DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

The latest survey of active-duty and reserve-component service members’ spouses shows the spouses are, by and large, happy with the military lifestyles they lead.

Defense Department officials briefed reporters at the Pentagon Feb. 21, 2019, on the results of the surveys, which were conducted in 2017.

The survey of active-duty spouses and a similar survey of National Guard and Reserve spouses showed similar results, they said. Among active-duty spouses, 60 percent claimed they are “satisfied” with their military way of life. Among the reserve components, 61 percent were satisfied.


While both surveys showed a slight decrease from the last previous survey, conducted in 2015, the 2015 and 2017 results both were higher than results from the same question on the 2008 survey, officials noted.

James N. Stewart, performing the duties of the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, told reporters the surveys cover areas including satisfaction with military life, spouse employment, deployment and reintegration. Questions also touch on issues such as finances and the impact of deployments on families and military children.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

A soldier from the Florida Army National Guard’s 806th Military Police Company greets his family.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa)

Survey results inform decisions

Results are used to inform decisions about how the U.S. military provides services to families, he said.

“These surveys allow us to identify areas of concern and understand what’s working, and more importantly, what’s not,” Stewart said. “This information also helps our internal leaders evaluate programs, address issues and gaps, and determine the need for new services.”

Paul Rosenfeld, the director for DOD’s Center for Retention and Readiness, said positive results of the surveys included general spouse support for military members continuing to serve. Among reserve component spouses, for instance, 81 percent support continued service for their spouse.

Regarding financial matters, 71 percent of active-duty spouses report being comfortable with their financial situation, while 68 percent of reserve-component spouses say the same thing.

Of concern, Rosenfeld said, is that among active-duty spouses, 61 percent support continued military service for their spouse — that’s a drop from 68 percent in 2012. “Spouse support for service members staying on duty predicts actual member retention,” Rosenfeld said.

Other points of concern revealed by the surveys are high levels of “loneliness” reported by spouses when military members are deployed and unemployment rates for active-duty military spouses. Among active-duty spouses, Rosenfeld said, unemployment sits at 24 percent. Among the spouses of junior enlisted members in the E-1 through E-4 pay grades, he said, that number sits at 29 percent.

It’s all about the kids

When it comes to military spouses, Rosenfeld said, family is most important, and children top the list.

“Child care continues to be a key need for active-duty families,” he said, adding that 42 percent of active-duty spouses with children under age 6 report regularly using child care. It’s 63 percent for spouses who are employed.

Carolyn S. Stevens, director of DOD’s Office of Military Family Readiness Policy, said some 40 percent of military members have children. Of those children, she said, about 38 percent are under the age of 6.

Past survey results showed that availability of child care — in particular, hours of operation — had been an issue for military families, Stevens said. Where hours of operation for child care may have affected service members’ ability to do their mission, hours were expanded, she added.

Subsequent survey results show that now, among those who don’t make use of child care on installations, only 2 percent say it’s due to hours of operation, she said.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

Sinead Politz kisses her daughter, Lorelai, at the return of Lance Cpl. Ryan L. Politz.

“We believe, then, that those responses are a confirmation that we’ve listened to a concern, that we’ve responded to that concern, and that in fact we’ve hit the mark,” she said.

Also of concern when it comes to child care is cost and availability. About 45 percent of respondents on the survey say cost of child care is a problem for military families, Stevens said. She noted that in some situations, appropriated funds can be used to lower the cost of child care for families who use installation child care. And for some families, she said, fee assistance programs can be used to lower costs for those who use community-based child care.

Still, Stevens acknowledged, that’s not possible for every family who needs it, and more work needs to be done. “We are unable to provide fee assistance to all of our families, and we continue to see this as an issue that requires more attention and focus as we try to find solutions for families,” she said.

Next survey: 2019

For the 2017 survey, about 45,000 active-duty spouses were asked to participate, and about 17 percent of those responded. Among reserve-component spouses, 55,000 were invited to participate, with a response rate of 18 percent.

Invitations to participate in the 2019 survey went out to reserve component spouses in January 2019. An invitation will be sent to active-duty spouses in May 2019.

A.T. Johnston, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy, said the results from the 2017 survey, and the now ongoing 2019 survey, will continue to be used to improve quality of life for military families.

“The research information we receive guides me and my team to ensure we provide the tools, information and services that military families need to be successful, fulfilled, and able to manage the challenges they may encounter during military service,” Johnston said.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what troops do when they’re wintered over in Antarctica

Winter sucks everywhere. Sure, the bugs have finally frozen over and you can finally break out that coat you like, but it’s cold, you’re always late because your car won’t defrost in time, and no one seems to remember to tap their brakes when stopping at intersections.

But, as any optimist might tell you, things can always get worse! While it sucks for us up here in the middle of December, it’s actually the nicest time to be in Antarctica — nice by Antarctic standards anyway.

It doesn’t last, though, as the winters there begin in mid-February and don’t let up until mid-November. And don’t forget, we have brothers and sisters in the U.S. Armed Forces down there embracing the suck of the coldest temperatures on Earth.


DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

McMurdo Station is by far the most populated location on the entire continent with a population of 250 in the winter.

(Photo by Sarah E. Marshall)

To ensure that no hostilities occur on the frozen continent, the Antarctica Treaty lists it as “the common heritage of mankind.” As such, only scientific expeditions are allowed down there. Since airmen, sailors, and coast guardsmen have the capabilities to assist in this respect, they routinely travel to scientific research facilities to help out. Their mission is, simply, keep the scientists alive and let them focus on doing their jobs.

During the winter, which, as we’d mentioned, lasts for ten months, most scientists head to more hospitable climates. Most. Not all. It’s up to the troops to help keep those who remain safe and well. Thankfully, there are only three spots on the entire barren continent that they need to keep tabs on: McMurdo Station, Palmer Station, and the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

The ports and airstrips at Palmer Station remain active year round. In case of any emergencies, the Air Force and Navy can quickly send supplies into Palmer to have it distributed out further. At McMurdo Station, the winters are a little more intense, so the ports and airstrip are strictly for emergency use — but they manage.

Then there’re the troops with the scientists at the South Pole Station. They’re almost entirely frozen in. Thankfully, it doesn’t snow that much at the South Pole, but the wind combined with near-permanent darkness make it feel close to -100 Fahrenheit. The only real thing to do then is to bunker inside at the one bar located at the South Pole and wait for ten months inside.

To see what the winters actually look like in Antarctica, check out the video below.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The 5 movies you should watch to prepare for ‘Avengers: Endgame’

In less than two weeks, the biggest movie of the first half of the year will hit theaters. Avengers: Endgame will be the end of an era, mostly because there’s every reason to believe that at least two of the core Avengers — Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans — won’t be coming back to make more of these movies. But what if these movies are actually a little hazy in your memory? Or, more interestingly, what if you kind of can’t remember which Marvel movie is which, but you want to catch up a tiny bit before Endgame drops? There are literally twenty movies out on home video, and one movie still in theaters. So, should you binge-watch all of them before seeing Endgame?

Nope! In fact, there are really only five Marvel movies you have to watch to get good and refreshed for Endgame. If you barely care about Marvel, here’s the bare minimum of what you need to see. So, if you are cramming before Endgame, hopefully this will make the next two weeks fun, rather than feeling like watching a bunch of superhero homework.


1. Iron Man (2008)

The film that started it all, and possibly one of the best superhero/action movies of all time. The third act is a little wonky and predictable, but it’s hard to believe this insane movie phenomenon started just 11 years ago with this film. Tony Stark built this movie franchise…in a cave…with a box of scraps!!

Iron Man – Trailer

www.youtube.com

Reason to watch it before Endgame: On some level, the story of Endgame is the end of a story about that started with Tony Stark. So, it makes sense to revisit his origin.

Rent it on YouTube

2. The Avengers (2012)

Though Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger do a good job setting up those respective characters, you can totally skip those movies and just watch the Avengers after you see Iron Man. At the time it came out, the novelty of this movie was nuts. None of us could believe that six superheroes were teaming up in the same movie! Wow! Somehow just seven years later, that idea seems quaint.

Marvel’s The Avengers- Trailer (OFFICIAL)

www.youtube.com

Reason to watch it before Endgame: Because the new Avengersmovie is actually about the Avengers, watching their first big adventure together will help you understand how this became such an important super team in the first place.

Rent it on Amazon Prime

3. Captain America: Civil War (2016)

In between Avengers and Civil War were mostly bad movies. With the exception of Guardians of the Galaxy, the Marvel movies prior to Civil War and after The Avengers are mostly forgettable and, in some cases, straight-up bad. (Thor: The Dark World springs to mind.) Yes, while one could make an argument for watching Captain American: The Winter Soldier or Iron Man 3, you really get everything you need to know in Civil War. And, the movie is nuts.

Captain America: Civil War – Trailer

www.youtube.com

Reason to watch it before Endgame: Captain America and Iron Man’s partnership and friendship basically ends in this movie. The newer movies are connected to that aftermath. This helps explain how all that went down.

Rent it on Amazon Prime

4. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)


This is a no-brainer, but if you don’t see Infinity Warbefore Endgame you will be utterly lost. In some ways, it appears that Endgame is just like…the rest of Infinity War. These aren’t really two separate movies, not really. So, make sure to watch this one right before you see the new one.

Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War – Trailer

www.youtube.com

Reason to watch it before Endgame: To avoid asking questions like “what’s that?” and “why’s that?” every five seconds.

Watch it on Netflix

5. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

This is a little bit of a wild card, but other than Captain Marvel, the most recent Marvel Studios movie is Ant-Man and the Wasp. Unlike Captain Marvel, you can watch Ant-Man and the Wasp at home! There’s not a ton in this movie that connects to Endgame, other than the fact that Ant-Man being stuck in the Quantum Realm could be pivotal to what happens to the Avengers going forward. And, best of all, this is the only Marvel movie on this list that is specifically about a superhero who is also a dad trying to do right by his daughter. That reason alone makes it worth your time.

5 Questions Your Kids Will Have After ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp,’ Answered

www.youtube.com

Watch it on Netflix

Avengers: Endgame is out everywhere on April 26, 2019.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

Lists

Here is every weapon the US Army issues its soldiers

It goes without saying that the US Army is continuously testing and adding new weapons to its arsenal.

For example, the Army recently began to replace the M9 and M11 pistols with the M17 and M18, but has only delivered them to soldiers in the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell in Kentucky. Therefore, the pistols are not yet standard issue.


While the Army continues to stay ahead of the game, it undoubtedly has a multitude of weapons for its soldiers.

And we compiled a list of all these standard issue weapons operable by individual soldiers below, meaning that we didn’t include, for example, the Javelin anti-tank missile system because it takes more than one person to operate, nor did we include nonstandard issue weapons.

Check them out:

M1911 pistol

M1911 pistol

The M1911 is a .45 caliber sidearm that the Army has used since World War I, and has even begun phasing out.

M9 pistol

M9 pistol

The Army started replacing the M1911 with the 9mm M9 in the mid-1980s.

M11 pistol

M11 pistol

The M11 is another 9mm pistol that replaced the M1911, and is itself being replaced by the M17 and M18 pistols.

M500 shotgun

M500 shotgun

The M500 is a 12-gauge shotgun that usually comes with a five-round capacity tube. The Army began issuing shotguns to soldiers during World War I to help clear trenches, and has been issuing the M500 since the 1980s.

M590 shotgun

M590 shotgun

The 12-gauge M590 is very similar to the M500 — both of which are made by Mossberg — except for little specifications, such as triggers, barrel length and so forth.

M26 modular shotgun accessory

M26 modular shotgun accessory

The M26 is “basically a secondary weapon slung underneath an M4 to allow the operator to switch between 5.56 and 12-gauge rounds quickly without taking his eyes off the target or his hands off of his rifle,” according to the US Army.

M14 enhanced battle rifle

M14 enhanced battle rifle

The M14, which shoots a 7.62mm round, has been heavily criticized, and the Army is currently phasing it out. Read more about that here.

M4 carbine

M4 carbine

The M4 shoots 5.56mm rounds and is a shortened version of the M16A2.

M16A2 rifle

M16A2 rifle

The M16A2 shoots the same round and has a similar muzzle velocity as the M4. One of the main differences, though, is that it has a longer barrel length.

M16 rifle with M203 grenade launcher

M16 rifle with M203 grenade launcher

The M203 shoots 40mm grenades and can be fitted under the M4 and M16, but the Army is currently phasing it out for the M320.

M249 squad automatic weapon

M249 squad automatic weapon

The SAW shoots a 5.56mm round like the M4 and M16, but it’s heavier and has a greater muzzle velocity and firing range.

M240B medium machine gun.

M240B medium machine gun.

The M240B is a belt-fed machine gun that shoots 7.62mm rounds, but is even heavier and has a greater max range than the SAW.

There are multiple versions of the M240, and two more of those versions are Army standard issue.

M240L medium machine gun

M240L medium machine gun

The M240L is a much lighter version of the M240B, weighing 22.3 pounds, versus the 240B’s 27.1 pounds.

M240H medium machine gun

M240H medium machine gun

The M240H is an upgraded version of the M240D, which can be mounted on vehicles and aircraft.

M110 semi-automatic sniper system

M110 semi-automatic sniper system

The M110 shoots a 7.62x51mm round with an effective firing range of more than 2,600 feet. But the Army is currently phasing it out for the Heckler & Koch G28.

M2010 enhanced sniper rifle

M2010 enhanced sniper rifle

The M2010 shoots a .30 caliber, or 7.62x67mm round with an even greater effective firing range than the M110 at nearly 4,000 feet.

M107 long-range sniper rifle

M107 long-range sniper rifle

The M107 shoots an incredibly large 12.7x99mm round with an equally incredibly large effective firing range of more than 6,500 feet.

M2 machine gun

M2 machine gun

The M2 shoots .50 caliber rounds with an effective firing range of more than 22,000 feet. It’s also very heavy, weighing 84 pounds.

M320 grenade launcher (stand-alone)

M320 grenade launcher (stand-alone)

The M320 is the Army’s new 40mm grenade launcher, which can be fitted under a rifle or used as a stand-alone launcher. The M203 could too, but rarely was.

The M320 reportedly is more accurate and has niftier features, like side-loading mechanisms and better grips.

MK19 grenade machine gun

MK19 grenade machine gun

The MK19 is a 40mm automatic grenade launcher that can mount on tripods and armored vehicles. It has an effective firing range of more than 7,000 feet, compared to the M320‘s 1,100 feet.

M3 Carl Gustaf (MAAWS)

M3 Carl Gustaf (MAAWS)

The M3 Carl Gustaf is an 84mm recoilless rifle system that can shoot a variety of high-explosive rounds at a variety of targets, including armored vehicles.

And this graphic, updated in February 2018, and which the Army gave to Business Insider, shows all the current and future standard issue weapons.

And this graphic, updated in February 2018, and which the Army gave to Business Insider, shows all the current and future standard issue weapons.

All images featured in this article are courtesy of the Department of Defense.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

That time we took on the Navy’s hunter-killer dolphins

a service member feeds a dolphin

I was a platoon commander with reserve UDT-22 (Underwater Demolition Team 22) in Little Creek, Virginia in June of 1980. I had been promoted to lieutenant (SEAL) following a previous platoon commander tour with UDT-11. The current platoon had 21 men including my assistant platoon commander and chief petty officer.

We formed the platoon into squads of seven men each; a senior NCO or officer was in charge of each squad. We trained for everything daily. Diving, free fall, and static line parachuting, demolition, beach surveys, shooting, rappelling, and surf work with boats kept us busy. A lot of what we trained to do was carry out common tasks, but we were testing new ideas regularly. The fast rope rappelling method to insert from hovering helicopters was new and fun. The IBS (Inflatable Boat Small) “rubber duck drop” had been perfected recently allowing us to jump our rubber boats with motors from aircraft at night. We were innovators and loving it.

A new task came our way when we were asked to plan a mission to attack the USS Lexington (CV-16) moored pier side in Pensacola, Florida. She was a World War II-vintage Essex Class aircraft carrier that would serve until her decommissioning in 1991. But for now, she was going to be guarded by the famed, and then-classified, dolphins that had been trained to detect or attack swimmers in the water. No one had ever successfully evaded them.

The bottlenose dolphins were outfitted with devices on their heads that could “kill” a swimmer when they slammed into them.  The training devices were not dangerous, but the idea of a large mammal swimming out of the dark and bumping aggressively into our wet-suited bodies was downright fearsome. We were expected to die as all others had done in the past. We were to be cannon fodder for the training element that ran this special force of water attack mammals.

There were no previous after-action reports that we could learn from, as all before had failed. Past platoons had tried launching from every direction around the target at once in the hope that one pair might make it in successfully, but this was the dolphins’ backyard and they were very fast and capable. So we began to brainstorm methods that might work. Our solutions focused on what we thought would keep us undetected by one of the most advanced sonar systems in the world — the dolphin.

One pair decided to try paddling on surfboards covered entirely with seaweed in order to look like floating trash. This was appealing to the swimmers as a dolphin attack might just hit the boards instead of their tender underbellies. The other swim pairs decided to make their approach in the rolling surf zone with fins and masks only. No scuba systems had ever worked as the bubbles were too easy to detect. Additionally, the quieter pure oxygen Dragger scuba systems, which produced no bubbles, had likewise already failed since they produced a detectable clicking sound upon inhalation and exhalation. We would also all need to be carrying the magnetic limpet mines that we would use to sink the carrier.

Our window of attack was to be from sunset to dawn. We chose a 0200 attack time in the hope of catching the boat handlers tired and off guard. Another factor that made the event more interesting was that all night the beach would be patrolled by roving guards with night vision scopes and beach capable vehicles. We could not get out of the water undetected. At 0200 we used our motorized launch craft to simulate putting multiple dive pairs in at various places around the target. Our boats had been cruising the area at a safe distance for a few hours, with stops and starts, to confuse the dolphin handlers. During that time, we could hear them giving whistle commands to the dolphins. Our real launches occurred close to shore.Read Next: The US Navy’s Deadly MK6 Attack Dolphin Program

As the seaweed-covered surfboard pair used their fins to move very slowly toward the target, just outside the breaking surf they passed a channel marker pole in the water. Undetected atop the pole was a large pelican. As the pair passed close by, the startled pelican launched noisily in the air and the already very nervous paddlers, fearing a sudden underwater attack, both screamed involuntarily and could be heard easily by all. They did not make it much further before a dolphin suddenly surfaced and squeaked a warning to the waiting handlers who zoomed in and threw simulated grenades at the embarrassed, and now eliminated, attackers. Now they knew we were attacking and one of our pairs was gone.

I was in the surf zone concentrating on staying in the froth of the breaking waves. I could hear engine noises as boat-borne handlers zoomed around. Our planning had included two essential concepts: First, we believed that the crashing surf would mask our presence by interfering with the dolphins’ sonar. (They were reported to always avoid breaking surf.) Second, if we could remain undetected by the beach patrols in the fluffy blackness of the rolling surf, we could then get to, and under, the barnacle-covered pier pilings and work our way slowly to the carrier. There were three long piers that jutted out into the harbor to which other boats and craft could tie up. We had been told that the dolphins would not come under the piers and risk their soft skin on the barnacles. We were counting on that.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life
K-Dog, a bottle-nose dolphin belonging to Commander Task Unit (CTU) 55.4.3, leaps out of the water in front of Sgt. Andrew Garrett while training near the USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) in the Persian Gulf. Attached to the dolphin’s pectoral fin is a “pinger” device that allows the handler to keep track of the dolphin when out of sight.

The swim was exhausting as the surf tried to dash us repeatedly against the shallow bottom while we traversed over 1,000 yards to the pier area. One pair made it safely to the first pier and whispered to each other that perhaps they could save some time and energy by scooting across the open area between piers. They heard no area boats so took a chance by quietly and quickly swimming underwater across the short 30-yard distance between piers. Bad choice. They just managed to cover 20 yards when the dolphins hit them both. Two pairs down.

The two other pairs, including me and my swim buddy, stuck to the plan. We worked under the piers slowly toward the shore, across the gap under the pilings, and up along the next one until we made it past all three piers to the bow of the huge looming carrier. There were guards and vehicles moving above us, but we were invisible in the dark filthy waters under the piers. The carrier sat quietly with a draft of 35-feet. The seawater intakes had been shut down for the exercise, and the ship was entirely on shore power and water.

Four of us made it to the ship and, as briefed, dove down about 20 feet, planted our limpet mines on the metal hull, pulled the time-delayed fuses, and made it back safely under the pier. Separately, and quietly, we retraced our paths back along the pilings and worked back to the nearby surf zone. Once again, we stayed in the rolling, exhausting, noisy surf zone and swam slowly to our extraction point. It took over an hour but we were able to signal, undetected, for pickup by our launch vessels.

The crew was all smiles when it picked us up. Our limpet mines had detonated after the 30-minute time delay producing heavy red smoke that was seen by the pier patrols. Mission accomplished. One carrier sunk or severely damaged.

To this day the dolphin handlers swear we must have cheated!

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why Polynesian tattoos are probably more intense than yours

Tattoos are, by their very essence, pretty badass. They’re statements to the entire world that you’re willing to go through a few hours of pain to showcase your dedication to a certain thing. They’re messages that you’ll carry on your body forever.

In the military, it’s not uncommon for troops to get a new bit of ink that celebrates their branch on the day they graduate from initial entry training. It’s a legitimately badass reason to permanently mark yourself — a symbol of transformation into a warrior — just as Polynesian warriors have done throughout history.

That tattoo of a unicorn that you drunkenly got inked onto your butt because it’ll totally be funny? Not quite as badass.


Tattooing predates civilization itself. Ötzi the Iceman, found in the Italian Alps, is Europe’s oldest known human mummy and his skin was inked with 61 different tattoos. But the art form, as we know it, followed early Austronesian settlers and arguably reached its apex with the Polynesian peoples.

In many Polynesian societies, tattoos are symbols of class, nobility, and family. While certain design elements may be similar and represent a specific trait exhibited by the wearer, no two tattoos, by their very nature, are identical. In Polynesian society, tattoos read like someone’s life story. If lines are filled with a dog-skin cloak, it may signify that someone is a warrior. Intricate designs on the forehead may mean they’re in a leadership position within their community.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life
People want to appropriate other cultures and take their tattoo designs, but none of them are willing to go the distance by getting a Ta Moko (face tattoo).
(Photo by Graham Crumb)

Some Polynesians still get their tattoos the same way their ancestors did — using tools of sharpened bone and ink made from the candle nut. This traditional process makes heavier use of scarification than modern techniques.

Instead of using a needle to inject ink beneath the epidermis (first layer of skin), the traditional method used by Pacific Islanders involves, at its most basic, digging into the flesh with a serrated bone, using a tapping mallet to drive the the bone further into the skin, and rubbing ink into the wound. It’s extremely painful and may take weeks, if not years, to complete.

This is made even more impressive by the fact that the most common place to get a tattoo is the face. Unlike western cultures, face tattoos aren’t vilified by the Maori. It’s simply a way of showing the world who you are.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life
Fun fact: It’s very common in Samoa to get the tattoo from the waist to the knee — the pe’a — which covers everything to include the booty and the private bits.

The act of getting a tattoo is sacred in that it’s a rite of passage for the wearer. You cannot eat with your hands while it’s being done nor can you talk to anyone during the tattoo process. But the biggest no-no is wincing from pain. Any sign of weakness means you are not worthy of the tatau and you’ll be told to leave with a half-finished tattoo. This forever marks you with shame.

The tradition continues to this day as a sign of heritage. While most of the younger generations opt for the modern-day needle gun (it’s faster and less painful), traditional artists are still around. While it’s not forbidden for outsiders to undergo the traditional process, you will (understandably) be shunned if you get something that you know nothing about just because you thought it looked cool.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here are 5 ways to earn and learn through a VA career

Juggling the demands of school, work, and life can take a toll. At VA, learning is central to delivering top-notch care to veterans. That’s why, with a VA career, it’s easier for you to advance your education and skills without burning out.

If you plan to work while you pursue a degree or credential, here are five ways to earn and learn through a VA career:


1. Apply for a scholarship

If costs threaten to derail your dreams of a degree, a VA scholarship can help put things back on track. We offer several scholarships — like the Employee Incentive Scholarship (EISP) Program and the National Nursing Education Initiative (NNEI) — that can help you continue your healthcare education without piling up debt.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

The VA National Education for Employees Program (VANEEP) even pays your full salary and up to ,117 toward the cost of higher education.

“This generous scholarship paid a majority share of my tuition,” says Isaac Womack, a Registered Nurse at the VA Portland Healthcare System in Oregon. “It also matched my regular income, allowing me to focus on school, work and other professional pursuits.”

2. Explore repayment and reimbursement options

Student loans make it difficult to get ahead. Through VA’s Education Debt Reduction Program (EDRP), providers hired for mission-critical positions can receive up to 0,000 over a five-year period in reimbursements for tuition, books, supplies and lab costs.

“I still have a very large amount of medical school debt to service,” says Dr. Stephen Gau, a board-certified emergency medicine physician at VA Loma Linda Healthcare System in California. “The EDRP program helps to accelerate the pay off dramatically.”

Because VA is a federal government entity, you can also tackle school debt with the national Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

3. Gain valuable experience through a residency program

If you’re looking to gain real-world experience while pursuing your education, the VA Learning Opportunities Residency program offers nursing, pharmacy and medical technology students the chance to work alongside VA professionals at a local facility. If you’ve completed your junior year in an accredited clinical program, you can earn up to 800 hours of salary dollars while applying your skills to help veterans.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

4. Ask about a flexible schedule or remote work

Not every job comes with flex time and telework options. But many VA careers offer options other than the traditional 9-to-5 workweek and can accommodate your school schedule. Options might include varying arrival and departure times, working longer but fewer days or even teleworking on a regular or ad-hoc basis with a formal agreement.

5. Enroll in continuing education

VA employees can check to see if your VA medical center pays for courses from nearby colleges and universities. And be sure to advance your skills through the VA Talent Management System, which provides access to thousands of online courses, learning activities and VA-required training through a web-based portal. Track your progress through the system’s official training record.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Korean War started 68 years ago this week

When the Korean War erupted on June 25, 1950 — 68 years ago in June 2018 — Master Sgt. Thomas B. Hutton soon found himself serving there with the Eighth U.S. Army as a first sergeant in an automotive maintenance unit, duty that gave him a rare chance to see the land and people of Korea up close as the country went about its daily life amid the privations and perils of war.

Hutton was an avid photographer and during 1952, he turned his 35 mm lens to preserving what he saw, snapping hundreds of photos — in color — that afford a rare look and feel of the country at that time.

The photos show ordinary people — country folk and city dwellers — going about their daily tasks — washing clothes in a river, bustling past a railroad station, making their way down a country road, standing in a rice field and watching a passing train haul tanks to some distant railhead.


Hutton died in 1988 and hundreds of his slides ended up in the Texas home of one of his daughters. As it happened, her son was Army Col. Brandon D. Newton, who until June 2018, served two years as commander of U.S. Army Garrison Red Cloud and Area I. He’d digitized his grandfather’s Korean War photos, kept them on his smartphone, and one day in 2017 showed them to a Korean Army sergeant major who sat next to him at an informal dinner.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life
Master Sgt. Thomas B. Hutton an Eighth U.S. Army first sergeant in an automotive maintenance unit looks out on the South Korea countryside during the Korean War circa 1952.
(U.S. Army photo)

The sergeant major was amazed. Color photos of the Korean War were rare enough, but these truly captured Korea’s history. They showed what the country looked like. What the people looked like. And they even included rare shots of some of the earliest members of two organizations that are part of the U.S.-South Korean military alliance to this day: the Korean Service Corps and the KATUSAs — South Korean Soldiers who serve shoulder-to-shoulder with U.S. Soldiers in U.S. Army units in Korea.

When the sergeant major asked Newton if he’d be willing to donate the photos to the Korean Army, Newton immediately said yes and soon gave the slides — 239 images — to the Korean Army.

The Korean Army was thrilled and got right to work on trying to pin down where the photos were taken and just what they showed. To get it right, they enlisted the aid of professors, museum curators and other experts.

Then on June 5, 2018 Newton, his wife and son were the guests of the Korean Army’s Personnel Command in Gyeryong, South Chungcheong Province, for an exhibition of some of Hutton’s photos and a ceremony marking the donation.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life
Early photo of a group of Korean Service Corps members during the Korean War circa 1952.
(U.S. Army photo)


The photos will be preserved in the Korean army’s official archives and copies would be distributed to museums and other institutions, the Korean army said during the ceremony.

During brief remarks at the ceremony, Newton said of the photos:

“First, they provide a very accurate and important history of what Korea was like in 1952, not just for the American Army, the Eighth Army, but also for the ROK army, Korean Service Corps and the KATUSAs. Second — most importantly — they demonstrate the strength of the alliance and an alliance that’s been in place for 68 years. And it helps us understand that our alliance is not just about the relationship between the militaries but also between our people, between the people of the United States of America and the people of the Republic of Korea. It’s a relationship that not only is about our service today but it’s about spanning generations from grandfathers and fathers and sons.”

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Here are some ‘Star Wars’ fan theories about Rey’s red lightsaber

The newest teaser for “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” contains a climactic moment that has fans buzzing: Rey wielding a double-bladed red lightsaber.

Disney debuted the new look at the upcoming movie, which hits theaters in December 2019, over the weekend at its biannual fan event D23 Expo. Now that the teaser is available on YouTube, fans are going wild with theories about Rey’s possible turn to the dark side.

The Force-sensitive heroine has historically used a single-bladed blue lightsaber, which formerly belonged to Anakin and Luke Skywalker.


The “Star Wars” franchise has always taken lightsaber ownership very seriously, so it makes sense that fans are analyzing Rey’s new weapon.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

Rey is portrayed by Daisy Ridley.

(Star Wars/YouTube)


“We take to heart the lesson that Obi-Wan tried to impart to Anakin: ‘This weapon is your life.’ We’re not ones to lose track of lightsabers,” Lucasfilm Story Group executive Pablo Hidalgo told Vanity Fair in 2017.

The movies have hinted at Rey’s connection to the dark side before

In many ways, Rey is drawn as a parallel to Kylo Ren, a powerful servant of the dark side.

It’s still unclear, however, whether their similarities are because Rey is drawn towards the dark side or because of Kylo’s remaining connection to the light side. It could also be rooted in a secret familial relationship, since Kylo Ren was born Ben Solo, the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa — and eventual student of Luke Skywalker.

Writer Sarah Sahim also noticed that Rey’s weapon on the poster for “The Force Awakens” is literally drawn parallel to Kylo’s red lightsaber, creating a clear resemblance to the double-bladed red lightsaber.

The red lightsaber could mean that Rey will turn to the dark side — and fans are kind of into it

Subtle details from the teaser have led some fans to believe Rey will actually embrace the dark side in “The Rise of Skywalker.”

Rey’s theme music is played in a deeper, darker key, for instance. The footage is narrated by Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader’s breathing can be heard in the background just moments before “dark Rey” appears.

Even though a turn to the dark side would be detrimental to her heroic arc, many “Star Wars” fans were captivated by the image of “dark Rey.”

Some believe the moment in the teaser is a “Force vision”

Responding to a fan on Twitter, Nerdist writer Lindsey Romain said it’s “definitely a possibility” that Rey’s red lightsaber moment is “a vision of what she could become” — though she wrote for Nerdist that she believes a real dark turn for Rey is more compelling.

Vanity Fair’s Joanna Robinson is more convinced of the vision theory. Replying to Romain on Twitter, she attached a photo of Luke’s Force vision from the Dagobah cave, where he sees his own face wearing Darth Vader’s beheaded helmet.

The image of “dark Rey” could be a warning, showing the young hero what she could become and has to avoid.

The “dark Rey” image could also be Force vision for Kylo. It’s possible that Kylo secretly fears that the dark side will win, or the image is being used by Palpatine to manipulate him — in Romain’s words, “to taunt the poor boy about what could have been.”

Another theory is that Rey, or a Rey clone, will be possessed by Emperor Palpatine or another Sith lord

We already know that Palpatine will play a major role in the upcoming film. In addition to narrating the trailer, he’s shown as a massive and menacing presence on the newly released poster.

Palpatine could somehow possess Rey and force her towards the dark side.

Alan Johnson, the Director of Influencer Relations at WB Games, believes that “dark Rey” is one of many Rey clones.

“I still think Rey is a clone and the Sith version from the new ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ trailer is a clone that has been activated and possessed by Emperor Palpatine,” he wrote on Twitter. “The vision she had in ‘The Last Jedi’ screamed ‘clone’ to me at the time.”

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

Also read:

MIGHTY FIT

5 of the best tips to get you back into shape after serving

Serving in the military requires us to be in top physical shape so we spend long hours carrying heavy equipment and kicking down the bad guy’s door. Being physically fit ensures that we can take the fight to the enemy and outlast them in any combat situation. It’s one of our strongest battlefield advantages.

Unfortunately, when we transition out the service, many of us trade out those brutal workouts in favor of spending more time relaxing on the couch. Those six-pack abs we used to sport at the beach have now gone AWOL. In fact,

“Veterans have a 70-percent higher chance of developing obesity than the general public,” Army veteran and fitness expert Jennifer Campbell says.

One reason for this statistic is the dramatic change in a veteran’s daily routine once they’re out of service. Where once a troop was expected to gear up and get out there for PT every morning, there’s no such demand on a veteran. This huge shift away from daily activity makes an equally huge impact on a veteran’s body. And, after reaching a certain point of inactivity, a lot of veterans just give up on their physique. Unfortunately, we’re not taught how to properly step back into the routine and achieve that lean look you had while serving.

Let’s fix that. Here are a few simple few steps that will ease you back into maintaining a healthy lifestyle.


Ease back in it

We’ve seen it time-and-time again: Amateur gymgoers start hitting the weights hard right out of the gate and, by the next day, they’re so freaking sore they stop altogether. Mentally, we want to hit the ground running and make a big impact, but slow and steady wins this race.

Start out with something relatively low-impact and gradually work your way up. It’s just that simple.

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Set some goals

We’re not superhuman, even if we tell ourselves otherwise. Setting achievable goals, like losing a few pounds over a couple of weeks, is a surefire way to boost your morale. Continually update your goals based on the ones you’ve already smashed.

Track your calories today and cut a few hundred of them tomorrow

We love to eat good food. Let’s face it, who doesn’t enjoy chowing down on a delicious piece of cake or a juicy cheeseburger? Unfortunately, those foods are super high in calories. So, we challenge you to record all the calories you’ve eaten today, and, by this time tomorrow, cut the number down by a few hundred.

At the end of the day, losing weight and getting in shape is about achieving a calorie deficit. You must expend more calories than you take in.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

Senior Master Sgt. Lawrence Greebon, Airey Non-Commissioned Officer Academy Director of Education, performs a crunch in the correct form according to the new Physical Training standards while participating in a new-standards PT test

(Photo by Airman 1st Class Veronica McMahon)

Conduct a PFT

While serving, your fitness was tested by measuring how fast you ran and how many sit-ups and push-ups you could perform in two-minutes (pull-ups if you were in the Marine Corps). Now that you’re out, consider re-testing yourself to better understand where your strength and endurance is at now.

You might not score as high as you once did, but it’ll give you a solid goal to work toward.

Once you’re back on track, things get easier.

The hardest part of any fitness program is getting started. As we stated earlier, many people start out strong and quit after a few workout sessions. No one said working out was easy — because it’s not — but there is a light at the end of the long dark tunnel.

After you get into the groove of hitting the weights and slimming down, you’ll start to notice results. Then, hopefully, what you see in the mirror will inspire you to move forward and continue achieving your fitness goals.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why balloons were some of the scariest targets of World War I

For World War I pilots, the most terrifying song that relates to their experience may not be Seven Nation Army but 99 Luftballoons, because going against barrage and observation balloons in the Great War was terrifying.


Barrage balloons over London in World War II.

(Public Domain)

Pilots with the balls and skill to attack these balloons were known as balloon busters, and ones that had shot down more than five of the balloons were known as balloon aces. And yes, shooting down a balloon counted as a “kill,” same as shooting down a piloted enemy plane.

But what made them so hard to shoot down? After all, they were just a bunch of floating bags of air. Pop ’em with a needle and get on with your day, right?

Well, no.

First, military balloons weren’t made of cheap Mylar or latex. Many in World War I were made of tightly woven fabric, though vulcanized rubber and Thiokol rubber were prominent in World War II. All of these materials could take plenty of hits without splitting, meaning bullets that passed through them caused them to leak instead of to pop.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

A row of spherical barrage balloons used for suspending aerial nets

(Australian War Memorial)

So they couldn’t simply be popped, and it often took a lot of rounds to bring one down. But if a fighter did manage to slay the beast, he wasn’t out of danger yet. While American balloons in World War II were sometimes filled with helium, none of the early Great War combatants had access to that gas, and hydrogen was the preferred gas for barrage balloons anyway.

Why? Well, for the same reason it was bad for the Hindenburg. Observation balloons had people in them, people who would’ve loved helium instead of hydrogen over their heads. But barrage balloons were empty, and filling them with hydrogen meant that, when destroyed, the balloons had a tendency to go out in massive fireballs. This was a huge threat to the fighters attacking it.

It also meant that fighters had one advantage though: Incendiary rounds were very effective against the balloons. But in World War I, pretty much only the British had incendiary rounds in planes. Everyone else was slinging cold metal. And incendiary rounds didn’t stay hot forever, generally traveling only 300 to 400 yards while still burning. You did not want to be 300 yards from an exploding balloon and still flying towards it as you would have to be to effectively shoot at it.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

Barrage balloons and their crews in World War II.

(Royal Air Force)

Fine, fine, fine. The balloons were hard to shoot down and, when shot down, might explode in a big fireball and kill the attacking fighter. Fine. Just fly around them, right? Let the Germans have their balloons over their lines, maybe bring in some air defense artillery to shoot at it. But let the fighters avoid them.

Nope. For two reasons. First, those observation balloons were an enduring threat from the moment they went up until the moment they went down. Artillery observers sat in them and reported troops positions and movements to their friendly artillery for hours, allowing German crews to hit English, French, and U.S. positions all day. They had to be killed.

But the barrage balloons couldn’t be ignored either, because they had thick steel cables or else entire nets hanging from them in order to catch enemy fighters attempting to fly under them. And they flew high enough that few World War I fighters or bombers could come over the top and still be effective. By World War II, the balloons were set lower, but only to steer the enemy aircraft up to over 5,000 feet where anti-aircraft artillery was most effective.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

American pilot Frank Luke poses with his 13th confirmed kill.

(Public Domain)

So observation balloons and barrage balloons were lethal, terrifying, and absolutely had to be destroyed, and some of America, England, and France’s top aces proved their mettle by flying at the things, especially in World War I. In fact, some of the top decorated fighter pilots of World War I had few wins against human-piloted planes, but a dozen or more against balloons.

Will Coppens, a Belgian pilot, personally awarded a medal by King Albert I had only shot down two enemy planes in his career, but he had taken down an astounding 35 enemy balloons. The next highest scoring pilot after him was Frenchman Leon Bourjade with 27. So, yeah, Coppens earned that medal from his king.

America’s top balloon buster was Frank Luke, a mouthy pilot who was looked down upon by his peers when he arrived in France. He claimed his first fighter kill in August 1918, but no one else had witnessed the feat, and he was written off as a blowhard. So, after hearing how hard balloons were to take down, he attacked one on September 12 and, after three passes, destroyed it right before it reached the safety of the ground where the observers could clamber out.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

German observation balloons allowed for intelligence gathering and highly accurate artillery fire, and barrage balloons created persistent threats to enemy fighters.

(State Library of New South Wales)

Luke bagged another two balloons two days later. His wingman that day, 1st Lt. Joseph Wehner, formed a team with him that specialized in balloon busting and turned the whole thing into a traveling show, sending invitations to VIPs to witness German balloons blowing up at set times and places. But it was too bold to last, and Wehner was shot down on September 18 while taking down his fifth balloon, giving him balloon ace status in death.

Distraught, Luke went off the deep end, taking more and more risks in flight to the point that his superiors grounded the already famous pilot who, by that point, had 11 victories against balloons and four against fighters, making him America’s ace of aces. On September 29, he stole a plane and dropped a note to the ground that told observers to watch German balloons over the Meuse.

Luke flew into the teeth of the enemy, dodging ground fire and eight enemy fighters as he took down one balloon after the others, destroying all three in the area before he was shot down. He survived the wreck and pulled his pistol, fending off a German patrol and killing multiple members of it until a German round drilled him in the chest.

He was awarded two Distinguished Service Crosses and the Medal of Honor for his heroics in September 1918, going to his grave as America’s best-ever balloon buster with 14 kills against balloons and four against fighters.

MIGHTY HISTORY

One of the first two female FBI agents got her start in the Marines

It seemed almost immediate: right after the death of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover in 1972, the FBI began opening up training to women who were qualified candidates. At Hoover’s funeral was a young female Marine, sent to Washington as a representative of the U.S. Navy. As soon as Hoover’s replacement offered the title of “special agent” to women, that Marine was one of the first ones to go to Quantico.


Susan Roley Malone wanted to be an FBI agent ever since she was tasked to give a presentation on the Bureau in the eighth grade. The young Malone was supposed to research the agency, interview special agents, and tell her class about career opportunities, even though she would not be eligible for them. The FBI was her passion as she grew up in the 1950s and 1960s. She read books about the FBI. She watched movies about the FBI. When it came time to serve her country, however, she wasn’t allowed to join. So she became a Marine.

She and another woman – a former nun named Joanne Pierce – went to the FBI academy on Jul. 17, 1972 – little more than two months after Hoover’s death. Her FBI career would include investigating the Patti Hearst kidnapping, organized crime, and monitoring foreign nationals.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

Susan Roley Malone

The hostility began right away – and abated just as fast. At lunch, some male agent trainees sat around her and began to grill her on her dedication to training with the Bureau.

“Why are you here?”

“Who are you?”

“Why do you want to be here?”

“What makes you think you can be an FBI agent?”

Her answer was curt but honest. She sat down and told them what’s what: she was there for the same reason any man was there. She loved her country just like anyone else. She wanted to continue to serve, now in law enforcement. She knew the FBI and the work it did. She cherished their work and she wasn’t going anywhere.

“It’s like any organization,” Malone says. “When you’re the first and you’re a pioneer, you know, you’re going to get push back from some people. But I got a lot people that helped, a lot of people that held out their hands, and were colleagues and allies to help. Those people that didn’t help or were maybe nasty to me, they have to walk in their own skin and you know they probably didn’t feel good about themselves, I can’t say.”

Her first field office was Omaha, Nebraska, wrangling cattle rustlers, which she thought was a cruel joke at first, chasing down cattle rustling in the 1970s. It turns out that stealing cattle was a big business. But she was a good agent – and dedicated one. She began making arrests right away, the first arrest ever made by a female FBI agent.

“I am where I am today because of the talents and gifts of many people that have opened doors for me,” she says. That have assisted me along on my journey. And especially some of the people that I recall that were FBI agents… These people had such talent and they were willing to share it. They were willing to take a young agent, whether it was a man or women, and share that talent. And for that I am grateful.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

China is now grooming kids to make AI weapons

An elite group of “patriotic” students in China have been selected to begin training for new artificial intelligence weapons development program.

31 kids — all under 18 — have been recruited to participate in the “Experimental Program for Intelligent Weapons Systems” at the Beijing Institute of Technology, South China Morning Post reported Nov. 8, 2018, citing an announcement from the Beijing Institute of Technology. The program selected 27 boys and four girls from more than 5,000 applicants, the school’s website said, according to the Post.

“These kids are all exceptionally bright, but being bright is not enough,” a BIT professor who asked not to be identified told the Post.


“We are looking for other qualities such as creative thinking, willingness to fight, a persistence when facing challenges,” he said. “A passion for developing new weapons is a must … and they must also be patriots.”

According to the program’s brochure, each student will be mentored by two weapons scientists with both academic and defense backgrounds. The kids will later be tasked with choosing a specialization within the weapons sector and will be assigned to the relevant defense laboratory to hone their skills under the guidance of experts.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

RoboCup 2015.

The institute expects students will go on to complete doctorate degrees and become leaders in the field of AI weapons technology, the Post said.

China has been outspoken about its interest in developing AI technology

China has touted its AI development across sectors, including a trillion-dollar autonomous-driving revolution and a massive expansion of its facial-recognition software.

In his 2017 keynote speech to the ruling Communist Party, President Xi Jinping called for the embedding of artificial intelligence technologies into the economy to create growth and expand its capabilities across industries.

In July 2018, China released its own AI development plan, which proposed building up its domestic AI industry to 0 billion over the next few years to establish the country as an “innovation center for AI” by 2030.

And while China has largely kept the development of its AI-weapons technology opaque, Elsa B. Kania an adjunct fellow at the Center for a New American Security, predicts that China’s army will “likely leverage AI to enhance its future capabilities, including in intelligent and autonomous unmanned systems.”

China is reportedly working on a fleet of drone submarines in order to give China’s navy an advantage at sea. And in April 2018, the Chinese air force released details about an upcoming drill using fully autonomous swarms of drones.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

A Reaper MQ-9 Remotely Piloted Air System.

(Photo by Corporal Steve Follows RAF)

But experts have repeatedly warned about the dangers of AI

Experts have repeatedly warned about the dangers AI, arguing that advanced systems which can make thousands of complex decisions every second could have “dual-use” to help or harm, depending on its design.

In February 2018, AI experts across industries outlined in a 100-page report the dangers of AI technology and how the technology could be weaponized for malicious use. Aside from using AI technology for attacks in the digital realm, the technology could be used in the physical realm to turn technology, like drones, into weapons and attack targets at the push of a button or the click of a mouse.

In April 2018, China submitted its proposal to the UN Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems announcing its desire to create a new protocol for restricting the use of AI weapons. In its proposal, China highlighted the dangers of AI weaponry but also stressed the need to continue developing AI technology.

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

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