior to January 22, 2017, and who has received documentation from the agency that specifies a confirmed start date on or before February 22, 2017, should report to work on that start date.”

Individuals who were offered a position before Jan. 22 but do not have a start date (or a date after February 22) may find that employment offer rescinded. According to the Memorandum for Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, those positions offered will be under review.

Agencies will be tasked with considering “merit system principles, essential mission priorities, and current agency resources and funding levels” when it comes to determining whether job offers should be rescinded.

At this time, the hiring freeze applies to every executive department except for the Department of Defense, and even then, it only allows for recruiting into active duty.

The leadership in any given executive department may grant an exemption to the freeze if he or she believes it to be in the best interest of national security or public safety, according to the press release from the White House.

This public safety exemption rule could be what helps the Department of Veterans Affairs continue to attempt to fill what it might deem necessary positions among the 3,473 jobs listed on its website — though it is unclear exactly how many of those positions could be considered in the interest of national security or public safety.

That same argument can be made for a large number of positions available at the Department of Defense. As DoD employees are directly related to national security, the department seems to have wide latitude over how it will respond to the hiring freeze.

The President has given the Office of Management and Budget 90 days to present a “long-term plan to reduce the size of the Federal Government’s workforce through attrition.” Upon implementation of that plan, the executive order will expire.

This hiring freeze is part of one of the many campaign promises President Trump made last year to drastically shrink the federal government.

Articles

The F-35 may be ready for prime time

After achieving an awesome air-to-air kill ratio of 15-to-one, the F-35 trounced ground targets at the US Air Force’s Red Flag exercise — and now the world’s most expensive weapons system may finally be ready for the front lines.


For the first time ever, the F-35 competed against legacy aircraft and simulated surface-to-air missile batteries at “the highest level threats we know exist,” according to a statement from Lt. Col. George Watkins, an F-53 squadron commander.

“Just as we’re getting new systems and technology, the adversary’s threats are becoming more sophisticated and capable,” said Watkins, nodding to the expansive counter-stealth and anti-air capabilities built up by the Russians and Chinese over the years.

Also read: The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter

But the F-35 program has long carried the promise of delivering a plane that can outsmart, outgun, and out-stealth enemy systems, and the latest run at Red Flag seems to have vindicated the troubled 16-year long program. Not only can the F-35 operate in heavily contested airspace, which render F-15s, F-16s, and F-18s as sitting ducks, but it can get more done with fewer planes.

“I flew a mission the other day where our four-ship formation of F-35As destroyed five surface-to-air threats in a 15-minute period without being targeted once,” said Maj. James Schmidt, a former A-10 pilot now flying F-35s.

Four planes taking out five SAM sites in 15 minutes represents nothing less than a quantum leap in capability for the Air Force, which prior to the F-35 would have to target threats with long-range missiles before getting close to the battle.

An F-35A Lightning II from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, takes off from Nellis AFB, Nev., Feb. 2, 2017, during Red Flag 17-01. This is the first F-35A deployment to Red Flag since the Air Force declared the jet combat ready in August 2016. | US Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw

“We would shoot everything we had at that one threat just to take it out. Now between us and the (F-22) Raptor, we are able to geo-locate them and precision target them,” Watkins said, adding that F-35s are so stealthy, “we can get close enough to put a bomb right on them.”

But that’s only one of the multi-role F-35’s jobs. After obliterating ground threats, F-35 pilots said they turned right around and started hammering air threats.

The F-35 came out of Red Flag such a ringing success that Defense News reports that the strike aircraft is now being considered at the highest levels for overseas deployments.

Airmen load a bomb into the F-35A’s internal bomb bay. | US Air Force

“I think based on the data that we’re hearing right now for kill ratios, hit rates with bombs, maintenance effectiveness … those things tell me that the airplane itself is performing extremely well from a mechanical standpoint and … that the proficiency and skills of the pilots is at a level that would lead them into any combat situation as required,” Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, head of the Air Force’s F-35 integration office told Defense News.

With that success on record, Pleus will now consider deploying a small group of six to eight F-35s overseas as part of a “theater security package” to help train and integrate with US allies.

UK and Australian contingents participated in this installment of Red Flag. Both countries plan to buy and operate the F-35 in the near future.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 little reasons why being in the Space Force would suck

The announcement of the Space Force has plenty of us waiting for the day that the first recruitment office opens up. After all, who wouldn’t want to go into space?

Sure, the Space Force isn’t going to be doing a bunch of sci-fi bad*ssery for a long while yet. In fact, the Space Force is likely going to spend more time monitoring satellites than training space shuttle door gunners, but let’s pretend that the day will eventually come where we need to send grunts into the great, dark beyond…

I hate to say it, but it’s still going to suck — and for some unexpected reasons, most of which stem from being outside of the Earth’s atmosphere.


I’m highly confident that it’d be a terrible idea.

(20th Century Fox)

5. You’re going to have to ration everything

When it comes to the essentials, resupplies are going to be limited. When it comes to the extras, you know, the little things that make life comfortable? Ha! Good luck getting mom to ship those out to you. If you want something, you’re going to have to bring it yourself and make it last.

Right off the bat, you’re going to have to go without most of the junk that everyone takes for granted. Chances are extremely slim that you’ll be able to convince the next wave of spacemen (in lieu of an official demonym, let’s assume they’ll be called ‘spacemen,’ like ‘airmen’) to take up valuable cargo space just to bring you a bag of chips.

The Earth is pretty and all, but you can only stare down at the Big Blue Marble so many times…

(NASA)

4. You won’t have many pastime options

Astronauts have a very strict schedule they need to follow or else they’ll be too weak to survive their eventual return. The average astronaut needs to exercise at least two hours a day to just to prevent bone and muscle loss. Since most troops tend to need more exercise to stay at peak performance, this figure will more than likely double.

Combine all that self-maintenance with an actual mission and troops are going to find themselves with barely any time to take a break.

Just imagine, you could pay off your Ford Mustang by the time you get out of atmosphere.

(NASA)

3. You probably won’t get any extra incentives for being in space

Colonel Buzz Aldrin was one of the finest airmen to ever grace the Air Force. He made history alongside Neil Armstrong by being the first men to ever step foot on the moon. Since he was on active duty, he submitted a travel voucher. For his 483,636-mile journey, he got a whole .31.

Once upon a time, you’d get a load of cash at the end of a TDY trip, but that per-mile rate is probably going to be non-existent when you’re travelling 4.76 miles per second.

It’s like being in a slightly less comfortable Humvee for weeks. Only slightly, though.

(NASA photo by Bill Bowers)

2. You shouldn’t expect any kind of personal space in space

Once you’re on a space ship, that’s it. You obviously can’t leave the ship, so get comfortable, because you’re going to be packed in with your unit. If you’re claustrophobic, you’re probably going to go nuts.

This isn’t unlike what some submariners deal with, but subs surface every once in a while — and there’s a difference of magnitude here. The Apollo 11 capsule was roughly the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. Granted, the crew was in there for only eleven days and modern astronauts have a bit more leg room, but if you’re up there for months at a time…

“Well, guys. I’m out. Have fun in space!”

(U.S. Air Force photo by Volkmar Wentzel)

1. After a while, your body won’t function like you’re used to

There’s no real order to the fairly terrible things listed here, but this one definitely takes the top spot. To put this in the most delicate way possible to stay in line with the family-friendly vibe we strive for here at We Are The Mighty, it has to be noted that astronauts run into health concerns after spending extended periods of space time. First, you’ll find your red blood cell count has dipped. Zero-gravity also makes the circulation of blood more evenly spread throughout the body, as opposed to it being able to concentrate in the lower extremities, like it does in regular gravity.

There are countless health concerns that come with spending extended time in space, but all of the above is to say that it’s actually extremely difficult for male astronauts to get an erection in space.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Army Ranger Tyler Grey achieves directorial debut with ‘SEAL Team’

“[Directing has] been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember,” shared Tyler Grey, who self-declares on Instagram as “a geeky kid trapped in the body of a nerdy adult.” For those who know his story, however, he’s got a pretty respectable warrior side, too.

A former Delta Force operator and sniper-qualified Army Ranger, Grey’s military career came to an end when he was “blown up in Sadr City” (his words, not mine), resulting in a medical retirement. His right arm still bears the scars from that attack — but he hasn’t let it keep him from actively supporting the military community.

For the past few years, that has meant portraying Trent Sawyer in front of the camera on SEAL Team while helping to produce and act as a military consultant behind the scenes. With Unbecoming an Officer (Season 3 Episode 10), he finally puts on a very coveted hat: director.


[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B5vyuZ1n41t/ expand=1]Tyler Grey on Instagram: “So the episode I directed airs next Wednesday 12/11! Here is a promo for it and excuse me right now for the fact that I will post about it…”

www.instagram.com

Check out the episode promo:

Most veterans agree that watching shows and films about military service can feel frustrating. It’s hard to get the nuances of military culture right — especially when storytellers are focused on either placing heroes on a pedestal or exposing their trauma.

SEAL Team has been a show actively committed to getting it right by hiring veterans as architects for the story. Grey is not the only service member CBS has brought on board. In a particularly poignant Season 2 episode, the show explored veteran suicide, a tragic issue that hits the military community at too-high a rate. The episode was written by former frogman Mark Semos.

Also read: We have to talk about this week’s SEAL Team

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B56ANDwngdU/ expand=1]Tyler Grey on Instagram: “He is another clip from tomorrow nights episode. Sadly it won’t let me post more than a minute but you get the idea. The guy at the…”

www.instagram.com

Grey’s leadership qualities are clear even from a distance. He’s quick to give his team credit for successes (and quick to accept blame for any shortcomings — even in jest).

He’s also great at balancing the line between Hollywood and reality.

“95% of the time if there is something technically wrong on the show there is a TV or dramatic reason for it,” he clarified in advance of the, I’m sure, flood of comments about unused NODS in an episode.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B3skAiRn-hP/ expand=1]Tyler Grey on Instagram: “Episode 3 airing tonight at 9/8c. So one thing I’ll mention here that I get asked a lot about in reference to the show is why things aren’t…”

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To be clear, directing for television is a highly competitive gig. Throw in stunts, battle scenes, smoke, and special effects and you’ve got a major learning curve for a first-timer.

This is where military training really does bring excellence to the surface. A good leader knows who to turn to for guidance (the NCO or SNCO, always…), how to identify and utilize the strengths of the team, when to be definitive, and when to ask for help.

“On a serious note I hope those who watch it enjoy — a lot of people worked really hard to help this come together,” he shared.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B50yidLHIrc/ expand=1]Tyler Grey on Instagram: “No idea what I was talking about looking at this picture but I probably didn’t know then either.. Thanks again to the crew, the cast and…”

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It’s great to see a huge network recognizing the capabilities of veterans in the filmmaking industry — especially in military terrain. Service members give up years of their creative careers while their civilian colleagues build resumes. During that time, however, vets rack up some marketable skills and experiences that benefit a set.

SEAL Team is one show that is really paving the way for veterans to show what they’re made of. It’s an opportunity, not a right, and the professionals know it. When they do step up, however, it makes the series stronger.

Grey isn’t the only veteran who has directed for the show. U.S. Marine Michael Watkins, who has an impressive television resume that includes The Blacklist, Quantum Leap, and Prison Break, has also taken the helm.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B5Y6jdAnTGg/ expand=1]Tyler Grey on Instagram: “Tonight’s episode directed by Marine Veteran Michael Watkins. So this one was rough as we lost our location that all the action was based…”

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From its consultants to its writers and directors to its cast and, yes, even down to its three-line co-stars, SEAL Team gives members of the military community the opportunity to excel after service.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B4vYabMHtdo/ expand=1]Tyler Grey on Instagram: “Define irony: Working on a military show, as a veteran, on Veterans Day. Just kidding I appreciate the opportunity and truly love this…”

www.instagram.com

Make sure you check out Grey’s episode Wednesday Dec. 11 at 9 eastern on CBS and let him know you’ve got his six.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the OG of tactical clothing and gear manufacturing

‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.


For tactical dads and tacticool dudes (and dudettes):

~ Military grade apparel and gear by the company that pretty much invented the game ~

(Photo via GovX. They sell gear to vets at a discount…just saying.)

As 2017 comes to a close, we at WATM HQ are sitting around sipping ‘nog and musing on bromance. (Make sure you’re reading that right: we’re pronouncing it “bro-mance.“) We’re musing on bromance, brotherhood, and big birthdays.

In 2017, Propper celebrated a big one, it’s 50th year of operation and 50 years of being best bros with the U.S. Armed Forces.

That is no small thing.

You know who else turned 50 in 2017?  Vin Diesel. He’s no small thing either, but considering that he rang in his Golden Man-niversary mired in beef with the Rock (who is enormous), we’d say Propper is probably the more deserving of your respect.

You know the Rock would never call Propper a candy-ass. Afterall, he spends a good deal of his time wearing the kind of apparel they perfected.

Props to @amen_walker for scoping the Hollywood wardrobe malfunction.

Over the last 50 years, Propper has become one of the military’s main uniform and tactical gear suppliers. Their bromance with the Department of Defence began in 1967 when Propper’s founder, William S. Propper, received an order from the DLA for Dixie Cups.

Y’know, these:

Navy standard uniform? If only…

Since then, they’ve manufactured more than 120 million garments for all branches of the armed force (and more than 30 million personnel have worn their gear). Check out the stats:

Propper also outfits numerous law enforcement agencies and emergency rescue crews all over the country. In 2012, they added tactical footwear to their repertoire. In 2014, as the Rock was appearing as the title character in Hercules and Vin was voicing Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy, Propper got big into body armor. In typical fashion, they left their mark on the standard technology.

Propper values its brotherhood with the military. They are passionate about the servicemembers they outfit. It’s a passion that hasn’t wavered in 50 years. They put incredible thought into all of their gear. We at WATM HQ are huge fans of who they are and what they do. We like them so much, we make high production value internet odes to their products:

Our firm resolution for 2018 is to dupe the Rock into starring in the next video we make about Propper. Or failing that, Vin Diesel. Or better yet, both.

That’s assuming they can remember that beefin’ ain’t the Propper way for brothers to behave.

(Seriously, please don’t beef, guys. It’s weird when Daddy and Daddy fight.)

The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.

Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Honoring the life of one of the ‘richest and most beloved men in America’

Ross Perot, the self-made billionaire, philanthropist and third-party presidential candidate, died July 9, 2019, at his home in Texas. He was 89.

Henry Ross Perot was born in Texarkana, Texas, on June 27, 1930. His story is the epitome of hard work, and one that has rarely been equaled: He rose from Depression-era poverty to become one of the richest and most beloved men in America.

Read the tributes, the stories, interviews, memoirs, and what pops up most, the one constant is that Perot never stopped working.


As a boy, he delivered newspapers. He joined the Boy Scouts at 12, then made Eagle Scout in just 13 months. In his US Naval Academy yearbook, a classmate wrote: “As president of the Class of ’53 he listened to all gripes, then went ahead and did something about them.” At 25, he personally “dug his father’s grave with a shovel and filled it as a final tribute to him.” At 27, after leaving the Navy, he went to work at IBM where he soon became a top salesman. One year, he met the annual sales quota by the second week of January. At 32, he’d left IBM and formed his own company, Electronic Data Systems. By 38, when he took the company public, he was suddenly worth 0 million. In the 80s, Perot sold the company for billions, then started another company, Perot Systems Corp., that later sold for billions more.

Ross Perot, 1986.

“Every day he came to work trying to figure out how he could help somebody,” said Ross Perot Jr., in an interview.

And that’s another thing that pops up, another constant: Perot’s connection to people, to his employees, to POWs in North Vietnam and their families, to Gulf War Veterans suffering from a mysterious illness, and to the millions of Americans he reached in self-paid 30-minute TV spots in the 90s when he ran for president.

“Ross Perot epitomized the entrepreneurial spirit and the American creed,” said Former President George W. Bush, in a statement. “He gave selflessly of his time and resources to help others in our community, across our country, and around the world. He loved the U.S. military and supported our service members and veterans. Most importantly, he loved his dear wife, children, and grandchildren.”

That’s the last thing, the most important thing — his family.

“I want people to know about Dad’s twinkle in his eyes,” said daughter Nancy Perot. “He always gave us the biggest hugs. We never doubted that we were the most important things in his life.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The coolest souvenir at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge won’t cost you a dime

After you sink money into travel, tickets, and blue milk at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge you might not have much cash left over for a customized lightsaber or droid. Thankfully, there’s one souvenir you can take home that won’t cost you a dime: an only-available-at-Galaxy’s Edge drink coaster.

The coasters are available at Oga’s Cantina. As you can see in the images below, shared by some of the lucky few who’ve experienced the park pre-opening day, there are several different designs to choose from, with Star Wars icons like Ewoks and Banthas. Designs featuring a Rancor and the T-16 Skyhopper are also available.


There’s already a fairly vibrant market on eBay for the coasters, along with the souvenir mugs you can also pick up at the bar. There’s the Endor mug that holds the Yub Nub, a concoction of pineapple and spiced rums, citrus juices, and passion fruit, and the Cliff Dweller, a kid-friendly blend of citrus juices, coconut, hibiscus-grenadine, and Ginger Ale.

Parents who don’t want the upcharge of a souvenir mug can sip on cocktails like the Jedi Mind Trick, the Dagobah Slug Slinger, and Fuzzy Tauntaun. There are also beers brewed especially for the bar with names like White Wampa Ale, Gamorrean Ale, and Bad Motivator IPA.

And if you don’t feel like getting tipsy at a theme park, opt for a sugar rush from non-alcoholic beverages like the Hyperdrive (Punch It!), a mixture of Mountain Berry Blast Powerade, white cranberry juice, black cherry puree, and Sprite. (Your kids will probably like those too.)T

his article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.