While troops are in uniform, the only thing that matters is if it’s correct. Uniform is tidy and presentable. Boots are clean (and polished, for you older cats.) Hair is cut on a weekly basis. Things like that.
But when troops are off-duty and in garrison, they’re allowed to wear whatever.
Normally, troops just wear something comfortable and occasionally trendy. When you’re off-duty, you’re on your own time (until someone in the unit messes up).
But then there are the young, dumb boots who make it so painfully obvious that they don’t have any real clothes in their barracks room.
Shy of some major exceptions for clothing unbecoming of a service member, there are no guidelines for wearing civilian clothes out of uniform. But it’s like boots haven’t figured out that being “out of uniform” isn’t meant to be the unofficial boot uniform. You can spot them immediately when they wear these.
I feel like this dude’s NCO failed him by not immediately taking him to the barber.
Barracks haircut without a hat
It really doesn’t matter if you’ve got a stupid haircut in formation. You’ll be mocked relentlessly by your squad but it doesn’t matter. You’re at least in regulations.
If you don’t hide your shame with a hat when you’re in civvies, however, your buddies might get the impression that you don’t realize it’s an awful haircut. And that you’re a boot. And that you should be mocked even harder.
But hey. It technically counts as civilian wear.
Uniform undershirt with basketball shorts
When you’re done for the day, normal troops get out of their uniform as fast as they can. Boots tend to stop half way through just so they can go to the chow hall and get away with being in civvies.
They just stop at the blouse and pants and toss on a cheapo pair of basketball shorts. If they’re really lazy, they’ll even wear the military-issued socks with the same cheap Nike sandals.
Can we all agree that the bedazzled butt cross should have never been a fad?
Combat boots tucked into embroidered jeans
Combat boots aren’t really worn for comfort. They’re practical as hell (which is why the military uses them) but they’re not comfortable. Especially when they need to be bloused over the uniform pants. It would make sense that you’d not want to do this with regular clothes…right?
Nope. Boots never got that memo. And it’s never the same jeans any regular American would wear. It’s always the trashiest embroidered jeans that look like they weren’t even cool back in early 2000’s.
One of my favorite things when someone is wearing a shirt for a fighter is to press them for details about fighter’s record.
It’s one thing if a new troop wears their basic training shirt. It’s one of the few shirts they have and completing basid is something to be proud of. No qualms with that.
If a boot rotates wearing one of seven Tapout or Affliction shirts and they’ve only ever taken Army Combatives Level One — yeah, no.
Just like with the goofy embroidered jeans, these shirts also look like they were constantly sprinkled in glitter.
Just please take them off. This just looks dumb.
Oakleys worn on the back of the head (or under the chin)
Think of how literally every single person does with their sunglasses when they’re not using them. You’d assume they’d take them off or flip them up to the top of their head if it’s for a quick moment, right?
Not boots. They flip them around so they’re worn in a stupid manner. Nothing against Oakleys either — but if they’re more expensive than everything else combined in their wardrobe, it’s a problem.
“You’re welcome for my service.”
Dog tags outside a shirt
Dog tags serve a purpose for identifying troops in combat and treated as an inspectable item while in uniform. It is unheard of in any current branch of service to wear dog tags outside of the uniform.
And yet, boots will wear their dog tags on the outside of their Tapout shirt to let everyone know that they’re in the military and didn’t just buy their dog tags online.
But seriously. Where did they get these from?
ID card holder armbands
If troops are in a top secret area, they may need to wear identification outside of their uniform (and even then, it’s probably a separate badge). While on a deployment, troops may need to wear an ID card armband if they’re in PTs. Shy of those two very specific moments, there is literally no reason to store your CAC outside your wallet.
There’s an explanation for everything else on this list: boots think it looks cool and makes them feel like even more in the military. But boots who wear their CAC on their sleeve just paint a big ol’ target on themselves.
Mighty Stories is a weekly WATM feature highlighting the stories of veterans, active duty and military families. This week’s feature is Krista Simpson Anderson – Army wife, Gold Star wife, founder of the nonprofit The Unquiet Professional.
I grew up in Hampton, Massachusetts – a little town right outside of Springfield. My father served in the U.S. Air Force from 1967-1971, but it was before I was born. My mom’s side of the family also served, but it wasn’t something we talked about. I was blissfully ignorant about military life.
I met Mike in June 2006. He was a friend of my cousin’s. My cousin was deploying to Iraq and my aunt was having a deployment party for him. She flew in a few of his friends that had been in the Old Guard with him, and she called me and asked me to help her with the guys flying in.
I walked into the Toasted Owl Tavern in Northhampton, and there he was.
It was love at first sight. I remember my cousin saying to me, ‘I’m going to disown you both if you get married.’ But we were fixed on each other. The whole world could have come crashing down around us and we wouldn’t have noticed.
In August 2006, Mike’s whole unit transferred to Germany. I went out to visit him for Thanksgiving. In September of 2007, he deployed to Iraq. He came out to Rhode Island to my family’s home before he left and we spent a week together. I was working in the restaurant business at the time of his deployment, so I took a couple of different jobs, one in St. Thomas, one in New York. But we stayed in contact.
In April 2008, during his mid-tour leave, he invited me to his brother David and sister-in-law Kelsey’s wedding in Texas. During their rehearsal dinner in his parents’ backyard, he went to give his best man’s speech and we all thought it would be something funny. He was so goofy, it was hard to imagine him doing something serious. Now mind you, he served in the military in the Old Guard so he clearly had to be serious for work. But the first thing out of his mouth was, ‘Be each other’s compass.’
I was blown away.
Mike and Krista. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.
That night, he walked me to my room – we were all staying with his parents – and he told me he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. And he asked me, ‘Will you be my wife?’ I knew that it had been a long night of celebrating so I told him that if he felt the same way in the morning we could talk about it. I went to sleep dreaming of the rest of our lives together.
The next morning over a cup of coffee at the counter, Mike looked at me and said, ‘I don’t feel any differently than I did last night. I want you to be my wife. I want to spend the rest of my life with you.’ I said yes, of course. We kept this a secret because it was not our day – it was David and Kelsey’s wedding day, and we knew his oldest brother, Isaac, was going to be proposing to his now wife, Vanessa, the next day. We told his sister, Abby, and then swore her to secrecy.
A few days after the wedding we announced our good news and decided to marry as soon as Mike returned from his deployment.
Mike went back to Iraq a week later, and returned in October 2008 to Germany. We met back up in Tennessee for Isaac and Vanessa’s wedding in November. December 20, 2008, we married in Rhode Island, and the first week of January he returned to Germany. We decided to live apart until his orders came through to start the Special Forces Qualification course so he wouldn’t need to extend in Germany.
I went to Germany to see him in February for his birthday, and I came home and found out I was pregnant with our first son a month later. I was working at a restaurant as a manager and living with my parents in Rhode Island awaiting orders. By September 2009 we were finally living together in Fort Bragg, NC and our son Michael was born October 22nd.
I remember taking “SF101” (Special Forces 101) for the spouses and the emphasis was put on how long our husbands would be away from home. Everything was about not getting our hopes up for birthdays, holidays, special occasions and being a family during those times. They really wanted to prepare us for the let downs of our military career. No one ever told me the incredible things our husbands would be doing while away from home and that every mission would be for the good of our nation. No one ever told me about the amazing and wonderful things we would be doing for our families while they were away. No one ever told me how, as spouses, we would show up for each other, in good times and in bad. No one ever told me that we would all be changing the world together – them abroad and us on the homefront.
Mike, Krista and their two boys. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.
Mike graduated in March 2011 and then reported July 10 for a Special Forces billet at 4th BN, Charlie Company, 1st Special Forces Group at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. I got out there August 1 with Michael who was just about two, and pregnant with Gabriel. We closed on our first house on my birthday, September 23.
As soon as our household goods arrived, Mike was off on a TDY (Temporary Duty) so I set up the house with my two year old and called my Mom and Aunt in for reinforcements to paint beige the mustard yellow walls and ceiling our new home offered.
When home, Mike was a present and incredibly fun daddy. He played this game called Daddy T-Rex. He would hold Gabe and chase Mic around the house, pretending to be a dinosaur. They would also lie on the floor and play Legos, have mini race-car races all the while tapping into Mike’s very present childlike spirit. He’d say to me, ‘I can’t wait until they’re older so we can do more fun things.’ He couldn’t wait to play basketball, soccer and teach them to ride bikes.
On 6 April 2013, Mike deployed with his company to eastern Afghanistan. Less than three weeks later I received the call every military spouse prays they’ll never get.
Mike, right, with a battle buddy. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.
The day before the call, Mike and I were texting back and forth and I was telling him how grateful I was to be his wife. I asked him to marry me all over again. I said, ‘I love you more today than I ever have. You have brought so much joy to my life that it overwhelms me. Will you marry me… Again?’ We were going to meet in Mexico with our families around Christmas and I told him I wanted to do it then. He wrote back, ‘Yes!’
On April 27, I had just put Gabriel down for a nap (he was 16 months) and I heard my phone ringing. I ran down the stairs to an ‘Unknown’ caller and answered what I can only assume must have been the last ring. It was (now Lieutenant Colonel) Major Jamie Alden, and he said ‘Hi, Krista? This is Major Alden.’ It didn’t even dawn on me why the company commander would be calling me from Afghanistan.
He asked me where I was, and I told him I was at home. He asked where the boys were, and I told him Mic was in the other room and I’d just put Gabe down for a nap.
He said, ‘I need you to sit down.’
You know that feeling when it seems that your brain starts going numb and it begins to rush through your whole body? Luckily I made it to the other room and sat down near the boys’ toys – on a bean bag chair.
‘Michael is alive, but he is in critical condition. There was an accident; he hit an IED while riding an ATV. He has a lower right leg amputation and there has been severe trauma to his right arm. We know there is shrapnel damage, we just are not sure where and the extent. Again, he is alive, but he is critical.’
I had to stop him. I couldn’t process anything and I knew I wouldn’t be able to remember anything else he was saying. I ran across the street and banged on my neighbor Kate’s door, and her daughter opened it. She was supposed to be coming over anyway to watch the boys since we had a neighborhood clean-up scheduled and I was president of the homeowners association. She ran to stay with the boys while Kate got on the phone with Major Alden. It took some convincing for him to speak to her but he finally agreed, understanding my emotional state.
I watched her as she spoke to him but I couldn’t hear her. I could hear sounds, just not the words, as if my ears were blocked. Kate handed the phone back to me and I thanked him, and he reminded me that we were family, that his wife Susan would be calling me soon, and that everything was going to be okay.
Mike, before the attack. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.
I got off the phone and had to start making phone calls. I walked with my phone in my hand across the grass toward our friends, Alan and Angie’s, house. They were laying out a tarp for mulch on their driveway when they looked over. It must have been written all over my face because they rushed to me and caught me before I fell to my knees. Alan was the commander of an EOD unit on JBLM and assured me everything was going to be ok. Angie was by my side and provided support in any way I needed.
I wanted to close my eyes and wake up from the nightmare but I couldn’t. I was a Green Beret’s wife and the mother of two future Green Berets. I said to myself, ‘Pull yourself together, handle your business- he’s not dead and is going to need you to be strong!’
I stood outside, barefoot, on the cold pavement. The bottoms of my feet still get cold remembering those moments. I tried calling Mike’s parents but there was no answer. I tried calling my parents and no answer again. I called his brother Isaac, who was also a Green Beret who was in North Carolina doing his instructor rotation. I said, ‘It’s Mike. He’s alive but he hit an IED and he’s in surgery. It’s critical.’
I can still hear his scream.
Isaac had witness IED attacks before and he knew the gravity of this news. Isaac and Vanessa would make the calls to the rest of the Simpson family as I continued my calls from the floor of our parish where I sat and prayed. Once my parents were notified, my mother arrived from Rhode Island to our home in Olympia, Washington, 12 hours later.
1st Special Forces Group (1st SFG) at JBLM welcomed me in every morning to call Afghanistan for updates. LTC David Haight would call Bagram ICU and translate their medical report for me whether at that morning meeting or 1am. We would share our information, formulate a plan and I would leave the table every morning stronger than I arrived. Monday, 29 April, I called the hospital myself. The doctor that answered told me he was sorry, but that Mike didn’t have a gag or corneal reflex and that he would not live.
I thanked him and his team for caring for him so well. I went downstairs to tell my mother before the boys awoke and then retreated to my room where I called my cousin Alicia and friend Andrea. I begged Alicia to wake me up and take this away.
The medical team cared for Mike so well they were able to transfer him from Afghanistan to Landstuhl Army Medical Center in Germany. We got the green light to go to Germany as soon as Mike was in the air from AFG. They couldn’t cut orders or book our flights until they knew Mike was surviving the altitude. They performed emergency surgery on the plane and worked tirelessly to keep him alive even though they knew the outcome. When they arrived in Germany, one of Mike’s closest friends from the Special Forces Qualification Course was there awaiting his arrival. Casey served with another Special Forces Group and was training in the area when we received the news.
As I traveled to Germany, my Casualty Assistance Officer (CAO) SFC Gerry DeMarzo and Chaplain Johnny Elder escorted me. What a blessing they were for so many reasons I couldn’t possibly list in short. The ‘behind the scenes’ had so many issues getting us all there but with the help from the Green Beret Foundation, Special Operations Warrior Foundation, USO, Fisher House Foundation and Care Coalition on top of 1st SFG, I arrived and met Mike’s parents, siblings and spouses to be with Mike.
Upon arrival, my only request was that I got to see him first. I wanted to clean him up before his mom saw him. Silly, but it was all I could think of. I got to the hospital and Casey was at the door with SFC Doug Way. (They both never once left us. Casey stayed at Mike’s bedside and Doug would either be standing outside his hospital room or kneeling outside the room praying.)
I never lost hope.
‘Maybe he will heal and maybe the doctors were wrong,’ I kept telling myself.
Casey and Doug greeted me, offered their condolences and I entered the room.
There he was.
My big bad Green Beret laying broken and vulnerable. I had never felt so helpless in all of my life.
All I could manage was a whisper… ‘Dear Lord, please help us.’
On 1 May 2013, as we all stood around Mike’s bed, Dr. Betts informed us that Mike was in fact brain dead. I asked, ‘Can his brain heal?’ rationally knowing the answer, but I had to ask. ‘No ma’am, the brain can not heal from these injuries,’ he said. I nodded my head in understanding, saw the very real pain in his parents’ and siblings’ faces, said, ‘Thank you,’ and then ran out.
I ran left out of the room, through the ICU doors into the hall toward the stairs, down the stairs and out of the hospital hoping I could run away from this earth-shattering moment in my life and somehow, when I returned, everything would be ok – Mike would wake, he would rehab and our lives would go on … Together.
I stopped and Gerry and Doug were not too many steps behind me. Gerry never let me out of his sight for a moment; he was my greatest advocate and protector. He always told me he took care of our family the way he would have wanted his family taken care of if something were to have happened to him. When I returned to the hospital, I went back in and I didn’t leave Mike’s side except for an hour to take care of the paperwork I needed to sign.
The rest of that day we would call all the family and friends we could connect with so they could say their goodbyes. I would call and inform them of Mike’s diagnosis, tell them how sorry I was but that it was time for them to say goodbye if they wished. I would put the phone down on Mike’s pillow next to his ear, believing he would receive their love and pain through their words.
I wanted everyone to have the opportunity to say whatever they wanted and needed to for some closure. Our family and friends stateside would say goodbye as well as Charlie Company, 4th BN, 1st SFG. Mike’s team was sure he would survive, so my news was heartbreaking to them … Mike was their brother.
One of Mike’s friends and teammates brought me to my knees with his heartfelt message that his wife would transcribe for me later. His words were, ‘For Mike: Hey buddy. Have no fear, you’re the realest Green Beret now. You did it all. Thanks for all the bravo advice and an invitation to be a part of your family. I will never forget our time together and will do anything for your family. R.I.P. brother. I love you. One more thing – thank you for the greatest sacrifice one can make. My prayer to you … Now I lay you down to sleep, I pray the Lord your soul to keep. If you should die before you wake, bless Mikey Lord, his soul to take.’
Once the last call was made I think my body and mind knew it and I needed to rest. I asked the hospital staff if they could move Mike over so I could lie next to him in his hospital bed. I laid there and just listened to his heart beat. I prayed until I drifted off to sleep. Around 4 am, the nurse came in and wanted to change his dressings and clean him up. I asked if I could help, so she brought in soapy water and a washcloth. She changed his dressings while I cleaned him up. Around 9 pm, they came in to get him for organ donor surgery. I stayed with him while they got him ready to be moved. I walked to the door holding his hand as they started to wheel him out, and didn’t want to let go.
This was it.
I would never see his chest rise and fall or hear his beating heart again. ‘I’M NOT READY!’ I screamed in my head.
But … with as much grace as I could, I leaned down and kissed him one last time and whispered, ‘I love you all the world. I promise you I will take care of our boys, and we will always remember you.’
They wheeled his bed out and I stood in the empty, cold hospital room alone. ‘What now?’ I asked. ‘How do I live without you?’
We came back from Germany to Dover for the dignified transfer on 7 May 2013. He was supposed to be the only casket on the flight, but seven other soldiers were killed just days before, so we were with their families. These families didn’t have what we did. They didn’t have the chance to say goodbye. They watched their loved one get on the plane for deployment and then their casket come off in Dover.
It started to rain as we stood out on the tarmac, so hard it was sideways. My mother in law had an umbrella and was also trying to wrap me in her jacket to protect me. I told her I was okay without it, because I wanted to feel everything; the rain, the heartache, the fear. I had to face that moment.
As the caskets were taken off the plane I could hear the rain and the wailing from mothers and fathers who lost their sons, siblings who lost their brothers, spouses who lost their husbands and children who lost their fathers. I felt as though I was hovering over myself, looking down in disbelief that this was now my journey.
I flew home to Washington after being gone for 10 days. I could never spend a few hours away from my boys without missing them terribly. This time I was afraid to see them. What would I say? How would I tell them their Daddy wasn’t coming home?
Mike’s dignified transfer. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.
I sat Michael (age 3) down and asked, ‘Do you believe in God?’
‘Yes Mommy,’ he said.
‘Even though you can’t see Him?’ I asked.
‘Yes of course Mommy!’ he replied.
‘You know Daddy is a soldier?’
‘Yes,’ he answered.
I looked into his eyes and softly said, ‘Well, Daddy is going to be God’s soldier now.’
‘But I will miss him,’ he said.
It would have been easy to sit down and focus on all the tragedy. My husband, my best friend, the father of my two beautiful boys was gone. I was a 35 year old widow who didn’t have enough time with the love of my life. Mike and I always told each other, ‘This love happens once in a lifetime,’ and it was gone.
My future and dreams broke into a million pieces and I had no idea how I would become whole again. And yet, somehow, I had to choose to see the incredible blessings that were happening all around us. The support from our family, friends and community; the military representatives that were assigned to us that created a beautiful journey; it was all a gift as much as my husband’s sacrifice was a gift to us all. Everybody who walked into our lives … it was nothing short of perfect.
On 30 May 2013, our Memorial Day, Mike was interred with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery by his original Old Guard unit where he served when he first joined the military in 2003.
There are many things I remember about that day. It was so hot I could feel the heat from the pavement radiate through the bottom of my sandals – a stark contrast from the cold I felt on my bare feet the day I got the call that Mike had been hit.
I remember walking for what seemed like forever with our two children, hoping to make it through the ceremony.
Michael with his Daddy T-rex at Mike’s memorial. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.
And I remember thinking that this place, Arlington National Cemetery, had always been one of my favorite places to be. It’s so peaceful. It’s filled with a clear and strong sense of honor and courage, but in that moment I didn’t feel brave at all.
There were over 100 people in attendance to show their love and support, not just for Mike, but for us as well. My dear friend Andrea Rinaldi was one of them. She stayed by my side through it all, from the very beginning of our journey, and selflessly gave of her time and heart. The service, experience and support of so many was humbling, and I will always be grateful.
Finally, I remember the boys and I receiving the folded flags. How do you process receiving a folded flag in the place of your Daddy when you’re only three years old? Michael was given the flag, but really only wanted his Daddy T-Rex. As I held our 16 month old, I watched as Gerry, our Casualty Assistance Officer, took a knee, and took Michael’s flag for him. I love this picture – this moment in time – as it truly captures how Gerry so beautifully served our family.
Mike’s company would continue their deployment for six more months after Mike’s death. One of his teammates stated during his memorial, ‘This Team… This company… This regiment, will never forget your sacrifice. Each day when we don our kit and prepare for battle, we will do it in your honor. We will take the fight to the enemy and fight how you would have wanted us to. Never faltering… Never failing… and never forgetting. This fight is over for you brother, but know that it is not over for us. We will continue in your honor and remember you as a husband, a father, and a Green Beret.’
I attended the homecoming for the first flight that came in from Afghanistan. I was grateful to be there yet nervous about my emotions. As we waited in the company I was approached by a woman in the hallway. ‘Mrs. Simpson,’ she said. ‘I am not sure if this is an appropriate time but I wanted to introduce myself and tell you that I was one of Mike’s nurses in Afghanistan.’ I am sure I hugged her immediately and was so grateful to lay my hands on someone who was there, with Mike, during the scariest moments of his life. It was a blessing I can’t explain. She was one of many who saved Mike so our family could say goodbye. She was, and still is, my angel. I am blessed by her and her whole family to this day.
When the buses arrived carrying Mike’s company we all rushed outside to greet them. The minds and hearts of so many wives and children were eased and made whole again. I truly was so happy for them, yet I subconsciously waited for Mike to get off that bus. The last man embarked and I was sure Mike would be next. The door closed and the bus drove away.
In the distance, I heard the shriek of a little girl, calling, ‘Daddy! Daddy!’ and as I turned to look, I saw her run and jump into a man’s arms who wore the same uniform as all the other soldiers … the same one Mike would have been wearing, with the same wide arms he would have caught our sons in. But it wasn’t him and it never would be. My heart shattered all over again and I needed to turn and walk inside to face this emotion alone. I couldn’t allow anyone to think I was not grateful their husbands came home, because I was, wholeheartedly, but that didn’t take away my pain.
I went home that night with a folded flag that was flown over Mike’s camp in Afghanistan. My dear friend laid next to me as I cried myself to sleep and she didn’t leave my side until she knew I was okay.
Over the next several months I was constantly at the battalion, offering help, wanting to talk to them to make sure they were doing okay. I know it was difficult for them to see me since I was a reminder of the reality of Mike’s death. I know many struggled with his loss and I recognized very quickly that survivor’s guilt was a very real emotion. They needed to know that this was God’s plan, not ours, and He doesn’t make mistakes. My mission was to show them that we would honor Mike, grieve his loss but we would absolutely be okay. We were strong and proud, not weak and angry. Everyone grieves differently and there is not a right or wrong way to do it. I chose grace for me, my children and his team.
One of Mike’s teammates, Gus, had done the original inventory on Mike’s things. He was able to put all of his belongings into perspective. What he was wearing the day of his accident, what certain gear meant and what it was used for. He brought back command challenge coins from the memorial in Afghanistan where they all gathered on 11 May. Gus was able to retrieve and hand carry the patches Mike wore on his helmet, along with the memorial patch he had made for their team’s uniforms. Gus would come over and play with the boys, give me a moment of rest and help anyway he could.
So many of Mike’s teammates and their families would do the same. I was so grateful for the respite since the light at the end of the deployment tunnel was extinguished for me. Mike wouldn’t return to ease the natural burdens of parenting coupled with keeping up the household alone.
I always had family dinners. From the time Mike passed, I’d send out a text at 1:00 pm on a Sunday with, ‘Family dinner at 4’ and a few hours later the house would fill with joy and laughter. What better therapy than to be surrounded by those that loved us and Mike?
Gus and I would talk a lot about Mike, his feelings of survivor’s guilt (which they all had) and spent a lot of time together over the next couple years. I started to realize I cared for Gus more than I thought was possible and wanted to see where that would lead us.
I flew down to Texas for Easter – I needed to talk to Mike’s parents. His father said to me, ‘I have four requirements: He loves you, he loves the boys, he loves Jesus and that he always shows them it’s manly to love Jesus.’ His mother said, ‘I’ve prayed since the week after Mike died that you would find somebody.’ They were my greatest supporters. And they already loved Gus. He was already a part of our family. This was a no brainer for me.
I struggled with Gus being my secret-not so secret boyfriend. I had this organization that I’d founded as a widow of an active duty service member. I was afraid. I had lost my identity as a military spouse and then I found one as a military widow. It allowed me to talk about Mike and honor him. We were afraid of what our friends might think of our relationship and the judgement that would come. In July 2016, we broke up when I realized I needed time. Ten days later, he left for Nepal with his team and during those three months I recognized all of the things I was doing wrong. I thought I was honoring Mike every day but by not honoring Gus at all, was I really? By having someone in my life who wanted to love us, take care of us and honor Mike, yet I wasn’t willing to let him in – could I be dishonoring my late husband? I used to resent the ‘widow’ title but then I found myself not wanting to let it go.
I prayed so much and I came to the conclusion that I just needed to love Gus, and show him that he was a priority. He got back from Nepal and he was still very angry with me. We met a few times to talk, took it slow and then one day I boldly told him that we were going to get married. I knew the response could have broke my heart but he was worth it.
We were worth it.
He laughed and told me softly that I had to be crazy. One month later, Gus got down on one knee on the docks in Seattle, in front of our favorite Oyster Bar (Elliotts) and asked me to marry him. Two months later, we were married in Rhode Island among our family and friends. The priest who married us had married my parents, baptized Gabriel, did last rights for Mike and his funeral in Arlington, and had confirmed and married Casey and Sandy (Mike’s friend who was with him in Germany). It was perfect.
Thanks to Michael’s kind-hearted 1st grade teacher, Ms. Petruska, my boys decided to call Gus ‘Dad’ the moment we stepped off the altar, and have not called him anything but that since. They wanted and needed a father in their lives so badly and I don’t think I realized that until then. Michael and Gabriel both repeat Ms. Petruska’s words often – ‘We have a Daddy in Heaven and a Daddy on earth.’
A month after Gus and I married he deployed to Afghanistan. I woke up every morning and prayed that Gus was alive. He was so good about messaging me whenever he could to ease my mind, even though I never shared with him my fears. His heart and mind just works that way and he is always considering the times and moments I may go through in this journey and how they may be affecting me. He is constantly striving to make life easier. I pray I do the same for him.
I won’t tell you that I didn’t struggle through those six months but I can tell you I found peace in God’s plan and chose to continue to trust that His plan was greater than mine. Tragedy and loss does not have to define you or dictate the rest of your life. My story didn’t end with the loss of Mike; it began with a new chapter of hope and my choice of joy. It continued with honoring Mike and Gus giving me the greatest gift… he never makes me choose as he continues to give me the freedom to love them both.
Five years to the day that Mike touched American soil in Dover, Delaware for his dignified transfer, I landed in Washington, DC with Gus, for the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year events with Military Spouse Magazine that would change my life. Five years to the day that Mike was flown back to Joint Base Lewis McChord to land at Grey Army Airfield, I was awarded the overall Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year. I know it’s right where I need to be, that God’s timing is perfect, and that Mike would be so proud of me. And I also know I couldn’t have done any of this without Gus or my children.
Tragedy did not dictate my life in a negative way. My goal is that other people can see that, and feel that. I remember looking at other Gold Star Spouses like Lisa Hallett and thinking, ‘If she can do it, I can do it.’ And I want other people to look at me and find hope, too.
Mike was very proud to sacrifice his life. And I am so proud to honor him.
Arlington National Cemetery is where my friend Andrea suggested a fundraiser for those who supported us and ultimately where The Unquiet Professional was born. So many organizations supported us, from the volunteers with the USO who carried my kids through the airport, the Green Beret Foundation being there for everything, or wear blue: run to remember, where I found a healthy and meaningful way to heal. I wanted to be able to pay that love back.
We now provide healthy and empowering opportunities for Gold Star Families, Veterans and their families. When Andrea suggested fundraising, she saved me that day. She saved me from the possibilities of not being able to live out my grief in a positive way. I heal as I strive to help others do the same with my ‘twice in a lifetime love’ by my side every step of the way.
Memorial Day is my favorite holiday of the year. We feel Mike’s presence and his loss every single day no matter what life brings us. But on Memorial Day, everyone thinks of all of our fallen heroes. People say when you’re having your bbq and your beer you’re not remembering the sacrifices, but I say celebrate. Celebrate their lives. Remember them.
Jocko Willink and Leif Babin have proven that the leadership principles they learned as Navy SEALs are just as effective in the business world.
Willink was the head of US Navy SEAL Team 3 Task Unit Bruiser, the most highly decorated US special operations unit of the Iraq War, and Babin was one of the two platoon leaders who reported to him. After their service, Willink and Babin founded Echelon Front in 2010 as a way to bring what they learned in the military to the business world.
They’ve spent the past eight years working with more than 400 businesses and putting on conferences.
The “laws of combat” that they developed in the military and passed on to other SEALs are straightforward, but also need to be implemented carefully, Willink and Babin told Business Insider in an interview about their new book, “The Dichotomy of Leadership.”
Below, Willink introduces a concept and, in keeping with the theme of their book, Babin explains how each principle could be taken too far.
1. Cover and move
“You’ve got to look out for other people on your team and you’ve got to look out for other teams within your unit,” Willink said. It’s about not getting so focused on your own responsibilities that you forget that you are part of a team depending on you, or that your team is one of many in an organization that gives these teams a shared mission.
Taken too far: Babin added that “you could spend so much time trying to help someone else on the team that you’re stepping on their toes and they get defensive. And you’re actually creating a worse relationship with them as a result.” Mutual respect, therefore, is crucial.
2. Keep things simple
As the leader of Task Unit Bruiser, Willink learned that a plan that may look impressive to his superiors, with its detail and complexity, would be meaningless if not every member of his team could follow along. A plan must be communicated to the team so that every member knows their responsibilities.
Taken too far: That said, Babin explained, keeping things simple does not mean omitting explanations. Leaders must recognize that the “why” behind a plan is as important as the “how.”
3. Prioritize and execute
“You’re going to have multiple problems and all those problems are going to occur at the same time,” Willink said. “And when that happens, instead of trying to handle all those problems at the same time, what you have to do is pick the biggest problem that you have and focus your efforts, your personnel, and your resources on that.”
Taken too far: Setting clear priorities is critical, Babin said, “yet you can get target fixated, and you get so focused on the highest priority task, that you’re not able to see when a new priority emerges and you have to re-adjust.” Therefore, leaders are in charge of determining what is most important but do not become so attached to the initial plan that they cannot adjust.
4. Decentralize command
Willink and Babin said that they found some readers of their first book, “Extreme Ownership,” misinterpreted the thesis as meaning that they must micromanage their team in addition to accepting responsibility for everything good and bad that happens under their watch.
“As a leader on a team, you want everyone on your team to lead,” Willink said. “And in order to make that happen, you’ve got to release some of that authority down to the lower ranks, so that they can make quick, decisive decisions out on the battlefield.”
Taken too far: With that in mind, Babin said, there are situations “where the leader doesn’t understand what’s going on in the front lines. And they’re too detached, they’re too far back, they’re not able to lead their team, and that results in failure.”
Leaders must set the pace for their team and fully own that role, but still learn to trust each of their team members to make their own decisions when the situation calls for it.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Once you’ve completed your branch’s initial entry training, you’re officially entered into the ranks of one of the most prestigious fighting forces the world has ever seen. Congratulations. You’ve done something difficult that your civilian peers couldn’t even imagine. The day you graduate should be a moment of pride. You’ve earned the right to call other troops and veterans family.
With all of that being said — good job: You’ve done the exact same thing that literally every single troop has done before you. Unless you’ve got some grand story that doesn’t center around being yelled at, your story isn’t interesting to rest of us.
Oh? Your DS had a wicked sense of humor? Hate to break it to you, kid, but they all need one to handle years of idiot recruits.
We’ve heard it all before
Quick: Describe your entire time at basic training using just a few words. Chances are, it sounds a lot like, “we got yelled at, told to do push-ups, and were given a brief moment of levity when the drill sergeant showed compassion for a half a second before snapping at anyone who tried to take advantage of that moment of humanity.” Sound about right?
The details may differ slightly and the set-up to a joke the drill sergeant played on a recruit may change, but that’s about it.
They’re more like “freedom baseballs” in the hands of grunts.
We do way more interesting things in the unit
You may have done some pretty cool sh*t back at Sand Hill. You got to go to the range and, if you’re old school, you got to toss a grenade. Out of the entire nine weeks you spent in training, there are roughly 3-ish days of cool sh*t happening.
At the unit, those kind of days are always on the training calendar and, just a heads up, no one tosses grenades like a shot put in the real world.
The M203 is one of the greatest things the Army ever adapted. Someone must have just been like, “I know bayonets are awesome and all, but what if we had one that shot grenades.” A true American legend.
(Meme by We Are The Mighty)
We have all of the cooler toys at the unit
Riding in the back of an LMTV with the entire platoon packed in like sardines is fun and all, but it’s nothing compared to the fun of actually driving one of those bad boys in the training area of Fort Irwin — doing doughnuts in the desert and whatnot.
Sure, grenades are always going to be cool, but hearing the PATHUNK of a M203 being fired into a plywood structure is the kind of moment that makes you question leaving the service.
Sure you do, buddy. Sure you do.
Recruits often miss the bigger point of training
FNGs often come out of basic with the grandiose idea that they’re now some hardened badass who can take on the world because they shot “sharpshooter” and took combatives level one. That’s cool and all, but you probably missed the things you were actually supposed to learn, like customs, courtesies, how to set up a uniform, how to march, and how chains of command work.
It’s just the way things are. Regardless of when or where you went to basic, the Army needs its soldiers to know how to properly put on their uniform and address their superiors before they can move on to being badasses.
If you were honestly duped into falling for the “Emotional Support Drill Sergeant” meme, I heard the training room needs you to refill out a new ID 10-Tango form.
(Meme via Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Says)
Admittedly, each cycle of basic is slightly less intense than the cycle before it, but…
Don’t tell me, let me guess: Your cycle was the “last of the good ones before everything got soft.” That exact phrase has been used for as long as recruits have been graduating basic. In its own weird, paradoxical way, no one is lying but everyone is full of sh*t.
The needs of the Army shift so basic may encompass more tasks suited for a garrison lifestyle, but it should never be implied that the Army got soft. Your cycle wasn’t given stress cards, cell phones, or desserts, sure — but that’s probably because no cycle gets those, no matter how much your buddy’s friend’s cousin swore they’re real.
Cartoonist E.C. Segar created Popeye the Sailor in 1919 after taking a correspondence course on drawing from a guy in Cleveland. Segar’s hometown of Chester, Ill. was chock full of characters that Segar easily adapted to print. Dora Paskel, the owner of a local general store, was unusually tall and thin, wearing her hair in a loose bun at the nape of her neck. J. William Schuchert was the local theater owner who had a voracious appetite for hamburgers.
And Frank Fiegel was a one-eyed, pipe-smoking brawler who never turned down a fight.
Frank Fiegel died in 1947 and was originally buried in an unmarked grave. Popeye fans rectified this in 1996.
Fiegel was more likely to down a few bourbons instead of a can of spinach to get his super fighting prowess, but the rest of his caricature fit the Sailor Man to a T. He had the same jutting chin, built frame, and trademark pipe as his cartoon counterpart. But kids were rather scared of Olive Oyl’s real-world inspiration, as she was more apt to stay inside her store. Wimpy’s rotund figure was based on Popeye creator E.C. Segar’s old boss at the local theater. When Segar wasn’t lighting lamps, he was sent out to pick up burgers for the owner.
Popeye’s real-life inspiration is sometimes attributed to a photo of an old sailor who really does resemble Popeye the Sailor Man, but this is just internet folklore.
(Imperial War Museum)
The sailor in the above photo is really a sailor, but he’s a British sailor. His name is lost to history, but the Imperial War Museum lists him as “A Leading Stoker nicknamed ‘Popeye,'” with 21 years in service and fighting aboard the HMS Rodney in 1940. Fiegel would have been at least 70 years old when this photo of the battleship sailor was taken.
Frank “Rocky” Fiegel was actually a bartender and not any kind of sailor, but he did love the kids around Chester, and they used to love to play pranks on the old barfly. Fiegel would impress them with his feats of strength as well as his telltale corncob pipe – something young Segar would never forget. “Popeye” was an homage to an unforgettable man who lived to know his image was soon in 500 newspapers nationwide, the symbol of sticking up for the little guy.
Wherever there is conflict or injustice, there is an opportunity for humor. At its best, laughter is a release of stress and anxiety and, as we all know, serving in the armed forces is wrought with both.
Like a modern-day jester (with less ridiculous clothing and much more topical ribbing), Maximilian Uriarte has created an outlet through which junior enlisted feel understood.
Terminal Lance is the vehicle Uriarte utilizes to bring some reflection and a smile to those who would otherwise have no publication to relate to, and this is why we love him for it.
The comic has always taken the perspective of a lower enlisted Marine, despite commenting big-picture subjects ranging from military gender equality and presidential elections to issues as simple as how horrible it is to have porta-john water splash up and make contact.
Throughout, Uriarte maintains the point of view of a young enlisted reacting to the world around him, it just so happens to also be the point of view of the largest demographic in service.
4. Terminal Lance is relatable.
Uriarte creates relatable comics by highlighting the nuances of life in the Corps and giving an honest look to our generation of service members’ attitudes. Abe, Terminal Lance‘s central character, is a lower-middle-class kid who joined the USMC with the starry-eyed hope of any kid raised on eighties war movies.
Abe becomes disenfranchised by years of letdowns and a seemingly endless river of bullshit crashing down on his head, which, coincidentally, mirrors some of the same feelings this writer had as a young Lance Corporal.
Most veterans, if asked, will tell you about how painful their experience as an enlisted person was. However, they’ll probably have a smile on their face as they recount the comical details.
The feeling that the Marine Corps can ruin anything — including the very things that attracted these young people to enlist in the first place — is prevalent in Terminal Lance. There is humor in pain and Maximilian Uriarte is the unofficial voice of a whole generation of junior enlisted Marines.
Maximilian Uriarte is a credible source. A former infantry Marine, Uriarte clearly uses his personal experience with hazing, false motivation, mandatory fun, “voluntold-isms,” and the profound ignorance of boots to craft an undeniably accurate look at the reality of serving in the Corps.
Maximilian Uriarte was a “0351” Assaultman stationed in Hawaii. Assaultman is an MOS infamous for having very high cutting scores, creating a situation where very experienced and competent Marines are surpassed in rank by peers simply because of the competitiveness of their job.
Situations like this are the genesis for the term, ‘Terminal Lance” and inform Uriarte’s perspective in his comics. After serving four years, experiencing multiple combat deployments, and being honorably discharged from the USMC in May of 2010, Uriarte started pursuing a career in animating and storyboarding. We enjoy the fruits of his labor to this day.
A former U.S. Army’s Special Forces officer has been arrested in Alexandria, VA, and charged with passing secrets of American military units and personnel to the Russian military intelligence arm (GRU) for over a decade.
Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins, 45, was recruited by Russian intelligence operatives as he considered himself a “son of Russia,” according to a 17-page indictment that was released after his arrest.
John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security said that,
“Debbins violated his oath as a U.S. Army officer, betrayed the Special Forces and endangered our country’s national security by revealing classified information to Russian intelligence officers, providing details of his unit, and identifying Special Forces team members for Russian intelligence to try to recruit as a spy [sic]. Our country put its highest trust in this defendant, and he took that trust and weaponized it against the United States.”
Debbins is the second person this week charged by the Justice Department for transmitting U.S. secrets to a foreign country. In the other case, a former CIA officer in Hawaii (Alexander Yuk Ching Ma) was arrested and charged with spying for China.
Debbins first agreed to spy for Russia back in 1996 when he was an ROTC cadet. His mother had been born in the former Soviet Union and Debbins told Russian GRU operatives who were trying to recruit him that he considered himself “a son of Russia.” He had told his Russian handlers that he considered the United States “too dominant” in world matters and that it “needed to be cut down to size.”
The GRU gave Debbins the code name “Ikar Lesnikov.”
In 1997 he married a Russian woman, the daughter of a Russian military officer from the Russian city of Chelyabinsk.
After graduating from the University of Minnesota and being assigned to a Chemical Co. in Korea, Debbins returned to Russia. He briefed his handlers on his unit, its mission, and personnel during a subsequent visit to Russia.
He offered to take a polygraph test for his handlers when they asked if he was working for an American intelligence agency. He told them that he wished to leave the military, but they encouraged him to stay. They further urged Debbins to apply for and join the Special Forces. He was told that “he was of no use to the Russian intelligence service as an infantry commander.” Debbins passed Special Forces Selection (SFAS) and the qualification course (SFQC) and was assigned as a captain in the 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (1-10 SFG).
On another trip to Russia, he briefed his GRU contacts about his SF unit, its personnel, locations, and mission. Debbins had his security clearance suspended and command of his A-Team revoked for an unspecified security violation in 2004 or 2005. He then left the military in 2005 with an honorable discharge, according to the indictment.
In subsequent meetings with his GRU handlers, Debbins disclosed information about his unit’s deployments to Azerbaijan and Georgia that were deemed “SECRET/NOFORN.” Debbins also gave the GRU the names of his former team members knowing that the Russians sought the “information for the purpose of evaluating whether to approach the team members to see if they would cooperate with the Russian intelligence service.” He also passed the names of two American counter-intelligence agents who tried to recruit him for an operation.
Once his active duty service was over he began to work for a Ukrainian steel company in Minnesota through his Russian contacts. He remained a member of the Reserves until 2010. During this time his security clearance was reinstated by an Army adjudicator, although he was warned that his family and business connections to Russia might make him “the target of a foreign intelligence service.”
Debbins was a “true believer” and not motivated by monetary gains. In fact, when the Russians (who are notoriously cheap in the intelligence world when it comes to paying agents) offered him id=”listicle-2647079043″,000 he initially declined it stating that he “loved and was committed to Russia.” He only reluctantly accepted the money as “gratitude for his assistance to the Russian intelligence service.” At a 2003 meeting, he was given a bottle of Cognac and a Russian military uniform.
The Justice Department did not divulge how it came to know that Debbins was spying for Russia. His last contact with his handlers was in 2011 when he told them that moved to the D.C. area (Gainesville, VA).
He will be indicted formally on Monday. He faces life imprisonment if convicted.
“The facts alleged in this case are a shocking betrayal by a former Army officer of his fellow soldiers and his country,” Alan E. Kohler Jr., FBI Assistant Director of the Counterintelligence Division, said in a statement.
News about the civil unrest in Nicaragua has been under-reported in recent days as one of the last true Marxist-Leninist dictators is at the center of the killings of student protesters and journalists. And it could spark another Central American civil war.
The leader and chairman of Nicaragua’s ruling Sandinista Party, Daniel Ortega, announced a tax increase on Apr. 18. Along with the tax increase, pension benefits are to be greatly reduced. What started as a peaceful demonstration against these changes turned deadly when authorities and pro-Sandinista groups used live ammunition on the protesting crowds.
Ortega first rose to power as a Communist revolutionary in 1978. His Soviet backing and strong anti-American views grabbed the attention of the Reagan Administration in 1985 which lead to America backing the Contras, an anti-communist counter-revolutionary group. After the details of the Iran-Contra Affair were made public, however, the U.S. backed out of the region — but the Nicaraguan Revolution had already claimed 30,000 lives.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, so, too, did Ortega’s control over Nicaragua. Still, he vowed that he would lead from the shadows. He ran for president in every election that followed. Herty Lewites, the more popular candidate in the 2006 election, was threatened, told that he “could end up hanged” if he continued to run. Lewites died of a sudden heart attack shortly before the election. Ortega became president again when he won with 36% of the vote that year.
The current death toll of protesters and journalists at the time of this writing is 63. Protesters who have been arrested allege the use of torture and report having their heads shaven and being left barefoot in the outskirts of Managua. There are calls for the United Nations Human Rights Office to investigate human rights abuses.
The country is dependent on outside trade and tourism and the people are still reeling from the effects of the last civil war almost 50 years ago, so nobody wants a violent answer to this problem. Currently, the tumult is contained within Managua, but there’s no denying that Nicaragua is at a turning point. Either Ortega will be removed from power peacefully or this will spark a bloody revolution. It’s a situation that echoes the economic unrest and political dissatisfaction that characterized the Arab Spring of 2011.
Here’s the new video, showing Tesla’s lead designer, Franz von Holzhausen, throwing what appeared to be a metal ball at the Cybertruck’s windows:
Musk captioned the video: “Franz throws steel ball at Cybertruck window right before launch. Guess we have some improvements to make before production haha.”
The result in the video was different from Nov. 21, 2019’s live Cybertruck unveiling, where the truck’s armored glass dramatically cracked twice in a row after being hit by a metal ball. During that demo, multiple hard objects were used to hit the truck, including a large sledgehammer.
Though Musk laughed off the mishap onstage, exclaiming, “Oh my f—ing god” and “room for improvement,” the video went viral and Tesla’s stock price sank.
On Nov. 25, 2019, Musk tried to explain why the windows had broken during the live demo but not in earlier tests.
“Sledgehammer impact on door cracked base of glass, which is why steel ball didn’t bounce off,” he said. “Should have done steel ball on window, *then* sledgehammer the door. Next time …”
The Cybertruck is Tesla’s bold, brash first foray into the pickup-truck market — a market it has gradually primed itself to enter as its battery technology has become more powerful. It is made from various tough-sounding materials, including stainless steel and ultra-strong “Armor” glass.
According to Tesla’s website, Tesla plans to begin production of the Cybertruck, which starts at ,900, in late 2021. The vehicle’s most expensive version starts at ,900, and the company says it will have a maximum range of over 500 miles, a maximum towing capacity of over 14,000 pounds, and the ability to accelerate from zero to 60 mph in under 2.9 seconds.
Musk wrote over the weekend that Tesla had received 200,000 preorders so far.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
USS Freedom (LCS-1), the lead of the Freedom-class of littoral combat ships, brought some much-needed positive attention to the LCS in 2010 when it carried out a deployment in Southern Command’s area of operations. In just seven weeks, it made four drug busts while accomplishing a host of other missions.
It’s no secret that the development and deployment of the Littoral Combat Ship has been rife with problems. This big success was exactly what the class needed to secure an export order. Well, to be more specific, a modified version of the Freedom has found an international buyer.
According to a showing at the 2018 SeaAirSpace Expo, Lockheed Martin has been hard at work modifying and upgrading the Freedom-class LCS. Not only have they designed a guided-missile frigate based on this ship (which is to compete for selection via the Navy’s FFG(X) program), they also designed the Multi-Mission Surface Combatant (MMSC), which is, essentially, a frigate designed to serve as a general-purpose vessel.
The RIM-162D Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile is the primary anti-air armament of the Multi-Mission Surface Combatant.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Matthew J. Haran)
The MMSC maintains many of the same armaments as the Freedom-class LCS; it’s armed with a 57mm gun, RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missiles, and the ability to operate two MH-60 helicopters. The MMSC, however, brings more punch to the table. For starters, it’s armed with eight over-the-horizon anti-ship missiles, either RGM-84 Harpoons or Kongsberg NSMs.
Also on the MMSC: an eight-cell Mk 41 vertical-launch system. Each cell in this system holds up to four missiles, meaning the MMSC is armed with 32 RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles. This is a huge step up in air-defense capabilities. This plethora of missiles is joined by Mk 32 torpedo tubes for lightweight anti-sub weaponry, like the Mk 54 Lightweight Hybrid Torpedo or Mk 50 Barracuda.
USS Freedom (LCS 1) is the basis for Lockheed’s Multi-Mission Surface Combatant.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan Laird)
Currently, the MMSC has secured an export order with Saudi Arabia as part of a massive arms package that was worked out last year with the United States. Although this ship is impressive, it does drive us a little crazy that this is what the LCS could have been.
Spend any amount of time on or around an Army or Air Force post and you’ll be sure to find a number of beret-wearing service members around you.
Hell, you’re going to be greeted by a blue beret each and every time you get to an Air Force gate (SecFo HUA!) and, if you were on any Army post between 2001 and 2011, you saw black berets everywhere you went, as they were a part of standard Army uniform.
Got it — but what about the less commonly seen berets? The green, the tan, and the maroon?
This is what berets of all colors mean in the Army and Air Force.
Black — U.S. Army
A black beret is worn by all soldiers in service dress unless they are otherwise authorized to wear a different, distinctive beret.
Black — U.S. Air Force Tactical Air Control Party
A black beret is the official headgear of the Air Force TACP. They’re about as operator as you get in the Air Force without becoming pararescue or combat control.
Blue — U.S. Air Force Security Forces
The most common beret across all branches of service as of writing. Security Forces (the Air Force’s version of Military Police) wear the blue beret with every uniform whenever not deployed or in certain training.
Green — U.S. Army Special Forces
This is the cream of the crop of the U.S. Army. The green beret is the single most recognizable sign of a badass.
Grey — U.S. Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape
These guys teach most of the other badasses on this list how to survive in the worst conditions. That definitely qualifies them for their own beret.
Maroon — U.S. Army Airborne
Aside from the Army’s green beret, the maroon beret of Army airborne is one of the easiest to recognize.
These guys drop into any situation with complete operational capability.
Maroon — U.S. Air Force Pararescue
In the Air Force, the maroon beret means something completely different. While being Army Airborne is an amazing distinction, the Air Force Pararescuemen are truly elite.
The introductory course has one of the highest failure rates of all military schools and the ones that do complete it go on to become the kind of guy that you do not want to fight in a bar.
Pewter Grey — U.S. Air Force Special Operations Weather
These guys do weather in the most undesirable conditions. I know that may not sound very operator, but just take a quick look at the training they endure and the types of operations they conduct and you won’t ever question their beret again.
Tan — U.S. Army Rangers
The Army Rangers began wearing tan berets in 2001 when the Army made the black beret the standard headgear for the entire Army.
Prior to that, they owned the black beret.
Scarlet — U.S. Air Force Combat Control
The scarlet beret is the headgear of the U.S. Combat Controller. Their beret is one you’ll rarely see because they’re always on the go, doing what they were trained to do… which is classified.
As stories continue to bubble to the surface regarding the health and potential demise of North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, social media has already taken to making memes about the leader of the reclusive state, celebrating the death of a man many see as a modern day tyrannical despot.
To be clear, I’ve spent years covering North Korea (and some other modern despots) in the defense news-sphere, and while I could happily provide a long list of Kim’s failings as a leader and a human being, I can’t help but feel as though we, as a people, should be careful what we wish for.
Of course, I’m not suggesting that you should lose any sleep over the potential death of a tyrant… but it’s important to consider the ways Kim Jong Un’s death could affect the Korean Peninsula, North Korea’s relations with the United States, and the future of the region as a whole.
Kim Jong Un shown with Russian President Vladimir Putin
Kim Jong Un has proven to be a cunning tyrant
While it fashionable to dismiss the acts of evil doers as inherently evil and therefore wrong, the truth is, as former Secretary of Defense and legendary Marine general James Mattis once put it, America has no preordained right to victory on the battlefield. In other words, simply coloring this conflict in shades of black and white, good guys and bad guys, doesn’t do a whole lot of good from a strategic standpoint. From the vantage point of many within North Korea and its government, they are the good guys, and America is the “imperial bully” responsible for their misfortune.
While we in America often chuckle at North Korea’s ham fisted military propaganda, Kim has proven in the years since he took power in 2011 that, despite his nation’s ailing economy and reclusive foreign policy, he’s capable of accomplishing quite a bit with his limited resources.
Kim Jong Un (bottom right) inspecting a long range ballistic missile.
While it’s all but certain that North Korea’s population is suffering under Kim’s decision to continue his pursuit of nuclear weapons even under a myriad of international economic sanctions, many mistake Kim’s nuclear efforts for nuclear intent. The truth is, it seems clear the Kim Jong Un does not want to develop nuclear weapons to use them, he wants a nuclear arsenal so other nations are forced to engage with him.
As a non-nuclear state with minimal conventional military power, it was only through the development of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles that can carry them to far away targets that Kim was able to secure a meeting with the President of the United States and commence talks that could lead to lifting North Korean sanctions.
Kim Jong Un meets with American President Donald Trump
(White House Photo)
Kim’s nukes are about leverage, not war
As a nuclear power, Kim Jong Un has enjoyed more positive exposure from an American president in recent years than either of his predecessors managed. Some may contend that Trump tends to buddy up with tyrants like Kim, but once North Korea’s tests demonstrated that they were rapidly positioning themselves to be capable of launching nuclear strikes on the American mainland, there’s little a U.S. president can do outside of opening negotiations. The only alternative, at that point, would have been kinetic intervention (military action), as sanctions alone have proven insufficient to deter North Korea’s nuclear program.
Kim has not ordered another test since sparse talks with Trump commenced, which can be credited to open diplomatic channels between the Trump administration and North Korea, but in a number of ways, it may also benefit North Korea to put these tests on hold.
Previous tests showed that while North Korea may be able to reach American shores with missiles, they still seemed to be struggling with the survivability of their nuclear re-entry vehicle. They have also failed to demonstrate how effective their targeting apparatus is at such long ranges. In other words, North Korea may not be as nuclear capable as they are perceived to be by many around the world… and Kim likely wants to keep perceptions right where they are. Continued tests increase the opportunity for malfunction, and a loss of some of the credibility his government has gained.
Let there be no mistake, a nuclear North Korea is bad for everyone, but in Kim’s hands thus far, his nuclear weapons have appeared to be a means to gain leverage, rather than a means to initiate war.
Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo receives photos from his meeting with Chairman Kim Jong Un from Chairman Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, in Pyongyang, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on October 7, 2018.
[State Department photo/ Public Domain]
There seems to be no clear line of succession
While many may want to celebrate the potential passing of Kim Jong Un, it remains unclear exactly who would take the lead of the reclusive state upon his death. Many contend that Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, would be next in line for Supreme Leader, which would mark the first female leader in modern North Korean history. Questions remain about whether the North Korean system would readily accept a female leader, as well as what damage the premature death of Kim Jong Un could do to the popular North Korean sentiments about the near-deity role of their supreme leader.
While Kim Jong Un is a bad guy, he’s a fairly stable one with a firm grip on the North Korean populace. If questions arose regarding who is supposed to be in charge, North Korea runs the very real risk of seeing entire facets of its system collapse under competing claims over the role of Supreme Leader… and that would be bad news for just about everyone on the planet.
(Image courtesy of North Korea’s KCNA)
A nuclear arsenal with new hands on the button
If Kim Jong Un passes away, the United States will be faced with the daunting challenge of re-initiating nuclear talks with a person that is far less predictable, at least early on, than Kim–who has served as the “devil you know” for nearly a decade. A new leader may not share Kim’s sense of self-preservation when it comes to nuclear war, and may choose aggression over Kim’s theatrics. While we tend to scoff at many of North Korea’s efforts to garner attention on the world stage, the truth is, those efforts are in many ways better than taking overt and aggressive action that could lead to bloody war.
A more aggressive leader may push harder for an end to sanctions by using the threat of nuclear attack–which in all likelihood would end in war, rather than an end to said sanctions… but even that would be a better alternative than a breakdown of the North Korean system altogether.
Despite stalled talks with President Trump, North Korea has not restarted ICBM testing.
(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
There are many lingering questions about North Korea’s nuclear chain of command, but in the event North Korea finds itself with multiple potential leaders jockeying for position — the person with their hand on the nuclear button will almost certainly gain a significant leg up. Worse still, if civil conflict breaks out, the chance of nuclear launch or even losing nuclear weapons entirely as they’re sold to nefarious third parties becomes a very real possibility.
A nuclear North Korea is bad, but North Korean nukes falling into the hands of an extremist organization that aims to attack the United States would be worse.
North Korean troops peering over the border into South Korea
A refugee crises in the making
Unrest in North Korea, prompted in part by the diminishing standard of living many of North Korea’s citizens have experienced under Kim’s rule, could result in an absolutely massive refugee crises on both South Korean and Chinese borders.
In 2017, a North Korean soldier named Oh Chong-Song defected by fleeing across the heavily guarded demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. North Korean soldiers opened fire on Oh, ultimately hitting him five times. He was soon rescued by South Korean troops who airlifted him to a nearby hospital, where he underwent lifesaving surgery.
Actual shot of North Korean defector xx making a break for the border under fire.
The results of that surgery, however, also gave us important insights into the conditions within the reclusive state. Because of the high profile troops stationed on the border receive, North Korea tends to provide them with the best of supplies and resources. Oh was found to have little more than hardened corn kernels in his stomach, alongside large parasitic worms. If Oh’s condition was better than many within North Korea, it stands to reason that many inside Kim’s nation are truly desperate, and currently held at bay by the nation’s strict governmental rule.
If that rule were to waiver, or the system were to become unstable, many North Koreans could see that as the opportunity they need to seek a better life elsewhere, prompting millions to pour over the borders into neighboring states. Such a refugee crises would put nations like China and South Korea under incredible strain. As such, China, who can be seen as North Korea’s closest ally of sorts, is already invested in securing the stability of the nation by sending doctors to assist with whatever is going on with Kim Jong Un.
(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
The devil you know
There is no debate about whether Kim Jong Un is a villain from the vantage point of the Western world, but the devil you know offers some advantages over one you don’t. Kim Jong Un may be a despot, but in many ways, he’s a fairly predictable one. A new leader could make things better, but losing Kim could potentially make things much worse… provided a more aggressive leader were to take his place or worse still, no clear leader emerges.
In many ways, preventing war with North Korea is a balancing act… and while few may weep for Kim if is dead, it’s hard to say if a North Korea without Kim will tip toward a better future, a worse future, or no future at all.