December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

The holidays are right around the corner, but it’s not too late to find the perfect gift for the deployed service member in your life. Here’s a smattering of ideas to help you find that ideal gift to send to an FPO.

It sounds boring, but the best things to send in gift boxes are the most practical ideas. Now’s not the time to send a new piece of tech or some gadget that’s going to take a lot of mental concentration to figure out. The most important thing to remember is to keep the gift light. Think about what your service member is dealing with on a daily basis and try to find ideas that will lessen the load. 

Of course, don’t stress yourself out too much about what you include in your care package – the idea here isn’t so much the gift as it is the thought. No one wants to spend the holiday season deployed, so sending a care package can help bridge the distance between your home installation and a forward operating base. 

All of these gift ideas can fit right into a box for your service member, and right now, the Post Office is offering a free Military Care Kit that has everything you need to get your box to the right place, on time.

Twelve Days of Christmas in a box

This is a great gift idea for little ones to assemble, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot. Head to your nearest dollar store and find twelve different things that remind you of your service member – candies, chocolates, even small Christmas decorations. Have your little helpers write a number on each package and then wrap them all up. This way, your loved one will have twelve different “gifts” to open and might help the season feel a little more festive.

Hug in a box 

Speaking of little ones, a great idea is to send a hug from your kids to your deployed family member. To do this, have your child lie on a piece of paper and then trace their body with their arms in the shape of a hug. They can decorate the image and write a message, too, making it even more festive.

If you can’t find any paper that’s large enough, you could always buy a small pillow and do the same thing. Just make sure the pillow is small enough to fit in the care package box.

Get ready for Christmas in a box 

(U.S. Army Photo)

This tried-and-true gift idea is sure to help your loved one remember that they’re a home waiting for them after the deployment ends. 

To assemble this gift, gather up the following items:

  • A family picture in a festive holiday frame 
  • Personalized stocking filled with candy canes, treats, and other small gifts
  • A funny Christmas t-shirt or pair of lounge pants 
  • A mini Christmas tree 
  • Battery operated Christmas lights 
  • Mini ornaments

Wrap the small gifts and write a note asking your loved one to set up the tree with the lights and ornaments. Then package everything together and get it in the mail. You can rest easy knowing your loved one will know you’re thinking of them.

Time is of the essence!

Don’t delay on sending these packages. USPS shipping times are extended right now, so the sooner you get these gifts in the mail, the greater chance they’re get there on time. 

If you’re totally short on time or don’t feel creative, or if you just want to spread some extended holiday cheer, check out Operation Gratitude. Since its inception in 2003, Operation Gratitude has sent over three million care packages to deployed service members. Wish Lists items are always in need and always appreciated. 

What you send is definitely less important than sending something at all. Deployments are already tough for everyone; sending a gift might help the months apart suck less.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Navy SEAL wants to inspire kids to reach their full potential

Marc Lonergan-Hertel grew up in Massachusetts with the dream of becoming a Navy SEAL — a dream he made into a reality. But he had a long way to go before achieving such a feat. He decided he needed to toughen up first, so he joined the Marine Corps, where he eventually found himself in Force Recon.

His military career took him through some of the toughest training the military has to offer. And he wrote about it in his memoir, Sierra Two: A SEAL’s Odyssey in War and Peace.

But Lonergan-Hertel didn’t stop there. He continued a life of adventure and service after leaving the military and today, he wants to call attention to real-world heroes he met along the way. He wants his transformative journey to help inspire others — namely, our nation’s youth — so they can maximize their full potential and achieve their dreams.

He calls himself a Protector.


December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel
Lonergan-Hertel’s Book is available on Amazon.

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

Lonergan-Hertel and 1st Force Recon.

(Courtesy of Marc Lonergan-Hertel)

Those who fight monsters inevitably change,” Lonergan-Hertel says, explaining what he means by the title “Protector.” It’s from a popular saying about post-traumatic stress, written by an unknown author. The quote goes on to note that if you stay in the fighting long enough, you will eventually become the monster. The former Navy SEAL wants to keep Protectors from getting that far.

“There is a cost to being a protector. Love is the only way to heal the wounds [that change you]. Remember this: As a protector, you run toward the things that others run away from. You go out to fight what you fear. You stand between others and the monsters on the other side of the wall.”

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

Lonergan-Hertel in his world-record paraglider flight, 70 South Antarctica.

(Courtesy of Marc Lonergan-Hertel)

You can read about his adventures fighting monsters in his book, Sierra Two. After his time in Force Recon, he left the military and worked as a Emergency Medical Technician in Los Angeles as well as a hunting guide in Colorado. Eventually, he decided to explore the Army and join the Special Forces. Shortly after joining the California National Guard, he was able to wear a maroon beret in support of 19 Special Forces Group and prepared to try out for Delta Section. He didn’t make Delta, but it did prepare him a selection packet he could submit to the Navy. He graduated from BUD/S in 1996 and joined SEAL Team Four. He left the military in 2000, but didn’t leave behind the adventurer’s life.

“My platoon chief recommended me for an around-the-world expedition through the Cousteau Society,” Lonergan-Hertel says. “I ended up getting the position as a team member and expedition leader and scout for NatGeo and Discovery Channel programs to Antarctica the Amazon jungle, where I had experience as a SEAL.”

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

Lonergan-Hertel and his NatGeo Team. Lonergan-Hertel is center, in the cowboy hat.

(Courtesy of Marc Lonergan-Hertel)

During his military career and post-military adventuring, he began to question what he valued most in life. He began to look for his true purpose. As his journey sharpened his self-awareness, he was soon transformed into a new person. He became a Protector – and wanted to be the best Protector he could be. His life took him to rescue hurricane victims, assess the environment in Antarctica while diving under the ice shelves, hike up the Amazon River Basin alone and encounter endangered tribes along the way — he even lost his best friend to pirates along the same river.

“I wrote my book because I realized how much our life journey sharpens our awareness of what really matters in life,” Lonergan-Hertel says. “Real life experiences transform us as human beings and gives us an understanding of risk and sacrifice.”

He even has a line of survival gear, that includes a heat reflective thermal field blanket sleep system, called First Line Survival. Lonergan-Hertel calls it “base camp in a bag” and all the proceeds from First Line Survival benefit his Protectors tour.

But the longtime adventurer is more than just an author. He’s crossing the country with fellow Protectors to tell their stories in stage presentations, meant for school-age children but meaningful to parents as well. He wants children to grow up with the confidence to realize their abilities and potential, to see a personal path toward a positive future, and realize they have the power to do this within themselves at all times.

“I understand very clearly that the gift of life can be away very quickly,” Lonergan-Hertel says. “The best thing I can leave behind is to inspire others to have confidence in themselves and to help others who have a more difficult journey in life.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Unit cartoonist’s perspective: Accessorizing the M4 carbine

Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.

The M4 carbine completely slicked down is already a mighty-fine assault weapon, but nothing is above improvement. With the rise of a hypersensitive world, where one picture can change the game, the great members and I of the unit put out a request for some serious target acquisition and fire control hardware. What we didn’t expect was the flood of equipment some good… some less than helpful.


I’ve seen how the evolution of weapons and kit works among pipe-hitters. It roughly follows this sequence: the newest brothers readily slap every new gadget onto their ARs and love and swear by them all. Soon their ARs become an unruly sort of Rube Goldberg contraption that resembles a deep space cruiser out of Star Wars. Inevitably SHOOTING… becomes a secondary or tertiary function of the… the thing!

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

There finally comes the time when the brother is tired of weeds, branches, socks, and whatever snagged up and caught on his “weapon,” and the fact that he can no longer fire it from the prone or even hold it up steady firing off-hand… he starts to get wiser about his configuration; he resolutely removes from his M4 Carbine:

• the Hubble star finder scope he thought would be great for navigation
• the AM radio receiver dialed into the 24-hour continuous weather variables reporting station he thought would be great for fine aiming adjustments
• the Enterprise Photon Torpedo launch tube and rails are the next to go
• the 22 LR rim-fire spotting sub-rifle comes off; he would just have to learn to zero better
• (approximately) 19 linear feet of Picatinny rail segments
• (finally) the coffee press

But there are some pieces of gear that actually do make the M4 much more lethal than what those Neanderthal iron blade and peep sights have to offer. A red-dot scope will replace those nicely, perhaps even one with a couple of times (X) magnification power thrown in.

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

(An example red dot stop superimposes an adjustable red dot where your bullet will

impact)

A forward pistol grip is always a plus, lending stability to the weapon when firing, as it assists with recoil management and site-picture recovery. In the struggle between ‘yes’ forward pistol grip and ‘no’ forward pistol grip, a folding or collapsible pistol grip feature could quell the struggle.

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

(A decent representative folding forward pistol grip)

Chamfered, flared, or beveled magazine wells are a real plus for combat shooters who require speed during reloads as well as accuracy. The simple fact is trying to align a rectangular-shaped magazine into a rectangular-shaped magazine well quickly requires a relatively precision alignment, one that takes a split-second more time than you might have.

The flared magazine well attachment provides a gentle sloping angle to the bottom of the well to allow for subtle errors in alignment of the magazine to be accepted foregoing the loss of time due to poor alignment. This feature is just as effective for pistols as well as rifle combat shooters.

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

(An after-market flared magazine well attachment. Note the extended bolt release that allows the shooter to seat the magazine and release the bolt in almost the same movement)

Perhaps you may feel the need for a LASER aim point for your AR. That can be a visible red dot that is aligned with your rifle sight and allows you to hit whatever the light dot is on. It allows you to hit a target even without a sight picture such as firing from the hip. This advantage comes heavily into play when the shooter is restricted from his sight picture by the requirement to wear a protective (gas) mask. Carrying out the tactical scenario even farther, you may want your light dot to be infrared and only visible by Night Observation Devices (NODs).

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

(An odd off-brand, small and very inexpensive visible red dot LASER mounted to a 2.5″ Picatinny segment. A device such as this costs less than .00 w/o rail segment.)

We still need illumination. A strong white light source can always be capped by a snap-on/snap-off filter that renders the light to the Infrared spectrum, so no need for two separate devices. Technology affords us the luxury of going from attaching clumsy flashlights to ARs with pipe clamps, to small LED light devices of very high lumens and elegant mountings.

Subject to the accessories dance is the “need” to not only have all of these target acquisition and fire and control devices, but to also have them located in such a configuration that you can activate them all quickly while firing your weapon. After a while, it might seem like trying to play a piano concerto with one hand. Perhaps some of us would be better off playing the one-handed concerto…

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

(Not the lowest profile solution today, but a workable illumination choice nonetheless. This lamp uses a high-lumen Halogen bulb for a flood)

It is an observation of mine that the older guys on the assault team seemed to have the slickest ARs; that is, the ones with the fewest gadgets on them. The reason for that is readily debatable, lending itself never to be fully defined. I think my own Delta Team leader summed it up the best I ever heard during yet another “kit argument.” When he was asked to inject his two cents into the debate, he replied, “Let me tell you something, homes… 50 years ago the American Army assaulted Omaha Beach wearing f*cking WOOL!”

MIGHTY CULTURE

After 20 years of PCS, milspouse navigates ‘staying put’

I’ve developed an itch.

No, not like that time in college.

The itch to pull up stakes, un-circle the wagons and head West…or East…or…ok you get it.

It’s time to move again. PCS.

It’s a familiar feeling to most military spouses. Birds have an innate sense when it’s time to migrate, and I think military families develop something like that. Every few years it’s time to fly.

It starts as a faint tingling on the back of your neck. Then you see dust bunnies frolicking on top of the refrigerator and decide to ignore them because you’re moving soon, so who cares? Those little freaks start to get it on everywhere — under the bed, the couch, that weird piece that was your grandfather’s that you feel compelled to keep, but have no real place for.


You say to yourself “Go on, spawn away, little humping dust bunnies. Soon a moving van will magically appear and nice men wearing low-slung pants will lift off your illicit hideaways and expose your obscene way of life…along with their butt-cracks.”

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

You download the assignment lists from the BUPERS website and fantasize about the possibilities. You prowl through Zillow, drooling over granite countertops and in-ground pools, and measure the distance to the nearest Target (i.e. bar). When your spouse walks in, you slap the laptop shut like a teenager caught in the act, knowing you’ll be chastised for getting your hopes up too early about one duty station or another.

You start challenging yourself to cook with nothing, but the ingredients in the pantry (coconut milk and chickpea casserole is surprisingly tasty — said no one ever). You stop going to the stock-up sales at the commissary. You secretly purge bags of old clothes and toys from your kids’ rooms while they’re at school and then fake concern over the missing items.

“What?? You can’t find that t-shirt with the torn sleeve and the kool-aid stain that you outgrew two summers ago? Oh no!! Wherever could it be?!” Parenthood Fakery should be an Oscar category…

It’s that time again for our family. We’ve been in China Lake, CA for nearly three years and are scheduled to PCS this summer. Our days wandering in the desert are supposed to be over. I came, I bloomed where I was planted, and now it’s time to go find a new adventure.

Actually, I shriveled up like a California raisin and could plant corn in the furrows that have developed on my forehead.

Regardless — it’s time to go.

Except it’s not.

We’ve been extended.

For an indeterminate amount of time.

What the hell am I supposed to do now?

I find myself more upset about this than I should be. It’s not that I don’t like China Lake. We’ve had a good tour here and I’ll have fond memories and lasting friendships.

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

(Photo by Arnel Hasanovic)

It’s that I feel like something is wrong. The routine is off.

Have I become addicted to moving? After nearly 20 years married to the Navy, it’s become part of my DNA.

Neither my husband nor I had ever moved until we left home for college. And once we started regularly relocating, I started to crave the fresh feeling that comes with it. The removal of baggage, so to speak. The cleaning out of cobwebs — mostly from beneath my furniture, but also from the corners of my mind. A wanderlust that says “this place was fine, but what’s around the next corner?”

One would think that I would have resisted such a nomadic life, having never experienced it as a child. But then again, perhaps if I had gotten to escape my surroundings as a kid I wouldn’t have pretended to be a popular cheerleader named Anastasia on my 8th grade trip to Washington DC. Even then I was desperate for reinvention…

And moving every few years gives me that fresh start. I find it very freeing. If I’m not satisfied with my surroundings, I know it’s only temporary. I don’t have the heavy burden of forever (well, I suppose in theory, marriage is forever, but a few more years of stumbling over boots left in the floor will probably take care of that…)

Now I find myself sitting here with the realization that not only am I not moving…but I don’t know when I will. And now I have to reinvent myself right where I am.

But forget about me having to stop obsessing over the future and concentrate on the present. There’s something way more concerning about staying put.

The only fate that is FAR WORSE than having to move.

Now I have to clean my damn house.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Online commissary privileges finally available to newly eligible shoppers

Nearly 4 million veterans and caregivers who were granted privileges to shop at commissaries and exchanges Jan. 1 can finally enjoy access to online features, a Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) news release said Friday.


However, the new patrons’ access to American Forces Travel (AFT), the official Morale, Welfare and Recreation travel site, is still spotty, according to the latest AFT Facebook post.

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war, veterans with any service-connected disability, and caregivers registered with the VA’s Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program became eligible to shop at commissaries, exchanges and MWR facilities beginning Jan. 1.

Since then, these new shoppers have experienced issues, including not being able to bring guests on base and trouble accessing MyCommissary and AFT online portals.

DeCA officials said they had to work with Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC), which is used to confirm shopping privileges, to let new patrons register their Commissary Rewards cards online to access coupons and to use, as available, the Click2Go curbside service.

“In the event a new shopper is still receiving an error message when trying to create an account, they should check with the [Department of Veterans Affairs] to ensure their information and privileges are correctly entered into the system,” DeCA system engineer Clayton Nobles said in a statement. “For those receiving a new Veterans Health Identification Card (VHIC), there may be a delay between when the veteran receives the card and when the system allows them access. This delay can take up to 30 days.”

Eligible veterans must have a VHIC to access bases for shopping or MWR use.

Customers who had access before Jan. 1, such as retired service members, Medal of Honor recipients and veterans with a service-related disability rating of 100%, are not affected.

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

images02.military.com

Meanwhile, AFT is still updating its customer database of “millions of records.”

“We have sent examples to DMDC and they were able to see why some patrons are having issues,” AFT said on Facebook, the only place it is providing updates on the issue. “We will let you know when that resolve has been made and then ask you to try logging on again. Records are being updated every hour.”

But some veterans are getting tired of waiting.

“No luck today. Last week they said it would be fixed this week,” one Facebook user wrote. “The week before, it was going to be fixed last week. I sent a private message this afternoon and got an automated response to call the DMDC help desk at 1-800-727-3677. That number is for the Commissary. After 35 minutes, someone answered the phone and said they could not help me to get verified.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Army celebrates women in combat

Observed on August 26, Women’s Equality Day commemorates the adoption of the 19th Amendment in 1920, guaranteeing women the right to vote. While the change to the Constitution was significant toward shaping gender equality, it highlights the complicated journey women had to gain equal rights.

“Commemorating the adoption of the 19th Amendment on Women’s Equality Day is so very significant,” said Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, the adjutant general of Texas. Norris and Lt. Gen. Gwen Bingham recently spoke about women who paved the way for today’s equality.

For instance, Abigail Adams wrote to the Continental Congress in 1776, asking them to, “Remember the ladies,” when making critical decisions to shape the country. Later in 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott led the first women’s rights convention in New York.


The convention sparked decades of activism through the Women’s Suffrage Movement, which helped lay a foundation for the 19th Amendment and paved the way for women to serve and fight alongside men in combat today.

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

Staff Sgt. Amanda F. Kelley gets her Ranger tab pinned on by a family member during her Ranger School graduation at Fort Benning, Ga., Aug. 31, 2018. Kelley was the first enlisted woman to earn the Ranger tab.

(Photo by Patrick A. Albright)

Later the civil rights movement of the 1950s generated the Equal Pay Act in 1963, followed by the Civil Rights Act in 1964. And in 1972, Title IX of the Education Amendments was signed into law.

However, “women have been serving their nation through military service for far longer than we have had the right to vote,” Norris said.

During the Revolutionary War, women followed their husbands into combat out of necessity. They would often receive permission to serve in military camps as laundresses, cooks, and nurses. Some women even disguised themselves as men to serve in combat.

“One of the more famous women to do this was Deborah Samson Gannett, who enlisted in 1782 under her brother’s name and served for 17 months,” Norris said. “Wounded by musket ball fire, she cut it out of her thigh so that a doctor wouldn’t discover she was a woman.”

The Army later discovered Gannett’s gender, and she was discharged honorably. She later received a military pension for her service.

Countless examples exist of women serving in various roles to support military operations during the Civil and Spanish-American Wars and beyond.

Notably during World War I, upwards of 25,000 American women between the ages of 21 and 69 served overseas. While the most significant percentage of women served as nurses, some were lucky enough to assist as administrators, secretaries, telephone operators, and architects.

These women helped propel the passage of the 19th Amendment through their hard work and dedication to service.

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

Now Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, the adjutant general of Texas, visits Soldiers at Camp Bullis, Texas, on June 21, 2018.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Scovell)

From the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act in 1948 to the day the Defense Department opened all combat career fields to women in 2016, the role of women in the Army has steadily increased.

“Women are tough,” Norris said.

“We have been proving it for a long time now, and we have a knack for forcing change,” Norris added. “As Col. Oveta Hobby, a fellow Texan and the first director of the Women’s Army Corps, put it so well: ‘Women who step up want to be measured as citizens of the nation — not as women.'”

Inclusion

These are exciting times, said Lt. Gen. Gwen Bingham, the Army’s outgoing assistant chief of staff for Installation Management. Women are now on the forefront, serving in military occupational specialties they haven’t seen in Army history.

“Quite frankly, the Army is not [solely] a man’s job,” she said.

After a 38-year career, Bingham is now enjoying her last days in service, as she waits for her official retirement in September. During her career, she served as the first female quartermaster general, the first woman to serve as garrison commander of Fort Lee, Virginia. She was also the first female to serve in commanding general roles at White Sands Missile Range and Tank-automotive and Armaments Command in Warren, Michigan.

“There is no way that I would’ve stayed in the Army 38 years if I didn’t feel a sense of inclusion. I will never downplay the word ‘inclusion’ — ever,” she said. “It is one thing to have a seat at the table. However, it is another to feel included in the decisions being made at the table.”

Considered to be a trailblazer by others, Bingham acknowledges the historical significance of her stepping into each position. However, recognizing the “trailblazer moniker” brings to light all the areas that women have yet to serve, she said.

“We will get there, as women continually distinguish themselves in roles that they haven’t typically [served],” she said. “The way I see it, you can choose to spotlight [trailblazers] but progress is having … more [women serving] than what we had before.”

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

Lt. Gen. Gwen Bingham talks with Maj. Gen. Donna Martin, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general, after promoting her to major general Aug. 28, 2018.

(Photo by Michael Curtis)

Similar to Bingham, Norris is the first woman to serve as the Texas adjutant general. As the senior military officer, she is responsible for the overall health, wellbeing, training, and readiness of Texas’ soldiers, airmen, civilian employees, and volunteers.

“I am simply another individual in a long line of leaders of Texas military forces,” she said.

“The fact that I am the first woman is secondary to me. What truly matters is that we have a leader of the Texas Military Department who is ready to command and take care of those who serve. I believe I fulfill that role based on qualifications and experience, not by being a woman.”

When it comes to women’s equality, the Army is doing a great job, Norris added. Based on her experience, the military is often the leader when it comes to opening up roles for women to serve.

Managing talent will be critical to the Army’s way ahead. It is about getting the right person, to the right place, at the right time, regardless of their race or gender, she explained.

And to all the women out there that are considering the Army as a future career, “I would tell them — join! Your nation needs you,” Norris said. In 2015, Capt. Kristen

Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver became the first female soldiers to earn the Ranger tab, she noted.

“They are following a long line of powerful women who have forced change in our culture and by their actions opened doors for the generations that follow them,” she said.

“I challenge you to join and be the first one to break [a] barrier down,” Norris added. “The Army opened more doors for me than I could ever have imagined possible. It has been the honor and privilege of a lifetime to serve our state and nation, and I encourage others to do the same.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Army uses lessons from pilot to build task forces

As the Multi-Domain Task Force pilot program nears its end, the Army is now using lessons from it to establish three similar task forces.

Assigned under U.S. Army Pacific Command in 2017, the pilot has participated in several exercises, including nine major joint training events across the region, to focus on penetrating an enemy environment.

With the 17th Field Artillery Brigade as its core, the task force also has an I2CEWS detachment testing intelligence, information operations, cyber, electronic warfare and space assets that can counter enemy anti-access/area denial capabilities.


“It’s predominately network-focused targeting and it’s echelon in approach,” said Col. Joe Roller, who heads future operations, G35, for I Corps. “So it’s not taking down the entire network, it’s focusing on key nodes within that network to create targets of opportunity and basically punch a hole in the enemy’s threat environment in order to deliver a joint force.”

Run by USARPAC’s I Corps, the pilot has already uncovered ways to improve future formations as it prepares to become a permanent task force itself at Washington’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord in September 2020.

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Timothy Lynch, commander of 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Field Artillery Brigade, shakes hands with the battalion commander of Western Army Field Artillery of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force at Yausubetsu Training Area, Japan, Sept. 16, 2019. The brigade, along with other elements of the Multi-Domain Task Force pilot program, participated in the Orient Shield exercise to test its capabilities with their Japanese counterparts.

(Photo by Capt. Rachael Jeffcoat)

In 2021, the Army plans to establish a second stand-alone MDTF in Europe that will merge the 41st FA Brigade with an I2CEWS element. The following year, a third task force, which is yet to be determined, will stand up in the Pacific.

One lesson so far from the pilot is for the task force to better incorporate its joint partners. Leaders envision the specialized units to be about 500 personnel, including troops from other services.

“It needs to be a joint enterprise,” Roller said. “The Army will have the majority of seats in the MDTF, but we don’t necessarily have all the subject-matter expertise to combine all of those areas together.”

The Joint Warfighting Assessment 19 in the spring, he noted, highlighted the task force’s need for a common operating picture to create synergistic effects with not only the other services but also allied nations.

“It goes back to communication with our joint partners and our allies,” he said, “and the infrastructure that’s required to create that communications network and shared understanding of the environment that were operating in.”

Last month, the task force also took part in the Orient Shield exercise with the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force, which recently created its own Cross-Domain Operations Task Force to tackle similar challenges.

For the first time, Orient Shield was linked with Cyber Blitz, an annual experiment hosted by New Jersey’s Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst that informs Army leaders how to execute full-spectrum information warfare operations.

The task force’s I2CEWS personnel and their Japanese counterparts were able to conduct operations together in both exercises via networks in Japan and New Jersey.

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

Japanese soldiers with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force observe and facilitate reload operations on the U.S. Army High Mobility Artillery Rocket System with Soldiers from the 17th Field Artillery Brigade at Yausubetsu Training Area, Japan, Sept. 16, 2019. The brigade, along with other elements of the Multi-Domain Task Force pilot program, participated in the Orient Shield exercise to test its capabilities with their Japanese counterparts.

(Photo by Capt. Rachael Jeffcoat)

“If there was a culminating event thus far, that was about as high level as we’ve gotten to with real-world execution of cyber, electronic warfare and space operations in coordination with a bilateral exercise,” said Col. Tony Crawford, chief of strategy and innovation for USARPAC.

In an effort to embolden their defense, the Japanese published its cross-domain operations doctrine in 2008, Crawford said. Its defense force is now working with USARPAC in writing a whitepaper on how to combine those ideas with the U.S. Army’s multi-domain operations concept in protecting its country.

“They’ve been thinking about this for a long time as well,” Crawford said.

The Australian Army has also worked with the task force, he added, while the Philippine Army has expressed interest along with the South Korean military.

U.S. Indo-Pacific Command is making the Army’s MDO efforts its foundational concept as it develops its own joint warfighting concept for the region. Crawford said this comes a few years after its former commander, Adm. Harry Harris, asked the Army to evolve its role so it could sink ships, shoot down satellites and jam communications.

“Moving forward, MDO is kind of the guiding framework that were implementing,” Crawford said.

The colonel credits I Corps for continually educating its sister services of the Army’s MDO concept and how the task force can complement its missions.

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

U.S. Army Capt. Christopher Judy, commander of Bravo Battery, 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery, 17th FA Brigade, examines a field artillery safety diagram alongside members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force at Yausubetsu Training Area, Japan, Sept. 16, 2019. The brigade, along with other elements of the Multi-Domain Task Force pilot program, participated in the Orient Shield exercise to test its capabilities with their Japanese counterparts. Three similar MDTFs are now being built using lessons from the pilot.

(Photo by Capt. Rachael Jeffcoat)

“The level of joint cooperation has grown exponentially over the last two years,” he said. “That’s definitely a good thing here in the Pacific, because it’s not a maritime or air theater, it’s a joint theater.”

But, as with any new unit, there have been growing pains.

Crawford said the biggest challenge is getting the task forces equipped, trained and manned. Plans to build up the units are ahead of schedule after former Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark Milley decided to go forward with them earlier this year.

“We’re so accelerated that we’re all trying to catch up now,” he said. “This is literally a new force structure that the Army is creating based upon these emerging concepts.”

The fluid nature of these ideas has also presented difficulties. Roller said they are currently written in pencil as the task force pilot continues to learn from exercises and receives input from its partners.

“It’s taking concepts and continuing to advance them past conceptual into employment,” Roller said, “and then almost writing doctrine as we’re executing.”

While much of the future remains unclear, Roller does expect the task force to participate in another Pacific Pathways rotation after completing its first one this year.

In the long term, he also envisions a more robust training calendar for the task force so its personnel can maintain their certifications and qualifications.

“We’ll have some culminating training events purely MDTF focused,” he said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

What happens if you commit a crime in space?

Milesperawesome asks: Could you get in trouble legally if you murdered someone in space? Asking for a friend.

While it might seem like something out of science fiction, given that humans are presently in space and soon enough mass space tourism is going to open up the possibility for many, many more, it’s only a matter of time before someone commits a crime in space, with it being alleged the first already occurred in 2019, which we’ll get to shortly. So what exactly happens if someone does break the law in space? Could you, say, commit murder and get away scot-free?

To begin with, while you might think it can’t actually be possible to commit a crime in space because no country seemingly has jurisdiction there, you’d be wrong. Much like the myth that you can do whatever you want in international waters because no country holds sway, it turns out, among other agreements and rules, International laws are a thing.


On that note, while aboard a given vessel, the ship you’re on officially hails and is registered from some nation or group of nations (like the European Union) and the laws from said entities are binding aboard it in most cases while it’s out at sea. This is outlined in the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea, “every State shall effectively exercise its jurisdiction and control in administrative, technical and social matters over ships flying its flag.”

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

Mare Liberum (1609) by Hugo Grotius is one of the earliest works on law of the sea.

(Public domain)

While obviously there isn’t exactly a court case history to back this up, the general consensus is that the same basic idea will hold true for ships in space, and certain agreements to date concerning space ships do seem to bear that out, as well as help give a partial framework for judges to work with.

For example, in the Outer Space Treaty, beyond more or less attempting to ensure space stays free from any claim of national sovereignty, most pertinent to the topic at hand, it notes,

State Party to the Treaty on whose registry an object launched into outerspace is carried shall retain jurisdiction and control over such object, and over any personnel thereof, while in outer space or on a celestial body.

More or less mirroring this idea, on the International Space Station, the partnered nations came up with the Intergovernmental Agreement on Space Station Cooperation, which states, in part, the nations, “may exercise criminal jurisdiction over personnel in or on any flight element who are their respective nationals.”

As Joanne Gabrynowicz, the editor of Journal of Space Law- which is totally a thing by the way- elaborates, “The law of the nation that contributed and registered the module applies to that module… Further, each astronaut is governed by the law of the nation they represent. Therefore, which nation’s criminal jurisdiction will apply depends on which nation’s module the alleged crime was committed and which nation the alleged perpetrator is from.”

It’s also noteworthy that this Space Station Agreement has already anticipated countless other things that may happen in space and how various nations can work together amicably to resolve them, leading many space lawyers- which are also totally a thing- to speculate that elements of this agreement are likely to get adopted into a more general, universal agreement at some point down the line. And in the meantime, judges may well lean on it, among other existing agreements and analogous cases here on Earth, when attempting to decide legal matters as they begin happening outside of the ISS.

Speaking of these analogous cases, much like when a person travels to another nation and then commits a crime, there are plenty of existing agreements and fodder for authorities to draw from when crimes are committed in space. While there certainly will be the occasional dispute, as even happens between nations on Earth over such matters today, there is a pretty good outline already in place as to how it will probably be sorted out.

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

On top of this, even should you renounce your citizenship and be aboard your own vessel that likewise has no ties to any nation (perhaps even with you declaring said ship a nation of its own), it is likely if you did anything serious, especially against someone who does still have citizenship with some nation, you would still face prosecution for any crimes, perhaps via an International Criminal Court or even a special tribunal. (Although, in this case, we’re hoping such a court will be given the new, much cooler moniker of Galactic Criminal Court at some point.)

As the director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, Henry Hertzfeld, states,

Although there is no sovereignty outside a spacecraft, there are analogies to the law on ships in international waters and also to issues that might occur in Antarctica; both places with no national sovereignty. So, although this is not a settled issue, my reading is that being in space and technically outside of any nation’s sovereignty or jurisdiction is not sufficient to avoid being charged with a crime…

Of course, even then there still is a lot of potential for gray area. For example, one of the world’s leading space lawyers, Joanne Gabrynowicz, outlines one such scenario for people on the International Space Station, which has a pretty well defined set of rules as previously noted,

Each of the modules is registered by a different country, so that means that if you’re in the US laboratory, you’re on a piece of US territory… If you mosey over to the Japanese module, you are now in Japan. So, it’s like an embassy. It’s national territory….What happens if it’s been a long hard day at the American lab, and a European astronaut punches a Canadian in the American module, but then runs over to the Japanese module? Who has jurisdiction over that? …

But, of course, that is just a jurisdictional issue. If a serious enough crime was committed, the person’s going to get prosecuted somewhere. It just might be a bit of a bureaucratic nightmare in some cases to sort out where.

When moving over to scenarios like actual colonization of places like Mars, once a colony is setup, it will no doubt enact its own laws, which those living there will have to agree to, whether explicitly or implicitly, not too dissimilar to moving to a new country on Earth. And likewise it is probable that extradition agreements and the like will be setup little different from agreements between nations on Earth.

Coming back around to the question of if there has ever yet been a crime committed in space, this allegedly occurred during astronaut Anne McClain’s six month stint on the ISS in 2019. During that span, she supposedly accessed her recently ex-wife’s bank account several times, allegedly to double check there was enough money in the accounts to cover bills and to care for the pair’s son. On the other hand, her ex, Summer Worden, took the matter more seriously, viewing it as illegal access to her accounts, thus potentially subjecting McClain to certain identity theft laws.

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

NASA astronaut Anne McClain.

(Public domain)

Because McClain is an American citizen, was aboard the American module of the International Space Station when she allegedly committed the crime, was using one of NASA’s computers at the time, and her supposed victim is likewise American, she was very clearly under the jurisdiction of the United States. However, as far as we can find, nothing ever came of these accusations other than a NASA investigation and a whole lot of news reports. McClain is still an astronaut for NASA and otherwise no further updates on the matter have ever been made public, so presumably either it was decided no crime was actually committed or the former couple settled the matter amicably and the investigation was dropped.

But to sum up, no matter where you are in the universe, you can be fairly sure that judges the world over will be happy to cite similar type scenarios that have happened on Earth and existing agreements in making sure you are prosecuted for crimes, assuming said crimes were serious enough to be worth the effort involved, or someone kicks up enough of a stink about it. And while there still is plenty of gray area, as soon as space tourism becomes a relatively common thing and people start committing crimes in space, it seems likely that the various nations the world over will quickly develop a comprehensive and more definitive set of rules to govern such things when the need arises.

All that said, there are an awful lot of ways a seemingly innocuous sequence of events can lead to someone’s death in space. Accidents happen- a faulty valve isn’t necessarily proof someone murdered someone else, even if they loathed each other. In some such ways someone could die in space, any halfway decent lawyer could instill reasonable doubt in the minds of the jurors, especially if hard evidence couldn’t be attained. After all, the expense of investigating such a crime thoroughly may well be enormous in some cases, thus making it so such a detailed investigation may not be done, or even possible.

So let’s just say in many cases it’s going to be a lot more difficult to tell if there was someone behind such an event, or if it was just an accident… Leading us to perhaps one of the cooler new jobs that are going to be a thing in the coming decades- space detectives.

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

(Photo by João Silas)

Bonus Fact:

Ever wonder what the longest prison sentence ever given out is? Well, wonder no more. This was a whopping 141,078 years. It was given in 1989 in Thailand to Chamoy Thipyaso and each of her seven accomplices for defrauding more than 16,000 Chinese investors as a part of a massive Ponzi scheme.

If you’re wondering, in the United States, the longest sentence for some form of corporate fraud was only 845 years. This was handed down in 2000 to Sholam Weiss, for his role in the collapse of National Heritage Life Insurance. By contrast, Bernie Madoff was only given 150 years for his 2009 conviction of defrauding thousands in a multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme.

The second and third longest prison sentences (for any crime), globally, were given to Jamal Zougam (42,924 years) and Emilio Suárez Trashorras (49,922 years) for their roles in the 2004 train bombings in Madrid.

As for the longest prison term overall in the United States, it was given in 1994 to Charles Schott Robinson who was convicted of six counts of rape garnering him 5,000 years in prison each- a whopping 30,000 year sentence.

Also in Oklahoma, Darron B. Anderson and Allan W. McLaurin each had in the thousands of years ranges of prison time imposed for the kidnapping, robbery and rape of an elderly woman. Anderson was initially only sentenced to 2,200 years, but upon his second trial (he appealed and won a new one), that second jury imposed a sentence of 11,250 years. McLaurin was initially sentenced to 21,250 years, but the appellate court reduced it to a mere 500 years.

The longest prison sentence imposed in Australia was given to Martin Bryant in 1996 for the Port Arthur, Tasmania massacre where he killed 35 and injured 23 others. His sentence included 1,035 years without parole plus 35 life sentences, one for each life he took.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

Also read:

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 things to do at the start of your deployment

There’s nothing troops anticipate more than the chance to finally get to do what they’ve spent their entire career training for: deploying to a combat zone. Maybe you’re the gungho grunt who just can’t wait to embrace the suck. Maybe you’re the frightened POG who’s terrified of indirect fire sirens. Maybe you’re the salty NCO who’s ready to mark your fifth trip to the sandbox, realizing that each deployment feels more and more like a TDY trip than the last. 

Nowhere is this wide array of emotions more on display than in the transient tents that house troops as they move between the States and the deployment. Regardless of how you’re feeling about the deployment, you’ll have to mark a few things off the checklist before you arrive.


December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel
You’ll also wish you’d marked your duffel bag extremely well…(U.S. Army)

 

Keep your gear ready to go at a moment’s notice

Number one rule about traveling in the military: Expect to be somewhere for weeks until, suddenly, you’re not. Your flight will be bumped back after you’ve been waiting for a few hours. You will have to endure more sleepless nights in that disgusting tent that no one ever cleans.

When your number finally comes, not even your chain of command will have a heads up. They’ll be just as lost as you are when they’re told their troops are on the manifest in thirty minutes.

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel
The USO building may not have much, but it’s better than nothing.
(U.S. Air Force)

 

Tell loved ones you have to go radio silent for a few weeks before deployment

Well, since you’ve got nothing important to do while your flight gets delayed for the sixth time (which, judging by your conversations with other deployed vets, is not out of the ordinary), you might as well call your family and tell them you love them.

The one thing you should probably let them know is that you won’t be able to speak to them until everything is set up at your final destination. This could happen immediately or it could take weeks. They should prepare for either case. On the bright side, this is also about the time that your commander should allow you to give out your future mailing address so loved ones can send care packages while you’re deployed.

Spoiler alert: Your address is always going to just be your name, your unit up to brigade level, APO, AE, and whatever zip code for the base.

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel
This one shack has seen the face of every troop who’s gone into theatre.
(Photo by Shane Songbird)

 

Get that last bit of fast food before you go without for a while

As odd as this one sounds, you’re going to want to hit up that rip-off McDonald’s in Ali Al Salem Air Base. It’s going to taste like absolute garbage. Compared to a stateside Big Mac, it’s going to be stale, under-cooked, and a bit sour for some reason. But, funnily enough, that same burger is going to taste like Heaven when you come back from deployment 12 months later.

Think of it as a soft introduction to the type of food you’re going to have to eat for your entire employment. We hope you like spongy, mermite eggs.

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel
It’s really fun to f*ck with the new guys, so don’t believe everything they say — except the parts about the camel spiders. Those things are hellspawns that deserve to be purged from this plane of existence.
(U.S. Marine Corps)

 

Talk with the guys leaving where you’re going

The nice thing about transient barracks is that everyone, both coming and going, is bunked in the same tent. Some may have been in the serious sh*t while others were at a bigger, more comfortable air field. Since you both have absolutely nothing better to do, might as well pick their brains.

Take everything they say with a grain of salt — your deployment experience may differ. Even if you’re going to the exact same FOB, a lot could have happened between then and now, for better or worse. Still, it’s always nice to try and get a heads up.

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel
For some f*cking reason… The one thing that everyone will always get are these cheapo lawn chairs.
(U.S. Army photo)

 

Realize you forgot necessities and buy them off of outbound troops

It doesn’t matter if it’s you’re deployed for the first time or the fourth, you’re probably going to kick your own ass when you realize that you forgot something ​seemingly insignificant,like a power adapter.

Don’t sweat it. Everyone who’s in the tents and is headed back home is trying to pawn off all of their crap because they just don’t need it anymore after deployment. In fact, you could probably get it for free if you do a little sweet-talking.

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel
Get your sleep in while you can!
(U.S. Army)

 

Enjoy the last bit of nothingness you’ll experience for the rest of your deployment

This isn’t even a POG vs grunt thing. Everyone is going to be working their ass off while they’re deployed — there’s no getting out of that. Regardless of what your MOS is, don’t expect weekends or a 0900-1700 schedule. Those days are over.

So, screw it. Since you’re just sitting on the tarmac, waiting to leave: Relax. Take a load off. Enjoy the fact that the only thing you need to do while in transit for deployment is just being at the right place at the right time.

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 Instagram accounts every military spouse should follow

Instagram has fully dominated the zeitgeist. The “can I get your number?” of years’ past has mutated into the “what’s your IG handle?” of the new era. But you don’t have any need for that anymore. You’re married to a member of the United States armed forces. So here’s a handful of accounts to bring your carpal-tunnel thumb scrolling into the new age with a bit of inspiration for the loved ones of military members.


[instagram https://www.instagram.com/officialarmywife101/?utm_source=ig_embed expand=1]Army Wife 101 (@officialarmywife101) • Instagram photos and videos

www.instagram.com

@officialarmywife101

This account is one of the most popular MILSO (military significant other) accounts on Instagram. ArmyWife101 covers everything from veteran’s issues to perfect care packages to promoting fellow MILSO accounts.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/airmantomom/?hl=en expand=1]Amanda (@airmantomom) • Instagram photos and videos

www.instagram.com

@airmantomom

Amanda has a great account for any woman who has transitioned from military to service to motherhood. In addition to having a very current IG profile, she also runs a podcast under the same @—a perfect program to underscore a jog around the block.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/themilitarywifeandmom/ expand=1]Lauren Tamm (@themilitarywifeandmom) • Instagram photos and videos

www.instagram.com

@themilitarywifeandmom

Lauren is a military wife and mother of two who documents her life closely for her followers. It gives fellow military spouses a gentle look into the life of someone who can empathize with the struggles and triumphs of someone who is facing life as a military mother. Her shots are artfully composed and sure to crack a smile.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/reccewife/ expand=1]Kim (@reccewife) • Instagram photos and videos

www.instagram.com

@reccewife

Kim is a tough ass, salt of the earth, no-nonsense Canadian military spouse. Her sardonic wit gives her profile a bit of an edge and is perfect for anyone who wants a glimpse into the parallel life of a military spouse across our northern border.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/soldierswifecrazylife/ expand=1]Julie (@soldierswifecrazylife) • Instagram photos and videos

www.instagram.com

@soldierswifecrazylife

If you want something a bit more personal— Julie has you covered. She’s a military spouse and mother of two who fills her account with personalized messages of support in a non-partisan, playful way. She’s a spoonful of honey on your IG feed.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/humans_on_the_homefront/ expand=1]Humans on the Homefront (@humans_on_the_homefront) • Instagram photos and videos

www.instagram.com

@humansonthehomefront

This handle is, unfortunately, inactive since 2017 (although the hashtag is alive and well). However, it has 61 posts archived to sort through. Each detailed post tells the stories of the brave men and women who serve our country, as well as the incredible people who love them. Any military spouse, parent, relative, or friend could get a twinkle of inspiration from this account.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/movingwiththemilitary/?utm_source=ig_embed expand=1]Moving With The Military (@movingwiththemilitary) • Instagram photos and videos

www.instagram.com

@movingwiththemilitary

This account is like “Extreme Home Makeover: Military Spouse Edition.” Maria operates the account, which shows makeovers that they do for USOs, military spouses, and a whole other assortment of charitable military work. It’s a breath of positivity on your feed.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/theseasonedspouse/?utm_source=ig_embed expand=1]The Seasoned Spouse (@theseasonedspouse) • Instagram photos and videos

www.instagram.com

@theseasonedspouse

Lizann works this account as a super valuable resource to MILSOs everywhere. She creates workshops and masterclasses to give tips and advice to newly minted military spouses dealing with everything from deployment to surviving the holidays at your parents.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/support_lgbt_military/ expand=1]Support LGBT Military (@support_lgbt_military) • Instagram photos and videos

www.instagram.com

@support_lgbt_military

This is a beautiful account filled with stories, profiles, and (best of all) memes that empower LGBT veterans and service members. The account is highly active and, with over 10K followers, has a massive community with which to interact.​

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/thewaitingwarrior/?utm_source=ig_embed expand=1]Michelle Bowler (@thewaitingwarrior) • Instagram photos and videos

www.instagram.com

@thewaitingwarrior

Michelle Bowler balances mothering four children with the difficulties of being an “Army wife” at Ft. Campbell. Her IG account’s message is clear—”you are not alone.” Her whole goal is to act as a supportive lens to all MILSO’s and loved ones of first responders. Michelle also has a podcast with 46+ episode of interviews with spouses of all experiences, talking about various parts of military and first responder spouse life.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Career Marines talk life as a dual-serving couple

Family first, mission always.

Marine Gunnery Sgt. Charles Vanscoyk and his wife, Staff Sgt. Alexandra Vanscoyk, are both aviation supply specialists who recently returned to the fleet after completing tours on recruiting duty. The transition has been met with unexpected challenges that magnify the logistics needed for couples seeking successful careers and a growing family.


December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

The Vanscoyks met in 2013 shortly after Alexandra left college and enlisted in the Marine Corps. She says the two quickly became friends, deciding to date after being stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, together.

“For three years our lives crossed paths on and off and eventually timing lined up where we were both single and we decide to try dating each other,” she explained in an email.

Alexandra said it came natural to date someone who understood the military lifestyle.

“It was always difficult finding civilians who wanted to date a ‘female Marine.’ I’m not really sure why. My best guess is our job title is intimidating to most civilians and we usually have an alpha personality which can also come off as intimidating. It also made conversations easier. We use so many acronyms and random jargon that most people will never understand, no matter how many times you tell them. So, for me, dating a Marine was what seemed realistic,” she said.

Missouri-native Charles Vanscoyk followed his twin brother into the Marines in 2004 after a short stint at college proved school wasn’t for him. Charles says a conversation with the recruiter made him realize the military was what he had been looking for.

“Growing up I was an athlete and liked to be challenged and stay competitive. Plus coming from a small town in the middle of nowhere the idea of travel and adventure sounded cool,” he said.

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

Both Marines were attached to Recruiting Station Houston, completing the independent duty assignment then relocating to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona. They both admit it’s been an adjustment to not only be back in the fleet, but doing so with the added stress of the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Under normal circumstances, childcare is a trending issue for households with working parents. Alexandra says a good command definitely makes it easier for them.

“Since we are both active duty it’s very difficult to come up with a solid routine while the daycares are closed. We’ve got two kids at home — one school aged who needs to complete online class work and an infant who needs constant attention. Thankfully our command has been very helpful but I know other dual couples who have not been as fortunate,” she said.

Prior to the pandemic, she adds, some of the challenges “were deciding who would stay home if the kids got sick, who would take time off work for appointments, worrying about when you or your spouse has 24–hour duty,” though she is quick to point out their family has benefitted from “very understanding units and leadership.” And the exposure to solid leadership over the years has guided her throughout her career.

“The commanding officer at my first unit had a moto: “family first, mission always.” At the time I didn’t have a family but it stuck with me. At my second unit I had two different COs and both were huge family men. Seeing them, 15 years plus into their career and still having a strong family made me realize it is possible to have the best of both,” she said.

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

Alexandra adds that her advice for younger service members is to find a good balance for work-home life, especially if you’re in a dual military relationship. Charles echoes that sentiment.

“The best advice I could give is put your family first. Still be a good Marine and proficient at your job, but understand this machine that is the Marine Corps will not fall apart if you are not there. Be there for you kids and family. Don’t miss those moments you will never get back with your family,” he said.

The Vanscoyks have their sights set on serving in the Marines for the long haul, with Alexandra weighing the idea of either pursuing warrant officer school or becoming a career recruiter. Charles says he has checked the box on many of his goals making career progression the natural focus.

“As a Marine you always strive for the next rank, so MSgt is my goal. And continue to try and motivate and inspire these next generation of Marines that will carry on the legacy,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what it’s like to enlist after growing up in the post-9/11 world

It was a cold February in 2014 when I was staying at a tiny U.S. Army installation right near the Demilitarized Zone in South Korea with the rest of my company. We hadn’t been there long before we got our first mail drop, right before Valentine’s Day. Some of us got care packages, but everyone in my platoon got a letter.

These letters were sent by elementary school kids back in the States — probably around third grade — and they were just as you’d expect: immaculate spelling, artwork that rivaled the classic greats, and fine calligraphy. Jokes aside, receiving that letter put me in an interesting head-space.

At that point, the war in Iraq had mostly died down. Marines were still being sent to Afghanistan, but just a handful of months prior, we were reflecting upon the 12th anniversary of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks that kick-started the whole shebang.


December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

1st platoon, Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment in South Korea. C. 2014.

(Dave Grove)

What I realized then and there is that, just a decade earlier, I was the elementary school kid writing a letter to some service member who was, at that time, fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. In fact, I was even younger than whoever penned my letter when I saw the events of that fateful September day repeated on the news. The kid who wrote the letter in my hands now wasn’t even around in 2001.

It never occurred to me, especially back at the turn of the century, that I would one day enlist to fight in the same war that started when I was a kid.

When I was growing up, you’d hear this left and right: “Don’t join the military, you’ll go to war and die.” I always dismissed it as ignorant. After all, my father fought in the war before this one and he came back, didn’t he? But, at the time, half of that statement was true. If you enlisted immediately after 9/11, there was a near guarantee you’d go to war.

That sentiment followed me through boot camp.

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

I joined the Marine Corps at the age of 17 and I was still sure I’d go to war. But, with time comes change — and that’s exactly what happened. From the time I went to MEPS and had an old guy tell me to turn my head and cough to the time I walked across the parade deck at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, everyone said I would go to war. My recruiter, my drill instructors, everyone.

But once I got to the School of Infantry, things had mellowed out a bit.

I never went to war. In fact, a lot of people I served with never did. The crazy thing is that it was the reason we enlisted. We were kids when 9/11 happened and we grew up during the war that it spawned. We had time to grow angry about what had happened and we enlisted for a lot of the same reasons as our predecessors.

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

Marine Corps Ball in 2014. That’s me on the left.

(Dave Grove)

What blows my mind the most, however, is that I completed my service over two years ago and that war is still going on, even if the Marine Corps infantry isn’t actively involved. Meanwhile, that kid who wrote me the letter is probably sitting in a high school classroom learning about 9/11 as a historical event — not as something that happened to them.

Makes you feel old, doesn’t it?

MIGHTY CULTURE

8 photos of Russia’s best attack helicopters

America has one dedicated attack helicopter, the AH-64 Apache. But our rivals in Russia have a much more diverse set of offerings with Hinds, Alligators, Black Sharks, and more all flying in concert with one another. Here are eight photos of them from some recent events in Russia:


December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

The Mi-28 Havoc attack helicopter sports a 30mm cannon in the nose and four hardpoints for carrying a mix of gun pods, rockets, anti-armor, and anti-air missiles. The pilot sits in a back seat while the weapons officer sits in the front, similar to the pilot and gunner in the American-made AH-64 Apache.

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

The pilots sit in an armored cockpit and, at first, could only fight during the day due to sensor limitations. Those limitations were fixed with the Mi-28N, allowing these bad boys to tackle Russia’s enemies in low light and night conditions thanks to a radome installed above the rotor.

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

Interestingly, the Mi-28 was pitted against the Ka-50 in trials, and the Mil-28 lost. But it performed well enough to keep flying anyway and eventually entered the main arsenal. Then, defense priority changes led to the Mi-28 becoming a rival to the Ka-50. Now, the Mi-28 regularly flies alongside the Ka-50s and Ka-52s in combat and training.

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

The Ka-52 Alligator is a successor to, and two-seater version of, the Ka-50 Black Shark. The attack helicopter has six weapons hardpoints that can carry everything from anti-tank missiles to rockets to a massive anti-ship missile capable of taking down tanker ships.

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

The Alligator uses a coaxial rotor where the two sets of blades spin in opposite directions, making it more stable than traditional helicopters and eliminating the need for an anti-torque tail rotor.

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

Mi-35 Hinds are a very special kind of beast. They’re often classified as an attack helicopter, but the alternate description is “heavy assault gunship,” which might be a better description. The Hind can not only tear apart enemy troops on the ground, it can also drop off an infantry squad to take control of the ground after.

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

The Mi-35s have an ungainly look on the ground but are vicious in the air, sort of like a fat duck on PCP.

December Gift Ideas for Deployed Personnel

(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

When they fly in large formations, they can drop entire infantry platoons or companies into the fight and provide close combat attack support to keep those infantrymen alive and lethal. They’re expensive and ungainly, but there’s a lot of value in its capability.

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