Cooking with kids can be a fun and rewarding experience. It allows them to learn and grow, and to feel like they are a part of the family meal. But it can also be messy and frustrating. In fact, it usually involves all of the above.
But with some key planning and a lot of patience, you can work to have meaningful experiences through cooking with your kids. Follow these simple tips for a better way to prep meals as a family. Remember, cooking offers up some great life skills they can call upon later in life, whether working as a military cook or getting crafty with MREs to make a better meal in the field.
Make it a lesson
Any homeschooling parent will tell you cooking is where it’s at for math, science and more. Don’t miss an opportunity to help your kids learn as you’re whipping up something delicious. You don’t have to do anything elaborate, just mentioning cooking temps or measuring sizes can do wonders for sparking questions.
Let them do the dirty work
Sure, as a parent who can easily do tasks like cracking eggs or flipping pancakes, it’s easier to just do it yourself. But allowing kids to do them (so long as it’s age appropriate) lets them learn. Plus, just imagine their little faces glowing with pride!
Let them choose the cuisine
No kid wants to make some fancy meal that they aren’t interested in eating. On the other hand, they’ll be over the moon to make pretzel dogs, pizza, cookies or any other kid-friendly fare. Let them choose the menu for an added dose of fun.
If ingredients are short on hand, lay forth some kid-friendly options and let them choose. You might even remind them that on a deployment or when the D-Fac is out of key items, making due is part of military life!
Have them clean up
Boring, right?! But cleaning is part of the cooking process. Teach them now that after cooking, you have to clean up to your standard of cleanliness. You may not normally clean like you’re getting an impromptu home inspection, but when there’s help, it’s a great time to start the practice.
Do you cook with your kids? What are your favorite dishes to make together?
We’ve all poked fun of the U.S. Coast Guard. We get it. They’re like the red-headed stepchild of the Armed Forces. The very mention of their existence is almost always met by other troops spouting off the same, “yeah, well, they’re not always DoD!” Once you put your jokes about them aside, however, you’ll realize that they’re every bit as badass as the next troop.
For instance, the Coast Guard maintains their very own specialized forces that are on par, in terms of training and mission capacity, with the rest of the SOCOM units. And this isn’t an exaggeration, considering the fact that they’re constantly training with the SEAL teams.
They’re called the Maritime Security Response Team, or MSRT.
If they walk like a duck, dress like a duck, and operate like a duck…
(U.S Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer Robert Nash)
The MSRT is the full-time counter-terrorism assault arm of maritime law enforcement. They’re tasked with being the first responders to terrorist situations that require boarding and securing hostile vessels — in all waters, both domestic and abroad.
Originally a part of the Coast Guard’s Deployable Operations Group — or DOG, before it was dissolved in 2013 — the MSRT remains the go-to team in responding to piracy the world over.
Just to throw it out there, aiming a rifle from one of these is a headache, but these guys have mastered the art.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell)
Each assault element is broken down into several teams. The Direct Action Section is the main group of vessel-boarding operators that are extensively trained in close-quarters combat. Then, the Precision Marksmen Observer Team provides rear support through the lens of a high-powered sniper rifle, which is often aimed from moving aircraft or boats. Finally, the Tactical Delivery Teams bring the rest of their MSRT comrades into the fold.
The teams also include personnel that are specifically trained in handling chemical, biological, radioactive, nuclear, and high-yield explosive environments, mixing the talents of EOD and bomb squad units with CBRN capabilities.
Go ahead and sh*t talk the Coast Guard to the face of an MSRT… I’ll wait.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell)
The MSRT is called in for situations that involve neutralizing terrorists or pirates. The scope of their mission is huge — if it’s in the interest of America to neutralize a threat at sea, they will. Their area of operations includes the often-misunderstood international waters.
As with most Special Operations, their movements are not often discussed in the news — but they go everywhere. Recently, one of their known areas of operations has been off the coast of Syria in the Mediterranean Sea and all around the coast of Africa.
Man, military photographers take some great photos sometimes. Sand tables, missile launches, rifle ranges. So many great images of American might and military readiness. But they’re always missing something, and the Twitter user Military Giant Cats has figured it out.
Yeah, the pics were always missing giant cats. Giant, giant cats that welcome Marines home from long ruck marches. Or, maybe the Marines are marching there to attack the cat? Look, the context isn’t clear, but you would definitely buy a ticket if that was a movie, right?
Come on, you would follow this cat into battle. You would face the galloping hordes, a hundred bad guys with swords, and send those goons to their lords, if this cat was leading the charge. And he’s so intense about it.
Not all cats take their duties so seriously. Some are plenty patriotic but don’t feel the need to pursue the enemy all the time. They take a little time to relax, to consider their past achievements. And more than likely, to bat around a few of the tiny humans walking around his armor.
This cat is willing to brave the perils of the deep for your freedom. He will do battle with the Nautilus, he will spend weeks submerged. And if duty calls, he will claw his way through entire Russian fleets and survive on nothing but kelp to secure the seas for democracy.
‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.
For the Bright-eyed Hope Machine in your squadron:
~ a bag from the brand that’s turning military surplus into vet success ~
Emily and Betsy Nuñez — sisters and co-founders of Sword Plough — represent the kind of entrepreneurial venn diagram that a truly bipartisan American government would engineer in a lab to ensure a Better Tomorrow.
Growing up at West Point with their father, a 30-year Army veteran, Emily and Betsy were inculcated from an early age with the military life. Emily was one of only three students at Middlebury College in ROTC and would go on to serve on active duty as an intelligence officer with 10th Special Forces Group.
She would also be one of the first women to attend Ranger School.
At the same time, she and Betsy were laying the groundwork for a classic millennial start-up, a sustainable bags and accessories company dedicated to repurposing materials and people for the betterment of all. Since 2013, they’ve been operating at the energetic epicenter of 21st century feminism, social entrepreneurship, sustainable business modelling and post-9/11 veteran affairs.
But if there’s one anecdote from the early days of Sword Plough that, above all others, may have foretold the relentless success the company has enjoyed since its founding, it’s this one, from Emily:
Well, just before launching on Kickstarter, we did another business plan competition…at the Harvard Business School, their Pitch for Change Competition. And I got leave from the Army to attend the contest. It was just an amazing experience. We pitched to the audience and the judges and we won first place and the Audience Choice Award, which was just incredible. [But] we almost actually didn’t even have the chance to do the pitch because there was a blizzard that weekend [in Boston] and we were having a really hard time finding a cab…so we ended up hitching a ride with a snow plow…
Uh…hold please. I grew up in New England. Snow plows stop for no one. How did you pull that off?
I sprinted up to him. I was wearing high heels and a dress and I just told him…”We only have 20 minutes to get to Harvard Business School to pitch our idea to repurpose military surplus into bags and to work with veteran American manufacturers and donate part of our profits to veteran organizations!” [H]e waved us in and gave us a ride. It was a pretty lucky moment…
Was luck really the deciding factor? I doubt it. Faced with such a hyper-specific onslaught of enthusiasm, purpose, brains, and brass, what snow plow man — no matter how grizzled — could say no? Who among us would be so gripped with frozen-hearted pessimism that he’d turn such a pitch aside? It’s unimaginable.
The Nuñez sisters have created a recipe that is impossible to deny. Their products are excellent, unique, and sustainable. Their company is staffed by veterans at every level. Their profits are charitably apportioned. Their eyes are on the horizon and their mission is to serve.
A former U.S. Army’s Special Forces officer has been arrested in Alexandria, VA, and charged with passing secrets of American military units and personnel to the Russian military intelligence arm (GRU) for over a decade.
Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins, 45, was recruited by Russian intelligence operatives as he considered himself a “son of Russia,” according to a 17-page indictment that was released after his arrest.
John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security said that,
“Debbins violated his oath as a U.S. Army officer, betrayed the Special Forces and endangered our country’s national security by revealing classified information to Russian intelligence officers, providing details of his unit, and identifying Special Forces team members for Russian intelligence to try to recruit as a spy [sic]. Our country put its highest trust in this defendant, and he took that trust and weaponized it against the United States.”
Debbins is the second person this week charged by the Justice Department for transmitting U.S. secrets to a foreign country. In the other case, a former CIA officer in Hawaii (Alexander Yuk Ching Ma) was arrested and charged with spying for China.
Debbins first agreed to spy for Russia back in 1996 when he was an ROTC cadet. His mother had been born in the former Soviet Union and Debbins told Russian GRU operatives who were trying to recruit him that he considered himself “a son of Russia.” He had told his Russian handlers that he considered the United States “too dominant” in world matters and that it “needed to be cut down to size.”
The GRU gave Debbins the code name “Ikar Lesnikov.”
In 1997 he married a Russian woman, the daughter of a Russian military officer from the Russian city of Chelyabinsk.
After graduating from the University of Minnesota and being assigned to a Chemical Co. in Korea, Debbins returned to Russia. He briefed his handlers on his unit, its mission, and personnel during a subsequent visit to Russia.
He offered to take a polygraph test for his handlers when they asked if he was working for an American intelligence agency. He told them that he wished to leave the military, but they encouraged him to stay. They further urged Debbins to apply for and join the Special Forces. He was told that “he was of no use to the Russian intelligence service as an infantry commander.” Debbins passed Special Forces Selection (SFAS) and the qualification course (SFQC) and was assigned as a captain in the 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (1-10 SFG).
On another trip to Russia, he briefed his GRU contacts about his SF unit, its personnel, locations, and mission. Debbins had his security clearance suspended and command of his A-Team revoked for an unspecified security violation in 2004 or 2005. He then left the military in 2005 with an honorable discharge, according to the indictment.
In subsequent meetings with his GRU handlers, Debbins disclosed information about his unit’s deployments to Azerbaijan and Georgia that were deemed “SECRET/NOFORN.” Debbins also gave the GRU the names of his former team members knowing that the Russians sought the “information for the purpose of evaluating whether to approach the team members to see if they would cooperate with the Russian intelligence service.” He also passed the names of two American counter-intelligence agents who tried to recruit him for an operation.
Once his active duty service was over he began to work for a Ukrainian steel company in Minnesota through his Russian contacts. He remained a member of the Reserves until 2010. During this time his security clearance was reinstated by an Army adjudicator, although he was warned that his family and business connections to Russia might make him “the target of a foreign intelligence service.”
Debbins was a “true believer” and not motivated by monetary gains. In fact, when the Russians (who are notoriously cheap in the intelligence world when it comes to paying agents) offered him id=”listicle-2647079043″,000 he initially declined it stating that he “loved and was committed to Russia.” He only reluctantly accepted the money as “gratitude for his assistance to the Russian intelligence service.” At a 2003 meeting, he was given a bottle of Cognac and a Russian military uniform.
The Justice Department did not divulge how it came to know that Debbins was spying for Russia. His last contact with his handlers was in 2011 when he told them that moved to the D.C. area (Gainesville, VA).
He will be indicted formally on Monday. He faces life imprisonment if convicted.
“The facts alleged in this case are a shocking betrayal by a former Army officer of his fellow soldiers and his country,” Alan E. Kohler Jr., FBI Assistant Director of the Counterintelligence Division, said in a statement.
As a rookie with the Los Angeles Police Department, Charles Bennett was sitting in his squad car with his white partner when the senior officer turned to Bennett and said, “You’re not black, I’m not white — we’re blue. And trust me; if something ever happens to you at 3 o’clock in the morning, they’re going to call guys, and they’re not going to care what color or nationality you are. They’re going to roll out here and solve the problem and win. We’re going to find out whoever hurt you, and we’re going to arrest them and do what we have to do.”
Those words resonated with Bennett 10 years later when he found himself answering the call to bring justice after a fellow officer’s death.
Charles Bennett retired in 2010 after serving 33 years on the LAPD. Photo courtesy of Charles Bennett.
Bennett started with the LAPD in 1977 and spent his last 10 years as a supervisor within the LAPD’s elite Special Investigation Section (SIS). The SIS completed surveillance on suspected criminals for all of the LAPD’s units and sometimes neighboring departments. Bennett said that his unit had a 99% conviction rate because of the airtight cases they built by observing the suspects planning the robbery, and sometimes watching the crime happen and making an arrest immediately after.
During his 33-year career, he rose through the ranks to detective three, which is a specialized detective who is considered a subject matter expert within the LAPD. He specialized in robbery and tracking down cop killers. One case in particular has always stood out in his mind.
Mylus Mondy was a US Customs and Border Protection agent who was murdered March 9, 2008. Mondy had just left his shift at the Los Angeles International Airport and had stopped by a Bank of America ATM in Ladera Heights, an unincorporated area in Los Angeles.
A robber was holding someone at gunpoint at the ATM location when Mondy went to withdraw from the ATM. When he saw Mondy, the robber struck him on the head with the pistol and demanded money. When Mondy tried to get away, he was shot and killed him.
Bennett’s team was called in to bring the murderer to justice. The team spent approximately a day and half chasing down leads, gathering evidence, and identifying different addresses to surveil.
Bennett supervised while one of his rookies in SIS sat “on the point,” gathering information on traffic to and from one of the locations, scanning for their suspect, and collecting every little detail that might lead to an arrest. Suddenly, the rookie broke radio silence to report, “Boss, it’s No. 1, and he’s on the move.”
Footage from the security camera footage at the ATM where US Customs and Border Protection agent Mylus Mondy was shot and killed. Photo courtesy of Charles Bennett.
Bennett asked if he was absolutely sure.
“I’m 1,000% sure,” the new officer fired back. Bennett ordered his man to let the suspect turn the corner and avoid alerting him of their presence in front of his house. Bennett knew others might be inside the suspect’s house and, if alerted, would destroy any evidence the SIS unit would need to finalize charges against him.
As 23-year-old McKenzie Carl Bryant turned the corner, the SIS team waited patiently. Once there was a good cushion of distance between Bryant and his house, they brought down the hammer and arrested him.
“That guy is doing life without possibility of parole now, and you know, it was a really good feeling,” Bennett said of Bryant’s arrest. “You understand that you just got justice for a fellow officer who you didn’t know. You didn’t need to know him because you knew he was out there doing his job the best he could, and he didn’t deserve what happened to him.”
Footage from the security camera footage at the ATM where US Customs and Border Protection agent Mylus Mondy was shot and killed. Photo courtesy of Charles Bennett.
The all-hands-on-deck approach to cases like Mondy’s murder is what Bennett enjoyed most about working within SIS, as well as their ability to remain silent professionals. He said there were officers who worked on tracing leads and then fed verified information to the officers conducting ground surveillance. Though some LAPD units knew what SIS was doing, the unit largely remained anonymous. The LAPD command handled press conferences regarding the work of the SIS unit but never named them.
“We always go to the fallen officer’s funeral, which is always sad,” Bennett said.
In another case, Bennett helped arrest three of the five men responsible for the death of an officer.
“There were a lot of people quietly slapping us on the back, including the chief,” he said.
In those times of sadness, the quiet slaps on the back brought back that “good feeling.” While they couldn’t change what happened, at least they had achieved some kind of justice for the fallen officer and their family.
Morgan Lerette, a former Army intelligence officer who spent 18 months in Iraq, writes about his experience as a Blackwater operative with countless missions in his new book, ‘Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem in Iraq.’ His memoir recounts what it is like to be a modern-day Ronin in the sands of Iraq. At a time when U.S. civilian employers discriminated against hiring veterans, he ventured with Blackwater at the age of 23 at the recommendation of a friend. This was the start of a road bathed in prostitutes, gold, blood and the ruthlessness required to be successful in clandestine operations. Yet, balancing weight retains one’s humanity.
“Blackwater was a real turning point in my life, much more than my stints in the military,” said Lerette, now 40. “I wanted to write about the people, my brothers and how we survived.”
We Are The Mighty, with the support of Onward Press and United States Veterans Artists Alliance, bring you this exclusive interview with a warrior who lived the dream most combat Military Occupational Specialties dream of: to be set loose upon the enemies of the west and give no quarter – for money.
WATM: Politicians constantly debate the morality of hiring contractors to protect our interests abroad, regardless that the practice of hiring mercenaries is as old as war itself. How has Blackwater impacted the evolution of warfare?
I think [people] really have to understand the paradigm of where Blackwater came in. The ground combat ended, and the interim government was created in Iraq. As soon as that interim government was created and we gave them sovereignty, it went from a Department of Defense mission to a Department of State mission.
They didn’t have the power to protect their own diplomats as they were running around all over Iraq. So that’s really where Blackwater came in. The war was not planned well as it was. What compounded it was that Blackwater came in and were told they had diplomatic immunity and the rules of engagement were different than the other soldiers. It opened up this gray space where we could operate autonomously.
There was no check and balance in place.
No grownup supervision of what we were doing, when we were doing it, or how we were doing it. I think that’s really when it went bad. If you don’t have the government agency that you are contracted by in the vehicles with you – there is no way for them to supervise. I don’t put the blame on Blackwater entirely or the State Department entirely. They both failed to make sure that people were doing the right thing at the right time.
WATM: Your book is brutally honest about a different kind of deployment than is usually experienced overseas. How did you forge a bond between you and your peers to become brothers?
It is very similar to what you go through in the military. You go in there with a number of people you recently met, who you would not normally come into contact with, and are tasked with protecting an individual and each other. You can’t trust that the Iraqis are going to welcome you with open arms. You can’t expect that the State Department people are going to be able to help you out. You have to trust and count on that person sitting next to you with their body armor and rifle.
The bonding was very similar [in that aspect]. Where it was dissimilar is when you come home from a contract there is no support system. As a unit in the Army or the Air Force, you leave as a unit and come back as a unit. You go to your base and it’s comfortable.
As a contractor it’s really just you.
Your new buddies, people whom you would literally die for and would die for you, are scattered across the nation. It makes it hard to keep that camaraderie, so people start chasing those contracts. They go back for the camaraderie and adrenaline of war. Whereas in the military they tell you when to go.
WATM: Some corporations have propaganda that they will hire veterans but when it comes time to put their money where their mouth is, they do not. How has this barrier for veterans to assimilate into the civilian world affected recruitment to companies like Blackwater?
It definitely helped. When I got into Blackwater in 2004 you had a number of special operations soldiers that have trained for years and years and they never really got to do their job. [For example] you had a guy who trained for [a job] for three years and at the end of it they say ‘okay, that was great, but I still want to [keep doing it.’] That’s where a lot of these guys were: special operations, SEALs, Rangers, Recon Marines and they didn’t get to go to war like they were trained for.
This was their chance to extend that service – to get their war.
Blackwater definitely took advantage that there were people who haven’t seen combat but were trained for it. Even to this day, since I came out with the book ‘Welcome to Blackwater,’ people say to me, ‘Well, how do I join?’
Those companies are saying, ‘This is your chance at war, Iraq has dwindled down to 2,500 troops and Afghanistan the same way. They get there and they sit as a gate guard and they’re frustrated because they really think this is their chance. It’s just not the way it was back then and you don’t have the option of finding that fortune like you used to.
WATM: Current and former members of the military have this idea that Private Military Contracting is the final frontier of combat. Would you encourage or discourage their pursuit of fortune?
Yeah, so, the money dried up a number of years ago. It’s definitely not paying what it did when I was with Blackwater in 2004-05. Not only has the money dried up but so have the missions. It used to be a lot of escorting diplomats around combat zones. Now, the majority of jobs are within site security.
Gate guard, tower guard.
Whereas we were making around $210,000 a year, if you’re a gate guard in Kuwait, you’re going to make around $60,000 a year. I would not encourage anyone to go to the final frontier because the final frontier is no longer available.
WATM: Onward Press is an avenue for warriors to give up the sword and pick up the pen. What was your experience working with them on ‘Welcome to Blackwater’?
Onward press is specifically looking for people who have been in the military community, such as spouses, who want to get their story told and be able to tell that story well. Every veteran has an amazing story and being able to put that on paper, get it done, put it on Amazon and be able to purchase it – it takes professionals to do that.
So, Onward Press bridged that gap for me.
They were able to say ‘yes, you do have a good story, you have a good voice, but here’s how you should be able to frame it. Here’s how you get started, here’s where you need to add stuff, here’s where you need to take out stuff. In order to make sure the story was entertaining, and it flowed and people would actually be interested in it.
It’s an awesome organization but writing your experience is very cathartic. Even if I don’t become a bestseller, it’s almost a way for me to give my story over to paper. It took some of the burden I have carried with me throughout my almost three years in Iraq. To be able to give that over to something else, for that reason, it is very, very cathartic.
WATM: Is there anything you would like to say to our readers and the military community?
There is honor in service. There are a lot of extremely intelligent people that don’t have college degrees that do the same thing as me. I’m not unique or special. What I was, was willing to reach out. I couldn’t get to where I needed to go. That goes all the way back to reaching out to figure out my G.I. Bill, to figure out the VA, to getting my book about Blackwater to a publisher and get published.
Whether you’ve spent three to 30 years in the military, set that pride aside and ask for help. If I hadn’t asked for help there is no way I could have published Welcome to Blackwater.
A lot of these stories about soldiers, airmen, sailors, Marines would be lost if we can’t get them documented.
So, reach out. Heck, reach out to me. Go to my website www.welcometoblackwater.com and shoot me an email and I’ll get back to you. I’m always willing to help.
‘Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem in Iraq’ is available now on Amazon.
About Onward Press
Onward Press is the publishing imprint of the United States Veterans Artists Alliance, Inc., a 501-c-3 educational non-profit. www.usvaa.org
Our mission is to publish well-written, compelling books by military veterans, spouses, military brats, and other family members. Also, people who served in other agencies overseas and their family members.
We are interested in great stories well-told, and are not limited to military, veteran or government-service topics. We publish literary novels, non-fiction, memoirs, mystery, true crime, suspense-thrillers, to name just a few.
All books are available as e -books, trade paperbacks, hardcover and audio. We pay royalties to our authors and provide editorial guidance and engaging cover art.Onward Press is open for submissions. Please see Submission Guidelines.
Learn more about Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem, here.
When the English military needs to train its newest Gurkha recruits on English language and culture, they take them to the Gothic, fog-covered abbey that inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula for some cruel reason. Then, they urge them to buy fish and chips from local vendors for some even crueler reason.
A British Gurkha soldier watches down his rifle barrel for threats during an exercise with U.S. troops.
(U.S. Army William B. King)
Gurkha soldiers, for those who haven’t heard, are elite troops recruited out of the Gurkha region of Nepal. Troops from the kingdom stomped the British and the British East India Company in the 1760s and again during the Anglo-Nepalese War, which ran from 1814 to 1816. The Gurkhas defeated so many British troops that the East India Company hired them for future conflicts — if you can’t beam ’em, hire ’em.
This mercenary force proved itself over the years and, eventually, the Gurkhas were brought into the regular British Army in special regiments. Now, they’re elite units famous for their controlled savagery in combat.
When Gurkhas See The Sea For The First Time | Forces TV
Today, the Gurkhas are still recruited out of the mountains of Nepal. While they’re assessed on their English skills during the selection process, many young recruits from Nepal generally know little of the language and culture of the nation they swear to defend.
So, the British government gives them classes and takes them on field trips to historic sites. Oddly enough, one of the historical sites they take them to is the abbey in Whitby, North Yorkshire — the site that inspired Dracula.
“Thank you for defending England. Too bad it’s haunted, eh?”
The Whitby Abbey ruins which helped inspire the story that would become ‘Dracula.’
(Ackers72, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Bram Stoker visited a friend in Whitby in July, 1890 — and it was a Gothic writer’s dream. It had the old abbey ruins, a church infested with bats, and large deposits of the black stone jet, often used in mourning jewelry.
Stoker was working on a novel about “Count Wampyr” when he arrived, but it was in a library in Whitby that he learned about Vlad Tepes, the impalement-happy prince whose nickname was Dracula, meaning “son of the dragon.” Stoker also learned about a Russian ship that had crashed nearby while carrying a load of sand. He tweaked the name of the ship to create the ship Dracula used to move his home soil and coffin to England.
In ‘Dracula,’ the titular monster lands on the coast of Whitby — at a place like this — before climbing the abbey’s steps and beginning a reign of terror.
(Andrew Bone, CC BY 2.0)
In the novel, Dracula’s ship runs aground at Whitby and the “Black Dog” runs up the abbey’s 199 steps to begin terrorizing the English residents.
Now, Gurkhas tour the area to learn about Stoker and absorb some English history.
After their tour, the Gurkhas are encouraged to try out the local delicacy, fish and chips (for the fiercely American among us, “chips” means “french fries”). This may not seem like additional horror, but since Nepal is known for spicy curry and the English are known for using vinegar as a condiment, this is honestly the cruelest part of the lesson.
When you’re only given 280 characters, you better make them count. I can’t say most Twitter users succeed in this endeavor. I searched through the craziness to find the military tweets of the week. Enjoy these gems.
1. Kit Up
Some adjust more easily than others..
Wait, who has military housing with a bannister?
3. Relationship Problems
I’m not sure if I should laugh or be concerned.
4. Fighting Words
I’d watch a competition between the Rockettes and the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon.
5. E-4 Mafia
I’m not sure of the strategy, but it would be interesting.
6. A PCS Christmas
We’ll be finding these stickers until the end of time.
7. It’s Go Time
The after picture wouldn’t be so exciting.
I have a feeling the recon folks will disagree.
9. Marines and Crayons
I’ll have to research the oorah borealis.
10. The LT
I see how the Lieutenant can be confused.
Where else do you learn to sleep standing up?
Only in the Marines.
13. Life Goals
Some people thrive in chaos.
We know the barbers on base only know one way to cut.
When people meet Capt. Kelsey Casey, they don’t initially think the petite, young woman with an energetic personality is a pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps, but once she starts talking, her charisma becomes apparent, and it’s understandable why she’s the only female AV-8B Harrier pilot in the Marine Corps.
Her dream of flying started at space camp at a young age. To her delight, she was picked to be the simulated pilot and climbed into a small, fake cockpit built to simulate a spaceship taking off.
“Coming out of the final mission, we walked down a hall and all along the walls were these giant posters with every single astronaut team that had been to space,” Casey’s voice changed as she remembered, her eyes searching for the memory. “There were women in some of the later ones. I looked up at that and thought, ‘if they can do it, maybe I can too.’ That’s where it started.”
Casey attended the U.S. Naval Academy following high school. She planned to major in aerospace engineering and Chinese, but learned she would have to attend a year longer than planned, putting her at the bottom of the list to be a pilot. This eliminated her goal of becoming a pilot via the academy route. To fulfill her dream, Casey had only one option — leave the academy.
Casey found herself trekking across the country with everything she owned, trying to navigate her way through a snowstorm. She was alone, scared and her dreams seemed unattainable.
Capt. Kelsey Casey.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeanette Mullinax)
It was her insatiable tenacity and refined grit which led her through the years that followed.
“I’m driving across the country, calling my mom for directions while she also signs me up for courses at a community college in California,” Casey said. “All I could think was ‘wow, my family is going to disown me, I just left this amazing school with a full-ride scholarship, what am I going to do?’ It was a scary thing to go through as a 19-year-old, but it made me better.”
The way Casey saw it, she had only two options: give up or complete her degree and fly. She chose the latter, and like all Marines, attacked the obstacles in front of her to accomplish her mission.
“She was always a little fireball and tireless,” said Nyna Armstrong, Casey’s mother. “She never grows any moss, she’s always moving and is always going in whatever direction she wants despite what challenges she might [face].”
After leaving the academy, Casey made her way to the Bay Area to attend San Francisco State University. During her senior year at SFSU, Casey found herself longing to return to the Naval Academy to fulfill her dream. Again she applied to the academy but was denied. At this point in her life, she was accustomed to adversity and was experienced at overcoming it.
Refusing to give up, she sought out information and spoke to mentors, who encouraged her to pursue a career as a military officer. As a result of her unwillingness to quit, she found a way to accomplish her dream. After she earned a Bachelor of the Arts degree in political science at SFSU, Casey left for Marine Corps Officer Candidate School.
“My daughters and I never look to have special treatment because we are women,” said Armstrong. “The fact she is the only female is a testament to her skill and her drive and her work ethic.”
Though her experience with the Marine Corps has been mostly positive, there have been interesting moments for Casey.
While sitting at breakfast with her Marines, a nice older gentlemen with a veteran hat approached them, Casey explained. They all were in flight suits and wearing the same patches when the gentleman asked their table if they were all pilots. He seemed surprised to see Casey and specifically asked her if they let her fly. She laughed and informed him that not only was she a pilot, but she was also the one in charge.
Capt. Kelsey Casey.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeanette Mullinax)
Interactions like these are somewhat common and highlight a misconception of gender roles in the military; situations such as this motivate Casey to keep proving them wrong.
“As you move, you just keep on making that shift until you finally look around and realize you’ve made it,” she said. “But I don’t feel like I’ve really made it until I’m at an event somewhere and someone comes up to me, and they say ‘I want my daughter or my son to be like you, you are a fantastic role model.'”
Casey believes that the most important lesson is to keep moving forward — an ethos she learned from her uncle, who told her “they can’t kill you, and they can’t stop time.” This advice has helped her overcome many obstacles.
“It’s okay if it doesn’t work out the first time, and you make horrible mistakes because the next thing you know, I ended up getting internships, worked at the state department as an intern, and I worked in a congressman’s office,” said Casey. “I also moved to Colorado to be raft guide for a while before going to The Basic School because I could and then I still ended up going to TBS, commissioning as an officer and becoming a pilot.”
Casey has come a long way since being that wide-eyed little girl with aspirations of flying.
“I don’t think I’m better than anybody else ever,” she said. “I’m very good at failing but I don’t give up after I fail. Just don’t give up. It might take way longer than you thought, it might be really, really hard but anything that’s worth it is going to be hard but it will be worth it.”
Despite a difficult start, Casey succeeded and continued to excel. She completed her training and earned her wings of gold.
But as hard as it is to sing, when it is done right, it is one of the most rousing pieces of music one can hear. Whether the singer goes the traditional route or decides to add a little bit of flourish, the song can get you right in the feels.
Here are some of the more memorable renditions of the national anthem.
You can argue she has one of the top five Super Bowl halftime shows ever. (That catch is legendary)
But in 2016, Lady Gaga put her talented voice to work and delivered a rousing version of the anthem. What followed was a clinic to young singers on how to add personal flair to the song while still not taking attention away from the song itself.
Ok, I know… this version didn’t take place at a sports event. In fact, it was probably the farthest from a sporting event that it could be. In the days after 9/11, with flights in and around the States shut down, many Americans found themselves stranded overseas during one of the darkest moments in American history.
In London, many found themselves wandering around and milling about tourist spots.
The Queen, breaking royal tradition, allowed the Star-Spangled Banner to be played during the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.
Make all the Royal Family jokes you want, but this was one of the classiest moves of all.
After the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, Bostonians and the rest of the country rallied together in unity. One of the best examples of this was the first Bruins game after the bombing. After a touching tribute to the victims, Rene Rancourt, the Bruins long-time singer, started singing the anthem.
Two lines in, he did what most singers don’t do…. He stopped.
Realizing the crowd was taking over out of emotion, Rancourt let them run with it.
There are times when we truly come together as Americans, and this was one of them.
At Super Bowl XXV, America and her Allies were ten days into the air assault portion of the Gulf War. The biggest military engagement since Vietnam, Americans were rightfully worried for the aviators flying sorties over Iraq and the troops who were preparing for the inevitable ground assault to liberate Kuwait.
In fact, ABC didn’t even air the halftime show, instead cutting to an ABC News Special Report with Peter Jennings.
This was also a unique time. With the combination of media attention because of the war, the recent fall of communism in Eastern Europe, and the growth of global television, this Super Bowl was one of the first broadcast around the world, reaching over 750 million people.
Enter Whitney Houston.
Wearing a simple tracksuit and backed by the Florida Orchestra, Houston started off strong and only got stronger. Known for her powerful vocals, she gave us one of the most tremendous renditions of our anthem our country has seen to this day. The nation went crazy for it, to the point it was released as a single and got to #20 in the Billboard Top 100. (Houston donated the proceeds to charity).
This is the benchmark singers are measured against when taking on the Star Spangled Banner.
The national anthem is definitely not easy to sing, but when it’s done right, there’s nothing better.
Everyone who enters the US military these days will go through basic training. Although each branch of the military (including the Coast Guard) has a markedly different experience in their initial training days, there are things a young would-be troop can know and do to prepare themselves mentally and physically for whatever service they’re about to enter, regardless of gender.
Prepare to fear and then respect the campaign hat, pukes.
Tech. Sgt. Edroy Robinson, 331st Training Squadron military training instructor, observes as new Air Force basic training arrivals prepare to get a haircut May 20, 2015, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Johnny Saldivar)
Show up with a neat appearance.
Your fellow trainees/recruits will appreciate this. You will appreciate this eventually. You probably know before going that part of basic military training means you will be stripped of your hair and your civilian clothes. You will be given the same haircut as everyone else and wear the same clothes as everyone else. But before that happens, there’s a lot of waiting.
When you get off the bus, you will be tired and maybe dirty from traveling all day. You will feel gross. None of that will matter, though. Your introduction to military service begins with a hurry up and wait that could take most of a day and into the next. You may not see a rack or shower for some time. If you prepared for this, you and those around you will be grateful.
New recruits with Lima Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, make their initial phone calls home at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, May 21, 2018.
(MCRD San Diego)
This goes double for Marine Corps recruits. The goal is to not draw attention to yourself, to try to blend in. The whole time you were tired from getting to basic training, the drill instructors/drill sergeants/training instructors/recruit division commanders were watching you. The first thing they notice about you could stick with you for the entire time you’re in boot camp.
Consider a plain-colored tee shirt or other comfortable gear to wear to basic training.
Don’t take it personally.
The men and women in charge of shaping your civilian lump into a part of the world’s best combined-arms fighting force have been doing it for some time. They know exactly what it means to be a part of your entry in the U.S. Military. As a matter of fact, their basic training to teach your basic training was much, much more difficult than your basic training.
Training new recruits is one of the hardest jobs to get and keep in the U.S. military, and those who wear the Smokey Bear hat went through a lot to be there. No one cares more about making you a capable fighter than the person under that hat. If they’re giving you a hard time, there’s a reason for it.
A basic combat training soldier acting as a casualty is carried by members of his squad toward their command post after a simulated attack on their patrol July 20, 2016, during his BCT company’s final field training exercise at Fort Jackson, S.C.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Javier Amador)
Move like you mean it.
They’re awake before you are and they go to bed after you do. They put all their time and effort into molding you into the shapes of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines. The least you can do is act like it means something to you. If you aren’t “moving with a sense of urgency” by the end of the first week, you’re showing total disrespect to everyone around you who is.
Be in some kind of shape.
Compared to most of the other things you’ll do with your life – especially your military life – basic training is rather easy. But it will be a whole lot more difficult for you if you were so out of shape in your civilian life that you may not hack it as a U.S. troop. But your window for getting in shape doesn’t have to be limited to the eight to twelve weeks you’ll spend in basic military training. If you can show up halfway there, you’ll be doing yourself a real favor.
An Air Force Basic Military Training dining facility.
(U.S. Air Force)
Learn how to address others.
Every branch has different rules for this in basic training, but it’s one of those little things that can show your instructors some respect while opening doors for you – literally. You will have to learn how to refer to your instructors, how to refer to yourself, and how to speak to those in your chain of command. You will have to do this for almost everything from answering questions to eating to going to the bathroom.
Life is so much easier when you know how to respond in these situations.
It gets better.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
Do not ever think of giving up.
When you arrive, there will likely be a quick flash where you wonder just what the hell you’ve gotten yourself into. A quick situational awareness check will tell you that there are hundreds of others around you, doing the same thing, probably having the same idea. Everyone else will push past the defeatism and embrace the situation – and you will not be happy until you do the same.
For most people who go through the military, finishing basic training is one of the most satisfying achievements of their lives. For the people that quit, it becomes their biggest regret. The choice is simple.
When Army Veteran Corrin Lee Mac heard of the Lebanon VA Medical Center and Lebanon Valley College’s The Seeing Lens group, she thought the idea was “far-fetched.” The 10-week therapeutic photography group is for Veterans in recovery. However, as Mac–pictured above–went through the program, she discovered that it worked for her. “It promotes mindfulness. Looking through the lens, this second in time, you are here in the moment.”
Veterans who participate in The Seeing Lens are issued a camera and textbook for duration of the program. Each week focuses on a different aspect of recovery and ties it to a photographic technique. For example, clarity and attention are linked with the concepts of aperture and depth of field.
Members of the inaugural group had their photos displayed in an exhibit at Lebanon Valley College and the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The exhibit will return to Lebanon VAMC later this year.
Graduates gathered at the college to talk about the impact the program and the exhibit had on their lives.
“Every Veteran can experience it in their own way, but something that would be in common between Veterans was the supportive nature of it, the non-judgmental atmosphere, ” said Army Veteran Robin Ann Pottoroff.
You are more thoughtful and creative.
“It makes you slow down and look at the world in a different way,” said Navy Veteran Mike Robertson. “You are more thoughtful and creative. It calms a racing brain.”
Lebanon VAMC recreation therapist Amy Cook, a founder of the program, was struck by “really seeing what the camera can do as a recovery tool. Once the Veteran picked up the camera, it was life-changing.”
Project alumni suggested that other Veterans in recovery give The Seeing Lens a try.
“Give it a shot. It worked for me,” said Navy Veteran Patrick Dougherty. “And I was the most negative person, a naysayer. So if it helped me, it can pretty much help anyone.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.