Crown Royal’s iconic purple bag can be seen on the shelves of most, if not all, Class Sixes on military installations. While the blended whisky itself is popular, the velvety bag is often used by troops to carry more delicate items into the field. If you’re thinking about packing your Nintendo Switch so that you can keep yourself occupied on fire guard, a Crown Royal bag offers a simple and convenient pouch that can be found in most barracks. For 2020, the Canadian whisky company has decided to take a more direct approach to supporting the troops.
Partnering with Packages From Home, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, Crown Royal is asking customers to send in their surplus purple bags and is turning every donated bag into a care package to be sent to service members around the world with the Purple Bag Project. A free, prepaid shipping label can be requested from Crown Royal through an online submission form. Packages From Home provides food, personal care, and recreational items in their care packages to deployed service members across all branches of the military.
Crown Royal has made the donation process extremely simple. After entering your age on the website and confirming that you are 21 years old or older, you are able to select four of the eight most requested and needed items to be sent in the care package. The options of beef jerky, cookies, fruit snacks, nuts, peanut butter singles, popcorn, protein/granola bars, and tea are all welcome sights to any service members deployed downrange. You also have the option to include a personal message with your care package.
Once you’ve made your selections of snacks and typed your message, hit submit and Crown Royal takes care of the rest. You can send up to 10 care packages through the Purple Bag Project. The care packages will be distributed through Packages From Home who determines the destination and recipients of the packages. With this simple process, Crown Royal aims to parcel up 1 million bags by the end of 2020. Packages can be submitted until November 30, 2020.
The announcement of the Space Force has plenty of us waiting for the day that the first recruitment office opens up. After all, who wouldn’t want to go into space?
Sure, the Space Force isn’t going to be doing a bunch of sci-fi bad*ssery for a long while yet. In fact, the Space Force is likely going to spend more time monitoring satellites than training space shuttle door gunners, but let’s pretend that the day will eventually come where we need to send grunts into the great, dark beyond…
I hate to say it, but it’s still going to suck — and for some unexpected reasons, most of which stem from being outside of the Earth’s atmosphere.
I’m highly confident that it’d be a terrible idea.
(20th Century Fox)
5. You’re going to have to ration everything
When it comes to the essentials, resupplies are going to be limited. When it comes to the extras, you know, the little things that make life comfortable? Ha! Good luck getting mom to ship those out to you. If you want something, you’re going to have to bring it yourself and make it last.
Right off the bat, you’re going to have to go without most of the junk that everyone takes for granted. Chances are extremely slim that you’ll be able to convince the next wave of spacemen (in lieu of an official demonym, let’s assume they’ll be called ‘spacemen,’ like ‘airmen’) to take up valuable cargo space just to bring you a bag of chips.
The Earth is pretty and all, but you can only stare down at the Big Blue Marble so many times…
4. You won’t have many pastime options
Astronauts have a very strict schedule they need to follow or else they’ll be too weak to survive their eventual return. The average astronaut needs to exercise at least two hours a day to just to prevent bone and muscle loss. Since most troops tend to need more exercise to stay at peak performance, this figure will more than likely double.
Combine all that self-maintenance with an actual mission and troops are going to find themselves with barely any time to take a break.
Just imagine, you could pay off your Ford Mustang by the time you get out of atmosphere.
3. You probably won’t get any extra incentives for being in space
Colonel Buzz Aldrin was one of the finest airmen to ever grace the Air Force. He made history alongside Neil Armstrong by being the first men to ever step foot on the moon. Since he was on active duty, he submitted a travel voucher. For his 483,636-mile journey, he got a whole .31.
Once upon a time, you’d get a load of cash at the end of a TDY trip, but that per-mile rate is probably going to be non-existent when you’re travelling 4.76 miles per second.
It’s like being in a slightly less comfortable Humvee for weeks. Only slightly, though.
(NASA photo by Bill Bowers)
2. You shouldn’t expect any kind of personal space in space
Once you’re on a space ship, that’s it. You obviously can’t leave the ship, so get comfortable, because you’re going to be packed in with your unit. If you’re claustrophobic, you’re probably going to go nuts.
This isn’t unlike what some submariners deal with, but subs surface every once in a while — and there’s a difference of magnitude here. The Apollo 11 capsule was roughly the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. Granted, the crew was in there for only eleven days and modern astronauts have a bit more leg room, but if you’re up there for months at a time…
“Well, guys. I’m out. Have fun in space!”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Volkmar Wentzel)
1. After a while, your body won’t function like you’re used to
There’s no real order to the fairly terrible things listed here, but this one definitely takes the top spot. To put this in the most delicate way possible to stay in line with the family-friendly vibe we strive for here at We Are The Mighty, it has to be noted that astronauts run into health concerns after spending extended periods of space time. First, you’ll find your red blood cell count has dipped. Zero-gravity also makes the circulation of blood more evenly spread throughout the body, as opposed to it being able to concentrate in the lower extremities, like it does in regular gravity.
As Thanksgiving approaches, Navy Culinary Specialists (CS) around the world are preparing to serve sailors a healthy variety of traditional fare.
This year, the Navy plans to serve an estimated 105,000 pounds of roast turkey, 24,000 pounds of stuffing, 54,000 pounds of mashed potatoes, 20,000 pounds of sweet potatoes, 5,000 pounds of cranberry sauce, and 4,500 gallons of gravy.
In support of the Navy’s ongoing Go for Green nutrition awareness program, the food offered in shore and ship galleys during Thanksgiving will be labeled to encourage healthy food choices; green (eat often), yellow (eat occasionally), and red (eat rarely), along with a salt shaker graphic to measure sodium content. The food classification is based on calories, total fat, cholesterol, and sodium content. Go for Green encourages healthier food and beverage selections to support peak physical and cognitive performance of sailors. The Navy food service team takes professional pride in their quality service and important contributions to fleet health and readiness.
The combined leadership of Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, and U.S. Embassy Djibouti staff, serve a Thanksgiving meal to forward-deployed service members, civilians, and contractors, Nov. 22, 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Shannon D. Barnwell)
About 7,000 Culinary Specialists serve in our Navy today. They receive extensive training in culinary arts, hotel management and other hospitality industry areas. Culinary Specialists provide food service, catering and hospitality services for sailors, senior government executives, and within the White House Mess for the President of the United States.
They are responsible for all aspects of the shipboard mess decks and shore duty living areas, and are vital to maintaining high crew morale on ships, construction battalions and shore bases.
A line of hot sauces on a table at Fort Hunter-Liggett, California.
Now, don’t panic, but there is a lethal limit of hot sauce. Well, at least there is a limit in theory. There’s no record of a person ever drinking hot sauce to death, and very few cases of lethal pepper exposure. But you’re not going to run into the limit just dashing hot sauce on your MRE, no matter how poorly spiced the components are out of the packaging.
An Army lieutenant general visits with his troops, but they can’t stop thinking about the hot sauces on their table that they’d rather be spending time with.
Tabasco is a bit more diluted than straight peppers, and much less concentrated than the most potent chili powders. Tabasco has between 100 and 300 mg of Capaiscin per kilogram.
And researchers have estimated the lethal dose of a human at between 60 and 190mg/kg (that’s based on mouse research, though). A 180-pound Marine weighs just over 81.5 kilograms. And so he or she would need to eat just over 15.5 grams of straight capsaicin.
In a 1982 study, scientists studied the lethal dose of not just capsaicin, but Tabasco in particular. Using their estimates, half of Marines/adults weighing 150 pounds would be killed if they consumed 1,400 ml. That’s over 40 ounces of Tabasco. Yup, you would need to switch out the 40 of beer after work for one of Tabasco to get a lethal dose.
And those packets in MREs? Those are about 1/8 an ounce each, so over 320 packets all at once. And the death would not be pretty.
Fisher House recently announced partnership with TerraCycle, Gillette and CVS Pharmacy for a new razor recycling initiative. Not only will they aim to make a positive impact on the environment, but serve military families while they do it.
“How it works is that you collect all your shave products. The boxes, cartridges and the razors. Keep them until the end of August and mail them to TerraCycle,” said Michelle Baldanza, Vice President of Communications for Fisher House Foundation. CVS is providing the free shipping label for those participating. She continued, “The most weight that’s sent to them by state per capita – the winner of that – will get a playground for their Fisher House.”
In the press release for the initiative, TerraCycle CEO Tom Szaky said, “We are happy to align with these forward-thinking companies to give communities the opportunity to engage around a free, easy recycling solution that supports veterans and their families.” Fisher House Foundation is proud to partner with other nonprofits and organizations to continue to serve military families.
This initiative is open to anyone who wants to participate. It also creates a unique opportunity for military bases to get involved and create friendly competition with their neighboring states. Should a state win that already has a playground for their Fisher House, another project of similar value will be approved. If for some reason there is not a Fisher House in the state that wins, one within the closest geographic proximity will be chosen instead.
Most Fisher Houses are located near major medical or VA facilities and are completely free for troops and their families to stay at while a loved one is receiving treatment. Fisher House Foundation now boasts 88 comfort homes for military families. They are breaking ground on a new home in Kansas City in a few months and opening one in New Orleans at the end of the year. The comfort homes are scattered across the United States, with a few in Europe.
The Landstuhl Fisher House in Germany is a vital house as it is next to the medical facility that troops injured in combat go through for treatment. “They started it just after a bombing in the 90s and finished it just before 9/11. The timing was really incredible that it happened right before the surge,” Baldanza shared.
Each Fisher House is between 5,000 to 16,800 square feet in size. There are up to 21 suites and are all professional furnished and decorated. Each can also accommodate between 16 to 42 family members. The homes are gifted to either the DOD or VA when they are completed.
“For 16 years we’ve had four star charity ratings. Between 93 percent to 95 percent of what we bring in goes right back into the Fisher Houses. They know what we do goes to the service members, families and veterans,” Baldanza explained. Fisher House also boasts an A+ grade from Charity Watch.
According to their website, Fisher House served over 32,000 families in 2019 alone. They’ve also given million in scholarships to military children and given out over 70,000 airline tickets with their Hero Miles program. When an injured service member is receiving treatment and there is no Fisher House, they put their families in nearby hotels with their Hotels for Heroes program.
Baldanza expressed that Fisher House Foundation is only a part of the puzzle of support that cares for veterans and their families – it takes a village. This is one of the main reasons that they continually build partnerships, like the recent one with TerraCycle, CVS and Gillette. Together, they know they can accomplish so much more for military families.
“There are so many needs that are out there, it’s hard to fill them all. We [Fisher House Foundation] try to take care of those basic burdens so that family members can heal with their loved ones and help their loved ones heal too,” Baldanza explained. She continued, “We always say ‘a family’s love is the best medicine’ and that’s the goal – to keep these families together.”
To learn more about Fisher House Foundation or to join in on their latest initiative, click here.
The world is full of unwritten rules. Don’t make eye contact over a urinal wall. Order your usual or cheaper food when a friend is picking up the tab. I before E except after C or when sounded as eh as in neighbor and weigh, or when its the word science and a bunch of other exceptions. (That last one is less useful than others.) Here are seven rules that all soldiers pick up:
Yes. You suddenly outrank most people in the room. Congratulations. Now, please recognize that you don’t know anything yet.
(U.S. Army Spc. Isaiah Laster)
The LT absolutely does not outrank the sergeant major or first sergeant
Sure, on paper, all Army officers outrank all enlisted and warrant officers in the military. But new second lieutenants have zero experience in the Army while chief warrant officers 4 and 5 generally have over a decade and platoon sergeants and above have 10-ish or more experience as well. So none of those seasoned veterans are kowtowing to kids because they happen to have a diploma and commission.
Instead, they mentor the lieutenants, sometimes by explaining that the lieutenant needs to shut up and color.
“Hey, POG! Can I get my paycheck?” “No.”
(U.S. Army Sgt. Elizabeth White)
Finance will get it wrong, but you have to be nice anyways
Every time a group of soldiers goes TDY, deploy, or switch units, it’s pretty much guaranteed that at least a few of them will see screwed up paychecks. Get into an airborne slot and need jump pay? Gonna get screwed up. Per diem from a mission? Gonna get messed up.
You better be nice when you go to finance to get it fixed, though. Sure, they might be the ones who screwed it up. But the people who are rude to finance have a lot more headaches while getting pay fixed. So be polite, be professional, and just dream about beating everyone you meet.
(Caveat: If you’re overpaid, do not spend it. Finance will eventually fix the mistake and garnish your wages.)
Your plane is late. And the pilot is drunk. And the fueler is missing. It’s gonna be a while.
(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Alexandria Lee)
All timelines get worse with time
The initial mission or travel plans for any Army scheme will likely have time built in for breaks, for maintenance, for error. But as D-Day comes closer and closer, tweaks and changes will yank all of that flex time out of the timeline until every soldier has to spend every moment jumping out of their own butt just to keep up.
Count on it.
If it’s in your bag and kit, you have it. If it’s on the logistics plan, you might have it. If you have to request it in the field, you probably won’t have it.
(U.S. Army Spc. John Lytle)
Don’t rely on it being there unless you ruck it in
All big missions will have logistics plans, and they might be filled with all sorts of support that sounds great. You’ll get a bunch more ammo and water seven hours after the mission starts, or trucks will bring in a bunch of concertina wire and HESCO barriers, or maybe you’re supposed to have more men and weapons.
Always make a plan like nothing else will show up, like you’ll have only the people already there, the weapons already there, the water and food already there. Because, there’s always a chance that the trucks, the helicopters, or the troops will be needed somewhere else or won’t get through.
Dropping uniform tops, driving in all-terrain vehicles, and piling up sandbags are all fine. But pulling an umbrella in that same weather will cause some real heartache.
(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Carroll)
Officers do not carry umbrellas (neither will anyone else)
This one actually comes from a formerly written rule that literally said that male officers couldn’t carry umbrellas. But the sort of weird thing is that the official rule has been withdrawn, but almost no one carries an umbrella in uniform, and you will be struck down by the first sergeant’s lightning bolt if you tried to bring one to formation.
And God help the soldier dumb enough to bring one to the field.
Don’t steal personal items; don’t steal anything from your own unit
Look, no one likes a soldier who jacks gear. But some units like failing hand receipt inspections even less, so there’s often pressure to get the gear needed by hook or by crook. But there are some rules to grabbing gear or property. (Turns out, there is honor among thieves.)
First, you do not steal personal property. If it belongs to an individual soldier, it’s off-limits. And, if it belongs to your own unit, it’s off-limits. You don’t shift gear in your squad, in your platoon, or often in your company. But for some folks, if there are some chock blocks missing from their trucks, and the sister battalion leaves some lying around, that is fair game.
The guy at the front of the formation is a wealth of knowledge, knowledge that most of his students will be told to forget at some point.
(U.S. Army Spc. Tynisha L. Daniel)
Doesn’t matter how your last unit/drill instructor did it
This is possibly the most important. New soldiers go through all sorts of training, and then their first unit does all sorts of finishing work to get them ready for combat.
But that unit doesn’t care how the drill instructors taught anything in training. And other units don’t care how that first unit did business. Every unit has its own tactics, techniques, and procedures. So when you arrive at a new unit, stash everything you learned before that into a corner of your brain to pull out when useful. But fill the rest of the grey matter with the new units techniques.
In the Air Force fighter community, there is a coveted and rare marker painted near the cockpit of certain planes, just beneath the pilot’s name, rank, and call sign. It’s 6-inch green star with a 1/2-inch black border that signifies that the aircraft has emerged victorious against an enemy jet in aerial combat.
The Army Air Corps and U.S. Air Force have allowed pilots to mark their victories on their fuselages for decades, but the height of the tradition was during World War II when the frequent aerial combat combined with the sheer numbers of planes in the air at once led to dozens of pilots having to kill or be killed on any given day.
In that era of fierce fighting, the U.S. Army Air Corps allowed most pilots to mark their aerial victories with a small replica of the enemy pilot’s flag, placed beneath the pilot’s name on the fuselage. This was typically either a decal or a bit of paint from applied by the ground crew. There were also some cases of fighter groups painting the silhouettes of the planes they had shot down.
But, eventually, the use of flags, silhouettes, and some other markings fell out of favor when it came to aerial victories, though the Air Force does still allow bomber crews to use bomb silhouettes to mark their missions.
But for fighter pilots, it’s now all about the green star, standardized in Air Force Instruction 21-205 as:
“Aerial Victory Marking. Fighter aircraft awarded a verified aerial victory are authorized to display a 6-inch green star with a 1/2 inch black border located just below and centered on the pilot’s name block. The type of aircraft shot down shall be stenciled inside the star in 1/2 inch white lettering. For aircraft with multiple aerial victories, a star is authorized for each aircraft shot down. No other victory markings are authorized.”
Modern aerial victories are rare, not because the U.S. loses but because the Air Force dominates enemy air space so hard and fast that typically only a handful of pilots will actually engage the enemy in the air before the U.S. owns the airspace outright. In Desert Storm, about 30 U.S. pilots achieved aerial kills in about 30 aircraft. At least two of those aircraft, the F-14s, have since retired.
Meanwhile, there are almost 2,000 fighter aircraft in the U.S. inventory. So, yes, the green stars are very rare. So rare, the air wings occasionally brag about the green-star aircraft that are still in their units.
For anyone wondering about how we invaded two countries at the start of this century without shooting down any enemy aircraft, Iraq lost most of its aircraft during Desert Storm and the following year while Afghanistan had no real air force to speak of in 2001. Most aircraft destroyed in Syria were killed on the ground.
Every few years you pick up your life leaving your friends and all that has become familiar to follow the love of your life to a new duty station. PCS…
No matter how many times you move, that same excitement and crazy anxiety to start all over again appears. It is so easy to lose yourself in chaos.
The chaos of getting things settled, finding a job, or just trying to find that normal day to day for your kids!
Starting over is never easy.
Everything is so foreign no matter how much research you do. It is easy to fall into the shadow of the military world around you or just that mom-life, forgetting just who you are. Being able to establish yourself from scratch takes a lot out of you especially when you do it over and over again.
It is easy to say the last place you were was the best. But really each new place is what you make of it.
Finding yourself, or in other words, allowing yourself to bloom is key to thriving in a new place.
But the question is where do you even start? Who are you or who do you want to be?
Being a military spouse or a parent makes up just one tiny piece of that. A new duty station gives you the opportunity for improvements and new goals.
You always wanted to open up your own business, well now is your opportunity.
Take the leap and start taking college courses. Get your degree!
Find your voice again by advocating for your new community.
Just because you are putting down temporary roots does not mean you have to give up on you and what you want! There are many different programs offered at every duty station to help you thrive. From classes on networking, and job assistance to educational resources and volunteer programs. These things put into place to help you benefit yourself.
Mask your fears and try something new.
Do not hide out counting down the days until you move again.
Join the gym, or go to a playgroup with your kids.
Meet new people, you never know when you will find those lifelong friends. You should feel confident in yourself and all that you do or want to do.
Nothing should hold you back from you being exactly who you aspire to be. You only have one life so make each place you live the best.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
I’m feeling thankful. Maybe because I know orders are on the horizon and there is “change” in the air. Or maybe I’m thankful in spite of it.
Sensing the winds, I can’t help but feel thankful for my military kids. It’s been a long decade filled with multiple schools and countless moves. They’ve said goodbye, more than hello. Yet, they are always ready for adventure. My kids, probably like your kids, always seem to roll with punches, ignoring the winds or leaning hard into it. As a parent, I draw my strength from their resiliency, their never-quit mentality after so many moves. There are many reasons to be thankful for our military kids this season, but here are just a few.
1. Will look an adult in the eyes.
A subtle characteristic of nearly all military kids over the age of six is their uncanny ability to make eye contact with adults when speaking to them. Sounds crazy, but it’s true. Military kids can not only speak to adults, but they make eye contact when they do. Sure, my theory isn’t 100% proven, but I challenge you to talk to any military tween or teen for more than five minutes and you’ll notice their ability to hold a conversation with you while making eye contact. Whether respect for adults comes from experience, diversity or taught at home, I’m thankful for it.
Whether it’s on a playground, in a classroom, at a sporting event or at a ceremony, when the music of our National Anthem starts, military kids will be the first to freeze, turn to the flag and hand to their chest. Grown adults sometimes forget (or don’t know) to remove their hats, stop SnapChat-ing or put down their hot dog when the anthem plays. You can spot a military kid or a Boy Scout in any crowd when the anthem plays. Military kids have watched their parent put on the uniform with a that little flag on the side arm every day. The American flag is a part of their upbringing and I’m thankful for it.
3. Are includers.
There isn’t’ a military kid around that hasn’t been the new kid at least once. Empathy is learned through experience and exposure – military kids have years of both. My kids will nearly break out in hives if they think someone is being left out at lunch or at birthday party. And I know this character trait is runs in deep with military families. Drawing on experience, military kids include the outsider. It’s their superpower.They will embrace the different because they see themselves in others and I’m thankful for it.
4. Are active participants.
Need a someone to play goalkeeper? Need a volunteer to be a lunch buddy? Need a kid to stay behind and clean up? Yep, if there is a military kid in a crowd, they’ll raise their hand. Military kids just want to be a part of action, they want to participate, try out and be helpful. Especially after a tough move, military kids are forced to sit on the sidelines until they see an opening, sometimes they have to make their own opening. Military kids are usually all in, all the time and I’m thankful for it.
New kid having a birthday party? Military kids will show up. School fundraiser? They’ll be there. Need a fifth to play basketball? Just ask. Stocking food at the food bank? They will be five minutes early. Military kids will show up. Whether it’s their upbringing or military values –If my military kid says he’ll will be there, he’ll be there. You can count on military kids andI’m thankful for it.
6. Know problems are designed to be solved.
Military kids, especially the older ones, have the deeper understanding and experience to know there is a solution to nearly every problem. They’ve been thrown into a litany of situations and forced to problem solve. They learn to adapt. They have to, it is survival. From putting on brave face walking into a new school to helping their family shoulder another deployment, they know problems are just challenges ready to be tackled. Military kids are old souls and I’m thankful for it.
Once a friend to a military kid, consider yourself a friend for life. A classmate may not have been in a child’s life for long, but trust me, our kids remember nearly every playdate, experience and conversation. To a military kid, a friendship is treasure they pick up along their journey, a collection of friendships that make up the quilted memory called childhood. Our kids will write, FaceTime, SnapChat, IG and message the heck of out long-distance friends. Military kids have friends across states and continents, but it’s never out of sight out of mind. They are professional friend makers and mean it when they say, “let’s stay in touch.” Kids may not see each other in five years but will pick up exactly where they left off. In truth, our kids need friendships probably more than we’d like to admit. But we promise there is no better friend to have than a military kid. They make the best of friends and I’m thankful for it.
8. Are good for schools.
There are 1.1 million school aged military kids and most attend public schools. Military parents are usually engaged and involved with their child’s education. Whether it’s volunteering, attending ceremonies, homework help or parent-teacher conferences – military kids come with active parents. Teachers and staff can count on their military family population to enroll students who will enrich their school. All military kids have health insurance and a least one parent is always employed which add stability while living a transient lifestyle. Military students bring a fresh perspective and a healthy dose of tolerance into their classroom. Since military students will attend between six and nine schools through their K-12 education, schools can count on our kids to bring their backpack full of resiliency on their first day of school. They make a school a better place for everyone and I’m thankful for it.
Military kids can make a chaotic PCS move into a full-on adventure. They can turn their seven-state DITY move with two dogs into a family vacation. Sure, it’s painful to spend hours in the car with smelly siblings, but I’ll bet you military kids know more about the 50 states, obscure museums, best food on the go and random side show fun than their civilian counterparts. They can sleep in any bed, on the floor, in the car or any restaurant booth almost on demand. They are giddy about a hotel pools, strange souvenir shops, mountain tops, desert sunsets, giant trees and skyscrapers – military kids never tire of being surprised by world around them. They don’t long to return home, but because home is wherever their family is together and for that, I’m thankful.
10. Embrace diversity because they live it.
The upside of moving around the United States and the globe is military kids are exposed to different languages, cultures, cities and people. At ten-years old, my son could read the metro map at the Frankfurt, Germany train station better than I could. At eight years old, my daughter only knew the name for restroom as Water Closet. They would stay up to watch the Iron Bowl (Alabama vs. Auburn) because that’s where they were born. My kids think Texas is best state in the union, but Ohio is the place they want live because it snows. However, they consider Virginia home because that’s the house they liked best. They witnessed firsthand the Syrian refugee crisis on a train trip to Austria and are forever changed by it. They’ve walked halls and gardens of Alcazar in Spain. They’ve attended mass at Notre Dame in Paris and can point out art from Raphael and Michelangelo in the Vatican because of a school project they finished at a DODEA school. They’ve had school field trips to National Archives in D.C. and placed wreaths on U.S. military tombstones in France, they danced through cathedrals older than the United States and did somersaults on ancient ruins in Rome. Their favorite sport is futbol, but not the American kind. They speak a little of Spanish, German and French, but wish they knew Chinese and Arabic. We are raising good beings. Whether it’s living in Japan or England, Kansas or California – this life allows us to expose them to so many different people and cultures – something their civilian peers can’t easily do. They don’t know a world full people who look and think like them and they are better humans for it. It’s a gift for our kids to live this military lifestyle and I am wholeheartedly thankful for it.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
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.
The House Armed Services Committee’s military personnel subcommittee heard testimony from Defense Department personnel chiefs on diversity in recruiting and retention.
Testifying were: Army Lt. Gen. Thomas C. Seamands, deputy chief of staff for personnel; Navy Vice Adm. John B. Nowell Jr., chief of naval personnel; Air Force Lt. Gen. Brian T. Kelly, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services; and Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael A. Rocco, deputy commandant for manpower and reserve affairs.
Army diversity efforts
“People are the starting point for all that we do. Today, the total Army is more diverse — the most talented and the most lethal force in our nation’s history,” said Seamands.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Weismiller)
An important tool the Army has is the new talent management system, which amplifies diversity, he said.
Trends are pointed in the right direction, he noted. For example, in the last five years, the percentage of Hispanic soldiers went from 12.5% to 14.6% and female representation went from 16.6% to 18.8%.
Also, the first female graduate of Ranger School went on to become the first female infantry company commander, and she then deployed to Afghanistan.
“We want our Army to look like our nation and to reflect what’s best of our citizens,” he said. “As the country has become more diverse, so has the Army.”
He added that service members are not only diverse in race and gender, but they’re also diverse in thought, talent, knowledge, skills and experience.
Navy diversity efforts
The Navy is promoting diversity and inclusion, said Nowell. “We have increased participation in diverse talent and outreach events and marketing materials.”
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Spencer Fling)
Nineteen percent of the recruiting media budget focuses on multicultural and female prospects, he said. Navy ROTC scholarships are also offered to minorities, he said.
More than 25% of this year’s U.S. Naval Academy accessions were female or minority, he said.
Air Force diversity efforts
“The Air Force considers diversity a warfighting imperative,” said Kelly. “As such, the Air Force set a goal for our force to mirror and be representative of the population of Americans eligible to serve by race, gender and ethnicity.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Amanda Dick)
The Air Force currently consists of 22% women; 15% African Americans — including 6% in the officer corps; and 13% Hispanics — including 7% in the officer corps. Those demographics have increased over the last 10 years, he added.
Marine Corps diversity efforts
“Diversity remains critical to the Marine Corps,” said Rocco. “It is our responsibility to ensure the Marine Corps is comprised of the best and brightest from every segment of the diverse society.
(Official Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Brian A. Tuthill)
“Diversity must be included in meaningful ways in order to take advantage of a wide array of aptitudes and perspectives necessary to maintain our current and future warfighting excellence,” he continued.
Diversity in the Marine Corps is increasing, he said. In 2010, 30% of Marines identified as minorities. Today, that number is more than 40%. “We expect these numbers to continue to rise.”
In 2010, 6.7% of the Marine Corps was female. It’s now almost 9%. These numbers should also continue to rise, he said.
Two soldiers from the South Carolina and Pennsylvania National Guard are the first enlisted National Guard females to graduate from U.S. Army Ranger School.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jessica Smiley, a South Carolina National Guard military police non-commissioned officer serving with the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, and U.S. Army Sgt. Danielle Farber, Pennsylvania National Guard 166th Regional Training Institute Medical Battalion Training Site instructor, completed the mentally and physically challenging school at Fort Benning Dec. 13, 2019. The school prepares soldiers to be better trained, more capable and more resilient leaders.
“My mindset going into this was to leave 100 percent on the table and never have regret or look back and say, ‘I should have pushed harder or I should have done something different,'” said Smiley. “My mindset today is that I did just that. I gave 100 percent. I did everything that I could, and now here I am.”
U.S. Army Sgt. Danielle Farber, Pennsylvania National Guard 166th Regional Training Institute Medical Battalion Training Site instructor, and U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jessica Smiley, South Carolina National Guard military police non-commissioned officer currently serving with the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, graduate U.S. Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia, Dec. 13, 2019, as the first National Guard enlisted females to complete the leadership school.
(Photo by Sgt. Brian Calhoun)
As the first female National Guard enlisted soldiers to graduate from the school, Smiley and Farber join a small group of women who have earned a Ranger tab since the Pentagon lifted the ban on women serving in combat arms positions. The others are U.S. Army Capt. Kristen Griest and U.S. Army 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, who in 2015 became the first women to ever complete the school; U.S. Army 1st Lt. Emily Lilly, who was the first female National Guard officer to graduate in 2018; and U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Amanda Kelley, the first enlisted soldier to graduate, also in 2018. However, Smiley and Farber do not think Ranger school is an accomplishment only they are capable of achieving.
“I don’t think it’s charting a course for other women because it’s something that we all have in us. We just haven’t been allowed to do it … There are many women out there who are completely capable of doing it,” said Smiley. “Do it … Put in the hard work, put in the dedication to accomplish the goal.”
Smiley and Farber said the accomplishment took years of training and did not come without setbacks. Farber has been working toward this goal since 2016 when she first tried for the Pennsylvania Ranger/Sapper state assessment program and was not selected. She tried again in 2018 and was selected, with approximately 10 other soldiers. A year later, she left for Ranger school.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jessica Smiley, South Carolina National Guard military police non-commissioned officer currently serving with the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, graduates U.S. Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia, Dec. 13, 2019, as one of the first National Guard enlisted females to complete the leadership school.
(Photo by Sgt. Brian Calhoun)
“Train hard for it,” said Farber. “Come into it knowing you’re going to be doing things that every other male that comes through here has to do. Don’t come through here and expect any sort of special treatment because it won’t happen.”
Now that they have earned their Ranger tab, Smiley and Farber hope to use the skills they’ve gained and help the soldiers they work with and lead.
“This day to me is not the end of the school, but is the beginning of the new chapter in my career, not only for myself but for future soldiers,” said Smiley.
U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Russ Vickery, South Carolina National Guard command sergeant major, said he is proud of what Smiley and Farber achieved.
“It is a big deal to be the first enlisted females in the National Guard graduating Ranger School. … It’s groundbreaking,” he said. “We always tell [soldiers] that they can do it. Physical size is not the limitation; it’s the amount of heart and soul that a soldier brings.”
Since Russia’s 2014 incursion in Ukraine, NATO leaders have been focused on securing the alliance’s eastern flank.
But defending that boundary and deterring threats to member countries there takes more than just deploying troops. It means moving them in and out, and, if necessary, reinforcing them, and that’s something that’s always on US and European military commanders’ minds.
“I will tell you that when I go to sleep at night, it’s probably the last thought I have, that we need to continue to improve upon, and we are, from a road, rail, and air perspective, in getting large quantities of hardware and software from west to east on continent,” US Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, head of US European Command, said at a Defense Writers Group breakfast in Washington, DC, on Tuesday.
A US soldier guides an M1 Abrams tank off ARC vessel Endurance at the Port of Antwerp, Belgium, May 20, 2018.
(US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jacob A. McDonald)
The US, which has drawn down its forces in Europe since the end of the Cold War, has put particular focus on both returning to Europe in force and on moving those forces around the continent.
This has included working at ports not used since the Cold War and practicing to move personnel, vehicles, and material overland throughout Central and Eastern Europe.
“We’re improving, but I will tell you, as a supreme allied commander of Europe and a commander of US EUCOM, I’m just not satisfied,” Wolters said. “It’s got to continue to get better and better and better, and we are dedicating tremendous energy to this very issue.”
“In US EUCOM, we have directors, which are flag officers that work for me, and they’re called J codes, and our J4 is our logistician, and he’s a Navy flag officer, and he’s probably one of the busiest human beings on the European continent,” Wolters added. “He gets to sleep about one hour a day, and his whole life exists from a standpoint of finding ways to improve our ability to move large quantities at speed from west to east in road, rail, and air, across the European continent.”
‘There will be some snags’
The renewed focus on moving US and NATO forces around Europe has highlighted the obstacles posed by varying customs rules and regulations, insufficient infrastructure, and shortages of proper transport vehicles.
Those would be challenges for any peacetime mobilization and led NATO to conclude in a 2017 report that its ability to rapidly deploy around Europe had “atrophied since the end of the Cold War.”
To correct that deficiency, NATO has stood up two new commands. One, Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia, will oversee movements across the Atlantic. The other, Joint Support Enabling Command based in Ulm in southern Germany, is responsible for movement on the ground in Europe.
US Army vehicles during a tactical road march in Germany, April 22, 2018.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Sharon Matthias)
“We’ve also recognized the need in NATO to improve in this area,” Wolters said. “Through NATO command structure adaptation … we elected to standup an entire new command called Joint Support Enabling Command, JSEC, and it’s run by … a NATO flag officer, and that commander’s sole purpose in life is to nest with all the nations to find ways to improve our ability to move large resources at speed from west to east across the continent.”
That will be on display during Defender Europe 20, the US Army’s largest exercise in Europe in 25 years, which will involve 37,000 troops from 18 countries — including 20,000 US troops deployed from the US — and take place in 10 countries in Europe.
Defender Europe 20’s actual drills won’t take place until next year, but, Wolters said, “it’s already started, because the benefit of a large exercise is all the planning that takes place beforehand.”
“The strategic message is we can demonstrate our flexibility and adaptability to lift and shift large forces to any place on planet Earth to effectively deter … and that’s incredibly valuable,” Wolters said.
But, he added, getting the logistics right on the ground may be the biggest obstacle.
“We want to make sure that from a border-crossing perspective and from a capability perspective in those 10 nations in particular that we’ve got it right with respect to our ability to lift and shoot and move and communicate with an exercise at speed,” Wolters said.
“There will be some snags along the way. We will find things that we’re not happy with. We will will after-action review those. We will find remedies in the future, and when we have another large-scale exercise we’ll demonstrate an ability to get through those snags … and we’ll just be that much quicker and that much faster in the future.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.