5 benefits of having duty on Christmas - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas

We’ve all at one point or another had to pull duty on a holiday and the news is demoralizing. Pulling duty on a holiday is generally terrible if you had plans with family. However, there are several benefits to having duty on Christmas, specifically. All I want for Christmas is no duty, no duty…All I want for Christmas is no duty…Oh no here come Gunny; to ruin Christmas.

  1. You can charge to take over Christmas duty if you weren’t assigned it

This happened to me once. An acquaintance of mine had duty and he already bought his plane ticket and made plans with his family. Nonrefundable, in true boot Marine tradition. They were devastated. He offered me $400 to take over a 24-duty shift. The going rate during OEF in garrison was $100 for a normal day of duty, $200 for a bank holiday and $400 for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years. 

Easiest money I ever made because I was not even planning on going home. 

2.   Usually, the barracks is empty and at low risk of an incident happening

While I was on duty as an NCO on Christmas the barracks were empty. Only the Marines who had to pull duty were left while everyone was on block leave. Everyone followed the rules, we knew who everyone was, and when there was a person we didn’t recognize they stood out like a sore thumb. You rover your post, log it and report to the OOD (Officer of The Day) when he/she is on deck. Nothing new or unusual to report at this time.

  1. You earn brownie points toward not working the next holiday

Nothing in the Marine Corps is guaranteed but you can be certain you will have a strong case against ending up on another roster. If you have solid leadership and you’ve kept your name clean, there is a good chance you can save yourself from being on duty during a holiday or another block leave.

  1. Christmas and New Years events on or around base

There are some events nearby that, if you are married and your family lives nearby, you can still enjoy the holiday season with them. Recently on December 9, 2020, hundreds of Marines and their families participated in the annual Trees4Troops event where FedEx delivered live Christmas trees at MCAS NewRiver. The same event was held at the Paradise Point Golf Course on Camp Lejeune. On the other side of the continent at Camp Pendleton there is a ‘Santa’s Village’ set up at the Mission Marketplace near Oceanside, CA. There is also a socially distant drive-thru light show at the Del Mar Fairgrounds until January 2, 2021.

A quick google search of your base, across all branches of the military, will yield results of socially distant events that can be enjoyed from your car.

  1. At least you are not on duty with seven other Marines right now

In true Marine Corps Staff NCO fashion, a Sgt. Maj with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines regiment at 29 Palms, California is forcing Marines to pull eight duty spots per day for the month of December because two Marines on Thanksgiving got into a fight with each other.  All eight duty spots are to be filled by NCOs, the backbone of the Marine corps. These Marines have not seen their families in almost two years due to COVID and travel restrictions. Senior Staff NCOs usually get away with pulling this kind of corporal punishment. However, a group of Marines are standing up to this conduct unbecoming of a staff NCO and requesting mass. 

Corporal punishment does not work, and it is the chief reason good Marines leave the Corps. So, as bad as it is for you to be pulling duty on Christmas, at least you do not belong to this unit. If you do belong to this unit, lawyer up, gents. A media circus is going to make the stress even worse.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 unwritten rules that all soldiers know

The world is full of unwritten rules. Don’t make eye contact over a urinal wall. Order your usual or cheaper food when a friend is picking up the tab. I before E except after C or when sounded as eh as in neighbor and weigh, or when its the word science and a bunch of other exceptions. (That last one is less useful than others.) Here are seven rules that all soldiers pick up:


5 benefits of having duty on Christmas

Yes. You suddenly outrank most people in the room. Congratulations. Now, please recognize that you don’t know anything yet.

(U.S. Army Spc. Isaiah Laster)

The LT absolutely does not outrank the sergeant major or first sergeant

Sure, on paper, all Army officers outrank all enlisted and warrant officers in the military. But new second lieutenants have zero experience in the Army while chief warrant officers 4 and 5 generally have over a decade and platoon sergeants and above have 10-ish or more experience as well. So none of those seasoned veterans are kowtowing to kids because they happen to have a diploma and commission.

Instead, they mentor the lieutenants, sometimes by explaining that the lieutenant needs to shut up and color.

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas

“Hey, POG! Can I get my paycheck?” “No.”

(U.S. Army Sgt. Elizabeth White)

Finance will get it wrong, but you have to be nice anyways

Every time a group of soldiers goes TDY, deploy, or switch units, it’s pretty much guaranteed that at least a few of them will see screwed up paychecks. Get into an airborne slot and need jump pay? Gonna get screwed up. Per diem from a mission? Gonna get messed up.

You better be nice when you go to finance to get it fixed, though. Sure, they might be the ones who screwed it up. But the people who are rude to finance have a lot more headaches while getting pay fixed. So be polite, be professional, and just dream about beating everyone you meet.

(Caveat: If you’re overpaid, do not spend it. Finance will eventually fix the mistake and garnish your wages.)

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas

Your plane is late. And the pilot is drunk. And the fueler is missing. It’s gonna be a while.

(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Alexandria Lee)

All timelines get worse with time

The initial mission or travel plans for any Army scheme will likely have time built in for breaks, for maintenance, for error. But as D-Day comes closer and closer, tweaks and changes will yank all of that flex time out of the timeline until every soldier has to spend every moment jumping out of their own butt just to keep up.

Count on it.

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas

If it’s in your bag and kit, you have it. If it’s on the logistics plan, you might have it. If you have to request it in the field, you probably won’t have it.

(U.S. Army Spc. John Lytle)

Don’t rely on it being there unless you ruck it in

All big missions will have logistics plans, and they might be filled with all sorts of support that sounds great. You’ll get a bunch more ammo and water seven hours after the mission starts, or trucks will bring in a bunch of concertina wire and HESCO barriers, or maybe you’re supposed to have more men and weapons.

Always make a plan like nothing else will show up, like you’ll have only the people already there, the weapons already there, the water and food already there. Because, there’s always a chance that the trucks, the helicopters, or the troops will be needed somewhere else or won’t get through.

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas

Dropping uniform tops, driving in all-terrain vehicles, and piling up sandbags are all fine. But pulling an umbrella in that same weather will cause some real heartache.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Carroll)

Officers do not carry umbrellas (neither will anyone else)

This one actually comes from a formerly written rule that literally said that male officers couldn’t carry umbrellas. But the sort of weird thing is that the official rule has been withdrawn, but almost no one carries an umbrella in uniform, and you will be struck down by the first sergeant’s lightning bolt if you tried to bring one to formation.

And God help the soldier dumb enough to bring one to the field.

Don’t steal personal items; don’t steal anything from your own unit

Look, no one likes a soldier who jacks gear. But some units like failing hand receipt inspections even less, so there’s often pressure to get the gear needed by hook or by crook. But there are some rules to grabbing gear or property. (Turns out, there is honor among thieves.)

First, you do not steal personal property. If it belongs to an individual soldier, it’s off-limits. And, if it belongs to your own unit, it’s off-limits. You don’t shift gear in your squad, in your platoon, or often in your company. But for some folks, if there are some chock blocks missing from their trucks, and the sister battalion leaves some lying around, that is fair game.

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas

The guy at the front of the formation is a wealth of knowledge, knowledge that most of his students will be told to forget at some point.

(U.S. Army Spc. Tynisha L. Daniel)

Doesn’t matter how your last unit/drill instructor did it

This is possibly the most important. New soldiers go through all sorts of training, and then their first unit does all sorts of finishing work to get them ready for combat.

But that unit doesn’t care how the drill instructors taught anything in training. And other units don’t care how that first unit did business. Every unit has its own tactics, techniques, and procedures. So when you arrive at a new unit, stash everything you learned before that into a corner of your brain to pull out when useful. But fill the rest of the grey matter with the new units techniques.

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 missions of the military working dog

“The relationship between a military working dog and a military dog handler is about as close as a man and dog can become. You see this loyalty, a devotion unlike any other, and the protectiveness.”
– Robert Crais


The United States military has utilized working dogs since the Revolutionary war. They were originally used as pack animals, carrying as much as forty pounds of supplies between units, including food, guns and ammo. Then during World War I, they were used for more innovative purposes, like killing rats in the trenches. However, it was during World War II that there was a surge in the use of military working dogs. The U.S. military deployed more than 10,000 working dogs throughout WWII. These specially trained dogs were used as sentries, scouts, messengers, and mine detectors. It is estimated that there are approximately 2,300 military working dogs deployed worldwide today.

The military working dogs of today are utilized in many different missions and specialties. After intensive training, each dog is then assigned to a specific specialty based on their strengths and abilities. Once the military working dogs are assigned their specialty, they are shipped out to military installations worldwide.

A few of the possible specialties these dogs can be selected for are:

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas

Sentry dogs

Sentry dogs are trained to warn their handlers with a growl, bark, or other alert when danger or strangers are nearby. These dogs are valuable assets, especially for working in the dark when attacks from the rear or from cover are the most likely. Sentry dogs are often used on patrols, as well as guarding supply dumps, airports, war plants, and other vital installations.

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas

Scout/Patrol dogs

Scout and patrol dogs are trained with the same skills that sentry dogs are. However, in addition, these dogs are trained to work in silence. Their job is to aid in the detection of ambushes, snipers, and other enemy forces. These particular dogs are somewhat elite among the military working dogs, because only dogs with both superior intelligence and a quiet disposition can be selected for this specialty. Scout and patrol dogs are generally sent out with their handlers to walk point during combat patrols, well ahead of the Infantry patrol.

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas

Casualty dogs

Casualty dogs are trained in much the same way search and rescue dogs are. They are utilized to search for and report casualties in obscure areas, and casualties who are difficult for parties to locate. The time these dogs save in finding severely injured persons can often mean the difference between life and death.

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas

Explosive detection

With the current war on terrorism, explosives hidden on a person, in a vehicle, or in a roadside location is a common threat. Explosive detection dogs are trained to alert their handlers to the scent of the chemicals that are commonly used in explosives. These dogs have such a superior sense of smell that it is nearly impossible to package explosives in a way that they cannot detect.

No matter what their specialty or their mission, the reality is these highly trained K9s are an invaluable part of today’s military. There has yet to be a technology created that can match the ability and heart that military working dogs sustain every day. These dogs are the unsung heroes of the U.S. military, and it is only in recent years that there has been a movement to make sure they are given the appreciation and benefits they deserve. There is constant research going into the best ways to protect them in combat. And along with a push to make K9 Veterans Day an official holiday, there is also a movement to make sure these four-legged heroes are taken care of when their time in service comes to an end.

MIGHTY CULTURE

An NFL player and West Pointer reenlisted troops before the Cardinals-Rams game

In the hours before the Arizona Cardinals kicked off against the Los Angeles Rams, an even more special thing happened in the Cardinals’ end zone. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, it was only one of two events that took place in their end zone all night. Arizona fell to Los Angeles 31-9, but 45 U.S. troops were sworn in or reenlisted that night.


You win some, you lose some.

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas
West Point NFL player conducts mass oath of enlistment ceremony

But wait a minute. According to 10 U.S. Code § 502, the oath has to be administered by a commissioned officer. So who is swearing in these kids and troops? That’s 1st Lt. Brett Toth, who is a beneficiary of the recent rule changes to service academy athletes. Toth’s military service requirement was deferred in order to play offensive tackle for the Arizona Cardinals while he was in prime physical condition. Toth is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and a former player for the Army Black Knights football team. He played in two of Army’s most recent wins over Navy.

The group of 45 future soldiers and Marines gathered in front of him before the game’s kickoff were recruits from the Phoenix Recruiting Battalion and was part of the local Salute to Service celebration within the Cardinals franchise. The Cardinals, former home of a deceased Army ranger and former Cardinal Pat Tillman, are very excited to celebrate Salute to Service every November. It doesn’t hurt to have an actual lieutenant on hand, either.

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas

(U.S. Army photo by Alun Thomas)

As Toth, who is currently on the team’s disabled list, led the mass Oath of Enlistment, the crowd began to cheer wildly. After taking the oath, the 45 newly-christened U.S. troops were able to stay for the game. When the Cardinals took the field, the first people out of the locker room were Capt. Edward Donaghue, commander of the Phoenix Recruiting Battalion, and Staff Sgt. Gregory Hunter, one of the battalion’s recruiters.

Though the game started on a very high note for the Cardinals players and for America’s newest troops, it didn’t take long to turn for the worst. The Cardinals were soundly defeated in a 31-9 loss to the Rams.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 ways to make mandatory fun days actually, you know… fun

Ahh, organizational days. On paper, it sounds like a great time. Why not have everyone in the unit come together to relieve stress for an afternoon and enjoy some quality team-cohesion time? Here’s the problem: Troops very rarely ever have a good time at what is mockingly referred to as a “mandatory fun day.”

If you’re in a leadership position and you’re honestly expecting an organizational day to raise the morale of your troops, then you’re going to need to do a few things different. Don’t worry, we’re not about to suggest major changes or anything that could jeopardize the professionalism of your unit, but you should lighten up and actually try to make sure your troops enjoy themselves if an increase in morale is your intended goal. Makes sense, right?

Try these:


5 benefits of having duty on Christmas

You can have those family fun days. Let the FRG handle that and let the troops be troops.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jason Jimenez)

No families

We’re not suggesting that families aren’t important to the troops — in fact, they’re the most important thing to the many troops who have their family stationed with them. But it’s a much different story for the troops that are stuck in the barracks. They’re not exactly lining up for the face-painting booth like the kiddies.

Plus, when there are children and spouses around, troops tend to be sanitized versions of who they really are. That’s not a bad thing by itself, but it’s also not the way to let off steam and raise morale. You need to give them a chance to be the loud, rowdy, drunk, offensive, and obnoxious war fighters that they truly are.

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas

You may hear them talk about wanting to drink when they’re in the smoke pit, but you’re not really going to know how much they drink unless you’re with them.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Listen to what the lower enlisted troops want

Within reason, obviously. You don’t have to take the company to the truck-stop strip club because Private Snuffy thought it’d be a great idea. But if they suggest something relatively safe, like going to a baseball game or chilling out at the installation’s bar, that may not be such a bad idea.

Nine times out of ten, if you ask the troops where they’d like to go, they’ll probably say the barracks. Perfect. Throw a party there. This also gives the command team a valuable insight into how the troops actually operate when they’re off-duty.

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas

A squad that trains together, fights together, and parties together stays together.

(U.S. Army photo by 2nd Lt. Kyle Hensley)

Keep the day at the platoon or squad level

This is far more important than most company commanders realize. When you’re trying to build unit cohesion, it’s best to keep any morale-boosting efforts at the level at which troops operate. For nearly all lower enlisted, that means the platoon or squad level.

Platoon sergeants generally know their troops far better than the company commander. Plus, smaller numbers also mean that it’s far cheaper and much more easily managed should things get out of hand. Most importantly, having a smaller group size on fun days means that it’s far less likely that someone will just mope in the corner and be forgotten about.

Commanders should encourage smaller-group team building. It can only mean greater things when it comes to the unit as a whole.

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas

I mean, unless they’re REALLY adverse to showing up to the Organizational Day.

(Photo via US Army WTF Moments)

Attendance is incentivized, not mandatory

When you force something down someone’s throat, they’re going to hate it. By now, you’ve probably heard infantry described with the phrase, “give them a brick of gold and they’ll complain that it’s too heavy.” Well, in this case, “mandatory fun” day are the gold, and no matter how glittery and gleaming it may be, you’re still forcing it on them.

Give troops a reason to want to go to your organizational day instead of threatening them with UCMJ action. Even if it’s something as stupid-simple as giving them the choice between attending the organizational day in civilian clothes and an early release or sweeping the motor pool until 1700, you’ll see a lot more volunteers.

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas

Nearly every single lower enlisted troop will enjoy themselves at a barracks party over a mandatory Org Day. Why not just let them do it anyways, but with the supervision of NCOs?

(Screengrab via YouTube)

Free booze

This is as simple as it gets. There’s no real need to go in-depth about why this one would work. Transfer some of the funds that would’ve gone toward a giant bouncy house and tap open a keg for the joes instead. They’ll appreciate that much more.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Trump asked the actual war fighters about Afghanistan

Trump had one question when it came to the War in Afghanistan, according to journalist Bob Woodward’s 2018 book Fear: Trump in the White House: “What the f*ck are we doing there?” And he didn’t just want to know what the generals thought, so he asked the lower ranks.


When Trump took office in 2017 and was presented with options on securing high-value targets and changing the course of the war from the Obama-era policies, Trump changed the conversation, telling then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis that he wanted to talk to some “enlisted guys” about the war.

Mattis rolled his eyes.

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas

The President in the Oval Office with many of his original staff from 2017.

“I want to get some real fighters over here who are not officers,” the President told his advisors, including Mattis, former Gen. H.R. McMaster, White House Chief of Staff Steve Bannon, and others. He wanted their “on the ground views” of the war. While the former officers in the room scoffed at the idea of enlisted troops informing the Commander-in-Chief on the then-16-year-long war in Afghanistan, Trump’s controversial Chief of Staff thought of it more idealistically, relating the idea to President Lincoln talking to Union troops during the Civil War.

On July 18, 2017, almost six months to the day after taking office, the President sat down with three soldiers and an airman who spent significant time in Afghanistan and had lunch in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas

From left, Vice President Mike Pence, President Donald J. Trump, and National Security Advisor Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster talk with service members during a lunch in the Roosevelt Room at the White House, July 18, 2017.

(White House photo by Shealah Craighead)

Trump was joined in the lunch by McMaster, Vice President Mike Pence, Army First Sgt. Michael Wagner, Army Master Sgt. Zachary Bowman, Army Master Sgt. Henry Adames, and Air Force Major Eric Birch. As the lunch began, the President told reporters they were there “to find out why we’ve been there for 17 years, how it’s going and what we should do in terms of additional ideas.”

“We have plenty of ideas from a lot of people,” Trump said, “but I want to hear it from people on the ground.”

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas

The President asked them what they thought the U.S. was doing in Afghanistan, where they thought it was going, and what they should do for additional ideas. Afterward, Woodward writes, Trump told Bannon the ground pounders’ views were unanimous – “we’ve got to figure out how to get the f*ck out of there… Totally corrupt… the people are not worth fighting for… NATO does nothing, they’re a hindrance… it’s all bullsh*t.”

So when it came time to discuss new policy at the next National Security Council meeting, Trump interrupted McMaster’s briefing, saying his best information came from the “line soldiers” he met that day.

“I don’t care about you guys,” Trump told Mattis, McMaster, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford and the rest of the NSC in a 25-minute dressing down on everyone who informed Afghanistan war policy. “It’s a disaster … the soldiers on the ground could run things much better than you.”

Articles

Women’s Initiative Team : Taking initiative, breaking barriers

Thousands of women across the Air Force provided feedback to the Women’s Initiative Team, playing a pivotal role in the first women’s hair policy change in 70 years. On February 19, 2021, U.S. Air Force senior leaders directed a second racial, gender and ethnic disparity review of racial, gender and ethnic disparity in the Department of the Air Force.

Empowered Airmen Can Solve Any Problem

In August of 2020, General C.Q. Brown, Jr. released a series of action orders to “Accelerate Change or Lose.” The guidance states that in order to compete with near-peer adversaries, the U.S. Air Force must re-examine which attributes the service requires to fight and win in a high-end fight. Gen. Brown’s strategic approach describes a ‘people-first’ approach that enhances the quality of life of Airmen and their families and improves the U.S. Air Force’s ability to be an attractive service for future prospects.

General Brown’s guidance reads, “We must develop leaders with the appropriate tools to create and sustain an environment in which all Airmen can reach their full potential, valuing the many aspects of diversity within our Air Force. These efforts must also enhance the quality of service and quality of life for our Airmen and their families, making the U.S. Air Force an attractive career choice for all Americans.”

Women’s Initiative Team

Maj. Alea Nadeem, a Reserve Airman who serves as the leader of the Air Force Women’s Initiative Team, has played a key role in bringing about positive changes for women across the Air Force. Major Nadeem teamed up with Master Sgt. Jonathon Lind, a fellow leader who was made aware of the issues with the female hair policy when one of his young Airmen experienced complications first-hand. Master Sgt. Lind’s wife, a fellow Airman, also remarked that she was considering leaving the Air Force due to the same issues.

Together, the Airmen were able to collect input and data from thousands of women Airmen across the force and present their findings to decision makers. With the backing of dozens of commanders and years of research and data in hand, they went on to deliver their findings to the 101st Air Force Uniform Board. Their report stated that constraints to hair grooming standards resulted in damage to hair, migraines and in some cases, hair loss. Additionally, the feedback revealed that the existing hair policy had failed to support a culture of inclusion for almost a quarter of Total Force Airmen.

On January 21, 2021, the Air Force announced that women would be permitted to wear their hair in two new styles – two braids or a single ponytail. The 101st Air Force Uniform Board sourced ideas from Airmen across the Air Force, including the thousands of Air Force women who provided feedback to the Women’s Initiative Team. The Air Force chief of staff approved the new policy after considering feedback from the force, the uniform board recommendation, and the professional image and standards of the Air Force and U.S. military.

The hard work, dedication and thoughtful risk-taking displayed by Maj. Alea Nadeem and Master Sgt. Jonathan Lind has garnered attention across the service, including top Air Force leadership. In a news release dated Jan 21, 2021, the 101st Uniform Board recognized the Women’s Initiative Team for their research and support.

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne Bass also voiced her support saying, “In addition to the health concerns we have for our Airmen, not all women have the same hair type, and our hair standards should reflect our diverse force. I am pleased we could make this important change for our women service members.”

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Kiah C. Cook, 377th Security Forces Group defender, poses in the new female body armor on Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, Feb. 4, 2021. Airmen from the 377th Security Forces Group were among the first Air Force defenders to receive the new issue of female body armor starting January 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ireland Summers)

Disparity Reviews

In December of 2020, the Air Force released its first report on the findings of an Air Force Inspector General independent review into racial disparity. The IG report defines racial disparity as “existing when the proportion of a racial/ethnic group within the subset of the population is different from the proportion of such groups in the general population.”

The review goes on to state that while the presence of a disparity alone is not evidence of racism, discrimination, or disparate treatment, it presents a concern that requires more in-depth analysis. Key stakeholders within the Air Force and Space Force have now been tasked to identify the root causes of these disparities.

The report also states that the data does not address why racial disparities exist in these areas, and that while the data shows race is a correlating factor, it does not necessarily indicate causality. While the first investigation was focused on Black/African American Airmen and space professionals, future efforts of the review will not be exclusive to a single minority group.

On February 19, 2021, Air Force senior leaders directed the Department of the Air Force Inspector General to conduct an additional independent review of racial, gender and ethnic disparity in the Department of the Air Force.

Senior leaders stated that “Ensuring fair and equitable discipline and development for all our Airmen and Guardians is critical. We are committed to promoting an environment free from personal, social and institutional barriers that might prevent our members from rising to their highest potential. Diversity makes us a stronger and more capable force.”

Additionally, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning Initiative Team (LIT) and the Indigenous Nations Equality Teams (INET) were formally established by the Department of the Air Force in early 2021 under the umbrella of its Barrier Analysis Working Group.

Originally created in 2008, the Barrier Analysis Working Group was dedicated to analyzing data, trends and barriers to service for the civilian workforce. Since then, the group’s focus has broadened to include Airmen as well. As of March 2021, the Department of the Air Force has established the following initiative teams:

Black/African American Employment Strategy Team, Disability Action Team, Hispanic Empowerment and Action Team, Indigenous Nations Equality Team, LGBTQ Initiative Team, Pacific Islander/Asian American Community Team and Women’s Initiatives Team.

Airmen or Guardians interested in getting involved with the Barrier Analysis Working Group should contact SAF/ODI at SAF.ODI.Workflow@us.af.mil.

Hair Regulations / AFI 36-2903: https://go.usa.gov/xsrra


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

Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo by Chief Master Sgt. Jaimee Freeman

MIGHTY CULTURE

See the Air Force play Santa for thousands of islanders

For people living on remote islands across the Pacific, Christmas is the sound of C-130s roaring overhead as boxes of food, clothing, toys, and more parachuted from the holds drop down from the sky.

Here’s what it looked like this year.


5 benefits of having duty on Christmas

The patch of Operation Christmas Drop 2018 rests on the flight suit of a pilot from the 374th Airlift Wing as he and his crew delivers Coastal Humanitarian Air Drops to the island of Nama, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Dec. 10, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

Operation Christmas Drop, which began during the holiday season in 1952 as a spur-of-the-moment decision by a B-29 Superfortress crew, is the Department of Defense’s longest-running humanitarian airlift operation.

Source: Andersen Air Force Base

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas

U.S. Air Force 1st. Lt. Emery Gumapas, a pilot assigned to the 36th Airlift Squadron at Yokota Air Base, Japan, looks out the flight deck window of a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft during Operation Christmas Drop 2018 en route to the island of Nama, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Dec. 10, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Gilmore)

Now in its 67th year, the OCD mission is supported by the US Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard, as well as members of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force and Royal Australian Air Force. It serves over 50 remote islands in the Pacific.

Source: Indo-Pacific Command

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas

Three villages await Operation Christmas Drop on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia, Dec. 10, 2018. A C-130J Super Hercules from the 36th Airlift Squadron, Yokota Air Base, Japan, delivered more than 1000 pounds of agricultural equipment, food, clothing, educational and medical supplies to the inhabitants of Fais during Operation Christmas Drop 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)

The first drop all those years ago began with a B-29 crew dropping supplies to waving locals on Kapingamarangi island. The program now helps tens of thousands of people living on 56 islands across an area of 1.8 million square nautical miles annually.

Source: Indo-Pacific Command

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas

A C-130J Super Hercules with the 36th Airlift Squadron drops three Low-Cost Low-Altitude bundles filled with humanitarian aid supplies during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2018, on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)

US military C-130J Super Hercules aircrews conduct low-cost, low-altitude drops, with parachuted packages touching down on land or at sea, the latter sometimes being necessary to avoid unintended damage to the environment or property.

Source: Andersen Air Force Base

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas

Two Low-Cost Low-Altitude bundles filled with humanitarian supplies float to the ground during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2018, on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)

For OCD 2018, military and civilian organizers collected 62,000 pounds of food, clothing, and other supplies for around 30,000 islanders.

Source: US Navy

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas

Islanders carry a box of humanitarian supplies from the air-drop site to their village center during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2018, on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)

“My father experienced this drop when he was a little kid back in ’77, I believe, and in that drop, he got his first pair of shoes,” airman Brandon Phillip recently said. “I get to give back to my dad’s island while serving my country. It just makes it all special.”

Source: Department of Defense

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas

Islanders carry a box of humanitarian supplies from the air-drop site to their village center during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2018, on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)

Many military personnel and civilian volunteers work for months putting together packages for the annual OCD drops across the Pacific.

Source: US Navy

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas

Islanders carry a box of humanitarian supplies through their village during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2018, on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)

The OCD supply drop came a little over a month after the Marianas were hammered by the 180 mph winds of Super Typhoon Yutu, the worst storm to hit any part of the US since 1935.

Source: The Washington Post

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas

Island children wait and watch while their village chiefs sort and divide humanitarian supplies for equal distribution during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2018, on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)

The islanders use every part of the delivery, including the parachutes and parachute cords. They reportedly use the parachutes to make boat sails.

Source: Stars and Stripes

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas

Island children wait and watch while their village chiefs sort and divide humanitarian supplies for equal distribution during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2018, on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)

“This is what Christmas is for,” Bruce Best, who has been part of the OCD mission for four decades, told Stars and Stripes. “When they hear the rumble of the plane engines, that’s Christmas.”

Source: Stars and Stripes

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

If war messed you up, this Navy SEAL has the answer to healing

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas

Combat, violence and death cause pain and suffering in the human spirit. Many veterans struggle when they come home — they carry the burdens of war, they endure injuries seen and unseen, they are haunted by the fallen and feelings of guilt, they struggle to find community and purpose. The list of symptoms goes on. 

“People think that SEALs are automatons, impervious to the stressors of combat. Unfortunately, no human is impervious to the physiological effects of war.”

Mikal A. Vega on Combat Related Stress

The good news is that there is healing to be found.

More and more, veterans like Navy SEAL Mikal Vega are sharing their stories and showing a way forward for their brothers and sisters in arms. Most recently, Vega created a short film called Message in a Bottle “in an effort to encapsulate the ‘why’ we serve, the ‘what’ is possible and the ‘how’ to get there.”

WATCH THE FILM:

Written and directed by Vega, a 22-year Navy SEAL veteran who can be seen in TV/Film projects such as can be seen in Transformers 3, S.W.A.T., Mayans M.C., and much more, the film was inspired by his own life story. That story may seem familiar to many veterans and it was depicted in this film in order to help others dealing with PTSD find non-pharmaceutical modalities for long-term healing. 

In conjunction with Vital Warrior, Vega’s conscious action program designed to serve veterans and empower them with the ability to apply their military training to a healing lifestyle, Message in a Bottle shares Vega’s powerful message. Vital Warrior provides veterans with mental disciplines within the warrior ethos, teaching abilities specifically designed to tap into dormant creative aspects of self to offset and subsequently balance the cumulative destructive physiological effects culminated during a lifetime of service and/or war.

“We made this film with no budget other than what was absolutely required to bring this story to light. My story,” shared Vega on Instagram

His goal in making the film is to not only help veterans and active duty service members, but anyone dealing with any significant trauma or stress to find inspiration through this film. 

Vega teaches donation based Kundalini Yoga classes to the veteran community at the RA MA Yogic Institute of Applied Science in Venice California.

“Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan has been, and continues to be, the most difficult and rewarding thing I have done in my life. Naturally, it is the core of Vital Warrior and allows our clients to develop the awareness to learn the subconscious landscape, remove obstacles and choose a positive projection in their day to day thought patterns.”

Mikal Vega

I’ve taken Vega’s classes before and they were harder than anything I’ve done in a Crossfit or body-building program. The man’s mental discipline and fortitude are impressive and inspiring. I highly recommend them to anyone looking for a mental and physical shift. 

Watch his film in the link above and pass it along. The message may reach someone who needs it most and by streaming it, you help support Vital Warrior and The CAMEO Theatre.

You can also donate to https://www.vitalwarrior.org/ to help provide much-needed services to military veterans tackling debilitating stress.

Finally, if you are a veteran and you are experiencing a crisis, you can call this hotline 24/7 and receive help and support: 1-800-273-8255

Articles

How the WWII Willys Jeep got its nickname from the Popeye cartoons

The U.S. Army Truck, 1/4-ton, 4×4, Command Reconnaissance light utility vehicle was the primary light-wheeled transport of the U.S. and many of its allies during WWII. Today, these trucks are still used in Third-World countries as reliable transportation. Made by Willys-Overland as the MB and Ford as the GPW, the vehicle is better known by its nickname: Jeep.

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas
Willys-Overland officials demonstrate the Jeep on the U.S. Capitol Steps in February 1941 (Public Domain)

Despite the prevailing theory, the Jeep did not derive its nickname from the pronunciation of its “GP” designation. After all, the GPW name was an internal Ford naming convention. In fact, the Jeep name was given to other 4×4 vehicles before it was applied to the Willys MB/Ford GPW.

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas
Eugene the original Jeep (King Features Syndicate)

On March 16, 1936, the Popeye the Sailor comic strip introduced the character Eugene the Jeep. A mysterious animal with magical or supernatural abilities, Eugene was Popeye’s jungle pet. Moreover, his small size and inexplicable powers allowed him to walk through walls, move between dimensions, and generally go anywhere to overcome otherwise impossible situations.

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas
The British SAS used heavily armed Jeeps extensively in North Africa (Imperial War Museum)

By the late 1930s, Eugene the Jeep’s ability to go anywhere resulted in troops nicknaming their four-wheel drive vehicles Jeeps. These vehicles included converted four-wheel drive civilian tractors supplied to the Army, and 1/2-ton and 3/4-ton Dodge Reconnaissance/Weapon Carrier trucks. The Canadians also nicknamed their Ford Marmon-Herrington half-track, “Jeep.”

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas
General Eisenhower called the Jeep “one of the six most vital” U.S. vehicles to win the war (U.S. Army)

However, the nickname was not exclusive to the go-anywhere trucks and tractors. Small anti-submarine escort carriers were nicknamed “baby flattops” and “jeep carriers”. The nickname was also given to several aircraft including the Kellett autogyro prototype, the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress prototype and the Curtiss-Wright AT-9 trainer plane.

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas
(Left to right) A Willys 1/4-ton Jeep, Dodge 3/4-ton Jeep, and Dodge 1/2-ton Jeep (U.S. Army)

Upon America’s entry into WWII, the majority of its light trucks were actually Dodge 1/2-tons and 3/4-tons. It wasn’t until 1943 that the Willys and Ford 1/4-tons outnumbered their heavier Dodge counterparts. Despite their differences, all three light truck variants were nicknamed Jeeps. However, the Jeep name is best associated with the 1/4-ton truck whose appearance has been preserved in popular media and the modern Chrysler/Stellantis North America Jeep Wrangler.

Feature Image: U.S. Army photo

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why the changes to height and weight testing are long overdue

The United States Military must keep its troops in the best possible shape to fight and win America’s wars. This is made evident by the rigorous physical training schedule that many troops adhere to every single morning. Not a day goes by where an entire formation of infantrymen isn’t collectively breaking a sweat before most civilians wake up.

But the military can’t have absolute control over the lives and overall physical health of every single troop in formation. Uncle Sam can’t spend time preparing and serving your each and every meal, and he certainly can’t make sure you’re not cheating on each and every push-up. For the most part, however, things tend to work out. Sure, troops will enjoy a bit of pizza, beer, and junk food, but since they’re constantly working their asses off, a little indulgence isn’t going to hurt overall combat readiness.


To make sure that nobody slips through the cracks, the Department of Defense established and enforces height and weight standards. They’ve used the standard “tape test” for measuring these standards, but they’re finally eyeing its replacement — and that change can’t come fast enough .

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas

Remedial PT is just like morning PT except the NCO leading it either broke weight themselves or is some salty NCO that’s been forced into leading it.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Marnie Jacobowitz)

Generally speaking, the tape test is a fine gauge of someone’s maximum allowable weight in relation to the troop’s height. If they weigh more than their height allows, senior NCOs have to bring out a tape to measure their waist size relative to their neck size. The idea here is that if you’re heavier because of muscle (and not just fat), then your neck muscles will reflect that, and you’ll be on with your day.

If the troop does weigh more than their height allows and their belly is disproportionately large for their neck size, then the hammer comes down. This means instantly flagging them for positive actions, like schools, awards, or leave, and they’re sent to do remedial PT after the duty day has ended.

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas

Even the height test can be screwy if the person grading it decides to “wing it” or the weight is “adjusted for clothes.”

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jourdain Yardan)

Now, it’s that not the tape test is inherently a bad way to gauge the health of the troops. In some cases, it’s a perfectly fine measurement. Unfortunately, this test is the end all, be all for determining if someone is fat. It’s a highly flawed system (and everyone knows it’s flawed) that is taken as gospel.

For instance, many troops can attest to seeing soldiers who have scored 300s on their PT test “bust” tape and then get sent for remedial PT — why? Because they’re under 5’10” and didn’t focus on their traps at the gym. On the other side of that token, troops could point fingers at troops built like Shrek, but they’re tall enough that their weight doesn’t even become a factor.

Additionally, when it comes to administering the tape test, there’s just too much room for error. The heights and weights recorded may be empirical measurements, but taking those measurements isn’t a hard science. For example, whoever’s recording those measurements might turn a blind eye as their buddy sucks in their gut. Now, the guy who pulled in their belly gets a passing grade while the bodybuilder who spent too little time working on their traps won’t be able to take leave and may possibly get chaptered out of the military.

Thankfully, there are better solutions out there. Body mass index scales are getting more and more accurate and less expensive. Water displacement tests can now be found on most installations.

But, honestly, one of the most useful tools here is common sense. If you can look at a troop and their PT scores and see that they’re well beyond most other troops, don’t ruin their career with an antiquated test.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How this veteran went from homeless to graduate school

Harold Taylor was raised by a mother who gave birth to him at 14 years old. She kept him, despite her family’s continuous pressure to give him up for adoption. With her constant support and encouragement, years later, he found himself playing as the starting running back for the Lincoln University football team on a full scholarship. He was also in ROTC and had gone through basic as a cadet, planning to be commissioned as an officer when he graduated. The football team folded and he lost his scholarship, so he went home to St. Louis, MO. He found himself just sitting around, a pastime he didn’t enjoy. So, he called an Army recruiter.


Taylor went on to serve in the Army from 1990-1998. He served in combat during Desert Storm and was a part of the 82nd Airborne Division for three years before he separated from the military. When he left the Army, he went on to serve something else – alcohol.

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas

“I chose alcohol over everything,” he said. He describes a situation where his girlfriend at the time gave him an ultimatum; her or alcohol. He left right then and went to the corner store to buy beer. When he returned his things were packed up sitting outside. Taylor took his stuff and went to a boarding house in St. Louis while his addiction only got worse. Taylor shared that he became increasingly paranoid, thinking people were following him and trying to hurt him. He quickly started accumulating a heavy police record and soon found himself homeless.

He recalls the time – after years of being homeless – where he was sleeping in an abandoned vacant building under a pile of clothes to keep warm. One day people came into that vacant building to board it up, and he felt them kick him, but they didn’t see him because he was buried under the clothes. “I remember spending Thanksgiving laying there thinking I am going to die in this building,” he said.

Taylor shared that almost dying is what finally made him realize he was wasting his life away. He explained that he had set what he thought was a controlled fire to keep warm and he woke up with the blanket covering him completely engulfed in flames. He escaped without injury and vowed to make a change. It was 2012, and the day after that fire, he took a bus to the Jefferson Barracks VA and asked for help. He was immediately put into substance abuse treatment and given the care and support he needed. Taylor was soon diagnosed with anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, caused by his time in service.

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas

When he finished his initial treatment, he was brought to The Joseph Center – a veteran’s homeless shelter in East St. Louis, IL, which provides trauma-informed services for male military veterans. It was founded by Martha Watts and her husband, Carl. She was a former VA nurse and wanted more for the veterans she was serving.

Taylor admits that he wasn’t initially the best resident of The Joseph Center, rebelling often against their rules. Taylor smiled when he remembered his case manager Mr. Anderson pulling him aside one day after a few weeks of what he called his “nonsense behavior” and telling him he was too bright for what he was doing. He went into his room immediately after the conversation and said he started changing.

Taylor went on to graduate with his associate’s in criminal justice, which he shared was both ironic and humorous due to his criminal record. He didn’t stop with just his associate’s but graduated (with honors) with his Bachelor of Social Work degree. He had a professor in that program that asked, “Why stop”? He took her advice to heart and is now finishing up his last two semesters for his Master of Social Work. His picture is on a billboard now for the University of Missouri-St. Louis, with other student veterans. “I’m happy, I like the person I see in the mirror now,” said Taylor.

These days, Taylor doesn’t recognize the man he used to be before The Joseph Center. He is a career counselor at Employment Connections in St. Louis and plans to work for the VA one day serving veterans like him. He’s also a passionate advocate for people of color serving in the military. Taylor shared a story of coming home and having someone use a derogatory term towards him because he was a black man in uniform. “We serve our country, all of us, but then we come home to this kind of brutality and disrespect. I didn’t fight for that, we didn’t fight for that,” he said. He said he is proud to be who he is, but wishes people who didn’t look like him could put his shoes on for a bit.

It is with this in mind that Taylor is not only a graduate student and full-time career counselor, but also a part-time case manager at The Joseph Center. He spends his shift at the center as a mentor to the new veterans coming through the homeless shelter and hopes that by leading by example he can help them find their way – just like he found his.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Ready for a new tattoo? The Air Force now has its own tattoo shop

No matter if you’ve been in for two months, two years or you are two generations removed from the military, everyone knows that tattoos and the service go hand in hand. Ever since the first tattoo shop opened its doors in America in 1846, ink has had a well-deserved place in the hearts and on the skin of service members.

Of course, tattooing didn’t get its start in America. Warriors from Maori tribes in New Zealand, to ancient Greeks, marked themselves to show strength, courage and confidence. Viking raiders tapped magical symbols into their skin using the ink made from sacrificial animals.


Even service members in the Revolutionary War were getting new ink to reflect their units and identities (not to mention to prevent being illegally conscripted by the British).

During the Civil War, pioneer tattooist Martin Hildebrant traveled to battlefields and inked various patriotic designs into service members’ skin. Records show that by 1925, as much as 90 percent of all US service members were tattooed; the Navy made up the bulk of those decorated. Apparently, sailors used new tattoos to showcase where they’d been, as a sort of secondary service record, and to showcase their achievements.

For example, a shellback turtle meant they’d crossed the equator, a golden dragon meant they crossed the International Date Line, and a golden shellback turtle meant they’d crossed both at the same spot.

But for as much as there’s always been ink in the military, there have also been regulations. It seems like every few years, some leadership gets it in mind that a new tattoo policy is in order. For years, there was a limit to the number of tattoos soldiers could have on their arms, but that’s no longer the case. However, the Army still doesn’t allow face, neck or hand tattoos, though a small ring tattoo can exist on each hand. As with all branches, there are always a few waivers that are granted by recruiters each year if it seems like a tattoo isn’t too distracting.

Just like the Army, the Air Force is revisiting some of its strict tattoo policies and lessening the regulations a bit. Before 2017, Airmen weren’t allowed to have tattoos on the chest, back, arms and legs that were larger than 25 percent of the exposed body part. Now, they’re allowed to have full sleeves or large back pieces, which is a big deal for anyone who’s been stuck halfway through getting a tattoo only to have to stop because of regulations.

So it goes without saying that getting a tattoo is as much a rite of passage in the military as is getting that first haircut in basic training. Of course, barbershops have been embedded at installations worldwide for decades, but for new ink, service members have always had to go off base. That’s led plenty of people to wonder why there isn’t a place to get new ink and a fresh fade all at the same place. Now, that’s no longer the case.

Nellis Air Force Base, located just outside Las Vegas, now has its own tattoo shop, making it that much easier to get a new tattoo. Senior leadership at Nellis said in a press release that they’re always looking for ways to improve the quality of life for Airmen and to lead from the front. So naturally, an on-base tattoo shop makes sense.

This is the first tattoo shop to be inside any Air Force or Army installation, making it incredibly unique. Now, we can’t speak to the quality of work you might receive there, but it’s still pretty cool that leadership is finally recognizing that there’s a very real, inky culture within the military and are taking steps to provide that service.

Maybe the decision to open the tattoo shop on base is a signal that leadership hopes artists and the Airmen can better handle the Air Force guidance on tattoo size and placement. Of course, that’s not to say whether or not the tattoos will be any good, but at least they’ll be within regs.

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