MIGHTY CULTURE

The Air Force takes the responsibility of managing future talent seriously

Lt. Gen. Brian T. Kelly is the deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, the Pentagon, Arlington, Virginia. He serves as the senior Air Force officer responsible for comprehensive plans and policies covering all life cycles of military and civilian personnel management, which includes military and civilian end strength management, education and training, compensation, resource allocation and the worldwide U.S. Air Force services program.


During an interview with Airman Magazine, Kelly discussed his mission and the Air Force’s responsibilities of managing talent, identifying toxic leadership and the role of emotional intelligence in readiness and lethality.

Managing the Future Talent: Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly

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Airman Magazine: As the AF/A1 (manpower and personnel), what are your priorities for 2020?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: There are lots of things going on, but there are three big priorities. Number one, it’s exciting times and we’ve got to help and make sure we have a successful stand up of the United States Space Force and our resource allocation team will have a big role to help and make sure we get that on track.

Number two for us, we’ve got to ensure that we continue to make sure the right number of the right types and the right skill sets of Airman exists in our Air Force. So, the size and shape of the force has to be what it needs to be in order for us to meet our requirements in the National Defense Strategy.

Number three for us is we want to continue to transform and work on our talent management system so we can make sure we’re attracting, recruiting, developing and retaining the Airmen we need to do what the country needs to do. So those will be our three big priorities for 2020

Airman Magazine: Can you talk about the Air Force’s philosophy on managing talent and why it’s important?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: First and foremost, we’ve got to recognize that we’ve got some incredible talent in the United States Air Force and in our Space Force that we are standing up as well. But, it’s an all-volunteer force and so the talent management system we have has to be able to recognize that we’ve got to have a system that is attractive for people to be in. It also has to be agile to meet our requirements as requirements and threats change. It’s got to know what’s going on with those requirements that are out there. The talent management system has to understand – what does the talent market look like? What does the market for talent in the United States look like? And if you have an all-volunteer force, how do you become an attractive employer? How do you make sure that you are an employer of choice? If people have a way to choose between going to work for Google or coming to work for the United States Air Force or United States Space Force? The talent management system has a role to play in that and so that’s what we’re trying to do.

The Ground-Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance System is responsible for tracking thousands of objects in space. The telescopes fall under the 21st Space Wing and is positioned at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. Here, 216 photos captured over a 90 minute period are layered over one another, making the star trails come to life.

(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Tech. Sgt. David Salanitri)

Airman Magazine: Have there been any changes to your talent management philosophy, and what drove those changes?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I’d say a talent management system always has to evolve as requirements change, as threats change, as the talent market pool of eligible people changes and as skill sets change. And then there’s technology. You know, when I first came into the Air Force in 1989, the technology then was not what it is in 2020, right? And so, whether it’s artificial intelligence, machine learning, all these different things have changed the way we look at our talent management system. It’s also changed how we communicate with our Airman and how we’re able to get information out and how we’re able to get feedback. All these things have led to and sort of influence the changes in the talent management system from when I first came in to where we are now.

I would say to you the system today is driving to be more agile than it was before. It was a one size fits all discussion before, but now it’s trying to be more agile and it’s certainly more collaborative. I hope the system is becoming more transparent so that all of our Airmen understand what’s going on and that they have a say in what happens to them in the talent management system and they have an insight to what happens.

Airman Magazine: What has changed throughout your career pertaining to talent management and your leadership development?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: We (Air Force leadership) always talk about situational leadership and being able to adjust your leadership styles and that has to continually happen. We’ve seen the advent of different leadership styles needed for the population of the all-volunteer force we have today and one of the key things I think we need to touch on is our leaders need to have the right balance of emotional intelligence to be successful. So, what does that mean? I would start by saying, emotional intelligence is first and foremost the skill set to know yourself, to understand your own behaviors and to control your own emotions so that you then can have good interpersonal relationships and be able to lead others. And that’s the important part for us and I think we’ve become more cognizant and we’re trying to understand and teach that in ways that will make our leaders more effective.

As we move into the modern discussions of the national defense strategy, we’re in wars of cognition and wars of thinking, wars of understanding and wars of information and so we have to be able to develop and lead our skills in that same direction.

Capt. Taiwan Veney, cyber warfare operations officer, watches members of the 175th Cyberspace Operations Group, from left, Capt. Adelia McClain, Staff Sgt. Wendell Myler, Senior Airman Paul Pearson and Staff Sgt. Thacious Freeman, analyze log files and provide a cyber threat update utilizing a Kibana visualization on the large data wall in the Hunter’s Den at Warfield Air National Guard Base, Middle River, Md., June 3, 2017.

(U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

Airman Magazine: You’ve previously said “We must be responsive to the Air Force’s needs, must be agile with our talent, focused on rewarding Airmen on performance and be transparent on how the system works.” What’s the plan to meet those attributes for a talent management system?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I think those four attributes are where we’re trying to drive and trying to make sure our talent management system is so let me cover those a little bit and I’ll tell you how our strategy fits against that.

So, first and foremost the talent management system has to deliver and has to be responsive to the requirements of the organization. I mentioned for 2020 one of our priorities is to have the right size and shape of the force and that’s what it’s about, whatever the Air Force requires us to be, whatever the Space Force will require, the talent management system has to be responsive and it has to be agile for responding to new technologies, new threats, but it’s also going to be agile for individual Airman.

We are a military organization, but we have to understand agility and we want performance to shine. We want people’s performance to be the deciding factor in our meritocracy, if you will, for when we decide who gets promoted, who gets what key jobs.

Those Airmen who distinguish themselves by performance, that performance needs to be driven forward and incentivized and rewarded.

Lastly, I think it’s important to make sure with the communication within our force that we are transparent, open in what we do and simple.

All the things that we’ve been doing on the officer side, enlisted side and civilian side are sort of wrapped around those areas.

I’ll give you some examples, on our enlisted side, we made a change in our senior noncommissioned officer’s promotion selection process where we no longer use testing as part of that process. We did that to drive and empower performance, where performance becomes the driving factor for us being able to select our senior noncommissioned officers and it’s no longer test taking or some other skill set that might have been augmenting that decision. Now, it’s performance based.

On the officer side, we recently went to new developmental categories for our line of the Air Force system, the same system that we had in place since 1947 and we made some changes. Those changes were to help us with development to become more agile, to drive our agility and drive our responsiveness.

We had to recognize not all officers need to develop in the same way. The way that we develop and the opportunities we have for our pilots are different than what we have for our space operators, were different than what we have for our cyber operators, our support personnel, like my career field and so we had to develop the agility if you will, to be able to develop in different ways so that we can maximize everybody’s potential, while at the same time driving ourselves to be more responsive to requirements.

We can help ourselves develop the right size, the right shape and the right skill sets we need to meet the requirements for the Air Force. So, all the things we’ve been doing are all really designed around those four attributes to build the talent management system that we need.

Airman Magazine: How does the AF identify leadership potential?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: There are lots of ways to identify potential throughout someone’s career to recognize different traits and characteristics. I think there’s testing factors. I think there’s observation factors. Certainly, there’s evaluation factors at some point in time you are observed in different time phases, different jobs. You look at how did they do? How did they respond? We try to identify those people who have the skill sets to be leaders.

One of the important things we’re working on is, can we get better in identifying who’s going to be a good leader? Is it just the born characteristic or can you actually teach it and develop it and go forward? We (Air Force) say you can teach leadership, develop it and be better at it. So, we’re working on how to identify it more accurately early. It’s not just to screen people out, because I think people often think you’re trying to identify who’s not a good leader, so that you can screen them out. There’s part of that, but it’s even more important to identify where people have some shortcomings in their leadership capabilities so that we can help them and give them an opportunity to develop into the leaders we need, because we need a lot of leaders in our Air Force.

Airman Magazine: Revolutionary changes to how officers are developed and selected for promotion have been made, like the creation of developmental categories and transitioning from Below the Zone to merit-based timing for promotions. How will this help with officer development and getting the right people in key leadership positions?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: Sometimes the Air Force had the tendency in the past to rush some of our folks through key developmental opportunities and not fully immerse them and give them a chance to learn all the competencies and all the experiences they needed. At the same time, when we did that, we added the below the zone piece that gave us a chance to incentivize performance. What we’ve transformed that to now is with merit-based promotion, I can still incentivize performance, I can give people a chance to let their performance shine and let their performance advance them among their peers, but at the same time, I make sure I balance that with the developmental time that’s needed to truly get the skill sets that we’re going to require.

Airman Magazine: Can enlisted personnel expect similar changes to their promotion system in the near future?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: We made some adjustments and changes to our enlisted system, even prior to the work and transformation that we’re doing the officer system. I think you’ll see similar things. When we talk about, what do we value as an Air Force and how we’re going to evaluate you, for the officer corps, we talk about now four things. We talk about how do you execute your mission? Whatever mission you are assigned to do. How do you lead people? Whether that’s an informal way where you’re actually a supervisor or a squadron commander or even informal as part of a squadron or group. How do you manage the resources you’ve been put in charge of? Whether they be dollars and equipment or even Airmen’s time? You know Airmen’s time is a resource. And then how do you improve whatever unit you’ve been put in charge of? Those four factors are probably pretty familiar to a lot of people. Those are the same four factors we use to evaluate units, that’s the unit effectiveness inspection, the UEI that our inspector general uses to evaluate. So we said, look, let’s line those up. Let’s have those four factors be the same way we evaluate performance in our officers. I think we’re going to see the enlisted system transition towards those same four factors. Let’s evaluate our airmen as a whole on those four factors. How do I execute my mission? How do I lead people? How do I manage resources? And what did I do to improve whatever unit I’m assigned to? So, I think you’ll see commonalities. I think they’ll also be some differences. It won’t be exactly the same system because we look for different things from our officer enlisted corps. I don’t think we want them to be exactly the same to accomplish the things that we need, but there’s going to be a lot of overlap and I think there is already a lot of overlap and you’ll see some more.

Air Force Basic Military Training trainees work to complete an obstacle during the Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training, a weeklong training simulation at Air Force Basic Military Training (AFBMT). The BEAST is where trainees get to put everything they’ve learned about combat skills into practice in a simulated environment.

(U.S. Air Force photo/Bennie J. Davis III)

Airman Magazine: Toxic has been this year’s buzzword. Do you think the Air Force has a toxic leader problem or is it something different that can be fixed?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I agree with you toxic gets used a lot and I’m not always sure everybody has a framework of what toxic leadership means, because the term gets used in a lot of different ways. Sometimes it’s really appropriate and other times I’m left wondering if people understand what they refer to as toxic.

The Air Force is working on developing a definition of toxic leadership, so we can all understand.

I would say in a working definition right now on toxic leadership for us is a series of adverse behaviors that have an adverse impact on the unit or individuals. So, it’s not a one time series of negative behaviors, but it’s a continuous series of negative behaviors, that an individual would manifest that has a negative impact on a unit or on individuals, that’s toxic leadership for us.

I think that exists in our force from time to time, and it’s sometimes it’s a result of individuals who don’t have all the leadership tool sets that they need to handle the situations that they’ve been put in.

We are working to identify early what people’s shortcomings might be and give them an insight to that. It’s not to not allow them to become commanders, although that will be part of the discussion, but if we identify them in the right ways, can we give people the ways to develop and overcome those shortcomings?

There’s a fantastic course down at the Air University called the Leadership Development Course or LDC, the course sprung out of Gen. Goldfein’s work in revitalizing squadrons. They’re working to teach emotional intelligence and to teach understanding of interpersonal relationships and understanding how to lead in a positive way and inspiring way without having to revert to any of those adverse behaviors that might be characterized or seen as toxic.

I’m excited about that work. I wish that was available when I was going to go be a squadron commander. I learned a lot of things from watching other people. And luckily, I had some really good role models, but I would have loved to have some of that training and insight, so I could have known more about myself to help myself and to lead my organization in a better way.

Airman Magazine: Can you explain how changes in the talent management system might combat toxic leadership? Do you believe these changes will benefit all officers, regardless of when they peak in their careers?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: It starts with developing people the right way. The talent management system is going to identify short shortcomings in and where you’re missing a skill set, and hopefully give people a chance to correct course going forward. If I’m evaluating you on how you execute the mission, how you lead people and I’m grading that in the in the environment that we’re talking about it will help combat toxic leadership traits.

We’re driving the talent management system to reward the right behaviors in terms of leading people so that those people who are leading people in an inspirational way, in a positive way, are going to be the right people that we reward and move forward.

As a military organization we have some tough things to do. We’re going to ask people to go in harm’s way and put themselves in harm’s way from time to time. Positive leadership doesn’t mean it’s easy; it’s demanding. There are high standards and there needs to be high standards. We need to be a high standard, high performing organization, but we can do it in a positive way so that the leadership we get out is inspiring and caring leadership and that’s what we’re looking for.

Airman Magazine: What is your definition of emotional intelligence and what role does it play in the development of our leaders and what role has it had in your career?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I think emotional intelligence is the ability first and foremost, to know yourself, your emotions and to control your emotions. So that you can use that understanding to have better interpersonal relationships and have a better understanding of others and your interaction with others.

When I first came into the Air Force, I don’t think I ever heard this terminology. I think it was there, we just didn’t know what it was. We used to talk about your ability to communicate effectively speaking, writing, leading, different things that we would focus on as leadership attributes. The idea of being able to understand yourself and understand others was always there. I just don’t know that we were as sophisticated and understood exactly what it meant. Labeling it as emotional intelligence and consciously understanding how to train it and how to get better at it and that’s where we’re going now, which is really exciting.

We have this great strength in our Air Force. We have people from all kinds of diverse backgrounds and ways of thinking. It’s difficult for you to lead diverse groups of people to be a high performing organization if you can’t understand and recognize where people are coming from or understanding yourself.

Air Force Basic Military Training trainees walk across a completed obstacle of bridge making during the Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training, a weeklong training simulation at Air Force Basic Military Training (AFBMT). The BEAST is where trainees get to put everything they’ve learned about combat skills into practice in a simulated deployed environment.

(U.S. Air Force photo/Bennie J. Davis III)

Airman Magazine: Air University is developing an augmented reality exercise helping young officers shape their ability to interact effectively in social situations and to recognize and manage their emotions. How could programs like this have helped you in your career?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I would have loved to have some of those programs and the idea of what they’re doing right now at the leadership development course at our air university is fantastic, because it’s a free training gym without any worries or any risk of failure.

You can train in a virtual training gym in what most of us learned from our actual experiences, whether it was purposeful or just un-purposeful trial and error. If I did something it didn’t work very well, if it didn’t feel so good, I learned and tried to do better. I modeled myself around the people I was lucky enough to observe and gain mentorship from. Now to have a place for us to try things, to fail and learn and learn about yourself in the process so that you have a much better opportunity to apply that in your interactions in a leadership role. Knowing what already works and doesn’t work for you, that’s a really powerful concept.

Airman Magazine: The Chief of Staff talks about the power of Failing Forward, not just with programs and ideas, but also with individuals. Can recall a specific time when you failed or took a calculated risk and failed which ultimately propelled you forward, either personally or in a specific mission?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: First, I failed a bunch of times. It wasn’t just once I failed, I failed quite often and I make mistakes a lot. I think all of us do. First and foremost, I think as an Airmen and leaders, we all have to recognize and understand that.

I can recall when I was a captain and I had a program I was in charge of, I was sort of a section chief of a program. And I had I had a three-star general stand in front of me, asking me questions. I was really excited about my program and I was really proud and convinced that everything I was saying was true. In the middle of me explaining, the general kept asking me questions and I felt like I could never get my answer out. So, I think I said, “Sir, if you’d let me finish, I’ll be able to tell you,” to which he turned and looked at me and said, “You don’t understand the questions I’m asking. You need to listen before you respond.” I felt like a big failure. It was a dressing down in front of everybody, but he was right. I was so sure that I knew what I was doing that I wasn’t listening. I was already thinking about my answer before he finished his questions.

It hurt for a couple of weeks, I had a little sore spot in my brain and my soul. But, you know, it made me understand that I needed to listen better and to know that I wasn’t going to be the only one with good ideas. It served me well as I went forward. I was lucky that particular general took it well and didn’t use it as a permanent failure experience for me.

Airman Magazine: What did that experience teach you or influence how guided other Airmen through failures?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: It made me double down on the idea that failure is not the end. You can recover from failure and that failure is probably a good thing periodically. If we never fail, we probably don’t push the envelope far enough forward to be better than what we can be.

That certainly influenced me to say, look, others around you are going to fail, how you respond to their failures and what you do with their failures is going to help shape them. So, I make sure they get the same opportunities I had to learn and grow. That’s really what became important for me out of that situation.

There’s been other times when I failed and that’s okay. I know we pushed the envelope and we got to where we needed to be and it didn’t quite work out, but we enjoyed the experience. It wasn’t very enjoyable for me when I had that first experience, but there have been other cases since then.

Airman Magazine: We have an intelligent force of high achievers who are afraid to fail and tend to try and solve problems on their own and believe failure can be a career killer. How do we move to a fail forward culture? Are the days of the one mistake Air Force behind us?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I challenge that assertion. I don’t think we have a force of people who are afraid to fail or are risk averse. We are really blessed to have great talented Americans volunteer to come serve in our United States Air Force and in our Space Force. When we get them and they have that enthusiasm and they’re being innovative and they’re going forward and they’re failing, how we react to their failure will tell us whether they’re going to be risk averse or not.

If little mistakes are treated the same way as crimes or large mistakes, then I think you’re going to get a risk averse force. Periodically, we’ve probably had ourselves there. I don’t think we’re one mistake Air Force, I think we’re pretty mature in understanding that. But at the same token, I think we’re a force that says you have to learn from the mistakes you’ve made. Repeated failures or repeated mistakes for the same things isn’t something we can have. Because eventually, those repeated mistakes are going to translate to actual combat and an actual battlefield.

Airman Magazine: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: It’s an exciting time for the Air Force. This idea that we have to make the force as a whole raise our acumen if you will, on what does it mean to be an Airman? What does it mean to be in the United States Air Force or United States Space Force? How do we build better leaders? How do we build a more lethal force for what is going to be required in the future? It’s an exciting time for us. I believe there’s lots of good thinking going on, there’s some great innovation and it’s a time to make a difference, so I’m excited to be part of it.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

It’s happening: Watch the first Space Force recruiting video

We knew this was coming. We’ve had our speculations. We’ve had our fun. And now it’s real. Eighty-eight Air Force Academy cadets commissioned directly into the Space Force with the class of 2020 and the Space Force is happening.

Recruiters! You know what to do!!


United States Space Force (@SpaceForceDoD) | Twitter

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“Some people look to the stars and ask ‘what if?’ Our job is to have an answer.”

The recruiting video opens with a young man looking up at the infinity of space and continues into sweeping images of rocket launches and futuristic data lighting up screens.

“We have to imagine what would be imagined, plan for what’s possible while it’s still impossible.”

Showing off that new Space Force camouflage, the video continues to depict imagery that one might expect in a blockbuster film about air and space: hangar doors opening (see: Top Gun or Captain Marvel) or personnel in a Mission Control Center (see: Apollo 13 or Independence Day).

Sign me up.

“Maybe you weren’t put here just to ask the questions. Maybe you were put here to be the answer.”

The mission of the United States Space Force (USSF…a regrettable acronym?) will be to “organize, train, and equip space forces in order to protect U.S. and allied interests in space and to provide space capabilities to the joint force. USSF responsibilities include developing military space professionals, acquiring military space systems, maturing the military doctrine for space power, and organizing space forces to present to our Combatant Commands.”

In the past, while under the mission of the Air Force Space Command, mission sets included everything from Cold War-era missile warning, launch operations, satellite control, space surveillance and command and control for national leadership. More recently, cyberspace operations as well as meteorology, communications, positioning and navigation and timing have been growing.

The recruiting video offers glimpses of Space Force personnel and their potential jobs, from intelligence to mission control to mechanics.

“Maybe your purpose on this planet…isn’t on this planet.”

And of course, the hope for any Space Force dreamer, there is the long-term exploration of space. The video returns to the young man looking up at the stars before launching viewers into Earth’s orbit.

For anyone out there feeling the call, the application period for transferring to the Space Force is now open. Live long and prosper, my friends.

On 1 May, the window opens for @usairforce officers enlisted personnel in existing #space career fields select other AFSCs, to apply for transfer into the @SpaceForceDOD. This is a huge milestone as we #BuildTheSpaceForce! See details below:https://go.usa.gov/xvnbd

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Articles

SERE school is about more than just being tortured

For my crime of earning a Naval Flight Officer’s Wings of Gold and being selected for training as an F-14 Tomcat radar intercept officer (like “Goose” in the movie “Top Gun”) I was sent to the Navy’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape – SERE – School in Brunswick, Maine during the winter of 1984.


My fellow trainees and I stepped off the C-9 from Norfolk and were hit by a biting wind, the kind that’s normal for Maine in January. I immediately wondered why I hadn’t tried to push off SERE School until June or July.

The first couple of training days were conducted in a classroom. The lead instructor had been in the backseat of an F-4 Phantom that was shot down over Hanoi and had spent nearly three years as a POW. He explained that since we were all aviators there was a likelihood that we could fall into the hands of the enemy as well, therefore we needed to pay attention and take SERE training to heart. “This is the most important school the Navy will ever send you to,” he said.

The crux of the classroom training was an in-depth review of the Code of Conduct, a list of six “articles” created after American POWs suffered at the hands of their captors during the Korean War. They were all tortured in one form or another. Many were brainwashed; some even refused to return to the United States after the war.

Here are the six articles of the Code of Conduct:

  1. I am an American fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.
  2. I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist.
  3. If I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.
  4. If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information nor take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades. If I am senior, I will take command. If not I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them up in every way.
  5. When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause.
  6. I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.

The night before we were bussed across Maine and dropped in the mountains that border Canada, we decided to stuff ourselves with KFC, hoping that would give us the energy we needed to get through the field portion of SERE. Early the next morning we were issued cold weather clothing and reminded that it was more than we’d have if we’d had our jets shot from under us. And the fact we were also given snowshoes should have been a warning sign that the weather where we were going was more brutal than the already miserable weather at Naval Air Station Brunswick on the Atlantic Ocean side of the state.

After a four-hour drive westward into higher elevations we wandered off the bus and were greeted by a group of “partisans,” friendly locals who welcomed us to the Peoples Republic of North America – PRONA. The partisans explained that PRONA was a Soviet satellite (remember, this was 1984 and the Cold War was still in full swing) and that they were a small band of rebels fighting for freedom. (We found out later that the partisans, like everyone else in the land of PRONA, were actually a combination of local outdoorsmen on retainer and DoD personnel on loan to SERE School.) The partisans spoke English with thick eastern European accents. (They were acting, of course, but it was believable.)

The partisans broke us into groups of 10 and led us into the forest where they gave us instruction in some of the basics of survival, including how to use the snowshoes to navigate the massive snowdrifts we encountered. That night we were allowed to make a campfire and eat meat of unknown origin and huddle as a group to stay warm.

The next day our partisan told us that the army of PRONA was looming and we needed to break up the group and attempt to evade individually. I spent the balance of the daylight hours crunching through the forest trying to be sneaky in spite of the fact there was no way to be while wearing snowshoes. Right before it got dark I fashioned a quick snow fort as our partisan had instructed and climbed into my sleeping bag for a few hours of trying to keep the exposed part of my face from freezing.

At daybreak one of the partisans came and got me –obviously my hiding place sucked – and said that the enemy threat was gone for the time being and we were going to form up the entire group and march to a safe place. It was actually a trap (and a lesson in who not to trust during wartime).

The formation was interrupted by gunshots. The partisans disappeared into the forest and suddenly we were surrounded by military trucks and dudes in uniform yelling at us in a foreign tongue. Whatever training scenario context remained in our minds evaporated as our new captors slapped us – like hard – and threw us to the ground.

We were forcibly loaded into the back of the troop transports and driven along a long road down the mountain, repeatedly told during the trip not to look out the back of the trucks or we’d be shot. When the trucks stopped and we were yanked to the ground again I got a quick glance at my surroundings – a prison camp – before I was blindfolded and led to a cell.

The guard removed my blindfold and forced me to sit on a box that was barely a foot tall and place my arms along my legs with my palms facing upward – what he called “the po-seesh.” “Get in po-seesh!” he yelled, Prona-ese for “position,” I assumed.

The guard told me I was “War Criminal Number One Five” and that I should refer to myself as such. Then he pointed to a tin can lined with a plastic bag in the corner and explained that it was my “sanitary facility” in the event I had to use the bathroom, but I was not to use it without permission.

He slammed the door to my cell shut and then peered through the small hatch in the door and, seeing I was not in the po-seesh, promptly re-entered the cell and roughed me up for a bit. I spent the next hours doing the calculus of holding the uncomfortable po-seesh and relaxing with the understanding that if the guard caught me I’d weather another beating.

As I sat there wondering what was going to happen next a wide variety of psyops stuff blared through the speaker mounted high in one corner of the small cell. A mind-numbing cacophony of an out-of-control saxophone was followed by Rudyard Kipling reciting his poem “Boots” over and over in a very haunting voice. (No one who ever attended Navy SERE will forget “Boots.”)

Give it a listen (and try not to go insane in the process):

Occasionally instructions from the guards were piped over the speaker, for instance, the rules for heeding calls of nature: “War criminals wishing to use the sanity facilities must ask permission by saying, ‘War criminal numbering whatever wishes to urinate or defecate.’ Do not do so until you are told to do so!”

At some point a guard entered my cell, blindfolded me, and led me to an interview with the camp commander. His friendly demeanor led me to believe this was the “soft sell” portion of my interrogation. He asked me how I was feeling. I joked I was hungry. He looked concerned and said he’d get me some hot food right after I got back to my cell. I also joked that the music was terrible and I’d prefer the Beatles, and he said he’d make that happen right away too.

Then he asked me where I was stationed. I said I couldn’t answer that. He asked me what kind of airplanes I flew. I said I couldn’t answer that either. After a second round of refusals his friendly mood shifted into anger, and he ordered the guard to take me back to my cell, saying I was “insincere” and needed to see the provost marshal for further “re-edu-ma-cation.”

After another extended period in solitary confinement in my cell accompanied by “Boots” on repeat, I was blindfolded again and taken to another part of the camp. As I was led through the snow I heard loud banging and people screaming. Once inside the building my blindfold was removed and one of the guards told me to climb into a small box, barely big enough for me to fit.

Once I’d wedged myself in, the guard slammed the lid. He instructed me that when he banged on the box once I was to yell my war criminal number, and when he banged twice I was to yell my social security number. This went on for a while, and fortunately I don’t get claustrophobic, cause if I did the confined space would have freaked me out.

The box treatment was followed by some “up and jumps,” known to the rest of us as jumping jacks, and other calisthenics punctuated by guards slapping me and throwing me to the floor. When I was good and winded a guard led me to a room where a big burly man with a red beard was waiting.

Red Beard asked me a few questions about my military profile, and each time I didn’t answer he slapped me. He produced an American flag and threw it on the ground and told me to dance on it. I tried to avoid it but he pushed me and I wound up stepping on the flag and as I did a photographer appeared and snapped a shot.

After another round of questions I didn’t answer, Red Beard decided it was time for stronger measures. He pushed me to the floor and made me sit on my hands. He straddled my legs as he fired up some pipe tobacco and started blowing smoke into my face using a large rubber tube.

I couldn’t breathe. The room started spinning. My head hit the floor. I puked.

And to my horror – even though I’d hadn’t quite finished puking – Red Beard blew more smoke in my face.

This felt like real torture, and I was convinced he was going to kill me. As I fought to get a clean breath of air, I managed to beg him to stop and offered to tell him something, hoping to employ the technique where you try to bend but not break by throwing out some meaningless bullshit.

I told him I was stationed in Florida even though I was really stationed in Virginia and that I flew helicopters even though I flew jets. Red Beard laughed and called the guard back in, telling him to give me as much food and water as I wanted because I’d been very helpful.

As I was led back to my cell blindfolded I felt like a total pussy who’d caved too easily.

After another period in solitary with my morale at an all-time low, a guard came and got me and led me back to the camp commander’s office. The camp commander told me about a junior enlisted man who’d gone through the same torture but instead of talking he’d come off the floor screaming “Article Five!” – a reference to the Code of Conduct where it states a POW should only give name, rank, and date of birth. “You are supposed to be an officer, but an enlisted man is stronger than you,” he said. “And you are insincere. You told us wrong information. I am sending you back to the provost.”

Sure enough, after more time in my cell to contemplate my shortcomings as an officer, I was back in front of Red Beard.

I hated Red Beard. I hated PRONA. And I felt another emotion that was like an epiphany: I wasn’t about to let America down again. The nation was depending on me to be strong. That’s why they’d given me my Annapolis education and put me through flight school. (Seriously, all of these things ran through my brain in that torture chamber.) If I had to die, so be it. Let the smoke blow . . .

After some more passing out and puking followed by more passing out and puking, Red Beard let me go.

The next day we were let out of solitary confinement and forced to do hard labor around the camp where our tasks included carving a “heli-mo-copter pad” in the ice-covered ground – an impossible task for which we were beaten for our lack of progress. One guy was stripped to his underwear and forced to stand at attention as his clothes were burned in front of him.

The camp commander gathered us together and, holding a Bible aloft, told us our beliefs were bullshit and that the only religious figure Americans truly worshiped was St. Walt Disney. He threw the Bible down and stomped it, which caused some of the prisoners to react enough that the guards felt obliged to slap them and throw them on the ground.

This cycle of hard labor in the freezing cold followed by “re-edu-ma-cation” sessions from PRONA’s propaganda machine went on for hours and hours, until the sun was about to set on our miserable existence once again. Morale was low. We were sure we were never getting out of there and our lives as we knew them were over.

Suddenly there was another burst of gunfire and a group of guys in cammies rappelled over the walls of the compound at various spots. They took the camp personnel into custody and announced that they were Navy SEALs. The flag of PRONA hung against the main guard tower was replaced by the Stars and Stripes as the National Anthem played over the camp PA.

There wasn’t a dry eye among us as we sang along. We were Americans, and we were free again.

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s recent report on the CIA’s enhanced torture techniques during the early years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has restarted discussions about DoD’s methods and where they’re taught and learned. The SERE School curriculum has been lumped into those discussions.

But for me SERE wasn’t about the torture. It was about the realization that the pomp and ceremony, the pageantry and adulation that surrounded wearing a Navy officer’s uniform was meaningless without the courage and commitment that underpins them.

SERE taught me a big lesson in sacking up, and I can say without any hesitation that it was, in fact, the most important school the Navy ever sent me to.

(Editor’s note: This story deals with a specific SERE curriculum that no longer exists.)

MIGHTY MOVIES

LA veterans bring ‘Henry IV’ with Tom Hanks to the stage

Those attending the current four-week run of The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles’ production of “Henry IV” at the West Los Angeles VA Campus may immediately recognize Tom Hanks as Falstaff, but what they probably don’t realize is that a crew of veterans not only built the stage, but are also working behind the scenes to make the production a success.

“It’s exciting to partner with The Shakespeare Center to provide our veterans incredible opportunities like the chance to work alongside professional actors, and to view live entertainment right here on the West LA VA campus,” said Ann Brown, director of VA’s Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. “Partnerships like this one are vital to bringing the vision for this campus to life and to transform it into a vibrant, welcoming, veteran-centric community.”


“Henry IV” performances began June 5, 2018, and run through July 1, 2018, at the Japanese Garden located on the West Los Angeles VA Campus. The Shakespeare Center, in partnership with West LA VA, set aside 2,000 tickets for eligible veterans and active duty service members free of charge. To find out more on these tickets, visit http://www.ShakespeareCenter.org to receive information about reservations when they become available.

“We’re grateful to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and the leaders of the West LA VA for this opportunity to bring our company to the Japanese Garden at the VA,” said Ben Donenberg, the founder and executive artistic director of The Shakespeare Center prior to construction. “We’re hiring and training 40 veterans to work on this production alongside consummate theater professionals to tell a riveting story about the forging of a Shakespearean hero. We’re proud to bring the vision of one of the American theatre’s most esteemed Broadway directors and the talents a world-class cast lead by Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks, our long-time supporters, to this very special venue.”

Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks, have been long-time supporters of the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles through their 26 consecutive years of hosting and participating in Simply Shakespeare, a no holds barred impromptu reading of a Shakespeare comedy with celebrity casts and musicians that raises funds and awareness.

“The VA location speaks to our mission to present Shakespeare in urgent, vital, relevant and accessible ways that reflect the history, landscape and people of Los Angeles,” Donenberg said. “Our work with the VA and veterans inspires personal and community transformation.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the Marine Corps’ first amphibious landing

In 1775, Captains Samuel Nicholas and Robert Mullan recruited men in a popular Philadelphia bar, promising them beer and adventure on the high seas. Just a few months after that November gathering at Tun Tavern, some five companies of the finest Marines landed on the island of Nassau and handed the stunned British a gleaming defeat.


Marines across the Corps maintain that the two newly-commissioned officers were in Philadelphia’s Tun Tavern that chilly November day to create a cadre of warriors who would serve aboard ships of the Continental Navy. Former Quaker and onetime pacifist Samuel Nicholas managed to raise two battalions of Marines out of Philadelphia. They would need all the help they could get because while the Army was fighting the British off at home, the Marines were going to take the fight to the enemy.

This 1803 map of Nassau is very similar to its 1776 defenses.

In the early days of the American Revolution, the colonial government of Virginia moved its stores of gunpowder to a “safer” location, to keep it out of the hands of rebel forces — who were desperately low. That location was in the Bahamas, supposedly safe from marauding rebel ships and fighters.

When word reached Congress about the large stores of gunpowder in the Crown Colony of the Bahamas, the body sent secret instructions to Commodore Esek Hopkins to lead a flotilla of eight ships and 220 Marines (led by Capt. Samuel Nicholas) to Nassau and capture the large gunpowder supply in March, 1776. Consisting of two forts, Nassau and Montagu, the island’s defenses were a wreck. Fort Nassau could not support firing its 46 cannons. Fort Montagu controlled the entrance to the harbor, but most of the gunpowder and ammunition on the island was held at Nassau.

After a brief council, Hopkins decided the landing party would land near Fort Nassau aboard three ships at first light. The invaders would capture the town of New Providence before the alarm was raised among the island’s defenders.

They were spotted by the British, who then fired guns from Fort Nassau to arouse the island’s defenses. The landing team was forced to withdraw back to the ships and the ships left to rejoin the rest of the flotilla to determine their next move. The aborted raid did have a positive effect for the nascent Americans however: The Governor of the Bahamas almost had the extra gunpowder moved aboard one ship for safekeeping, but that idea was abandoned. The gunpowder stayed put and Fort Montagu was reinforced with only 30 mostly unarmed militiamen.

Back aboard the rebel flotilla, a new plan was hatched. The Marines, bolstered by 50 Continental Sailors, would land on Nassau via three ships and backed by the USS Wasp for firepower. In two hours, the Americans landed their entire force east of Montagu unopposed. This was the first amphibious landing of the U.S. Marine Corps.

After landing, the Marines encountered a British reconnaissance force as Fort Montagu was reinforced with another 80 militiamen. Word soon got out that the invading force was sizably larger than the island’s defenses, Montagu fired only three shots before giving up, and the militiamen simply returned to their homes. The Marines occupied the fort that night. The next morning, they occupied Fort Nassau without a shot.

Unfortunately for the invaders, the governor managed to sneak 150 barrels of gunpowder out of the harbor that night because none of the American ships were guarding the harbor. They did take the remaining gunpowder stores and all the weapons and guns the flotilla could carry. These weapons were later used by the Army under Gen. George Washington.

Articles

This was the safest place to be in a US bomber flying through German flak in WW2

While most movies and TV series on the war over Germany in World War II focuses on the aerial duals between American P-51 Mustangs, British Spitfires and Luftwaffe fighters like the Bf-109, the Bf-110, and the FW-190, the bulk of the air casualties came from anti-aircraft guns, or “flak.”


Bf 109E off North Africa. (Wikimedia Commons)

Here’s how to put those losses into some form of perspective — during one bomber raid in October, 1943, three-fourths of the bombers suffered some sort of damage from anti-aircraft fire. The German guns ranged from 20mm auto-cannon to big 128mm pieces. Perhaps the most common was the German 88mm gun, which was not only a potent anti-aircraft gun, but also a lethal tank-killer.

A German 88mm flak gun. (Wikimedia Commons)

The crewmen who had it worst from the flak were the waist gunners, who accounted for 21.6 percent of casualties. Bombardiers and navigators, who were stationed in the very front of the plane and who had only a glass nose between them and a very long drop, also had a bad time of it, accounting for 15 percent and 13.2 percent of casualties respectively.

The safest crew member was the ball turret gunner (5.5 percent), the pilot (7.7 percent), and co-pilot (6.6 percent), who together accounted for 19.8 percent of casualties).

A U.S. Army Air Forces Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress flying through flak over a target. A hit by flak lead to the capture of Brigadier General Arthur Vanaman, placing ULTRA at risk. (USAF photo)

They were most likely to be hit in the legs (44 percent of the time), followed by the arms (31 percent). The development of flak vests meant that only 9 percent of casualties were hit in the chest and abdomen, while 16 percent of hits were in the head.

A B-24 that was hit by German flak on April 10, 1945. One crewman survived. (USAF photo)

You can see a video on how and why German flak was such a threat below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran freed, on his way home

U.S. Navy veteran Michael White, who has been detained in Iran for nearly two years, is returning home as part of a prisoner swap between Washington and Tehran.

White’s release on June 4 is part of a back-channel deal involving the release of an American-Iranian doctor prosecuted in the United States, U.S. and Iranian officials said.


U.S. President Donald Trump said on Twitter he had spoken by phone with White, who took a Swiss plane to Zurich on his way to the United States.

“Thank you to Iran, it shows a deal is possible!” Trump wrote, in an apparent olive branch to Iran.

White was sentenced to 13 years in prison last year for allegedly insulting Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and posting private information online.

In March, he was temporarily released on medical grounds amid the coronavirus pandemic to the Swiss Embassy, which represents U.S. interests in Iran.

The navy veteran was detained in July 2018 while he was visiting a woman he had met online and fallen in love with.

White’s mother, Joanne White, said in a statement that “the nightmare is over, and my son is safely in American custody and on his way home.”

The AP news agency quoted U.S. officials as saying his release was part of an agreement involving Majid Taheri, an Iranian-American physician prosecuted by the Justice Department.

Taheri served 16 months for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran and on June 4 a federal judge released him to go see family in Iran.

The developments follow the deportation to Iran this week of Sirios Asgari, an Iranian scientist detained in the United States.

U.S. and Iranian officials have denied that Asgari’s release was part of a prisoner swap.

Switzerland, the intermediary between the U.S. and Iranian governments, has facilitated months of quiet negotiations over prisoners, reports said. Qatar, which has good relations with both the United States and Iran, reportedly also facilitated the prisoner swap.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter he was pleased the two Iranians and White will join their families.

“This can happen for all prisoners. No need for cherry picking. Iranian hostages held in — and on behalf of — the U.S. should come home,” he said.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iranian authorities had been “constructive” on freeing White but urged the release of three other U.S. citizens, all of Iranian descent, who are detained in Iran.

Observers have speculated that prisoner swaps can offer a rare opportunity for back-channel diplomacy between the two adversaries to start official dialogue, but few see any serious progress before the U.S. election in November.

Relations between Washington and Tehran have become increasingly hostile since 2018, when Trump withdrew the United States from a landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Humor

6 of the top ways to spot a veteran wannabe

America is full of some amazing, patriotic people who have gone to great lengths to serve their country. That said, there’s a countless number of people who didn’t serve who enjoy dressing the part for their personal entertainment.


And, frankly, there’s nothing wrong with that — as long as they don’t claim to be a veteran.

Here’s how you can spot a veteran wannabe.

Related: 6 ways you can tell a troop isn’t an infantryman

1. They use military terminology because they think it’s cool

“Let’s go Oscar Mike back to the COP before 1300 to get some chow and hit the head.”

Translation: Let’s go home before 1 o’clock to get some food and use the restroom. Oscar Mike means, “leaving.” COP stands for “Combat Outpost.”

Why can’t these people just talk normally? We know, it’s a damn shame.

2. They wear military-print everything

It’s no secret that camo print is a go-to style for many civilians. Sure, we get that. But it’s another thing when people wear camo day-in and day-out. Even if they never served, they want to look like they have.

3. They wear overpriced Spec Ops gear

Airsoft and paintball are pretty fun. Sometimes, however, the players buy over-the-top, faux-spec ops gear to immerse themselves in the military mindset.

4. They wear their “serious faces” in group photos at the range

It’s hard to fully understand the struggle of grabbing a sushi lunch just an hour before charging the tree house guarded by the blue team. Make sure to take a photo to show how tough you are.

The Most Expendables.

5. They bring up excuses as to why they didn’t serve — unprovoked

Not everyone was meant to join the military. Hell, even some people who join the military weren’t meant to be a part of the team. However, civilians frequently volunteer reasons as to why they didn’t join — often without prompt.

Just continue to be patriotic, that’s all we ask.

Also Read: 6 ways to avoid being ‘that guy’ in your unit

6. They think they’re an operator for conducting airsoft and paintball missions

Veterans across the globe reenact historic battles to preserve the memories of the men that served. However, if you civilians dressing up like a SEAL team and recreating the Osama bin Laden raid, that’s the ultimate red flag of the veteran wannabe.

MIGHTY FIT

Here’s what happened when these bodybuilders went vegan for a month


Following the debut of the documentary “The Game Changers” on Netflix, which aims to debunk the myth that vegan athletes struggle to get enough fuel and protein, athletes and recreational exercisers have contemplated trying out a plant-based diet.

Fitness influencer brothers Hudson and Brandon White, known for their YouTube Channel “Buff Dudes”with over 2 million subscribers, tried the vegan diet for 30 days and recounted their experience in a video watched more than 600,000 times.

The pair has tried other month-long challenges like keto and intermittent fasting. As first-time vegans, they take viewers step-by-step through their journey into plant-based eating, including shopping for veggies, meal prepping, and hitting the gym.


The Buff Dudes focus on incorporating simple, whole-food options like broccoli, spinach, and asparagus, as well as complex carbs like sweet potatoes and oatmeal. They also eat plenty of healthy plant-based fats like nuts and seeds, along with protein sources like quinoa and beans.

WE TRIED VEGAN for 30 Days, Here’s What Happened

www.youtube.com

Although the brothers find it surprisingly easy to stick to a vegan diet, especially with the help of meal prepping, they find it has a unfortunate downside — gastrointestinal distress.

Switching to a plant-based diet can cause more flatulence a

It’s true that going vegan might lead to an initial gassy phase. That’s because plant-based foods are high in fiber, a type of carbohydrate that the body can’t digest, according to the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.

While fiber is linked to health benefits like lower cancer risk, stable blood sugar, satiety, and weight loss, it can also make you gassy because bacteria in your gut produce gas as a byproduct of processing fiber.

Certain types of veggies and grains can exacerbate the situation. Broccoli, for instance, is high in complex sugars, which take longer to break down in the digestive tract and produce more gas along the way.

However, research suggests that a plant-based diet can actual change the gut microbiome, promoting the growth of different beneficial bacteria that thrive on a high-fiber, plant-rich diet. This means that the body can adapt over time, eventually helping you get past the gassy phase.

Meantime, drinking plenty of water, especially with meals, can help ease symptoms, according to the T. Colin Campbell School of Nutrition Studies. Eating more slowly can also help. And, particularly for people transitioning from a diet high in processed foods, taking probiotics can also speed the growth of a healthy microbiome for better digestive health.

(Photo by Ella Olsson)

Finally, transitioning to a plant-based plan, rather than making an abrupt change, can be gentler on your digestive tract. “It’s really important to pay attention to your body, what it needs, and how you’re feeling” when making any major diet change, Robin Foroutan, a registered dietitian nutritionist and representative for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, previously told Insider.

Plant-based meals can keep you full and energized 

The upside of all that fiber, and all those complex carbohydrates, is that they can help keep you feeling full and energized while eating meat-free meals.

“I’m pretty happy so far,” Hudson said on the video. “I think having a little bit of additional carbs has really helped me. I feel fuller, very pumped … I feel bigger after every workout, and my strength levels really haven’t decreased, which is great.”

Both the Buff Dudes found a vegan diet helped them felt good, including during their workouts, and was able to meet their nutritional needs, especially with a little bit of planning. Although neither of them decided to stick to the diet, opting to add in eggs, yogurt, and other animal products back in, they recommend giving it a try.

“No matter what kind of lifestyle you choose, you’re going to have something available to you to make sure you’re happy, content, satiated and buff,” Brandon said.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

Read more:


Articles

3 major ways Bob Hope helped veterans

Bob Hope’s support for our military was so prolific and enduring that he is one of only two civilians who have received honorary veteran status.

In 1997, Congress passed a measure to make Hope an honorary veteran of the U.S. military in recognition of his continued support for the troops. At the time, Hope was the only civilian to be recognized in such a way (he now shares the honor with philanthropist Zachary Fisher who, in 1999, would become the second honorary veteran).

He has so many accolades to his name that it’s nearly impossible to track, but these are some of our favorites:

1. He entertained the troops from 1941-1991

On May 6, 1941, he performed his first USO Show at March Field in Riverside, California, which was a radio show for the airmen stationed there. He went on to headline for the USO 57 times during more than 50 years of appearances, providing entertainment for the troops from World War II through the Persian Gulf War.

Letter from prisoner of war, Frederic Flom, written on back of wrapper, Feb. 24, 1973.

(Bob Hope Collection, Library of Congress)

2. He advocated for the release of POWs during the Vietnam War

During his 1971 Christmas tour, Hope met with a North Vietnamese official in Laos to try to secure the release of American POWs. When F-105 pilot Frederic Flom heard about this, it lifted his spirits and prompted him to write Mr. Hope a letter of thanks.

On his last day in office, President Lyndon B. Johnson awarded Bob Hope the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

The Bob Hope Veterans Support Program was launched in 2014 with a generous seed grant from The Bob Hope Legacy

3. His legacy continues to improve the lives of America’s military community

The Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program provides one-on-one employment services, as well as referrals to other resources, to meet the unique needs of military personnel and veterans transitioning out of the military into a civilian job, starting their own small business or pursuing higher education.

Since launching in 2014, the program has served nearly 1,100 veterans and families with employment support and referrals to other resources, placing more than 600 into civilian positions and 83 pursuing education degrees. Free to veterans, who do not need to have a disability to participate, the program was launched with a generous seed grant from The Bob Hope Legacy, a division of The Bob Dolores Hope Foundation, which supports organizations that bring HOPE to those in need and those who served to protect our nation consistent with the legacy of Bob Hope.

To date, The Bob Hope Legacy has donated more than million dollars in support of Easterseals’ military and veteran services.

During a week-long campaign in observation of Memorial Day this year (May 23-29), Albertsons, Vons, and Pavilions shoppers throughout Southern California can make donations in support of the program via the pin pad at registers, with 100 percent of the donations going directly to Easterseals Southern California’s Bob Hope Veterans Support Program.


www.facebook.com

Military Life

How your gym selfie can help give back to the USO

The USO is bringing back its viral social media challenge again this year with 2018’s #Flex4Forces campaign. Running from now until Independence Day, using the hashtag #Flex4Forces will help bring awareness to the USO and its continued contributions to the troops.


The challenge is simple: Snap a photo or video of yourself flexing, post it on any social media platform, and be sure to caption it with #Flex4Forces. Next, tag four of your friends (or celebrities) to flex next and keep the challenge going. Finally, you can donate $4 at USO.org/Flex.

The USO debuted the challenge last year to overwhelming success. Troops, veterans, civilians, companies, communities, sports teams, and more joined in on the fun. Chris Pratt, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Tim McGraw, and many more celebrities also helped spread the challenge.

USO CEO and President J.D. Crouch II said,

“At the USO, we believe service members should feel connected and supported, no matter where they serve, and Flex4Forces encourages Americans to recognize the service of the one percent who protect and defend our nation. This campaign is a simple way to bring the American people closer to service members and to show them our strong support.”

It’s all in good fun and it’s the perfect way to mix both the military’s love of the USO and love of showing off that deployment body. Even if you’re not as jacked as Dwayne Johnson, you can still join in. At the end of the day, it’s not really about gloating — it’s about sharing the goodwill that the USO has shown to our troops over the decades.

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MIGHTY HISTORY

The man who saved North Carolina from nukes speaks out

Jack ReVelle, an Air Force munitions expert during the Cold War, recently went to a sound booth to record an interview with his daughter where the pair discussed one of the most harrowing moments of Jack’s life: That time he was called to North Carolina to defuse two hydrogen bombs that had plummeted to earth with a combined potential explosive power equivalent to 500 Hiroshima bombs.


A Mark 39 nuclear bomb rests with its nose buried in the mud near Goldsboro, North Carolina, in 1961 after a B-52 broke up in mid-air.

(U.S. Air Force)

In 1961, a B-52 bomber was flying over the great state of North Carolina when it began to break apart. Its entire right wing failed and the plane began falling towards earth. The order was given to abandon the plane, and eight crewmembers attempted to escape. Five survived.

But two other objects joined the crew in the air with parachutes. Two Mark 39 nuclear bombs, one with a successfully deployed parachute and one with a failed chute, fell from the sky. The Air Force sent a team out relatively quietly to find and defuse the nukes. Jack ReVelle told his daughter about getting the mission:

“One night, I get a phone call from my squadron commander. And instead of using all the code words that we had rehearsed, he says, ‘Jack, I got a real one for you.’ You don’t often have two hydrogen bombs falling out of aircraft onto U.S. property.”

Air Force technicians dig through the mud near Goldsboro, North Carolina, in 1961 after a B-52 broke up in mid-air.

(U.S. Air Force)

There was precious little preparation done for such an insane mission, and the airmen found themselves scrambling to get everything they needed to do the mission:

“Ten – we call them the Terrible 10. I knew all of them very well. But nobody was cracking jokes like they usually did. And the first couple of days there, they didn’t even have food for us – nothing. It was snowing. It was raining. It was frozen. That’s why we worked in shifts, sometimes on our hands and knees.”

The first bomb was quickly found hanging from a tree. The parachute had kept its descent reasonable, and it had stuck vertically in the ground, buried only partially in the dirt. The team found that three of its four safeguards had either failed or triggered. Only one safety, the actual safe/arm switch, had prevented a nuclear explosion.

Air Force explosive ordnance disposal technicians remove components of a Mark 39 nuclear bomb from the deep hole that the bomb buried itself in.

(U.S. Air Force)

But the second bomb, the one with an improperly deployed parachute, had hit the ground at 700 mph and plunged 18 feet into the ground. It was Jack and his men’s job to dig in, find as many of the 92 detonators as they could, and recover the warhead.

Most of the detonators were found and recovered, one at a time. But the team got a horrendous surprise when they found the safe/arm switch:

“And as we started digging down, trying to find the second bomb, one of my sergeants says, “hey, Lieutenant, I found the arm safe switch.” And I said, “great.” He says, “no, not great. It’s on arm.” But we all knew what we were there for and the hazards that we were facing. So, we pulled it up out of the mud and brought it up over this wooden rickety ladder that we had, to the surface of the ground, in a safe condition.”

Yeah, the switch had been the only thing that prevented the first bomb from detonating. It had failed on the second bomb. As they recovered the rest of it, they found no safeguards that had properly survived. The bomb should’ve exploded. Engineers wrote in a classified report in 1969 that a single electrical jolt could’ve triggered a weapon. The lead on the study, Parker F. Jones, recommended that Mark 39 bombs no longer be used in an airborne role since they almost gave us Goldsboro Bay.

But Jack and his team were able, through painstaking work, to recover most of the bomb, including the nuclear core. If even one of them had gone off, it could have killed approximately 28,000 people. 60,000 live there today and would, obviously, not be able to live there if the bombs had irradiated the whole area in 1961.

Jack ReVelle’s interview is available on StoryCorps and NPR.

(This article was updated on Feb. 4, 2019. The article originally stated that seven of the eight steps needed to detonate a Mark 39 bomb had been taken and cited a Stanford paper from 2018. But the Stanford paper cites a Guardian article for that claim, and the Guardian article only supports that three of the four major safeguards had failed. This post was changed to reflect this more solid information.)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

America’s military and police working dogs’ needs are fully supported and funded by the government, until they retire. The costs of their care after years of dedicated service can be high. This is where Project K9 Hero jumps in.


According to their website, their vision is to ensure quality of life for America’s retired Military Working Dogs and Police K9 Heroes by providing the needed assistance for their medical, food and end-of-duty services. These dogs have worked and trained their entire career. Many will retire with serious medical issues that can be costly and may also suffer from anxiety or PTSD. Project K9 Hero has made it their mission to ensure these heroes receive everything they need to enjoy their retirement years.

MWD and Police K9s that have what are deemed “special needs” are considered first by the board of directors of Project K9 Hero for financial assistance. Many also have to demonstrate that their care is a financial burden on their owners. They accept dogs into their program that have served within all branches of the military or law enforcement.

(Project K9 Hero)

Project K9 Hero is a national 501c3 nonprofit organization that relies on the generous donations of the public and corporate sponsorships to continue their vital work to support these heroes. Currently there are no public funds to support these K9s. Some go on hundreds of deployments and missions, serving this country faithfully for years on end. But once that service ends, their support lies in the hands of nonprofits and those that adopt them.

Project K9 Hero has been heavily involved in working on legislation to support K9s for years. The K9 Hero Act will allocate million in federal grants to be awarded to nonprofits for the medical bills of retired military working dogs and police K9s. But Project K9 needs the public’s help to get the bill moving forward. It was introduced into Congress in November of 2019 but has not been brought forward for a vote yet. The public can help support and move this legislation by asking their representatives and senators to support this bill.

On Project K9 Hero’s website, founder Jason Johnsons stated, “For me it’s a legacy as the Founder of Project K-9 Hero. I want to make sure that the work is being carried on for generations to come. It’s time our government take into consideration that if we’re going to use them and treat them like heroes when they’re on duty and during their service that we’re going to treat them the same way in retirement.”

(Project K9 Hero)

The needs of America’s K9 heroes go beyond medical and financial, though. They also need safe and secure retirement homes as well. Project K9 is currently fundraising to build a rehabilitation and rehoming facility in Tennessee which will allow them to further their mission. According to their website, it will be a 6,340 square foot facility that will have kennels, a play zone, a veterinary clinic and grooming facility. It will also become their corporate headquarters.

Around 90 percent of MWD and police K9s are adopted to their handlers, who usually get the opportunity to adopt first. While the public tends to be quick to adopt MWD and K9 puppies that don’t make the cut for the program, the older dogs aren’t adopted quite as quickly. This facility will aim to support these heroes by providing an enriching, safe and healthy environment for those in need of an immediate home. The public can donate to support this facility or purchase items in their REDD (remember every dog deployed) collection, which will support the opening of this facility.

Project K9 Hero wants to make sure that the loyal service MWD and Police K9s provided to this country is never forgotten. Their statement on their website says it all: Protecting Those Who Protected Us. To learn more about this nonprofit and how you can support their mission of taking care of our K9 heroes, click here.