For the terrorist group whose name translates to “Western Education is Forbidden,” Aisha Bakari Gombi’s name means getting schooled on the battlegrounds of sub-Saharan Africa.
“Boko Haram know me and fear me,” says Gombi.
Gombi’s title is now “Queen Hunter” for her prowess in fighting terrorist cells in the country. According to the Guardian’s Rosie Collyer, she commands men who communicate using sign language, animal sounds, and birdsong.
Her home as a youth is a town called Gombi, near Nigeria’s Sambisa Forest, which is now rife with Boko Haram extremists. This is a short drive from where 200 girls were kidnapped in 2014.
Gombi has been a member of the local hunter’s club since she was in her youth, taught to hunt by her grandfather.
“We could free them if the military would give us better weapons,” she told the Guardian as she eyed a double-barreled shotgun on her lap.
In the same forest where she once hunted antelope for food, she now hunts Boko Haram fighters for vengeance. Many other women in the village have since joined the hunt for terrorist fighters, many to avenge missing loved ones abducted by the group.
Many other women in the village have since joined the hunt for terrorist fighters, many to avenge missing loved ones abducted by the group. There are now 228 hunters in Gombi’s village who have been recruited by the government to help fight terrorists.
Aisha Bakari Gombi vows never to stop fighting Boko Haram until her village is free from their threat. The only thing holding her back is the resources required to go on the offensive.
“I’m waiting for a call authorizing me to go back to rescue those women and children from Daggu, but I don’t know if they will give us more arms,” she says.
“Til Valhalla” is becoming a more and more common exaltation among veterans today, especially when hearing about the passing of a fellow veteran. Whether you believe in Odin, Master of Ecstasy, leader of the Gods, chief of the Æsir and the king of Asgard, is irrelevant, the warrior ethos is the heart of the expression. It’s not necessarily meant to be a religion.
Unless you’re Japanese, that is.
The Yasukuni Shrine is a Shinto temple that was founded at the beginning of the Meiji Restoration, a period in Japanese history that saw the Emperor return as the true ruler of Japan. Around this time, the Shinto worship of nature spirits and ancestors became an official state apparatus, the Emperor himself became one of these divine spirits. Today, there are some 80,000 of these public shrines, and the Yasukuni Shrine is just one of many.
What’s unique about the Yasukuni Shrine is that it is dedicated to the memory and spirit of those who died fighting for Japan from the first war in which the shrine was founded – the civil conflict that restored the Emperor in 1869 – and World War II in 1945. The Meiji Emperor originally wanted the shrine to honor the souls of those who died fighting for him in that conflict, but as more conflicts came to pass, the Emperor decided to house the souls of more and more war dead there. As the Empire expanded, so did the ethnicities of those enshrined at Yasakuni. There are more than Japanese souls; there are Koreans, Okinawans, Taiwanese, and more – anyone who fought for Japan.
Anyone. And these days, that’s a problem.
That’s a problem.
These days, the Yasukuni Shrine is an incredibly controversial subject in Asia. It’s so taboo that Japanese Prime ministers can’t even officially visit. Even though war criminals prosecuted by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East were denied enshrinement after World War II, lower classes of war criminals were slowly admitted to the shrine in the following years. Still, those class-A criminals like Hideki Tojo (above) were excluded…
… until the late 1970s, when the chief priest included them in secret during an enshrinement ceremony. There was nothing the government or the Emperor could do about it. Shinto was separated from the state in the 1947 MacArthur Constitution.
So now, the shrine causes a lot of friction between Japan, China, and the Koreas. The latter three accuse the shrine of encouraging historical revisionism and forgetting the crimes of its past. The museum attached to the shrine accuses the United States of forcing World War II on Japan with economic sanctions and military aggression. Thus, the last time an Emperor visited the shrine was in 1975.
U.S. Navy sailors visit the Yasukuni Shrine in 1933.
Any time a Japanese official visits the shrine, officially or unofficially, it sets off a firestorm of anger in the Pacific region. The last time a sitting Prime Minister visited Yasukuni was 2013 when Shinzo Abe made a visit, calling it an “anti-war gesture.” The Chinese said the visit was “absolutely unacceptable to the Chinese people,” and South Korea says it expressed “regret and anger.” Since then, Abe has opted out of the visit.
Yasukuni now lists the names of 2,466,532 men, women, and children (and even some war animals) enshrined as deities. Of those,1,068 are convicted war criminals.
As the pandemic continues to sweep the globe and follow us all into the holidays, everyone is struggling. December is filled with moments traditionally celebrated with big family gatherings – something that just isn’t safe right now, for anyone. Hard as it may be to swallow, it’s something military families have been dealing with for a lot longer than just the year 2020.
I come from a large Italian family, one that had “family night” every Wednesday like clockwork growing up. Leaving them behind for the first move with my husband was hard. I remember the deep pit of loss, especially during the holidays I missed. The second move taking me from my home state of Florida to Alaska just about broke me. It doesn’t matter how beautiful the adventure is or how incredible the opportunities are, your heart still aches. It was 2008, long before Facebook Lives or Zoom were a thing. Instead, we bought expensive web cameras and celebrated Christmas Eve through a shaky internet connection. Although I would never stop missing them, we learned to adapt because we had to. I also learned how expensive long-distance phone calls were, oops.
Watching Americans on social media complain about the restrictions and “cancel culture,” I can’t help but laugh and shake my head. As military families, we live in a world where anything can happen and you control none of it. My husband has worked numerous special days, been underway for Christmas and missed so many important moments. If I sat and dwelled in the despair of those times, I would never get out of bed. Seriously. This is the reality of the majority of military families throughout the world, we don’t have the luxury of complaining about it – we just do it. So, here are my lessons learned and words of advice for celebrating the holidays during a pandemic.
Did you know that when you complain, your body releases cortisol, which is a stress hormone? Yep, truth. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought enough stress to everyone’s lives, don’t add any more to yours. Instead of focusing on the negative, look towards the positive things. Traveling during the holidays sucks, for one – so now you don’t have to. Win!
2. Add new traditions
Maybe your Aunt Karen makes the best Christmas dinner and you are really mad about missing it. Make it. Yeah, you heard me. This is your chance to not only really embrace your own traditions that are familiar in a different way, but you can also add new ones. Bake the dish that no one else would usually eat, make the crafts because you have time and decorate more. Embrace the good, not the bad.
3. Adopt a family or shelter
I am not trying to make you feel like scrooge but for many the holidays are never good, even without a pandemic wreaking havoc. Rates of negative mental health symptoms during the holidays skyrocket and so do suicides. By finding a way to give back to those less fortunate than you it will not only take your mind off missing your family or “normal” but it will bring a boost of feel-good hormones to your brain, known as the “helper’s high”. There are angel trees, Toys for Tots and endless shelters in your community that need you. Find one.
4. Embrace small moments of joy
Sometimes it’s really not about the big elaborate get together’s and parties. Take this time to focus on your own home or community and breathe in small moments of joy. Watching old holiday movies together, having more time to decorate outside or watching your kids smile while doing crafts. Video chat with your family, take the time to make phone calls to people you haven’t seen in a while and write letters. These are small things that can create not only good memories but also feed happiness and not negativity.
The FDA just approved the second vaccine for emergency distribution. This means there really is hope on the horizon, even though all of this isn’t over yet. I know that we are all feeling fatigued from COVID and quarantine, but we can get through this. Remember that even when there isn’t a pandemic, military families are almost always far from their loved ones. It’s a sacrifice that is made because freedom is worth it. It is my hope that you’ll all take the same approach with staying home for the holidays. The lives you will save are worth it too.
Hundreds of Marines will join their British counterparts at a massive urban training center this summer that will test the leathernecks’ ability to fight a tech-savvy enemy in a crowded city filled with innocent civilians.
The North Carolina-based Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, will test drones, robots and other high-tech equipment at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center near Butlerville, Indiana, in August 2019.
They’ll spend weeks weaving through underground tunnels and simulating fires in a mock packed downtown city center. They’ll also face off against their peers, who will be equipped with off-the-shelf drones and other gadgets the enemy is now easily able to bring to the fight.
It’s the start of a four-year effort, known as Project Metropolis, that leaders say will transform the way Marines train for urban battles. The effort is being led by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, based in Quantico, Virginia. It comes after service leaders identified a troubling problem following nearly two decades of war in the Middle East: adversaries have been studying their tactics and weaknesses, and now they know how to exploit them.
Sgt. Dalyss Reed, a rifleman with Kilo Company, Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, maneuvers through a breach hole while conducting an urban platoon assault.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Dalton S. Swanbeck)
With tensions heating up with Iran, China and Russia, it’s likely Marines could face a far more sophisticated enemy than the insurgent groups they fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Just this week, Iran shot down a massive U.S. Navy drone capable of flying at high altitudes that collects loads of surveillance data. President Donald Trump said he called off retaliatory strikes just minutes before the operations were slated to kick off.
Less than two weeks prior, a Russian destroyer nearly collided with a U.S. Navy warship in the Philippine Sea. These are just some of the examples of close calls that could have left Marines and other U.S. troops facing off against near-peer militaries equipped with high-tech equipment in highly populated areas.
At the same time, the Marine Corps’ Operating Concept, a document published in 2016, found the service isn’t manned, trained or equipped to fight in urban centers, Maj. Edward Leslie, lead planner for Dense Urban Operations at the Warfighting Lab, told Military.com.
“The enemy has changed,” Leslie said. “… They obviously have more access to drones. I think the enemy’s sensing capabilities have increased, they have the ability to see in the night just as well as we can, and they have capabilities that can exploit our technology or disrupt our technology.”
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo)
The Marine Corps isn’t alone in grappling with these new challenges. The Army is spending half a billion dollars to train soldiers to fight underground, and has begun sending small-units to its massive training center in California where leaders are challenged with more complex warfighting scenarios.
The Army also found that young sergeants in most infantry and close combat units don’t know how to maneuver their squads or do basic land navigation, Military.com reported this spring.
Those are skills Marines must continue to hone, Leslie said, since so many advantages they’re used to having on the battlefield are leveling off. It’s not just room-clearing Marines need to be good at, he said, but overall urban operations — things like figuring out ways to penetrate a building without destroying it since it’s right next to a school or hospital.
“I think that’s the value we’re going to get [with Project Metropolis],” he said.
A next-gen fight
The training center Marines and British Royal Marines will use this summer is a sprawling 1,000-acre site that houses dozens of buildings, some with up to seven stories and basements. The complex also has more than a mile’s worth of underground tunnels and active farmland.
The urban center has been used not just to train troops, but to help government leaders prepare for pandemic responses or natural disasters as well.
Kilo Company will complete four phases during the month they spend there, Brig. Gen. Christian Wortman, who recently served as the Warfighting Lab’s commanding general, told reporters May 2019. It will culminate with a five-day force-on-force simulated battle in which the Kilo Company Marines, equipped with new high-tech gear, face off against a like-minded enemy force with its own sophisticated equipment.
The concept was introduced by Commandant Gen. Robert Neller last summer to help Marines better prepare to fight a near-peer enemy. The British Royal Marines participating in the exercise will either join Kilo Company’s efforts against the aggressor, or act as another force operating in the same region, Leslie said.
Project Metropolis will build on years of experimentation the Marine Corps has conducted as part of its Sea Dragon 2025 concept. Leslie said the grunts picking up the next leg of experimentation in Indiana will be further challenged to use some of the new technology Marines have been testing in a more complex urban setting, similar to what they’re likely to face in a future warzone.
Marines have been experimenting with different infantry squad sizes to incorporate drone operators. Now, Leslie said, they’ll look at how to organize teams operating a new tactical self-driving vehicle called the Expeditionary Monitor Autonomous Vehicle, which will carry a .50-caliber machine gun.
“That’s going to be a major thing,” he said. “We’re looking to see, what’s the table of organization look like to work with that, and is it any different if it’s an urban vehicle?”
Marines practice Military Operations on Urban Terrain at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Nov. 23, 2012. The Scout Sniper Platoon, Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 3/5, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit is deployed as part of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group as a U.S. Central Command theater reserve force, providing support for maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Timothy R. Childers)
Rifle squads will continue experimenting with unmanned aerial systems, Leslie added, to spot enemy positions without sending someone into a danger zone. They’ll use ground robots that have the ability to map the insides of buildings, and will test Marines’ decision-making when they’re overwhelmed with information.
“Really want we want to see is how the tech integrates and also how it operates in a dense urban environment,” he said.
Kilo Company will also work with nonlethal systems, Wortman said, which they can turn to if they’re in an area where there could be civilian casualties. They’ll have access to kamikaze drones and “more sophisticated tools for delivering lethal fires,” he added.
It’s vital that they see that Marines are able to put these new tools to use quickly and easily, Wortman said, as they don’t want them to be fumbling with new systems in the middle of combat situations.
Building on the past
Marines aren’t new to urban fights.
Leathernecks saw some of the bloodiest urban battles since Vietnam’s Battle of Hue City in Fallujah, Iraq. About 12,000 U.S. troops fought in the second leg of the 2004 battle to turn that city back over to the Iraqi government. In the fierce battle, which involved going house-to-house in search of insurgents, 82 U.S. troops were killed and about another 600 hurt.
The Marines learned during those battles, Leslie said. But a lot has changed in the last 15 years, he added. With adversaries having access to cheap surveillance drones, night vision and other technology, military leaders making life-and-death decisions on the battlefield must adjust.
The goal, Wortman said, is to keep Marines armed with and proficient in to keep their edge on the battlefield.
Every city has a different character, too, Leslie added, so what Marines saw in Fallujah is not going to be the same as what they can expect in a new fight.
There has also been a great deal of turnover in the Marine Corps since combat operations slowed in Iraq and Afghanistan, Leslie said. Today’s generation of Marines is also incredibly tech-savvy, Wortman said, and they’re likely to find ways to use some of the new gear they’re handing to them during this experiment and come up with innovative new ways to employ it.
“We have the expectation that these sailors and Marines are going to teach us about the possibilities with this technology because they’ll apply it in creative … ways the tech developers didn’t fully anticipate.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
To shed light on the epidemic of veteran suicide, BraveHearts — the nation’s leading equine rehabilitation program for veterans — started its first of three Trail to Zero rides Sept. 7, 2019 in northern Virginia.
The 20-mile ride in each city commemorates the number of veterans lives lost on average each day. The ride educates people on equine-assisted services benefits and healing effects.
Army veteran Tim Detert was one of the Trail to Zero riders. Detert served from 2005-2010 with the 82nd Airborne, deploying to Iraq twice for 18-month and 13-month tours. Following his service, Detert said he started suffering from depression and anxiety, turning to alcohol and opiates. Four friends ended their lives. After a suicidal spell, a friend recommended equine therapy to him.
“It’s completely turned around my life,” said Detert, who has been sober two years. “It’s given me a lot of hope and joy. I was so depressed and down before I came to this program. I was just looking for something and I hadn’t found it until I started working with the horses.”
Army Veteran Mitchell Hedlund, one of the Trail to Zero riders, served in Afghanistan in 2011-2012 and now uses equine therapy.
The BraveHearts president and chief operating officer said she’s seen veterans greatly improve their well being through equine therapy.
“I can’t even tell you now how many times I’ve heard veterans tell me personally that they wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the horses,” said Meggan Hill-McQueeney. “They find peace with the horses, they find hope with the horses, and they find purpose with the horses. Alternative therapies like equine therapies are tremendous opportunities.”
Currently, 64 VA medical centers across the country participate in therapeutic riding programs. These programs use equine assisted therapeutic activities recreationally to promote healing and rehabilitation of veterans for a variety of physical disabilities and medical conditions, said Recreation Therapy Service National Program Director Dave Otto. These include traumatic brain injury/polytrauma, blind rehabilitation, other physical impairments, post-traumatic stress disorders and other mental health disorders.
Children on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall talk to a BraveHearts rider Sept. 7, 2019, during the Trail to Zero ride.
Additionally, VA awards adaptive sports grants annually for organizations and groups that provide adaptive sports opportunities for veterans with disabilities, Otto said. These grant recipients also partner with VA facilities within their region to coordinate such adaptive sports opportunities for Veterans. During fiscal year 2018, VA awarded nearly id=”listicle-2640279831″ million to 12 grant recipients providing equine assisted therapy to Veterans with mental health issues. VA will award up to id=”listicle-2640279831″.5 million of these grants in fiscal year 2019.
BraveHearts is the largest Professional Association for Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) program in the country and serves veterans at no cost to veterans. The program offers equine services to provide emotional, cognitive, social and physical benefits. Veterans at BraveHearts have reported increased self-esteem, self-worth, trust for others, community integration, and decreased depression, anxiety, post traumatic disorder symptoms and self-inflicting thoughts.
In addition to the Sept. 7, 2019 ride, Trail to Zero plans rides for Sept. 14, 2019, in New York City and Sept. 28, 2019, in Chicago.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
There are many myths about having a Department of Veterans Affairs‘ disability rating and serving in the military. The most common is that, if you have a VA disability rating, you can never serve in the military again. Or if you do serve in the military, you have to waive your disability rating or all of your VA disability compensation. None of these statements is completely true.
Because you can file a VA disability claim only after leaving active duty, this article is making the assumption that the military member has left active duty and is either transitioning into the Guard or Reserves or trying to return to active duty after a break in service.
Can You Serve in the Military with a Disability Rating?
The answer is maybe. Simply having a VA disability rating does not prevent someone from joining the military. However, the underlying medical condition may prevent someone from medically qualifying to serve again.
For example, you can receive a VA disability rating for knee surgery that you had while on active duty. If your knee has otherwise healed and you can perform your military duties, remain deployable and pass your PT test, then you may be eligible for continued military service.
However, other underlying medical conditions may prevent you from joining the military again. For example, it may be difficult to join again if your VA disability rating stems from a serious medical condition that prevents you from being able to perform your military duties, maintain deployability status or pass your PT test.
Can You Serve on Active Duty with a VA Disability Rating?
Provided you have been medically cleared to serve, simply having a VA disability rating isn’t enough to prohibit you from serving on active duty.
However, federal law prohibits members from receiving military compensation and VA disability compensation for the same day of service.
So, while you won’t have to waive your actual VA disability rating, you would need to suspend your VA disability compensation payments until after your active-duty service ends. After that, you can contact the VA to resume your payments.
What About Serving in the Guard or Reserves with a Disability Rating?
The same rules apply to members of the Reserve Component as they do for active duty. However, there is one big difference: You don’t have to suspend your VA disability compensation payments unless you are serving in a full-time capacity.
When you receive VA disability compensation, you receive it on a monthly basis.
When you serve in the Reserve Component, you receive military pay only on the days you serve (typically one weekend a month, and two weeks a year). You actually perform four drill periods on your weekend drill and receive pay for four days of work. You will receive only one day of pay for the other days you serve in the Reserve Component (Active Training, TDY, PME, etc.).
The typical Guard or Reserve member receives military pay for only a handful of days per month. They are in an inactive status and are not receiving compensation for the remaining days of the month.
Remember the rule above: “Federal law prohibits members from receiving military compensation and VA disability compensation for the same day of service.”
The law requires members of the Reserve Component to waive either their military compensation or VA disability compensation for days in which they received both forms of compensation. Thankfully, it’s easy to decide which pay to waive.
Keep in mind you have to waive your pay only on the days on which you receive both forms of compensation. In other words, the pay you waive is prorated — you don’t have to waive the full month of either of these payments, only the prorated amount for the days on which you received both.
Both the VA and Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) prorate the payments based on a 30-day month. This means each day of VA compensation is worth 1/30 of your monthly VA disability rate. Likewise, each day of military service is worth 1/30 of your base military pay.
So if you serve the traditional one weekend a month, two weeks a year, you would receive military compensation for 63 days of service (48 weekend drills and 15 AT days).
The VA sends members a copy of VA Form 21-8951 at the end of the year documenting the number of days on which they received military compensation and VA disability compensation for the same period of service.
If you waive your VA disability compensation, the VA will simply withhold future payments based on the number of days for which you received compensation in the previous year. If you were paid for 63 days of military service, the VA would withhold a little more than two months’ worth of disability compensation from future payments. You can even request that the VA withhold only a portion of your future payments until the full amount is withheld.
If you choose to waive your military compensation, you would need to repay the military in full. This would mean writing a large check to DFAS.
In most cases, you will have earned more military compensation than you received in VA disability compensation, so it would make much more sense to waive your VA compensation.
Yes, it may be possible to serve in the military with a VA disability rating, provided your underlying medical condition doesn’t prevent you from meeting requirements. If you serve on active duty, in the full-time Guard/Reserves, or you have been activated, you may need to suspend your VA disability compensation payments to comply with federal law. Otherwise, members of the Reserve Component may need to waive either their military compensation or their disability compensation for the number of days on which they received both forms of compensation on the same day.
The first recorded sighting of the Loch Ness Monster dates all the way back to 565 A.D. when a writer named Adomnan recounted a tale about Saint Columba coming upon local residents burying a man near River Ness. According to the tale Adomnan recounted, the man had died as a result of being attacked by a “water beast” from the loch. Later, in the 1870s, the first modern sighting of the Loch Ness Monster was reported by a man named D. Mackenzie, though his report wouldn’t see publication until decades later.
The Loch Ness Monster really grew to fame in the 1930s, with multiple sightings popping up throughout the decade, culminating in what is perhaps the most famous image of the supposed monster to date, the famed “Surgeon’s Photograph.”
This image was taken by Robert Kenneth Wilson (who was actually a gynecologist, but newspapers probably didn’t want to print a “Gynecologist’s Photograph”). For decades, the image served as proof of “Nessie’s” existence, that is, until the mid-1990s when analysis of the image all but confirmed that it was a fake.
Robert Kenneth Wilson’s 1934 photograph fooled the world for decades.
Despite the most famous bit of evidence likely being a forgery, there have still been countless sightings of what locals believe could be a living dinosaur in their loch, and the waterway’s size and extreme depth would allow for a population of aquatic wildlife to go largely unseen. But a dinosaur?
That’s what a new team of scientists and researchers hoped to find out over this past year, combing the loch for traces of hair, feces, scales, and anything else they could gather for DNA analysis. Their intent was to find evidence of an as-yet-unidentified species of animal living in the area, and in a strange twist, that may be exactly what they found. It just wasn’t the monster most people were looking for.
“There is a very significant amount of eel DNA,” Professor Neil Gemmell, a geneticist at the University of Otago in New Zealand, said in a press release. “Our data doesn’t reveal their size, but the sheer quantity of the material says that we can’t discount the possibility that there may be giant eels in Loch Ness.”
There may also be a Photoshop monster lurking beneath those waves.
The idea that the Loch Ness Monster may, in fact, be a giant eel has been proposed repeatedly over the years, with some suggesting that it was feasible as far back as the 1930s. To date, no giant eels have been caught in the loch, making them something of a mystery themselves, but despite the lack of official confirmation, Loch Ness has also been the sight of many eel sightings.
“Divers have claimed that they’ve seen eels as thick as their legs in theloch,” Gemmell pointed out before adding that an eel that thick would likely be in the neighborhood of 13 feet long — longer than giant eels are supposed to be able to get.
Many of the sightings and pictures of the Loch Ness Monster do look as though they could be the result of a large eel. The supposed long neck of the monster could actually be the eel’s body, and because giant eels aren’t known to live in the loch, it wouldn’t be hard to mistake a 15-foot eel for a sea monster. In fact, that’s exactly what such an eel really would be.
It can be easy to see how an eel could be mistaken for the neck of a plesiosaur.
This study doesn’t definitely close the case, of course. Despite an abundance of eel DNA found in many of the 250 studied samples, no giant eels have been caught or even cleanly observed in the area. Until giant eels are confirmed to reside in Loch Ness, believers will undoubtedly keep looking for the long neck of a plesiosaur peeking out of the dark waters of the loch.
“Is it a giant eel? I don’t know, but it is something that we can test further,” Gemmell concluded.
With the signing of a directive by Army Secretary Mark T. Esper on March 25, 2019, U.S. Army soldiers can voluntarily seek alcohol-related behavioral healthcare without being mandatorily enrolled in a substance abuse treatment program. This policy encourages soldiers to take personal responsibility and seek help earlier therefore improving readiness by decreasing unnecessary enrollment and deployment limitations.
The directive’s goal is for soldiers to receive help for self-identified alcohol-related behavioral health problems before these problems result in mandatory treatment enrollment, deployment restrictions, command notification and negative career impact.
“This is a huge historical policy change that will address a long standing barrier to soldiers engaging in alcohol-related treatment,” said Jill M. Londagin, the Army Substance Use Disorder Clinical Care Program Director. “Alcohol is by far the most abused substance in the Army. Approximately 22 percent of soldiers report problematic alcohol use on Post Deployment Health Reassessments.
However, less than two percent receive substance abuse treatment. This is due, in part, because historic Department of Defense and Army substance abuse treatment policies and practices discouraged soldiers from self-referring for alcohol abuse care.”
(Photo by Audrey Hayes)
Substance Use Disorder Clinical Care (SUDCC) providers are now co-located with Embedded Behavioral Health (EBH) teams across the Army. “SUDCC providers being integrated into our EBH teams allows for more seamless, holistic, far-forward care than we have ever been able to provide in the past,” said Dr. Jamie Moore, Embedded Behavioral Health Clinical Director.
The directive creates two tracks for substance abuse care: voluntary and mandatory. Soldiers can self-refer for voluntary alcohol-related behavioral healthcare, which does not render them non-deployable and doesn’t require command notification like the mandatory treatment track does.
Soldiers enter mandatory substance use disorder treatment if a substance use-related incident occurs, such as a driving under the influence violation. Under the voluntary care track, treatment is not tied to a punitive process and is a choice a soldier can make before a career impacting event occurs. Soldiers in the voluntary care track may discontinue care at any time and can also choose to reenter care at any time.
The treatment process begins when a soldier notices signs of alcohol misuse, which may include frequently drinking in excess, engaging in risky behavior, such as drunk driving, lying about the extent of one’s alcohol use, memory impairment or poor decision-making. Next, the soldier self-refers to Behavioral Health for an evaluation. The provider and the soldier will then develop a treatment plan directed at the soldier’s goals.
The length of treatment will be based on the soldier and his or her symptoms. HIPPA privacy laws require that soldiers’ BH treatment remains private unless they meet the command notification requirements in DoDI 6490.08, such as harm to self, harm to others, acute medical conditions interfering with duty or inpatient care.
(Ms. Rebecca Westfall, Army Medicine)
“Only those enrolled in mandatory substance abuse treatment are considered to be in a formal treatment program,” Londagin said. “Self-referrals that are seen under voluntary care are treated in the same manner as all other behavioral health care.”
The previous version of the substance abuse treatment policy, Army Regulation 600-85 (reference 1f), required all soldiers to be formally enrolled in a substance abuse treatment program just to seek assistance, which discouraged soldiers from seeking help early.
“The policy also limited the number of enrollments permitted during a soldier’s career, preventing the soldier from seeking more support at a later date without risk of administrative separation,” Londagin said.
“During a pilot phase, 5,892 soldiers voluntarily received alcohol-related behavioral health care without enrollment in mandatory substance abuse treatment,” said Londagin. “This supports our efforts to provide early treatment to soldiers prior to an alcohol-related incident and has led to a 34 percent reduction in the deployment ineligibility of soldiers receiving care.”
“Early intervention for alcohol-related behavioral health care increases the health and readiness of our force and provides a pathway for soldiers to seek care without career implications,” said Londagin.
Airman 1st Class Courtney Mitchell (front) in Washington D.C. Photo by Master Sgt. Matthew Heckt.
As a fourth-grade schoolteacher in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Airman 1st Class Courtney Mitchell is always looking for appropriate real-life material to work into her class lessons.
Mitchell, an intelligence analyst in the New Jersey Air National Guard, found plenty of that and more on her first activation: establishing security around the United States Capitol building and ensuring the safety and security of elected officials after the Jan. 6 riots.
“It was surprising but not shocking to know the Guard would have to be activated after what happened,” Mitchell said. “We really didn’t think about it. It was just time to pack up and get ready to go. Like our motto reads, ‘Always Ready, Always There!’”
Mitchell’s group, the 140th Cyber Squadron — part of the 108th Wing at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst — arrived in Washington D.C. on Jan. 10 and have not yet left.
“We have been training to ensure a peaceful transition of power for the 59th Presidential Inauguration, and that we can meet the challenges that come with missions that are sensitive to people such as this,” Mitchell said. “I never thought I would be in a position to make such a difference for my community, state, and country.”
It’s a definite role reversal for Mitchell and her husband, a retired chief master sergeant who spent nearly 29 years on active duty with the New Jersey Air National Guard and National Guard Bureau. Courtney Mitchell, who was named the 2017 Armed Forces Insurance New Jersey National Guard Spouse of the Year, spent nine of those years as the military spouse — but now it’s her husband’s turn, which she finds “pretty cool.”
She is also impressed with the way so many soldiers and airmen have been activated and moved in such a short amount of time.
“Our leadership has been amazing and has helped us navigate through some unprecedented times,” she said. “We are prepared and ready to protect the Capitol and perform the mission. This is an honor for me. I know from watching my husband through his career that these types of domestic operations and responses have been practiced and rehearsed for years.”
Mitchell had been to the Capitol several times before, but never in this capacity. Her unit’s basic needs were met “pretty quickly,” she says, allowing the guardsmen to concentrate on their mission.
“This is a great opportunity to be part of an event that supports the peaceful transition of power and ensures the safety and wellbeing of our fellow Americans,” she said.
Mitchell wants Americans to see the Guard’s activation to the Capitol as a reason not for fear, but to be inspired.
“I want everyone to look at our soldiers and airmen here, and view us as an example of unity and strength,” she said. “When people see the National Guard, they know we are here to help. We are more than just a security force. We have come together from all over to stand together, side by side, for the love of our country.”
She adds that there is strength in unity.
“We will become stronger tomorrow for the challenges we face today,” Mitchell said.
Hump Day Horoscopes in your mouth, you nasty boots. Noadamus here, operator and internet prophet with crystal magic who can see the future. Okay, I made the crystal crap part up, but I was raised by hippies and weaned on goats’ milk, so open your ear holes and listen to PaPa Bear.
Go crazy. You’re not paying.
Some weeks suck, but not this one — not for you, at least. Your favorite kind of friends want to party, the ones who pay for everything. Money is basically falling into your pocket and your mental capacity is amped up to the max. You might even manage to keep your secret love affair hidden. Just watch your mouth through the weekend, because tempers run hot this week.
Can’t go home ’cause you have to work past COB and Household 6 won’t shut up about it? Just take a deep breath, everything starts to look better closer to the weekend. You might even find some time to nerd out on whatever Dungeons Dragons spells you’re casting. By next Wednesday, you’re a powerhouse, smoldering and passionate.
Seriously dude (or dudette), chill the F’ out, ‘fore you give yo-self a hernia. Your energy is almost unlimited, but everyone’s patience is not. You’re kicking ass and taking names, crushing every PT event, and you’re goddamn Jonny Ringo at the range, but you don’t know everything, and next week, a family member won’t hesitate to remind you, repeatedly.
You’re gonna get some attention. Doesn’t mean you want it.
The weekend brings a surge of energy, useful during CQB and for meeting your future ex-girl/boyfriend. Your tactical knowledge pays off and thrusts you into a leadership role, but causes you more disruption than your stubborn ass would care for. You are likely to be recognized as the subject-matter expert.
Wednesday has you on edge. Take a knee and drink water. You’ll live… probably. Not everyone is out to get you, and people still like you, and yes, everybody thinks you’re clever. Snuggle up with your woobie, and if you can suck it up until next week, your silver tongue will return and you’ll be a superstar at work again. Speaking of stars, if you got pipes, middle of next week is a great time to rock an open mic.
Whatever secrets you’re hiding are subject to rumor and gossip this Wednesday. Just remember your SERE training: say nothing, and by the weekend, people will move on to more interesting talk. Early next week, everyone from your significant other to the MPs to the crustiest Gunny in the division wants to butt heads with you. And they call you sensitive? By the middle of next week, things are starting to look up.
You’re really only sabotaging yourself.
Remember that one time you let your friends talk you into doing the stupid-ass sh*t that almost got you court-martialed? Oh wait, that’s this Wednesday. Pull your head out of your ass, Corporal, and try not to pick any more fights at work. Next week looks good for your wallet; guess all that day-trading is finally paying off.
Wednesday is a trifecta of suck. The house (or family) is demanding money, friends and coworkers are overly argumentative, and your buddy told everyone about your browser history. It’s called cyber security. Seriously, sergeant. Next week sucks, too, but at least after the weekend, nobody is busting your balls at work. I’m prescribing some meditation classes — you must chillax.
Why you stirring up so much shit? Your neighbors are pissed, the morons in your unit are pissed, every damn instructor you have to deal with is pissed. You need to ask yourself — who’s actually the asshole here? Here’s a hint: It’s you, you pretentious snob. You cannot win all of these battles and some of these people are on your side. Don’t be such a blue falcon, buddy f*cker.
It’s probably for the best that you still live in the barracks.
If all of your idiot friends overdraft their credit cards at the gentlemen’s club, does that mean you will, too? Dumb question, we both know you will. Don’t wake up Thursday morning five bills in the hole. In fact, this Wednesday and every night through this weekend, just stay in the barracks and watch a documentary on Buddha or something. Oh yeah, don’t let your aggression get the better of you next week.
You’re bleeding money trying to keep up with your rent and your drinking escapades. Don’t get mad when people get pissed off by your scandalous behavior and your inability to commit to a relationship. The good news is that next week you will remember you have a job and, even though you will not have the most squared away uniform, your aggression will inspire others and make peers and supervisors alike forget how much of a flake you are.
Trust me, I really want to lie to you and say things are looking up, but… things continue to be terrible for you and you will continue to be a moody asshole. You can’t use this excuse to be a miserable human being; you’re better than that. If you have children, keep them occupied this week or they might burn down your house, and no one wants to listen to you b*tch anymore.
Jariko Denman knows a bit about learning from and adapting to the heat of stressful situations. The Hollywood military technical advisor served as a US Army Ranger for more than 15 years and deployed to combat 15 times in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2002 to 2012. As a Weapons Squad Leader, Rifle Platoon Sergeant, and Ranger Company First Sergeant, Denman racked up 54 total months of combat experience as a part of a Joint Special Operations Task Force. He retired from active duty in 2017.
Denman said after he first enlisted in 1997, soldiers who had seen combat were revered, not just for what they’d been through, but for the lessons they’d learned through experience. At the time, there were relatively few service members who had been in a firefight.
“The Mogadishu vets, when I was a private, they could walk on fuckin’ water. When they talked, everybody listened,” Denman said during a conversation with Mat Best, co-owner of Black Rifle Coffee Company.
Denman, right, with a few of the actors he coached on the set of The Outpost. Photo courtesy of Jariko Denman/Instagram.
They discussed how some people in leadership positions who didn’t have the experience that some of their subordinates had tended to project a false veneer of professionalism that didn’t really mean much, and sometimes could be detrimental. The two veterans agreed that this behavior can also be seen in the business world and in people’s personal lives.
Best, also an Army Ranger veteran, said that some of the leaders in command during his time in uniform were guilty of this as well, and it resulted in a faulty concept of professionalism.
“[They would have specific orders] about, like, what boots you’re going to wear. And I’m like, man, we’re going out every single night and getting in TICs (troops in contact), let the dudes wear the boots that are most comfortable for them rather than tan jungle boots because you think that’s ‘professionalism,'” Best said. “Professionalism is getting all your friends home to their families.”
The corollary in the business world might be an intense focus by executives on the appearance of workers in the office, with numerous emails and meetings devoted to the matter, while the company’s goals are not being met.
“Professionalism is, at a leadership level, recognizing your operating environment and making your subordinates as effective as possible,” Denman added.
Best said that’s how he and his partners have thought of their company, and that trial and error have been their best teachers and allowed them to innovate where others may be locked in place by a rigid set of rules that may not always be applicable or appropriate.
Jariko Denman, Mat Best, and Jarred Taylor film an episode of the Free Range American podcast in Las Vegas.
“When we look at business and what we’re doing with Black Rifle Coffee — that’s the methodology we’ve used,” Best said. “It’s mission first, everything else is subordinate to that, rather than, like, reading a marketing book and going, ‘This is set in stone, we cannot operate outside this.’ Instead, it’s try, fail, try, fail, try, fail, and then you’ll succeed and see great things because you’re willing to take a risk. You’re willing to be innovative.
“If more people applied that to their organizations, their personal lives, they’d see massive successes in whatever they want to achieve. It’s a general statement, but it’s the truth,” Best continued. “You got to fuckin’ think outside the box, you got to innovative because the enemy is more innovative.”
“There’s nothing like hunting people to make you an adaptive person,” Denman said. “There’s no other instinct in the world that’s stronger than survival, so when you’re trying to, like, kill people, you learn how to think outside the box and how to really put your fucking thinking cap on and not do it how we’ve always done it, but do it how it works.”
Planning out and making a home-cooked meal every night can get old; so can the evening routine. Also, kids are expensive and you need for something, just once in a while, to not cost so goddamn much. Fortunately, there is the great American tradition of “kids eat free,” wherein chain restaurants offer free, road-tested, mostly fried children’s meals on certain days (Tuesday seems to be a popular one) or have special deals that significantly offset the cost of a kid’s meal out.
From fast-casual restaurants like Applebee’s and Red Robin to more regional chains, here are 19 restaurants where kids eat free. Because why not score a free mini-quesadilla or plate of chicken fingers for the kids when you can?
Kids eat free on certain days of the week based on location. The menu includes a range of classic kids’ favorites and moderately more adventurous dishes, from mac-and-cheese and chicken fingers to chicken tacos, pizza, and corn dogs.
On Tuesdays after 4 p.m., when parents order an adult entrée, kids under 12 eat free. Parents will appreciate the family meals to go, which can be customized for whatever size family you have.
For those in Texas, this eclectic cafe offers free meals to kids under 12 with the purchase of an entrée from Sunday through Thursday. The menu has Tex-Mex favorites like tacos and empanadas, plus classic brunch picks like waffles. Kids will get a kick out of the “pancake tacos.”
With the purchase of an adult entree, you can snag a free kid-sized quesadilla.
Rewards members get a free kid’s meal as long as they spend at least every 60 days. The kids’ menu includes favorites like sliders, chicken fingers, pizza, pasta, grilled cheese, and quesadilla, so there’s bound to be something for everyone.
At this beloved breakfast joint, kids eat free when adults order an entrée. It’s limited to two free kids’ meals per adult, and may apply to different days according to location.
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit
Kids under 12 eat free on Sundays for each adult that spends at least . With the hearty portions offered at Dickey’s, nobody will be left hungry.
Kids eat free at select locations, but….
Everyone’s favorite Swedish home store offers free baby food with each entrée purchased. Plus, certain locations offer free meals for bigger kids on special days of the week.
At select locations of this old-fashioned diner and burger joint, kids eat free on Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. with the purchase of a regular entrée and drink.
Marie Calendar’s Restaurant and Bakery
Kids under 12 eat free on Saturdays with the purchase of an entrée at this regional chain with restaurants in California, Utah, and Nevada.
Margaritas Mexican Restaurant
Kids eat free on Saturdays and Sundays at participating locations of this New England chain.
At participating locations, kids eat free on Tuesdays. Plus, all entrées come with free chips and salsa, and kids’ meals also include a drink and cookie.
Kids eat free on Wednesdays and Sundays when adults order an enchilada entrée.
The deal varies by location, so check with your local franchise, but popular deals include “kids eat free” one night of the week and id=”listicle-2645141716″.99 kids’ meals. At all locations, kids can get a free sundae on their birthday, and royalty rewards members get a free burger during their birthday month as well as every 10th item free.
This national chain lives up to its name. Kids eat free every Tuesday after 5 p.m. with the purchase of an entrée.
This buffet-style restaurant is perfect for the kids who can never seem to answer the question, “what do you want for dinner?” The 50-foot salad bar might even entice them with some veggies. Rewards members get a free kid’s meal on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Kids eat free all day, every day at the largest ribs joint in the country. Participating locations only.
Kids eat free every Tuesday at participating locations of this famous Chicago pizza joint. For the more sophisticated palette, Uno offers a surprisingly wide-ranging menu, from classic deep dish to vegan and gluten-free pizzas, seafood options like lemon basil salmon, pastas like buffalo chicken mac-and-cheese and even the buzzed-about Beyond Burger. Plus they have margaritas. Amen.
When restrictions to mitigate the spread of coronavirus closed Travis Air Force Base’s schools, shut services’ doors and canceled social gatherings, the community’s lifeblood stopped pumping.
“Everything just went dark,” said Air Force spouse Jessica Moser.
60th Air Mobility Wing Command Chief Master Sergeant Derek Crowder recognized the challenge, saying it was essential to engage people by strengthening their four pillars: mental, physical, spiritual and social.
Volunteers got innovative, finding ways to set activity abuzz and get the lifeblood pumping again. “The great things that we have going across the installation are important because even though we can’t gather in masses, there are still good opportunities that we can connect,” Crowder said. “That’s what will get us through this.”
It seems to be working.
Providing Essential Supplies
When Air Force spouse Jenn Taylor heard that local medical facilities needed masks, she volunteered to sew them. She wasn’t an expert seamstress, but she had the equipment and time, she said. “I thought that was really important,” Taylor explained. “Blood, sweat and tears go into it.”
Word spread, and now she sews masks only for Travis service members, who are required to wear them at work. Taylor even fulfilled a last-minute order for 12 service members leaving for Germany. Having the masks were necessary for their departure. A mom of three whose spouse is deployed, Jenn said productivity is important. “It can make you feel small and powerless if you don’t have something to focus on.”
Two neighbors now help prepare fabric, which increased her production from 10 masks per day to 30. They’ve made over 275 masks so far.
Like essential workers, some families need supplies, too. The struggling economy is making it tough for some to make ends meet. “A lot of spouses lost their jobs,” Moser said. An active community volunteer, Moser knew that, because of imposed restrictions, many local organizations had resources to give but no way to give them.
Moser provided the way.
She collaborated with the Cost of Courage Foundation, Operation Homefront and Blue Star Families to prepare bags of food, toys and supplies for Travis families. With the help of the Airman and Family Readiness Center, Moser organized a drive-through event, where families could pick up a bag.
Over 200 bags were given away – for free.
As Easter approached, Moser had one objective: spread joy. With no egg hunts or celebratory barbeques, she and other key spouses organized a drive-through Easter party. From the safety of their cars, families stopped at stations to take pictures with the Easter bunny, receive treats, select household supplies and enjoy the festive atmosphere. “There were a lot of happy children, and parents were grateful,” she said.
Crowder described other Eastertime efforts to spread cheer and lift spirits. On Easter, Travis’ Airmen Committed to Excellence group led a Chalk Cheer event. Dozens of families came to Travis’ David Grant U.S. Air Force Medical Center to support its 2,500 personnel by chalking encouraging messages and drawings outside. The event was a hit.
Crowder said he was heartened to hear that one medical center worker walked “the entire hospital just to see all of the messages that are out there.” Crowder has also sought to engage service members and families in ways that keep them sharp. In addition to a 30-day book challenge, designed to keep minds stimulated, Crowder launched a 14-day physical fitness challenge. He’s encouraging airmen to exercise in new ways while the gym is closed.
Airmen post their goals and workouts to Crowder’s social media, which cultivates a community of support and accountability. “It’s just great to see people thinking of different ways to challenge themselves physically,” Crowder said, praising airmen’s use of water jugs for weights and commitment to family bike rides. Multiple volunteers and organizations have found unique ways to support and connect, Crowder emphasized, adding that each person should find what works for them. “That’s going to be what helps us bounce back,” Crowder said. “It’s staying in tune with what’s going on across the installation.”
Service has helped volunteers push through their own challenges. “It’s stressful and scary,” admitted Moser, who also coordinated 1,000 care packages for dorm residents – twice. “But I guess I’d rather focus on the things that I can do rather than the fear and the unknown.”
Community members have sent volunteers patches, pictures of kids opening goodie bags and heartfelt notes of appreciation. “I think folks have seen where the Air Force and the installation have really wrapped their arms around the situation that we’re in and spread that message of ‘Hey, we’re going to take care of you,'” Crowder said. That, Crowder believes, is an example of what the Travis community – and the Air Force – is all about.
It’s transcending difficulties, making a difference and reaching a higher purpose.