They’re not our moms or our dads, but they are just as tired of our tomfoolery. Commanders put up with our clowning while taking the brunt of responsibility from Leadership for the squadron and let’s remember: all sh*t rolls downhill. Thanks to the Commander, probably a little less rolled down to us. This holiday season, let’s show our Commanders our appreciation for driving them to the brink of insanity on a weekly, if not hourly, basis.
Ear Plugs: for when they have to sit through yet another meeting about the length of your sideburns. You could also swipe some of these guys from the front desk on your way out to the flightline.
Scotch: single malt is best, though more economical alternatives will also do the trick in case SNACKO funds are running low. Pay your SNACKO bills people. Commander deserves the good stuff.
Spoofer Email Address: to deflect orders from higher ups to requisition volunteers for Wing-wide mandatory fun. Can’t reply to an email you never get.
GPS Tile: to track that one guy in your squadron who can’t make it back in time before curfew. Which was created because of him in the first place after a night in Songan… or Iwakuni…or Sigonella…or Phuket…or Dubai…or Yuma… or….
A Giant A** Umbrella: We all have our commanders to thank for the protection they provide from the ongoing storm of sh*t that rains down from the Good Idea Fairies known as Leadership.
A Giant A** Butterfly Net: Alternatively, to keep the hare-brained shenanigan butterflies from fluttering around the squadron up to Leadership.
Flowers: for their spouses. No doubt the hours they’ve spent worrying about us have taken their attention away from their family. Their real kids probably did not drink a bottle of Fireball and then get handcuffed on the curb for peeing in the bushes near a Saddle Ranch, and yet the Commander has to answer that call at 2am. We’re sorry. And it wasn’t our fault. It was only a security guard anyway, not the real police.
A Laser Pointer – because herding cats is hard and they deserve to have their fun.
The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) receives fuel from the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Tippecanoe (T-AO 199) during a replenishment at sea March 17, 2020. The Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group is on a scheduled deployment to the Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Dylan Lavin)
When most of us join the Navy, we don’t expect to be put into positions where our lives are in danger. For sure, we know it’s a possibility; as is joining any branch of the Armed Forces, but not as probable as our USMC and Army brothers-in-arms.
But now that a sailor has fallen to the virus, it’s apparent just how potent and diverse enemy combatants can be.
I served four years on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, from 2006 to 2010. The crew aboard CVN-71 refer to their ship as The Big Stick, personifying the ship as the US’s show of force to allow us to “Walk Softly” throughout the world. My job was to safely and efficiently maintain the electrical and steam plant systems within the two powerful Nuclear Reactor plants that power and propel the ship.
We steamed everywhere from South Africa to England to the middle of nowhere deep in the Atlantic ocean. We also spent six months sending F-18 Super Hornets to Afghanistan to provide Close Air Support for ISAF forces on the ground.
PHILIPPINE SEA (March 18, 2020) An F/A-18F Super Hornet, assigned to the “Black Knights” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 154, lands on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) March 18, 2020. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nicholas V. Huynh)
Sailing a warship is inherently dangerous. There are cables with thousands of volts of heart-stopping power running through them, manifolds of high-pressure steam harnessing enough force to easily cut a person in half and thousands of people carrying-out dynamic operations both above and below-deck. Not to mention the mighty (and oftentimes unpredictable) sea, rocking and listing the ship with sometimes violent and turbulent waves.
In my four years on The Big Stick I lost three fellow shipmates to these various dangers. Now that the world is fighting a new, global enemy, unconventional deaths like losing a sailor to COVID-19 are becoming a new normal for families all across the world. And now, we see that active duty military members are just as susceptible as anyone else.
Photo courtesy of August Dannehl
Part of the allure of joining the Navy is being able to see the world. The main mission of the Navy is to bring US sovereign territory, in the form of floating cities like the Roosevelt, to any corner of the planet in just a matter of hours. This allows sailors to enjoy the perks of visiting ports in places like Cape Town, Tokyo and Da Nang. Unfortunately, now, that perk also led to the death of one of my fellow Rough Riders.
The virus likely infiltrated the ship during a port visit to Vietnam’s fifth largest city. Da Nang offered its sandy beaches and opulent hotels to provide some RR for the crew of the TR but before long, the crew was ordered back to the ship, underway early and restricted to “River City” communications (meaning no phone calls or internet access).
Back in 2008, steaming off the coast of Iran, River City was set pretty much all the time (and we hated it) but we knew it was necessary. Recently, this order meant something very serious was unfolding and the sailors aboard knew it.
Photo courtesy of August Dannehl
When that first River City was set just weeks ago, it was hard to imagine just how serious this situation would be. No one could have predicted then that over 500 Rough Riders would test positive for the coronavirus, a Navy Captain with 30 years of military experience would be fired, a Trump-appointed official would resign and one sailor would ultimately die in the line of duty from this silent, unpredictable enemy.
Living for months at a time on a carrier out to sea, confined to extremely small and cramped spaces, living and working alongside fellow Sailors in close proximity; these truths have always been the downsides of Navy service. Now, in the age of COVID-19, they have proven deadly.
More than 440 senior enlisted leaders, representing all services — active, reserve, and retired — descended on Houston, Texas, June 20-22, 2019, from all parts of the United States to attend the Great Sergeants Major Reunion, the largest gathering of senior non-commissioned officers in America.
Out of U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy (USASMA) classes 1 through 10, there was only one Sergeant Major in attendance. Gene McKinney, who served as the 10th Sergeant Major of the Army, was among the many sergeants major to participate in this year’s event. Sadly, 16 sergeants major have passed since the last gathering in 2017.
The Department of Veterans Affairs was well represented, with two Veterans Experience office employees–both retired command sergeants major (representing classes 53 and 55)–on site to share MISSION Act and suicide prevention and awareness information, and hand out the VA Welcome Kit.
CSM (Ret) Eric Montgomery speaks with SMA (Ret) Gene C. McKinney at the event in Houston.
As the conference room filled, VA staff were there to welcome attendees and hear their concerns and feedback about VA. One attendee, Larry Williams, said “the White House hotline is the best resource in place.” Others similarly expressed wishing they had this information before leaving service, and that VA’s presence at the reunion convinced several to enroll in VA. Even those still serving, or soon to be retiring as sergeants major, reported a desire to share the VA Welcome Kit information with their soldiers.
It was an invaluable opportunity to attend, to share what’s happening inside VA, knowing that these senior enlisted leaders will be VA advocates to their soldiers all over the country.
Retired SGMs from USASMA class 55 at the GSM Reunion 2019.
Command Sergeant Major (retired) Ivanhoe Love Jr., who also served three terms as the mayor of Liberal, Kansas, was the keynote speaker. His spoke about living healthy lives, the importance of annual checkups and the power of positive thinking. He also stressed the importance of having personal relationships, staying connected and informed, and how these factors impact life longevity.
Although he was not in attendance due to health reasons, fellow Sergeant Major (Ret) Ernest Colden, a World War II, Korea, and Vietnam Veteran from South Carolina who turned 95 on June 23, 2019, was recognized.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
A former Army paratrooper’s final request to be buried with military honors alongside other veterans was carried out by a New York Army National Guard honor guard on Monday, Dec. 2, 2019, at Calverton National Cemetery.
Needham Mayes, the New York City resident who was buried, was one of the first African-American soldiers to join the 82nd Airborne Division in 1953. But he left the Army with a dishonorable discharge in 1956 after a fight in a Non-Commissioned Officers Club.
In 2016 — after a lifetime of accomplishment and community service — he began the process of having that dishonorable discharge changed. His lawyers argued that in a Southern Army post, just a few years after the Army had integrated, black soldiers were often treated unfairly.
With an assist from New York Senator Kristin Gillibrand, Mayes appeal came through in September 2019. When he died on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2019, he was finally a veteran and eligible to be buried with other soldiers.
Sgt. Kemval Samll, and other members of the New York Military Forces Honor Guard stand at attention during the funeral service of former Army paratrooper Pvt. Needham Mayes at Calverton National Cemetery, N.Y., Dec. 2, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Jonathan Pietrantoni)
That duty fell to the Long Island team of the New York Military Forces Honor Guard. The Army National Guard soldiers provide funeral services for around 2,400 New York City and Long Island veterans annually at the Calverton National Cemetery.
Any soldier who served honorably is entitled to basic military funeral services at their death. Statewide, New York Army National Guard funeral honors teams conduct an average of 9,000 services.
On Dec. 2, the Long Island National Guard soldiers dispatched 11 members to honor Mayes’s last request.
The Honor Guard members treat every military funeral as a significant event, because that service is important to that family, said 1st. Lt. Lasheri Mayes, the Officer in Charge of the New York Military Forces Honor Guard.
Members of the New York Military Forces Honor Guard provide military honors for the funeral service of former Army paratrooper Pvt. Needham Mayes at Calverton National Cemetery, N.Y., Dec. 2, 2019.
But the story of Mr. Mayes “was unique,” and because his family had fought hard to get him the honors he deserved that made the ceremony particularly important, Lt. Mayes said.
Mayes’s funeral was held as a storm moved into the northeast, and while there was no snow on Long Island, the weather was cold and windy.
The Honor Guard soldiers conducted a picture-perfect ceremony despite the bad weather, Lt. Mayes said.
Sgt. Richard Blount, the non-commissioned officer in charge of the mission, assembled a great team, she added.
It was “a tremendous honor” for his soldiers to conduct the mission for the Mayes family, Blount said.
New York Army National Guard Sgt. Richard Blount, the non-commissioned officer in charge of a New York Military Forces Honor Guard team, salutes while overseeing military honors for the funeral service of former Army paratrooper Pvt. Needham Mayes.
(Photo by Sgt. Jonathan Pietrantoni)
“I was proud to see the team that I put together all join in celebrating his life, and being a member of this memorable event for the family,” he said.
According to the New York Times, Mayes Army career went awry in 1955 when he was invited to a meal at the Fort Bragg Non-Commissioned Officers Club.
Pvt. 1st Class Mayes got in a scuffle at the Non-Commissioned Officers Club at Fort Bragg. At some point, a gun — carried by another soldier according to a story in the New York Times — fell on the floor, went off, and a man was shot.
Mayes reportedly confessed to grabbing for the gun. He was sentenced to a year at hard labor and received a dishonorable discharge.
After leaving the Army, Mayes moved to New York City and became an exemplary citizen.
Members of the New York Military Forces Honor Guard provide military honors for the funeral service of former Army paratrooper Pvt. Needham Mayes at Calverton National Cemetery, N.Y., Dec. 2, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Jonathan Pietrantoni)
He earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree and became a social worker and a therapist. He raised three daughters and worked for groups fighting drug abuse and promoting mental health awareness and advocated for young black men.
But for Mayes, his dishonorable discharge always bothered him; his family members told the New York Times.
In 2016, as his health started to decline, according to the New York Times, he hired a lawyer to get his discharge upgraded so he could be buried as a veteran.
Initially, the request was denied, but this year New York Senator Kristin Gillibrand began advocating for Mayes.
New York Army National Guard 1st LT Mayes, Lasheri Mayes, Honor Guard officer in charge, presents the colors from the casket of former Army paratrooper Pvt. Needham Mayes to Maye’s grandson Earl Chadwick Jr at Calverton National Cemetery, N.Y., Dec. 2, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Jonathan Pietrantoni)
Also, another former soldier who was involved in the fight for so many years urged that Mayes’s dishonorable discharge be changed.
“Being a person of color, I could never imagine what my predecessors went through, “Blount said. “What happened to Mr. Mayes was not right.”
“But it made me that much more proud of the accomplishments and the goals the military has made to move more in a positive direction — a place where we can be unified on all fronts,” Blount added.
“I am thankful every day for those that paved the way for myself and others to be the best soldiers and leaders that we can be,” he said.
A decade ago, Russia’s Defense Ministry closed down a military base in Pskov Oblast, leaving hundreds of people unemployed. Without income or investment in infrastructure, the town began to collapse around its residents. (Current Time)
Much of the world knows the Grenadier Guards from their roles as formal guards in London and at Windsor Castle. Their distinctive ceremonial uniforms are a symbol of the British Crown. They are also one of the world’s best light infantry units who joined the British Army in the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But while they left their distinctive bearskin hats at home, they did bring many traditions to desert wars with them.
“Make way for the Queen’s Guard.”
One of those traditions surrounds saying the word “yes.” Apparently, members of the Grenadier Guards find the affirmative to be redundant. According to one guardsman in a 1989 BBC story called the “Weird and Wonderful Traditions of the Grenadier Guards,” saying yes is redundant as a guardsman always obeys his orders. The only alternative would be saying “no,” something a guardsman would never do.
So in the Grenadier Guards, they simply respond to direct orders with “sir.”
The Grenadiers’ unquestioned obedience doesn’t limit their ability to communicate. According to a ranking Guardsman of the time, they can still pass different meanings through the word using different tones and inflections. If you’re given a bad assignment, you just say “sir.” It doesn’t mean you’re happy about it, but you accept it. If you’re told something you simply just can’t believe, you might say “sirrrrrr?” Or maybe you disagree with it entirely and don’t like it one bit.
A monotone “sir” is an acceptable response. Tune in to the above video at around 6:15 to hear the Guards tell it.
It seems like every veteran entrepreneur opens a coffee shop, a t-shirt company, or a brewery. We ain’t mad atcha, especially if it’s a brewery.
This Veterans Day, raise a glass full of veteran-brewed goodness to toast all the great ones before us, those who have served with us and those yet to come. Here are 8 veteran-brewed beers to drink this Veterans Day (and hell, all year round):
What could be better than toasting the brotherhood than by buying a beer that gives back to it? A portion of every beer sold in the series is donated to the Navy Seal Foundation.
According to their website, this brew is fermented at a higher temp (72F) to blow up the fruity and juicy yeast strain esters. This series features a single hop profile of Azacca Hops to bring big citrus and tropical fruit tones. Protector is one of the fastest-growing breweries in SoCal and is owned and operated by a veteran Navy Seal.
Start your day right with a W.A.S.P. Waffle Ale that honors the Women Air Service Pilots (W.A.S.P.) from World War II. While it was brewed by women to honor women in uniform, this beer is for anybody who likes to be happy. With subtle caramel notes and a maple vanilla finish, Callsign promises you’ll be saying “leggo my beer.” We’ll drink to that.
The Frogman Lager is a fan favorite at this Norfolk brewery with a combination of caramel and bready-malt flavors and floral and earthy notes courtesy of the Bold Saaz hops. With 24 IBU, this is an easy beer to drink and an easier one to love.
We give the KA-BAR Brown Ale two fierce knife hands. Their flagstaff beer, this is a rich, dark brown ale with notable nuttiness up front. It’s also described with a “slight roasty character and a hint of chocolate and toffee come through before ending with a subtle bitterness.”
While this beer is bottled, if you can make a trip to the taproom, it’s worth seeing in person: the tap handles for the KA-BAR Brown Ale come directly from the KA-BAR factory in New York.
One of our favorite beers to drink, the pineapple hefeweizen, is packed with sweet and tangy fruit flavors, perfectly complemented by spicy clove and hints of banana. This is one pin you’ll want to pull over and over again.
“The foot soldiers of the Infantry belong to the oldest and proudest branch of the army, their boots ‘always ready, then, now and forever.’ Our Ground Pounder Pale Ale honors those that have worn out their soles preserving the freedoms we cherish.”
The Ground Pounder is all around a great beer. It has nice spice and citrus notes with some bold, piney hop and a little bit of caramel. And, just because we know the Army is always a little extra, there’s some lime and crushed black pepper in this bad boy.
No matter what you’re drinking this Veterans Day, raise your glass not only to those around you who have served, but give a little toast to yourself, too. Here’s to you – cheers.
In a recent scandal, the Air Force came under fire for reportedly spending over $300,000 on specialized, fragile coffee cups. That’s right — the Air Force has been buying, breaking, and replacing cups that reheat liquids in air refueling tankers mid-flight at the low, low price of $1,280 a pop.
But one of the most peculiar things about this scandal is how civilians are shocked and outraged, while those in the military aren’t batting an eye. Why? Because of course the Air Force has that kind of money to blow on stupid crap. And of course they’d be spending exorbitant amounts of money on coffee cups. In fact, it’s probably the most Air Force thing on the planet.
To be fair to the airmen, we get that it’s important for your KC-10 Extender to have nice, warm coffee to keep you alert on long flights. We get it — but, seriously? You guys get to toss out broken, four-figure coffee mugs while we’re training with sticks and tape?
You guys should just give us the money. The other branches would find a better use for that much-needed cash.
Judging from the sailors I know and work with, that may only be enough to get the party started…
Every branch likes to talk about how much they consume, but the expression is “drink like a sailor” — not “drink like a soldier.” A fact that, as a soldier, I am sour about. Nearly every single time sailors get shore liberty, they’re out proving this stereotype true. But beer costs money.
Let’s say it costs around 0 for a keg of beer. That means, rounding down, we’d be able to get 12 kegs for the price of one Air Force coffee mug. At 15.5 gallons of beer per keg, that gives us a grand total of 186 gallons of beer, which would mean one hell of a Friday night for the 340 enlisted sailors aboard a Ticonderoga-class Guided Missile Cruiser.
It’s funny how all the Marines will get to shoot but those 4000+ rounds will all be police called by six or so lance corporals.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tommy Bellegarde)
If there’s one thing Marines love more than talking about how bad they have it compared to other branches, it’s shooting. So, it should come as no surprise that, given some extra cash, they’d buy some ammunition to hit the range and prove that every Marine is, indeed, a rifleman.
At 30 cents per round, the cost of one specialized cup means roughly 4,266 rounds — which would give a platoon of Marines a single afternoon of fun.
You do what you gotta do downrange — even if it means weekly kidney stones.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jb Jaso)
The Army is a hodgepodge of different people, professions, and missions, so it’s kind of hard to find one unifying thing that connects all soldiers together — except for an undying love for the one thing that gets the specialists ready for war: energy drinks.
At the cost of about dollar per full-sized can, you’d be able to get an entire brigade’s E-4 mafia a round of the “official soft drink of war!” (trademark pending).
Or it could be used to post bail for the Coastie who started a fight at the local bar with someone who mocked their branch. Personally, I believe this would be more effective at proving their “realness.”
(Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class David R. Marin)
The Coast Guard is a branch of the United States Armed Forces, despite being under Homeland Security and not the Department of Defense. And, despite the fact that they’re generally seen as the smartest branch (considering their high ASVAB score requirements), we’re sure that Coasties are also debilitating alcoholics who try to pick up strippers in the Mustang they’re paying for at a 28% interest rate. That’s the true test of a troop’s “realness.”
So, if there’s one thing that pisses off Coasties more than anything, it’s having their branch status brought into question.
For the bulk price of 9.99 per 500 copies, the Coast Guard could buy 4,000 single-sided pieces of paper that simply read, “the Coast Guard is a real branch. Change my mind” and drop that sh*t from a MH-65 Dolphin like they’re on a PsyOps mission.
Whelp. According to August’s Medical Surveillance Monthly Report submitted by the Pentagon, the Navy is officially the fattest branch of the Department of Defense at a whopping 22% of all sailors being obese. Not “doesn’t meet physical requirements” but obese. It’s still way below the 39.8% of the national average, according to the CDC, but still.
In case you were wondering, the Air Force is second at 18%, the Army (who usually takes this record) is at just 17%, and the Marines are at 8.3%. To be fair to every other branch, the Marines have the youngest average age of troops despite also taking the record for “most knee and back problems.”
But, I mean, the placement of your branch isn’t something to be proud of. If you compare the percentages to where they were at three years ago, and eight years ago, each branch nearly doubled their “big boy” percentage.
So yes. In case you were wondering… The military HAS gone soft since you left a few years ago.
Picture this: You’re sound asleep in bed next to your spouse, when you are startled awake by a yell for help, or hyperventilating or a simple cry out. Your spouse is there shaking, unable to catch their breath. You roll over, rub their back and try to comfort them as best you can. All the while you know deep down, there is nothing you can do to make it better for them.
Tears sting your eyes and you wrap your arms around them and pray you will both be able to find sleep again, and crossing your fingers it’s the only nightmare that rips them from their slumber that night.
This is a reality for many who live with someone with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Nightmares are just one aspect of what it’s like to live with PTSD. It is a complex disorder which some people develop after they experience or witness a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster or sexual assault. PTSD affects between 11 and 20% of military members who served in operations Iraqi Freedom and Finding Freedom in a given year. It affects 12% of Gulf War Veterans in a given year, and 15% of Vietnam Veterans are currently diagnosed with PTSD, while up to 30% have had PTSD in their lifetime.
There are many different symptoms that go along with PTSD. The most common ones are:
Reliving the event (re-experiencing symptoms):
Avoiding situations and/or people that may trigger memories of the traumatic event.
Negative changes in beliefs and/or feelings:
The way you think about yourself and others changes due to the trauma.
You may not be able to have positive or loving feelings towards others and may stay away from relationships.
You may forget about parts of the traumatic event or not be able to talk about it.
You may think the world is dangerous and no one can be trusted.
Feeling keyed up (hyperarousal):
Jittery, or always on alert and/or on the lookout for danger
You have a hard time sleeping.
You have trouble concentrating.
You are startled by loud noises or surprises.
You need to have your back to the wall in a restaurant or waiting room.
You suddenly become angry or irritable.
PTSD affects each individual differently. You may experience some or all of the symptoms listed above.
One of the hardest parts of living with PTSD, or living with someone with PTSD for that matter, is the not knowing. You can never know when the nightmares will rear their head, or when one of the other symptoms might be triggered. You do everything you can to avoid situations and other things that might trigger it, but sometimes the PTSD sneaks through. Sometimes there is simply nothing you can do to keep it from creeping into your everyday life and turning it upside down. One might say that it comes and bites you, and you have no control when that will be.
June 27 has been set aside as PTSD Awareness Day. It is one day set up to bring awareness to this disorder and how much it affects the lives of military members, their families, and others who have suffered traumatic experiences. Awareness should be raised and attention paid to this growing issue every day. There are still countless military members suffering in silence out of fear of stigma, judgement, and career effects from their PTSD. Anyone who is living with PTSD should feel that they are able to reach out for help, and know that they will find a hand waiting to pick them up.
There is help and treatment available for PTSD. You are not alone. The military and the VA have treatment options available to you as well as help for your loved ones. Visit the Department of Veterans Affairs website for more information on PTSD and the help that is available to you. You can also visit or call the Veterans Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255) for more support.
If you or someone you love is suffering from PTSD or is in crisis, reach out today and get help, because you are not alone.
Now is not the time to be nervous. What if I don’t qualify? I’ll never see corporal. Okay, okay, okay… remember what you were taught. 300-yard line equals the tip of the post, or is it tip of the chevron? What if none of my shots hit the…
“Shooters you may commence firing when your TAAARRGETS appear.”
These thoughts can be all too familiar for some Marines during their annual rifle requalification. Marines can experience a lot of pressure when qualifying on the range, because every Marine’s primary job is to be a rifleman, regardless of their occupational field. As such, it is important that every Marine has the confidence to fire under the most adverse of conditions. If a Marine is not confident in their shooting abilities, then qualifying can be difficult without proper instruction from a subject matter expert.
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Austin Meise, small arms repairer/technician, Headquarters and Support Battalion (HS Bn), Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, mentioned that his first time shooting was when he was in recruit training. He asked a lot of questions and used a rifle data book that was given to all of the recruits by their primary marksmanship instructors.
MCB Camp Pendleton’s Marksmanship Training Unit is dedicated to furthering the building blocks learned in recruit training, and further the training continuum approach to maintain proficient combat marksmen. During grass week, Marines practice without live firing, the four marksmanship shooting positions: sitting, kneeling, standing, and prone.
“If you properly apply the fundamentals, you will shoot black all the time,” said Meise, in regard to targets commonly fired upon at ranges. “Before the Marine Corps, I never shot a weapon, but with the guidance I received from the instructors, I now consistently fire expert on the range.”
Lance Cpl. Eric Janasiak, a rifleman with Lima Company, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit.
(US Marine Corps photo)
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Garald John, combat marksmanship trainer, HS Bn, MCB Camp Pendleton, explains that the worst thing for CMTs, PMIs and combat marksmanship coaches is having one of their Marine’s fail on the range for annual training.
“One of the most commonly asked questions is, ‘how do I get a more stability in the standing position?'” said John. “The guidance I give them is: to rest their forward tricep on their chest as much as possible to get more stability, but mainly I express to just take their time to apply the fundamentals.”
With the CMT by their sides, Marines also practice the maneuvers needed to accomplish a proper ammunition speed reload as well as opportunities to use the computer based, indoor simulated marksmanship trainers to run-through drills they will perform during their firing week.
“For the Marines that come to our MTU, I would say one-on-one coaching time is what helps most,” explained John. “The first time we run everyone through the ISMT, and we assess that they are struggling, we’ll ask if they’d like to stay back for extra practice giving that Marine the chance for further one-on-one training. We give them recommendations on how to be more stable or improve breathing techniques. Whatever we see they need help in the most, we try to assist as much as possible.”
Cpl. Berkeley Lewis, a rifleman with 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, fires his M4 carbine during training at the SR-7 range at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jeff Drew)
Once the live firing commences, Marines are accompanied by their CMCs. While a Marine’s effort is individual, CMCs are there to provide guidance, and answer questions.
“During firing week, people tend to let their ego get in the way,” said Meise. “When Marines see a bad shot, expecting more or better results, they begin to worry. Worrying causes them to forget the fundamentals! They’re focusing on the shot, but not the form.”
John said that during grass week, the coaches and the CMTs always get Marines to a point where the instructors and coaches are confident enough to say every Marine has the potential to qualify for annual rifle training.
“When I see Marines achieve more than what they thought they could, it really makes me look forward to what I may see in the future of my Marine Corps,” said John. “I know it is because coaches try to uplift the shooters and the shooters try to uplift each other increasing everyone’s confidence and overall mindset.”
Deep breath. Fundamentals: stable shooting position, slow steady squeeze, natural respiratory pause, expect the recoil…
“Shooters you may commence firing when your TAAARRGETS appear”
The holidays can feel awfully lonely when you’re hundreds of miles from your hometown, and your spouse is deployed. Traveling solo with kids is overwhelming, sure, but a holiday season with no adult interaction is even more depressing. Here’s what you need to know to travel while solo parenting, whether on the road or in the skies.
Don’t forget the gifts
If you’re planning to visit relatives over Christmas, take advantage of online shopping, and have your children’s gifts and gifts for others shipped directly to your destination—no one wants to schlep a Barbie Dream House through DFW. But, speaking of that Dream House, don’t forget that you’re going to have to take all of this stuff back home with you! Don’t buy anything big for your kids and remind your relatives not to give big gifts, either.
Pro Tip: Cram a large duffle bag into one of your suitcases so you can use it to pack and check gifts for your flight home.
Traveling alone with kids means your days of throwing some clothes into a bag and heading out are long gone. This is going to require thought and planning. Start packing at least a week in advance. Chances are good that the stuff you all wear all the time, is also the stuff you’ll want to bring, so put your empty suitcases next to the washer and dryer and toss the clothes in as you fold them. Only bring enough diapers, wipes, and formula for two or three days. You can buy more at your destination.
Whether flying or driving, it’s a good idea to use your biggest suitcase and try to consolidate multiple bags into one. Unless you’ve got a teenager to help carry bags, you’re going to be handling them all yourself, and one big bag is easier to manage than three small ones.
Pro Tip: If you’re driving a long distance, it’s a good idea to pack an overnight bag with stuff for each of you. Put that small bag into the car last so it’s easily accessible. If you have to stop for the night along your route, you’re not going to want to drag all your big suitcases into the room.
Just pack PJs, comfy traveling clothes, toiletries, diapers and wipes, and whatever woobies or special stuffies you all can’t sleep without, and a few snacks for the room. A snack bag will absolutely save you when the late-night hunger hits, and your hotel doesn’t even have a vending machine. You might want to throw in some herbal tea bags (or a single serving wine box) for yourself.
No two kids are exactly the same, and you know yours better than anyone. Some can’t handle more than an hour of uninterrupted driving, others can go 15 hours so long as their bellies are full of chicken nuggets. Don’t fool yourself that a child who hates driving will miraculously be great for a 17-hour slog, or that you’ll be able to drive all that distance without getting tired. If you need to stop for the night, do so. A motel room is much cheaper than a wreck.
Be sure to plan your route ahead of time. GPS navigation is great and all, and by all means use it, but it’s no substitute for actually knowing where you’re going. The roads will likely be crowded, you may encounter closures, accidents, and detours, and we’ve all had navigation lead us astray. RoadTrippers.com is a great resource for planning.
iExit tells you how far the next Interstate exit is and what amenities you’ll find there, like the always-important bathrooms, gas, and food.
Flush Toilet Finder uses your location to show you nearby toilets on a map, which is absolutely essential information when you’re traveling with preschoolers. Bonus: it works offline and can integrate with Google Maps to provide directions.
And if you’re not in a big rush and want to break up your drive with some Americana oddities, the Roadside America app will tell you about all sorts of weird stops along your way, like Foamhenge.
The Priceline app is also great for road trips because it lets you bid on rooms that are nearby, meaning you don’t have to know in advance where you’ll be when you want to pull off and sleep.
ProTip: Wait until after 3 p.m. to start bidding. By afternoon check-in time, many hotels are willing to accept a lower bid than they would have taken earlier in the day.
Parenting Pro Tip: Try to book a hotel with an indoor pool and free breakfast. A day strapped into a car seat will leave any kid antsy, with oodles of energy to burn. An evening splash in the pool will mean that your children actually fall asleep when you turn the lights out. Complimentary breakfast means you can get back on the road without stopping to eat, saving time and money.
And another one: If your children are too small to help with bags at the hotel, grab a luggage cart. You can easily set an infant carrier on the cart, and toddlers and preschoolers can climb on and catch a ride. They’ll love it! Most importantly, you’ll be able to manage all your bags and people in one trip.
It should go without saying, but arrive early, at least 30 minutes earlier than what you think being early means. Flying is stressful. Flying with children is even more stressful. Flying solo with children when you’re running late is agony.
Pro Tip: If at all possible, book a morning flight, especially if you have to make a connection. Why? Because if your flight gets cancelled or delayed, you’re more likely to get on another flight if you start early in the day. You do not want to be stuck overnight in an airport with children.
If your kids are too big for a stroller but too small to turn loose, look into buying a fun ride-on suitcase, like this one. All of a sudden, the tedium of the airport will look more like a playground, at least to your child. Speaking of playgrounds, here’s a list of some of the family-friendly amenities available in U.S. airports.
Don’t forget about the lounges and the USO. If you have the American Express Platinum Card (And you should, the annual fee is waived for active duty, plus you get all these perks) you and your children can access the Delta Sky Club Lounges and the Centurion Lounges … and all the free food, drinks, and WiFi in them. Some even have a family room.
But even if you don’t have the AMEX, your military family status allows you to use the USO lounges, which means you get access to free snacks, comfy chairs, and the nicest people in America. Many of the volunteers are grandparent-aged and love to play with kids. Stop in, grab a snack (the USO in Charlotte, NC’s airport often has free Cinnabon), kick back in a recliner and let other people soak up the adorableness that you stopped noticing somewhere over Des Moines, when your toddler kicked the seat in front of her for the 18th time.
Speaking of, while you’re on the plane, just accept that your normal nutrition and screen time rules are on hold. Bring your own junk food and whatever device your child likes to play— with headphones, please!— and then let them play and eat as much as they want. Bring old fashioned coloring and activity books, too. Kids love having your undivided attention, and a game of Hangman or Tic-Tac-Toe on a seatback tray will burn up some time. You will be exhausted by the end of the flight. It’s just going to happen. Accept it and expect it.
You don’t have to spend the holidays marinating in loneliness and exhaustion. With a little planning, a lot of patience, some managed expectations, and a few apps, you can travel with children to celebrate the season, without losing your sanity.
Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army spouse, a mother of three, a professional writer and an obsessive traveler. Once, during a deployment, she took all three kids on a 6-week-long roadtrip from Florida to Maine— and back!—stopping to see every long lost military friend and roadside attraction along the way.
The grassy hill surrounding the arena is packed full of spectators and family members. The emcee calls out a dancer’s name; there’s movement in the crowd. The competitor makes it into the arena, throws out his hoops for his sequence.
Upon the dancer’s cue, the drum starts singing. Bells on his ankles sing in time with each beat of the drum and each step he makes.
He has five minutes to convey a story, using small hoops as his medium to paint each scene, as part of the 28th Annual Heard Museum World Championship Hoop Dance Contest held in Phoenix in 2018.
“The competition opens everyone’s eyes to the Native American culture,” said Timothy Clouser, the museum’s facilities director and a Navy veteran. “I find it very fascinating how each dancer puts their own artistic expression in their dance and story they are trying to convey. Not one dance is the same.”
Brian Hammill, an Army veteran of the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin and a previous World Hoop Dance champion, competed in Phoenix. He uses his dancing to help bridge the cultural gap between Native Americans and non-natives, sharing his culture everywhere he goes.
“As native people, we don’t give gifts of objects because an object goes away, but we give the gift of a song, or a dance,” Hammill said. “When you do that, if you give somebody a song, and you tell them, ‘Every time you sing this song, you tell the story,’ or ‘Every time you do this dance, you tell the story and you give it away,’ that dance will last forever. That’s how this hoop dance carries on; it’s given from one person to the next.”
Army veteran Brian Hammill of the Ho-Chunk Nation applies face paint before grand entry at the 28th Annual Heard Museum World Championship Hoop Dance Contest at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, Feb. 10, 2018.
(Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anita C. Newman)
The hoop dance is different than other Native American dances, such as powwow dancing. Powwows are inter-tribal celebrations of Native American culture. Tribal affiliation doesn’t matter, nor does what region someone is from. It doesn’t even matter if someone is native or non-native.
Powwow dancing consists of at least six categories. Men’s categories include the fancy dance, grass dance and traditional dance. Women’s categories are the fancy dance, jingle dress and traditional dance.
The hoop dance regalia is minimal compared to that of the powwow dances. Typically, a hoop dancer will wear a shirt, breechcloth, side drops, sheep skin, bells (or deer hooves) and moccasins. The colors and designs are specific to each person. The hoops are small and vary in size, typically depending on the height of the dancer. Sometimes they have designs on them, again, specific to each dancer.
“Traditionally, the hoops were made out of willow, depending on where the tribe was located,” Hammill said. “I make mine out of a very exotic wood called plastic.”
The hoop dance has different origin stories with a common thread that it originated in the Southwest. To some native nations, the hoop dance is a healing dance, Hammill said. A hoop would traditionally be passed over an afflicted person, then the dancer would break that hoop and never use it again.
“Basically, it was a way of taking away all that pain or sickness away,” Hammill said. “That’s not done in public. There is also a story of the children, the Taos Pueblo children. It is said that the children saw this ceremony taking place and began to emulate what they saw. Instead of telling the kids, ‘No, you can’t do this,’ the adults encouraged them. They began to sing songs for them. They took what was a prayer and made it something the kids could do. So, basically, the dance changed, it evolved.
“In the north, it tells of a warrior’s journey,” he continued. “As you see these hoops come together, they start to make formations. You’ll see the eagle, the butterfly, the warrior on the battlefield defending his family, the clouds in the sky.”
Each person, he explained, will see that dance in a different way, interpret the story differently. There are hundreds of hoop dance stories, but each one revolves around the sacred circle of life.
“The significance of the hoops is that it represents the circle of life. There’s no beginning and no ending,” Hammill said. “We are taught that each and every one of us — doesn’t matter who we are, where we come from, the color of our skin — we are all created equal in that sacred hoop.”
Another part of Hammill’s culture that he lives every day is the tradition of service.
“The way I was always taught is, as a native person, we are always here to serve the people,” he said.
U.S. Army veteran, Brian Hammill of the Ho-Chunk Nation, competes at the 28th Annual Heard Museum World Championship Hoop Dance Contest at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona on Feb. 10, 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anita C. Newman)
“We serve them by cooking and providing food for them. We teach them, or protect them. One of the greatest things I was always taught that we do, is we put ourselves in harm’s way to protect our families and our identity. It was something I’ve always wanted to do, I felt I needed to do.”
Hammill enlisted in the Army while still in high school. He went to basic training during the summer between his junior and senior years, and went on active duty after graduation.
“It’s just something that we do,” he said. “You’ll find that throughout the United States, there are a higher percentage of native veterans per capita than any other race.”
While he was stationed in South Korea, one of his first sergeants learned that he had danced while growing up, and asked Hammill to share his culture with everyone. He performed the men’s fancy dance for his fellow soldiers.
“A lot of these soldiers weren’t exposed to different cultures, so he had me do one of my first presentations there,” he said. “I called my dad in Wisconsin, and he shipped all of my dance regalia to me. I started doing presentations for the people I was stationed with, and in different areas throughout the Korean theater. That’s where I really got the passion to share the story, and I found out how important it is.”
Hammill was introduced to the hoop dance prior to his transition out of the military in 1994. Back then, he would travel about 120 miles from Fort Polk, Louisiana, to Livingston, Texas, where he performed and danced with the Alabama-Coushatta tribe.
“A good friend of mine, Gillman Abbey, basically gave me this hoop dance,” he said. “He told me the story. He told me every time I dance, to always make sure I share the story, and give the dance.”
He said the hoop dance helped him heal from his time in service. Still brand new to hoop dancing, Hammill actually competed in the World Hoop Dance Championship for the first time about six months after he got out of the military.
“I was 24, in the adult division,” he said. “I remember I was scared because this is a huge competition. Some of the dancers I’m still dancing with today pulled me aside, said to me, ‘Hey, you’re doing good. Let me show you some different moves. Let me help you.’ I’ll never forget that because that’s what really kept me coming back. Being here, feeling that hoop and how it affects people, it keeps me coming back. It took me a long time, about 15 years, until I won my first world title. I moved to the senior division and won four more. But it’s a family. It really is something we all have in common.”