Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it's a sweet gig - We Are The Mighty
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Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Army Cyber Command plans to add more direct commissioned officers after its first two were recently sworn in as part of a five-year pilot to bolster the emerging force.

Since October 2017, almost 250 applicants have applied for the Cyber Direct Commissioning Program, which allows talented civilians a fast track to becoming an officer.

Those who qualify have the opportunity to join the Army as first lieutenant, with the possibility of a higher rank in the near future pending a decision by Congress. Up to $65,000 in student loan repayment over the course of an officer’s initial three-year term is also on the table to attract desired applicants.


“The cyber realm is developing at a speed really not seen in the traditional military career fields,” said Brig. Gen. Neil Hersey, commandant of the Army Cyber School here. “We, the Army, think it’s important to leverage the capability provided by the private sector to make our forces more ready and capable to combat the adversaries we’re going to face now and in the future.”

Most applicants have fallen into one of four categories, including prior-service enlisted military personnel, government employees and contractors, private sector workers, and academics.

Each category represents roughly a quarter of the applicants.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

First Lts. Timothy Hennessy, left, and James Gusman during the Cyber Direct Commissioning Ceremony May 9, 2018, at Fort Benning, Georgia.

(U.S. Army photo by Markeith Horace)

Desired skills and qualifications include experience in cybersecurity, software or hardware engineering, or product management. A four-year degree or higher in a computer science or related field, such as data science or industrial control systems, is also required.

At least seven applicants have already been recommended by a board for the program. The board plans to convene again in a few weeks to consider additional applicants who may one day protect networks.

“We need to have a very technically adept workforce to be able to do that and stay ahead of what’s coming,” Hersey said.

First Lts. James Gusman and Timothy Hennessy, both former enlisted soldiers, were the first to be commissioned in early May 2018.

In 2008, Gusman left the Army after serving in military intelligence to pursue higher education, and to ultimately find work in information technology and cybersecurity fields at major U.S. and international companies. When he heard of the program, he decided to sign up and do something more meaningful to him.

“On the commercial side, you’re working for that one single organization and maybe helping their bottom line or keeping certain systems online,” he said. “With the Army, you’re keeping the United States online, you’re keeping its citizens safe and you’re creating something that’s really making a difference in this world.”

Those chosen for the program are commissioned upon arrival at the six-week direct commissioning course at Fort Benning, Georgia, which indoctrinates applicants into the Army.

Prospective officers typically go through Officer Candidate School, a 12-week-long course.

Once the direct commissioning course is completed, there is a 12-week Cyber Officer Basic Leadership Course here, which is more specialized to the career field. When a top-secret clearance is obtained, officers are then eligible for additional follow-on training.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Brig. Gen. Neil Hersey, commandant of the Army Cyber School, right, swears in 1st Lts. James Gusman, far left, and Timothy Hennessy during the Cyber Direct Commissioning Ceremony May 9, 2018, at Fort Benning, Georgia.

(U.S. Army photo by Markeith Horace)

Both Gusman and Hennessy plan to start the leadership course in July 2018.

Hennessy, a former signals intelligence analyst who became a cryptologic network warfare operator in the Army, is currently working on his master’s degree in computer science.

“With the academic background I have, I would really like to help soldiers who might not have that same background,” he said. “I think that’s a part I really can help develop for the Army. And any opportunity I get to roll up my sleeves and write some code and build some algorithms would be one that I would enjoy [too].”

The cyber direct commissioning program is similar to those the Army has for lawyers, doctors and chaplains.

The newest program was developed amid a push to strengthen the Army’s role in the cyber domain, which senior leaders envision will be key in its future warfighting concept: multi-domain operations.

In early 2017, Army cyber also stood up a civilian cyberspace-effects career program for current and future government workers. The year before, Army leaders decided to move 29-series electronic warfare soldiers into Cyber’s 17-series career field by the end of this fiscal year.

“We have to be on our toes at all times,” Hersey said of the career field. “As we’ve learned, the attacker has the advantage in the cyber realm. They only have to be right once. Us, as defenders, have to be right every single time.

“To that end, the Army is working on initiatives like the direct commissioning pilot program to make ourselves better and more ready to answer the call when things like that happen.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

popular

12 lunar men: The definitive list of astronauts who walked on the moon…so far

Apollo 11 Command Module pilot Michael Collins died Wednesday. He was one of 24 American astronauts who flew to the moon between 1968 and 1972. Collins was occasionally referred to as “the loneliest man in history” because while Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin descended to the lunar surface, he stayed in orbit around the moon in the Apollo command module, more isolated and alone in those few hours than any person on earth had ever been in history.

Though 24 American astronauts have orbited the moon — and three have made two trips there — only 12 have walked on its surface. Of that dozen, four remain alive today.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
The Apollo 11 crew, from left: Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong became the first human being to walk on the moon July 20, 1969. “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” he famously said upon stepping down onto the moon’s surface. But before his 17-year career as an astronaut with NASA, Armstrong served as a combat naval aviator, flying 78 missions in the Korean War. He even had to bail out of his F-9F Panther jet after it became disabled on a low bombing run in August 1951. Fortunately, he was rescued. He flew 200 different models of aircraft, including jets, rockets, helicopters, and gliders, throughout his career. Armstrong died Aug. 25, 2012, at age 82.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the pilot of the Gemini 12 spacecraft, captures the first-ever “space selfie” during extravehicular activity in 1966. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin

Born in the same year as fellow-moonwalker Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the second person to walk on the moon while on the Apollo 11 mission. The pair spent 21 hours on the moon and collected 46 pounds of moon rocks. Like Armstrong, Aldrin flew combat missions in the Korean War with the Air Force. He flew 66 combat missions in his F-86 Sabre, shot down two MiG-15s, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Three years before walking on the moon, Aldrin made history by performing the world’s first successful spacewalk, or extravehicular activity (EVA), and took the first “space selfie.” In recent years, Aldrin has been known not to put up with moon landing conspiracies. When a denier confronted Aldrin in 2002, Aldrin punched the man in the face. 

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
Astronauts Charles Conrad Jr., right, and Richard F. Gordon Jr. pose in front of the recovery helicopter that brought them to the USS Guam on Sept. 15, 1966. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Charles “Pete” Conrad Jr.

Conrad retired from the US Navy as a captain in 1973 after 20 years of service, 11 of which were with NASA’s space program. The young officer became a naval aviator in 1953 following his graduation from Princeton University and was a flight instructor at the Test Pilot School, among other locations. As an astronaut, he set the space endurance record and put the US in the lead for man-hours in space following his flight with Gemini 5 in August 1965. He also helped set a world altitude record and served as commander on Apollo 12, which completed the second lunar landing Nov. 19, 1969. He flew his final mission with the Skylab II, the first US Space Station.

Conrad died July 8, 1999, at age 69 from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
A photo of Alan Bean in the National Air and Space Museum. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Alan Bean

Bean had three accomplished careers: He was a naval aviator, an astronaut, and an artist. On Nov. 19, 1969, Bean and Charles Conrad completed the second lunar landing, and Bean became the fourth human to walk on the moon. During his two moonwalks, he helped conduct several surface experiments and installed the first nuclear-powered generation station to put a power source on the moon. The pair used a robotic Surveyor spacecraft and collected 75 pounds of moon rocks and soil to study back on Earth. Bean later served aboard Skylab II, the first US Space Station, where he said, “Going outside a spaceship in earth orbit is scarier than walking on the moon.”

“I was fortunate to be the first artist with the opportunity to be in the center of the action to capture what I saw and felt, and bring it back to earth to share with generations to come,” Bean later said regarding his post-astronaut life as an artist. “It is my dream that on the wings of my paintbrush many people will see what I saw and feel what I felt, walking on another world some 240,000 miles from my studio here on planet earth.”

Artwork from Bean’s private collection has sold for as much as $288,600. Bean died May 26, 2018. He was 86.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Alan B. Shepard Jr.

Alan Shepard is every golfer’s favorite astronaut. The first American in space and the oldest astronaut to walk on the moon at age 47, Shepard also became the first human to hit a golf ball on the moon. It was during the Apollo 14 mission, the third manned lunar landing, when Shepard and Edgar Mitchell landed Feb. 5, 1971, and completed two moonwalks.

The astronaut, who started his career aboard a ship during World War II and later became a test pilot, hit three golf balls in four shots on the moon. In his spacesuit and with one hand, Shepard got “more dirt than ball” on his first shot, sliced the second, retrieved it for a third shot, and then sent the final golf ball “miles and miles and miles” on his fourth shot. That statement isn’t entirely hyperbole — because of the moon’s low gravity and lack of atmosphere, the ball could have traveled up to a mile, more than four times the average professional drive. Shepard died July 21, 1998, at age 74.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
A Navy diver helps Ed Mitchell into the recovery raft, Feb. 9, 1971. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Edgar D. Mitchell

While Shepard is remembered for his golf skills on the moon, Edgar D. Mitchell is remembered for his quick thinking that saved Apollo 14 from disaster. When the lunar module encountered two failures, he had to manually punch 80 lines of code into a computer so they wouldn’t have a hard landing on the moon. The former naval aviator was the sixth human being to walk on the moon. He and Shepard set mission records at the time for the longest distance traveled on the moon, largest payload returned from the lunar surface, and longest stay (33 hours). They were also the first to transmit color TV from the moon. In his later years, Mitchell voiced his unusual opinions about extraterrestrial life and UFOs. He died on Feb. 4, 2016, at age 85.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
David Scott on the Lunar Roving Vehicle during the Apollo 15 moon landing mission. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

David R. Scott

Of the 12 men who walked on the moon, David R. Scott is one of the four still living. He flew in space three times, piloted the command module on Apollo 9 for the first docking of the command module and lunar module, and made history during the Apollo 15 mission by driving the lunar rover on the moon for the first time. He also survived a terrifying spin aboard Gemini 8 with Neil Armstrong in March 1966. They were attempting to dock the Atlas Agena target vehicle to complete the world’s first linkup between two spacecraft in orbit when they started to tumble. 

“We have serious problems here,” Scott said. “We’re tumbling end over end. We’re disengaged from the Agena.” They were spinning so fast their vision blurred when the craft reached one revolution per second. Armstrong used almost 75% of the reentry maneuvering propellant to stop the spin and was ordered to return to Earth. 

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
Astronaut James Irwin gives a salute beside the US flag during EVA. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

James B. Irwin

James B. Irwin retired a year after exploring the moon on the Apollo 15 mission in July 1971 and founded an evangelical religious organization called the High Flight Foundation. He said his experience on the moon inspired him to devote the rest of his life to “spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.” He even quoted a Psalms passage to Mission Control in Houston: “I’ll look unto the hills from whence cometh my help,” Irwin said, according to The New York Times, “but, of course, we get quite a bit from Houston, too.”

The Air Force colonel and David Scott became the eighth and seventh American astronauts to walk on the moon, respectively. Irwin’s moonwalk was his only space mission. Irwin died from a heart attack Aug. 8, 1991, at age 61.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
On July 21, 1966, Gemini 10 landed in the Atlantic Ocean. Astronaut John W. Young, command pilot of the three-day lunar mission, is hoisted from the water by a recovery helicopter. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

John W. Young

“It would be hard to overstate the impact that John Young had on human space flight,” Johnson Space Center Director Ellen Ochoa, also a former astronaut, said. “Beyond his well-known and groundbreaking six missions through three programs, he worked tirelessly for decades to understand and mitigate the risks that NASA astronauts face. He had our backs.”

Young landed on the moon with the Apollo 16 mission and is the only person to have gone into space as part of the Gemini, Apollo, and space shuttle programs. After serving in the US Navy as a fighter pilot, he joined NASA in 1962. He drove 16 miles in a lunar rover through the moon’s highlands and spent three nights on the lunar surface. He retired in 2004 after 42 years with NASA and had acquired more than 80 major honors and awards, including an induction into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1988. On Jan. 5, 2018, Young died at 87 after suffering complications from pneumonia.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
“To our north, we found this large rock where we performed a special geological experiment.” Photo courtesy of charlieduke.com.

Charles M. Duke Jr.

“As an American, it was my honor to serve my country by going aboard Apollo 16 and becoming the 10th man to walk on the lunar surface,” Charles Duke said. Gen. Duke received his commission to the US Air Force and earned his pilot’s wings in 1958. He served both as a fighter-interceptor pilot and as a test pilot during his time in the US military before being selected by NASA in 1966 to join the astronaut program. Duke served in five different Apollo missions to the moon, and since his retirement in 1975, he has toured worldwide, giving keynote and motivational speeches.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
In December 1972, Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt spent about 75 hours on the moon in the Taurus-Littrow valley. Near the beginning of their third and final excursion across the lunar surface, Schmitt took this picture of Cernan flanked by an American flag and their lunar rover’s umbrella-shaped, high-gain antenna. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Eugene Cernan

Eugene Cernan was a captain in the Navy, serving for 20 years (13 of which were with NASA) and flying three historic missions as a pilot of Gemini 9, the lunar module pilot of Apollo 10, and the commander of Apollo 17. Cernan flew to the moon twice and held the distinction of being the second American to walk in space and the last man to leave his footprints on the lunar surface.

“I keep telling Neil Armstrong that we painted that white line in the sky all the way to the Moon down to 47,000 feet so he wouldn’t get lost, and all he had to do was land,” Cernan famously joked in an interview with NASA in 2007. “Made it sort of easy for him.”

Cernan, sometimes referred to as “the last man on the moon,” died Jan. 16, 2017, at age 82.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
Geologist-astronaut Harrison Schmitt, Apollo 17 lunar module pilot, uses an adjustable sampling scoop to retrieve lunar samples during the second extravehicular activity at Station 5 at the Taurus-Littrow landing site. Lunar soil creates the “dirty” appearance of Schmitt’s spacesuit. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Harrison H. Schmitt

Harrison Schmitt joined the US Geological Survey’s Astrogeology Branch in 1964, leading the development of early lunar field geological methods for NASA. A year later, he was selected to become a scientist-astronaut and earned his T-38 jet pilot wings with the Air Force in 1966 and his H-13 helicopter wings with the Navy in 1967. Schmitt became the last of 12 men to have stepped on the moon while he was on the Apollo 17 mission, NASA’s final moon-landing mission. He is the only scientist to have walked on the moon.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

DARPA will be ready to show off its drone swarms next year

DARPA is progressing toward its plan to demonstrate airborne launch and recovery of multiple unmanned aerial systems, targeted for late 2019. Now in its third and final phase, the goal for the Gremlins program is to develop a full-scale technology demonstration featuring the air recovery of multiple low-cost, reusable UASs, or “gremlins.”

Safety, reliability, and affordability are the key objectives for the system, which would launch groups of UASs from multiple types of military aircraft while out of range from adversary defenses. Once gremlins complete their mission, a C-130 transport aircraft would retrieve them in the air and carry them home, where ground crews would prepare them for their next use within 24 hours.


A recent flight test at Yuma Proving Ground provided an opportunity to conduct safe separation and captive flight tests of the hard dock and recovery system.

“Early flight tests have given us confidence we can meet our objective to recover four gremlins in 30 minutes,” said Scott Wierzbanowski, program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office.

In addition to preliminary flight tests, the team has focused on risk reduction via extensive modeling and simulation. The team looked at how fifth generation aircraft systems like the F-35 and F-22 respond to threats, and how they could incorporate gremlins in higher risk areas. The gremlins’ expected lifetime of about 20 uses could provide significant cost advantages by reducing payload and airframe costs, and by having lower mission and maintenance costs than conventional platforms, which are designed to operate for decades.

The C-130 is the demonstration platform for the Gremlins program, but Wierzbanowski says the Services could easily modify the system for another transport aircraft or other major weapons system. Modularity has made Gremlins attractive to potential transition partners.

“We are exploring opportunities with several transition partners and are not committed to a single organization. Interest is strong with both the roll-on/roll-off capability of the Gremlins system — as it does not require any permanent aircraft modification — and a wing-mounted system to provide greater flexibility to a wider range of aircraft,” said Wierzbanowski.

Gremlins also can incorporate several types of sensors up to 150 pounds, and easily integrate technologies to address different types of stakeholders and missions.

DARPA recently awarded a contract to a Dynetics, Inc.-led team to perform the Phase 3 demonstration. The DARPA program team currently is exploring the possibility of demonstrating different sensor packages with potential integration partners prior to program completion in 2019.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

Humor

5 Army instructions that are broken down way too stupidly

Sometimes you just got to break it down, “Barney-style,” for some soldiers. You know, instruct them in such an easy-to-follow manner that even a kid watching Barney could understand.


As much as we’d all like to pretend that no one in our unit got into the Army through an ASVAB waiver, the fact remains: There’re friggin’ idiots everywhere who need to be told exactly what to do. There are so many simple instructions in the Army, designed so that even our crayon-eating Marine brothers could easily follow them.

Related: 6 reasons soldiers hate on the Marines

These are our favorite, dumbed-down directions.

5. Claymore Mine

Need to set up a Claymore anti-personnel mine, but you’re not quite sure which direction it’s supposed to be pointed? Just remember: front toward enemy.

Mess that up and everyone who’s left in your unit will f*cking hate you.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
At least it lets the as***le Prius driver behind you know to stop tailgating. (Image via Reddit)

4. Army Combatives

If you’ve never had the opportunity to glance through the old-school Army Combatives Manual, you’re missing out.

You’re skipping out on learning lovely, advanced techniques, like how to uppercut someone, how to palm-strike someone in the chin, and, of course…

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
…the swift kick to the nuts: the great equalizer. (Image via Army)

3. MRE

The much-joked-about, flameless heater in the MRE seems simple enough. Put in water, fold the ends, and lean against a “rock or something.”

It actually was meant as a joke when the designer said, “I don’t know. Let’s make it a rock or something.”

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
Instructions unclear; got troops stuck in 15-year war. (Image by WATM)

2. AT-4

Pretend you’ve never touched a rocket launcher before. How would you hold it?

Thankfully, the instructions include a tiny drawing and the words, “fire like this.”

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
How else would you be able to fire it? (Image via IMFDB)

1. Army Combat Boots

It’s so simple. It’s written in black and white. Our boots are not authorized for flight or combat use.

Come on, guys. What kind of idiot would void the warranty like that? Oh…

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
Apparently, this is just so they don’t need to replace our boots. Thanks, Army. (Image via Reddit)

MIGHTY TRENDING

6 practical everyday chores you can finally teach your kids during quarantine

I’ve been waiting for this moment. To have a chunk of time set aside to give my kids some basic home upkeep and cooking training. Not the quick “get the butter for me” because we’re hustling between a Spanish lesson and bath time. I wanted to dedicate time to have fun with it. I didn’t expect this opportunity to be handed over at the cost of our social freedom because coronavirus is spreading! But here we are.


Teaching our kids these skills is important not only so they can help around the house, but so they’ll know how to survive as adults without expecting MOMMY to come over and fold their laundry.

Here’s some backstory. My mother folded my laundry. I’m not ashamed to be transparent about that. Not because she enjoyed it, she just wanted it done, and if I didn’t move fast enough for her, she got annoyed. Unfortunately, it crippled me a bit.

After getting married, I had an epiphany one day while staring at a laundry basket full of clean clothes. My husband barely had any free time because he was a Marine Corps Recruiter, and his position was extremely demanding. I realized that I was going to have to fold all those clothes. ME!

I won’t let my kids suffer the same fate of not being prepared. Daily home maintenance and cooking will be a part of their life, and now is the perfect time for us to dive in!

Here are six everyday chores your kids can start learning while we’re all quarantined.

Attack that LAUNDRY pile

Yes. Let’s start with the big one. Depending on their age, you can start by teaching them to sort and fold. When you’re ready, start showing them the proper amount of detergent to use based on the size of the load and what dryer setting to use.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Really CLEAN the kitchen

This doesn’t stop at washing dishes. It includes loading the dishwasher, cleaning counters, putting away dishes and cleaning the floors.

Make a cold meal

When your kids learn to make lunch, it will change your life! Bread, meat, cheese, chips and fruit then BAM! There are other options and combinations you can create, but just make sure they are easy. Most importantly, teach them to WASH THEIR HANDS first!

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Make the yard nice

Once your kids learn to push a mower and do it properly, this could actually lead to a nice side business for them. It doesn’t hurt to pull weeds and rake leaves too.

Take out the trash

This one can be a little tricky because it also requires remembering your trash pickup schedule. A chore sheet or checklist will help with that.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Use the stove for a simple meal

Safety first! Take time to talk about what NOT to do then proceed. An easy starter is having them cook a scrambled egg or a grilled cheese sandwich.

Teaching these tasks will take some time, which we have a lot of right now. With no known end to this national public emergency, try to focus on them getting better at their chores, so you don’t have to spend time doing it over. Also, resist the urge for perfection.

Their chores are their responsibility and contribution to the home.

Your kids will one day be independent adults who are grateful for the skills they acquired during a pandemic. Who knows? They may still come mow the lawn for you when they are out of your house.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Did TurboTax use ‘military discount’ to mislead troops into paying to file their taxes?

In patriotism-drenched promotions, press releases and tweets, TurboTax promotes special deals for military service members, promising to help them file their taxes online for free or at a discount.

Yet some service members who’ve filed by going to the TurboTax Military landing page told ProPublica they were charged as much as $150 — even though, under a deal with the government, service members making under $66,000 are supposed to be able to file on TurboTax for free.

Liz Zimmerman is a mother of two teenage daughters and a toddler who lives with her husband, a Navy chief petty officer, in Bettendorf, Iowa, just across the river from the Rock Island military facility. When Zimmerman went to do her taxes this year, she Googled “tax preparation military free” and, she recalled in an interview, TurboTax was the first link that popped up, promising “free military taxes.” She clicked and came to the site emblazoned with miniature American flags.


But when Zimmerman got to the end of the process, TurboTax charged her , even though the family makes under the ,000 income threshold to file for free. “I’ve got a kid in braces and I’ve got a kid in preschool; is half a week’s worth of groceries,” she said. “Who needs date night this month? At least I filed my taxes.”

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

(Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Micah Merrill)

In the commercial version of TurboTax that includes the “military discount,” customers are charged based on the tax forms they file. The Zimmermans used a form to claim a retirement savings credit that TurboTax required a paid upgrade to file. If they’d started from the TurboTax Free File landing page instead of the military page, they would have been able to file for free.

Like many other tax prep companies, Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, participates in the Free File program with the IRS, under which the industry offers most Americans free tax filing. In return, the IRS agrees not to create its own free filing system that would compete with the companies. But few of those who are eligible use the program, in part because the companies aggressively market paid versions, often misleading customers. We’ve documented how Intuit had deliberately made its Free File version difficult to find, including by hiding it from search engines.

In a statement, Intuit spokesman Rick Heineman said, “Intuit has long supported active-military and veterans, both in filing their taxes and in their communities, overseas, and in the Intuit workplace.” He added: “Intuit is proud to support active military, including the millions of men and women in uniform who have filed their tax returns completely free using TurboTax.”

To find TurboTax’s Free File landing page, service members typically have to go through the IRS website. TurboTax Military, by contrast, is promoted on the company’s home page and elsewhere. Starting through the Military landing page directs many users to paid products even when they are eligible to get the same service for no cost using the Free File edition.

An Intuit press release this year announced “TurboTax Offers Free Filing for Military E1- E5” — but refers users to TurboTax Military and does not mention the actual Free File option. (E1-E5 refers to military pay grades.) It was promoted on the company’s Twitter feed with a smiling picture of a woman wearing fatigues outside her suburban home. Google searches for “TurboTax military,” “TurboTax for soldiers” and “TurboTax for troops” all produce top results sending users to the TurboTax Military page.

That site offers a “military discount.” Some service members can use it to file for free, depending on their pay grade and tax situation. Others are informed — only after inputting their tax data — that they will have to pay.

In one instance, Petty Officer Laurell, a hospital corpsman in the Navy who didn’t want his full name used, was charged even though he makes under ,000. TurboTax charged Laurell this year and 0 last year, his receipts show.

“I am upset and troubled that TurboTax would intentionally mislead members of the military,” said Laurell, who has been in the service for a decade.

Using receipts, tax returns and other documentation, we verified the accounts from four service members who were charged by TurboTax even though they were eligible to use Free File. They include an Army second lieutenant, a Navy hospital corpsman and a Navy yeoman.

The New York regulator investigating TurboTax is also examining the military issue, according to a person familiar with the probe.

Active-duty members of the military get greater access to Free File products than other taxpayers. All Americans who make under ,000 can use products offered by one of 12 participating companies in the program. But each company then imposes additional, sometimes confusing eligibility requirements based on income, age and location.

Those additional requirements are not imposed on service members for most of the Free File products.

TurboTax’s Free File edition, for example, is available to active-duty military and reservists who make under ,000 in adjusted gross income compared with a threshold of ,000 for everyone else.

It’s unclear how many service members were charged by TurboTax, even though they could have filed for free. The company declined to respond to questions about this.

Jennifer Davis, government relations deputy director of the National Military Family Association, said the group is concerned by ProPublica’s findings about Americans being charged for tax services that should be free. “As an organization dedicated to improving the well-being of military families, we are concerned that many military families have fallen prey to these fraudulent actions as well,” she said. Davis pointed out that service members have a range of other free tax filing options, including in-person help on many bases and an online option through the Defense Department called MilTax.

We tested TurboTax Military and TurboTax Free File using the tax information of a Virginia-based Navy sailor and his graphic designer wife with a household income of ,000.

The filing experiences had just one major difference: TurboTax Military tried to upgrade us or convince us to pay for side products six times. We declined those extras each time. Finally, the program told us we had to pay 9.98 to finish filing.

And that “military discount”? All of .

In the Free File version, by contrast, we were able to file completely free.

Here’s what happened when we landed on TurboTax Military:

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

The software took us through filing our taxes in the standard question-answer format used across all TurboTax products. We entered the sailor’s employer and income information.

Then TurboTax told us we were going to save some money because of our service.

“Congrats! You qualify for our Enlisted military discount.”

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

We were then repeatedly offered other paid products.

TurboTax recommended we purchase “+PLUS,” which promises “24/7 tax return access” and other services for .99.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

We were offered “TurboTaxLive” — access to advice from a CPA — for 4.99.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

We were also offered “MAX,” which includes audit defense and identity loss insurance for .99 (a good deal, the company suggests, because the products represent a “5.00 value”).

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

We rejected all of these offers. We finished filing the sailor’s military income and added his wife’s 1099 income of ,000 and her modest business expenses.

When we were done entering their information, the software broke some bad news: We would need to upgrade to TurboTax Self-Employed for 4.99 (minus thanks to the military discount).

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

On top of that, we were charged .99 to file Virginia state taxes, bringing our total to 9.98.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

When we started on TurboTax Free File instead of TurboTax Military and entered the same information, the filing experience was virtually identical, with two major differences: We weren’t pitched side products such as audit defense and the final price was .

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

While the sailor’s family was eligible for Free File, TurboTax Military never directed us to the product, even after we entered a family income of less than ,000.

On May 10, the New York Department of Financial Services sent a request for documents to USAA, the insurance company that caters to service members, according to a person familiar with the investigation. USAA promotes TurboTax Military, and DFS, which regulates insurance companies, sought records related to any deals with Intuit and other tax prep firms. Two other insurance companies, Progressive and AAA, also received requests for records from DFS. Spokespeople for the three companies didn’t respond to requests for comment.

TurboTax first launched the Military Edition in 2012. “TurboTax has a long history of supporting the military and many of our employees have served our country,” the then-head of TurboTax said in the company’s press release.

It has apparently been a lucrative business. On an earnings call six months later, Intuit’s then-CEO Brad Smith boasted “we saw double-digit growth this season from the military and digital native customer segments.”

“Given our scale and our data capabilities,” he said, “we plan to extend this advantage to even more taxpayers next season.” Smith is now executive chairman of Intuit’s board.

Last week, a class action was filed against Intuit by a law firm representing a Marine, Laura Nichols, who was charged by TurboTax even though she was eligible to file for free, according to the complaint. The suit cites ProPublica’s previous reporting on the issue. The company declined to comment.

This article originally appeared on ProPublica. Follow @propublica on Twitter.

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This Olympic athlete’s simple brain tricks builds mental strength

Fabian Hambüchen knew from childhood that he was going to compete in the Olympic Games — and he knew that he was going to get gold.

In 2016, his dream came true at the Olympic Games in Rio where he won gold on the high bar. But the path to gold was anything but easy: the life of a gymnast is characterized by the pressure to perform, setbacks and injuries, and experiences that demand a lot of mental strength.


At the Fibo 2018 sports fair in Cologne, Fabian Hambüchen told Business Insider about his most excruciating defeat and how he fought his way back to the top mentally.

How your brain can scupper your plans

As reigning World Champion, Fabian Hambüchen travelled to Beijing in 2008 to go for gold.

“I was the favourite. I had the opportunity to win several medals and it was expected that I’d get gold on the high bar,” he said.

His chances were good — but his thought process sabotaged him and he ended up with a bronze medal.

“When I qualified, it went great. I was in the best starting position possible. But then these thoughts went through my mind: I really want to become an Olympic champion. This is my big dream. I want this, I want this, I want this.” These thoughts “set him on a completely wrong track” and led him to slip up.

The disappointment was immense. “I compensated by training harder and harder until my body told me its limits,” he describes the time after the games. “I hurt myself, yet I carried on. In the end, I injured myself even more severely: I tore my Achilles tendon.”

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
Fabian Hambu00fcchen

That was when Fabian Hambüchen realised he had to change something: his way of thinking. He had to get stronger not physically but mentally.

“I didn’t respond sensibly. I trained too much, I was too ambitious, and my injury stopped me in my tracks — but in the end it was the best thing that could have happened to me. It was then that I began to realise that there are other ways of moving forward.”

Hambüchen’s tips for mental strength

Gymnastics is a tough scene, in which Hambüchen started training very early. He received mental support from his uncle, a qualified teacher who had specialised in mental coaching.

Hambüchen now has some of his own tips for mental strength. One thing he learned after winning bronze in Beijing was to focus only on what was essential. Question why it actually is that you’re doing what you’re doing.

“I remind myself that the reason I’m doing this sport is that I love gymnastics and I enjoy doing it. When we do sport as kids, we all do it because we enjoy it; not because we’re training to become world champion or to get rich off it,” he said.

Hambüchen said that if you keep reminding yourself of this and keep looking within yourself, searching yourself and asking yourself about why it is you’re doing what you’re doing, it can quickly ground you again, renew your energy, gratitude and motivation. And there’s a positive side-effect with gratitude: studies have shown that gratitude increases well-being and reduces the risk of depression.

“We tend to try and change situations we can’t,” said Hambüchen. Another trick for mental strength is to remember what is and isn’t in your hands.

“What’s the point in wasting energy on things you can’t control? I’m not walking up to the high bar wondering what kind of referees are sat there. They’re all just people, the rating is subjective and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

This applies not only to sport but, studies show, to work or to one’s personal life. Don’t allow others to take control of you — it’s up to you to give others the power to ruin your day.

“It’s important to focus on the self and to try to be the best version of yourself,” advised Hambüchen.

Of course, this is all a lot easier said than done. Hambüchen stresses that it took him years to mentally train himself into mastering this technique. But it paid off.

“Understanding what needs doing and then applying it to the situation with the right approach is a huge challenge. But if you internalise this message and are completely in touch with yourself, you can call on your maximum performance. None of this guarantees success but, rather, it serves as a technique to fall back on when your mind is getting in your way. And it works.”

Recovering from physical injury

“I’ve learned to learn from defeats, to analyze them and to think about what I can change to do better,” said Hambüchen. Even after that, not everything went well. “But I still thought differently, I wasn’t so dogged in how I went at things.”

It was this new way of thinking and mental strength that helped him win silver at the 2012 Olympic Games in London and then gold in Rio in 2016, despite having a torn supraspinatus muscle.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
Tower Bridge : 2012 Olympic Rings

These victories are largely due to his mental strength. With the help of his doctor he suppressed the pain and his health wasn’t constantly in the fore of his mind.

“The shoulder is a joint that’s very well supported by muscles. So you can do it without that one string. Everything beyond that was a matter of the mind.”

He was unable to train for three months due to the injury. Normally, after such a long break, it takes weeks and months to get fit again — but Hambüchen only had three weeks remaining before the national championships to qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio.

“During this time I gave my training my all, adjusted mentally and paid close attention to my diet. “I lost five to six kilos in two to three weeks and was really fit.” And he won the gold medal on high bar.

After winning gold, Fabian Hambüchen ended his international career. He’s learned an important lesson in life: there’s no point in allowing others to negatively influence you and in constantly worrying about things that aren’t in your hands.

With this newly acquired mental strength, he was able to call on his abilities precisely when he needed them and, as a result, was able to celebrate the greatest victory of his career.

“Another four years of giving it my all and to then be rewarded with gold is such an accomplishment … it was mad, and just awesome.”

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

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The importance of buying American-made products

Billi Doyle was a military kid with a dream, one that her family nurtured and supported growing up in Oklahoma. Doyle saw her parents’ deep commitment to service in the military, which really impacted her. They continuously stressed the importance of values and working hard.

Doyle’s mother retired in 2018 as a Lt. Colonel from the Air Force Reserves after 20 years of service as a dentist. Her father, who is now deceased, was a medically-disabled Army veteran. Her step-father served overseas with the Navy during the Vietnam War. Sacrifice and hard work was ingrained in her.


“My grandma taught me how to sew and I was always interested in design…I spent a lot of time with her as a kid. She was very artistic so maybe that rubbed off on me. I moved to Dallas from Oklahoma so I could go to design school,” she shared. The first thing Doyle ever made as a teenager was a dress, which she laughingly described as “awful.” But that didn’t deter her and if anything, made her more committed to succeed.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Doyle graduated from the Art Institute of Dallas in 2007 and started her business immediately. “The first three or four years, I didn’t really know what I was doing,” she said with a laugh. When asked if she ever thought about quitting, Doyle laughed again and said, “Every day.”

Doyle launched Honey Bee Swim after her graduation and began designing bathing suits and cover-ups, eventually adding yoga and athletic wear. What’s unique about her creations is that they are made in America with fine Italian fabrics. With much of what America purchases being made with cheap labor and fabric from China, Doyle’s business stands out.

“It is really difficult and frustrating to be an American designer. People want everything so cheap now. Other companies get everything made in China and it’s really hard to compete with them,” said Doyle. The negative impacts from sourcing and manufacturing in China have also really affected her business the last few years.

Now, businesses in China are also actively committing fraud.

“I’ve been getting knocked off by China for the last couple of years. They steal my pictures and sell knockoffs with my pictures on them and you can’t fight them. I would go out of business if I did,” she said. Doyle finds it hard to deal with it all, saying that watching someone take something you created and pretending it’s theirs is “beyond frustrating.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has also significantly impacted Doyle’s business as well. Typically, the late winter and spring seasons are where she does the majority of her business. But with the virus causing worldwide quarantines, no one is vacationing. This means people aren’t purchasing luxury line bathing suits, which was always the bulk of her business. “It’s our busiest time. We’d normally be selling 100 bathing suits a month and right now we are selling five,” Doyle said.

So, she started making masks.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

A lot of thought went into the making of the masks. Doyle shared that she spent a lot of time researching the fabrics that were most effective and chose polyethylene which is woven tighter than cotton. “We made probably 10,000 masks. We gave some away and sold the rest of them,” she said. Her masks are safer and she even sells filler packs for them.

Although it appeared things were looking up business-wise, pretty soon masks made in China were eventually restocked in most stores. “People are not buying American-made masks now because they can get a three or four dollar mask at Wal-mart because it’s made in China,” said Doyle.

“More things need to be made here in America, but how can you promote and encourage people to do creative things here when no one can make money doing it,” she said. Doyle continued on and explained that the country is in this trend of buying everything cheap and only worn once for social media posts.

A 2019 New York Times article interviewed Gen Z teenagers who admitted they want things cheap and much of what they buy is for a one-time photo op. Another article featured on Business Insider showcased that this type of shopping is on its way to killing brands because the number one motivator is the price.

Doyle hopes that when people make a choice to shop, they will begin to question sustainability and even the conditions of the shop where their clothing is made. Although the current trend is fast and cheap, the cost is much higher than the purchaser realizes in terms of devastating impacts to the environment and economy.

To learn more about Billi Doyle and shop her sustainable and American made clothing, click here.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army’s new Infantry Squad Vehicle is based on the Chevy Colorado

On June 29, 2020, the U.S. Army selected GM’s submission for the new Infantry Squad Vehicle. Beating out submissions from a joint Oshkosh Defense-Flyer Defense team and an SAIC-Polaris partnership, GM has been awarded a $214M contract to build 649 of the new ISVs over the next five years. Additionally, the Army has already been approved to acquire 2,065 of the new trucks over the next decade.

In 2003, GM sold its defense division to General Dynamics for $1.1B. In 2017, GM saw renewed opportunity in adapting its civilian vehicles for the defense market and created the subsidiary GM Defense. In 2019, GM Defense became a finalist in the Army’s Infantry Squad Vehicle procurement competition along with the two aforementioned teams. The three teams were given $1M to build two prototypes of their proposed vehicle which were tested and evaluated at Aberdeen Test Center, Maryland and Fort Bragg, North Carolina.


Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

(Left to right) SAIC-Polaris DAGOR, Oshkosh-Flyer Defense GMV, and GM Defense ISV concepts (Photo from NationalDefenseMagazine.org)

Contract specifications called for the ISV to weigh no more than 5,000, carry nine soldiers and their gear at highway speeds in extreme conditions both on and off-road, capable of being slung under a UH-60 Blackhawk, and fit inside of a CH-47 Chinook. To meet these requirements, GM Defense based its design on the popular Chevrolet Colorado and its ZR2 and ZR2 Bison variants.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Chevy’s popular midsize truck, the Colorado ZR2 (Photo by Chevrolet)

The ISV is powered by a 2.8L 4-cylinder Duramax diesel engine that produces “significantly more power than the Colorado ZR2 known for delivering 186 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque,” mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission according to the GM Defense ISV product sheet.

Overall, the ISV retains much of the DNA of the Colorado variants it is based on, featuring 70% off-the-shelf components. “The chassis — which is the frame, the suspension, driveline, engine, transmission, transfer case, axles, brakes — all of that hardware comes from the Colorado ZR2,” said GM Defense Chief Engineer Mark Dickens. “Somebody could walk into a Chevy dealership and purchase those parts.”

Per the Army’s specifications, the ISV seats nine soldiers: two in the front, three in the second row, two rear-facing seats in a third row, and two outward-facing seats in a fourth row. Gear is stowed between the third and fourth rows, strapped to webbing that acts as the roof over the roll cage cabin, or slung from the roll cage itself.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

The ISV on display at the 2019 SEMA Show (Photo from GMAuthority.com)

In addition to the Army contract, GM Defense President David Albritton told Detroit Free Press that, “[The ISV] platform can be used for international sales to other militaries, other government agencies like Border Patrol, the Marine Corps, Air Force and Special Forces,” since future variants, “would be a totally different design.”

The ISV follows a trend that the military is setting of purchasing readily-available commercial technology for tactical use. On June 5, 2020, Polaris was awarded a 9M contract to supply USSOCOM with its MRZR Alpha Light Tactical All Terrain Vehicle. The LT-ATV is a redesigned Polaris RZR that has been in use with the Army’s light infantry units like the 82nd Airborne Division and 10th Mountain Division.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

10th Mountain LT-ATVs (left) alongside a Humvee and an LMTV flanked by 2 M-ATVs

(Photo by author)

Articles

5 reasons why Rip It is the go-to for infantrymen

Bullets, frags, and a bayonet are just a few pieces of heavy gear infantrymen haul on patrol while in a combat zone. But there’s one thing that most grunts carry with them that is equally as important and essential — the Rip It!


Yes, the freakin’ energy drink!

Rip It has been a military staple for years because of these five epic reasons.

Related: 7 things all troops should know before becoming a sniper

1. They come in small sizes

A grunt typically carries 80 – 150 pounds of gear when they’re hunting down the bad guys. So the last thing anyone wants to haul is a bulky energy drink can in their cargo pocket. Rip It comes in 8 fluid ounce cans for easy storage.

How awesome is that, right?

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
Go ahead, take a moment to look at their beauty.

2. Increased physical performance

Ground pounders need to be as athletic as possible when they’re running from compound-to-compound taking down ISIS fighters. Rip It comes with Vitamin C, Guarana Seed Extract, and a sh*t ton of caffeine to make any infantryman extra motivated while they’re kicking down doors.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
These Marines conduct sprinting drills while wearing their flak jackets to pack on the extra resistance. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

3. You get mad focus

There’s nothing more important to a grunts than mental focus while engaging targets. The super-charged energy drink will have anyone grunt seeing through ISIS’ lies and their fortified position in no time (experiences may vary, but you’re pretty damn focused).

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
A Marine carrying his full-combat load and is mentally dialed in.

4. They’re freakin’ delicious

Although drinking water is critical, that sh*t can get boring real quick. Rip It comes in a variety of flavors like “3-way,” “G-Force,” and the “Bomb.” Each flavor could be paired nicely with your favorite MRE. That’s what we call good eatin’.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
Just some delicious Rip It variety.

Also Read: How this Marine special operator became the Corps’ top ‘tactical’ athlete — twice

5. Intimidation and a pre-workout

From personal experience, the enemy often becomes terrified of their American enemy when aggressively pursued. Rip It is commonly used as a pre-workout drink for when infantrymen are looking to get those deployment gains.

A jacked Marine or soldier going up against a skinny ISIS fighter = easy freakin’ day.

‘Merica!

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

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Here’s How US Navy SEALs Take Down A House

Navy SEALs are all over the place. In books, at the movies, and on the news. But when they assault a target, they do so quickly and quietly, trying to get the job done before anyone realizes they’re around. Here’s how they do it.


Preparation

 

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
Photo: US Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Meranda Keller

The SEALs will plan their missions down to the finest detail and, when possible, rehearse it beforehand. They’ll review all intelligence and check all their equipment before heading out. When possible, they prefer to time their missions for early morning or late night when the U.S. military’s optical equipment gives them a major edge over the bad guys.

Insertion

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anthony Harding

One of the hallmarks of the SEALs are the many cool ways they can arrive at an objective. Their name is even an acronym for sea, air, and land, the three avenues they’ll attack from. They can ride to the beach on a boat deployed from a ship or helicopter, they can parachute in, or they can even move in using clandestine submarines.

Establishing overwatch/security

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
Photo: US Navy

While part of the team moves to the target buildings to force entry, part of the team will split off and establish overwatch positions where they’ll keep an eye out for dangers like enemy reinforcements, people trying to escape the target building, and fighters attempting to maneuver on the other SEALs.

Forcing entry

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William S. Parker

SEALs can’t afford to be stopped by minor things like steel doors or fortifications. They’ll go through windows, force open doors, or even blow out walls to get at their targets.

Assault through the house

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
Photo: US Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Eddie Harrison

Once inside, the elite sailors will go through the building and seek out their objective. SEALs train extensively on close quarters combat and urban operations, so they move quickly. As in the picture above, team members look in different directions to ensure they aren’t ambushed.

Exfil

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anthony Harding

After grabbing or killing their target, it’s time to leave, or exfiltrate, the objective area. If the SEALs rode a boat in, they might take that back out to sea to link up with a Navy ship. They can also call in helicopter extractions, move out on foot, or take a swim to a rendezvous.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Legacy begun by U.S. Navy legend continues with Army Reserve pilot and beyond

RICHMOND, Va. — Every time he straps on the leather band of his watch in the morning, Phillip Brashear remembers his father.


“My dad’s famous saying is, ‘It’s not a sin to get knocked down. It’s a sin to stay down,'” Brashear said.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Those words are engraved on the back of a Swiss limited-edition wristwatch, surrounding the iconic image of a Mark V diver suit helmet. The watch was manufactured in honor of Carl Brashear, the first African-American master diver in U.S. Navy’s history who lost his leg during a tragic accident on a mission off the coast of Spain in 1966.

Two airplanes had collided, dropping a payload that included three nuclear warheads. One of them fell into the Atlantic Ocean. Carl Brashear was called to dive and recover the bomb, but during the mission a towline was pulled so tight that it ripped off a pole, dragging it across the deck with so much tension that it cut the bottom part of his leg, nearly ripping it off. Back in the United States, doctors decided to amputate the leg below the knee.

“My father is an American legend,” said Brashear. “He was the first amputee to return to active-duty service in one of the most challenging jobs in the Navy.”

His life story was depicted in the Hollywood movie “Men of Honor” which starred Cuba Gooding Jr. and Robert De Niro.

“My father overcame five barriers in his lifetime. He overcame racism. My father overcame poverty, being a poor sharecropper’s son. He overcame illiteracy. He lost the bottom part of his leg and was physically disabled. … He overcame his alcoholism, and in 1979 retired with honors,” Brashear said.

Today, Phillip Brashear is the command chief warrant officer for the 80th Training Command, which is responsible for military courses that train thousands of Army Reserve Soldiers around the country.

Brashear thanks service members like his father and the Tuskegee Airmen for the opportunities that men and women of every skin color and background have today.

“He opened the door for many others to come behind him,” he said.

Brashear has more than 38 years of military service, starting in the U.S. Navy Reserve, then the U.S. Army National Guard and now with the U.S. Army Reserve. He spent most of that time flying helicopters.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

“I used to tease my dad all the time. … I scored higher than you on the ASVAB test,” he said, referring to the aptitude test used to assign military jobs. “I get to be a helicopter pilot. I go up, not down. My daddy said, ‘Aw, get the heck out of my face. … Remember son, there’s always divers looking for pilots. There’s never pilots looking for divers.”

That banter between father and son came close to becoming a dark premonition for Phillip in 2006 while deployed to Iraq. A flash flood washed away part of a convoy, and Brashear was involved in recovering the bodies.

“That’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life was to get out of that helicopter in a combat operation to retrieve dead Americans, bring them back to safety so their families could have closure,” he said.

Though the bodies were not Navy divers in the middle of the ocean, Brashear recovered Marines whose lives were taken by water.

The rest of his Iraq tour offered no relief. He was with the Virginia Army National Guard at the time, responsible for flying personnel and material across Iraqi deserts under constant gunfire and the threat of improvised explosive attacks. Even at night, he could see the barrage of tracer rounds piercing the sky like lasers.

“I remember the heat. Constant heat. Like a blow dryer in your face. I remember the constant thirst. The constant fear from getting in that helicopter in a combat zone,” Brashear said.

Then one day, he came home from deployment on a Red Cross message. His father was ill. However, Brasher didn’t think it was severe, and during his visit home, Phillip believed his father would recover. He thought his dad was invincible. This was the man who had endured a year of recovery wearing a 300-pound suit after losing a leg to become a master diver. As a master chief petty officer later in his career, Sailors scurried out of the way whenever this legend walked onto a ship.

“He’s gonna be fine,” the son thought, so he walked into his father’s hospital room complaining about Iraq.

“I’m like, Dad, man. I’m getting shot at. The food’s bad. It sucks over there. It’s hot,” he recalled.

“Son, what are you complaining about?” his father asked.

The calm in the old man’s voice took him by surprise. Something in his father’s presence caused the younger Brashear to pause.

“He was on his deathbed. He would have traded places with me in a heartbeat … to go fly helicopters in harm’s way, but I wouldn’t have traded places with him,” Brashear said.

“A few days after, he died in my arms. … His body just gave up. He’d been through so much. He just couldn’t suffer any more. So he – he left us,” he said.

After his deployment, Brashear decided to retire from the Army, but while going through his father’s belongings, he remembered his father’s fighting words.

“It’s not a sin to get knocked down. …”

He returned to service in the U.S. Army Reserve, which he said offered him opportunities even the National Guard couldn’t have given him, including the command-level position he holds now. He continued to fly helicopters for about a decade. Over the course of his career, he’s flown the UH-1 “Huey” – recognized as the Vietnam-era helicopter – the UH-60 Black Hawk and two different models of the CH-47 Chinook.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

Then, in 2014, Brashear faced adversity of his own. During his annual flight physical, he was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, a heart arrhythmia that took him off flight status.

“It’s the worst feeling in the world to be denied your job because of something medical. That’s like someone taking away your livelihood. So, just like my dad, I said, ‘I’m not going to let this stop me. I’m going to get back up and get my job back,'” Brashear said.

He received a procedure known as cardioversion, a medical treatment that restores normal heart rhythm through electric shocks. As it turns out, his heart doctor, Michael Spooner, also treated Brashear’s father in the last 10 years of his life. The A-Fib kept Brashear off flight status for a year, but he continued his recovery until he passed his physical and returned to flying.

Now, Brashear is among the few dozen command chiefs in the U.S. Army Reserve. He serves as the top technical expert for his command and invests his time mentoring warrant officers and Soldiers wherever he goes.

With all four of his children grown, Brashear lives with his wife, Sandra, outside Richmond, Virginia. They have three daughters – Tia, Megan, Melanie – and a son, Tyler, who is an ROTC cadet studying biology at North Carolina AT University.

“It’s just a great legacy to have my father, who in the Navy was a great legend. Then myself a combat veteran in the Army. And now my son, who is going to be following our footsteps with leadership and service to our country,” he said.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig

This article originally appeared on DVIDS. Follow @DVIDShub on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA has a SWAT team, and they’re good

If you think it’s hard getting tickets to a summer blockbuster on opening night, try getting into Kennedy Space Center these days to see a Space Shuttle launch.


After two and a half years of anticipation, people around the world want to see NASA boost back into action and the show sells out quick. Thinking about slipping in through the back door?

Think again.

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
After climbing wall obstacles, Emergency Response Team members from Kennedy move to the next challenge during a SWAT Round-Up International event. (Photo credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann)

Along with the formidable force of standard security at Kennedy, a highly trained and specialized group of guardians protect the Center from would-be troublemakers. They are the members of the Kennedy Space Center Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team and they mean business.

“We’re here 24-7,” said SWAT commander David Fernandez. “There’s never a point when SWAT is not here, so we’re ready to respond to something if needed at a moment’s notice.”

NASA contracts the 29-member team from Space Gateway Support (SGS) to protect Kennedy’s employees, visitors, and national assets like the Space Shuttle from any potential threat. The SWAT team carefully prepares for special events like launch day and the arrival of astronauts and VIPs, but it also stands ready every day for possible problems that may arise.

Additionally, the SWAT team provides support to Kennedy security when special expertise may be needed to diffuse a dangerous situation. Skills like rappelling, defensive tactics, or marksmanship may be used to help keep the peace.

To stay sharp and fit for their job, members of the team have to pass annual physical fitness tests and maintain updated certifications for using their weapons.

“The training that we do out here is very intense sometimes,” Fernandez said. “But that’s because we’re at a stage which could be considered by some to be advanced. The training has to be more intense and challenging.”

Army cyber swears in first direct commission officers – and it’s a sweet gig
Members of the Emergency Response team, or ERT, carry a battering ran and equipment through an obstacle area during an event of the SWAT Round-Up International. Photo credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann

As a part of staying in shape, members of the Kennedy Space Center SWAT team participate in competitions with the most elite teams around the world. SWAT officers hone their skills in events testing their speed and accuracy with special weapons and equipment. In 2019, the team from Kennedy placed 10th out of 55 teams at the annual SWAT Roundup in Orlando, Fla.

SWAT team logo Members of the SWAT team admit that one of the best parts of their job is getting the “big-boy toys.” But senior officer Eric Munsterman said there is also a rewarding bond they share with one another.

“In the civilian world, outside of police work or fire work, I don’t see where you’re going to find [camaraderie] as strongly as we develop it,” Munsterman said.

They may have their differences during the week, but when they suit up and go to work, that all goes away, Munsterman said.

Through a strong commitment to each other, members of the SWAT team ensure things at Kennedy stay safe. If you plan to come see a Space Shuttle launch, make sure you have a ticket.

“If anybody means harm to the astronauts or anyone else that works out here, they’re not getting past us,” Munsterman said.
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