The American Legion has stepped in with offers of limited assistance for Coast Guard personnel working without pay should the partial government shutdown continue.
In a statement on Jan. 7, 2019, Legion National Commander Brett Reistad also called on members of Congress to back the “Pay Our Coast Guard Act” introduced by Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota.
The bill would exempt the Coast Guard from the shutdown funding cutoff affecting its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The proposed exemption would also cover Coast Guard retiree benefits, death gratuities, and other related payouts.
Currently, about 42,000 Coast Guard personnel are working without pay. DHS and the Coast Guard were able to find funding for members’ last paychecks, which went out Dec. 31, 2018. The next paychecks for Coast Guardsmen are due Jan. 15, 2019.
U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class John Cantu, with the Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team mans a mounted machine gun on a 25-foot Response Boat-Small in front of the Washington Monument in Washington.
(DoD photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lisa Ferdinando, U.S. Coast Guard)
Reistad said the Legion backs the Thune bill legislation, “which will guarantee that these heroes who guarantee our safety and security will be paid on time and not miss a single paycheck.”
“Just because a Washington flowchart structures the Coast Guard under Homeland Security does not mean they should not be paid,” he added.
The Legion is prepared to offer financial assistance to some Coast Guardsmen.
“In the event that there is a delay in paying our Coast Guard, I have directed administrators of the American Legion Temporary Financial Assistance program to stand by and quickly administer requests made by active-duty Coast Guard members with children who need help with living expenses,” Reistad said.
However, he noted, “As a nonprofit, the American Legion is not capable of funding the entire Coast Guard payroll.”
The Veterans of Foreign Wars also called Congress to find a way to keep paying Coast Guard personnel.
“Our country needs this Congress and this White House to push through the rhetoric and take care of those who are on the front lines protecting our country,” B.J. Lawrence, VFW national commander, said in a statement. “What the Coast Guard and DHS do daily allows the rest of us to sleep easier at night. No one should ever take that for granted.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The Army wants its mortar systems to be even more mobile, accurate, and quick to fire. Moreover, they want mortar crews to be able to park a Humvee with a tube mounted to it and then get out of there.
The Advanced Direct Indirect Fire Mortar system gives them all of that and a direct-fire capability too.
The ADIMs is currently being tested and displayed as an 81mm system on a Humvee, but it could be adapted to other calibers and light tactical vehicles. A “soft-recoil” system allows larger mortars — historically limited to larger, heavy vehicles like the Stryker — to be mounted on the Humvee or its replacement, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.
Humvees are able to reach a lot of places Strykers and other larger vehicles can’t, allowing the mortars to quickly reach parts of the battlefield they otherwise couldn’t.
Once the mortar is in position, it can be manually worked by a standard mortar crew or remotely operated by a fire direction center. In theory, this would allow the weapon to be dropped or driven into position and then fired without a human mortar crew. Someone would still have to secure it though, since it’s a powerful, advanced weapons system.
But then mortarmen could just emplace the weapon and play spades while the FDC worries about firing it. Once the weapon is fired, it’s capable of being moved within 50 seconds to avoid enemy counter fire.
Of course, the ADIM only really matters if it makes it to the battlefield. The ADIM shares a lot of traits with the Marine Corps Dragon Fire and Dragon Fire II mortar systems.
The Dragon Fire was tested by the Marine Corps, upgraded to the Dragon Fire II, and then shelved. Instead, the Marine Corps adopted the M327, a highly-mobile, rifled mortar without the automation of the ADIM or Dragon Fire systems.
How far would you go to reunite with a symbol you love?
For one Iraqi man, it took 13 years, 7,474 miles, help from a family member, a trip to an isolated field, and a rusty can to reclaim a treasured part of his life — an American flag.
Staff Sgt. Ahmed* shared how reuniting with the America flag changed the course of his life as he spoke to the Iron Soldiers of 1st Battalion “Bandits,” 37th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division Sept. 11, on East Fort Bliss.
More than 200 soldiers listened intently as Ahmed gave tribute to the Bandits he served and fought with during the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Remembering the Bandit legacy
In 2003, Ahmed was serving as the official military translator for the Iron Soldiers of the 1-37 AR, 2nd ABCT. His assignment was to translate for the unit’s command team during meetings with local dignitaries and special missions. After a few months, however, the Iraqi native began to work heavily with infantry troops and accompanied them on raids, night missions and surveillances through downtown Baghdad.
The now 37-year-old vividly described the core of his job as working with U.S. soldiers, becoming part of their team and sharing in their comradery.
Staff Sgt. Ahmed speaks to Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division during a ceremony held at the 1-37 AR motor pool Sept. 11, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Michael West)
“I wanted to help these U.S. soldiers,” he said. “I wanted to be a part of rebuilding the Iraqi police and the Iraqi Army. When I got the chance to become a linguist for the Bandits, I witnessed, learned and experienced many things.”
Ahmed recounted images filled with watching local streets in Iraq swarmed with Bradley Fighting Vehicles, tanks, convoys and barbed-wire fences. He said that even at a young age, he had a drive to bring change into his country. He added that although his own family was proud, and they respected his decision to help U.S. troops, he had to remain cautious, as the war-torn county remained in turmoil.
Ahmed continued his work with the American soldiers, who believed in him enough to invite him into their inner circle of trust during his time with the 1-37 AR, 2nd ABCT. They continued working together on missions and conducting local surveillances. During this time, he began to appreciate the strength and core values of the U.S. Army and its soldiers.
“I began to see the Army as a melting pot,” he said. “There was so much diversity and different nationalities, and yet they fought together, they served together and they mourned together. Although I was from a different culture, they trained me and respected my background and ethnicity. As my role as their translator increased, so did our brotherhood.”
Ahmed said the Bandits’ last ambush toward Fallujah was a memory that will always stay with him. It was an intense mission and not every soldier survived.
“You are never prepared to lose a comrade,” he said. “On that mission, I lost my best friend, Sgt. Scott Larson. It was hard to believe. These soldiers were the same age as me and we all bonded; we formed a team.”
When the Bandits’ deployment was extended and assigned to a different area of operation, the soldiers presented Ahmed with an American flag. Each of the soldiers signed the flag to solidify their loyalty and friendship. He recalled how proud and honored he felt to receive it.
“It meant so much to me to become a part of the team with these great soldiers,” he said. “I saw their discipline and integrity every day, and I was honored that they gave this U.S. flag to me.”
Ahmed continued his work with the American soldiers. In 2005, two years after his time with the Bandits, he decided to take the flag to his home in Baghdad; he wanted to hang it in his room. He protected the flag with two heavy-duty plastic bags and then hid it inside a gym bag. But, while traveling home, his bus driver received a call that there was an anti-American checkpoint ahead.
Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division with Staff Sgt. Ahmed pose after a ceremony held at the 1-37 motor pool Sept. 11, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Michael West)
Ahmed knew he could lose his life if he was caught with an American flag. In a panic, he decided to descend the bus and walk off the freeway. He continued walking until he got to a residential neighborhood. He then quickly buried the bag using and old-rusty tin can as a shovel.
Why I serve
Ahmed moved to the United States in 2008. Inspired by his time with the Bandits and seeing their dedication for upholding the Army values, he took the oath of enlistment to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and become a U.S. soldier. He now lives in California and serves as a staff sergeant in the Active Guard Reserve.
In 2016 Ahmed’s parents made a special trip from Iraq to visit him and celebrate his accomplishments. But before his parents departed the country, Ahmed called his father with one special request – locate the buried flag and bring it with him to the United States.
“Even though more than a decade had passed since I buried the flag in Iraq, I knew exactly where it was buried, and I instructed my father to please bring it to the U.S.,” said Ahmed. “When my father told me he had located the flag, a part of me was alive again.”
The proud father and husband said his dream came true when he arrived at Fort Bliss Sept. 11 carrying the framed flag and sharing its legacy with a new era of Bandits.
“The flag finally made it home,” said Ahmed. “I think of these soldiers every day when I put on my Army uniform and display the flag on my shoulder. Today, I did not see faces and ranks, but as I looked around, I saw the Old Ironsides patch and friendships that will last a lifetime. Larson did not live to see his flag again, but these soldiers did.”
For Cpl. James Klingel, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-37 AR, 2nd ABCT, seeing and hearing Ahmed was inspirational.
“I was shocked that the flag was buried for so long, had traveled so far, and still looks amazing,” he said. “It showed us that it doesn’t matter how much time passes by. We still have the same Army traditions and the same Army values that should always be upheld, and deeply respected.”
Britain has announced that women can now apply to join the ranks of the Special Air Service and Special Boat Service, their top-tier special operations units, as part of a phased opening of close-combat jobs to women that has been underway since 2016.
A British 22nd Special Air Service member speaks with an F-18D during a simulated Hellfire missile launch during training in 2001.
(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Rick Bloom)
This will bring the British military in line with other military forces around the world, including the U.S., where more jobs have been opened to women over the past few years.
But, as with other top-tier military units in the west, it’s unclear when the first female candidate will complete training. In the U.S., only a handful of women have made it through Ranger School, and none have been accepted into the Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces, and similar units.
Currently, the British forces have had about three dozen women accepted into armored roles. Now, they can apply to join the Royal Marines and infantry, which opens the door to the SAS and SBS in the future.
Today I attended a land power demonstration on Salisbury Plain, which involved some of the first women to join the Royal Armoured Corps. I am very proud of the work our military does and opening all combat roles to women will ensure we recruit the right person for the right role.pic.twitter.com/pguaeViRcR
Now, however, the goal is to get women into the training funnel and into the combat forces.
Members of the British Special Air Service in the African desert in World War II.
(British Army Film Photographic Unit Capt. Keating)
The British SBS was founded in 1940 and the SAS in 1941. Both were created to lead elite commando raids against targets in World War II, primarily German forces but the occasional attack on Italian forces did take place.
The SBS, meanwhile, launched a daring but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to kidnap Rommel from his desert headquarters.
Both services saw personnel cuts after the war but were eventually re-built over the decades after the war to face new threats. Both services have seen extensive service in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but the British government rarely comments on their activities.
They often work with top-tier U.S. units like Delta Force and SEAL Team 6, but the details of these engagements are rarely released into the public sphere.
If you’ve ever served in the Army, you know chain of command is everything. Orders flow down from the Commander, and the success of the mission is a direct reflection of the rigor and discipline with which his or her subordinates execute.
If you’ve ever worked in a gourmet kitchen, you know that chain of command is everything. Orders flow down from the Chef, and the success of the meal service is a direct reflection of the rigor and discipline with which his or her subordinates execute.
Cute, right? Yeah, it’s true though. The parallels between a deployed military force and a busy professional kitchen are abundant and revealing. Discipline, hierarchy, preparation, trust in team — it’s all there. And no one gets this more clearly than Army veteran Will Marquardt, who now serves as Chef de Cuisine (second in command) to celeb Chef Ludo Lefebvre in his five-star Hollywood hole-in-the-wall, Petit Trois.
Meals Ready To Eat host August Dannehl took the 405 to the 10 to drop in on Petit Trois, where he found a young lieutenant at the top of his game, executing dish after perfect dish with precision, exemplary leadership, and an added dash of creativity.
Weeks after a veterans’ health initiative received $2.1 billion in emergency funding, the Trump administration says the private-sector Veterans Choice health care program may need additional money as early as December to avoid a disruption of care for hundreds of thousands of veterans.
The Department of Veterans Affairs said in a statement Sept. 26 that it hoped to move quickly on a proposed long-term legislative fix that would give veterans even wider access to private doctors. The proposal, under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget, would seek money to keep Choice running for much of next year as VA implements wider changes.
On Capitol Hill, the House Veterans Affairs Committee was already anticipating that the emergency funding approved in August may not last the full six months, according to spokespeople for both Republican and Democratic members on the panel. They cited the VA’s past problems in estimating Choice program cost. That committee and the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee said they were closely monitoring the situation.
“It’s disheartening,” said Carlos Fuentes, legislative director of Veterans of Foreign Wars, citing his group’s continuing conversations with VA about Choice funding. “Imagine if a veteran has to cease chemotherapy treatment during Christmas.”
Garry Augustine, executive director of Disabled American Veterans’ Washington headquarters, said recent discussions with VA also gave him little confidence.
“It’s always a concern,” Augustine said. “Legislative action needs to be done sooner rather than later.”
In its statement to The Associated Press, VA said it could not say for certain when Choice funds would be depleted, but acknowledged that it could be as early as December or as late as March. Earlier this year, the VA began limiting referrals to outside doctors as money began to run low and veterans reported delays in care.
The VA proposal for a long-term fix is expected to be released in the coming weeks.
“We have a long agenda, a lot more to do,” VA Secretary David Shulkin told veterans last week at an event near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “This fall, our major legislative focus is getting the Choice program working right.”
The latest funding woes come amid political disagreement over the future direction of VA and its troubled Choice program, which was passed by Congress in 2014 in response to a wait-time scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center that spread nationwide. Some veterans died while waiting months for appointments as VA employees manipulated records to hide delays. The controversy spurred Congress to establish Choice as a pilot program designed to relieve pressure at VA hospitals.
Choice currently allows veterans to receive outside care if they must wait 30 days or more for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a VA facility. But the program has encountered long delays of its own.
In a sign of a political divide, the left-leaning VoteVets ran a $400,000 ad campaign earlier this month in 13 states that warned viewers, “Don’t let Trump privatize my VA.” The American Federation of Government Employees has been staging rallies to bring attention to VA job vacancies left unfilled.
The VA said it remains committed to filling agency positions even as it finalizes plans to revamp Choice. VA said it had about 34,000 vacancies, which officials attributed in part to a shortage of health professionals.
Legislative proposals to fix VA have run the gamut, including one backed by the conservative Concerned Veterans for America that would give veterans almost complete freedom to see an outside doctor. Another plan could create a presidential commission to review closing some VA medical centers.
“Congress can either double-down on the failed VA policies of the past or they can go in a different direction and empower veterans with more choice over their health care,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director of Concerned Veterans for America.
During the presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly pledged to fix the VA by bringing accountability and expanding access to private doctors, criticizing the department as “the most corrupt.” At an Ohio event in July, Trump promised to triple the number of veterans “seeing the doctor of their choice.”
More than 30 percent of VA appointments are made in the private sector.
Carrie Farmer, senior policy researcher for the RAND Corp., said the Choice debate raises broader questions about the role of government-run health care in treating veterans. To many former troops, the VA health system is a “medical home” where patients feel more understood by doctors specially trained to treat battlefield injury, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Significantly expanding Choice could upend that government role as caretaker, she said.
“The big question is ultimately who will be responsible for our veterans’ care?” Farmer said.
Just five days before President Trump met with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, 10 armed men staged a daring daylight raid on North Korea’s embassy in the Spanish capital of Madrid. They stole documents, computers, and maybe more, making off with the material. The men then handed the material over to the FBI.
In connection with the raid, U.S. authorities have arrested a Marine Corps veteran named Christopher Ahn in Los Angeles, where he is being held pending extradition to Spain.
U.S. Marines in Afghanistan.
The stolen material found its way back to the North Korean embassy some two weeks or so after being stolen in Spain. The arrests only came recently, weeks after the raid itself. Federal authorities say Ahn is a member of “Free Joseon,” a group dedicated to the dismantling of the Kim regime in North Korea. Ahn’s case has been sealed at the request of his lawyer, but federal authorities have also arrested Adrian Hong, the leader of the group.
Now the men who sought to aid the FBI with a trove of stolen North Korean documents and equipment of massive intelligence value are facing extradition back to Spain. Lawyers for the pair are concerned they could end up in the hands of North Korea, though the Justice Department says that scenario is unlikely.
“Extradition treaties generally provide that an individual who has been extradited to another country to face criminal charges cannot thereafter be extradited to a third country without the consent of the original country,” said a U.S. Justice Department spokesperson. The U.S. government has denied any involvement and Free Joseon has sworn that no governments knew of their raid until well after it was over.
According to the group, the assailants were actually invited into the embassy. Once inside, they began to tie up the staff members, cover their heads, and ask them questions. A woman reportedly escaped, which led to a visit from the Spanish police. Someone at the gate told the Spanish Police all was well, but then the thieves drove off, abandoning their vehicles on a side street.
Ahn, the onetime Marine, was formally charged in the raid on April 19, 2019. His fate remains uncertain, but the group’s lawyer had some stern words for the United States government.
“[I am] dismayed that the U.S. Department of Justice has decided to execute warrants against U.S. persons that derive from criminal complaints filed by the North Korean regime,” attorney Lee Wolosky said in a statement.
United States Army veteran Tony Fife-Patterson started smoking when he was 17 because “the cool guys in the neighborhood were doing it, and I wanted to fit in.” Eventually, he settled in to a pack a day habit, and never considered that he might be addicted to nicotine. Occasionally, someone would tell him he ought to quit, but it only made him want to smoke more.
A couple of years ago, Tony’s daughter called him about his 5-year-old grandson who was crying after watching a “Truth Ad” on television. The ad is part of a national campaign to eliminate teen smoking. Tony’s grandson never liked how smoking made Tony smell, but the advertisement made him worry about how smoking could hurt his grandfather’s health.
Although Tony began contemplating his cigarette smoking, he still didn’t think he had a problem. Yet a few days later, after lighting a cigarette, Tony had an epiphany.
“At that moment, I realized I really was getting tired of this habit,” Tony said. “It had become something that no longer was fun.”
At his next VA appointment, Tony asked his provider about quitting and learned about Truman VA’s “Thinking About Quitting?” program.
Tony agreed to attend the program’s orientation class. At first, he had doubts; however, once he learned that his smoking was an addiction, he knew he didn’t want tobacco to control him.
“Wait a minute,” Tony thought. “This really DOES control me!”
The realization that he was controlled by cigarettes offended him and he was determined to do something about it.
Tony enrolled in Truman VA’s Quit program with other veterans who wanted to quit tobacco. The first three classes helped Tony develop a personal plan to manage the physical, psychological and habit parts of his smoking addiction. He also learned how to get through urges to smoke without giving in. On the program’s “Quit Day,” Tony found it was helpful to quit with other motivated veterans. The final three classes focused on lifestyle changes to help him remain tobacco-free and avoid a relapse.
In the photo above, proud “Thinking About Quitting” graduate Tony poses with Joseph Hinkebein, Ph.D., Truman VA psychologist and tobacco cessation coordinator.
It’s now a year-and-a-half since Tony’s “Quit Day,” and he remains tobacco-free.
As part of his success, Tony uses a quit smoking smart phone app to track how long he has been tobacco-free and how much money he has saved since quitting. He’s saved almost id=”listicle-2641557022″,400 so far.
More importantly, Tony loves the tobacco-free lifestyle. His sense of taste and smell has improved, and he no longer gets complaints from his grandson about smelling like smoke.
“I didn’t realize how bad I smelled, but now I get it,” Tony said.
Most of all, he is proud to no longer be controlled by cigarettes. While the thought of smoking still crosses his mind every now and then, when stressed, he reminds himself, “I don’t need a cigarette to cope with stress anymore!”
Tony tries to lead by example and never “lectures or nags” those who still smoke. He just wants other veterans to know that they can quit when they are ready to do it for their own reasons. He encourages veterans to attend the “Thinking About Quitting” orientation class to learn how to successfully quit. The program provided education and support to help him be successful, but Tony gets all the credit.
“I never thought I could do this,” Tony said. “But I did it. It is something I am immensely proud of!”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Last year, the world began waging a war against a new enemy: COVID-19. As the threat emerged and casualties mounted, the year 2020 brought changes in the way people conduct business, accomplish personal tasks, pursue education, and celebrate milestones. The pandemic also highlighted the mandate for a different type of leader: one who shares information transparently while taking appropriate measures to mitigate risk and – crucially – recognizing the importance of a more personal and human approach to communication.
Captain David Baird, USN, Commanding Officer of Naval Station (NAVSTA) Rota, Spain, has been that leader. Baird and his leadership team developed and executed a plan to keep members of the NAVSTA Rota community safe, healthy and mission-ready. A central tenet of that plan was, in Baird’s words, “calm, compassionate, clear and factual communication.”
His strategy has been successful.
Since the start of the pandemic, the number of COVID-19 cases within the NAVSTA Rota community has remained low and relatively isolated. Meanwhile, the atmosphere on the base has been calm, and compliance with recommended public health measures has been high. Baird’s success navigating a public health crisis while fighting this new enemy, Covid-19, is a case study in effective leadership.
Preparing to Battle a New Kind of Threat
As COVID-19 ravaged Spain in Spring 2020, the NAVSTA Rota community remained focused on its mission. With cases rising sharply throughout the country, Baird and his leadership team were closely monitoring the spread of the virus and had taken measures to prepare for what might come.
By the end of March 2020, Spain was under a state of emergency, with all non-essential businesses closed and non-essential workers under a stay-at-home order. NAVSTA Rota had switched to a “minimum manning posture,” many base facilities were closed, and base schools had transitioned to remote learning. By early April, face coverings were required in all buildings.
Implementing these drastic operational changes was a massive undertaking, but an equally difficult challenge was less straightforward: successfully leading the NAVSTA Rota community through the pandemic. It was a tall order at a time when uncertainty about the virus warranted panic and fear, and face-to-face interaction had suddenly become extremely limited. Fortunately, Baird was able to draw on his combat and risk management experience to devise a strategy that all would embrace and that would keep everyone safe and informed, while also allowing his command to accomplish its mission.
Developing a Communication Strategy
Early in the pandemic, one of Baird’s first orders of business was figuring out how to communicate with the entire NAVSTA Rota community to keep everyone informed and avoid panic. With limited information, people were understandably anxious and feared for the safety of loved ones, both locally and back in the US.
Baird harkened back to advice a mentor once gave him: Rather than treating others the way you want to be treated, “treat them the way you want your children or your parents to be treated.” Baird added, “The parent part was so important, because many of us were worried about elderly parents, [who are] at a higher risk.” Baird summarized the advice another way: “View others in the way you view the people you care about the most.”
With that axiom as a backdrop to his communication philosophy, Baird was keenly aware of the importance of transparently sharing credible, accurate information. However, he recognized that “there is no such thing as perfect communication.” Rather, it’s an ongoing process of constant improvement and an effort to “connect with [people] in a meaningful way.”
All of this was the foundation for the communication plan that he and his leadership team devised. With in-person gatherings not an option, they had to find alternate ways to reach members of the NAVSTA Rota community. Baird and his public affairs officer (PAO) decided they would “use every other means available,” including social media and AFN Rota radio to share information, answer questions, and keep the community informed in real time.
Communication without face-to-face interaction
In developing the communication strategy, Baird recalled his conversation, many years earlier, with the PAO at Naval Air Facility Atsugi in Japan regarding the 2011 Fukushima disaster and how the command had communicated about the evacuation of dependents. Answering questions and sharing information ‘round the clock via Facebook proved to be the most effective communication tactic.
Baird explains, “people crave every piece of information they can get. If information is not provided by an official source, they’re going to find an unofficial source that probably isn’t as credible.” He and his team determined that communication via Facebook would work well in the face of this new crisis, and he began publishing frequent updates on the Naval Station Rota Facebook page.
Initially, the updates consisted primarily of data on the spread of COVID in the Andalusia region of Spain, but in late March 2020, Baird began taking a new approach. As members of the Rota community were suddenly confined to their homes and severely restricted from daily activities, sharing numbers wasn’t enough. He wanted to put the information into perspective and help them truly understand what it all meant.
He explained, “I started telling stories using some of my life experiences to help figure out: How can we frame our current situation, and what does the future look like?”
Baird talked about everything from personal courage, to fear, to his experiences training for an Ironman triathlon and as a member of the rowing team at the United States Naval Academy. Each update was focused on helping the NAVSTA Rota community understand the current situation and where it was all headed, while keeping everyone motivated. The updates were honest, personal, and empathetic, and they quickly resonated with the community. Readers commented on the posts, thanking Baird for his candor, positivity, and leadership.
In response to one of Baird’s early “story-telling” updates, a member of the Rota community commented, “NAVSTA Rota is exemplifying true leadership right now. Capt. Baird, you are setting the standard for military leadership through this experience and I hope other commanders follow your example.”
A hallmark of Baird’s updates is transparency. He has been careful to share what his leadership team knew – and what they didn’t know – at all times: “Acknowledging there are a lot of things that we don’t know is important to establish credibility and maintain credibility about the things that [we] are stating as fact.”
He also explained the “why” for each new constraint on daily activities: “Every restriction we put into place was grounded in some sort of data.” His explanations, along with his acknowledgement of how difficult and frustrating the restrictions could be, made the news more palatable to the NAVSTA Rota community.
As one Facebook follower commented, “We know this is a super challenging situation and one that none of us planned on or wanted to be in, especially while living abroad. But we truly do appreciate your transparency and communication, and we commend you for how leadership has handled this difficult time here.”
The constant COVID-related communications through Facebook, town hall meetings and on AFN Rota – more than 300 since the start of the pandemic – prompted more than 10,000 comments and questions from the NAVSTA Rota community; a clear indication that members have been engaged and paying attention.
The global military community takes notice
Current members of the NAVSTA Rota community weren’t the only audience for Baird’s Facebook updates. Among the thousands of people following along were family and friends of service members stationed in Rota, retired service members, and those who served at NAVSTA Rota in the past. Baird’s leadership has meant a lot to them.
One parent wrote, “My daughter and son-in-law and granddaughter are currently stationed on your base during this crazy event. I’m extremely pleased with the way NSR is keeping everyone posted on the current issues in and around the base and country.”
Another parent simply said, “Our son and family are with you. Glad you are in Command.”
In response to one of Baird’s very candid updates about the need for all members of the NAVSTA Rota community to keep their guard up, a Navy retiree had this to say:
“As a sailor who once served in Rota, ultimately retiring from the US Navy, I have seen and read many memos of consequence. Your writing and eloquence in communicating the current issues on healthcare and the pandemic are simply outstanding. I have not, as a healthcare professional, seen better than what you transmit. If more leaders did what you do, we would all be in a better place pandemic-wise.”
The path forward and lessons learned
Baird and his leadership team continue to remain vigilant and share continual communication amidst the gradual lifting of COVID-related restrictions in Spain and rollout of the vaccine. As of April 2021, Naval Hospital Rota had already administered both doses of the Moderna vaccine to thousands of members of the NAVSTA Rota community, including active duty service members and US civilian workers, along with their adult family members. TRICARE-eligible retirees and family members were also offered the vaccine.
More than a year into the pandemic, Baird continues to refine his leadership strategy. He explains, “I’ve realized that maintaining a sense of calm is important.” He also recognizes that it is important to “meet people where they are in terms of their current level of knowledge of the COVID situation.” When imposing new COVID-related restrictions or making changes to the base routine, Baird must provide context and justification to explain why those measures are necessary.
Baird says that one of the most important lessons learned through this pandemic is “the value of having a team that works well together and supports one another.” Indeed, Baird has been surrounded by a strong team who helped navigate all aspects of the pandemic. Long before the vaccine became available, the Naval Hospital Rota team established a very effective testing and contact tracing system. DoDEA leadership quickly transitioned base schools to remote learning. The Public Health Emergency Officer (PHEO) examined every line of operations on the base to confirm that sufficient COVID restrictions were in place. The Spanish Liaison Office translated more than 1,700 pages of legal documents to ensure Baird and his leadership team understood the current Spanish laws and policies. Baird’s PAO worked around the clock ensuring that all communication reflected the latest restrictions and guidance, some of which changed several times per week. And MWR leadership made numerous overhauls to their supply chain and other processes at base eateries to accommodate changing restrictions.
Members of the base community also came together to help and support each other. They made and distributed homemade face-coverings before masks were widely available. They purchased food and other items for those who had PCS’d to Rota and were required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. They looked out for each other’s children and pets. And they complied with base and local COVID safety measures.
Successfully navigating through the pandemic has been a group effort, but it all starts at the top. Through his leadership, Baird set the tone for an environment where members of the NAVSTA Rota community could trust and support one another.
As COVID restrictions are gradually lifted and the future remains unknown, the wisdom Baird offered to the community last year, in the throes of the pandemic, still rings true and illustrates why he has been an effective leader for NAVSTA Rota during this crisis: “The transition process will take time. We will need to proceed slowly and methodically. It will be frustrating at times, and we may need to reverse course at times. But each transition will bring us one step closer to our new normal, and each step forward will be a sign of improvement. It will be a long road to travel, but I look forward to traveling it with all of you.”
Featured image: Capt. David Baird, commanding officer of Naval Station (NAVSTA) Rota, Spain, receives the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from Hospitalman Viviana Lao, assigned to U.S. Naval Hospital (USNH) Rota, Spain, at NAVSTA Rota’s movie theater on 16 January, 2021. USNH Rota has begun administering the vaccine to frontline healthcare and first responders as part of the vaccination campaign. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eduardo Otero)
There is an ebb and flow with a troop’s love, hate, and pure apathy toward eating Meals, Ready to Eat.
Either you score the new Chicken Burrito Bowl or you get stuck with a veggie option so foul no amount of salt can help cover the taste. It usually goes from the “Oh cool! MREs!” feeling, to then despising the concept of eating from the same 24 brown bags for months, and finally gets beaten into a state of pure Stockholm Syndrome where you get used to and enjoy them again because it’s technically food.
Whatever your personal experience will be, the minds at Ameriqual, Sopakco, and Wornick have all crafted a very specific meal under very specific guidelines.
Whichever meal you are tossed usually contains an entree, side, cracker or bread, spread, dessert, a beverage, Flameless Ration Heater, and accessories. Every MRE also needs to have a constant 1,250-calorie count, have 13 percent protein, 36 percent fat, and 51 percent carbohydrates, and make up one third of the Military Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamins and minerals.
Finally, each box of MREs must have a shelf life of at least 18 months in above 80°F conditions, three years below. This has been the constant ever since it’s inception in 1975 and standard issue in 1986.
One of the more impressive creations in the MRE is the Flameless Ration Heater. Water activated, the pouch quickly reaches heats that can warm up an eight ounce ration within minutes. Simply put the food pouch inside the bag, lean it against a rock or something, and you’re ready to eat.
Whatever you do, do not take two of the heaters, empty a tiny Tabasco sauce into a bottle of water, add the heaters and water to about the half way point, seal it, shake it, then toss it somewhere.
It’s a dick move and your squad will call you out for your douchebaggery. This is because the heat and fumes decompress within the bottle to the point of exploding.
There is also the First Strike Ration, a compact, eat-on-the-move ration that is designed to be half the size and a third of the weight while giving troops the nutritional intake of an entire days worth of food.
The Combat Feeding Directorate developed this after they noticed troops would “field strip” their MREs of unwanted and burdensome extra items, like boxes, accessory packs, heaters, and bags. The total calorie count of an FSR comes to 2,900 calories.
The actual menu changes year to year. 2017 changes are no different.
Thankfully, they’re removing “Rib shaped BBQ Pork Patty,” that fried rice thing, chicken pesto pasta, ‘Hooah!’ bars, and the wheat snack bread (which only the power of the Jalapeno Cheese Spread could make edible). The replacements actually sound delicious (like the previously mentioned Chicken Burrito Bowl) and are even more thought out.
I can see the successor of the most coveted MRE item: caffeinated teriyaki beef sticks. Julie Smith, senior food technologist at Combat Feeding Directorate of the Natick Soldier, Research, Development and Engineering Center said of the alternative to beef jerky “Typically, when we do evaluations, we get feedback from the war fighter that they want to have more beef jerky varieties. It’s such a high sodium item, however, that we have to be careful in how to include it in the menu.”
There is also the new version of the pound cake. It’s now fortified with Omega-3 fatty acids which research shows is great for muscle recovery and resiliency — all without affecting the taste of one of the better desserts in the MRE.
Far off into the future, Jeremy Whitsitt, the Deputy Director at Combat Feeding, says that one day there will be the ability to monitor an individual’s nutritional needs and -essentially- “print out a bar or a paste specifically designed for that soldier to return them to nutritional status.” He continues: “We’re laying the groundwork now through research and development to get us to that point.”
In the meantime, we can still hold out for the Pizza MRE. No timeline on its release, but it’ll be after they can work out the bread going brown after six months in 100°F.
Here in America, land of the free, when we hear news about North Korea, it further reinforces our desire to never step foot in the reclusive nation. All the negative press that comes from within the DPRK has us sure that it’s the worst place to live — ever.
It has been run by Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un since 2012 and, under his rule and the regimes of his father and grandfather, many rules and regulations have been put in place to control the people that call the country home. Many countries around the world have laws that must be enforced — usually for good reason — but some of North Korea’s laws seem to defy both reason and ethics.
To give you a little taste of the hermit kingdom’s skewed sense of justice, we’ve compiled a list of some the most insane legal aspects of North Korea.
Pyongyang, North Korea.
You need legal approval to live in the city
If you’re rich and powerful, chances are you’ve already been approved to live in Pyongyang — the largest city in the country. If you’re poor as f*ck, then good luck ever getting a taste of your nation’s capital city. The government must approve of all the citizens seeking to call Pyongyang home.
Weed is legal
We came across this shocker while doing our research. According to a few North Korean defectors, marijuana can be purchased at local markets and you can watch it grow in nearby fields. Who would’ve thought a country ruled by an authoritarian would permit such a thing?
Their hair cuts are regulated
North Korea isn’t known for being fashion-forward. In fact, the people who reside in the strict country may only select from a number of predetermined hairstyles when it comes time to get a cut. It’s said that the government only allows people to sport one of 28 different styles.
If you don’t comply, you face serious penalties. That’s right, people. North Korea has actual fashion police.
You must vote
In most countries, voting is a right. In North Korea, voting is mandatory. If you don’t, you face severe punishment. Elections are held every five years and the same family always seems to win.
Commit a crime, you and your family could do the time
In most countries, only those that commit the crime are punished. North Korea, however, goes a few steps further. To send the message that the country won’t tolerate any lawbreakers, the government can imprison an offender’s entire family for their actions.
In fact, they can send up to three generations of a family to the big house for a single crime.
US fighters and bombers conducted a deterrence patrol over the Persian Gulf on May 12, 2019, as a warning to Iran, which the US has accused of plotting attacks on US interests in the region.
During the mission, US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress heavy, long-range bombers were accompanied by F-15C Eagles and F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters. The bombers and escorts were supported by a KC-135 Stratotanker providing aerial refueling.
US Central Command explained to Business Insider that the flight was intended to send a message to Iran and others that the US military is ready to defend its interests.
A U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress aircraft assigned to the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron takes off from Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, May 12, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley Gardner)
The bombers were deployed to the CENTCOM area of responsibility last week after the US reportedly received intelligence showing “clear indications that Iranian and Iranian proxy forces were making preparations to possibly attack US forces in the region,” a US Central Command spokesman said.
Source: US Central Command
A U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress aircraft assigned to the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron takes off from Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, May 12, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nichelle Anderso)
May 12, 2019’s patrol was the first mission for the four B-52s deployed to the CENTCOM area. “They’re here to defend our forces and interests,” a US Air Forces Central Command spokesperson told Stars and Stripes.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Zachary S. Welch)
A U.S. B-52H Stratofortress aircraft assigned to the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron refuels from a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 28th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, May 12, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Keifer Bowes)
While emphasizing that the US does not seek war with Iran, the White House has stressed that any attack by Iran will be met with “unrelenting force.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Keifer Bowes)
As CENTCOM bolsters its firepower, Iran has issued several warnings, at one point calling the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier a “target” rather than a threat. Iran has not yet, it appears, escalated beyond rhetoric though.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.