GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

UAP is excited to share this exclusive interview featuring GySgt Danny Draher – a seasoned former Reconnaissance Marine and current Marine Raider with more than eighteen years in the Marine Corps.

When did you join the military and why?

I joined the military right after 9/11. I was going to Borough of Manhattan Community College. Once the towers fell, that school was right there, and they used it as a triage facility. They basically gave us this opportunity to withdraw without penalty. So, I took advantage of that opportunity.

I was kind of playing with the idea of joining the military before that, but then I just figured I’d followed through with it. I signed up in December of 2001, and then I actually went to boot camp in February of 2002.

Why the Marine Corps in particular?

I have Navy in my family, my grandfather was in the Air Force, we had Army, and they all kind of thought I should go the Army route. Bu after having a conversation with my oldest brother, I have two older brothers and I respect their opinions very much, but I just happened to be having this conversation with my older brother while I was kind of playing with the idea of joining and trying to figure out what branch, because I had recruiters from all the branches calling me.

My brother is a pretty wise dude, and he’s always been like that. It’s just kind of like that stereotypical older brother where it’s just like, that’s the guy you go to when you have problems, he helps you sort things out.

And he just said, “if you’re going to jump off a cliff, why not get a running start?” So, you know, take the toughest one you can bear and, you know, make that your home. So, and it was words to that effect. He basically told me to go for the challenge, the most challenging branch, and based on all the stories I’ve ever heard, nobody denies that the Marine Corps has the hardest boot camp and, you know, even beyond that more difficult opportunities.

So that was ingrained in the back of my mind and later I started to learn more about the different jobs and opportunities. So yeah, that was why I chose the Marine Corps.

Draher (right) during a combat deployment.

Is there a particular moment or period in your military career that you’re most proud of?

I’m proud that I had a little bit of diversity in the Marine Corps. I had time in the reserves, I had time in the infantry, time in Force Recon, and Special Operations in general, but I also have a lot of diversity within Special Operations.

I’ve been in all three Marine Raider Battalions and I spent time down in Tampa at SOCOM headquarters, and it really broadened my perspective and understanding how the enterprise works. But what I’m kind of most proud of is my time as an instructor, that was the most fun that I had. The most rewarding time that I had.

It’s kind of like the typical cheesy answer, but I mean, it really is. You’re there and you’re part of this whole entire process and you’re the presentation, right? For, for a lot of guys, I was one of the first special operators that they met from any branch and with that comes a lot of responsibility. And, you know, I learned a lot about myself and I learned a lot about people having that job. It was my opportunity to essentially mold the future generation. And really the only thing that matters once you become a senior guy, once you become seasoned, is the next generation of guys.

You’re the tip of the spear of putting your hands on those guys and leaving an impression and then making them a better product at the end than when they showed up so that they’re major assets for their team.

What specifically were you responsible for teaching?

I taught close quarter battles. I taught marksmanship. I taught breaching, which deals with explosives.

Is there a particular military school that you feel was the most difficult to pass?

I went into a lot of schools with my mind made up that that’s what I was going to become. Whatever it was I was going to get out of that school. I’ve gone to a lot of academically demanding courses and a lot of physically demanding courses. I think that the most defining course was the Amphibious Reconnaissance School (ARS).

There’s no doubt about it that place is etched in history – Marine Corps history – and, you know, just to be there was an honor and a privilege. So, there was no way I was going to come back without being a Recon Marine. I just tried to have my mind made up that I was going to go to those schools, and I was going to be successful.

As a student, I wanted it to come out better than I went in. So, I can be the best Reconnaissance Marine, Raider, diver, jumper, whatever the skillset was – I wanted to add value to the team. I really wanted to go there and hone whatever those skills were just for the greater good.

ARS was a very interesting school and I mean; it was every single day you had to show up with your game-face on otherwise you would kind of get left behind and you probably weren’t gonna make it.

Were you a good swimmer from the start, or did you have to learn to be proficient in the water?

Well, coming into the Marine Corps, no. Coming into Amphibious Reconnaissance School, I was well-prepared. My RIP (Recon Indoctrination Program) instructor asked me if I’d been on a swim team, but I was never on a swim team or in the pool doing anything that was physically demanding until I learned exactly what reconnaissance was.

I got letters from my cousin in boot camp and he told me that he was a machine gunner. And as soon as he got done with the school of infantry (SOI) and got to his grunt unit, he immediately went to recon.

And then I was like, oh, so there’s something more. So, recon was, you know, playing off what my brother said about doing what was most challenging. I actually took the recon screener when I was in comm school, right after I got done with combat training, and I just showed up.

Once I learned about that unit, I was like okay I’ll just go do that. Kind of like how I just showed up to bootcamp and did that, but once they threw us in the pool, I was like, wait, I’m way out of my element. I’m from a place where it’s the four-foot pool and that’s where we go to basically hang out with the guys and look at the girls.

After I got that experience with the failed screener under my belt and figured it out, then I took, you know, I took that really hard and figured it out and learn how to swim. I learned how to swim by doing a lot of different drills and spending a lot of time speaking with guys who had been there and done that and figuring out what made them successful.

And then I really took that personally and I tried to make that part of my everyday routine. So that kind of changed the way I looked at the water and I never wanted to fail anything again after that. First thing in the morning, I would go to the pool. I would get out of work and go right to the pool. You know, when you want something bad enough, you’ll get it.

After I got that experience with the failed screener under my belt and figured it out, then I took, you know, I took that really hard and figured it out and learn how to swim. I learned how to swim by doing a lot of different drills and spending a lot of time speaking with guys who had been there and done that and figuring out what made them successful.

Draher during an underwater reenlistment ceremony.

What three personality traits are most important for someone interested in joining the special operations community?

There’s a lot of different traits that I think are good to have, but I think the top three would be discipline, perseverance, and integrity. I’d also add in a fourth, which would be that it’s hard for someone coming in to be successful if they don’t have a little bit of flexibility.

Nobody wants to get up first thing in the morning and go to the pool. And then you can get traumatized if you have a bad experience. You could be treading water with a group of guys and all of a sudden, you know, because you are in such close proximity, one person grabs you and drags you down to the bottom. And then you’re trying to swim up and getting kicked in the face by some of these other guys. It takes a lot of discipline that gets back in the pool after that.

But you know what it takes to get to where you want to be, and you have to stay after it. So that’s where discipline comes from, which also kind of leads in the perseverance.

You have to take those different challenges and you have to persevere through them no matter what the outcome could be. You have to kind of fix your mind on what you want it to be, and then persevere through all those odds and all the, you know, the cold weather and being wet and tired. Nobody really cares. You got to find a way to persevere through it. And that trait alone right there has helped me a lot in life even to this day. And I’m sure up until I’m in my death bed, that’s going to be something that I hold dear.

Integrity, I mean, a good friend of mine, he says to do the right things at the right time for the right reasons. To me, having integrity is a lot about being a trustworthy guy. And if you don’t have that integrity, it’s really hard for people to trust you to the left and the right. If you want to be a good team member and you want to be a reliable person, having that integrity is kind of where that starts from.

Flexibility is showing up somewhere and having a packing list, being ready to go and then, after I receive the first brief it turns out that I’m going to need a lot more than they told me to bring. Now I have to improvise all these things. Or I train all the time in pretty ideal conditions because we have a lot of limitations as to what we can do. We can do a lot of realistic training, but there’s always some type of limitations or some type of backstop for safety reasons. And we call this “training-isms”. You take those training-isms into a real-world environment and into combat and you’re going to be disappointed, right? Cause it’s not going to be a hundred percent what you were trying to do.

Ideally, I think, you know, you don’t want to see anything for the first time in a real-life scenario. You want to be exposed to those things in training, but you may not have that opportunity. I’ve been fortunate enough over the course of my career to have some pretty good training opportunities that have translated into a lot of things that I’ve done for real.

There’s no such thing as a two-way range in the training area. But you only find that when you go overseas and the next thing you know, you’re looking at somebody’s muzzle flashes. It’s a very different experience. There are not many ways to prepare for that outside of actually being there. So, you have to stay flexible and when you encounter something new, you have got to be a problem solver and work through it.

What advice would you give a young person that’s interested in joining the military?

You know, in all honesty, my experiences have just equated to my ability to maintain an open mind. So, coming in with an open mind. You don’t know what you don’t know and when you join, it’s like in Forrest Gump, life is like a box of chocolates and you never know what you’re gonna get.

I think guys should come in and they should look, you know, just first and foremost to serve your country, but I think they should look to professionalized themselves as much as possible. There’s a lot of benefits that the military offers. Take advantage of it.

You’re going to come in and you’re going to do what the government asked. And they’re gonna ask a lot. It’s a lot to ask a 17 or 18-year-old, or somebody fresh out of college to put their life down for somebody to their left and their right. It may be someone that they didn’t grow up with, that they’re not best friends with, or maybe even somebody that they don’t get along with. But, you know, we’re going to ask that of you when you join. And I think, you know, in return you should seek out every opportunity you can to look for things, to make yourself more marketable when you get out.

And everybody always talks about the intangibles that military members gain throughout the course of their career, whether it’s four years or whether it’s 30 years. I think education benefits is one thing. I also think that guys can take advantage of internships. While they’re in there’s certain training opportunities that they have that can bleed over into the civilian world, you know, I would say, find something that you’d love to do.

And if you don’t find something that you’d love to do, just try and seek it out the whole entire time that you’re in.

Draher (right) during a pause in jump training.

What does your typical workout routine look like?

We always refer to ourselves as a Jack of all trades, master of none. And somebody told me that all that really equates to is not being good at anything. So, I took that to heart and, you know, because I always wanted to try like a little bit of everything.

And I think it’s important to try out a little bit of everything. But the goal overall is being functionally fit. You want to be able to run long distances and be rather comfortable. You’re going to be able to run short distances with weight. You want to be able to move weight. And then you need to adjust that to your environment.

Trying a little bit of everything and finding what you like is good, but don’t stick to any one thing. Try to be well balanced and that’s not just, you know, physically, that’s how you eat. And that’s also your emotional fitness as well. And I mean, you’ve got to have to have the right mindset.

So, you know, watching videos and studying things. It’s another part of fitness that a lot of people don’t talk about. You’ve also got to be your own doctor at times in this community because you gotta be good at medicine. You gotta be a scientist because you gotta understand how to mix all these different explosives together.

You have to be a philosopher. You have to be a historian. You have to be a mathematician. Yeah, there’s a lot of formulas that we have to know when it comes to long range shooting, dealing with mortars, dealing with explosives. So, you gotta have a little bit of all of these skill sets.

Who do you look to as a role model and why?

I really look up to Major Capers. And the reason that I look up to the Major is because I sit with him and I listen to him talk. And for years I I’ve just heard over and over a lot of the same stories and they never get old because from the time he was young, he was determined to do more, and he kept seeking that out.

And that resonates with me because it’s like me telling you why I went to the Marine Corps versus the army, or why I didn’t just stay a comm guy, or why I tried to get to all these different units and why I wanted to get to Force Recon, and eventually we became Raiders – always trying to seek out more.

Not only did Major Capers have a lot of hardships during his service from being a minority – not just because of the color of his skin – but just by the virtue of his job and being the minority who also had all these great qualities just to get from the beginning of something, to the end of something, whether it’s a school, a training evolution or a deployment, but he was able to be great in the military.

And then as he got out and transitioned, he tried to become a great businessman. He tried to be the best husband he could be. He tried to be the best dad he could be. So, you know, just like fitness, right? It’s your physical, mental, emotional fitness as well. For him, he wasn’t just this great Reconnaissance Marine, this great enlisted man, this great officer. He tried to be the very best husband he could be, the very best parent that he could be.

And, you know, as a young guy, I only cared about the unit and cared about the Marine Corps, I only cared about special operations, I only cared about recon. As I grew older, I really started to understand that, you know, those things at one point will become a fraction of your life, a small fraction of your life. Those other things that you do, you have to be investing equally, if not more, and the longer you stay on, the more you should be investing in yourself and in your family, because those people go with you to the grave.

During a very kinetic period of the Marine Corps, I served. There was a long time that I didn’t think I’d make it to 30. Now I’m almost 38 years old. So, I mean, I beat that by eight years. When I sit with him and I talk to him, you know, I think I got the Marine Corps stuff – the military stuff – figured out, but what came slowly to me was understanding family and investing into that. So, I appreciate him. I look up to him. I admire him because he reminds me all the time to hug my wife, to kiss my wife, to hug my kids, to kiss my kids. And I think about that because he doesn’t have that anymore. So, when I come home first thing I do is hug and kiss my wife and I hug and kiss my kids.

When you join, you’re new to the institution, and you’re trying to find your way through, and it can be easy to get lost. But you can learn from your mistakes and you can employ those lessons learned and you can have a better life. You can create more opportunities and a better life for the people around you as well, just by being humble and being open.

Draher with his family at Christmastime.

What is something interesting about you that most people wouldn’t know about?

Well, I used to be a DJ. I started when I was eleven years old and I thought I was going to be a famous one. I actually joined as a communicator in the Marine Corps because I thought that somehow that would tie into my DJ career and help me further my DJ career.

I quickly learned that that wasn’t the case! And I got fully immersed in the whole Marine Corps thing and I kind of let go of the DJ thing.

GySgt Danny Draher was born on June 26, 1983 and raised in New York City, New York. He is married to Destiny Flynn-Draher and they have two beautiful children. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Strategic Studies and Defense Analysis from Norwich University after graduating Summa Cum Laude.

Draher has attended numerous courses including the Multi Mission Parachute Course, as well as various other parachuting courses, Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape, Marine Combatant Diver Course, Dive Supervisor, Special Operations Planners Course, The Senior Instructor Course, Fast Rope Master, Multiple Explosives and Assault Breacher Courses, Multiple Direct Action & Special Reconnaissance Packages, Advanced Special Operations, The Merlin Project, Martial Arts Instructor Course, Sergeants Course, Career Course, Advanced Course, Joint Special Operations University Joint Fundamentals, Enterprise Management, and Enhanced Digital Collection Training.

His personal decorations include the Purple Heart Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Commendation with Valor, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, and the Combat Action Ribbon with one gold star.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how soldiers illegally brewed beer on deployment

Alcohol is a staple of military culture and troops have been consuming it en masse since the first sailor left port for lands unknown. But as times have changed, so, too, have the rules of consumption. Since the good ol’ days, the rules for drinking have become much stricter — especially in combat zones. But, that doesn’t stop service members from finding a way to get their fix.

Reddit user Lapsed_Pacifist shared a story of how he and his buddies essentially made home brews out of their makeshift barracks room during one of their deployments — violating the UCMJ for a cold one.


If you plan to brew beer out of your barracks room (we don’t recommend it), make sure you do plenty of research beforehand and exercise extreme caution — and, of course, don’t go telling people we gave you the idea.

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

Of course, no one has control over what someone else sends them… Right?

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brian Ferguson)

It all started when a soldier deployed to Iraq wanted the taste of the sweet nectar known as beer but, of course, couldn’t find enough to quench his thirst. He had friends mail him some hoppy, carbonatedcontrabandknowing that not all of the mail coming into base would be checked, and that worked out for a while— butit just wasn’t enough.

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

This is what one of these kits looks like.

(Photo by Coin-Coin)

This soldier had heard tales of another member of his unit stashing brewing equipment in locations throughout another base but, where he was living, obtaining such materials was no easy task. After a discussion with some friends, they decided to risk it all by ordering, directly from Amazon, a home-brewing kit.

After a tense waiting period, their equipment finally arrived and they were able to begin their own underground (and highly illegal) brewing operation.

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

Don’t f*ck with the UCMJ.

(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Naomi Griego)

Now, possessing alcohol in a combat zone violates the Uniformed Code of Military Justice — but it seems like these guys didn’t give a flying f*ck. Their goal was to have the sweet taste of alcohol bless their tongues, fill their bloodstreams, and mingle with their livers.

In no time at all, their room began to smell like a chemist’s lab and their adventure in illicit alcohol picked up speed.

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

This is how the professionals do it.

(Photo by Hong Reddot Brewhouse)

You see, the home-brewing kit they ordered only could only produce 3 gallons of beer with every fermentation cycle, which took a couple of weeks. They had several months left of their deployment, and they simply couldn’t wait that long to drink so little.

So, what did they do? They started fermenting in plastic water bottles. To use a direct quote from the story,

Professional brewers and distillers don’t brew or distill in plastic 2-liter water bottles of dubious origin because, in short, they are not f*cking morons.
GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

Cheers!

(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Evan Loyd)

Needless to say, their illicit brewing company, referred to as “Riyadh Brewing Corporation, Ltd. (Established 2008),” ended up blowing up in their faces — literally. The plastic bottles couldn’t withstand the pressure build-up and they ended up losing more of their stock than they wanted.

Thankfully, they were able to clean up the mess and cover their tracks before anyone too high in their chain of command could find out — and now we have this beautiful story to laugh about.

To read the full story, check it out here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

US military is America’s heaviest drinking profession

“This comes as a surprise,” said no one, ever, of a new analysis that finds military members drink alcohol more than workers in any other job.

A review of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s survey data from 2013 through 2017 by a behavioral health company has found that troops spend more days a year consuming alcohol than people in any other industry.

They also binge-drink more, imbibing at least four or five alcoholic beverages a day in one sitting at least 41 days a year, the most of any occupation. That’s the CDC’s definition of binge-drinking, depending on gender. The military personnel surveyed said they binge-drank about a third of the days they consumed alcohol.


Analyzing responses from 27,000 people in 25 industries, Delphi Behavioral Health Group, a Florida-based substance use treatment company, found that members of the military reported drinking alcohol 130 days out of the year, followed by miners, 112 days per year, and construction workers, 106 days. Miners were also second in binge-drinking, doing so 38 days out of the year, and construction workers were third, at 33 days.

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

At the low end of the spectrum, health care and social assistance workers had a drink roughly 68 days per year.

For those who track the Pentagon’s yearly behavioral health surveys and media reports of arrests of service members for crimes ranging from misdemeanors to cases of sexual assault and even murder, the findings support what has been known for decades: the services have a drinking problem, and according to the Delphi report, it appears to be worsening.

The report noted that military personnel in 2014 reported drinking fewer than 100 drinks per year. Now, that number tops 130.

“People in the armed forces typically have ranked the highest every year since 2014,” said Ryan Serpico, Delphi’s lead researcher. “It’s shocking, but not shocking … [These results] enforce what we already know, but again, they shine a light on this, saying it’s a problem and we need to do something about it.”

The study was based on the CDC’s National Health Interview Surveys from 2013 through 2017, the latest year data was available. As with any study based on survey results, however, it comes with some caveats, including potential bias from respondents who chose to participate and their ability to accurately describe their drinking behaviors the previous years.

Also, of the nearly 27,000 survey participants, only 81 said they were in the military. So the findings could simply reflect the habits of 81 soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who like to drink. A lot.

“I don’t know how the CDC executed the surveys,” Serpico said, “but when it comes to sample size number, we typically look for 26 respondents in order to make any judgements on the data.”

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Adam Dublinske)

Still, the findings echo the results of a survey frequently conducted by Rand Corp., a Washington-based think tank, for the Defense Department called the Health-Related Behavior Survey, or HRBS. While results from the 2018 survey have not been published, the 2015 survey found that 30 percent of troops reported being binge drinkers, and one in three service members met criteria that indicated they engaged in “hazardous drinking or possible alcohol use disorder.”

According to the 2015 HRBS, the percentage of these behaviors was highest in the Marine Corps, where hazardous drinking — described as drinking that results in negative consequences like risky behavior, missed work days or serious personal problems — was reported by nearly half the service.

The Air Force had the lowest percentages of these drinking issues, according to the survey.

Excessive drinking has been estimated to cost the Defense Department id=”listicle-2634691247″.1 billion per year in lost productivity and medical treatment. It also is thought to result in the loss of roughly 320,000 work days a year and lead to roughly 34,400 arrests per year.

Despite the impact of alcohol use, however, 68% of active duty troops said they perceived the military culture of being supportive of drinking, and 42% said their supervisor doesn’t discourage alcohol use, according to the HRBS.

Bri Godwin, a media relations associate with Delphi, said there appears to be acceptance of excessive drinking in the military but added that service members can take control of their habits — and those of others — by being mindful.

“There needs to be a conversation on drinking and how much it affects you or someone else. Are you mindful of the consequences — how is it affecting you mentally, physically and financially. You have to do a personal inventory, see how it’s affecting you and determine what you need to do to fix it,” she said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘What happens if you refuse to shower’ & other dumb questions

“What happens to a recruit in the military if they refuse to take a shower during basic training?”

U.S. Army vet Jennifer Campbell doesn’t even flinch about this one: “Oh, you gotta smother them with a blanket.”

I wasn’t sure what this meant, but thankfully Green Beret Chase Millsap elaborated: “If you refuse to take a shower, your friends are going to force you to take a shower.” And if anyone is still confused by this, Air Force vet Mark Harper makes it very clear: “They bring the soap to you. It’s called a blanket party. Lotta fun.”


GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

Ohhhhhhhh. Now I get it.

I love this question because it’s the first time I’ve ever seen U.S. Army vet Rosario Eléna get effing angry. I was scared. And delighted.

Moving on!

“How do you break up with a woman who was a marksman in the U.S. Army. I’m not a fan of guns all around me.”

Campbell is really getting the hang of answering these dumb questions: “I would do it from at least 400 yards away. She’s a marksman, not a sharpshooter, so you should probably be alright.”

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

Hint: That’s the smile of a woman who can definitely take you in a fight.

“Would a modern soldier with Spartan-level training be significantly more effective than the average modern soldier in special forces?”

Let Millsap hook you up with a little dose of history here, okay? “Spartans, at the age of seven, were ripped from their mothers and sent to the agoge, where they were taught to lie, cheat, steal, bribe, and even sing, so they could become the best warriors in all of Greece.”

Other vets had answers that weren’t exactly helpful but were nonetheless important, like U.S. Navy Vet August Dannehl, who started doing impersonations from the 300 film, or Eléna who just weighed in on the fact that the soldiers would be sexier if they were Spartan.

¯_(ツ)_/¯

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

Wait, is that Leonidas or Jarred Taylor?

“How would one go about buying a naval ship like a destroyer or a frigate? And how much would it be?”

“You know, Craigslist has a lot of hidden gems,” offers U.S. Marine Jen Brofer. She’s not wrong.

Dear question-asker, wherever you are, if you want to buy a Navy ship, now is the time. All of your dreams are coming true! The United States government is currently auctioning off a Halter Marine Logistic Support Vessel for id=”listicle-2639200274″,000,000.

I guessed -25, so I wasn’t too far off, and that’s something I’ll always be proud of.

“How can I prepare for joining the United States Marine Corps?”

Let’s see if you can pick out the Marines and the non-Marines in these answers:

–Pull-ups

–Have your parents yell at you for no reason

–Start wearing really little shorts

–Pick up a backpack, put your entire room in it, and start walking around for days

–Running, just keep running

–Eat every meal in four minutes or less

–Get a fistful of crayons and start coming up with recipes

–Stay awake for long periods of time for absolutely no reason

–Shower with a lot of people

–Empty your head

Zing!! It’s fun to make fun of other branches!
GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

Don’t miss our other installments right here:

Vets answer dumb military questions – part one

Vets answer dumb military questions – part two

Vets answer EVEN MOAR dumb military questions

How to get posted at Area 51′ other dumb military questions answered

What do snipers think when they miss’ other dumb military questions

Can fireworks be used as anti-air weapons? Dumb military questions part 7

MIGHTY CULTURE

The use of alcohol in the British military is amazing

Deployed U.S. service members are prohibited from consuming alcohol except on very specific occasions like the Navy’s beer day. The much-celebrated event provides each sailor with two cans of beer after they have been at sea for 45 continuous days and have more than 5 days left before returning to port. However, even this requires permission from a Numbered Fleet Commander before sailors are able to crack open a cold one. For the British though, alcohol remains an integral part of military culture.

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man
Sailors aboard the USS Normandy enjoy a beer day (U.S. Navy)

The best-known use of alcohol in the British military is the rum ration. Also known as a tot, British sailors were issued a daily ration of one gallon of beer until after the Napoleonic Wars. If beer was not readily available, it could be substituted with a pint of wine or a half pint of spirits. Sailors would prove the strength of their spirits by checking that gunpowder doused with it would still burn; hence alcohol proof.

The tot was slowly cut down to its traditional size of one eighth of an imperial pint in 1850. During WWI, soldiers behind the frontlines were given their tot twice weekly while men in the trenches received a daily ration. It was also common for commanders to issue a double rum ration before sending their men over the top to charge the enemy line. Additionally, rum was used to treat exhaustion, hypothermia, flu, and even shell shock. “Had it not been for the rum ration, I do not think we should have won the war,” said the medical officer of Scotland’s Fourth Black Watch during a hearing on shell shock.

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man
Canadian sailors aboard HMCS Prince Robert splice the mainbrace to celebrate V-J Day (Royal Canadian Navy)

While the U.S. Navy abolished the consumption of alcohol in 1862, the Royal Navy tot persisted until July 31, 1970. Known as Black Tot Day, the loss of the rum ration was considered a day of mourning for many sailors across the fleet. However, British service members are still allowed to purchase up to three one-half imperial pint cans of beer per day. Additionally, certain traditional awards and ceremonies still maintain their use of drink.

The order to “splice the mainbrace” awards sailors an extra rum ration in recognition for outstanding service. The order can only be given by the Monarch and is still used to this day. Other special events like the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 also warrant an issuance of tot. Alcohol is also used in drill and ceremony.

Beer and port are common sights on the drill pad in the British Army. Following the calling of commands, a drill sergeant is often presented with a tray of small drinks. “Port is used within drill,” explained Cpt. Graham White of the Army School of Ceremonial in Catterick. “We use port for the voice. Once a small bit of port is down, it then allows for the voice, the vocal cords, to be used to shout louder and longer, preserving the throat itself.” Now let’s see how many drill instructors or drill sergeants decide to pitch the idea of a drill shot to their command.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here are the internet’s best takes on raiding Area 51

The internet has been aflutter with memes about a million-person strong raiding party headed for the U.S. government’s top secret military installation commonly referred to as Area 51 for weeks now. Sure, the whole thing started as a joke, and some portions of the media lack the cultural fluency to appreciate that… but the internet hasn’t, and if there’s one thing the internet is good for, it’s running with a joke that confuses and befuddles the older generation.


It seems like a sure thing that some poor fools that clicked “attend” on the Facebook page devoted to the Area 51 raid will actually make their way out to the extremely remote Rachel, Nevada (the closest town to Area 51) in September. It’s just about certain that the media will be present as well, eager to capture shots of the turnout (or lack thereof). Whether or not anybody actually tries to make a break for the remote airstrip is yet to be seen, but it’s a safe bet that no one that does will actually make it anywhere near the isolated structures. Instead, they’ll likely find themselves in jail.

The reality of this fad, then, may be a bit of a bummer — but we’re still months away from the gloomy truth killing off lonesome teenager’s dreams of alien girlfriends just waiting to be liberated from Uncle Sam’s clutches. So let’s just appreciate the memes in the meantime.

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

The timestamp checks out.

I’ll be honest, this one wouldn’t have been a contender if it weren’t for the generic “College Student” account name associated with this meme. This whole Area 51 Raid fad started somewhere in the internet’s nether regions (most of us call it Reddit), and this meme perfectly represents the demographic that brought this concept to the forefront of America’s attention.

Put simply, this meme perfectly represents the entire subject… a bunch of college students that would much rather plan a hypothetical raid on a secret military installation than study for whatever their next exam is. Maybe this is telling about us writers too… a bunch of internet journalists that would rather write about college students planning a raid on Area 51 than focus on ongoing conflicts in the… eh, never mind.

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

Just don’t cheat and look at my screen.

This one may just be a generational thing, but I can’t be the only guy that remembers playing Halo on the original Xbox in both the dorms as a college student and in barracks as a junior Marine. The Halo franchise is legendary for a number of reasons, including how much fun it used to be to stay up all night murdering your friends with weird weapons like the Needler shown here.

All I’m saying is… if I went through all the trouble to invade Area 51, I’d hope to get a plasma cannon or two out of the deal.

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

Didn’t we all, man.

No meme more accurately conveys the ironic humor of the entire Area 51 story than this one, starring Twitter comedian Rob Delaney in his super-ordinary looking Deadpool 2 garb. An unassuming and ordinary dude that chuckled under his breath as he came across a Facebook post about raiding Area 51 is really what this whole thing is all about… until the media came along and tried its best to turn this whole thing into a real news story.

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

Brrrrrrrrrrrt

This one is my absolute favorite, because, despite my allegiance to the internet’s tomfoolery (it is, after all, how I make a living), I’m still every bit the salty old platoon sergeant I once was, deep beneath my softening midsection. As I’ve seen this meme fad develop into a news story, and that story mobilize people into thinking an actual raid is possible, part of me sort of wants to see a mob of entitled young adults storming across the dry sands of Groom Lake.

Why? Not because they’d accomplish anything, but because half of them would go down from dehydration a half mile into the march and the rest would succumb to fear after an organized force of security officers began threatening them with non-lethal weapons.

Watching a few hundred millennials get a spanking in the desert? That’s worth the memes any day.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Playful working dog headed home for cancer treatment

In the sun-blasted, 100-degree heat here, a military working dog is being held on a short leash. Rex, a German shepherd, is a muscular 85 pounds and covered in thick, brown fur.

His partner and handler, Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Jordan Fuentes, a master-at-arms, barks out commands, but Rex’s wagging tail signals that his mind is elsewhere.

An observer suggests that the humans take off their hats for comfort.


GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

(Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Rullo)

“I wouldn’t do that,” Fuentes said.

Why? Does Rex become aggressive with the removal of hats? Is it a signal to attack?

No. Rex loves to steal hats to play with, Fuentes said. Rex likes to play with a lot of things. He looks for fun wherever he is —and of course does not know he has been diagnosed with cancer.

Rex, officially known as military working dog T-401, was diagnosed while being treated for an ear infection.

“I noticed dry spots on his ears,” Fuentes said. “I waited a little bit to mention it to the vet since I thought it was a reaction to the medicine.”

Fuentes said that ear infections are common in military working dogs that are deployed to desert areas because of the large amount of sand that gets into their ears, which, in Rex’s case, are prominent.

Testing, Diagnosis

Rex was first examined in March by the Camp Lemonnier veterinarian, Army Capt. Richard Blair. During a follow-up examination, Blair noticed other skin lesions that raised additional concerns.

“We had to dig deeper to determine what was really going on,” Blair said. Possible reason for the lesions included a reaction to the medication, a skin infection, or even allergies.

While the facilities at Camp Lemonnier are appropriate for the everyday care of working dogs, the base does have some limitations due to its remote location, Blair said. So, he worked with other vets in the area of operation to determine what caused the lesions.

“After some logistics challenges, we were able to get our samples submitted to a pathology lab in Germany,” Blair said. “After a few weeks, we got the results back.”

Fuentes said that he was working with Rex at the dog kennel on base when his kennel master got the call from Blair.

“Cancer was the last thing I would have thought of,” Fuentes said. “My heart sank when I heard the news.”

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

Military working dogs form strong bonds with their handlers.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Griffin)

Getting Care, Beach Time

Rex has been a military working dog his entire life. He’s been deployed several times, including two tours here.

His behavior has not changed since the diagnosis, Fuentes said. He’s still a sweet dog who just wants to play tug of war.

Fuentes reached down and scratched Rex between his ears.

The bonds between service members can be strong. Serving in a combat zone, working long hours, getting through stressful situations and living together in small spaces has a way of making the bonds stronger.

Rex and Fuentes live together in a 7-by-20 container. Fuentes joked that Rex likes to take up all of it.

“He’s obnoxious,” Fuentes said. “He’s all up in your business, taking all of your space.”

The data on dogs with cancer is not as complete as it is on humans with cancer, Blair said. As a result, Rex’s prognosis isn’t certain, but getting him sent back to the U.S. is vital to his treatment.

At home, “he can get to more definitive care,” Blair said.

Rex will be redeployed in early August. His retirement paperwork has also been started.

After retirement, Rex “won’t have to work and can enjoy the rest of his life — just chilling,” Fuentes said.

Fuentes is scheduled to redeploy with Rex and said he hopes to adopt him — but he isn’t the only person trying. A former handler is also interested.

“It’s a race to the end to see who gets him,” Fuentes said.

Fuentes will be returning to Naval Air Station Lemoore, California. Rex has never been to the beach, he said, and he’d like to take him there.

​Honorable Service

Navy Capt. Charles J. DeGilio, Camp Lemonnier’s commander, presented Rex with a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal at a ceremony here July 27.

DeGilio said that military working dogs, including Rex, fill an important role.

“Rex has served honorably to help keep the men and women of Camp Lemonnier safe,” DeGilio said. “I want to personally thank him for his service and wish him fair winds and following seas.”
MIGHTY CULTURE

US Marines practice hitting the beach with the Philippines and Japan

Katungkulan Beach, Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines, Japan Self-Defense Force, and US Armed Forces united to conduct an amphibious landing exercise at Katungkulan Beach, Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim during Exercise KAMANDAG 3 on Oct. 12, 2019.

The ship-to-shore maneuver, which was the culminating event of two weeks of combined training focused on assault amphibious vehicle interoperability, marked the first time the AFP conducted a multilateral amphibious landing with its own AAVs.

The drill’s success validated the multinational forces’ ability to conduct complex, synchronized amphibious operations, and it reaffirmed the partnerships between the Philippines, Japan and the United States.


GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

US Marine amphibious assault vehicles in an amphibious exercise during KAMANDAG 3 at Katungkulan Beach, Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim, Philippines, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew J. Bragg)

“It’s a major challenge taking three different elements with different backgrounds and bringing them together to execute one goal,” said Philippine Marine Sgt. Roderick Moreno, an assistant team leader with 61st Marine Company, Force Reconnaissance Group.

“It was definitely a learning experience, but every year we participate in KAMANDAG, we get more in tune with our allies.”

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

US Marine amphibious assault vehicles participate in an amphibious exercise during KAMANDAG 3 at Katungkulan Beach, Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim, Philippines, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew J. Bragg)

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

US Marine amphibious assault vehicles approach shore during an amphibious exercise as part of KAMANDAG 3 at Katungkulan Beach, Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim, Philippines, October 12, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Harrison Rakhshani)

“Today was about effectively coordinating with our allies from the Philippines and Japan,” said US Marine 1st Lt. Malcolm Dunlop, an AAV platoon commander with 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division.

“AAVs representing each country maneuvered simultaneously to conduct a movement up the beach. It’s crucial that we know how to do things side by side, so that in the face of serious military or humanitarian crises, we can work together to overcome the challenges that face us.”

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

US Marines, Philippine marines, and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members and amphibious assault vehicles ashore after an amphibious exercise as part of KAMANDAG 3 at Katungkulan Beach, Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim, Philippines, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Harrison Rakhshani)

US forces have been partnering with the Philippines and Japan for many years, working together in many areas to uphold our shared goals of peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.

Training efforts between the AFP, JSDF, and US Armed Forces ensure that the combined militaries remain ready to rapidly respond to crises across the full range of military operations, from conflict to natural disasters.

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

US Marine Lance Cpl. Stephen Weldon scans his surroundings during an amphibious exercise as part of exercise KAMANDAG 3 at Katungkulan Beach, Marine Barracks Gregorio Lim, Philippines, Oct. 12, 2019.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Harrison Rakhshani)

“Although the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force normally participates in KAMANDAG, this was my team’s first time working with the Filipinos and the Americans together, and it went well,” said Japanese Soldier Sgt. 1st Class Itaru Hirao, an AAV crewman with the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, ARD Training Unit.

KAMANDAG 3 is a Philippine-led, bilateral exercise with participation from Japan. KAMANDAG is an acronym for the Filipino phrase “Kaagapay Ng Mga Manirigma Ng Dagat,” which translates to “Cooperation of the Warriors of the Sea,” highlighting the partnership between the US and Philippine militaries.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

We tried Google’s veteran job search to see how well it works

Firing 155mm howitzers at targets spotted with high-tech drones in order to open a corridor for sappers and infantry to break through enemy defenses is great and fun, but it doesn’t translate easily into corporate skills.

So now, Google is helping make a translator that will match up veterans and corporations.

As companies realize more and more that veterans as a community bring many ideal traits to the business place, such as an accelerated learning curve and attention to detail, there’s a bigger push to hire a vet. So now it’s just a matter of translating “COMBAT ARCHER linchpin; prep’d 4 tms/1st ever JASSM live fire–validated CAF’s #1 F-16 standoff capes” into a resume bullet.

Enter Google.


No simple code can define who you are, but now it can help you search #ForWhateversNext → http://google.com/grow/veterans pic.twitter.com/yrrA1SdKqc

twitter.com

First, watch the Super Bowl commercial announcing it:

In one of two 2019 Super Bowl commercials, Google advertised their Job Search for Veterans initiative, where service members can enter their military occupational specialty codes into a google search and find relevant civilian jobs that require similar skills.

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

“Will a cubicle in the corner work for you?”

By typing “jobs for veterans” in Google followed by the appropriate MOS/NEC/AFSC/etc, they can pull up a more streamlined job search. It still seems to be a hit-or-miss function, but I just assume most computer algorithms get more efficient with time. Remember CleverBot?

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

I should definitely ask We Are The Mighty for a raise…

Google picked up on my management experience and even though I don’t have a business background, I feel confident that I could go in and land any of these jobs. As an Air Force intelligence officer, however, I have one of the easiest careers to transition into the civilian work place.

So then I tried it out on Logan Nye, one of our Army guys:

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

Logan, come back to Los Angeles.

According to Nye, “[Public Affairs Print Journalist] doesn’t learn video at all. You know, the 3rd entry in that list. And public relations managers mostly build programs, which is a 46A thing. Editor is arguably within reach for 46Qs. Assistant editor is definitely within reach for good 46Qs. But the rest of these have only a limited connection to what 46Qs actually do and learn.”

Nye argued that it might be the most difficult for junior- to mid-enlisted vets to step straight into these kinds of six-figure jobs, especially given how specific military training is in reference to the equipment used and the culture that surrounds the job. Troops considering getting out will need to make sure they’re developing the skills needed for the target job, because the military “equivalent” won’t be a perfect match.

That might be true, but I would maintain that this gives veterans insight into civilian careers similar to their own. This gives them a place to begin with adjacent training requirements.

I’ll bring it back to the accelerated learning curve. Vets are used to moving around and learning on-the-job training quickly; we’re conditioned to adapt because of our military foundation: discipline, hard work, mission-focused, service before self.

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

At the end of the day, I appreciate any resource or hiring initiative out there for veterans, many of whom put their careers on hold to serve in the military. Adjusting to the civilian workforce can take some time, but ‘Job Search for Veterans’ seems to make it just a little bit easier — and will hopefully give vets more confidence about the jobs they apply for.

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

Just keep your quirks to yourself until after you get the job.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Let them walk on the grass: The role of senior NCOs

At the qualification range, a group of Soldiers congregate during the lunch break. Unexpectedly, a Sergeant Major descends upon them In his growling voice he barks about their uniform deficiencies and how the range is not to standard. As quickly as he appears, he vanishes, and for a few minutes, Soldiers awkwardly stare at each other thinking, “what the hell?” The proverbial Sergeant Major storm did little to change the unit, and the Soldiers resume their meal and continue as if it never happened.

The role of the senior noncommissioned officer is not ensuring all Soldiers have eye protection and reflective belts or ensuring the lawns in their footprint are pristine, fixing deficiencies using the “leadership” methodology described above. Young Soldiers across the Army picture master sergeants and sergeants major holding coffee cups, spewing anger, and never actually doing anything. The problem with the senior NCO leadership is this image and the fact that they’ve made this image a reality!


When senior NCOs see a unit’s problem with standards and discipline they think it’s a problem that can be fixed right away with a spot correction, but in reality it is a systemic problem of failing to develop the unit’s NCOs and aspiring leaders. NCOs in a unit not enforcing standards either don’t know the standards or are ignoring them. A senior NCO can go around making all the spot corrections in the world; it will never fix corner cutting, shortcomings of communication, and lack of discipline.

The senior NCO’s job is to establish the standard, outline the expectations, and develop leaders across their formation. This leadership eventually trickles down to the most junior Soldier. However, the current methodology of leadership from the first paragraph and perception of senior NCOs is something leaders must overcome to fulfill their roles.

Here are five ways senior NCOs can enhance the image of our profession and, more importantly, improve their unit.

Get out. Emails can be checked at a later date. The window to engage with Soldiers is limited, while access to a computer usually is not. Running effective meetings frees up space to see Soldiers. Identify quality engagement opportunities that maximize presence across the formation.

Speaking with the leadership and disappearing to another event before engaging the Soldiers who are actually doing the training doesn’t change perceptions. Ensure leaders understand the expectation that battlefield circulation is an opportunity to see training and highlight the great work of leaders and Soldiers in their formation.

Teach. In most cases, the senior NCOs are the most experienced tacticians, with the most deployments, live fires, and combined training center rotations. Offer techniques, tactics and best practices to make the event better. Share this wisdom with not only the NCOICs, but with the most junior Soldiers. Attack the negative images of senior NCOs from both angles; from the top down and the bottom up.

Even if the senior NCOs aren’t experienced in their Soldiers’ field, their perspective can help them understand the bigger picture and relevancy of the tasks or training.

Listen. Establish two way communication with Soldiers at events. People like to talk about what they do. Learn about them, their concerns, issues, and complaints. Don’t interrupt, listen and take notes to fall back on and read later.

Ask leaders and Soldiers what help or resources they need. This is something a senior NCO can impact immediately. Helping to fix problems with range control, logistics, line unit and staff relations, and coordination between units is NCO business.

Remember the people you talk with don’t see the world from the same lens as a senior NCO. When responding, do not belittle or be condescending, you will lose the battle for personal respect, damaging the reputation of the senior leadership position.

Make the Correction. Any unsafe acts need to be corrected immediately. However, in most cases, there is another approach than the sergeant major storm. Meet with the leadership before departing. Have a professional conversation with NCOs discussing the issues and why it’s important for everyone to enforce the standard. Enable and empower the NCOs to make the correction. It doesn’t matter if leaders agree or disagree with the standard, it’s the NCO’s job to enforce them.

Finish by highlighting a positive. The first engagement and the last will be the two things people remember. It is easy for anyone to dwell on the negative, but at most training events, there are good things happening. This may be the only time that Soldier sees their senior NCO leadership and that impression will stick for a while.

Follow up. Before visiting the unit again, reflect on the notes taken. Address the issues and concerns, and follow up with unit leadership if they people weren’t at the event. Send an email to leaders to reinforce the message. The next time there is an opportunity to observe the unit, see if things changed.

MIGHTY CULTURE

18 photos of troops lighting up the night

The U.S. military and its allies create some of the best light shows on the planet, filling the night sky with everything from tracer rounds to bursts of artillery fire to missile engines.

Here are 18 of our favorite nighttime light shows from American troops and their buds in battle:


GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Mark El-Rayes)

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Owen Kimbrel)

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class William McCann)

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel Barker)

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Matthew Callahan)

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Timothy Jackson)

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Trey Fowler)

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kallysta Castillo)

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Gregory T. Summers)

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

(U.S. Coast Guardphoto by Petty Officer 1st Class Phillip Null)

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew S. Masaschi)

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Raymond Schaeffer)

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Anthony Zendejas IV)

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

(U.S. Army photo by Timothy Hale)

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Justin Schoenberger)

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Anthony Zendejas IV)

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

(U.S. Army Central Command)

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Bobby J. Yarbrough)

MIGHTY CULTURE

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force

In one wing, there are 435. On the other, there are 100. Luckily, this isn’t referring to a severe weight imbalance detrimental to an aircraft’s flight. These are the number of appointed individuals responsible for making the nation’s laws on Capitol Hill and the people who some Air Force legislative liaisons and fellows engage with to ensure continued legislative support for national security.

The legislative liaison and fellowship programs are designed to provide service members opportunities to improve understanding and knowledge of the functions and operations of the legislative branch and how it impacts the military.

According to Title 5, U.S. Code Section 7102 and Title 10, U.S. Code Section 1034, United States Air Force personnel have the legal right to petition and furnish information to or communicate with Congress.


“It is our responsibility to truly understand the intersection of politics and policy as members of an apolitical organization,” said Maj. Gen. Steven L. Basham, former director for Secretary of the Air Force legislative liaison, who is now the deputy commander of U.S. Air Forces Europe and Africa Command. “We are not only the Air Force liaison to Congress, but we are also liaisons for Congress to the rest of the Air Force.”

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

Lt. Col. Joe Wall, deputy chief of the Senate Air Force Liaison Office, salutes a staff vehicle to welcome Gen. David Goldfein, U.S. Air Force chief of staff, before a posture hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee at Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., April 4, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)

Basham says that individuals selected to become legislative liaisons are intuitive, broad and flexible thinkers. Despite donning a suit or business attire during their time on the Hill, aspiring liaisons or fellows are required to have exceptional professional bearing and appearance, exceptional organizational skills, performance and knowledge of current events in national security affairs and international relations are also desired.

“We bring phenomenal people into this program,” Basham said. “As a matter of fact, we want individuals who are experts in their career field who have the ability to look across the entire United States Air Force. When we’re working with Congress or a staff member, they don’t see a bomber pilot or a logistician; they see us as a United States Air Force officer or civilian who is an expert across all fields.”

According to Brig. Gen. Trent H. Edwards, budget operations and personnel director for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Financial Management and Comptroller, the opportunity to serve as a legislative liaison and then as a legislative fellow to a member of congress provided him valuable experience in understanding how the government and democracy work. His time working at the Hill “left an indelible impression” in his mind.

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

Maj. Michael Gutierrez, Senate Air Force Liaison Office action officer, and Col. Caroline Miller, chief of the Senate Air Force Liaison Office, corresponds with legislators in preparation for a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing at the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., April 3, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)

“As a squadron, group and wing commander, I frequently relied on my understanding of the legislative process to help inform my bosses and teammates on how they could positively affect their mission through the right congressional engagement at the right time,” he said. “I also left the experience with a keen understanding of the importance of relationships, communication and collaboration. Those lessons serve me well today, and I share them with younger officers every chance I get.”

Airmen working on the Hill come from diverse career backgrounds. Historically, the liaison and fellowship programs were only open to officers but have opened to senior noncommissioned officers and civilians in recent years. Typical responsibilities of fellows include assisting with the drafting of legislation, floor debate preparation, planning and analysis of public policy and serving as congressional liaisons to constituents and industry. Fellows are required to come back to serve as legislative liaisons later on in their careers and into positions where they can utilize their acquired knowledge of the legislative process.

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

Maj. Christopher D. Ryan, Senate Air Force Liaison Office action officer, discuss Air Force inforamation with Dan S. Dunham, military legislative assistant to U.S. Senator Deb Fischer from Nebraska, at the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., April 3, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)

Col. Caroline Miller, chief of the Senate Legislative Liaison Office,said the first step to being a legislative liaison is making sure that the liaison understands the chief of staff and the secretary of the Air Force’s vision and priorities. As members of the Senate legislative liaisons, she and her team work primarily with the Senate Armed Services Committee and its members, as well as any members of the Senate who have Air Force equity. Along with preparing senior leaders for hearings or meetings with legislators, they provide members of Congress and their staff information that helps in their understanding of current Air Force operations and programs.

“I wish I knew what I know now from a legislative perspective when I was a wing commander because I didn’t understand the power of the congressional body back then,” she said. “Every installation has challenges. Every installation has aging infrastructure. Every installation has lots of different things that they’re working through, and I did not engage with my local congressional district as much as I would have if I had I been up here and understood that (our representatives) really do want to help.”

Dan S. Dunham, a military legislative assistant who works for U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska, said the legislative liaisons are who they “turn to first” whenever they have Air Force-related questions – may it be on budgets, programs or operations.

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

Gen. David Goldfein, U.S. Air Force chief of staff, deliver his opening statements during a posture hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee at Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., April 4, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)

“Air Force and Congress can be a tall order – both sides have different chains of command and different constituencies to which they are answerable,” he said. “That can significantly increase the risk of miscommunication. The legislative liaison fills a critical role in bridging that gap and they are frequently the ones we rely on to be the primary facilitator for getting answers and information for our bosses.”

Along with having constant interaction with the highest echelons of Air Force leadership and the key decision makers, due to the sensitive nature of information exchange at this level, legislative liaisons must be capable of thinking on their feet and making informed decisions.

“We bring individuals in who sometimes have to make the call when talking with the staff on what information they should provide,” Basham said. “I think the level of trust they have for their senior leaders having their back when they make that call is invaluable.”

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This massage therapist is using her ‘healing hands’ to help vets

As soon as licensed massage therapist Terry Smith starts to knead veteran James Davis’s neck and shoulders, Davis begins to relax.

“That feels so good,” says Davis, a patient in the Community Living Center (CLC) of the Columbia VA Health Care System.

Smith, a U.S. Army veteran, volunteers her hours at the Columbia VA Medical center. She is known as the massage therapist with the “healing hands.”

“It’s amazing what that sense of touch can do for a person. Especially when they don’t get to experience it much anymore,” Smith said.


Healing hands

One veteran in the CLC, a diagnosed Alzheimer’s patient, kept his hands tightly clenched. As Smith began to massage his hands and wrists, the patient slowly began to release his fingers. Another veteran seemed to be asleep in his wheelchair. As Smith massaged his shoulders, arms, and hands, the patient started to wake up and said that he thought he was dreaming about Smith’s touch.

Smith, a Desert Storm veteran from Mount Vernon, New York, joined the military to travel and see the world. Eventually, she found a career path as a medic in nutritional care at West Point.

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“This is the type of treatment that gets to the heart of a person”

(Photo by Jennifer Scales)

“Even though I am from New York, I had no clue about West Point or any other type of military posts or bases that were in my state,” Smith said. “Plus, not knowing a lot about the military before I enlisted made each assignment that I had a new experience for me.”

After a varied post-military career, Smith decided to use the GI Bill to study massage therapy. By 2012, when she obtained her license, she knew she had found her calling.

Helping others

“I love what I do,” Smith said. “This is the type of treatment that gets to the heart of the person. I can oftentimes feel the stiffness in their muscles when I begin my massage, and it is my goal to work it out.”

Carrie Jett, a Columbia VA recreation therapist, notes that Smith is the facility’s only volunteer massage therapist. “The patients really appreciate what she does, and the word is spreading,” said Jett. “Even those veteran patients here who don’t participate in other therapeutic events eagerly await the day and time of Smith’s arrival to get a massage.”

When asked what makes her massages so special for veterans, Smith replied, “I touch them with the spirit of love.”

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