The Leadership Development Course taught at Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, seeks to improve people skills and allow students to learn from previously failed experiences. Key points of discussion are developing exceptional leaders and combating toxic leadership tendencies. Another focus area is emotional intelligence, or the ability for Airmen to understand and control their emotions, while understanding others to effectively lead.
“Toxic leadership is a very big topic in the media today,” said Dr. Fil Arenas, Air University associate professor of leadership studies. “Toxic leaders are leaders that not only cause serious harm to their followers, but to their organization. We’re trying to get away from all these abusive behaviors. There is a large gradation in the literature of toxic leadership that goes from trace toxics, to completely abusive leadership that causes people to commit suicide; that is the extreme scale.”
To keep pace with the constant evolution of technology and understanding of the psychology of personalities, the Air Force has shifted how it looked at leadership and how to develop effective leaders.
“Leadership isn’t just about intelligence and just having IQ doesn’t make you an effective leader,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Clayton, Air University assistant professor of leadership studies. “You have to be able to connect with people, create relationships and understand how you impact the environment.”
Janine Belasco, a U.S. Air Force simulation specialist, acts as a male avatar during a virtual empathy and interpersonal communication exercise, at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., The simulation was adopted as a capstone for Air University’s new Leadership Development Course.
The shift to developing leaders’ interpersonal skills presented a training opportunity in an area that was unfamiliar to Air University, prompting Clayton to ask local education experts for support and guidance.
He was introduced to Janine Belasco, a trained actress with no military affiliation, and her line of employment — virtual empathy and leadership training.
“It is the most important work to me,” Belasco said. “To help people be able to talk about how they feel and to help people be able to feel empathy before they become leaders so they can react to others with true emotions and acts of caring is very important.”
Lt. Col. Andrew Clayton, Air University assistant professor of leadership studies, mentors a student during an empathy and interpersonal communication exercise at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. A need to look at leadership development differently sparked Clayton to look to local education institutions for guidance on a new training opportunity for empathy and leadership.
Happy Birthday, America! It’s that time of year when we celebrate our freedom and the birth of the country we all know and love. This year, we proudly boast number 244 — sure there’s no real guide for what to give Lady Liberty and Uncle Sam this go-around, but luckily, we have some crowd favorites.
From old faithfuls, like fireworks exploding in the sky, to regional traditions like BBQs and the juiciest watermelon around, let’s all bask in the excitement that is Independence Day.
First, we start with the obvious fare: grilling, summer dishes, and of course, fireworks. Whether you’re a family who drops serious dough to hear the big ka-booms, or prefers to swirl sparklers in your backyard, you’re celebrating all the same. Join in with family and friends — from a safe distance, of course — to plan your day of American food-loving fun.
Hitting the zoo
Yes, the zoo! Check out your local animals this July 4th for free admission at many locations. Military members and their families can earn free access when visiting the zoos in Cincinnati or Birmingham. Everyone located elsewhere can still earn military discounts and a guaranteed fun day of animal viewing, along with activities themed red, white, and blue.
As the July heat has hit, spending the day in or near the water come July 4th is a crowd favorite. Certain water parks are offering free military admission this Fourth. (A welcome change as we’ve all been waiting for water parks to reopen, even at lowered capacities.) Meanwhile, the rest of us can enjoy days of swimming and boating near our duty station of choice.
District of Columbia National Guard supports Fourth of July mission
Most years, military bases are home to big 4th of July celebrations. They host everything from food trucks, to parades, to massive fireworks shows. However, with the pandemic in play, many of these events have been postponed or canceled outright. As an alternative, some fireworks shows are offering drive-in shows instead. Think of an old fashioned drive-in theater, but where the sky is the screen instead. To see if your area is hosting a drive-in show, check local event pages.
While 2020 is calling for a different form of celebrating this year, it doesn’t mean military members and their families can’t still party-it-up this 4th.
So you need a cup of coffee. Often, we rush into the store, grab the brand that we are used to just because we recognize the name. How often have you just stopped for a minute to take a look at the label? Where was it made? Is it caffeinated or decaf? Dark roast or medium?
And, one question you should be asking: Is this company veteran owned?
For veteran-owned coffee businesses, it’s more than just a cup of coffee, it’s the story behind the brand. So many of the businesses were created in order to maintain and create that sense of community instilled in the service; they wanted to keep the bond that they shared over that hot cup of Joe. What a better way than to think outside of the box, away from that field coffee, and make it into something much tastier.
Here are four small veteran owned coffee companies that need to be shared with the world. Read their story, support their mission and never look at your coffee the same again.
Ryan Hunt (Mountain Up Coffee)
Mountain Up Coffee is roasted in Chicago and the beans come from around the world. Ryan Hunt, Founder of Mountain Up, created the brand in 2016 while he was still on active duty. Mountain Up is inspired by military past, present and future. The brand, which encompasses both Mountain Up Caps & Coffee, is founded in patriotism, adventure and giving back to the community as a whole. Get your roast on at www.mountainupcoffee.com and use MIGHTY10 at check-out for 10% off.
Ryan served for over 20 years as both an enlisted Soldier & NCO and later as an officer. His Army journey started as a fire support specialist (13F) and as an officer, served first as a Field Artillery, then as a Multi-functional Logistician (90A) and later as a Simulation Officer (57A). During his Army journey, he spent time at the 10th Mountain Division, 1st Infantry Division, 1st Armored Division, the National Training Center, Cadet Command and a few other places doing a lot of different and awesome things. He deployed to Iraq three times and the Former Yugoslavia. His main reason for serving for over two decades was the horrible events of September 11, 2001.
In 2015, during a TDY to JBLM in Washington, Ryan felt a calling and inspiration to start Mountain Up. He said, “In reality, the inspiration came from a combination of the power of mountains and the spirit of the 10th Mountain Division. But my brand is more than it, it’s about the veteran community as a whole past, present, and future”
Carrie Murray Beavers (Scars and Stripes Coffee)
U.S. Army 1991-2001
Carrie was born on Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, adopted at birth and raised in Illinois. Unfortunately, Carrie’s trauma began as a young child.
She has lived a life of uncertainty and confusion as she tried to navigate through her childhood trauma, sucide attempts and then her military sexual trauma all by the age of 18. She used self-medication, alcohol and experimentation with drugs to numb the pain she had been suffering and to escape from the feelings about what had happened to her.
Through Carrie’s self healing journey, she has come to terms with living with PTSD, depression, anxiety and Borderline Personality Disorder. She has not let that define her and has become an advocate for those suffering as she was. She has since joined the nonprofit ‘We Got Your 6’ and has helped veterans as part of a suicide intervention team.
In November 2019, she joined Scars and Stripes Coffee. She is the Squad Leader for the Northeastern United States and was quickly placed on the leadership team after she shared a vision and strategy for market placement. She has been given the opportunity to lead a team of veterans that she gets to empower.
Jose was born and raised in San Antonio by Jose Sr. and Anita Rosa Treviño Alaniz. Growing up in a military family, he felt the strong desire to follow in the footsteps of his father and uncles who served in the Air Force during Vietnam and WWII.
While the Air Force had a hiring freeze in 1989, Jose ran into a Navy recruiter who sold him on all the things that he wanted to hear. Jose left for basic in March of 1990 after being in the delayed entry program since graduation. He served 4 years and 9 months on active duty and then got out.
Jose’s turn of events led to alcohol, drugs and food addiction. He experienced both lows and highs in his family life and marriage.
In 2014, Jose made the trip to New Zealand to see his grandson who was just born. During this trip he visited Australia and had fresh-roasted, made to order coffee for the very first time. When his father passed from lung cancer, Jose surrendered his life to Christ.
In 2017, his family traveled to Italy and Greece to visit places that his father had taken pictures of in the 50s and it was this trip that solidified his passion for coffee. Jose started roasting coffee off of an open-face steak grill in the backyard and just kept trying new things until one day, he discovered the journey he felt he was supposed to be on.
Third Day Coffee Seguin exists to create the opportunity and ability to do ministry in local communities. Jose feels like God is leading him to offer Christ as an option for people to heal their lives with. He has witnessed many of his friends and veterans living off of pills just to function daily. He feels like God is leading him to sell enough coffee to support a full time ministry to address issues like this within the community for all that are suffering. His current plan and dream is to own a brick and mortar shop to continue his new mission and journey in life.
Adam Bird, founder and CEO of Heroes Media Group LLC, is a seasoned, serial entrepreneur with a passion for serving what he calls the “Heroes Community.”
Bird’s career has been centered around serving America’s Community Heroes for more than a decade, including military, veterans, firefighters, first responders, law enforcement, educators, medical professionals and clergy.
While he has primarily focused his attention on HMG’s media platforms, Bird saw an opportunity to expand into the beverage market this year. For the past two years HMG had a coffee blend called Heroes United. This blend was created as a collaboration with Rick’s Roasters Coffee Company.
When Bird saw an opportunity to leverage these products as a way to give back, he launched an entirely new business venture. HMG Beverage LLC launches in November 2020, the week of Thanksgiving. Starting with five blends, they plan to carry more at the start of the new year; shortly after will be other beverage options, with a portion of every purchase donated to charity.
To shed light on the epidemic of veteran suicide, BraveHearts — the nation’s leading equine rehabilitation program for veterans — started its first of three Trail to Zero rides Sept. 7, 2019 in northern Virginia.
The 20-mile ride in each city commemorates the number of veterans lives lost on average each day. The ride educates people on equine-assisted services benefits and healing effects.
Army veteran Tim Detert was one of the Trail to Zero riders. Detert served from 2005-2010 with the 82nd Airborne, deploying to Iraq twice for 18-month and 13-month tours. Following his service, Detert said he started suffering from depression and anxiety, turning to alcohol and opiates. Four friends ended their lives. After a suicidal spell, a friend recommended equine therapy to him.
“It’s completely turned around my life,” said Detert, who has been sober two years. “It’s given me a lot of hope and joy. I was so depressed and down before I came to this program. I was just looking for something and I hadn’t found it until I started working with the horses.”
Army Veteran Mitchell Hedlund, one of the Trail to Zero riders, served in Afghanistan in 2011-2012 and now uses equine therapy.
The BraveHearts president and chief operating officer said she’s seen veterans greatly improve their well being through equine therapy.
“I can’t even tell you now how many times I’ve heard veterans tell me personally that they wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the horses,” said Meggan Hill-McQueeney. “They find peace with the horses, they find hope with the horses, and they find purpose with the horses. Alternative therapies like equine therapies are tremendous opportunities.”
Currently, 64 VA medical centers across the country participate in therapeutic riding programs. These programs use equine assisted therapeutic activities recreationally to promote healing and rehabilitation of veterans for a variety of physical disabilities and medical conditions, said Recreation Therapy Service National Program Director Dave Otto. These include traumatic brain injury/polytrauma, blind rehabilitation, other physical impairments, post-traumatic stress disorders and other mental health disorders.
Children on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall talk to a BraveHearts rider Sept. 7, 2019, during the Trail to Zero ride.
Additionally, VA awards adaptive sports grants annually for organizations and groups that provide adaptive sports opportunities for veterans with disabilities, Otto said. These grant recipients also partner with VA facilities within their region to coordinate such adaptive sports opportunities for Veterans. During fiscal year 2018, VA awarded nearly id=”listicle-2640279831″ million to 12 grant recipients providing equine assisted therapy to Veterans with mental health issues. VA will award up to id=”listicle-2640279831″.5 million of these grants in fiscal year 2019.
BraveHearts is the largest Professional Association for Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) program in the country and serves veterans at no cost to veterans. The program offers equine services to provide emotional, cognitive, social and physical benefits. Veterans at BraveHearts have reported increased self-esteem, self-worth, trust for others, community integration, and decreased depression, anxiety, post traumatic disorder symptoms and self-inflicting thoughts.
In addition to the Sept. 7, 2019 ride, Trail to Zero plans rides for Sept. 14, 2019, in New York City and Sept. 28, 2019, in Chicago.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
North Korea isn’t turning a lot of people away from military service. Men are universally drafted for service around age 17. If you’re in the political elite, chances are good your kids are safe. The same goes for the opposite end of the spectrum. The lowest castes of the Korean hierarchy are also exempt – why would they fight for a system that hates them?
For women, the system is much, much different. The process is a little more selective and can be unsurprisingly horrifying.
It can always get worse.
Women are stationed exclusively with other women, sleeping 30 to a barracks. Like in U.S. military basic training, they sleep in bunk beds with only a cabinet to hold their belongings. Their cabinets, however, also contain small photos of the leaders of North Korea. Lee So-yeon, a North Korean defector whose job was to infiltrate the south and relay artillery coordinates in the event of a war, had photos of deceased ex-President Kim Il-Sung and then-living Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il.
When she first arrived to her duty station in the early 1990s, the chow halls actually had menus of food items to choose from. In reality, they were just for show. The troops got bowls of rice with bits of corn. For special events, they would get bits of meat and little candies. Troops like Lee would slip into apple orchards to steal their fill.
Still, life among the troops was a proud life. War with the U.S. and South Korea is the paradise on earth they are promised from day one. Then there are other, less traditional positions.
Especially for North Korea’s Harvey Weinstein over here.
The North’s founding leader Kim Il-Sung created a women’s pleasure squad, the kippumjo. The pleasure squads, sole job was to perform for the Leader, the leadership of the Korean Workers Party, and even sometimes the country’s honored guests. The 2,000-strong unit was said to have been disbanded by Kim Jong-Un after his father, Kim Jong-Il, died in 2011.
One member of this unit was Mi Hyang, who provided an incredible trove of information on Kim when she defected to the South years ago. She described a much different man than the propaganda made him out to be. She was recruited based on her looks and her height. Kim Jong-Il was very short, so any woman over 5’5″ was excluded. Like any other conscript, she was recruited in high school. Officers visited her school and took the prettier girls aside, asking if they’d ever been with a man and inspecting their bodies for scars and blemishes.
Are we creeped out yet? Here’s how their service ends.
After they’re drafted, they trained for six months before being interviewed by the Dear Leader, who would then decide if he liked them. If he did, they could serve him until they turned 25, a period of ten years.
Other conscripts must now serve until age 30 but get none of the benefits of the kippumjo, like new appliances and a ,000 stipend. No one knows if the unit exists in any form under Kim Jong-Un. For the regular Army, their lives were dirty (they had no real ways to clean themselves, save for a garden hose that was sometimes filled with frogs), and a bed made of rice casings, only to wake up and perform the manual labor of cooking and cleaning.
After becoming exasperated with evidence of low discipline and sloppy appearances, a two-star general overseeing most East Coast-based ground combat Marines has fired off a policy letter mandating when troops must wake up, clean, and eat each day.
The April 16 policy letter, signed by Maj. Gen. David Furness, commanding general of 2nd Marine Division out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, expresses concern that the Marines within the division have let their standards slide.
“In my travels with the Sergeant Major and Command Master Chief throughout the Division spaces, I have noticed a significant decline in the basic discipline of our warriors,” Furness wrote. “Because the 2nd Marine Division has the majority of personnel assigned to Camp Lejeune, we will take ownership of this problem and FIX IT immediately.”
Staff Sgt. Christian Fuentes motivates recruits with Company F, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, as he moves down the rows during the senior drill instructor inspection at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Aug. 23, 2013.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Benjamin E. Woodle)
2nd Marine Division is one of three active-duty Marine divisions worldwide and is made up of some 20,000 troops.
The division public affairs office confirmed that a policy letter had been disseminated.
Furness wrote that he has seen Marines and sailors with 2nd Marine Division walking around with long hair, “nonexistent or poor shaves,” worn-out boots and inappropriate civilian attire.
“There are weeds growing around our buildings and work spaces and trash everywhere but the dumpsters where it belongs,” he wrote. “These are just a few examples of the lack of discipline seen across the board that will not be tolerated in this Division any longer.”
Recruits of India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, conduct pull-ups during a physical training event at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Dec. 28.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Angelica I. Annastas)
He detailed a 24-hour “basic daily routine” that he said he expects every single Marine and sailor in the division to follow, beginning with division-wide reveille every morning at 5:30 a.m.
From 5:35 to 6 a.m., troops are expected to conduct hygiene activities and room clean-up, leaving “blinds half-mast,” according to the order. Physical training and barracks common area clean-up will follow from 6 to 8 a.m. Mandatory platoon or company formations and inspections will happen from 8 to 8:15 before the workday begins. Troops are allowed an hour to eat from noon to 1 p.m. and then must wrap up the day with another formation, from 4:30 to 4:45 p.m.
Furness appealed to the troops’ identity as Marines in asking them to embrace the regimented schedule.
Marines with India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, wait to march onto Peatross Parade Deck during a graduation ceremony aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., April 13, 2012. The graduation ceremony consisted of five platoons from India Company.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Aneshea Yee)
“Part of what makes us different from our sister services and American society is the regimentation of our daily lives,” he wrote. “Adherence to orders and standards helps foster mutual trust in one another and produces the attention to detail required to be effective when called upon to fight as our nation’s 911 Force.”
First Lt. Thomas Kleiber, a division spokesman, said the letter essentially reinforces practices that are already in place.
“Obviously, the letter is an internal document and commanders reserve the right to direct their units as they see fit,” Kleiber told Military.com. “Commanders have the authority and responsibility to direct their units in the way that it feels appropriate and promotes mission accomplishment. I don’t think this order is unusual in its attempt to accomplish that.”
It’s not immediately clear how the daily routine will apply to Marines who live off-base or outside the barracks, although Furness does note that unit leaders will be able to modify the routine based on obligations. It’s also not fully clear whether the routine applies only to weekdays, although it appears to. What is clear is that there are stiff consequences for Marines who don’t fall in line.
Marines with Marine Rotational Force – Darwin form up around Brig. Gen. John Frewen, 1st Brigade commanding general and senior Australian Defence Force officer for Robertson Barracks, to listen to him speak about expectations with the rotation, April 11.
(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Scott Reel/Released)
“Any dissenters can answer to myself, the Division [sergeant major] or the [command master chief] and will be dealt with accordingly. Can each of you live up to the mantra of ‘If I was accused of being a Marine/Sailor today, would there be enough evidence to convict me?'” Furness wrote. “At this time across our force I believe the answer for many is no, and it needs to be corrected immediately.”
While it’s fairly uncommon for a senior military official to get involved in the minutia of troops’ daily routines, it’s not without precedent.
In 2013, Army Command Sgt. Major Dale Perez, the senior enlisted soldier at the Army National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, fired off a sharply worded Facebook post aimed at troops and family members on base, particularly those who shopped at the commissary, demanding they clean up after themselves.
“Take your garbage and shop off post if you can’t pick up after yourself,” he wrote.
Furness, who took command of 2nd Marine Division last August, is a career infantry officer who joined the Marine Corps in 1987 after graduating from the Virginia Military Institute. He has led Marines on deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, and his awards include two Bronze Stars with combat distinguishing device, according to his official military biography.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with comment from 2nd Marine Division.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke about leadership to educators responsible for training the next generations of military leaders at the Association of Military Colleges on Feb. 25, 2019.
Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva used the experience of the Battle of Iwo Jima in February 1945 as an example of leadership in action and a time when normal men rose to sublime levels of leadership.
Iwo Jima was one of the bloodiest battles of World War II. The United States sent 70,000 Marines and sailors to assail the bastion in the Central Pacific. An unprecedented bombardment of the small island — some 74 days — had very little effect, because Japanese soldiers literally had dug into the island.
“Leadership is about inspiring people to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do — to do things they don’t believe they can do,” Selva said to the educators. “I imagine not many Marines wanted to charge ahead, directly into the barrage of fire that was being delivered upon them on Iwo Jima. Leaders have to figure out what skills we have to help others, and to inspire others to do things they certainly do not want to do — to accept those challenges that they believe are insurmountable.”
Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, completes an arrested landing training simulation at Training Air Wing 6 during a visit at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., Feb. 1, 2019. Selva visited the training squadrons before speaking at a Joint Winging Ceremony for Air Force combat systems officers and naval flight officers.
(DOD photo by Army Sgt. James K. McCann)
All the firepower from battleships, cruisers and destroyers off the island, from aircraft strafing positions and from artillery reached a limit, and it was Marine riflemen who had to shoulder the burden of taking on the entrenched Japanese.
American leaders believed the battle would be over in days. But the island wasn’t secure for a month, at a cost of 21,000 Japanese dead. Some 6,800 Marines and sailors died in the battle, and more than 20,000 were wounded.
A total of 27 Medals of Honor were awarded for gallantry during the battle for Iwo Jima — the largest single-number of awards for a single battle in U.S. history.
“We are not genetically predisposed for leadership,” Selva said. “We’re actually predisposed, my theory is, to be good followers. And it is exceptional followers who become leaders of character. And it’s a learned trait, not an innate skill.”
These leadership traits can be taught, the general said. “If there’s a chance to build good leaders, it’s because they have role models,” he said. “They have people who are willing to share their skills and teach their skills. Because teaching leadership is a little bit about baring your soul. It’s a little bit about admitting your weaknesses. It’s a little bit about helping other people discover theirs. And it’s certainly about motivating them to overcome them.”
If you’re looking to punch the enemy in the gut and demonstrate just how much better you are than them, an ambush is your tactic of choice. In fact, that punch-to-the-gut scenario can be more literal than figurative — if you have some solid intelligence on enemy patrol or supply routes and you want to strike fear in their hearts, surfacing from the shadows to deliver a swift punch from the hand of justice is a good way to do it.
But ambushes are also a delicate strategy. If you screw it up and expose your position before you’re ready, things can take a turn for the worst. Don’t worry, we’re here to help you out. These are some of the most important rules to follow when conducting an ambush — ones that will help you avoid becoming the ambushed.
It seems like the obvious choice, but it may not be the best one…
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl Will Lathrop)
Don’t initiate with an open-bolt weapon
This is mostly a rule for Marine Corps infantry, but the idea is that open-bolt weapons are more likely to jam and the last thing you want when initiating an ambush is for the enemy to suddenly hear the bolt clicking on a misfire. It’s better to leave the initiation to someone with a standard rifle, preferably someone who keeps their weapon clean, so you know the first thing the enemy hears is a gunshot.
Move silently and cautiously.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl Justin Updegraff)
Maintain noise discipline
If the enemy hears you rustling in the bushes and you’re not a squirrel, you’re exposing yourself. An ambush is designed to allow you to capitalize on the element of surprise. You lose that when the enemy figures out where you’re hiding.
Seriously, don’t be that guy.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt Marco Mancha)
Have trigger discipline
Typically, your leader will determine who’s to shoot first (a designated Han Solo, if you will) and, if you aren’t that person, your finger better stay off the trigger until you hear that first shot go off. The gunshot is an implicit command for the rest of the unit to open fire and, once they hear that, it’s open season until your leader calls for a ceasefire.
Don’t be that guy.
Ask your subordinates questions to make sure they know.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl J. Gage Karwick)
Ensure everyone knows their role
Once you’re set into the ambush position, you have to remain silent until it’s time. So, if you’re the leader, make sure everyone knows what their role is and where they’re going to be firing. That way, when the shooting starts, you don’t have to call out many commands.
Make sure everyone knows what the plan is.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)
Have a solid egress plan
Ambushes have to be quick, which means you have to spring the trap and leave before anyone really knows what’s happened. You want to hit the enemy hard and fast enough to disorient them, but you want to get out of there before they can muster reinforcements. Otherwise, your short ambush just turned into a lengthy firefight that you’re likely under-equipped for.
There are more rumors and myths floating around about the Central Intelligence Agency then there are actual facts. “The Agency” or “The Company” is charged with preempting threats and furthering national security objectives by collecting and analyzing intelligence and conducting covert action while simultaneously safeguarding our nation’s secrets. It’s a broad mission, and a lot of trust has been granted to them by the American people to carry it out.
But it takes a special kind of person to thrive in the CIA.
Who, or what, are they looking for? And do those who served at the tip of the spear while in the military have a competitive advantage? If so, is a U.S. Navy SEAL better than a U.S. Army Ranger? Or does a Green Beret’s experience hold more weight when competing for one of the few spots available as a gray man?
The CIA doesn’t publicly answer any of those questions, instead opting to keep their ideal candidate’s qualifications vague. So we reached out to a few veterans of the Agency to see if they noticed any trends.
Hafer while deployed to Africa.
(Photo courtesy of Evan Hafer)
Evan Hafer, former CIA contractor
Evan Hafer is in the coffee business these days, but he started out as a U.S. Army Special Forces NCO (noncommissioned officer) before transitioning to contracting for the CIA. He’s deployed dozens of times around the world on their behalf, and he even assessed and trained those who were trying out for the Agency’s elite high-threat, low-visibility security force toward the end of his career.
“It all depends on what kind of officer you’re looking for,” Hafer said. “When you look at paramilitary operations, they have a wide variety of objectives. A good portion is working by, through, and with foreign nationals while conducting covert action. For a long time, Special Forces did a lot of covert action, so they made for the best agents in that respect.”
Hafer while deployed to Afghanistan.
(Photo courtesy of Evan Hafer)
Hafer went on to explain that there are different types of jobs at the Agency that require different skill sets. “Typically a good Ranger NCO will make a great guy for on-the-ground, high-threat, low-visibility security work. And Marines across the spectrum are pretty good at a lot of different things.”
Hafer made sure to note the difference between conducting direct action (DA) in the military’s special operations units and gathering intelligence for the CIA. “If you like blowing doors down, intel will bore the fuck out of you,” Hafer said. “It’s a lot of writing, and regardless of background, guys who enjoy DA might not like the intel job.”
“If you’re a hammer and every problem is a nail, then you won’t like being the pen.”
(Photo courtesy of Bob Baer)
Bob Baer, former CIA case officer
You may recognize Bob Baer from his work hosting investigative shows on the History Channel or delivering commentary on CNN, but before that he spent 21 years as a CIA case officer. He deployed around the world, speaks eight languages, and even won the CIA’s career intelligence medal.
“It’s almost always Special Forces,” Baer said about the ideal background for working operations in the CIA. “These guys are out in places training locals. I found the SF guys, especially the ones who have experience working in strange places, to be most effective.”
(Photo courtesy of Bob Baer)
He even went so far as to say that elite Tier 1 operators (that many would assume to be perfect for the job) often don’t work out. “For them, it’s so low-speed — there’s not as much excitement as they’re used to. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Delta or SEAL Team Six guy make the adjustment.”
Baer echoed Hafer’s sentiment toward the U.S. Marines, saying, “It seemed the Marines did a good job adjusting.” And admitted that he usually preferred a military background over a straight academic: “All in all, people who were in the military were best because they learned about dealing with government BS, while the least equipped were always the academics.”
Robyn, like Baer, was a case officer for the CIA and spent years running sources around the world — to include active combat zones. She asked that we not use her last name but was happy to offer her thoughts on not just the ideal military resume, but also what it actually takes to be a successful case officer regardless of background.
“At the end of the day, you’re selling a lemon. You’re convincing someone to commit espionage and provide intel against their country in exchange for whatever is valuable to them,” Robyn explained. “You have to convince them that you care, that their life matters — whether it does or not.”
“So the guys that do well are the guys that understand the human factor,” she continued. “They have to understand what makes someone tick and pretend to be concerned. People are not going to put their lives at risk for someone who doesn’t care. You have to care.”
Robyn recalled a former state trooper who she worked with that did well, noting that a law enforcement background laid a solid foundation for talking to people who can be difficult to extract information from, such as witnesses and victims.
“The militant guys don’t do well,” Robyn said, noting that there’s a difference between being militant and being from the military, and that it takes a unique person to operate in the gray for months or even years at a time. “They’ve gotta operate without mental, emotional, or personal boundaries. There’s no commander’s intent, and the mission isn’t always clear. A renaissance man will do better than the fire-breather, even if they both come from Special Forces. We need the guys who can jump between philosophy and tactics while maneuvering in all different environments.”
The one thing that Hafer, Baer, and Robyn all agreed on is that no single bullet point on a resume qualifies someone for the difficult work of the CIA. They all emphasized that it takes a special person, and the best people at the Agency often have certain intangibles that you either have or you don’t. It seems it takes much more than a trident or a tab to make it into the nation’s most elite intelligence agency — and that’s a good thing.
Trojan Footprint: Embedded with Special Forces in Europe
Before D-Day, on June 5, 1944, some 90 teams of two to four men parachuted into Nazi-occupied France. They were members of the Office of Strategic Services, the predecessors of both the CIA and the modern-day Army Special Forces. These OSS teams were called “Jedburgh” teams and were highly skilled in European languages, parachuting, amphibious operations, skiing, mountain climbing, radio operations, Morse code, small arms, navigation, hand-to-hand combat, explosives, and espionage. They would need all of it.
The OSS teams’ job was to link up with resistance fighters in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands to coordinate Allied airdrops, conduct sabotage operations, and roll out the red carpet for the Allied advance into Germany. D-Day was to be the “Jeds'” trial by fire.
The Jedburghs preparing to jump before D-Day.
Fast forward to 75 years later: Europe is no longer a fortress and the OSS has since evolved into both the CIA and the US Army’s Special Forces. To honor that tradition, a team of Army Special Forces veterans, including SOF legend and 2017 Bull Simons Award Winner CSM Rick Lamb, are planning to recreate the Jedburghs’ famous nighttime jumps into Europe in June 2019 and those veterans just happen to be members of the ODA that rode into Afghanistan on horseback in the days following the 9/11 attacks — they are Team American Freedom.
If the name “American Freedom” sounds familiar, it’s because they’re also the founders of American Freedom Distillery, a Florida-based premium spirits brand, makers of Horse Soldier Bourbon and Rekker Rum. And it’s not only the Special Forces veterans jumping from the lead aircraft on June 5th, they’re in good company. Joining them in the jump will be retired Army Ranger Bill Dunham, who lost a leg in Panama in 1989, the Gold Star mother of another Army Ranger and some of her late son’s fellow Rangers, and a 97-year-old World War II veteran.
The American Freedom Distillery Team
“This group will represent every major known and unknown conflict for the past 30 years – every group who inserted early and fought with little recognition,” says American Freedom co-founder and Special Forces vet Scott Neill. “This is the last big World War II anniversary (other than VJ Day) that World War II vets and these generation will share. The very special part is that we will also share this with our families. Our wives who took care of the home front and our kids who watched daddy go away again and again. It’s a way to show our family why we did it.”
For the entire summer of 2019, France and England will be celebrating the D-Day landings and the start of the liberation of Europe. The D-Day airdrop is just the beginning, other events will include parades, military encampments, and showcases featuring World War II uniforms.
Good work if you can get it.
The team is set to stage out of Cherbourg, France and tour some of the areas where the most intense fighting occurred. On June 5th, they will jump out of a C-47 Skytrain, just like their forebears did 75 years ago, and hit the dropzone at around 11a.m. They won’t be coming empty-handed. They will also be dropping a barrel of their Horse Soldier Bourbon to support the festivities on the ground as 200 more jumpers hit the drop zone throughout the day.
(Image courtesy of Scott Neil, American Freedom Distillery)
If you want to support Team American Freedom as they remember the brave men who landed behind enemy lines a full day before the Allied invasion of Europe, you can help by contributing to their GoFundMe page. You will be enabling generations of special operators, CIA veterans, and Gold Star Families, many of who have lead insertions into modern day areas of operations attend this historic event.
Veterans seldom live a life of regrets. We live well and we’ve made Uncle Sam proud. One of the few things that makes us wish we could do things differently, however, is a lack of photos from while we were still in.
This can happen for a variety of reasons. Maybe operations security prevented us from taking that awesome photo to use as our profile pic on Facebook. Or maybe we just didn’t have a camera handy to show our family exactly how we lived. Maybe we just didn’t like taking photos, but now we want the proof to back up our humble-brags.
Whatever the reason, those of us who are out still hold dear the handful of photos we took. If you’re still in, don’t make the same mistakes. Snap a few photos of these moments — if permitted, of course.
The boot AF photo
You don’t want to be pinned as the most boot guy in the unit because you borrowed two of your buddies’ M240-Bs just to take a picture of you rocking one in each arm. Everyone in the unit will call you a dumb*ss boot, but that same photo’s going to turn a lot of heads from civilians who don’t know any better.
The more outrageous the better. Who knows? Maybe the photo will help back up your “no sh*t, there I was” story that is 100%, totally not embellished.
Relaxing in the living conditions photo
Those who haven’t served will never really understand what you mean when you say that, for a while there, the only pillow you had to rest your head on at night was a pile of rocks under the Humvee. Nor can they really grasp that the only place you could handle your business was in porta-john/sauna for the duration of your deployment.
These photos will definitely come in handy when you’re trying to shoot down your civilian coworker that brags about how “hard” it was when they went camping for the weekend.
Depending on your unit, taking photos while you’re outside the wire is either a slap on the wrist or a UCMJ-worthy offense. If you’re smart about it, however, you can still manage to grab a photo of you doing what you tell everyone you did.
Because you run the risk of getting NJPed over a single photo, it’s not recommended that you take it when you’re in the heat of things. That’s stupid — get back to the fight. But a quick photo of you while you’re patrolling through a bazaar shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
You don’t need a photo of that random award ceremony where you almost passed out because you forgot that locking your knees was a bad thing, but you might want to look back on a photo of you being promoted or receiving an award. Those are proud moments you can hang on your wall years.
Even if it’s a minor award or your promotion from E-1 private to E-2 private, it’s worth remembering.
Dress uniform photos
You can tell a lot about a troop’s career just by looking at their ribbon rack. If you know what each ribbon means or how they’re typically earned, you know everything about that person. There’s no better way to showcase your entire military career in one moment than the final moment you don your dress uniform.
The ribbons and medals themselves might not mean a whole lot, but the stories behind them do.
No one wants to get the squad together and take an obviously staged photo, but that picture will end up being, by far, the most valuable.
The sad reality is that some day, not everyone in the unit will be around to share stories. Having that one photo of you all together, happy, will mean the world to you later on.
If you’re still in and you’ve taken a few of these or if you’re out and you have a couple good ones, tell us! We’d love to see them.
As a child, birthdays are a big event. Every year is celebrated like it’s the biggest day of the year. Then there are milestone birthdays: They’ll hit the sweet 16 and get their license, turn 18 and join the military, turn 21 and they legally drink…and then that’s about it. Unless they’re looking for a sarcastic “congratu-f***ing-lations,” it’s just another day in the military.
Even though some members of the chain of command have good intentions, it’s best not to test the waters by letting everyone know it’s your birthday. Here’s why:
Don’t think you can just take in the singing. You’ll be in the front leaning rest position through it all.
(photo by Staff Sgt. Ken Scar)
Your gift is embarrassment
Think of the moment when you go to a chain sit-down restaurant and one of your buddies mentions it’s your birthday to the staff and they come out to sing “happy birthday” with almost no excitement in their voice.
Imagine that except it’s the rest of your company singing, they all know you, and they’re slightly agitated because they have to take ten seconds out of their day to sing to you.
The intention is to make you awkward. And it works almost every single time.
And yet for some reason, they always add the “And one more for the Corps. One more for the unit! One more for the First Sergeant!” Like the “one per year” thing didn’t apply. How old do they think you are?
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Crystal Druery)
Push-ups for every year
If troops let it slip that they’ve successfully made another orbit around the sun, it’s not like there will be a surprise party secretly waiting in the training room. The poor unfortunate souls are often given the most re-gifted present in the military: push-ups.
There’s no spite in this. And despite how civilians feel about push-ups, they really aren’t that bad. But the troop owes Uncle Sam one push-up for every year they’ve been on this Earth. It’s in good fun though and they’re almost always done with a grin.
Happy birthday, ya poor b******.
(Meme via Terminal Lance)
There (usually) won’t be cake
Cakes are actually a lot harder to find on military installations than you’d think. If the kindhearted soul who does want to do right for the party, they’ll need to go off-post.
For everyone else (and those troops in the field or deployed) they’ll often just get a doughnut or the pound cake that comes in the MRE. Candles are optional but they’re occasionally cigarettes.
“Cool. You’re older. Now get back to work.”
(U.S. Army Photo)
It’s still a regular work day
In between the awkwardness, the pranks, and mediocre reception, the Army goes rolling along. It’s still just a regular old day.
Some chains of command may give single troops a day off (usually as a consolation prize because they give married troops their anniversary off.) Some don’t. The work still needs to get done and it’ll feel like it’s just any of the other 364 days in a year.
You know your squad has your back if they carry your home from the bar.
(U.S. Army Photo)
But the squad (usually) does care
The squad is your new family. Just like your siblings went out of their way to make sure your birthday was special, so do your squad-mates.
Just like the push-ups, the squad will usually get together and buy shot for every year you’ve been on this Earth and share them with you.
When you work at VA, you’re a part of a major piece of America’s history. Our roots date back to the Civil War, when the first hospitals and homes for disabled former soldiers began to open.
Today, across the nation, we provide top-notch care to 9 million Veterans in our medical centers. Many of these have long and unique backstories themselves. Whether you’re considering a career at VA or have worked here for years, you might be surprised by some of these 20 little-known facts about VA medical centers.
The Bob Stump VA Medical Center in Prescott, Ariz., is located at the site of Fort Whipple, a base for the U.S. cavalry after the Civil War. It later became headquarters for the Rough Riders during the Spanish American War.
The Southern Arizona VA Healthcare System began on an abandoned recreation spot known as Pastime Park, which at various times had been a skating rink, bowling alley, dance hall and a notorious roadside tavern.
The incredible views of the Smoky Mountains at the James H. Quillen VA Medical Center in Mountain Home, Tenn., (pictured at the top) were intended to benefit the recovery of the tuberculosis patients who were first treated there.
Even before its official dedication, the VA San Diego Healthcare System jumped into action to provide emergency care following a 1972 California earthquake.
The Boise VA Medical Center occupies most of the former Fort Boise. Its sandstone buildings are some of the oldest in the city.
The site of the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital in Hines, Ill., was once a former board track racecourse. Popular in the early 1900s, board track racing was a motorsport race on an oval racecourse with a surface of wooden planks.
The Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in Chicago, Ill., is the first partnership between VA and the Department of Defense, integrating Veteran and Naval health care into one facility. It’s also named for Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell, played by Tom Hanks in the popular movie.
Arrowheads and relics from Susquehannock tribe can still be found on Perry Point Peninsula, home of the Perry Point VA Medical Center in Maryland.