The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

There’s an old saying that the best things in life are worth waiting for. For Mohammad Wali Tasleem, born into the chaos of war, all he ever wanted was a safe place to call home.

Growing up in Afghanistan, finding peace and serenity wasn’t easy. Tasleem’s earliest memories involve death and tragedy, stories seemingly unfathomable to most of us, but all too common and relatable to Tasleem and his family and friends.

At an early age, he saw his relatives fight against the Soviet invasion of his homeland. He vividly remembers being on the run and exiled to Pakistan during his childhood, as if it were only yesterday. No matter where Tasleem and his family turned, they couldn’t evade the perils of war. He knew there was a hard choice he had to make, but it was one he was willing to commit his entire life to.

At the age of 17, Tasleem took up the call to arms and enlisted in the Afghan Army — embarking on the fight against tyranny and terror, just as his ancestors had done. Fighting for his loved ones, fighting for his country, and fighting for a place to call home became his calling. In over a decade’s worth of service, based on his skill, diligence, and honor, Tasleem ascended to the ranks of major and company commander. Moreover, he became one of the most trusted and reliable leaders for joint Afghan-US efforts combating the Taliban in the region.

It was during those high-profile endeavors that he crossed paths with Black Rifle Coffee Company CEO Evan Hafer and Jeff Kirkham. Little did Tasleem know that their bond of brotherhood forged in the midst of war would provide him with a life-changing opportunity down the road — but only after he had arrived in the United States in search of his own version of the American dream.

“We were together for a long time in Afghanistan,” Tasleem recently told Coffee or Die Magazine. “They are my brothers. They always had my back. They still do. That’s why me and my family are here in Utah. But things weren’t always as great as they are now.”

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American
Photo courtesy of Wali Tasleem.

Unbeknownst to Hafer and Kirkham, Tasleem, his wife, and their five children arrived in the United States in February 2015. Two years after applying for a special immigration visa, they eventually settled in Charlottesville, Virginia. At long last, Tasleem and his family didn’t have to worry about being targeted by the Taliban or becoming casualties of war. But arriving in a new country completely foreign to them presented a handful of unique challenges that were hard to overcome.

“I came from a very well-to-do family in Afghanistan. We helped out a lot of people. We had a nice car and house, but when I came here we lost that,” Tasleem said. “We came here to live a safe life but didn’t have the comforts of back home. We were starting over. It was hard.”

Tasleem recalled the numerous struggles they endured upon arriving in the United States. First and foremost, a stable job was hard to come by. After working for several months as a security guard, Tasleem began working full-time at a gas station. While he was thankful for the opportunity, it wasn’t the type of job that could support his family.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American
Photo courtesy of Wali Tasleem.

On top of that, the neighborhood they lived in was rough. Their public housing sector had a high frequency of crime; drive-by shootings were a regular occurrence. After fleeing Afghanistan, the Tasleem family now had to endure worries about their safety in their newfound home in the United States. A little over a year into their journey in America, Tasleem and his wife were beginning to have second thoughts and were considering moving back overseas.

“We were having such a hard time. My wife and I knew we couldn’t go back to Afghanistan, but I had reached out to my youngest brother in India and told him about our life here,” Tasleem said. “We had made plans to move there, but things changed when I reconnected with Jeff and Evan.”

Tasleem recalled reaching out one evening to Kirkham, whom he had serendipitously connected with on social media. When Kirkham learned about Tasleem’s situation, he promptly reached out to Hafer in order to do whatever it took to help their friend. In no time, Tasleem was headed to Utah to meet up with his friends at Black Rifle Coffee Company headquarters — men whom he hadn’t seen in a very long time. 

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American
Photo courtesy of Wali Tasleem.

The rest, as they say, is history. Just when Tasleem was about ready to give up on his pursuit of the American dream, his long-lost friends at BRCC inspired him to do otherwise. They offered him a job and a means to move his family from Virginia to Utah.

“I called my wife and turned on the camera,” he said. “I showed her pictures of the mountains and joked with her, ‘Look, I’m in Afghanistan.’ But that’s when I told her, ‘We don’t have to move back home or to India, I found my brothers and have a job here in Utah. We are going to be so happy.’”

Over the past three years, life couldn’t have been better for Tasleem and his family. He started out in the company’s print shop, and his hard work and leadership skills earned him a big promotion after just a year with the company. Today, he is tasked with the responsibility of being the facility manager at the BRCC roasting plant in Salt Lake City. 

“Maintenance and general contracting, renovation, remodeling, things like that. Inside and outside the building, I’ll take care of everything,” he said.

But that’s not all Tasleem has strived to accomplish. He, alongside his brothers at BRCC, has helped move six other Afghans who served with him overseas to the United States — a testament to the company’s mission of giving back to those who have served and put their lives on the line for a greater purpose.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American
Wali Tasleem with Black Rifle Coffee vice president and co-founder Mat Best. Photo courtesy of Wali Tasleem.

“There are six other Afghans here that BRCC has helped like me. There are seven of us now,” Tasleem said. “Their stories are similar to mine. They were soldiers and interpreters who served with us over in Afghanistan. I am happy they are here with us. They are as important here and as respected as they were back there. It’s an amazing feeling to have them here.”

While Tasleem’s commitments at BRCC keeps him busy, he and his growing family (now with seven children, six boys and a girl) have taken advantage of the beauty and majesty of mountainous Utah, which reminds them a lot of Kabul and their home in Afghanistan. In his free time Tasleem enjoys taking his family hiking and exploring the outdoors, as well as getting together often for picnics. 

Tasleem also serves as president of the local Afghan community, which has several hundred families in the greater Salt Lake City area, and has played an integral role in helping them assimilate to life in America.

After years of fighting against and enduring never-ending terror, the Tasleem family is finally living a peaceful life — which is all they ever wanted.

“My three years in Utah with Black Rifle Coffee Company have given so much positive change to my life” he said. “I’m so thankful for Evan, Jeff, Mat [Best] and everybody else here. It’s not just a great company. It’s a brotherhood, it’s a family. I couldn’t be happier, and I’m excited about what we can accomplish together in 2021.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s the latest on the new US Air Force uniforms

Trainees entering into basic military training at the 37th Training Wing the first week of October 2019 were the first group to be issued the new Operational Camouflage Pattern uniforms.

When Air Force officials announced last year they were adopting the Army OCP as the official utility uniform, they developed a three-year rollout timeline across the force for the entire changeover. Last week put them on target for issue to new recruits entering BMT.

“Each trainee is issued four sets of uniforms with their initial issue,” said Bernadette Cline, clothing issue supervisor. “Trainees who are here in (Airmen Battle Uniforms) will continue to wear them throughout their time here and will be replaced when they get their clothing allowance.”


The 502nd Logistics Readiness Squadron Initial Issue Clothing outfits nearly 33,000 BMT trainees every year and maintains more than 330,000 clothing line items.

“We partner with Defense Logistics Agency who provides the clothing items upfront to be issued,” said Donald Cooper, Air Force initial clothing issue chief. “Then we warehouse and issue to the individuals’ size-specific clothing.”

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

U.S. Air Force basic military training trainees assigned to the 326th Training Squadron receive the first Operational Camouflage Pattern uniforms during initial issue, Oct. 2, 2019, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)

After taking airmen feedback into consideration, the uniform board members said they chose the OCP for the improved fit and comfort and so that they will blend in with their soldier counterparts’ uniforms in joint environments, according to Cooper.

“Right now, if someone deploys, they’ll get it issued,” Cline said. “And now that everyone is converting over to this uniform, (the trainees) already have the uniform to work and deploy in.”

Following the timeline, the OCP should now be available online for purchase as well.

The next mandatory change listed on the timeline, to take place by June 1, 2020, will be for airmen’s boots, socks, and T-shirts to be coyote brown. Also, officer ranks to the spice brown.

Switching from two different types of utility uniforms to just one, multifunctional uniform could also simplify life for the airmen.

“I think the biggest value is going to be the thought that they aren’t required to have two uniforms anymore once they convert to a uniform that is for deployment and day-to-day work,'” Cooper said.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Corps finds its most lethal Marines are in their 20s

Top advisers at the Pentagon are presenting Defense Secretary Jim Mattis with an idea that could radically change the way in which the US Marine Corps operates, and it’s aimed at increasing the lethality of grunts.

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, chairman of the Pentagon’s Close Combat Lethality Task Force, has suggested that Marines should have to go through four years in a different career field and wait an enlistment before transitioning into the infantry.


The basic premise here is that it would make Marines more effective in combat because they’d have additional skill sets and bring more experience and maturity to bear. But this would break tradition with the youthful nature of the Marine Corps, in which people as young as 18 have long served in combat roles.

Mattis launched the task force Scales is leading earlier this year as part of a broader push to modernize the military’s ground combat units, Military Times reports .

As part of this effort, Scales — an Army field artillery officer who earned the Silver Star in Vietnam when his base was overrun — has been working to convince the Defense Department that soldiers in their mid to late 20s are more lethal. The retired general told Military Times this is, “the optimal age for a close-combat soldier.”

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

Lance Cpl. William Pearn, a machine gunner trainer for scout sniper school with 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, camouflages himself during exercise Forest Light 17-1 at Somagahara, Japan, March 10, 2017.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Isaac Ibarra)

But roughly 60 percent of the Marine Corps is under the age of 25, which means if Scales’ idea was implemented then there could be significant manpower issues, or the Corps would need to entice more Marines to stay in. Scales acknowledges this issue and said his recommendation could be “a bridge too far.”

Still, he is certain that troops around their mid- to late-20s are easily the most lethal, pointing to special forces as an example. The average age of an enlisted US special forces soldier is 29, according to CNN .

One potential solution is having the Marine Corps reserve a significant percentage of infantry spots for a second enlistment.

In other words, the Marine Corps could still have a high percentage of people under 25 in traditional rifle squads while also injecting older soldiers with broader skill sets into those roles. This could help the Marine Corps tackle many of the more complex challenges it faces on the modern battlefield, especially from a technical standpoint.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why squadrons are the ‘beating heart’ of the Air Force

In the Air Force, squadrons are the basic level of operations, its “beating heart” as Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein calls them.

To better understand how significant the squadron is to the Air Force, it’s also important to know what a squadron is.

Within the Air Force, the squadron is the lowest level of command with a headquarters element. Squadrons are typically commanded by a lieutenant colonel, though smaller squadrons may be commanded by majors, captains and sometimes even lieutenants. Squadrons can also vary in size and are usually identified numerically and by function. An example would be the 60th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron or the 355th Communications Squadron.


Two or more squadrons form a group. In the Air Force, groups are usually based upon the assignment of squadrons with similar functions. For example, the supply squadron, transportation, and aircraft maintenance squadron would be assigned to the Logistics Group, the flying squadrons would be assigned to the Operations Group and the Dental Squadron and the Medical Squadron would be assigned to the Medical Group. Groups, in turn, are then assigned to a wing with the same number. For instance, the 49th Logistics Group is assigned to the 49th Fighter Wing at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.

However, the squadron actually predates the Air Force. In March 1913, the first squadron was created when the Army ordered the creation of the Army Air Services’ 1st Provisional Aero Squadron – known today as the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, the U.S. military’s oldest flying unit.

The creation of higher echelons came later as the role of air power grew during World War I. Groups and wings were formed in order to remedy the difficulty of coordinating aerial activities between dispersed aero squadrons. Though WWI saw the first great military mobilization, it also saw the first huge drawdown. What was more than 660 aero units diminished to a little over 70 squadrons by 1919, with an air component that was 19,000 soldiers strong reduced to around 5 percent of what it used to be. No one would have predicted that after two decades, the air component found itself expanding once again.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

108th Bombardment Squadron during the Korean War activation formation in 1951.

(US Air Force photo)

With the advent of World War II, then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt acknowledged the growing importance of airpower. He believed, according to his adviser, Harry Hopkins, “that airpower would win the war.” What was then renamed to the Army Air Corps was well funded and grew rapidly, seeing more planes and squadrons than it ever will in its history – from a workforce comprised of 26,500 soldiers in 1939 to a staggering 2,253,000-strong by 1945.

The aerial component saw a considerable drawdown after the war ended, and, despite becoming its own department through the National Security Act of 1947, the number of airmen and squadrons continued to fluctuate and shrink over the years.

In the current Air Force, led by Wilson, Goldfein, and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright, the push for revitalizing squadrons, empowering airmen and supporting innovation is stronger than ever, but unbeknownst to many, these concepts have been implemented by many successful military leaders of the past. A prime example is one of the U.S. Air Force’s most iconic figures: a man known for his prowess in the aerial battlefield and his famously distinctive lip foliage, Big. Gen. Robin Olds.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

“Wolfpack” aviators of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing carry their Commanding Officer, Colonel Robin Olds, following his return from his last combat mission over North Vietnam, on 23 September 1967. This mission was his hundredth “official” combat mission, but his actual combat mission total for his tour was 152. Olds led the 8th TFW Wolfpack from September 1966 through September 1967, as it amassed 24 MiG victories, the greatest aerial combat record of an F-4 Wing in the Vietnam war.

(US Air Force)

Along with inspiring the Air Force tradition, Mustache March, Olds was known as a triple ace for shooting down 17 enemy aircraft during his career. Along with the accolades he received as a skilled fighter pilot, Olds was known for his innovative leadership. In Vietnam, he led the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing to 24 Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 jet aircraft kills – an unsurpassed total for that conflict.

One of the most significant moments in his career was on Jan. 2, 1967, during Operation Bolo, where he, as a colonel, entrusted the planning of an experimental and high-stakes mission to a quartet of veteran junior officers and pilots in his unit. Operation Bolo was conceived in response to the North Vietnamese use of MiG-21s to successfully shoot down F-105 Thunderchief aircraft. Olds noticed that F-4 Phantoms and F-105 Thunderchiefs routes became predictable. Enemy intelligence analysts would listen in on radio transmissions and were able to recognize F-105 and F-4 call signs and flight patterns and used the information to target the more vulnerable F-105s. Olds charged his men to come up with a plan to trick the North Vietnamese into thinking the F-4s were the F-105s. The F-4s were then fitted with the jamming pods usually carried by F-105s so that their electronic signature would be the same and also used the same call signs and flew the same routes and pod formations as the F-105s. Needless to say, the operation was a success and lead to the most MiGs shot down during a single mission.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

Francis S. Gabreski (left) congratulates another World War II and Korean War ace, Maj. William T. Whisner (center). On the right is Lt. Col. George Jones, a MiG ace with 6.5 kills.

(US Air Force)

In a commentary commemorating Olds in March of 2018 written by Lt. Col. Bobby Schmitt, 16th Space Control Squadron commander, he said that Operation Bolo “showed innovation could work when the leader trusted and empowered his people to think of and implement new and better ways to do business.”

He also referred to Olds as “an innovative leader” at a time when the Air Force was in dire need of innovation to face difficult missions where a lot of people’s lives were at stake.

Just like Olds, Goldfein and Wilson ask airmen to help come up with ideas to reinvigorate squadrons for the force to be ready for the 21st-century fight.

They have gone as far as reviewing all Air Force instructions and empowering commanders to maneuver and make decisions as well as encourage wing commanders to let squadron commanders make important decisions.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

Capt. Lacey Koelling, the 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in charge, and 34th Bomb Squadron members Capt. Lillian Pryor, a B-1 pilot; Capt. Danielle Zidack, a weapon systems officer; Capt. Lauren Olme, a B-1 pilot; and 1st Lt. Kimberly Auton, a weapon systems officer, conduct a preflight briefing prior to an all-female flight out of Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., March 21, 2018. The flight was in honor of WomenÕs History Month and consisted of routine training in the local area.

(Air Force photo by Sgt. Jette Carr)

During an Air Force update in September 2017, where Goldfein talked about creating healthy squadrons who excel in multi-domain warfare and ready to lead the joint force, he concluded by saying, “It’s the secretary and my job to release the brilliance found throughout the airmen in our Air Force,” a sentiment that echoes the voices of great Air Force leaders of the past, the present and the future.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 reasons you should become a Marine

The Marine Corps is one of the most feared war-fighting organizations in history. Military hopefuls in high school or college that are considering joining the Corps are always on the lookout for any information that may help them along their journey. Here are my two cents on why you should become a Marine.

1. The Marine Corps has the best combat arms training in the military

The Marine Corps is essentially an invasion force that can deploy to any region around the world and within 24 hours have a boot on someone’s neck. Every branch thinks they’re the tip of the spear, but Marines are usually the first ones to lock horns with a determined enemy. Marines will use every asset; airstrikes, drones, artillery, tanks, close air support, naval gunfire, and anything their commanding officer can get a hold of to smash the enemy with overwhelming force.

Marines do not know the meaning of the word moderation.

2. Marines are smarter than they look

A popular joke around the military community is that Marines chew on crayons because they’re dumb — especially when it comes to the infantry and combat Military Occupational Specialties. My platoon commander was a graduate from Yale, the majority of my platoon have degrees post service in STEM fields. The economy is in the toilet and I don’t know a single one of my Marine veteran buddies without a job. Hell, one of them is an engineer for NASA and he was in our infantry battalion.

Life is hard if you are stupid. Who’s the crayon-eating moron now?

3. We have the best-looking dress uniform

The Marine Corps Dress Blues Alphas are hands down the sharpest uniform out of all the dress uniforms in the military. As you rank up there are upgrades to your uniform that are linked to our heritage like the blood stripe or the Eagle, Globe and Anchor on the belt. Marines are known for their attention to detail such as why Cuba appears on only the enlisted EGA and not an officer’s. Marines love Marine trivia; it’s not annoying, it’s motivation!

4. Our branch was born in a bar

Specifically, Tun Tavern because that is where you would find the toughest, saltiest people willing to fight in a war. Most of our traditions involve alcohol: The Marine Corps Ball, Mess Night, every Saturday – drinking and fighting are what Marines are best at.

5. You will be in peak physical shape

Physical fitness is a pillar of who we are as Marines. We have strict height and weight standards, PT every day, and your physical ability is a major contributor to your next promotion. If you love hitting the gym, get paid for it.

6. You’ll see the world, probably

Marines operate in every clime and place. America also has embassies all over the world that are guarded by Marines. It is an MOS called MSG (Marine Corps Security Guard) and you can be stationed anywhere in the world. Sure, in other Military Occupational Specialties may have to deploy to a war zone but with MSG, you could end up somewhere nice like Germany or Japan. There are some non-deployable MOS so make sure you ask about that before you sign that contract.

7. Marines are the best storytellers

Marines experience so much that they can offer sage advice, a cautionary tale, or entertain with a story that is a borderline confession about their escapades with woman of a shaky moral compass. We don’t often get down time but when we do it’s hurry up and wait. Sometimes there is nothing to do but bullsh*t until the trucks get here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how the military gets ready to deploy anywhere in the world in 18 hours

Typically, troops get their orders to deploy many months in advance. In times of stability, you’re looking at twelve months gone and then twelve months at home. Everyone in the unit has ample time to get their ducks in a row before heading off to war.

But when sh*t hits the fan, the United States Armed Forces can gear up entire brigade-sized elements of troops and put boots on the ground in just under eighteen hours.

Now, getting troops ready to go isn’t the hard part — troops usually keep a rucksack packed and a rifle on standby in the arms room. It’s the logistical nightmare that comes with transporting all of the required gear that makes this feat truly impressive.


The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

At any moment, the Currahee are ready to drop in like it was D-Day all over again.

(U.S. Army photo by Major Kamil Sztalkoper)

In the Army, brigades that are officially ready to deploy are called Division Ready Brigades. In the Marine Corps, they’re called Marine Expeditionary Units. To be certified as one of these units, there are several requirements, including pre-deployment training, gear staging, and mountains of paperwork.

The 506th Regimental Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, KY, earned “reactionary force” status in 2007 and, impressively, has maintained it ever since.

“The purpose of the division ready brigade is to quickly move Soldiers and equipment to support emergency situations requiring DoD support,” said Col. Thomas Vail, the then-506th RCT commander told the Fort Campbell Courier. “We are well prepared for this task in terms of leadership, Soldier discipline, and staff expertise. The 506th RCT has conducted rehearsals and back briefs just like any combat mission tasked to the brigade.”

They earned this by staging a mock deployment to get everyone, including their gear and vehicles, ready to go to Fort Irwin’s National Training Center. All vehicles needed to be staged, all artillery guns needed to be prepped, and all connexes had to be packed with everything they’d need within 72 hours of landing.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

These Marines are always on call… Ready to be tagged in.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman)

To remain ready, some units have pre-staged gear that they never touch. As you can imagine, having and stashing gear only to be used for rapid deployment requires cash — which, unfortunately, isn’t in excess for many units.

The Marines, however, have always been known for doing more with less. In this case, they do this by keeping their Marines on a fifteen month cycle: they spend nine months training stateside and six months aboard a Navy vessel offshore.

They strategically place their Marines on the Naval vessels nearest to where they expect to be fighting and stay ready to hop onto landing crafts at any moment. The Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit take this one step further by remaining permanently forward-deployed out of Okinawa.

Maj. Jacob R. Godby, the 31st MEU assistant operations officer, said,

“The size of our AO requires us to train for a wide variety of missions which requires an extensive range of equipment and the best trained Marines anywhere. In Okinawa, we have the resources and training grounds that allow us to train for almost any mission we could be tasked with. MEUEX allows us to begin putting the pieces together as we move closer to embarking for our next patrol.”

It’s a logistical headache, but it’s a challenge that only the most intense units have been able to successfully pull off. If there’s crisis in need of the U.S. Armed Forces, these guys can be there within the day, letting other troops bring in the rest of the gear after them to establish a more permanent presence.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These are some of the best federal jobs for veterans

The federal government invests a lot of time and money into training service members of the armed forces. As a result, it’s to the advantage of the government to retain service members for as long as possible. Retention programs and bonuses incentivize service members to stay in, but if you no longer wish to volunteer for an all-volunteer service, you can leave (provided your contract is up, of course).

After all, skills and certifications acquired in the military are highly sought after in the civilian workforce. Whether you’re a missileer who goes to work for Raytheon, an intel analyst with a secret clearance who gets scooped up by Booz Allen Hamilton or a diesel mechanic who takes a job with Union Pacific, your experience and training in the military makes you a valuable asset to any organization. For those that want to continue serving their country outside of the military, many federal agencies are more than willing to hire vets to fill their ranks.


In 2009, President Obama signed an executive order establishing the Veterans Employment Initiative. Meant to promote the hiring of veterans in the executive branch, the program has also served as a model for companies in the private sector to make hiring veterans a priority. “As the nation’s leading employers, the federal government is in need of highly skilled individuals to meet agency staffing needs and to support mission objectives,” said the director of veteran services at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and Air Force vet, Hakeem Basheerud-Deen. “Veterans get a lot of training and development during their military service, and their wide variety of skills and experience—as well as their motivation for public service—can help fulfill federal agencies’ staffing needs.” In no particular order, these are some of the best federal jobs for veterans of any background.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

(National Park Service)

1. Park Ranger

If you’ve been stationed in Alaska, Colorado, Fort Drum (you have our condolences) or any other location where outdoor activities are plentiful, you may have developed an affinity for open-air recreation. If you have, you might consider a job as a ranger for the National Park Service. As a ranger, you would investigate complaints and violations of park regulations, provide visitors with guidance and information, and generally protect the land set aside for future generations to enjoy. If an office job sounds like a prison sentence, this might be the job for you.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

(Fort Bliss Public Affairs Office via DVIDS)

2. Law Enforcement

Looking for a post-military career that will keep you in the action? You might consider a job in federal law enforcement. This is a very broad job field, though. You could work as a federal police officer at a military installation, a park police officer under the National Park Service or even an FBI agent serving as a legal attaché to an overseas embassy.

Another commonly thought of job under this umbrella is Border Patrol Agent. However, under Customs and Border Protection, you can also find CBP Officers. These are the men and women who protect the country at all ports of entry. From screening passengers at passport control to combing through cargo containers for illicit cargo, CBP Officers oversee everything coming into the country. Aside from DEA and FBI agents who train at Quantico, Federal Law Enforcement agents train at specialized Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers. FLETC is headquartered at the former Naval Air Station Glynco in Georgia and operates two other residential training sites in Artesia, New Mexico and Charleston, South Carolina.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

(207th Regional Support Group via DVIDS)

3. Human Resources

Paperwork is the lifeblood of the government. It moves information, initiates action, and can mean the difference between you getting paid or owing money. Though many systems have moved online to database or system entries, there is still a plethora of Standard and Agency-specific Forms that the federal government relies on.

Coming from the military, you’ll be familiar with having to fill out paperwork for everything from life insurance and emergency contacts to leave requests and requisition forms. Though more senior positions might require civilian HR certifications (a good time to use that post-9/11 GI Bill), there are still entry-level positions that allow veterans to get their foot in the door with their service experience alone. If it’s not on paper, it didn’t happen.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

(U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy via DVIDS)

4. Range Tech

Almost everyone who has donned the uniform has been to a range. Even some chaplains hop on the firing line to test their aim (unofficially, of course). You know those civilians who run the computers? You could be one of them! Though some bases contract these jobs out to private companies, there are still jobs that pop up on USAJobs.gov for range tech positions across the country.

As long as you have some experience learning something new and working with your hands (you went to basic training, after all), you’re good to go. Now, there’s a bit more to it than just pressing buttons, laughing at the people who struggle to qualify, and refreshing the ancient program running on Windows 95. But, if you like being on the firing line and you’re willing to learn how to maintain and operate a range, this job could be your perfect fit.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

(USPS)

5. Postal Service

As of February 2020, the USPS employs more than 97,000 veterans and is one of the largest employers of veterans in the country. Don’t want to be a letter carrier or work customer service? Contrary to popular belief, Postal Service careers extend beyond the aforementioned positions. USPS offers careers in accounting and finance, operations, marketing and sales, human resources and admin, processing and delivery, and many more. If you’ve deployed overseas, you know just how valuable mail is. Especially during the COVID-19 timeframe, the personal touch of a physical letter can be just what someone needs to brighten their day. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night…

Whether you’re retiring from the military or separating after your first contract, your service and experience in the armed forces sets you apart from people that haven’t served. A federal job allows you to continue that service. A steady paycheck and maintaining your TSP aren’t bad perks either.


MIGHTY TRENDING

The first Muslim Green Beret was also in Iran’s Special Forces

The first time Changiz Lahidji joined a Special Forces unit, his loyalty was to Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran. But he found himself guarding lavish parties in the middle of the desert, protecting the opulent ruler of Imperial Iran and his guests. It wasn’t exactly the life of adventure that John Wayne movies led him to believe he could have.

He didn’t stay in service to the Shah for very long. It seemed like a waste. So, he moved to California, working in family-owned gas stations until November, 1978. That’s when he joined the Army and became an instrument of destruction — for the United States.


The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American
Master Sergeant Changiz Lahidji in Afghanistan in the early 2000s. He was the first Muslim Green Beret and longest-serving Special Forces soldier in history with 24 years of active service. (Changiz Lahidji)

The late 1970s were not a good time to be from the Middle East and living in the U.S., even if you’re in the Army. He had to constantly endure racism from his fellow soldiers, even though they couldn’t tell the difference between an Arab and a Persian. It didn’t matter, Lahidji pressed on and finished Special Forces training. Less than a year later, he was wearing the coveted Green Beret and by December 1979, he was on his first mission.

He was on his way back to Iran.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American
Changiz Lahidji standing guard during the Shah’s celebration of the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian Empire. (Changiz Lahidji)

In November, 1979, students in Tehran seized the U.S. embassy there, taking 52 federal employees and U.S. troops hostage. Lahidji wasn’t about to wait for the military to get around to assigning him to help. He wrote a letter to President Jimmy Carter, offering his unique skills, knowledge of Tehran, and native Farsi to the task. He wanted to choose his A-Team and get to Iran as soon as possible.

The U.S. military was happy to oblige. He wasn’t going to lead an A-Team, but he had an Iranian passport and he went into Tehran ahead of Operation Eagle Claw in order to get advance knowledge of the situation on the ground and to rent a bus to drive hostages and operators out after they retook the embassy. After the disaster at Desert One, he was forced to smuggle himself out aboard a fishing boat.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American
Master Sgt. Changiz Lahidji, U.S. Army. (Changiz Lahidji)

After Iran, he didn’t have to worry about being accepted by his fellow Green Berets. He was one of them by then.

He writes about all of his worldly adventures in some 33 countries in his memoir, Full Battle Rattle: My Story as the Longest-Serving Special Forces A-Team Soldier in American History. In it, you can read about him helping to bust drug rings in Spain, capture the mastermind behind the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing, and what it was like on the ground during the “Black Hawk Down” debacle in Mogadishu, Somalia. He was there for all of it.

But it wasn’t the only time his Iranian background would come to the aid of U.S. forces. In 2003, some 24 years after the failure of Eagle Claw, Lahidji was in Tora Bora, dressed as a farmer and working for a U.S. private contractor. There, he would personally identify Osama bin Laden. When he went to the American embassy to report his finding, the U.S. seemed to take no action.

Lahidji does a lot of private contractor work these days. After spending so much time traveling and in service to the United States — he’s done more than 100 missions in Afghanistan alone — he looks back on his time in the service as a privilege. Army Special Forces gave Changiz Lahidji the brotherhood and adventure he always dreamed of as a secular, middle-class child growing up in Iran.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Commission on Military, National, and Public Service

Should every American Citizen serve in the military? Should women be required to register for the selective service (draft)? What should the future of the Selective Service look like?

Navy veteran Shawn Skelly and Marine Corps veteran Ed Allard are commissioners for the Commission on National, Military and Public Service. Their mission is to recommend answers to these and many more questions to Congress by March 2020. Shawn and Ed visited Borne the Battle to discuss the two years of data that the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service has gathered to answer those and many other questions.


Some of the goals of the National Commission are:

  • Reviewing the military selective service process.
  • Listening to the public to learn from those who serve.
  • Igniting a national conversation about service.
  • Developing recommendations that will encourage every American to be inspired and eager to serve.

According to their interim report, the Commission has learned:

  • Americans value service.
  • Americans are willing to consider a wide variety of options to encourage or require service.
  • Some Americans are aware of the details of the Selective Service System while many are not.

Some Barriers to Service include:

  • Military Service is a responsibility borne by few.
  • National Service is America’s best-kept secret.
  • Public Service personnel practices need an overhaul.
  • Civic knowledge is critical for our democracy, but too few Americans receive high quality education.

Finally, the commissioners came on Borne the Battle to let listeners know that they can provide input.

Click here to learn how – deadline is Dec. 31, 2019.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why military spouses love these 10 products and services

From advice to events to products and services, at Military Spouse we are all about connecting you with the things you love. MilSpouse: Life is devoted to the products and services military spouses enjoy as a part of their everyday life. We’ll take a behind the scenes look at some of the stuff we love, plus explore how these things make our lives easier.

Here’s what you told us were some of your absolutely favorite things to LOVE!


1. Rent the Runway

Rent the Runway. Have a military ball? Need a dress? RTR has you covered (literally!). One milspouse gives us !! 7 !! reasons why you should do it too.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

Farmgirl Flowers.

(Photo by Heidi De Vries)

2. Farmgirl Flowers

Farmgirl Flowers. Nothing pisses a military spouse off faster than receiving messed-up flowers sent by their loving spouse. Worse yet is if they spent a BUNCH of money on them and the flowers die the next day. Tell us we are not alone in feeling like a lot of places take advantage of a service member wanting to show some love. Enter the most awesome flowers we’ve ever seen in a box! Bring on Valentine’s Day!

3. Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World. Mickey ears. Matching shirts. Time together. And, yeah, big military discounts!!! We LOVE this place and so do so many of our military families. Check out these tips from our friends over at Military Disney Tips!

4. Honda

Honda. She’s rollin’ in her Honda Odyssey, baby! If you’ve driven through any military housing lately, you’ve probably seen at least every other driveway filled with one of these in silver or blue. Military moms love the Honda Odyssey and maybe that’s why Honda event says “it’s everyone’s happy place.” Pull out the seats, pulldown the screens, and hit the open road! (See Number 7 below).

5. Bota Box

Bota Box. Wine. Box. Deployments. Moves. Orders to the middle of nowhere. No explanation necessary.

6. Scentsy

Scentsy. Sometimes military life just stinks. Literally. And you probably have a neighbor who sells this around the corner from you. So you get a nice smelling house. They get a business. Win. Win. Now where is my Blue Grotto Scent Circle! This place stinks!

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

(Flickr / AllieKF)

7. Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers.

Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers. Yeah, they get stuck in the tracks of our Honda Odyssey, but these bits of cheesy (or plain or pretzel) goodness have keep military kids happy for many a road trip and move. Hey, it’s the snack that smiles back, and who doesn’t need a good smile in this crazy military life? Found on the end-cap of every single commissary in the world.

8. Facebook

Facebook. Thank you, Mark Zuckerberg. You gave military families a way to stay connected with each other, our families across the world, and the friends we’ve made along the way. We may be a little addicted to some of the amazing military spouse groups the site also lets us create! Can anyone say, White Walls?

9. Stitch Fix

Stitch Fix. The majority of military installations are usually not known for their great proximity to, well, any place decent to shop. Enter a service that SENDS YOU great clothing. I’m looking at you Fort Irwin.

10. Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime. What did we EVER do without it? Seriously. Let’s just say you live 45 minutes from the closest sports store and your kid needs a chin strap for football like Tuesday and you have to work today, tomorrow, and the day after and, of course, your other kids have activities each night, and your spouse is deployed. Amazon. Prime. To the rescue!!! Five minutes. And the chin strap is rocketing across the country to your mailbox. And it will be here tomorrow in time for practice. Amazon Prime. You’ve got our back.

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

Articles

This commander prepped for war by organizing a beard growing contest

In May 1941, the United States was on the brink of war.


The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American
National Archives

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proclaimed an “unlimited national emergency” and ordered American forces to prepare “to repel any and all acts or threats of aggression directed toward any part of the Western Hemisphere.”

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American
National Archives

While the situation seemed grim, at least one commanding officer decided to lighten the mood. He allowed his men to grow their beards in what would be the most hirsute event in the U.S. military until Robin Olds headed to Vietnam.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American
National Archives

Related: This Air Force fighter pilot is the inspiration for ‘Mustache March’

 

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American
Your winner, ladies and gentlemen. (National Archives)

Japan attacked the Philippines on December 8th, 1941. Six months later, the Philippines fell and the American troops who survived were submitted to the harshest treatment of any POWs in the Pacific War. The Allies did not retake the Philippines until October 1944.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why your radio guy is always up at 0430

Communications troops don’t get nearly the amount of love that they deserve. Sure, the job description is very attractive to the more nerdy troops in formation and they’re far more likely to be in supporting roles than kicking in doors with the grunts, but they’re constantly working.

In Afghanistan, while everyone else is still asleep, the S-6 shop is up at 0430 doing radio work. This is just one of the many tasks the commo world is gifted with having.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American
Being appreciated is, however, not one of them.
(U.S. Army Photo)


The reason they’re up so early is because they need to change the communications security (or COMSEC) regularly. In order to ensure that no enemy force is able to hack their way into the military’s secure radio systems, the crypto-key that is encoded onto the radio is changed out.

Those keys are changed out at exactly the same moment everywhere around the world for all active radio systems. Because it would be impractical to set the time that COMSEC changes over at, the global time for radio systems is set in Zulu time, which is the current time in London’s GMT/UTC +0 time zone.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American
This is also why the good radio operators carry two watches u2014 one in current time and another in Zulu time.

For troops stationed in Korea or Japan, this gives them a pleasant 0900 to change the COMSEC. Troops on America’s west coast have 1600 (which is great because it’s right before closeout formation.) If they’re stationed in Afghanistan however, they get the unarguably terrible time of 0430.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American
As if being a deployed radio operator wasn’t sh*tty enough.

Each and every radio system that will be used needs to be refilled by the appropriate radio operator. When this is just before a patrol, the sole radio operator with the SKL (the device used to encrypt radios) will usually be jokingly heckled to move faster. The process usually takes a few minutes per radio, which could take a while.

This is also why the radios themselves are set to Zulu time. If the radio is not programmed to Zulu time — or if it’s slightly off —it won’t read the encryption right and radio transmissions won’t be effective. This goes to the exact second.

So maybe cut your radio guy some slack. The only time they could be spending sleeping is used to program radios.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Do ‘detox’ juices actually work?

Are juices that promise “cleansing from toxins” or “detoxification” of our bodies considered healthy? Are these products worth it?

Most likely not. If your body has been poisoned, detox juices and herbal products are not likely to help. The toxins they refer to are usually not real poisons like heavy metals or pesticides. They use the word toxin to grab your attention so you think there is something wrong and that buying their product will correct it. It is normal for our bodies produce some of these substances that should not be stored. Fortunately, our kidneys and liver are designed to rid the body of these substances.


Another concern with juice detox products is the sugar content, which may be as high as the content of a regular soft drink. Some might be good sources of potassium and vitamin C, but can leave you feeling hungry later. This could lead to overeating and frustration surrounding your health goals. As an alternative, whole fruits have the same vitamins and minerals as juice, take longer to eat, and have fiber that’s lacking in juice to help you feel more satisfied.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

(Flickr photo by Rob Bertholf)

We can’t talk about cleansing without mentioning the many colon cleanse products that are available. These products claim to remove “toxins” from your colon; however, most foods are absorbed in the small intestine, not the colon. It is important to note that many colon cleanse products contain some otherwise healthy ingredients like probiotics (often called “good bacteria,”), prebiotics (things that help probiotics grow, often called “resistant starch”) and fiber, but there are many foods that contain these same ingredients.

Certain probiotics might also help people with constipation have more regular bowel movements; however, adding probiotics too quickly can also cause the opposite problem — diarrhea. Start with small amounts of probiotic foods (such as low-sugar yogurt with active cultures and sauerkraut with live cultures) and increase serving sizes slowly.

The Road Less Traveled: Wali Tasleem’s Journey From Afghan Commando to Successful American

(Flickr photo by Rob Bertholf)

The best sources of prebiotics and fiber are fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Getting the right amount of prebiotics and fiber in your diet might help you absorb a few less calories, feel fuller and allow you to eat less overall. To increase prebiotics and fiber in your diet, start with a couple small portions of these foods and increase the amount slowly so you don’t end up feeling bloated or uncomfortable. Also make sure to drink enough water!

For more information on strategies to make healthy changes to your diet, contact your local VA registered dietitian.

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

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