Air Force Academy sees most female applicants in 5 years - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Air Force Academy sees most female applicants in 5 years

When the Brie Larsen blockbuster “Captain Marvel” rolled out earlier this year, the Air Force launched an all-out recruiting effort, hoping to capitalize on the story of female fighter pilot-turned superhero Carol Danvers.

The Air Force placed pre-show ads in more than 3,600 theaters nationwide, bought space at geek hubs such as Fandom.com, and hosted its own press events with Larsen, as well as a red-carpet screening in Washington, D.C.

From at least one perspective, the Air Force effort to hitch its wagon to Captain Marvel’s star was an unreserved success.


An inspirational 30-second commercial titled “Origin Story,” timed to coincide with the film’s release in March, was the most popular piece of social media promotional content published by any service in 2019, Lt. Col Jacob Chisolm, deputy chief of strategic marketing at the Air Force Recruiting Service (AFRS), told the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS) during its December meeting.

USAF Female Fighter Pilots: March 8 recruitment campaign upcoming movie

www.youtube.com

Through paid media promotion, “Origin Story” received 173,000 visits, 11 million views of the video itself, and 200 million impressions overall, according to Air Force statistics.

“We couldn’t ask for a better movie to do that,” Chisolm said. AFRS is currently run by Brig. Gen Jeannie Leavitt, the service’s first female fighter pilot upon whom Danvers’ character is loosely based. Leavitt was commander of the 57th Wing at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, as the movie was filming.

“It was a huge success. We had a fantastic media campaign,” Chisolm said.

But has the movie hype and messaging translated to recruiting numbers? It may be too soon to tell.

The proportion of female applicants to the Air Force Academy’s class of 2023 will be the highest in the last five years — 31.2%, according to statistics provided to Military.com. By comparison, 913 men, or 73.5%, and 329 women, or 26.5%, made up the 2019 graduating class.

The academy is one of the main accession hubs for the service.

“In 2014, the Secretary of the Air Force and Chief of Staff of the Air Force set applicant pool goals for all officer accessions sources,” Maureen Welch, Air Force Academy director of public affairs, told Military.com via email. “The guidance was used to influence our marketing and outreach efforts.”

So far, the remaining classes have also seen a slight bump: Women make up 28.6% of the 2020 applicant class; 29.3% in 2021; and 30.5% in the 2022 class, according to statistics.

Air Force Academy sees most female applicants in 5 years

U.S. Air Force Academy, CO — Basic Cadet Victoria Wyler attacks the monkey bars on the Jacks Valley Assault Course.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Dennis Rogers)

Welch said the marketing efforts do not necessarily seek out applicants for a particular class composition, which is why the academy “has not seen an out of the ordinary increase in female applicants, nor female applicants interested in aviation careers” despite the film’s debut.

The popular movie and Air Force advertising campaign came in the midst of a multi-year effort by the academy to diversify its cadet population.

But Marvel did bring more eyeballs to the service’s career website during a time of renewed push to inspire young women to join the Air Force’s ranks.

The Air Force says it capitalized on the opportunity to work with the “Captain Marvel” filmmakers to showcase a leading female aviator, Danvers, who started out as a young trainee only to become a top-notch F-15 Eagle pilot, and ultimately, liberator of the universe.

In a round table with reporters at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber conference in September, Leavitt cited the effect of advertising around Captain Marvel, reporting anecdotally that officials were seeing more interest from women in Air Force pilot careers.

“Quite honestly I think it’s going to be one of those things that is going to take some time to show, kind of the return on investment,” she said. “Because a lot of these people being inspired are kind of high school, college age, where we might not see that for a little while later. … We do have an increased number of women who want to be pilots. But I don’t know if that’s because of Captain Marvel. … I don’t know the why behind it.”

Air Force Academy sees most female applicants in 5 years
(Marvel Studios)

As of July, the Air Force had 778 female pilots, accounting for roughly 6% of the pilot force, according to the Air Force Personnel Center.

The “Origin Story” ad used the “Captain Marvel” framework to present real female airmen who “all got their start somewhere.”

“For us, it was the U.S. Air Force,” a group of women say in the commercial.

“We’re looking for what’s going to follow this, but we’re going to ride this wave as long as we can,” Chisolm said.

Other efforts to boost Air Force female outreach in 2019 incorporated Air Education Training Command’s Women’s Fly In Conference in Texas; a partnership with SuperGirl Surf Pro, the world’s largest female surf event and festival; roughly a dozen regional events with First Robotics to promote women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); and the annual TED Women speakers conference program, a three-day event in which audience goers correspond with female entrepreneurs, creators and leaders in their respective industries.

“We’re going to try to get involved in everything … and we’re going to do what we can do to get out and make sure we get our message across,” Chisolm said.

He added that the Air Force’s plan is to “jump on the ‘Top Gun 2’ bandwagon, too,” despite the film showcasing naval aviation.

“We’re not going to let that slide, either,” he said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why camouflaged troops wearing reflective belts became a thing

If there’s one accessory that’s become synonymous with the post-9/11 generation of troops, it has to be the nonsensical PT belt. It’s that bright, neon green, reflective band that you see wrapped around every troop when they go out for a jog.

Honestly, it seems like some big wig at the Pentagon must have thought it was funny in an ironic sort of way to make all troops who’re wearing camouflage fatigues put on a bright, shiny, eye-catching belt. Military doctrine isn’t made on a whim and, usually, there’s a lot more at play than meets the eye, but the actual reason behind wearing the belt is a perfect example of someone listening to the “Good Idea Fairy” instead of reason.


Air Force Academy sees most female applicants in 5 years

In all fairness to the glow belt, it does help troops be seen at night. That doesn’t mean that’s the solution to vehicular manslaughter, however.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Zachary Wolf)

Prior to the 90s, troops didn’t wear any sort of reflective clothing during morning PT. Instead, for safety, troops conducted PT on roads that were blocked off in the mornings to avoid any potential accidents with civilian drivers. Unfortunately, the scenario didn’t play out as installation commanders hoped and fatalities would happen occasionally.

The first step in preventing these unfortunate deaths was to create more reflective PT uniforms — without abandoning the military appearance, of course. A few designs were tested, but the luminescence would consistently lose its luster after a few runs through the laundry.

So, rather than holding the manufacturers accountable for making a sub-par product, the Army used reflective armbands, reflective vests, before, finally, adapting the the widespread PT belt. Initially, this was more of a Band-Aid solution to a large problem.

Air Force Academy sees most female applicants in 5 years
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ethan Morgan)

It’s funny how everyone of ranks of E-7, O-2, and below unanimously hate the belts, but as soon as you make rank, you suddenly laud their effectiveness…

Then came a horrible incident on Lackland Air Force Base in 1996 in which several airmen were struck by a moving vehicle during a morning run. Rather than installing a traffic light or determining what, exactly, was to blame, the Air Force pulled the trigger and made the new reflective belts mandatory.

The rest of the branches soon followed suit because it gave the commanders an out when creating Risk Management Assessments. Rather than taking an analytical look at serious and tragic incidents, the commanders could cut themselves out of the accountability equation by making everyone wear reflective bets.

Air Force Academy sees most female applicants in 5 years
(Comic by AF Blues)

 

In short, the solution of “add a PT belt” was a lazy answer to a complicated question that resulted in horrible accidents. Vehicles hitting pedestrians in the motor pool was another problem addressed by adding a PT belt instead of figuring out why so many accidents were happeningafter all, do the belts even have any real effect in broad daylight?

This sort of irresponsible risk management solution has since become the biggest running joke in the military.

“Going into combat? Don’t forget your PT belt!” “Picking someone up from the local bars? Don’t forget your PT belt!” “Jumping out of a C-130 without a parachute? It’s fine so long as you wear your PT belt!”

MIGHTY CULTURE

The COVID-19 effect: Navy ships

When the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) returned to sea in late-May following a two-month long battle against the novel coronavirus, the aircraft carrier was ground zero for a new normal for Navy ships at sea.

In the early months of the global pandemic, the Roosevelt had become itself a COVID-19 “hotspot.” The virus ultimately cost one Roosevelt crewmember his life and infected 1,150 sailors. As the ship resumed its mission with a scaled-back crew, facemasks, frequent handwashing, enhanced cleaning measures, reduced mess deck seating, one-way corridors and other protocols to mitigate COVID-19 had become the norm within the fleet.


“We can protect our force, we can deploy our Navy, and we will do both,” Vice Adm. Phillip Sawyer, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Operations, Plans and Strategy, told reporters on an April 15 call. “Face-coverings, hand-washing, ship-disinfecting are now part of our daily routine throughout the Navy.”

Michael Rubin, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, argues the pandemic has served as a wake-up call for the Navy.

“The Navy trains for all sorts of contingencies but if operating during a global pandemic was one, it was so far down the list as to be irrelevant,” Rubin said. “Politicians thought we were past this age and flag officers and civilian planners were no different.”

Air Force Academy sees most female applicants in 5 years

Navy Seaman Kyle Pavek stands lookout watch aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) during a replenishment-at-sea with the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Pecos (T-AO 197). Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Julian Davis.

Less than a month after the first sailor aboard the Roosevelt tested positive for the coronavirus, the Navy issued updated guidance aimed at maintaining ongoing fleet operations and defeating “this unseen enemy.” The Navy’s “Pre-Deployment Guidance” and a “COVID-19 Recovery Framework” outline shipboard changes that will be experienced by sailors:

Pre-deployment:

  • Mandatory medical screenings for existing medical conditions that place personnel at higher risk for COVID-19 complications.
  • Daily personal screening questionnaires and temperature checks.
  • Testing and isolation of anyone with flu-like symptoms.
  • 14-to-21-day restriction of movement (ROM) period for potentially asymptomatic people to present symptoms.
  • 14-day ROM period before external crew, ship riders (contractors, technical representatives) and direct support personnel can embark during an underway.

Deployment:

  • Enforcement of personal hygiene practices and, whenever possible, physical distancing.
  • Ongoing screening for potential COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Maximum personal protective equipment (PPE) use.
  • Separate and segregate cleaning teams from critical watchstanders.
  • Restrict visitors.
  • Minimize contact with delivery personnel.

Additional guidance outlines specific steps to be taken to clean a ship or facility following a COVID-19 outbreak, using three categories of requirements depending on the degree to which the space is operationally significant and the level of access required.

“These measures allow fleet leadership the ability to monitor the health of the force in a controlled and secure environment so they are ready to accomplish assigned missions and support to the goal of preventing the spread of the COVID virus to U.S. forces, allies, partners and the community. These frameworks cover testing for personnel as well,” Cmdr. Patrick L. Evans, Public Affairs Officer for Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, said in an email response. He noted commanders have the authority to issue more specific guidance to units within their areas of responsibility.

“In addition, our ships are enforcing social distancing, minimizing group gatherings, wearing PPE and cleaning extensively,” he added. “Quarterdeck watchstanders are screening anyone who walks on board and referring sailors with symptoms to medical evaluation.”

Air Force Academy sees most female applicants in 5 years

Navy Quartermaster 3rd Class Patrick Souvannaleut, left, and Quartermaster 3rd Class Elizabeth Weil, right, stand spotter lookout during a replenishment-at-sea as the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt approaches the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Pecos (T-AO 197). Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Zachary Wheeler.

Navy officials have acknowledged “day-to-day actions must assume COVID is present” because asymptomatic personnel are likely to be aboard all ships. That point was driven home in mid-May when 14 Roosevelt sailors who previously contracted the virus tested positive a second time after returning to the ship following a mandatory quarantine period and two negative COVID-19 tests.

Retired Navy Capt. Albert Shimkus, a registered nurse and certified nurse anesthetist who previously commanded the hospital ship USNS Comfort, maintains sailors must take individual responsibility for following COVID-19 prevention protocols and “recognizing you could potentially be a carrier that could affect and infect your shipmates.”

As the Navy adjusts to the operational realities the pandemic presents, Shimkus, whose views are his own and do not represent the U.S. Naval War College, U.S. Navy or Department of Defense, stresses the Navy’s core values must ring true.

“Given the nature of what this crisis is ‘Honor, Courage and Commitment’ speak volumes about how we will treat ourselves and each other and about doing the ethically and morally correct thing,” said Shimkus, Associate Professor, National Security Affairs, Naval War College. “That’s all related to a command environment that is healthy and a command environment that is willing to do what’s right for the members of their command.”

Shimkus is confident Navy leaders at sea and ashore will rise to the challenge.

“Good leadership in the context of this crisis is being transparent to their crew and members of their organizations,” he explained. “Telling the truth and being able to be understood by your crew, opening up questions and answering them to the best of your ability is part of good leadership and commitment to doing the right thing.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 things you didn’t know about snow

When you’re sitting by the fire with a cup of cocoa, a white Christmas sounds heavenly. When you’re at war, it’s a different story. During Washington’s camp at Valley Forge, roughly 12,000 continentals wintered in ragged huts. The frigid temperatures resulted in frequent bouts of disease, especially since many of the soldiers were lacking in proper clothing. Some weren’t fit for service at all, their bare feet leaving bloody footprints in the snow. It wouldn’t be the last time that American soldiers battled the elements. During the Civil War, the Union army confronted the Confederates on the Ozark Plateau in the cold of winter. The Confederates retreated, but the Union army gave chase. Mid-pursuit, the weather took a turn for the worst, and both armies were engulfed in a storm of snow and sleet.

So what’s the deal with this fluffy white stuff that can cause so much trouble? How does it work? Interestingly, snow isn’t as self-explanatory as you’d think. Keep reading for some of the most surprising tidbits about nature’s chilliest, prettiest form of precipitation.

  1. The hush of falling snow is a real thing. 
    A blanket of freshly fallen snow actually absorbs sound waves quite effectively, which is why a snowy night seems a little quieter than usual. Strangely, winter weather can also amplify sound, leading to lingering echoes through the treetops. When the snow melts and refreezes, it turns into ice. Instead of absorbing sound like snow, ice reflects it! Pretty cool, huh?
  1. Snow is white…or is it? 
    Snowcapped peaks look pretty darn white, but snow is actually colorless. The clear flakes scatter light in all directions, diffusing the complete color spectrum and making it appear white. That said, snow can take on different hues in different conditions. Environmental pollution and algae can turn snow orange, pink, or even black. Meanwhile, deep snow can absorb more red light than blue, giving it a chilly, bluish tint.
  1. Snow is warm.
    Sort of. While snow is technically frozen, it traps tons of air as it collects on the ground. 90-95% of fallen snow is actually trapped air, making it a shockingly good insulator. That’s why animals make burrows in the winter, and why igloos aren’t ice cold. The inside of an igloo can stay up to 70 degrees warmer inside than out! Soldiers have also used the insulating power of snow to their advantage. At the Northern Warfare Training Center in Black Rapids, Alaska, the temperatures can reach negative 60 degrees Fahrenheit, but students learn to survive.
  1. Snowflakes form around a nucleus.
    While snow doesn’t develop like the cells you read about in 7th-grade biology, they do form around a central particle. A speck of dirt or other microscopic debris becomes the center of each snowflake as it freezes, giving it that classic snowflake shape. This is why snow looks different than hail or sleet, which freeze as they fall without the help of a nucleus. If you look at a snowflake under a strong enough microscope, you can see the material that started it all.
  2. There are over 35 kinds of snowflakes.
    One scientist named Andy Brunning loved snow so much that he identified as many different types of snowflakes as he could. In total, he found 35 types of snowflakes. He organized these into categories, including germs, rimed, plane, irregular, and column. Which is your favorite?
  3. Snowflakes always have 6 sides.
    The 8-sided snowflake decorations you found at Homegoods are a lie. The geometry of water molecules makes it impossible for anything but a six-sided ice crystal to form. Not five-sided. Not eight-sided. Six. Get it right, Hallmark.
  4. Snowflakes CAN be identical.
    If you’ve ever told someone they’re as one of a kind as a snowflake, it might be time to come up with a new compliment. While snowflakes do come in a wide array of shapes and patterns, a scientist named Nancy Knight found two snowflakes that were completely identical. I guess the clouds were expecting twins.
  5. The biggest snowflake recorded was bigger than your head. 
    Unless you have a really big head, that is. The largest recorded snowflake was 15 inches wide! It fell during a winter storm in January 1887 in Fort Keogh, Montana. Some ranch owners there claimed the flakes were as big as milk pans!
  1. It once snowed over 100 inches of snow in a single day.
    If you love snow, Capracotta, Italy is the place for you. On March 5th, 2015, it snowed 100.8 inches in less than 24 hours. That’s more than eight feet! Italy’s not the only place to get great snow, however. In Washington State, Mount Baker saw the greatest recorded snow in a single season, ringing in at 1,142 inches.
  2. Not all snowstorms are blizzards.
    You know how all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares? The same goes for blizzards and snowstorms. All blizzards are snowstorms, but it’s the amount of wind that sets blizzards apart. Snowstorms come with plenty of falling snow, but blizzards take it up a notch with sustained heavy winds or frequent gusts of 25 mph or more. 

I love a white Christmas as much as the next guy, but if it’s that stormy out I think I’ll stay inside. Cocoa, anyone?

MIGHTY CULTURE

Remembering Elvis Presley’s service on his 85th birthday

As young America faces a draft panic, let us consider the example of Elvis Presley. At the height of his run as the King of Rock and Roll, the world’s biggest pop star received his induction notice from Uncle Sam and did a two-year stint in the U.S. Army, beginning in 1958.

Not only did he leave millions of dollars on the table during his two-year stint, he turned down sweet offers from both the Army and the Navy that would’ve allowed him to serve as an entertainer instead of a grunt.


If Elvis hadn’t embraced a fried-food-and-pharmaceuticals diet in the ’70s, he might have lived long enough to celebrate his 85th birthday on Jan. 8, 2020. Instead, he died on the toilet on Aug. 16, 1977, at the age of 42. It’s true, Elvis fans: The King has now been gone longer than he was with us here on Earth.

King Creole – Trailer

www.youtube.com

Elvis asked for (and got) an extension so he could make “King Creole” before induction. Since this is arguably Presley’s best movie, we all owe a debt of gratitude to the Memphis Draft Board for allowing him to finish it before reporting to boot camp at Fort Hood, Texas.

Presley was assigned to the 3rd Armored Division at Freidberg, Germany. Over the next 16 months, he was allowed to live off base with his recently widowed father but otherwise enjoyed a standard-issue service. He was promoted to sergeant in January 1960.

While in Germany, Elvis picked up three habits that would define the rest of his life and career: pills, Priscilla and karate. Pvt. Presley first took amphetamines while on maneuvers and was a fervent evangelist on the subject for the rest of his life. Fourteen-year-old milkid Priscilla Beaulieu turned out to be the love of his life. He later moved her family to Memphis and eventually married the girl he called “Satnin” when she turned 21. While the King never mastered the martial art, he continued to study it, and his future live shows were peppered with random karate kicks onstage.

Presley was discharged in March 1960 and returned to show biz with the movie “G.I. Blues.” Fans were excited to see Elvis in uniform on-screen but, unfortunately, the movie set the tone for the turkeys that were to dominate the rest of his movie career.

G.I. Blues – Trailer

www.youtube.com

Elvis did occasionally manage to get his mojo back after military service. Check out the ’68 Comeback TV special or the records he made in Memphis in 1969 with producer Chips Moman.

Most of today’s biggest pop stars already have too much ink to be eligible to serve, but the ghost of Elvis will be eager to see which teen idols step up to serve if things escalate this week in the Middle East.

Happy birthday to the King.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

LRC develops future leaders by using hands-on practice in tackling both leader and follower roles

After the Second World War, the Air Force established their version of a LRC, Project X, which would be used as one of the four means to evaluate students of the Squadron Officers Course at Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.


“What we are trying to replicate for the students is being under stress and how you manage people under stress with limited resources, limited time and trying to solve a complex problem with a group of people with different personalities, different ways of leading and ways they want to be followed,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Clayton, Air University assistant professor of leadership.

The primary purposes of the course are to improve the students’ leadership ability by affording the student an opportunity to apply the lessons learned in formal leadership instruction. Secondly, to assess the students by measuring the degree to which certain leadership traits and behaviors are possessed. It’s also used to provide the students with a means of making a self-evaluation to determine more accurately their leadership ability and to provide the opportunity to observe the effects of strengths and weaknesses of others during a team operation.

Air Force Academy sees most female applicants in 5 years

Most importantly, the LRC is used to develop diverse individuals as future leaders in the Air Force.

Stress plays an important part in the evaluation of each leader as it is through stress the critical leader processes and skills will be observed by the evaluator. To produce a stressful environment for the working team, certain limitations are placed on them.

Air Force Academy sees most female applicants in 5 years

Officer trainees work together to overcome an obstacle at the Project X leadership reaction course. The course is designed to improve leadership traits to Air-men attending Squadron Officer School, Officer Training School, Air Force Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy and other schools on Maxwell AFB.

(Air Force photo by Donna L. Burnett/Released)

According to the LRC standard of operations, the course operation is designed so that each individual will be a leader for a task-one time and serve as a team member or observer the remainder of the time. For each task there is a working team and an observing team. The working team is responsible for completing the mission while the observing team acts as safety personnel, overwatch elements, support elements, or competition.

The tasks themselves vary. For example, one task may be to get personnel and equipment across a simulated land mine without touching the ground by building a makeshift bridge from supplies. Another task may incorporate fear and more physical endurance by getting a team and gear over a high wall. Each task has a time limit and unique problems to solve the mission.

Although completing the mission isn’t the goal of the LRC.

“As a leader, you have to recognize some of these people may be scared to do this task or to move across this task with me. So, how do you motivate those people? Do you have the emotional intelligence to understand that you may be able to get through this task on your own, but other people may be scared to do it, so how do you understand that? How do you communicate to your people, motivate them, lead them by example, inspire them to follow you and get through the task? These tasks are designed to cause that stress and to make you apply the leadership skills you learned in the classroom,” Clayton said.

The whole concept is getting students to identify what type of leader they are as well as understand and identifying leadership traits in others.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marine sergeant wins international photography competition with stunning photos

Everyone in the Marine Corps has a story. No one knows this better than does Sgt. Dana Beesley, who just earned the prestigious title of 2020 Photographer of the Year from the Military Visual Awards, an international competition showcasing the best of the best in military photography.

Beesley grew up in the small town of Lewiston, Idaho, the daughter of a local journalist. After watching All the President’s Men as a young child, she fell in love with investigative reporting. She fiddled with disposable cameras, took pictures on family camping trips, and pored with wonder over the hundreds of copies of National Geographic Magazine her mother had collected in the basement, looking at only the photos and captions.

After joining the Marine Corps as a combat photographer in 2015, Beesley got serious about photography.

Air Force Academy sees most female applicants in 5 years
An instructor pushes his students to their limits as he corrects one student, who appears to be struggling, on the proper way to execute a rope climb during class physical training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., Oct. 15, 2020. Photo by Sgt. Dana Beesley.

“From there, the adventure began,” she told Coffee or Die Magazine, looking back on her decision to enlist after completing her freshman year at the University of Idaho.

Beesley is based at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, where she chronicles the struggles and successes of the thousands of recruits who undergo recruit training there annually.

“Even though we go through the same training every week, the people themselves are all different,” she said. “They all experience emotions differently. They all experience pain differently. They all experience passion and drive and motivation differently.”

Air Force Academy sees most female applicants in 5 years
Recruits with Alpha Company participate in the Crucible on Parris Island, S.C., June 14, 2019. The Crucible is a 54-hour culminating event that requires recruits to work as a team and overcome challenges in order to earn the title United States Marine. Photo by Sgt. Dana Beesley.

From the recruit who may be conquering a fear of heights to plunge off a high dive for the first time, to the one who has spent the last of his energy during the crucible, Beesley wants to capture every moment.

Beesley’s portfolio was one of more than 2,000 submissions from US and NATO military members around the world, according to the Military Visual Awards.

Air Force Academy sees most female applicants in 5 years
Marine Sgt. Dana Beesley is a combat photographer at MCRD Parris Island, S.C. She has been named the 2020 Military Visual Awards Photographer of the Year. Photo courtesy of Sgt. Dana Beesley.

“One of the things that I think separates [Beesley] from a lot of people is there’s an emotional connection she has with a lot of her photos,” Chief Warrant Officer 2 Bobby Yarbrough said. “She gets that emotional connection with people, which makes them more comfortable in front of a camera, but also makes her imagery just stand out and pop.”

Yarbrough’s opinion carries a lot of weight. Like Beesley, he graduated from the Military Photojournalism Program at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, which is sometimes affectionately described as “the Top Gun” of military photojournalism. The Marines regularly shoot photos together on base, building a competitive camaraderie. Yarbrough was also the runner up in this year’s contest.

Air Force Academy sees most female applicants in 5 years
A Marine Corps instructor of water survival (MCIWS) instructs recruits with Fox Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, on proper breathing techniques before swim qualification training on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., Sept. 29, 2020. Photo by Sgt. Dana Beesley.

“Nothing makes me happier than seeing Sgt. Beesley actually beat me out in the competition,” Yarbrough said. “Being a leader in the Marine Corps, nothing is more humbling than seeing the people below you succeed. And her portfolio was definitely better than mine.”

Beesley herself is incredibly humble, though, crediting her fellow Marines with her success. She leads a 16-person team that specializes in all areas of public communication and digital engagement at MCRD Parris Island.

Air Force Academy sees most female applicants in 5 years
Recruits with Echo Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, complete the Obstacle Course during the Crucible on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., June 12, 2020. Photo by Sgt. Dana Beesley.

“It’s because of the Marines underneath and above me that I’m here today,” she said. “I wish I could give this award to all the Marines at Parris Island. I don’t want to take it for myself.”

Beesley won’t run out of stories to tell on Parris Island anytime soon. In fact, there’s one very specific photo she’s trying to take.

“I’m still waiting for that moment where I capture that complete exhaustion on a drill instructor’s face behind a closed door,” she said.

Air Force Academy sees most female applicants in 5 years
Staff Sgt. Candace Luna, a drill instructor with Platoon 4032, Oscar Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion, inspects her platoon as they practice close-order drill movements in the squad bay June 26, 2019 on Parris Island, S.C. Photo by Sgt. Dana Beesley.

Drill instructors are notoriously stoic, and even if their facade slips for a moment, it goes right back up the second they see Beesley’s lens.

“The things that these drill instructors do day in and day out for the betterment of the Marine Corps is absolutely astonishing,” she said. “I wish I could show that in my camera.”

See more of Beesley’s winning portfolio here, as well as powerful photos in other categories, such as news, feature, portrait, and more.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to prepare for coronavirus without freaking out your family

Almost everyone agrees that being prepared for the worst while hoping for the best is the ideal way to get through life. It’s balancing optimism with action, which makes perfect sense right? On one hand, optimism without action is just being blindly oblivious to reality. On the other hand, being laser focused on inevitable trauma robs you of a fulfilling life.


In theory, we all agree on this. But where are the lines drawn? How can you tell when you’ve slipped from Boy Scout to Doomsday Prepper? How do you know if you’re teaching your kids to be thoughtful and self-reliant, or creating mini-balls of crippling neuroses?

The world – especially right now – isn’t exactly helping matters. Coronavirus is public enemy number one. But then there’s also the fact that climate change has nature erupting into fits of destructive insanity, healthcare is still a privilege rather than a right in far too many places, and school shootings are a bi-weekly occurrence. It is not a time to be even mildly anxious, so it’s understandable if the state of things has you teetering on the edge of a full-on panic room scenario.

We all want to protect our families and ourselves, so let’s try and find the happy medium that allows us to consider stepping outside once in a while.

Air Force Academy sees most female applicants in 5 years

The Healthy Way to Prepare for the Worst

“Preparedness not only makes sense from a practical standpoint, it is, I believe, a responsibility that every parent has,” says Dr. George Everly, Jr., a professor at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and author of When Disaster Strikes: Inside Disaster Psychology.

In his work, Everly often uses a different term when discussing the concept of being prepared: Resilience. Not only does this choice of word carry with it significant connotations – it makes you think of someone who is resourceful and strong, not worried – it also sits at the core of a very important psychological trait.

“Preparation does bring not only reassurance but a sense of self-efficacy,” says Everly. “Self-efficacy lies at the root of self esteem.”

“Self-efficacy,” Everly points out, was coined by Canadian-American psychologist Dr. Albert Bandura, the David Starr Jordan Professor Emeritus of Social Science in Psychology at Stanford University. In the 60s and 70s, Dr. Bandura conducted a number of studies on this concept, which essentially boil down to a person’s belief in their ability to alleviate their own phobias. It’s not so much a belief that you can avoid problems by being prepared, it’s that you are confident that you can overcome them when they plop on your doorstep.

This is an important distinction. One is having an almost talisman-like belief that your emergency kit will ward off danger; the other combines action with self-reliance and a form of optimism. In a Psychology Today essay “Preparing for Bad Things,” Everly calls this “Active Optimism,” which he defines as the belief “that life events will turn out well, largely because one believes she/he possesses the ability to assist in making things turn out well.” That’s the sweet spot.

In addition to a strong sense of self-efficacy, Everly believes that confidence in previous success is vital (locking the doors and avoiding all dangers won’t actually prepare anyone for anything), as are encouragement and self-control. Learning to keep stress levels down and emotions in check can do a lot to help you overcome problems or handle unexpected emergencies. After all, panic leads to doubt and confusion and, ultimately, a much worse situation.

The Unhealthy Way to Prepare For the Worst

There’s a big difference between preparation — and Everly’s idea of Active Optimism — and pure paranoia.

“Can one worry and prepare to an excessive degree? Of course, as one can eat too much chocolate cake or exercise too much or even drink too much water,” says Everly. “The bottom line, I believe, is prepare as best one can for the highest probability ‘worst case scenarios’ then leave it alone. Move on.”

However, Everly is more concerned about the other end of the spectrum, where parents lean too much into optimism to the point where they seem to actively deny the existence of real world concerns.

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“Repression and denial can be effective ego defense mechanisms and are certainly the prerogative of any given individual,” he says. “But I believe that prerogative must yield to a higher responsibility one has to one’s children.”

To Everly’s early point about action being a necessary component of preparedness and resilience, Dr. Clifford Lazarus offers a succinct distillation of the idea in his essay “Why Optimism Can Be Bad For Your Mental Health.” In it, Dr. Lazarus explains the difference between types of optimism that echo Everly’s beliefs.

“The difference between false optimism and rational optimism can be captured by two different statements,” he writes. “‘There’s nothing to be concerned about, everything will be just grand.’ That’s false optimism. The second statement reflects realistic optimism: ‘We’ve got a real mess on our hands, things don’t look too good, but if we tackle it step by step, we can probably do something about it’.”

Moving Forward

While both Everly and Lazarus preach the perfectly reasonable idea of action along with resilience and optimism, even those concepts can go too far. All you have to do is see the deeply unnerving lack of Purell at the store in the midst of the Coronavirus outbreak, or the mad, panicky rush to stock up on water and essentials when a severe storm is on the horizon. This is action, for sure, but it is action robbed of realistic optimism and, in many cases, credible information.

A lot of the psychological problems that fester alongside attempts to prepare for disaster come from a lack of information mixed with speculation, imagination, and outright lies. Being able to sift through the social media Chicken Littles who declare the end of the world with every sneeze is vital for not only true preparedness, but for passing on a sense of resilience and emotional strength to your children. A constant barrage of misinformation can make any form of action seem pointless, which is counterproductive.

“People who exhibit pessimism with limited self-efficacy may perceive psychosocial stressors as unmanageable,” says Everly. “And are more likely to dwell on perceived deficiencies, which generates increased stress and diminishes potential problem-solving energy, lowers aspirations, weakens commitments, and lowers resilience.”

So where does that leave us?

There’s the simple truth that we’re never going to be prepared for everything. The world is a Whack-a-Mole game of problems and tragedies, and something will catch you off-guard at some point. Locking yourself in a well-stocked bunker also isn’t a viable option for anything remotely resembling a life. What is, is to cultivate a sense of self-efficacy in yourself and your children. The optimism of “I didn’t see this coming, but I can overcome it.” So, prepare. Have contingency plans in place. Be ready for the worst. Practice resilience. And help yourself — and your family — understand that things will be under control. And maybe buy a 30-pack of batteries.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why you actually want Skynet (and maybe John Connor)

Remember that movie Stealth? It’s the one where Jamie Foxx, Jessica Biel, and the other sexy pilots are forced to fly with a plane that has a computer pilot and, turns out, computer pilots are bad because lightning can strike them and drive them crazy and then they murder all the people?


No? Well certainly you’ve seen or heard of the Terminator movies. You know, the ones where plucky humans and their hacked robot bodybuilder are forced to fight other robots in order to prevent a future apocalypse ordered by military AI?

They’re great films, but they imply that any future where computers are controlling the weapons of war is dystopian AF. In reality, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls are guarded by men with guns. It would be much better if the U.S. could guard those walls with robots with guns controlled by men.

The Genesis of Skynet [Terminator 2]

www.youtube.com

This would provide two advantages. First, if the guards on the walls are robots — not fleshy humans — then people shooting at the walls can only destroy hardware, not kill men and women. But perhaps the bigger factor is that artificial intelligence is enabling robots to become better at some jobs than their human controllers.

In 2016, we wrote about a University of Cincinnati project where a retired colonel and fighter pilot were advising on an artificial intelligence project. The AI was just supposed to control a Red Team well enough to allow fighter pilots to get better experience in simulations, but tweaks to the system made it start winning. And then it beat the general. And then it beat the general even when he was directly piloting one of the aircraft.

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​ALPHA AI was developed with a team from University of Cincinnati. It can run on a cheap computer but has defeated skilled fighter pilots in simulations.

(Journal of Defense Management)

The adviser, Retired Air Force Col. Gene “Geno” Lee, told the researchers that AI was “the most aggressive, responsive, dynamic and credible AI [he’s] seen-to-date.”

And that AI, known as ALPHA, ran on a Raspberry Pi computer that can be picked up for under . So, for , plus probably ,000 or so in retrofitting charged by manufacturers, we could make 4th generation planes do their jobs perfectly while flying in support of a fifth-generation, human pilot who’s calling the shots.

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Stealth‘s artificial intelligence can pilot fighter jets, but, for some reason, needs a special sensor that looks like a robotic eye instead of just using, you know, its radar or even just normal cameras.

(YouTube/MovieClips)

This may sound familiar to people for one or both of two reasons. First, the Air Force is actively pursuing this as the wingman concept. But second, Skynet in the Terminator movies got its start piloting stealth bombers where it achieved a “perfect operational record,” according to Schwarzenegger’s character.

Is this so bad? I mean, sure, we should stop short of handing strategic control of the nuclear weapons to Skynet, but that was never a realistic plot premise. Remember, even during the height of the Cold War, it was rare for launch approval for nuclear weapons to be handed down past the president. If we don’t trust generals to make nuclear decisions without the president approving it, why would we ever let a computer have full control?

So, if we develop Skynet and don’t give it access to the nukes — if we create safe AI — we’re left with a completely new version of warfare where we don’t have to risk our own troops at nearly the same level as we currently do. Doesn’t sound so horrible now, does it?

And, if the other side gets AI, that’s still better for humanity as a whole. Remember when the RAND Corporation anticipated that, by 2025, war with China would be bloody and unwinnable? No? We’re the only people who actually read RAND reports? Alright, then.

Here’s the thing: World War I was so horrible because it was a nearly unwinnable war for both sides. Once nations committed to the conflict, they poured blood and treasure into a never-ending pit of carnage. Millions died and little was gained for anybody.

AI wouldn’t make unwinnable wars winnable — at least not if both sides have it — but it could make them much less bloody, which is still a step in the right direction.

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You know what would be even better than sending F-35s up with human pilots to detect enemy air defenses and suppress them? Sending them up with a bunch of fighters that are basically robots with AI. So, if they do get in a fight, they don’t need to take the hits.

(U.S. Air National Guard Master Sgt. Joshua C. Allmaras)

So, what about poor John Connor, an excellent small-team leader? What’s he going to do when he isn’t allowed to kill Skynet but, instead, Skynet is controlling most of the planes and tanks and ships? Well, he’ll lead small teams or infantry units on the ground while A Few Good Men‘s Col. Jessup gives the marching orders. AI can’t replace all decision-making at the front, and calm heads under fire will be needed to authorize strikes and targets.

So, yes, we all secretly want Skynet on the wall, even more so than we want Col. Jessup up there. But we also need John Connor, as long as we can keep Jessup, Connor, and Skynet from murdering one another.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s what the US B-52 bombers flying around Europe have been up to

Four US Air Force B-52 bombers from the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana arrived in England with about 300 airmen on Oct. 10, 2019, for a bomber task force deployment.

The bombers were deployed to RAF Fairford to “conduct integration and interoperability training” with partners in the region and to “exercise Air Force Global Strike Command’s ability to conduct bomber operations from a forward operating location” in support of US Air Forces in Europe and US European Command.


Amid heightened tensions with Russia after its 2014 seizure of Crimea, bomber task force exercises over Europe are also meant to reassure US partners and to be a deterrent to Moscow — this deployment, like others before it, also saw US bombers fly close to Russia in Eastern Europe and the high north.

Below, you can see what US airmen and bombers did during the month they were in Europe.

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Two US Air Force B-52H Stratofortresses parked after arriving at RAF Fairford in England, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt Philip Bryant)

Bomber Task Force 20-1 was “part of a routine forward deployment of bomber aircraft in the European theater that demonstrates the US commitment to the collective defense of the NATO alliance,” a US Air Forces Europe-Africa spokeswoman said.

The Barksdale B-52s’ deployment to RAF Fairford was their first since this spring, the spokeswoman said, and comes not long after a B-2 Spirit bomber task force deployment in August and September that saw the stealth bomber accomplish several firsts over Europe.

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A B-52H Stratofortress deployed from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana takes off from RAF Fairford, England, Oct. 14, 2019.

(US Air Force/Senior Airman Stuart Bright)

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US Air Force Senior Airman Sho Kashara, an Explosives Ordinance Disposal airmen from Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, helps build inert BDU-50 bombs for practice use by B-52H Stratofortresses at RAF Fairford, Oct. 16, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Cason)

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US Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephen Zbinovec, 2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron 96th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief, inspects the inside of the engine of a US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress at RAF Fairford, Oct. 18, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stuart Bright)

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US Air Force airmen from the 2nd Bomb Wing prepare a US Air Force B-52H for takeoff during Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, at RAF Fairford, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Duncan C. Bevan)

“Back home, people are focused on their job and will occasionally help out here and there,” said Tech. Sgt. Joshua Crowe, a B-52 expediter with the 2nd AMXS.

“Here, what seems to work is that everyone is all hands on deck. You may have an electronic countermeasures airman change an engine or an electrical environmental airman helping crew chiefs change brakes,” Crowe added.

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96th Bomb Squadron aircrew from to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana prepare to board a B-52H Stratofortress at RAF Fairford, Oct. 14, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James Cason)

When the bomber is scheduled to land somewhere that doesn’t have maintenance support for B-52s, a maintainer will go along as a “flying crew chief” to make sure the aircraft arrives safely and is ready to fly once it lands.

For a crew chief to qualify for that job, they must be at the top of their career field and complete hanging-harness training, a flight-equipment course, and go through the altitude chamber.

“We are essentially passengers on the aircraft, though we help the aircrew troubleshoot some things,” said Tech. Sgt. Gregory Oliver, a communications navigations technician. “However, when we land, we hit the ground running. We service the jet and get it ready to fly again.”

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US Air Force 96th Bomb Squadron weapons system officers work in the lower deck of a 2nd Bomb Wing B-52H Stratofortress from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana in the Black Sea region in support of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Oct. 21, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ruano)

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Three B-52 Stratofortresses assigned to the 2nd Bomb Wing from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana in formation after completing missions over the Baltic Sea for Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by SSgt. Trevor T. McBride)

A few days later, B-52s from Fairford headed to the Baltic Sea, teaming up with Czech fighters for exercises over another European hotspot.

NATO’s Baltic members, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, are between Russia proper and its Baltic Sea exclave, Kaliningrad, where ground and naval forces are based, as well as air-defense systems, ballistic missiles, and what are thought to be nuclear weapons.

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French air force Dassault Rafales fly next to a US Air Force B-52H over France in support of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Oct. 25, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ruano)

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Two Polish Air Force F-16C Fighting Falcons engage in a planned intercept of a US Air Force B-52H over Poland during Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Oct. 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Duncan C. Bevan)

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A US Air Force B-52 in formation with Royal Air Force Typhoon aircraft from 3 Squadron at RAF Coningsby over the North Sea, Oct. 28, 2019.

(Cpl. Alex Scott/UK Ministry of Defense)

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A US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress deployed from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana taxis toward the flight line at RAF Fairford in support of Global Thunder 20, Oct. 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stuart Bright)

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Royal Norwegian Air Force F-16s next to a US Air Force B-52H in Norwegian airspace during training for Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Oct. 30, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ruano)

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A US Air Force B-52H and Saudi Arabian F-15C Eagles conduct a low pass over Prince Sultan Air Base in support of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Nov. 1, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ruano)

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A US Air Force B-52H and three Royal Norwegian Air Force F-16s fly toward the Barents Sea region of the Arctic during Bomber Task Force 20-1, Nov. 6, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor T. McBride)

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A US Air Force 96th Bomb Squadron pilot flies a US Air Force B-52H during training and integration with the Royal Norwegian air force in Norwegian airspace in support of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Nov. 6, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ruano)

One flight-tracker showed the B-52s flying into the Barents, turning south near the Novaya Zemlya archipelago in the Arctic and then flying west near the Kola Peninsula. Both are home to Russian military facilities, including the Northern Fleet’s home base.

The Russian navy and scientists recently mapped five new islands near Novaya Zemlya that were revealed by receding glacier ice.

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A US Air Force B-52H and three Royal Norwegian Air Force F-16s fly toward the Barents Sea region of the Arctic during Bomber Task Force 20-1, Nov. 6, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor T. McBride)

“The mission in the Barents Sea region served as an opportunity to integrate with our Norwegian allies to improve interoperability as well as act as a visible demonstration of the US capability of extended deterrence,” the spokeswoman said.

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A US Air Force B-52H takes off from RAF Fairford to return to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, at the end of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Nov. 8, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stuart Bright)

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A US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress takes off from RAF Fairford to return home to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, at the end of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Nov. 8, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stuart Bright)

Air Force Academy sees most female applicants in 5 years

A US Air Force 2nd Bomb Wing B-52H Stratofortress takes off from RAF Fairford to return home to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana in support of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Nov. 8, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ruano)

BTF “rotations provide us with a consistent and near-continuous long-range weapon capability, and represent our ability to project air power around the globe,” said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, commander of US Air Forces Europe-Africa.

“Being here and talking with [our allies and partner militaries] on their ranges makes us more lethal,” said Lt. Col. John Baker, BTF commander and 96th Bomb Squadron commander.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to avoid 3 scams that target US service members

Nowadays, you have to be cautious of everything you do online. Scammers are always trying to get money, goods or services out of unsuspecting people — and military members are often targets.

Here are some scams that have recently been affecting service members, Defense Department employees and their families.


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Even the most innocuous data posted to a social media feed can be married up with other publicly available information to provide online criminals the tools they need to exploit members of the military or general public, an Army special agent said.

(Photo by Mark Herlihy)

1. Romance scams

In April 2019, Army Criminal Investigation Command put out a warning about romance scams in which online predators go on dating sites claiming to be deployed active-duty soldiers. It’s a problem that’s affecting all branches of service — not just the Army.

CID said there have been hundreds of claims each month from people who said they’ve been scammed on legitimate dating apps and social media sites. According to the alleged victims, the scammers have asked for money for fake service-related needs such as transportation, communications fees, processing and medical fees — even marriage. CID said many of the victims have lost tens of thousands of dollars and likely won’t get that money back.

Remember: Service members and government employees DO NOT PAY to go on leave, have their personal effects sent home or fly back to the US from an overseas assignment. Scammers will sometimes provide false paperwork to make their case, but real service members make their own requests for time off. Also, any official military or government emails will end in .mil or .gov — not .com — so be suspicious if you get a message claiming to be from the military or government that doesn’t have one of those addresses.

If you’re worried about being scammed, know what red flags to look for. If you think you’ve been a victim, contact the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center and the Federal Trade Commission.

DOD officials said task forces are working to deal with the growing problem, but the scammers are often from African nations and are using cyber cafes with untraceable email addresses, then routing their accounts across the world to make them incredibly difficult to trace. So be vigilant!

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A US cavalry soldiers keeps watch in a rural area near Nangarhar, Afghanistan Jan. 6, 2015.

(US Army photo)

2. ‘Sextortion’

Sexual extortion — known as “sextortion” — is when a service member is seduced into sexual activities online that are unknowingly recorded and used against them for money or goods. Often, if a victim caves on a demand, the scammer will just likely demand more.

Service members are attractive targets for these scammers for a few reasons:

• They’re often young men who are away from home and have an online presence.

• They have a steady income and are often more financially stable than civilians.

• Because of their careers, they’re held to a higher standard of conduct.

• Military members have security clearances and know things that might be of interest to adversaries.

To avoid falling victim to sextortion, don’t post or exchange compromising photos or videos with ANYONE online, and make sure your social media privacy settings limit the information outsiders can see — this includes advertising your affiliation with the military or government. Be careful when you’re communicating with anyone you don’t personally know online, and trust your instincts. If people seem suspicious, stop communicating with them.

DOD officials said sextortion often goes unreported because many victims are embarrassed they fell for it. But it happens worldwide and across all ranks and services. Here’s what you should do about it if it happens to you:

• Stop communicating with the scammer.

• Contact your command and your local CID office.

• Do NOT pay the perpetrator.

• Save all communications you had with that person.

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US soldiers dislodge their M-777 155 mm howitzer from the 3-foot hole it dug itself into after firing several rocket-assisted projectiles.

(US Army photo by Spc. Ken Scar)

3. Service member impersonation scams

Scammers love to impersonate people of authority, and that includes service members.

These people often steal the identity or profile images of a service member and use them to ask for money or make claims that involve the sale of vehicles, house rentals or other big-ticket items. These scammers often send the victim bogus information about the advertised product and ask for a wire transfer through a third party to finish the purchase, but there’s no product at the end of the transaction.

Lately, fake profiles of high-ranking American military officials have been popping up on social media websites using photos and biographical information obtained from the internet. Scammers often replicate recent social media posts from official DOD accounts and interact with official accounts to increase the appearance of legitimacy. As an example, there are impersonator accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

These accounts are also interacting with Joint Staff account followers in an effort to gain trust and elicit information. The only Joint Staff leader with an official social media presence is Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman Army Command Sgt. Maj. John Wayne Troxell, who is listed as @SEAC.JCS on Facebook and @SEAC_Troxell on Twitter.

Scammers are making these profiles to defraud potential victims. They claim to be high-ranking or well-placed government/military officials or the surviving spouse of former government leaders, then they promise big profits in exchange for help in moving large sums of money, oil or some other commodity. They offer to transfer significant amounts of money into the victim’s bank account in exchange for a small fee. Scammers that receive payment are never heard from again.

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A US soldier and a US Army interpreter look over a map with an Iraqi soldier before starting a cordon and search of the Ninewa Forest in Mosul, Iraq, June 8, 2008.

(US Army photo by Pfc. Sarah De Boise)

Here are some ways to lower the chances of you being impersonated or duped by a scammer:

• To avoid having your personal data and photos stolen from your social media pages, limit the details you provide on them and don’t post photos that include your name tag, unit patch and rank.

• If an alleged official messages you with a request or demand, look closely at their social media page. Often, official accounts will be verified, meaning they have a blue circle with a checkmark right beside their Twitter, Facebook or Instagram name. General and flag officers will not message anyone directly requesting to connect or asking for money.

• Search for yourself online — both your name and images you’ve posted — to see if someone else is trying to use your identity. If you do find a false profile, contact that social media platform and report it.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Truth in Fiction: A collection of must-read quotes about war

You can learn a lot about war from books.

While there are plenty of American veterans who might scoff at the idea that book learnin’ can effectively convey the experience of soldiering and combat, former US Secretary of Defense and decorated Marine Gen. Jim Mattis knows a little something about war, and this is his take on the subject:

“Reading is an honor and a gift from a warrior or historian who, a decade or a thousand decades ago, set aside time to write. He distilled a lifetime of campaigning in order to have a conversation with you. We have been fighting on this planet for 10,000 years. It would be idiotic and unethical to not take advantage of such accumulated experiences. … Any commander who claims he is too busy to read is going to fill body bags with his troops as he learns the hard way.”


I would take Mattis’ critique a step further and say that, in some instances, the novelist or fiction writer is even better equipped to capture something like a higher “Truth” about war. American fiction contains an endless repository of brilliant literary passages about soldiering and war, and we’re on a mission to share some of our favorites.

So here’s our inaugural list of some of the most profound passages about soldiering and combat in American fiction.

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The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Air Force Academy sees most female applicants in 5 years

Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

How To Tell a True War Story by Tim O’Brien

As I’ve written previously, How To Tell a True War Story is one of the greatest American short stories ever written, and this succinct passage is a masterful expression of war’s infinite complexity and contradiction in the human experience. It had to top this list.

“War is hell, but that’s not the half of it, because war is also mystery and terror and adventure and courage and discovery and holiness and pity and despair and longing and love. War is nasty; war is fun. War is thrilling; war is drudgery. War makes you a man; war makes you dead.”

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Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield

Steven Pressfield’s novel about the battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC is a classic piece of historical fiction that contains a seemingly endless trove of truisms that speak especially to the warrior class. The novel is on the Marine Corps Commandant’s Professional Reading List and is taught at the US Military Academy at West Point and the US Naval Academy. Here are just a few of the book’s countless standout passages:

“When a warrior fights not for himself, but for his brothers, when his most passionately sought goal is neither glory nor his own life’s preservation, but to spend his substance for them, his comrades, not to abandon them, not to prove unworthy of them, then his heart truly has achieved contempt for death, and with that he transcends himself and his actions touch the sublime.”

“Here is what you do, friends. Forget country. Forget king. Forget wife and children and freedom. Forget every concept, however noble, that you imagine you fight for here today. Act for this alone: for the man who stands at your shoulder. He is everything, and everything is contained within him. That is all I know.”

“The secret shame of the warrior, the knowledge within his own heart that he could have done better, done more, done it more swiftly or with less self-preserving hesitation; this censure, always most pitiless when directed against oneself, gnawed unspoken and unrelieved at the men’s guts. No decoration or prize of valor, not victory itself, could quell it entire.”

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East of Eden by John Steinbeck. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Blood Meridian (or The Evening Redness in the West) by Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy is one of America’s greatest novelists. Known for his dense, lyrical prose; dark, heady themes; and disdain for commas, McCarthy is a literary powerhouse, and Blood Meridian is one of his most revered novels. The book’s primary antagonist, Judge Holden, is easily one of the creepiest, most evil villains ever conceived. Archetypically speaking, “The Judge” is literally Satan. He is a complete sociopath, but also a literal genius whose affinity for killing and war is matched by his enthusiasm for waxing philosophical. In one scene from the novel, he sits around a campfire with his band of Old West mercenaries and preaches his own gospel of war in an old-school dialectic whose efficacy is slightly unnerving.

“It makes no difference what men think of war. War endures. As well ask men what they think of stone. War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner. That is the way it was and will be. That way and not some other way … [War] endures because young men love it and old men love it in them. Those that fought, those that did not … War is the truest form of divination. It is the testing of one’s will and the will of another within that larger will which because it binds them is therefore forced to select. War is the ultimate game because war is at last a forcing of the unity of existence. War is god.”

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

East of Eden is — in my not-so-humble opinion — one of the greatest novels ever written. Steinbeck considered it his greatest work, and it’s hands-down my favorite book. It’s a truly transcendent work of fiction.

While it’s not necessarily a war novel, East of Eden does deal with the topics of military service, war, and its aftermath, and Steinbeck’s prose shines in those sections. In one early scene, Cyrus Trask tells his son Adam what to expect before he ships off to the Army:

“I’ll have you know that a soldier is the most holy of all humans because he is the most tested — most tested of all. I’ll try to tell you. Look now — in all of history men have been taught that killing of men is an evil thing not to be countenanced. Any man who kills must be destroyed because this is a great sin, maybe the worst sin we know. And then we take a soldier and put murder in his hands, and we say to him, ‘Use it well, use it wisely.’ We put no checks on him. Go out and kill as many of a certain kind or classification of your brothers as you can. And we will reward you for it because it is a violation of your early training.”

Steinbeck has a great deal more to say about soldiering, and all of it is incredibly poignant and “True,” but if you want more literary awesomeness, you’ll have to go read (or reread) the novel. Same goes for the others. They are all worth the time.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Dog Chow is helping rescue dogs find homes with American veterans

When Michael Oulavong came home from the Marine Corps, he wasn’t able to make the same transition as some of his peers. Initially, he found success training as an EMT and firefighter, but ran into troubles when old Marine Corps injuries derailed his plans.

He sank further into his mental funk and started experiencing more symptoms of his PTSD. He needed a change and he needed a friend. That’s when he met Zoe.


Air Force Academy sees most female applicants in 5 years

Marine veteran Michael Oulavong deployed.

“My plan literally just fell apart and, being a Marine, I need to prepare for everything,” he said. “I have everything planned out… …I didn’t plan for this injury and for this doctor to be like, ‘You shouldn’t be a firefighter.’ That’s when I was like, ‘Well, crap. I’m in this black hole right now. I’m just stuck. I don’t know what to do.’ …I was in a rut. I was dealing with depression, suicidal thoughts. I was lonely.”

Oulavong knew that he needed a change, and he heard about Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation’s program to pair rescue dogs with veterans and teach the veteran to train the animal to be a service dog. It meant that Oulavong could get a service dog to help with his symptoms nearly for free.


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And that’s a huge deal. Service dogs can change the trajectory of a veteran’s life, but costs can also top ,000 for a single animal.

Oulavong signed up and was surprised by how quickly he was paired with Zoe, a mixed-breed dog that clearly has a lot of German Shepherd blood.

“… the day that I first met her, it was, to be honest, it was just kind of like meeting a stranger,” he said “It was just like, ‘Hey, there’s a dog. Shoot, I guess this is my dog.’ It was kind of overwhelming when I initially met her because it was like, ‘Okay, now I have another living thing to take care of.'”
Air Force Academy sees most female applicants in 5 years

Michael Oulavong and service dog, Zoe, at the pet store.

Zoe and Oulavong met just two weeks after he signed up for the program, but he quickly became worried about the financial obligations of owning a dog. Even though he had received Zoe for free, he knew that taking care of animals can get expensive. That’s when Purina Dog Chow, which partners with the Animal Rescue Fondation to help cover some of the costs of the program and of the individual animals, stepped in.

“I was like, ‘I can’t afford this type of thing, but thank you,'” he said. “Thanks to Merritt [Rollins, ARF Veterans program manager] and to ARF and Purina, everything, they calmed those nerves down pretty quickly. You get free food for the rest of your dog’s life. They take me to Pet Food Express, and the program paid for everything the dog needed, from their poop bags to its crate to her food to everything else.”

And so Zoe and Oulavong started training. Luckily for him, Zoe stood out during training for her calm and for ability to learn quickly.

Air Force Academy sees most female applicants in 5 years

Michael Oulavong and Zoe on the day of their graduation from Basic Manners I.

“It was easy to train her,” Oulavong said. “It took work. I spent every day doing it, but compared to the other dogs in the program — not trying to talk bad about them — Zoe really made them look, seriously, she made them look like kids, but she was the adult.”

Some of the training is basic obedience work, but dogs and veterans who stick with the program will graduate to full-on service dog status, with the dogs properly trained to identify and interrupt panic attacks and other episodes in their nascent stages.

“When I do have those instances of having a panic attack or feeling very anxious and everything, I have certain tells in my body,” Oulavong explained. “So, that’s what the program has been training us to do. Say it was shaking my leg, or punching my fist, or grinding my teeth, or what not, she’ll sense that and she’ll come up and dig her head under me, or lick me, or kiss me.”

With Zoe around, Oulavong has someone protecting him from descending into a dark spiral, and someone to take care of, giving him a purpose that he compares to his time as a Marine. Between those two factors, he’s been able to better transition into the civilian world, getting a job at a Japanese restaurant as a bartender and server.

Air Force Academy sees most female applicants in 5 years

Michael Oulavong and Zoe

“…everyday I PT with Zoe every morning,” Oulavong explained. “We go for about anywhere between a mile and three mile walk, depending on how I feel that morning. She helps me keep active. I go for a walk with her every day. I just spend time with her. Five times a day, I do at least five to ten minutes simple, basic training with her, just to keep her refreshed.”

Right now, Purina is holding a fundraiser it calls the “Service Dog Salute.” As part of the fundraiser, for every bag of specially marked Dog Chow sold, including bags that feature Michael and Zoe, Purina will donate the Animal Rescue Foundation, giving up to 0,000. They’ll be giving up to another 0,000 based on how many people share the Buzzfeed video above.

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