“The Trial of Connor Padget” is a courtroom tale by Carl Roberts, former Air Force Officer and trial attorney. It begins at breakneck pace when the title character shoots a man on live television. What follows is an at times gripping narrative that follows his old friend, attorney and ex-reconnaissance pilot Jack Carney, as he attempts to save Connor Padget from a life sentence in prison.
At the heart of “The Trial of Connor Padget” is the kidnapping and assumed molestation of a young boy, but the tale is told entirely through Carney’s point of view. His sole concern is the trial, and the emotional aftermath of such a terrifying ordeal on the parents and the boy are largely muted.
There’s much for Carney to do, however, as he commits himself to saving his friend despite considerable personal cost. Roberts, a former trial attorney, peppers the story with evocative detail and weaves in realistic examples of other trials his lawyer narrator handles and attempts to steer toward justice.
Carney is an attorney willing to go the extra mile in defense of his lifelong friend, uncovering darker secrets that just might win the day. His devotion to his friend is admirable, and his dogged pursuit of the truth leads to multiple surprises along the way.
Intertwined with the courtroom drama is the tension at home between Carney and his wife, Adrienne, who’ve grown so far apart over the years, she’s now building a separate home with her substantial inheritance. As she aspires to a grander social set than the one they’ve built the foundation of their marriage upon, their bond continues to fray.
The best part of the novel is the way it evokes life in Louisiana. Roberts graduated from Louisiana State University (LSU) prior to serving as an electronic warfare officer at Yokota Air Force Base in Japan. He returned to LSU for law school and later served as the lead trial attorney for the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office.
His background brings the setting alive in vivid detail, conjuring sunny afternoons with crisp cold beers and fresh-caught seafood served in the waterfront restaurants the novel’s narrator prefers. These details pull you into the narrative and the Louisiana humidity, rendering this lawyer’s tale true to life and bringing home the novel’s larger point that any of this could happen to any of us.
The book is the debut from Roberts, who now lives near the Florida Gulf Coast.
Kate Lewis reviews books monthly for Military Families Magazine. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and more. Find her online @katehasthoughts.
As the pandemic continues to sweep the globe and follow us all into the holidays, everyone is struggling. December is filled with moments traditionally celebrated with big family gatherings – something that just isn’t safe right now, for anyone. Hard as it may be to swallow, it’s something military families have been dealing with for a lot longer than just the year 2020.
I come from a large Italian family, one that had “family night” every Wednesday like clockwork growing up. Leaving them behind for the first move with my husband was hard. I remember the deep pit of loss, especially during the holidays I missed. The second move taking me from my home state of Florida to Alaska just about broke me. It doesn’t matter how beautiful the adventure is or how incredible the opportunities are, your heart still aches. It was 2008, long before Facebook Lives or Zoom were a thing. Instead, we bought expensive web cameras and celebrated Christmas Eve through a shaky internet connection. Although I would never stop missing them, we learned to adapt because we had to. I also learned how expensive long-distance phone calls were, oops.
Watching Americans on social media complain about the restrictions and “cancel culture,” I can’t help but laugh and shake my head. As military families, we live in a world where anything can happen and you control none of it. My husband has worked numerous special days, been underway for Christmas and missed so many important moments. If I sat and dwelled in the despair of those times, I would never get out of bed. Seriously. This is the reality of the majority of military families throughout the world, we don’t have the luxury of complaining about it – we just do it. So, here are my lessons learned and words of advice for celebrating the holidays during a pandemic.
Did you know that when you complain, your body releases cortisol, which is a stress hormone? Yep, truth. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought enough stress to everyone’s lives, don’t add any more to yours. Instead of focusing on the negative, look towards the positive things. Traveling during the holidays sucks, for one – so now you don’t have to. Win!
2. Add new traditions
Maybe your Aunt Karen makes the best Christmas dinner and you are really mad about missing it. Make it. Yeah, you heard me. This is your chance to not only really embrace your own traditions that are familiar in a different way, but you can also add new ones. Bake the dish that no one else would usually eat, make the crafts because you have time and decorate more. Embrace the good, not the bad.
3. Adopt a family or shelter
I am not trying to make you feel like scrooge but for many the holidays are never good, even without a pandemic wreaking havoc. Rates of negative mental health symptoms during the holidays skyrocket and so do suicides. By finding a way to give back to those less fortunate than you it will not only take your mind off missing your family or “normal” but it will bring a boost of feel-good hormones to your brain, known as the “helper’s high”. There are angel trees, Toys for Tots and endless shelters in your community that need you. Find one.
4. Embrace small moments of joy
Sometimes it’s really not about the big elaborate get together’s and parties. Take this time to focus on your own home or community and breathe in small moments of joy. Watching old holiday movies together, having more time to decorate outside or watching your kids smile while doing crafts. Video chat with your family, take the time to make phone calls to people you haven’t seen in a while and write letters. These are small things that can create not only good memories but also feed happiness and not negativity.
The FDA just approved the second vaccine for emergency distribution. This means there really is hope on the horizon, even though all of this isn’t over yet. I know that we are all feeling fatigued from COVID and quarantine, but we can get through this. Remember that even when there isn’t a pandemic, military families are almost always far from their loved ones. It’s a sacrifice that is made because freedom is worth it. It is my hope that you’ll all take the same approach with staying home for the holidays. The lives you will save are worth it too.
On Sept. 20, 2011, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed. The policy served as a sort of compromise between people who wanted to continue to ban gay men and women from serving in the military, which had been the case prior to 1993, and those who felt that Americans should be eligible to serve regardless of sexual orientation.
In other words, until Sept. 20, 2011, service members were punished and even discharged with prejudice for being gay or bisexual. Now, it’s time to restore their honor and give them the benefits they deserve. Here’s how:
Honorable — For service members who meet or exceed the required standards of service. An honorable discharge comes with four major benefit programs, including disability compensation and medical care as well as pension programs and education.
General — For service members whose performance is satisfactory but is marked by a considerable departure in duty performance and conduct. A general discharge will also come with the benefit programs available to those honorably discharged.
Other Than Honorable — The most severe form of administrative discharge, representing a serious departure from the conduct and performance expected of military members. The majority of veterans’ benefits are not available to individuals who receive an Other Than Honorable discharge.
Bad Conduct — A punitive discharge that can only be given out by a court-martial. Virtually all veterans’ benefits are forfeited by a Bad Conduct Discharge.
Dishonorable — A punitive discharge handed out by a court-martial for the most reprehensible conduct, including sexual assault and murder.
Downgraded discharges not only result in the loss of benefits, they carry with them shame and stigma, as well.
As reported by The Bay Area Reporter, “Advocates for LGBT veterans estimate that roughly 114,000 U.S. service members were “involuntarily separated” from the military due to their sexual orientation between the end of World War II and the repeal in 2011 of the homophobic “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that barred LGBT people from serving openly in the military. While many of those veterans could likely qualify to correct or upgrade their discharges, just 8% had done so as of 2018, according to a report presented that April at a conference held at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School.”
Vets can also receive help from non-profit organizations like Modern Military Association of America, dedicated to advancing fairness and equality for the LGBTQ military and veteran community, or Swords to Ploughshares, which provides assessment and case management, employment and training, housing, and legal assistance to veterans.
Rangers from different units throughout the 4th Infantry Division put their physical and mental abilities to the test Jan. 10, 2019, during the 4th Inf. Div. Best Ranger Competition tryouts.
Rangers met at Iron Horse Park and began their morning with the Ranger Physical Fitness Test (RPFT), which included two-minutes of metronome pushups, two minutes of metronome sit-ups, one minute of metronome pull-ups and a 5-mile run. The metronome workouts used a device that produced an audible sound at a regular interval so that the exercise can be performed to a rhythm. Rangers followed the RPFT with an 8-mile foot march, directly into a 2.5-mile interceptor body armor (IBA) run, and concluded with a 600-meter swim.
1st Lt. Nick Rodriguez, with 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, conducts a pull-up Jan. 10, 2019, during a Ranger Physical Fitness Test.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Neysa Canfield)
“The purpose of the tryouts was to identify the right population of Ranger qualified leaders who have the potential of continuing to train and prepare for the Best Ranger Competition,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Speichert, the coach for the 4th Inf. Div. Best Ranger Team. “The different back-to-back events allow me to assess the ability of these leaders to continue physical events without much rest in between.”
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joshua Detwiler, with 2nd Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, runs down a hill during an 8-mile ruck march Jan. 10, 2019.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Neysa Canfield)
Speichert said although the events are physically challenging, it’s important for Rangers to have mental strength and to understand how to work as a team.
1st Lt. Clayton Stanley, with 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, runs up a hill Jan. 10, 2019, during a 2.5-mile Interceptor Body Armor run on Fort Carson.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Neysa Canfield)
“It’s important to have resiliency when you are going through 72 hours of back-to-back events and making decisions when you are tired and hurting,” he explained. “You also have to be a team player because one person doesn’t win the competition, both of the individuals have to execute every single task together to collectively win.”
1st Lt. Nick Rodriguez, with 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, catches his breath during a 600-meter swim Jan. 10, 2019, at Iron Horse Physical Fitness Center.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Neysa Canfield)
Although the tryouts were challenging, Lt. Jacob Boyle, an infantry officer assigned to the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Inf. Div., was excited to train with the team and possibly represent the Ivy Division at Fort Benning for the competition.
“We have a great group of Rangers and I am excited about our 4th Inf. Div. team as we prepare for this upcoming competition,” said Speichert.
The U.S. Air Force has officially kicked off its adversary air contract initiative by awarding seven companies a total of $6.4 billion to outsource its assault and combat training.
The service on Oct. 18, 2019, issued the collective, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract to Air USA Inc.; Airborne Tactical Advantage Company LLC, known as ATAC, a subset of Textron Airborne Solutions; Blue Air Training; Coastal Defense; Draken International; Tactical Air Support, known as TacAir; and Top Aces Corp. for Air Combat Command’s aggressor training, according to a Defense Department announcement.
“Contractors will provide complete contracted air support services for realistic and challenging advanced adversary air threats and close-air support threats,” the Defense Department said.
The Air Force for years has looked for a helping hand to fill the enemy, “red air” gap, which would in turn allow for more of its active-duty combat forces to attain air-to-air training on the friendly, or “blue air,” side.
Draken International’s L-159E.
The training comes down to a battle of simulated attacks for the purpose of enhancing tactics and techniques should pilots find themselves in an aerial dogfight, or having to stave off the enemy. The simulated flights would also include close-air support to enhance Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) training for ground operators.
During the onset of the fighter pilot shortage in 2016, Air Force officials signaled a renewed interest in contracting the work, a cheaper alternative than depleting the service’s budget for training and flight hours to act as the enemy.
“In a perfect world, we’d have the resources to maintain the aggressor squadrons that we used to have and kind of do it in house with modernized threats,” Gen. Mike Holmes, head of Air Combat Command, told reporters during the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference in 2017. “In the world we’re living in now, we’re limited in personnel and end strength.
Two French F-1 Mirages prepare to taxi and take off from Ramstein Air Base, Germany.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chad Thompson)
“If we can bring on some contract red air, then not only do we get some dedicated people to train against, we also reduce the amount of time that our crews are spending at a zero-sum budget for flight hours pretending to be somebody else instead of training for their primary skills,” he added.
A number of the red air companies have been expanding their aggressor fleets. For example, Draken currently has A-4 Skyhawks and L-159 “Honey Badgers” and recently purchased Dassault Mirage F1s and Atlas Cheetah fighters to add to its inventory. In 2017, ATAC bought upgraded F1 fighters from France; the company flew its first Mirage in August.
The training will be performed at “multiple locations across the Combat Air Force (CAF),” the DoD said. The Air Force has estimated that roughly 40,000 to 50,000 hours of flight time is needed to support aggressor air at a dozen bases across the U.S.
The Air Force will use fiscal 2020 operations and maintenance (OM) funds in the amount of .8 million toward the effort, set to run through October 2024, the announcement states.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Army Spc. Ezra Maes and two other soldiers fell asleep in their tank last year after a weeklong training exercise in Europe. When he woke up, the vehicle was speeding down a hill.
“I called out to the driver, ‘Step on the brakes!'” the armor crewman recalled in an Army news release. But the parking brake had failed. And when the crew tried to use emergency braking procedures, the vehicle kept moving.
The 65-ton M1A2 Abrams tank had a hydraulic leak. The operational systems weren’t responding, and the tank was speeding down the hill at about 90 mph.
“We realized there was nothing else we could do and just held on,” Maes said in the release.
The tank slammed into an embankment, throwing Maes across the vehicle. His leg caught in the turret gear, and he thought it was broken.
Army Spc. Ezra Maes undergoes physical rehabilitation at the Center for the Intrepid, Brooke Army Medical Center’s cutting-edge rehabilitation center at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Oct. 2, 2019.
(U.S. Army photo by Corey Toye)
Sgt. Aechere Crump, the gunner, was bleeding badly from a cut on her thigh, and Pfc. Victor Alamo, the driver, suffered a broken back. He was pinned down, the release states.
Determined to get to the other soldiers to assist with their injuries, Maes said he began tugging his leg to free it.
“But when I moved away, my leg was completely gone,” he said.
He was losing blood fast, but said he pushed his pain and panic aside. He headed to the back of the tank to find the medical kit. Lightheaded, he knew his body was going into shock. But all he could think about was that no one knew they were down there, he said.
“Either I step up or we all die,” Maes said.
The soldier began shock procedures on himself, according to the release, forcing himself to remain calm, keep his heart rate down and elevate his lower body. He used his own belt to form a makeshift tourniquet.
Crump, the gunner with the bad cut on her thigh, did the same. Her other leg was broken.
They tried to radio for help, but the system wasn’t working. Then, Maes’ cell phone rang. It was the only phone that survived the crash, and it was picking up service.
Candace Pellock, physical therapy assistant, guides Army Spc. Ezra Maes at the Center for the Intrepid, Brooke Army Medical Center’s rehabilitation center at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Oct. 2, 2019.
(U.S. Army photo by Corey Toye)
Crump was able to reach the phone and pass it to Maes, who fired off a text message. The crew had spent the week in Slovakia, which borders Poland and Ukraine, during Exercise Atlantic Resolve.
The last thing Maes remembers from the crash site was his sergeant major running up the hill with his leg on his shoulder. They tried to save it, but it was too damaged.
The specialist was flown by helicopter to a local hospital. From there, he went to Landstuhl, Germany.
He’s now undergoing physical and occupational therapy at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas. He’s awaiting surgery to receive a new type of prosthetic leg that will be directly attached to his remaining limb.
Despite the devastating injury, the 21-year-old said he and his crew “feel super lucky.”
“So many things could have gone wrong,” he said in the release. “Besides my leg, we all walked away pretty much unscathed.”
The soldier now hopes to become a prosthetist to help other people who’ve lost their limbs.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Every troop, at one point or another, thinks about how they’d prepare for a multitude of disaster scenarios. Many of these daydreams include building a bunker or an egress to a far-off island. With a military mindset, anything is possible — you can build a personal bunker in your backyard or, if you amass enough wealth, you can buy a luxury palace that’s nestled safely underground.
The following are types of bunkers that troops would love to live, from the strictly utilitarian to the abundantly extravagant. They’re each rated based on their affordability, sustainability, security, and amenities offered.
So, prepare for the end, my friends — preferably in one of these:
With a price tag of around ,500 (with installation), this is something that one can afford with an enlistment/re-enlistment bonus, a dip into savings, or with some post-deployment earnings. This is a realistic option for those of us without a massive disaster budget.
Depending on how many people are in your household, these bunkers are perfect for weathering a storm or a tornado until you get the all-clear. It’s a little cramped, but it gets the job done.
It’s too small to hold the resources you’d need to sustain for a long period of time, there’s no way to dispose of waste, and oxygen can only be brought in through the built-in vents. There’s no method to cultivate renewable energy and privacy is nonexistent.
You might want to keep your lips tight about owning one of these — you never know how other people will react when their lack of preparation suddenly makes them desperate.
You won’t have much to do other than eat, sleep, and wait. Personal entertainment devices and conversation with your family are going to be your only distractions from whatever’s going on outside.
The small shelters run around k and the larger ones go for about k-k. They’re not too expensive relative to other, larger shelters. They’re customizable and made to order. You’ll have to take permit and installation costs into consideration, but these are achievable with proper financial discipline.
These things have solar power, generators, and waste disposal mixed in with the comforts of home. Typically, you can last around 90 days without resupply. You can design it for a longer stay if necessary.
You still might want to keep this one a secret due to the limited living space. You won’t be able to house the whole neighborhood.
Home is where you make it. All around, this is a solid bunker that can be your home away from home — if necessary.
This is a labor of love that will take a lifetime to complete — and it has a price tag of 1 million to match. Oof.
We ranked this one right in the middle because it’ll be exactly what you make of it. You’ll have to gut it out and replace all the life-sustaining technology in order to bring this ol’ gal back to life. Rest assured, you take care of her and she’ll take care of you — but it’s up to you to think ahead.
Heavy doors, enough space to save a small town, and capable of withstanding a nuclear attack? Check, check, and check.
Having a re-purposed military installation is a surefire guarantee you’ll thrive in the apocalypse. A silo is a blank canvas for you to shape however you’d like. Above ground, you’ll have a luxury home and, if sh*t hits the, fan all you have to do is go downstairs.
What’s really hiding under Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado?
An actual base, like Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station
If you’re lucky enough to be stationed here or in a similar facility, Uncle Sam will provide the funds necessary to continue the fight against the enemies of freedom. If not, well, it’s not for sale — sorry, take your millions elsewhere.
This bunker has generators, reservoirs, and even a store. This bunker has everything you need for any scenario.
Armed guards, heavy doors, information-gathering capabilities, and plethora of state-of-the-art technology is at your fingertips. No worries here.
This one’s on par with the government’s prioritization of operation over recreation, but at least it has a gym. What it lacks in recreational facilities, it more than makes up for in terms of survivability.
It’s out of the price range for most of us, but if you’re lucky enough to have million laying around, this luxury survival condo (or one like this) will definitively put your worries to rest.
It can survive a direct hit from a nuclear attack, has an armory, and has you surrounded by survival-minded neighbors. This one has it all.
It has multiple life-support technologies, a mini hospital, hydroponic gardens, and it’s stocked full of supplies. This bunker will ensure you have everything you need to live a long and happy life.
It has a movie theater, rock climbing wall, indoor pool, grocery store, spa, gym, and a dog park — that’s right, you can save your pets! That’s an automatic max score, because who doesn’t want to save their beloved companions, too?
Days after winning the prestigious Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, the excitement had not left John Cruise’s voice.
“The biggest fish I caught before this tournament was an 849-pound giant Atlantic bluefin tuna,” said Cruise, a major in the Marines. “I’ve caught many bluefin in the 600- to 700-pound range over the years, but that marlin is a special breed. What a feat, I’ll leave it at that.”
Cruise, 47, is the captain of the Pelagic Hunter II, a 35-foot outboard. He and mates Riley Adkins and Kyle Kirkpatrick won with a 495.2-pound marlin that they battled for 5½ hours Friday. That catch was only two-tenths of a pound heavier than the second-place fish and earned Cruise’s boat more than $223,000 in winnings.
The Big Rock tournament began June 8 and concluded Saturday in Morehead City, North Carolina. It attracted more than 200 entrants, including Catch 23 — a yacht owned by Michael Jordan. The Hall of Fame basketball player’s crew brought in a 442.3-pound marlin early in the tournament.
The Pelagic Hunter II was one of the smaller boats in the field.
“We have boats up to 85, 90, 100 feet that fish the tournament that have crews of eight or 10 people,” said Crystal Hesmer, the tournament’s executive director. “For a 35-foot boat … to bring the winning fish to the dock is just heartwarming and wonderful.”
Cruise, a major stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, has run a charter-boat company for 12 years. He followed his father, who fought in the Vietnam War, and his uncle into the Marines and has served for 22 years.
Growing up in New Jersey, his love of fishing was sealed about the time he received his first rod when he was 5 years old.
“The buzz has been beyond belief,” Cruise said of winning Big Rock.
The Pelagic Hunter II competed against boats with far wealthier owners, larger crews and access to greater technology. Because of their sheer size, bigger vessels can handle unfavorable weather or ocean conditions better.
Still, despite being a first-time entrant who said he had not fished for marlin before the tournament, Cruise did not lower his crew’s expectations. He told Adkins and Kirkpatrick that he expected to win.
“I don’t play around, man,” he said.
Shortly after the winning marlin hit the lure, Cruise said it jumped between seven and 10 times. The big fish was on the surface, about 50 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean, when another boat almost ran over it. Just as the crew got the marlin close to the boat, it suddenly turned and went deep underneath the water.
The fish came up and went down a few times before the Pelagic Hunter II boated her.
“It was an exciting battle,” Cruise said.
Cruise said his crew lost a much larger fish earlier in the tournament when it snapped the line. They measured the marlin they brought to the docks and knew it did not meet the tournament’s 110-inch requirement to qualify.
They were unsure whether it would exceed the 400-pound minimum until the official weight was announced.
“She looked thick,” Cruise said. “She looked big, but we weren’t sure.
“We were just in shock, and we’re still on Cloud 9. We’re stunned, and we’re enjoying the moment.”
The day my dad left for deployment brought me hard feelings – feelings that were hard for me to process. The thought of him being in harms way made me afraid. Knowing how much I would miss him made be unbelievably sad. All that I knew for sure is that I did not want to take him to the drop off point.
I wanted him to stay.
Once we arrived at the squadron, I tried to convince myself to hold everything together, hiding how I was feeling and I put on a brave face. I certainly did not want to lose control of my emotions in front of a room full of strangers. But when I heard the loud slam of the van door closing and I realized that my Daddy was about to drive away, I stopped caring about who was around.
I sprinted toward the vehicle, wildly yanking at the door handle. “I just want you to stay. Please. Please stay.” I started to cry. The feeling of dread loomed over me. He opened the door and gave me one last hug. My Dad held me close and promised that everything would be okay.
But it wasn’t okay.
Living without my Dad was harder than I thought. I wanted to talk to him -to tell him about all the things I was learning and fun things I was doing. He missed a lot. He missed Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. It was awful. Christmas was not the same. I was glad we could open presents over video chat, but all I wanted for Christmas was to have him home.
Everything about life without him stressed me out and I began to be overly anxious. There were several times where my head felt like it was spinning. I was overwhelmed with worry. Many nights, I wouldn’t sleep. I cried a lot. Living life without my dad home just made me feel blue.
Nothing felt normal. When Dad is home, he takes me out to dinner and spends time with me. I can tell him all about what is happening and how I feel. I really missed these nights. We could really only talk for a few minutes because there was a seven-hour time difference. Night time was the worst. I feel safer when he is here.
It wasn’t all bad. We went on a few family vacations and even went to Great Wolf Lodge. I mean, we only went to Great Wolf because of the eight million delays for dad’s homecoming- making Dad miss my brother’s birthday. But it was fun.
If I had to do all over again (which I hope won’t be for a while), I would do a few things differently. Maybe, if you are a kid in the middle of a deployment -or getting ready for one – here are a few things I learned.
You can’t control everything. Don’t try. Stop trying to make everything perfect. You can’t. Recognize the things that you can control, like yourself or how clean your room is, and control what you can. I organized my books, made slime, and did things that made me feel comfortable.
Be patient with your family. Everyone is sad or stressed. Emotions are running hot and even the littlest things feel more annoying. Do your best to give people a break and stay calm. When I got overwhelmed, I would retreat to my room and count backwards from sixty. I would count colors or patterns in my room. Also, I bout “Pinch Me” dough, which smelled like the beach. Find something that brings you joy and peace.
Have lots of comfort food. (Oreos are always a good choice.) Nothing beats a snack. Snacks are wonderful, and sharing them with a friend is even better. When I was feeling sad or frustrated, I would invite my next-door neighbor over for a snack and a chat. It always made me feel better.
Lastly, call your friends. The beauty of military life is that you have friends everywhere. When I needed to, I would call my best friends, Talia and Aurea. They would cheer me up, help me think through what I feel, and give me encouragement. They know what this is like. Both of them, like me, are military kids.
Deployment seasons might not always be “okay,” but they are only temporary. They don’t last forever. I know that my dad does hard things, like being away, because he wants to serve our country. I can do hard things, too. He believes in freedom and he tells me that I can do my part too. I’m strong because he is strong. I love you, Daddy. Thank you for all you do.
Every few months, several North Carolina counties host a unique special-operations event.
Robin Sage is a four-week exercise that all Special Forces candidates must pass before they graduate and don the coveted Green Beret.
Named after Col. Jerry Michael Sage, an Office of Strategic Services (OSS) operative who was captured by the Nazis and attempted to escape more than 12 times before succeeding, Robin Sage is the culminating exercise of the Special Forces pipeline.
It takes place in the fictional country of Pineland, which spans about 50,000 square miles in the woods of North Carolina.
The Army’s Special Forces, known as Green Berets, mainly specialize in training and supporting foreign forces, counterterrorism, and reconnaissance, as well as carrying out its own small-scale raids and ambushes.
Green Berets operate in 12-man detachments and work with and through partner forces. They receive extensive cultural and linguistic training that enables them to operate anywhere in the world.
But it is during Robin Sage that they get their first real taste of what Special Forces does.
The road to Robin Sage
To make it to Robin Sage, prospective Green Berets must first pass the Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS), a 21-day course that pushes candidates to their physical and mental limits.
Those who successfully complete SFAS move on to the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC), or Q Course.
There have been almost 30 different versions of Q Course during its nearly 60-year history. Until recently, it was close to two years long. However, the course was revamped in 2019 and now lasts about six months. It is broken into four major phases: Small Unit Tactics, Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE), Military Occupational Specialty training, and Robin Sage.
After several months of training, students come together for Robin Sage and work as a team using the different skills they have learned.
In the fictional scenario of Robin Sage, Special Forces candidates must help a guerrilla force, which is usually led by retired Green Berets, overthrow the illegitimate government of Pineland.
“Today, we read a lot about proxy warfare, and that is what Robin Sage is in a nutshell,” Steve Balestrieri, a retired Special Forces warrant officer who also served as an instructor for the course, told Insider.
“The Special Forces candidates have to meet up with and make rapport with a third-world nation guerrilla force, train them up, and then work by, with, and through that guerrilla force to conduct combat operations against a numerically superior enemy occupying force,” Balestrieri said.
During Robin Sage, students are tested on what they have learned in Q Course. They teach their partner force small-unit tactics, provide medical care, build outposts, and establish communications with headquarters.
They also conduct reconnaissance, raids, ambushes, and numerous other missions and are tested on other challenges they might encounter on the battlefield.
For example, teams are often presented with war-crime scenarios, where their partner force wants to “execute” a prisoner or “destroy” a village. It falls on the team to successfully negotiate those delicate situations without losing the support of their allies or violating the laws of war.
It’s the ever-important human element that makes Robin Sage special. The social interactions between the team and the “guerrillas” might mean mission success or failure on the battlefield.
“Our Robin Sage [infiltration] was supposed to be brutal, our rucks weighing more than 100 pounds each,” John Black, a retired Green Beret, told Insider.
“We had packed everything in preparation for more than two weeks in the field with no resupply. Two Blackhawk choppers dropped us off behind enemy lines where we were to meet our partner force in the middle of the night,” Black said. “We walked and walked with this guy for hours in what seemed like a circle — he was lost. The captain asked to help him navigate with the map. Turned out we had been circling the camp for hours and the solution was simple — ask if he needed help.”
Perhaps the most important aspect of Robin Sage is the hands-on lesson it provides to future operators about the main mission of Special Forces, which is unconventional warfare — activities that help a resistance movement or insurgent force take on a bigger power.
“As a Green Beret, I feel Robin Sage is imperative and really gets you to think about the real mission of Special Forces, to work with and through a partner force,” Black added. “Very little of what a Green Beret does is kicking in doors and getting bad guys. Robin Sage definitely helped prepare me for life as an operator on a team.”
“What makes Robin Special is how well and smoothly it’s run from the time the student teams go into isolation until they [infiltrate] and are actively engaged with the G-Force,” Balestrieri said, referring to the guerrilla force.
“It rams home how important is, when operating in a guerrilla warfare/unconventional warfare environment, to at least have the nominal support of the population,” Balestrieri added.
Robin Sage is so realistic that a few years ago, a student was killed and another wounded by a police officer who wasn’t aware of the event and thought that they were robbers. Since then, before every Robin Sage begins, local communities are thoroughly notified.
The exercise and its lessons largely are what differentiate Green Berets from other US special-operations units.
“Robin Sage is tremendously important in the career of every Special Forces soldier, because it takes everything that you’ve been taught thus far in the SFQC and gears it toward SF’s true mission, which is unconventional warfare,” Balestrieri said.
James H. Anderson, the assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans, and capabilities, spoke about the 2019 Missile Defense Review at the Brookings Institution in Washington, Jan. 29, 2019. He noted that the strategy covers the Defense Department’s three lines of effort: lethality, partnership and reform.
Here are his main points:
China and Russia are developing advanced cruise missiles and hypersonic weapons that can potentially overcome United States defenses. North Korea has tested intercontinental ballistic missiles that are capable of reaching the U.S. and could be armed with nuclear warheads. And, Iran’s space program could accelerate development of an ICBM system that might be able to reach the U.S.
2019 missile defense review goal
Diplomacy and deterrence are the primary strategies to protect the nation, deployed forces and U.S. allies from missile attacks. Should that fail, the U.S. is developing a layered missile defense system as well as offensive capability.
The ballistic missile submarine USS Tennessee gold crew returns to its home port at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga., Jan. 11, 2019, following a strategic deterrence patrol.
(Photo by Bryan Tomforde)
• Upgrade existing radars and sensors
• Increase the number of ground-based interceptors by 20 to 64, along with developing a new kill vehicle for the GBI
• Develop small, high-energy lasers that can be fitted on unmanned aerial systems
• Arm F-35 Lightning II aircraft with tracking capabilities and possible missile intercept at the early boost stage
• Increase the Navy’s fleet of Aegis-equipped destroyers from 38 to 60
• Improve space-based sensors to detect and track missiles
• Conduct a feasibility study of space-based missile intercept capability
• Conduct a Standard Missile-3 Block IIA test against ICBMs by 2020
• Leverage the SM-6 for both defensive and strike operations.
A Standard Missile 3 Block IIA launches from the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex at the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii, Dec. 10, 2018, during a test to intercept an intermediate-range ballistic missile target in space.
(Photo by Ryan Keith)
To address regional threats and protect partners, Anderson said the U.S. will deploy additional terminal high altitude area defense, Patriot and Aegis Ashore platforms.
In turn, partner nations are building up their air and missile defenses, with the possibility of integrating them with U.S. systems. For example, he noted that NATO has an operational Aegis Ashore site in Romania. A second site, to be operational in about a year, is being built in Poland, which will house SM-3 Block IIA missiles. Denmark and the Netherlands have sea-based radar systems that can locate missiles.
DOD must adopt processes and cultures that enable development and procurement of missile defense systems in a streamlined and cost-effective manner, Anderson said.
“We must not fear test failure, but learn from it and rapidly adjust,” he said.
When it comes to motivation, Navy SEALs have plenty to spare, but we know one guy that could even make some SEALs look lazy.
Earning your place among the U.S. Navy’s elite SEAL teams, gathering intelligence for your nation’s security as a CIA officer, or serving as a fire officer for a professional fire department would each be enough to fill most lives, but not for our friend Frumentarius–he’s done all three, and you can call him Fru, for short.
We caught up with Fru recently to talk about motivation, and how young service members can follow in his accomplished footsteps. Of course, Frumentarius isn’t his real name, but it’s not a throw-away pseudonym either. After a career in covert special operations and another in covert intelligence gathering, he’s learned the value in keeping his identity at arm’s reach when it comes to engaging with the public.
The Navy SEALs specialize in small unit tactical operations in difficult and dangerous environments.
I’ve known Fru for a few years now, and can personally attest that the guy practices what he preaches. Keeping your body in good working condition through three of the most physically demanding careers out there is nothing to scoff at, but it’s not his physical fitness that sets Fru apart from the pack; in a lot of ways, it’s his mindset.
I wanted to know what advice Fru had for young service members just beginning their careers in uniform, and like you’d expect from a SEAL, a spy, or a firefighter; he didn’t disappoint.
“Just enjoy the experience as something you’ll miss when it’s over. Always work hard at everything you do so that you become a ‘go-to’ guy or girl when somebody needs something done,” Fru said.
“Don’t get too jaded, but cultivate a sardonic sense of humor and learn to laugh at the sometimes-absurd nature of military life and war. Treat your family as your number one priority throughout so that you have a good support system at home. Have fun because it will be over before you know it!”
When this is what you do at work, it pays to have support at home.
Of course, military service isn’t all good days, especially if you want to become a SEAL, Ranger, Green Beret, or any other member of America’s Special Operations units. In order to be successful, you’ve got to learn how to keep your head in the game and stay motivated. I asked Fru what he does when he’s working through exhaustion or high loads of stress.
“Those are the times when you need to be the most motivated,” he told me. “No one enjoys those times, and a true leader (in the sense of someone worth following or emulating) thrives in those difficult moments.”
A Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) student participates in interval swim training in San Diego Bay.
“Embrace the pain and stress and exhaustion and tell yourself those are the moments that make your own life exemplary — they are what make it stand out. They are what in many ways will define your service. You’ll tell the stories of those hard times for decades afterwards. Make them count and be the hero of your own story.”
But even Navy SEALs like to have a good time, and Fru is quick to point out that, while exhaustion and stress are par for the course, it’s still probably one of the coolest jobs on the planet.
“Most people are aware of the camaraderie, the high speed equipment/gear, the missions/operations, and all of that,” Fru explained.”
“They may not be aware that SEALs get paid to work out every single day, to dive and parachute, and to generally do fun stuff as part of the job. There are some sucky parts too, but for the most part, SEALs are paid to do stuff they love to do.”
Eventually, Fru left the SEALs to go to work for the CIA. While these two jobs may compliment one another, being a SEAL didn’t guarantee him a spot in America’s most secretive intelligence service. Just like earning his SEAL Trident, Frumentarius had to start from scratch and prove he could hang in the very different world (and culture) that is The Agency. As Fru is the first to tell you, even SEALs can’t rest on their laurels.
“I had an academic background in international affairs that made it an appealing move for me. After getting to the Agency, I then tried to remember that I was in a different culture than the SEALs,” he said.
“Some things I brought over with me, in terms of attitude and drive, but other things I had to leave behind (most of the ‘military’ culture). I ultimately made the transition successfully by working as hard as I could to be an effective CIA officer, knowing that my time in the SEALs was not something I could rest on. I had to earn my way at the CIA like every one else.”
I asked Fru what his best tips are for current service members that want to pursue a career in an elite intelligence outfit like the CIA.
“Get a degree in foreign language, economics, chem/bio/nuke, or international affairs/politics. If you can be proficient in a hard language (Chinese, Russian, Arabic, etc), even better.”
Just like being in the SEALs, working for the CIA has its benefits. For Fru, some of the coolest parts of serving in that capacity was getting to see the big picture, and playing a role in how it unfolded. Even so, a job with unique benefits also comes with unique challenges.
“CIA officers have to be choosy in their chosen targets of collection because CIA officers are supposed to acquire intelligence unobtainable through all other means. That’s the real challenge.”
Aerial view of the CIA Headquarters, Langley, Virginia
Fru has since left the CIA behind as well, opting to switch to a different sort of service life that allows him to maintain a more regular lifestyle: that of a professional firefighter. Just like his previous gigs, saving lives and putting out fires can be extremely physically taxing. So I wanted to know how Fru had managed to stay so fit, active, and injury free throughout all of his various roles.
“A commitment to self-care — physically, mentally, emotionally, health-wise — is paramount. You have to commit to eating somewhat healthy, taking care of your body through aerobic exercise, weight training, and stretching, and to taking care of your emotional/psychological needs.”
“That means finding something healthy that works as an outlet for you (shooting, slinging weights, running, reading, playing guitar, painting, whatever). You have to keep yourself on an even keel as best as you can because all of those jobs have immense stresses. They’ll occasionally overwhelm you, and you have to just reset yourself and continue to carry on.”
If you want to know more about our friend Fru, or just to give him a shout on social media to thank him for his service, you can find him on Twitter here. Make sure to tell him Sandboxx sent you!
Making coffee isn’t strictly relegated to your kitchen or the local coffee shop. People around the world find ways to enjoy a hot brew in high-altitude mountains to the middle of the ocean, and everywhere in-between. A good cup of coffee can make inhospitable conditions more tolerable, but the quality in your cup often suffers without the trappings of your home coffee kit.
Evan Hafer, the CEO of Black Rifle Coffee Company, found a way to make great coffee in one of the most extreme environments on earth: war.
Hafer served as both a U.S. Army Special Forces non-commissioned officer (NCO) and a contractor for the CIA, with assignments that took him to combat zones around the world. Even during the invasion of Iraq in the spring of 2003, he found a way to grind and brew his daily dose of caffeine — without sacrificing quality.
Coffee or Die Magazine caught up with Hafer recently to find out about his battle-tested methods for making good coffee in bad places.
During the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Hafer took premium coffee with him, and his fellow Special Forces teammates often woke up to the sound of a coffee grinder on the back of their gun truck. “I think we were probably the only ODA to take whole bean, good coffee with us. In the mornings, we would always start the day by grinding fresh coffee,” Hafer said. He recommends finding single-origin, high-altitude beans — he prefers Panamanian or Colombian.
Roast your own beans.
By 2006, Hafer was deploying with the CIA but was surprised to find that the coffee options left a bit to be desired: “You’d think the agency, especially with their kind of gucci reputation, would have amazing coffee. But they didn’t.” So he started roasting in his garage and bringing a duffel bag’s worth of beans overseas with him for his 60-day deployments.
Hafer while deployed.
(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company)
A french press is good, but pour over is better.
“I did the french press for a long time, until I had broken so many,” Hafer said. “I eventually found a double-walled, stainless steel one and went through quite a few of those because people would literally steal them, they were in such high demand.” These days, Hafer doesn’t leave home without a custom travel pour-over system that he invented that is much more compact than a french press and has simple, durable components.
How to Make Coffee with BRCC Collapsible Pour Over Coffee Device
Know the boiling point for the altitude you’ll be at.
You typically want your water to be about 200 degrees Fahrenheit before pouring it over the ground coffee, but deciphering water temperature might seem tricky if you don’t have a thermometer. “I know roughly what temperature water is going to boil at based on the elevation; it’s either going to boil faster or slower,” Hafer said. “You don’t have to put a thermometer in it because you’ll know exactly what the temperature is based on the boiling point.” When planning your next trip, go to omnicalculator.com to quickly find the boiling point for your intended elevation.
Hafer while deployed.
(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company)
Get the right coffee-to-water ratio.
According to Hafer, you want approximately a 1:16 ratio of coffee to water. This roughly breaks down to 1 tablespoon of ground coffee for every one cup of coffee (8 ounces). “I know that by eye because I’ve been doing it for so many years. It’s what you do every day [at home] that will allow you to master making coffee in the field,” Hafer said. “All that skill translates to when you’re in shitty places.”
Don’t be intimidated by the process.
As much as the science and logistics of making a great cup of coffee might deter the average person from going through the effort in austere environments, Hafer emphasized that it’s all very doable — and will only take 10 minutes of your time. “At the end of the day, if you have a hand grinder or maybe you’ve pre-ground some coffee, you got an indestructible pour-over and a means to boil water, you’re gonna make a great cup of coffee.”