A 6-Part checklist to keep veterans motivated in the New Year - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

A 6-Part checklist to keep veterans motivated in the New Year

For most people, a new calendar year brings celebration, enthusiasm and possibility. We write hopeful resolutions in our journals, craft vision boards to set positive intentions, and greet every conversation with a resounding, “Happy New Year!”

But 2021 is not normal or typical for many people, especially if you’re in the midst of a job transition or moving from the military to the civilian sector. While you’re focused on potential career options, connecting with prime networking contacts, and ensuring your resume and cover letter are in ideal shape, the people around you might come across as stressed, anxious and less than optimistic.

This part is not normal. With more people working remotely, job sectors feeling the strain of shifting and uncertain markets, and pandemic fatigue taking over, your ability to be patient and diligent is critical.

Consider this checklist to help you stay focused, motivated and ready when opportunity presents itself:

1. List what you can (and can’t) control. Seriously, make these lists. Even if it feels foolish, write down what you have the power to influence (i.e., how you organize your day, how much time you spend on social media, who you follow up with) and what’s outside of your control (i.e., unexpected emergencies that arise, what someone else says online, whether someone answers your call or responds to your email).

Stress often comes when we feel we’re losing control over things we actually can’t control. By listing what’s realistic, you may see you have more options than previously believed.

2. Write down what gives you energy. Do you feel inspired watching TEDx Talks about overcoming challenges or new technologies? Are you energized when you help others? Do you feel uplifted when your workspace is clean and organized? Make note of what gives you energy and makes you feel inspired and happy.

3. Ask yourself: Who inspires you? Who, in your life, lifts you up? Are there people in your network who are consistently cheerful, motivating and positive? Are there online influencers who post messages that you’re always saving and referring to later? Do you reference literary figures or heroes from books who inspire you to persevere?

Make note of these people and where they are in your life.

4. Celebrate every positive milestone. Did you send a resume and get a positive response? Celebrate! Did you reach out to three contacts on LinkedIn with a well-written note and schedule two phone meetings? Cheers! Were you able to look at the camera during the entire Zoom job interview without getting distracted? Yay for you! When stressed or uncertain, celebrate the milestones that confirm your actions are moving you forward.

It’s important to recognize the things you’re doing well and seeing positive results from.

5. Keep communicating. If you’re tempted to retreat when things get stressful or you’re feeling anxious, now more than ever you need to connect with others and communicate. Likely, the person you’re reaching out to is feeling similar emotions and could also use a check-in.

Now is not the time to isolate and wait for the stress to pass.

6. Draw upon your skills of resilience. During your time in the military, you learned how to be resilient, to adapt and to overcome — physically, emotionally and spiritually. Draw upon the same strength and focus you used then to help you now.

The environment you’re in today will change — maybe tomorrow, next week or this Spring — and you want to be ready and prepared to meet the opportunities that are presented.

As you navigate your military-to-civilian transition in 2021, recognize that the things that feel “off” or different to you are likely new for all of us. The world changed in 2020, and so did many of the companies, industries and systems on which we all relied. This is a great time to learn, adapt and find new paths forward to create a career for yourself in the private sector, if you can stay focused, motivated and open to possibilities.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s why the Air Force is scattering 600 goats over one of its bases

Nearly 600 goats from Idaho are visiting Malmstrom Air Force Base, eating and ridding the base of noxious weeds. The goats arrived June 17, 2019, and will roam and graze the base for approximately eight weeks.

“They are here to eat weeds,” said Donald Delorme, 341st Civil Engineer Squadron natural resource manager. “These goats will be feasting on six different varieties of weeds, predominantly in undeveloped areas of the base.”

According to Delorme, the goats are eating the leaves of the weeds which will hinder the weeds from developing seed pods. The weeds will use all of their energy to regrow themselves instead of growing additional seed pods, preventing the spread and growth of additional weeds.


The goats also increase the nutrients in the soil as they eat the weeds and their excrements help nourish the soil. This in turn will help the grass grow stronger, forcing the unwanted weeds out of the area.

A 6-Part checklist to keep veterans motivated in the New Year

A goat roams a field at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, June 18, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Brosam)

A 6-Part checklist to keep veterans motivated in the New Year

A goat roams a field at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, June 18, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Brosam)

A 6-Part checklist to keep veterans motivated in the New Year

Goats eat evasive weeds in a field on an underdeveloped area of Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Delia Marchick)

According to Delorme, the goats are not slated to return to Malmstrom next year. Instead, a weed inventory will be conducted of the areas the goats grazed to determine how successful they were in helping rid the base of the invasive plant species for the past three years.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How the Spartan Pledge is working to prevent veteran suicide

“I will not take my own life by my own hand until I talk to my battle buddy first. My mission is to find a mission to help my warfighter family.”

These words constitute the Spartan Pledge, a solemn oath meant to reverse the disturbing trend of suicide among veterans of the U.S. military and active duty personnel.

According the 2018 Annual Suicide Report released by the U.S. Department of Defense, 541 service members died by suicide in 2018, including 325 active duty troops. The data collected for this report show the suicide rate is 24.8 per 100,000 service members, up from 21.9 in 2017 and 18.7 in 2013. These 2018 numbers represent a six-year high.


Similarly, the 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report published by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs is bleak as well: 6,139 U.S. veterans took their own lives in 2017 — 16.8 per day, up from 5.9 in 2005. This rate is one and a half times that of the general (non-veteran) population.

A 6-Part checklist to keep veterans motivated in the New Year

Boone Cutler on deployment when he was a member of the U.S. Army.

(Photo courtesy of Boone Cutler’s Facebook page.)

In 2010, retired U.S. Army paratrooper Boone Cutler decided it was time to do something about these tragic statistics. Cutler came from a family with a long-standing tradition of military service. His father served in Vietnam, his grandfather in World War II. “My grandpa was actually the longest held POW in World War II,” Cutler said. “We take a lot of pride in that and give him a lot of respect. He was captured the day after the Pearl Harbor attack and was held from December 8 until the end of the war.”

Cutler was inspired to join the Army after learning about the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989. “I remember the headline,” he said. “The 82nd Airborne Division had just jumped into Panama. I left home at 17 and joined the Army Airborne Infantry when I was 18. He later reclassed his military occupational specialty (MOS) and joined the psychological operations (PSYOP) community. Cutler deployed to Sadr City, Iraq, in 2005 as a PSYOP Team Sergeant. Serious orthopedic and traumatic brain injuries sent him to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for two years. While there, doctors told him he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a diagnosis he had no intention of accepting at the time.

The years that followed were difficult. Cutler was on several prescription drugs, and he grappled with violent outbursts and suicidal thoughts. In 2010, he was shocked to learn that he wasn’t alone. In a conversation with his closest “battle buddy” from Iraq, Cutler asked his friend if he’d ever considered suicide. “Every day,” his buddy answered.

Holy fuck, thought Cutler. How could guys be so close on active duty — literally covering each others’ backs in a kinetic environment, know everything about each other, every hiccup, every burp, every fart … literally everything … and we don’t know this about each other after we come home?

Shortly thereafter, he called another friend who had been on his team. He discovered that teammate was struggling, too. He had been contemplating taking his own life and hadn’t left his home in two years. This was the genesis of the Spartan Pledge — a battle drill that, in Cutler’s words, helps warfighters “know what to do when they don’t know what to do.”

“We made an agreement,” Cutler said. “We knew we couldn’t actually stop each other from killing ourselves, but it was kind of a respect thing — if you’re going to do that, I can’t stop you. But don’t leave me spinning around on this planet for the rest of my life, wondering what happened and if there was something I could have done. Now [the pledge] is two sentences, but it literally started out as, ‘Motherfucker, you’d better call me.'”

Spartan Pledge FINAL CUT

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Around this same time, Cutler learned about GallantFew, a then-new organization with a mission to help veterans in transition. GallantFew executive director Karl Monger soon became a close friend and mentor to Cutler. While talking on the phone, the topic of veteran suicide came up, and Cutler mentioned how he and his buddies were dealing with it. Monger stopped him mid-sentence. “Boone,” he said. “I think you’ve really got something there. This is something we should promote.” GallantFew began to introduce the pledge through its network, during one-on-one meetings with veterans in crisis. From there, it took root around the country and continued to grow organically.

A 2017 video, aptly titled “The Spartan Pledge,” featured commentary by Cutler and conversations with others who were inspired to “pay the pledge forward” in unique ways. Army veteran and Redcon-1 music artist Soldier Hard shared his idea to incorporate the pledge into his concerts. “Every warfighter knows about taking an oath,” he said. “We take oaths very seriously. Why not invite warfighters in the audience to come up on stage and take the Spartan Pledge?”

The video also featured U.S. Navy veteran and New York City firefighter Danny Prince, who told Cutler he wanted to honor the victims of 9/11 — those who died in the attacks, as well as our fallen military in the Global War on Terrorism. Prince had collected some steel from the World Trade Center wreckage. He and former U.S. Marine and commercial airline pilot Steve “Luker” Danyluk proposed to forge that steel into a commemorative sword. Two months later, the project was complete.

A 6-Part checklist to keep veterans motivated in the New Year

U.S. Navy veteran and New York City firefighter Danny Prince used steel collected from the wreckage of the World Trade Center to forge this commemorative sword.

(Photo courtesy of Boone Cutler.)

“Every warfighter who joined in this current era is there because of what happened at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11,” Cutler said. “So we’ve come full circle now by creating a sword out of that tragic event that inspires people to live. That’s humbling. That’s something that touches your heart. When people touch that sword, it’s like connecting with all the souls that were lost.”

In 2011, Cutler launched a weekly talk radio show in the Reno, Nevada, area, called “Tipping Point with Boone Cutler,” which served as a platform for the former paratrooper’s raw, no-holds-barred style. That show aired through 2016. These days, Cutler spends his time spreading the word about the Spartan Pledge and connecting with his brothers and sisters in arms, both active duty and retired. “We’ve built a solid network from all walks of life,” he said. “We put our differences aside to save lives. It’s an amazing unifier.”

Cutler was a featured guest at the 2019 VetXpo conference in Dallas in October, which was sponsored by the GallantFew. His presentation, one of the many highlights of the weekend, was a spot-on snapshot of the state of the veteran community, the civilian world’s perception of warfighters, and why warfighters have such a challenging time with transition.

A 6-Part checklist to keep veterans motivated in the New Year

A dog tag stamped with the Spartan Pledge.

(Photo courtesy of Boone Cutler.)

He shared his observation that, after Vietnam, Hollywood and the media habitually portrayed warfighters as “crazy vets.” As late as 2010, nearly half of all human resources managers said it was “difficult to hire” veterans due to PTSD — but they didn’t have a real understanding of PTSD. Cutler concluded that it was “PTSD phobia” that made it difficult to hire veterans, not PTSD itself. If PTSD was truly the problem, he continued, a woman who was raped or a person who lived through a natural disaster or a car wreck would also be difficult to hire. Yet, strangely, that did not seem to be the case — only veterans with PTSD posed this difficulty. Fortunately, due to advancements in mental health and organizations like GallantFew, the civilian population is beginning to understand PTSD, those affected by PTSD are talking about it more openly, and the associated phobias are fading.

As critical as he was of the civilian population, Cutler made it a point to hold his fellow warfighters accountable, too. He acknowledged that the transition to the civilian world is difficult, calling it a “different set of rules.” In the military, it is understood that everything can change and adjustments must be made. “If we’ve adjusted to those environments,” Cutler challenged the audience, “why are we so stubborn to adjust to this one?”

His answer was startlingly simple: At a time when most young people are learning to become independent — starting families, getting careers and making their own decisions — those who join the military are entering an authoritarian environment, in which they rely upon someone else, a squad leader, to tell them what to do and when to do it. The upshot? Warfighters have to develop their own “inner squad leader.”

A 6-Part checklist to keep veterans motivated in the New Year

Boone Cutler.

(Photo courtesy of Boone Cutler.)

“My squad leader talks to me all the time,” he admitted. “I’m gonna do some stupid shit. BAM! Squad leader talks to me: ‘Don’t do that.’ Every one of us needs to build that squad leader [into your brain] who tells you what to do. You’re not doing your PT? Squad leader ought to have a knee up your ass pretty quick!” As you can imagine, Cutler’s presentation was peppered by frequent, self-deprecating laughter.

However, the humorous tone quickly turned somber when he invited Annette, a Gold Star mother, to join him at the front of the room. Cutler shared Annette’s story with the audience, recounting how her son had tragically ended his own life after transitioning out of the military. He then asked everyone to come forward, circle around, and lay hands on Annette while he led the group in the Spartan Pledge.

“I authored it,” he said later about the pledge, “but it doesn’t belong to me. It’s important to me that your readers know [the Spartan Pledge] is hallowed ground. There’s a fiefdom everywhere in our community these days, so I don’t want to attach my personality to this thing. To be clear, I legally own it, but that’s just to make sure no one pulls any bullshit.”

The Spartan Pledge has been featured on a NASCAR vehicle, inked on the bodies of warfighters, and incorporated into special ceremonies across the country. In the final minutes of Cutler’s 2017 Spartan Pledge video, he said that people frequently ask what he plans to do with it next.

“I’m just the author,” he said, laughing. “I’m not doing anything with the Spartan Pledge because it belongs to the community. The question is: What are you going to do with it?”

Buy a Bag, Give a Bag: Our first donated bags arrive to deployed troops in Iraq

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Having a VA disability rating doesn’t prevent you from serving in the military

There are many myths about having a Department of Veterans Affairsdisability rating and serving in the military. The most common is that, if you have a VA disability rating, you can never serve in the military again. Or if you do serve in the military, you have to waive your disability rating or all of your VA disability compensation. None of these statements is completely true.


The truth is, in some cases, it is possible to serve in the military with a VA disability rating.

Because you can file a VA disability claim only after leaving active duty, this article is making the assumption that the military member has left active duty and is either transitioning into the Guard or Reserves or trying to return to active duty after a break in service.

Can You Serve in the Military with a Disability Rating?

The answer is maybe. Simply having a VA disability rating does not prevent someone from joining the military. However, the underlying medical condition may prevent someone from medically qualifying to serve again.

For example, you can receive a VA disability rating for knee surgery that you had while on active duty. If your knee has otherwise healed and you can perform your military duties, remain deployable and pass your PT test, then you may be eligible for continued military service.

However, other underlying medical conditions may prevent you from joining the military again. For example, it may be difficult to join again if your VA disability rating stems from a serious medical condition that prevents you from being able to perform your military duties, maintain deployability status or pass your PT test.

If you had a break in service before trying to go back into the military, you may need to process through MEPS again. If you have a VA disability rating or certain other medical conditions, you may need to apply for a medical waiver to join the military.

Can You Serve on Active Duty with a VA Disability Rating?

Provided you have been medically cleared to serve, simply having a VA disability rating isn’t enough to prohibit you from serving on active duty.

However, federal law prohibits members from receiving military compensation and VA disability compensation for the same day of service.

So, while you won’t have to waive your actual VA disability rating, you would need to suspend your VA disability compensation payments until after your active-duty service ends. After that, you can contact the VA to resume your payments.

What About Serving in the Guard or Reserves with a Disability Rating?

The same rules apply to members of the Reserve Component as they do for active duty. However, there is one big difference: You don’t have to suspend your VA disability compensation payments unless you are serving in a full-time capacity.

When you receive VA disability compensation, you receive it on a monthly basis.

When you serve in the Reserve Component, you receive military pay only on the days you serve (typically one weekend a month, and two weeks a year). You actually perform four drill periods on your weekend drill and receive pay for four days of work. You will receive only one day of pay for the other days you serve in the Reserve Component (Active Training, TDY, PME, etc.).

The typical Guard or Reserve member receives military pay for only a handful of days per month. They are in an inactive status and are not receiving compensation for the remaining days of the month.

Remember the rule above: “Federal law prohibits members from receiving military compensation and VA disability compensation for the same day of service.”

The law requires members of the Reserve Component to waive either their military compensation or VA disability compensation for days in which they received both forms of compensation. Thankfully, it’s easy to decide which pay to waive.

Deciding Which Pay to Waive

Simply compare your monthly VA disability compensation payment to the base military pay for your paygrade and years of service. Waive the lesser of the two (Spoiler: This will almost always be your VA disability compensation).

Keep in mind you have to waive your pay only on the days on which you receive both forms of compensation. In other words, the pay you waive is prorated — you don’t have to waive the full month of either of these payments, only the prorated amount for the days on which you received both.

Both the VA and Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) prorate the payments based on a 30-day month. This means each day of VA compensation is worth 1/30 of your monthly VA disability rate. Likewise, each day of military service is worth 1/30 of your base military pay.

So if you serve the traditional one weekend a month, two weeks a year, you would receive military compensation for 63 days of service (48 weekend drills and 15 AT days).

The VA sends members a copy of VA Form 21-8951 at the end of the year documenting the number of days on which they received military compensation and VA disability compensation for the same period of service.

You use this form to elect to either waive your VA disability compensation or your military pay. This article explains VA Form 21-8951 in more detail.

If you waive your VA disability compensation, the VA will simply withhold future payments based on the number of days for which you received compensation in the previous year. If you were paid for 63 days of military service, the VA would withhold a little more than two months’ worth of disability compensation from future payments. You can even request that the VA withhold only a portion of your future payments until the full amount is withheld.

If you choose to waive your military compensation, you would need to repay the military in full. This would mean writing a large check to DFAS.

In most cases, you will have earned more military compensation than you received in VA disability compensation, so it would make much more sense to waive your VA compensation.

In Summary

Yes, it may be possible to serve in the military with a VA disability rating, provided your underlying medical condition doesn’t prevent you from meeting requirements. If you serve on active duty, in the full-time Guard/Reserves, or you have been activated, you may need to suspend your VA disability compensation payments to comply with federal law. Otherwise, members of the Reserve Component may need to waive either their military compensation or their disability compensation for the number of days on which they received both forms of compensation on the same day.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part III

Need to get caught up? Check out Part I and Part II.


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Part III: The Job Hunt

Your job search starts off strong, empowered with the tools and skills you learned during TAP. You put on actual pants every morning. You are the picture of motivation and efficiency.

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Ok, time to find the perfect job. I mean you can do anything, right? You’re a leader! You managed multi-million dollar assets! You’re combat-tested!

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Oh…wait. All these jobs want 7 years of industry experience. And a certification. Uh oh. You figure out that despite your experience and skills, your qualifications—on paper—may not cut it.

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Ok, so maybe what your TAP instructor and parents and DVOP told you is true. People get jobs through networking. Time to practice your handshake and your not-swearing-in-work-environments.

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You’re still applying for jobs, but haven’t been hired for any of the ones you want (and you’re not excited about any of the ones recruiters are contacting you about). RIP, wearing pants every day.

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lh3.googleusercontent.com

Without your old routine, or the sense of purpose the military gave you, you’re starting to wonder: “Who am if I’m not what I do for a living? And what do I really want to do?”

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lh5.googleusercontent.com

Maybe it’s the half dozen major life changes or the low-grade depression you ignored the last few years you were on active duty, or maybe the less-than-healthy coping mechanisms you developed to help you get through the tougher times, but you’re feeling…low.

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lh6.googleusercontent.com

You decide to talk to a pro. It’s not magic, but it starts to help.

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lh3.googleusercontent.com

Therapy is validating, and soon you’ve got some insight about what you want. Oh, you’re actually less stressed in high-stress situations? Good to know. You’ve got zero work-life boundaries? Hmmmm, tell me more.

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lh5.googleusercontent.com

With new tools in your toolkit, you approach job search with renewed vigor. Soon, a job catches your eye, and it’s perfect for you.

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lh6.googleusercontent.com

You apply and cross your fingers for a call.

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lh6.googleusercontent.com

Holy smokes, you got the interview! You practice articulating your skills, and explaining your experience without acronyms.

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lh3.googleusercontent.com

Turns out the team thinks you’re perfect for the job. They’re ready to make an offer, and you’re ready to commit. Hooray!

MIGHTY CULTURE

15 holiday traditions from around the world

I love American Christmas traditions as much as the next guy, but stockings, honey-baked hams and pictures with Santa aren’t the only traditions out there. Countries around the globe have fun, festive and occasionally creepy traditions of their own. Keep reading for some of the most unique ways of celebrating Christmas on almost every continent. We didn’t find any traditions in Antarctica, but maybe the penguins just like to keep their parties on the DL.

Australia

In the US, it’s hard to imagine a sunny, tropical Christmas, but that’s the norm for Australians. There, Christmas takes place in summer. Instead of celebrating around a fire, Kiwis usually share casual barbecues with friends and family. The New Zealand version of a Christmas tree is called the Pohutukawa, which turns bright red in December. Don’t worry, they still sing carols, but they’re sung in both English and Maori! 

Austria

An early Krampuskarten (Krampus card) bears the message Gruß vom Krampus (Greetings from the Krampus). (Photo/USC Dornsife)

Several countries, Austria included, have a more sinister undertone to their holiday festivities. In addition to St. Nicholas coming to visit, a demon named Krampus joins the party. The children still get treats from St. Nick, and the looming threat of Krampus bringing a nasty gift on Christmas morning keeps them on their best behavior. bad children worry what Krampus might bring on Christmas morning.

Finland

The Spruce / Katarina Zunic

Oatmeal fans should fly to Finland for Christmas. There, families often eat rice porridge sprinkled with cinnamon and butter. An almond is hidden in one of the puddings, and who ever discovers it is declared the winner. Parents have eased up in recent years, putting almonds in everyone’s porridge to avoid a fight. 

Holland 

In Holland, Santa maintains a more traditional, saintly appearance. There, he’s known as Sinterklaas, donning a long white beard, red cape, and red miter. Instead of a stocking, kids put a shoe out by the chimney for Sinterklaas to fill with gingerbread and other treats. 

Holland’s more questionable traditions have caused controversy in recent years. Instead of elves, Santa has helpers called Zwarte Piet, drawn from traditional folklore. It doesn’t sound strange until you know what it stands for; Zwarte Piet translates to Black Pete. For decades, Sinterklaas has been joined by helpers in curly, black wigs with their faces painted black. Though some still believe it’s harmless, protests have brought the tradition’s racist ties to light. Hopefully, more respectful traditions will take its place. 

Iceland

Here, lots of people celebrate the 12 days of Christmas. In Iceland, there are 13. On the nights leading up to Christmas, 13 “Yule Lads” visit the homes of little children. Good children wake up to discover candy in their shoops. Those who misbehave discover rotten potatoes instead! I think I’d rather have coal. 

Ireland

Irish traditions are simple and sweet. They leave a red candle on the windowsill to symbolize warmth and welcoming over the chilly winter. Their traditional Christmas meal is similar to ours, with vegetables, cranberries and potatoes, but instead of turkey or ham, they have roast goose. 

Italy  

Here, witches are scary. In Italy, witches bring gifts! Well one of them does, anyway. An old witch named La Befana sweeps the floors of dirty homes and brings gifts instead of St. Nicholas. It’s believed that the tradition was a reinvention of an ancient Roman goddess named Strenia, who gave out gifts for the New Year. 

Japan

KFC Japan

In Japan, Christmas isn’t such a big thing. Only about 1% of the population is Christian, so the trees and carols never really caught on. Instead, they celebrate the season with…fried…chicken? It started in 1974, when KFC started a marketing campaign called “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” or “Kentucky for Christmas!” It took off like wildfire, and nearly 50 years later, Japanese families are still putting in their order for fried chicken early to make sure they don’t miss out. 

Martinique

On an island in the French Caribbean called Martinique, Christmas time centers around community. Their biggest tradition is called la ribote. During Advent and on New Year’s Day, the people of Martinique deliver holiday delicacies to their friends and neighbors, offering up regional treats like pork stew, yams, and boudin créole, aka blood sausage. Often, groups gather to sing their favorite carols into the wee hours of the morning, embellishing them with lyrics of their own. 

Mexico

Sarah A. Miller/Tyler Morning Telegraph

In Mexico, Christian tradition is strong. The festivities begin in early December with a march called Las Posadas, representing the long walk of Mary and Joseph. Then, members of the church collaborate to put on nativity plays retelling the story of Christmas. Mexico is also famous for its love of poinsettias, which light up homes and shops with their bright, red blooms every year. 

Philippines

Wikipedia

The Philippines is definitely extra when it comes to Christmas displays. Their tradition of Ligligan Parul, the Giant Lantern Festival, is hosted every Christmas in San Fernando. Giant is no exaggeration. Each parol is made of not hundreds, but thousands, of colorful lights. People travel from across the country to see it, naming the city “the Christmas Capital of the Philippines.” As you can see, the parols are more like works of art than ordinary decorations!

Poland

“Mam nadzieję, że umyłeś ręce”

Poland is another traditionally Christian country, so many of their people’s Christmas customs are religious. Families typically share a religious wafer, or oplatek, on Christmas Eve, each one by one breaking off a piece. Dinner doesn’t start until the first star shines out. If you could take a peek into a Polish dining room on Christmas Eve, you might notice an empty place set at the table. The empty chair is there for a reason; to welcome any unexpected guests to share their meal. How kind! 

Portugal

Consoada is a Portuguese tradition that takes place on Christmas Eve. The traditional dinner honors friends and family who have passed away, inviting them to share in the feast symbolically. An empty chair is left to host any wandering souls, or alminhas a penar, who stop by to visit, and any extra food is left on the table for the night in case one of the spirits gets hungry. Ghosts need midnight snacks, too, you know? 

Ukraine

Christmas spider/Wikipedia

In the US, spiderweb decorations are firmly a Halloween thing. I doubt even Tim Burton decorates his trees with spider webs. In Ukraine, however, it’s totally normal. The tradition started with an old fairy tale. As the story goes, a family couldn’t afford Christmas decorations, so some friendly spiders decorated the tree for them. Luckily, Ukrainian families don’t ask real spiders to take care of the decorating. Instead, they use webs made out of paper, glass, or metal. It’s much more sparkly than spooky. 

Wales

In Wales, it’s not Christmas without a horse. Mari Lwyd, or “Gray Mare,” is an age old tradition there. It starts out with a life-sized horse skull decoration or a person in a horse costume. People join the macabre horse to walk door-to-door, singing carols and dancing. Most likely, the tradition has pagan roots from before Christianity was brought to Wales. Sometimes, the singing turns into a battle of wit between the merrimakers and whoever opens the door.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Check out the Air Force’s old dress white uniform

When it comes to uniform variety, the US Air Force is definitely the least inventive of all the branches. The USAF carries the standard work option, OCPs, along with a more professional office version. When things get really fancy, the Air Force just ditches the flight cap and dons a white shirt instead of the blue – and that’s about it. No swords for officers, no Class-As, no khaki, no whites.

But it wasn’t always that way.


A 6-Part checklist to keep veterans motivated in the New Year

The Air Force used to have a ton of different uniforms.

From 1947 to 1995, the Air Force used a white version of its dress uniform for those in tropical zones, an easy way to keep cool while maintaining a professional appearance when necessary. The first fully-Air Force regulated white uniform featured a white coat, shirt, and pants, but with black shoes and blue tie, along with blue mess dress cap (aka the “bus driver” hat), complete with Air Force “farts and darts” on the brim.

For social events, the hat was gone, white gloves were added, and black bow ties replaced the blue necktie. Eventually that gave way to a new uniform, once the Air Force was completely free of Army uniforms in 1959.

A 6-Part checklist to keep veterans motivated in the New Year

In 1959, this uniform became officially known as the Tropical Dress Uniform, which included a coat very similar to the blue coat of the regular Air Force and was made of a Dacron-rayon blend instead of the Army’s cotton uniform. It was mandatory wear in tropical climates, but also at diplomatic functions, dinners, and anywhere else a white coat was the prescribed dress for the event. The blue mess cap was replaced by a white mess cap with an Air Force blue band around it and the black shoes were replaced with white ones.

By 1983, the Air Force introduced a new white uniform, the White Ceremonial Dress uniform, which was gone by 1989. Many aspects of the White Ceremonial Dress Uniform can still be seen on today dress blues, especially for officer ranks as the white ceremonial dress uniform was optional for lower enlisted personnel.

A 6-Part checklist to keep veterans motivated in the New Year

But whether tropical or ceremonial, the end of the white uniform came in 1995, when they were all phased out in favor of a simplified blue version for all locales and functions. The only formal uniform that remains in the Air Force is the Mess Dress Uniform, which is now drastically different from its ceremonial predecessors.​

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Army wants more soldiers, and it’s using esports to put a ‘finger on the pulse’ of potential recruits

After whiffing on its recruiting goal in 2018, the Army has been trying new approaches to bring in the soldiers it needs to reach its goal of 500,000 in active-duty service by the end of the 2020s.


The 6,500-soldier shortfall the service reported in September 2018 was its first recruiting miss since 2005 and came despite it putting $200 million into bonuses and issuing extra waivers for health issues or bad conduct.

Within a few months of that disappointment, the Army announced it was seeking soldiers for an esports team that would, it said, “build awareness of skills that can be used as professional soldiers and use [its] gaming knowledge to be more relatable to youth.”

By January 2019, more than 6,500 soldiers had applied for a team that was expected to have about 30 members. In September 2019, the Army credited the esports team, one of two new outreach teams set up that year, as having “initiated some of the highest lead-generating events in the history of the all-volunteer force.”

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Staff Sgt. Michael Showes, far right, with fellow Army Esports Team members and a game enthusiast at an exhibition in San Antonio, January 19, 2019.

US Army/Terrance Bell

“It’s essentially connecting America to its Army through the passion of the gaming community,” Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Jones, noncommissioned-officer-in-charge of the team, said in January 2019.

Team members who were competing would train for up to six hours a day, Jones said at the time, and they received instruction on Army enlistment programs so they could answer questions from potential recruits.

“They will have the ability to start a dialogue about what it is like to serve in our Army and see if those contacts are interested in joining,” Gen. Frank Muth, head of Army Recruiting Command, said in early 2019.

Thousands of soldiers play esports, Muth said, and the audience for it has grown into the hundreds of millions — West Point even recognized its own official esports club in January — but the appeal wasn’t obvious at first to Army leaders, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said Friday.

“This was one [idea] that when the first time Gen. Frank Muth briefed … Army senior leadership, we’re like, ‘What are you talking about, Frank?'” McCarthy told an audience at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

“We’re about 18 months into it,” McCarthy said, and with that team, Army recruiters were “getting their finger on the pulse with 17- to 24-year-old Americans. What are they into? How do they communicate? And [finding] those right venues and shaping our messaging to talk about here’s the 150 different things you can do in the Army and the access to education and the kinds of people that you can meet and being a part of something as special as this institution.”

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The Army Esports Team trailer at ArmyCon 2019, October 12, 2019.

Army Esports Team/Facebook

In 2019, the Army rolled out an esports trailer with four gaming stations inside, as well as a semi-trailer with eight seats that could be adjusted so all eight players played the same game or their own on a gaming PC, an Xbox 1S, a PS4 Pro, and a Nintendo Switch, Jones, the NCO-in-charge, told Task Purpose in October.

One of the senior leaders dispatched to an esports event was Gen. Mark Milley, who was Army chief of staff at the time and is now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which is the president’s top uniformed military adviser.

“He said, ‘You’re going to make me do what?'” McCarthy said Friday. “Then when he went, he learned a lot, and he got to engage with young men and women, and what we found is we’re getting millions of leads of 17- to 24-year-olds to feed into Army Recruiting Command to engage young men and women to see if they’d be interested in a life of service.”

The esports team is part of a change in recruiting strategy, McCarthy said, that has focused on 22 cities in traditional recruiting grounds in the South and Midwest but also on the West Coast and the Northeast with the goal of informing potential recruits about what life in the Army is actually like as well as about the benefits of serving, such as money for college or soft skills that appeal to employers.

The service has also shifted almost all its advertising spending to digital and put more uniformed personnel into the Army Marketing Research Group to take more control of its messaging.

McCarthy on Friday called it “a comprehensive approach” to “improve our performance in a variety of demographics, whether that’s male-to-female ratios or ethnicities.” That geographic focus yielded “a double-digit lift” among women and minorities, McCarthy said last year.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5e47e8493b62b732c91515c2%3Fwidth%3D1300%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=690&h=f974abec753166744e583d09692388081e2e789fc4488de259574fc7bdc32e61&size=980x&c=3764889681 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5e47e8493b62b732c91515c2%253Fwidth%253D1300%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D690%26h%3Df974abec753166744e583d09692388081e2e789fc4488de259574fc7bdc32e61%26size%3D980x%26c%3D3764889681%22%7D” expand=1]

Army Gen. Frank Muth, back row, third from right, with members of the Army Esports Team in front of USAE gaming truck, in Washington, DC, October 14, 2019.

US Army Esports Team/Facebook

The outreach hasn’t been universally welcomed.

After the 2018 recruiting shortfall, service chiefs, including then-Army Secretary Mark Esper, said schools were not letting uniformed service members in to recruit. Anti-war activists attempted to disprove that claim by offering ,000 to schools that admitted to barring recruiters.

Suggestions the Army start recruiting children in their early teens also received criticism for both its impracticality and the harm it could do to the military as an institution.

But recruiting has improved year-over-year, hitting the goal set last year and being ahead of pace now, McCarthy said.

“This has been a major turnaround, because I think we just got a little lazy and we started losing touch with young men and women … but you have to sustain this,” McCarthy added. “We’re in a war for talent in this country — 3.5% unemployment, they have a lot of opportunities.”

“We travel to a lot of American cities, and we meet with mayors and superintendents of schools and other civic leaders to try to educate those influencers, to try to help us in recruiting, and it’s yielded tremendous benefit.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The legal argument for Willie Pete as a weapon

White phosphorous, often known by the nickname “Willie Pete,” is possibly one of the oddest and most controversial weapons on military frontlines, including in American units. Its use as a chemical weapon is banned, but its use as an incendiary weapon is simply limited, and use as a signaling device is fine.


Recent use of phosphorous weapons in Israel has brought this weird dynamic back to the forefront. And the U.S. came under fire for using phosphorous rounds in Iraq. So, what’s going on? And is everyone involved now a war criminal?

A 6-Part checklist to keep veterans motivated in the New Year

U.S. Air Force drops a white phosphorous bomb on a Viet Cong position in 1966.

(U.S. Air Force)

First, let’s look at why some weapons are illegal, especially chemical weapons. Chemical weapons work by interrupting human processes, some via very gruesome means. Mustard gas causes extreme respiratory irritation, sometimes to the point that those hit by it will develop fatal lung infections. Sarin gas can cause muscle convulsions, paralysis, and respiratory arrest. Both can permanently disfigure people.

In other words, gruesome ways to be wounded or killed.

As a chemical weapon, phosphorous can be released as a gas that is breathed in by the enemy, burning the insides of their lungs and killing them by cooking them from the inside out. Or, it can be introduced into enemy water supplies to poison them. It’s illegal to use phosphorous in either of these ways.

But phosphorous is a peculiar beast because, while there are no legally accepted military uses for sarin or mustard gas, there are accepted uses of white phosphorous, because it can also burn people externally or its white smoke can be used to screen troop movements or mark battlefield locations.

The chemical burns at about 86 degrees Fahrenheit. And, when burning, phosphorous emits 5,000 degrees of heat. So, it can spontaneously combust on a warm day, and it can easily sustain its own reaction once it gets going. If it’s cold outside, then even a small charge in an artillery shell can ignite the reaction.

Once it’s burning, phosphorous emits clouds of thick smoke. For infantry and other maneuver troops attacking an enemy position, that means phosphorous smoke can block the view of defenders trying to kill them. This use of phosphorous is completely legal. It can also be used to mark enemy positions which, again, is completely legal.

(In fact, the 1980 treaty limiting incendiary weapon use specifically does not include weapons used predominantly for marking targets or screening movement.)

A 6-Part checklist to keep veterans motivated in the New Year

Shells from M777A2 155mm Howitzer cannons rain white phosphorous on a target during a four-day, live-fire exercise following the conclusion of Talisman Saber 13 in Australia on Aug 3, 2013.

(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Paul Robbins Jr.)

But if you release still-burning phosphorous into the air and get that onto people, then it’s extremely dangerous. Phosphorous, again, will continue burning as long as it’s exposed to oxygen and above 86 degrees. So, if a chunk lands on a person’s shoulder, it will stay above 86 degrees and will keep releasing 5,000 degrees of heat until it runs out of fuel or is drowned in water or mud.

But even drowning phosphorous won’t work long-term in human skin, because it will re-ignite from the body heat the moment the water stops flowing. So, in Vietnam, American troops learned to cut the chunks of phosphorous out with knives if any friendlies were hit.

This use of phosphorous is legal, as long as the shooter takes “care” to prevent exposing civilians to the weapon.

And this is the thing that some groups will point to as insane. If it’s illegal to use it as a chemical weapon, how can you use the chemical as a weapon without it being a chemical weapon?

Well, first, everything is a chemical, and pretty much all weapons that aren’t iron or stone rely on chemical reactions of some kind. Bombs are explosive chemical reactions. Napalm and other incendiary weapons rely on chemical reactions that release a lot of heat, burning the flesh of enemy troops. It’s not a chemical reaction that is banned, or the release of heat. Chemical weapon laws really only apply to those weapons which directly interact with the target’s cells.

But heating the cells up, as you would with napalm, is legal.

And that’s how white phosphorous, as an incendiary weapon, works. It’s stored safely encased, then fired against an enemy, exposing it to the air and igniting it in the process. Once the burning phosphorous hits enemy troops, it sears them. A World War II test of phosphorous smoke screens found that, when fired against mock German defenders, the smoke screen would kill or seriously wound 40 percent of the defenders before the U.S. infantry arrived to fight them.

War Dept Film Bulletin 55 White Phosphorus VS High Explosive 1943 (full)

www.youtube.com

War Dept Film Bulletin 55 White Phosphorus VS High Explosive 1943 (full)

And that’s why, as long as the weapon is legal in any context, there will be an incentive for commanders to use it. Without overhead cover, 40 percent of the defenders could be knocked out by the smoke screen. By the smoke screen. High explosive mortar rounds used in the same World War II test generated only 24 percent casualties.

Remember, the point of war is to force an enemy into submission to achieve some political goal. It’s gruesome, but it always includes humans killing humans, and explosions and burning are accepted methods of killing each other in war.

And so, the question that will confront investigators looking into Israel’s actions will be, “How was the weapon used? And did it cause undue damage to civilians?” Those are the same questions they would have to look at if a bomb was dropped on a church or hospital.

Was this a valid military act, or maybe a valid act that went awry? Or was a commander deliberately harming civilians?

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Army-Navy Game saw the first use of Instant Replay

In the fourth quarter of the 1963 Army-Navy game, Army’s “Rollie” Stichweh faked a handoff and ran in the endzone for Army’s final touchdown against Navy for that contest. The touchdown didn’t change the outcome of a 21-15 loss for Army. What was special about it was the broadcast for the viewers at home.

CBS play-by-play commentator Lindsey Nelson had to tell people watching that Army didn’t score twice – they were watching the future of sports television.


In the days before the Super Bowl was the game that brought America together for TV Sports’ biggest day, the game that brought everyone to their televisions was the Army-Navy Game. In December 1963, the Army-Navy Game was airing just days after the assassination of President Kennedy shocked Americans to the core. And CBS Director Tony Verna brought a 1,300-pound behemoth of a machine to use for his broadcast.

Millions were watching, and this monster was either going to make or break the young director’s career. Nelson was worried that the new technology might confuse people. So was Verna.

“There was the uncertainty about this game,” says Jack Ford, a correspondent for CBS News. “How is it gonna be played? How are fans going to react to this?”

In those days, replay technology still took up to 15 minutes to get ready, far too long to rehash an individual football play. Verna’s machine would be able to do it in 15 seconds when and if it worked. What happened during the game play was not as Verna had hoped. The machine mostly saw static, and when it did replay plays, there was a double exposure from what the crew had taped over, which was an old episode of I Love Lucy. As a result, Lucille Ball’s face could be seen on the field during the replays.

But when it came down to it, Verna’s machine did work, just in time to catch Army’s last touchdown of the game. It was the only time fans saw the instant replay during that game, but it was revolutionary. One of the Dallas Cowboys’ big executives, Tex Schramm, called Verna to congratulate him.

“He told me the significance of it, that I hadn’t confused anybody, which Lindsay and I were worried about, certainly me,” Verna told NPR later in life. “And he said, ‘You didn’t confuse anybody. It has great possibilities.’ “

MIGHTY CULTURE

Peace we seek, peace we keep: Naval ship named in MoH recipient Hershel “Woody” Williams’ honor

Medal of Honor recipient Hershel Woodrow “Woody” Williams, an infantry rifleman corporal with 3rd Marine Division, 1st Battalion, 21st Marine Regiment, Charlie Company during the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945, is having a United States naval ship commissioned in his honor on March 7, 2020 in Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia.


Williams received a Medal of Honor from President Truman for his efforts as special weapons unit in a flamethrower demolition group in advancing US forces on Feb. 23, 1945.

www.youtube.com

Williams was born in 1923 in Fairmont, West Virginia. He decided to join the Marine Corps in May 1943. During his time in the armed forces, Williams fought the Battle of Iwo Jima, one of the bloodiest battles in U.S. Marine Corps history, and Williams was a pivotal component in The United States’ victory.

“When we arrived on shore it was really chaotic because the Marines of the 4th Division had been pinned to that area for days; two days at least,” said Williams. “Many of them had been wounded and evacuated so there were packs and rifles and jeeps blowing up and tanks stuck in the sand.”

Williams shared how the Marines would “belly out” and the tracks would turn but couldn’t get any traction because the sand was so loose. He recalls how when he first arrived from the Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel (LCVP), or Higgins Boat, Marines that had been killed were rolled in their ponchos.

The goal was to destroy as many of the enemy’s pill boxes, or strategic bunkers that housed weaponry and allow protection from enemy forces. Williams used a flamethrower to take down the Japanese pillboxes for hours.

Upon his return home in 1945 he received a Medal of Honor award for his bravery by President Truman.

“From that day on, I took on a new life.” said Hershel Woodrow “Woody” Williams, Medal of Honor Recipient and World War II Veteran. “I became a public figure that I had no plan whatsoever to be.”

He retired after twenty years in the Marine Corps Reserve and became the Commandant of the Veterans Nursing Home in Barboursville, West Virginia for almost 10 years. “It’s almost like a dream,” said Williams. “It’s something that I dreamed would never happened.”

A 6-Part checklist to keep veterans motivated in the New Year

Williams discussed how a Marine saw a ship with a Medal of Honor recipients name on it 20 years ago and he wanted to have a ship named after Williams as well.

Williams was told that that there would be a petition to have a ship named in his honor, and for several years there were petitions and paperwork to vouch for Williams having a ship named after him. Williams did not believe that a ship could be named after a corporal, and believed that was something reserved only for presidents and generals.

“I never dreamed it would happen,” said Williams. “I never thought it was possible.”

The Department of the Navy called Williams and told him that the petition would be approved. Upon approval, Williams needed to find a sponsor for the ship.

In naval history, the sponsor is traditionally one woman, usually the wife of the person having the ship named after him. This tradition was broken because Williams did not want to choose between his two daughters, so the Navy allowed both of his daughters to be the sponsors of his ship because his wife is deceased.

After picking a sponsor, Williams was required to pick a motto for the ship. The ships motto will be: peace we seek, peace we keep.

“I fought for quite some time; I could not come up with anything,” said Williams. “One morning, at about two o’clock in the morning I woke up and there it was. I jumped up and wrote it down before I lost it.”

Williams describes how he never dreamed that the Navy would actually use those words. He concluded the interview by sharing the principles that he chooses to live by.

“Serving others gives you a satisfaction that you cannot get anywhere else.” said Williams.

This article originally appeared on All Hands Magazine. Follow @AllHandsMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why ‘Crayon-Eater’ is actually just a bad joke

The rivalry between branches can best be described as a sibling rivalry. We’re always making fun of each other whenever we can, calling the Air Force the Chair Force, the Coast Guard a bunch of puddle pirates — the list goes on. One thing that branches can’t seem to figure out, though, is a good, slightly insulting nickname for Marines.

It seems like the other branches tried to find some kind of insult for Marines but, instead, we’ve turned those monikers into sources of pride. We like being called names like Jarhead. It’s kind of cool, really. You’re saying our hair regulations are so disciplined it’s stupid? Maybe it’s your attitude toward discipline that has us always on the delivery side of insults. Think about it.

But one thing that’s sorta caught on and is becoming popular is calling Marines, “Crayon-Eaters.”

Well, here’s why that nickname just won’t hold water:


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Snipers know why there’s some truth there…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Krista James)

1. First off, it’s just kind of… weak

Maybe we’re just too dumb to understand the insult here but, quite frankly, it sucks. It’s lame.

If you were to call your friend a “Crayon-Eater” in any other situation, they’d just shrug and say, “okay,” with a condescending tone. It’s no better than a Kindergarten insult. You might as well say, “you poop your pants!” At least then there’s some truth for some Marines.

A 6-Part checklist to keep veterans motivated in the New Year

“You think crayon-eater is funny?!”

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Aaron Bolser)

2. It’s ironic

The whole point of the joke is to say that Marines are stupid. Got it. But you know what’s stupid? The joke itself. It’s ironic how dumb the joke is. Instead of making Marines look dumb, you actually just display the inability to create a layered, intelligent insult. “Crayon-eater” is so bland and overplayed that it loses any impact it might have.

A 6-Part checklist to keep veterans motivated in the New Year

We’re not afraid to take shots at each other because it’s all part of the brotherhood.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Anthony Guas)

3. Marines have better insults for each other

The things Marines say to one another on a daily basis are way worse — it’s stuff so bad that we can’t even mention it on this website. They’re things that would make your average civilian’s stomach turn and cause airmen everywhere to puke all over their computer desks.

The worst part is that the joke isn’t even close to being offensive. Of course, some of you may read this and say, “this guy is just offended,” and the answer is no — and that’s the problem. You think something as lame as “crayon-eater” is going to offend a member of a tribe whose trainees are taught to yell, “kill!” during training?

Didn’t think so.

A 6-Part checklist to keep veterans motivated in the New Year

They’re laughing at you, not with you.

(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Emmanuel Ramos)

If you want to keep using the joke, go right ahead. Just remember, when a Marine laughs in your face because your joke isn’t doing what you thought it would — we tried to warn you.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Combat controller goes up against 350 ISIS fighters

A special operations airman from the Kentucky Air National Guard will receive the nation’s second-highest medal for combat valor for his actions on an Afghanistan battlefield.

Gen. David L. Goldfein, Air Force chief of staff, will present the Air Force Cross to Tech. Sgt Daniel P. Keller, a combat controller in the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, in a ceremony Ept. 13, 2019. The award — second only to the Medal of Honor — is given to members of the armed forces who display extraordinary heroism while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States.


Keller earned the Air Force Cross on Aug. 16, 2017, while assigned as a joint terminal attack controller for Combined Joint Special Operations Air Component Afghanistan during Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Keller was on a clearance mission in Nangarhar Province against 350 Islamic state fighters, according to the award citation. After 15 hours of sustained contact, the assault force struck an improvised explosive device, killing four personnel and wounding 31. Injured and struggling to his feet, Keller executed air-to-ground engagements while returning fire, repulsing an enemy assault less than 150 meters away.

A 6-Part checklist to keep veterans motivated in the New Year

Staff Sgt. Daniel P. Keller, a combat controller in the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, Friday, Sept. 13, 2019, receives the Air Force Cross, the nation’s second-highest medal for combat valor for his actions on an Afghanistan battlefield.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Vicky Spesard)

Keller then helped move 13 critically wounded casualties to a helicopter landing zone “under a hail of enemy fire,” the citation said. “When medical evacuation helicopters were unable to identify the landing zone, he sprinted to the center of the field, exposing himself to enemy fire in order to marshal in both aircraft and aid in loading causalities.”

As U.S. forces departed, Keller fought off a three-sided enemy attack by returning fire and passing enemy positions on to another joint terminal attack controller.

“His courage, quick actions and tactical expertise … under fire directly contributed to the survival of the 130 members of his assault force, including 31 wounded in action,” the citation concluded.

A Silver Star medal for the same operation was presented at Hurlburt Field, Florida, Sept. 6, 2019, to Air Force Staff Sgt. Pete Dinich, an active-duty pararescueman assigned to the 24th Special Operations Wing.

Special Tactics is the Air Force and Air National Guard’s special operations cadre, leading personnel recovery, global access, precision-strike missions and battlefield medical care.

This article originally appeared on National Guard. Follow @USNationalGuard on Twitter.