Rohani adviser shares 'Chernobyl' love, awaits fallout - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Rohani adviser shares ‘Chernobyl’ love, awaits fallout

HBO’s epic miniseries Chernobyl is quickly gaining fans around the world, including in Iran, where an adviser to President Hassan Rohani has suggested that it carries lessons for political leaders.

The five-part series has been widely praised for its dramatization of the world’s worst civilian nuclear disaster, including portrayals of victims sacrificing themselves to prevent an even greater catastrophe following an explosion at the Soviet-built power plant in 1986.


The adviser, Hesamedin Ashena, who also heads the presidential research arm known as the Center For Strategic Studies, on June 4, 2019, highlighted the joint U.S./U.K. production’s central theme — “What is the cost of lies?” — and said “those in politics and government” could learn from that “mind-boggling question.”

Ashena did not elaborate.

He appeared to have Iranian politicians in mind, since he posted his tweet in Persian. Ashena routinely tweets in English when directing his comments toward Westerners.

In a separate tweet, he shared an HBO promotional image for Chernobyl.

The show appears to be reaching Iranians who, despite restrictions that include tough Internet filtering and censorship as well as U.S. financial sanctions, are usually quick to access the latest Hollywood and Western movies and TV series.

Several episodes have already appeared online dubbed or subtitled into Persian.

When asked by another Twitter user whether he had downloaded the series or has an HBO subscription, Ashena cited the Filimo.com portal, a video-on-demand app that makes Iranian and Western movies and TV shows available to customers.

Not often discussed

There has been little public debate within Iran’s state or semiofficial media about the safety of the country’s nuclear facilities, although some Iranians have used open letters, blogs, and social media to question the need for a nuclear program or warn about the potential health or environmental risks of nuclear energy.

In 2012, comments by an Iranian health official who had expressed concerns about nuclear health hazards and suggested that there had been “accidents” at one of the country’s nuclear sites were quickly removed from the website of a semiofficial news agency.

Iranian officials have said their facilities have been designed and built based on the latest state-of-the-art technology and don’t pose a threat to the environment or people.

They have also maintained that the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear reactor that went online in southern Iran in 2011 is safe and build to withstand earthquakes up to magnitude 8. Earthquakes are a frequent occurrence in Iran.

Rekindled debate

HBO’s miniseries appeared to rekindle a debate about nuclear safety among Iranians.

“If this happens in Iran, would our health system be ready to handle so many irradiated patients?” a user who claims to be a physician tweeted from Tehran.

Rohani adviser shares ‘Chernobyl’ love, awaits fallout

A scene from HBO’s Chernobyl.


In a reference to Iranian defiance at Western criticism of its contentious nuclear program, the same user reminded those who repeat the state-promoted slogan of “nuclear energy is our absolute right” not to forget Chernobyl.

The HBO miniseries has shone a bright light on Soviet attempts to cover up the scale of the Chernobyl disaster.

Some Iranians on social media said that scenario was all too familiar for Iranians living in an ideologically driven system that frequently silences critics under the pretext of national security or to avoid grim accounts of life in Iranian society.

Iran has steadfastly insisted its nuclear efforts are strictly for civilian purposes, but the U.S. and other governments as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have accused Tehran of duplicity and stonewalling about its nuclear activities.

International fears that Iran was seeking a nuclear bomb-making capability led to a deal between world powers and Tehran in 2015 that the United States has since abandoned in favor of renewed sanctions and other economic and diplomatic pressure.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why fake soldiers at Checkpoint Charlie got the boot from Berlin

The fake Cold War-era GIs will no longer be crowding the guardhouse recreation in Berlin where the actual Checkpoint Charlie once stood. In the years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, a group of actors stood dressed in faux-American uniforms to take photos with tourists for a voluntary donation – except it wasn’t voluntary. Now the German government stepped in to give them the boot.


The public order office in the central district of Mitte says the actors began to shake tourists down for money, harassing passersby and demanding fees for photos of them and the wooden Checkpoint Charlie guard hut. The soldiers demanded as much as €4 for anyone taking a photo and could pick up as much as €5,000 on a good day. But then the fake troops tried to shake down the wrong “tourist” – a Berlin cop. That’s not all.

One or more of the 10 in the acting troupe who work(ed) the checkpoint site for the past 17 years stand accused of verbally abusing and physically intimidating tourists who don’t volunteer any cash for taking photos. The troupe’s behavior found its way to the public order office, who quickly informed the actors a special permit has been required for the past 17 years, one they did not have. They were told to pack it up and go home.

Rohani adviser shares ‘Chernobyl’ love, awaits fallout

The reverse side of the Checkpoint guard shack.

(Blake Stilwell)

Checkpoint Charlie has long been a tourist destination since even before the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was the only crossing point in a divided Berlin for Allied citizens who desired to visit East Germany and come back. Tourists who couldn’t cross the wall would sit in nearby Cafe Adler, whose view over the wall would accompany a cup of coffee and a slice of cake. The original Checkpoint Charlie guard shack is in the Allied Museum in Berlin, The metal one in the street is a recreation erected in the 1980s.

Critics of the move – namely, the actors involved – say the government of Mitte kicking the fake troops out is part of a plan to rebrand Berlin’s history, a process of “de-Disneyfication” of the tragic history of Cold War-era Berlin. Checkpoint Charlie is just one more tourist site where locals hawk cheap souvenirs and chunks of concrete claiming to be from the real Berlin Wall.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 items to make your field exercise less miserable

Let’s face it; no one actually likes going to the field. Round-the-clock operations, sleeping on the ground, and spending way too much time with the people you work with can take its toll. Next time you prep for the field, be sure to consider bringing these items to make your field experience a little more bearable. Just be sure that they’re not contraband. Sergeant Major yelling at you is the opposite of what we’re trying to achieve here.


Rohani adviser shares ‘Chernobyl’ love, awaits fallout

Mags, check. Plates, check. Gloves, check. Jetboil, check (Jetboil)

1. Portable stove

In most cases, a portable stove is an approved item to bring to the field. One of the most common stoves is the convenient Jetboil. Available in a variety of sizes and powered by easily-packed fuel canisters, Jetboil stoves can be used to boil water to warm MREs, cook instant ramen, make coffee, and even shave with (just be sure to boil more water and wash it out afterwards). Also, be careful operating it so that you don’t end up like Cpl. Ray Person after Rudy’s espresso machine went off like a 40 mike mike (if you know, you know).

Rohani adviser shares ‘Chernobyl’ love, awaits fallout

They fold flat and can easily be stuffed in an assault pack (Rothco)

2. Folding stool

Look, laying in the prone for hours sucks, especially if the ground is cold, wet, and full of bugs. Some grunts and snake eaters live for that sort of thing, but for those of us that don’t, there’s the folding stool. When you come off the line and into the center of the patrol base for some chow, a stool to sit on is a simple luxury that can make all the difference. Plus, you won’t have to fight with your buddies over who gets to sit on the few remaining unopened MRE boxes. You didn’t hear it from me, but you might even consider popping a squat on your folding stool while pulling security. Just don’t get caught.

Rohani adviser shares ‘Chernobyl’ love, awaits fallout

Maybe bring a spare pack for your buddies (Pampers)

3. Baby wipes

This one is almost a given, but you’d be surprised how often troops forget their baby wipes. If you do forget them, you’d better hope your buddies are willing to share theirs. Otherwise, it’s the MRE napkins for you. Aside from helping you answer nature’s call, baby wipes also provide the cooling relief of a “field shower”, which can be all you need to unwind after a day of patrols. If you’ll be wearing face camo during your time in the field, consider packing makeup wipes as well. They’re better suited for cutting through the thick and waxy face paint than regular baby wipes.

Rohani adviser shares ‘Chernobyl’ love, awaits fallout

The Iceman knows the value of a can of Beefaroni (HBO)

4. Civilian food

Again, this one is almost a given. That said, packing lists can sometimes explicitly forbid bringing any type of food, so read yours carefully…or just hide your food well. Sunflower seeds can help relieve boredom when you’re static for hours on end, beef jerky can keep you going during those long foot patrols, and a can of Chef Boyardee (heated with your portable stove) might be the morale boost you need to make it through the final days of your op. Need a convenient way to carry your food while having it easily accessible? Consider adding a magazine dump pouch to your kit. Just don’t let First Sergeant catch you pulling gummy worms out of it.

Rohani adviser shares ‘Chernobyl’ love, awaits fallout

The famous Gulf War Gameboy is completely original (Nintendo)

5. Nintendo Gameboy

Or really, whatever portable game system you want. I’ve seen everything from PSPs in sunglasses cases to a Switch stuffed in a Crown Royal bag. That said, an old-school Gameboy offers you an easily concealable platform, absurdly long battery life, and the chance to beat the Elite Four again. A Gameboy can also be quickly switched off and shoved into your pocket or an empty mag pouch if you see your squad leader coming towards your position.

By no means is this an all-encompassing list. Really, the best items to bring with you on a field exercise are the things that will make you happy, whether that be a book, a photograph, or fuzzy socks to sleep in. Again, and I can’t stress this enough, pay attention to your packing list…and your surroundings.


MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch: 2 Daring Coast Guard Rescues Near Boston in Less Than a Week

The U.S. Coast Guard performed two daring rescues at sea over the past week. The first, on November 13, involved a stroke victim aboard a commercial fishing vessel. Then, just six days later, Coast Guard aircrews were tasked with the rescue of another fisherman who had fallen overboard. Footage of both rescues has been released.

On Friday, November 13, at approximately 6:00 p.m. EST, Coast Guard watchstanders received word that a fisherman had suffered an apparent stroke some 60 miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter was able to locate the vessel and rescue the fisherman by 7:30 that evening.

On Thursday, rescue crews out of Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod were once again tasked with saving an injured fisherman. This time, as a result of a man falling overboard.

At approximately 3:30 a.m. EST, a watchstander from Coast Guard District One received word of an emergency situation unfolding aboard a 72-foot fishing vessel called the Jennifer Anne. According to a Coast Guard statement, the 35-year-old fisherman had fallen overboard and had been recovered by other members of the crew. However, he had suffered a number of lacerations and was exhibiting signs of hypothermia.

Rohani adviser shares ‘Chernobyl’ love, awaits fallout
(YouTube)

The Coast Guard deployed an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and an HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft to locate the vessel, some 160 miles out to sea. By 6:51 a.m. EST, the vessel had been located, and rescue crews were able to safely hoist the injured fisherman from the deck of the Jennifer Anne. The injured man was stabilized and brought to Massachusetts General Hospital for further care.

This dramatic footage of the rescue highlights the incredible skill and bravery on display from the Coast Guard crew.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How guitars become works of art that help vets heal

Guitars for Vets is a non-profit organization that has a guitar instruction program aimed at providing veterans struggling with physical injuries, PTSD, and other emotional distress a unique therapeutic alternative. G4V pursues its mission to share the healing power of music by providing free guitar instruction, a new acoustic guitar and a guitar accessory kit in a structured program run by volunteers.

In other words, they give guitars to vets and teach them how to play. It’s pretty cool! 

And it works — playing a musical instrument has been linked to the process of coping with PTSD, reducing anxiety, and improving quality of life.

WATCH: Guitars for Vets Feelin’ Good Tutorial

Most of the non-profit’s funding comes from a mix of individual donors and sponsors, from monetary donations to merchandise purchases to my favorite: the Operations Art Strings program. 

Through the Operation Art Strings program, Guitars for Vets connects talented artists around the country with unplayable guitars in their inventory to create works of art that can be sold to help fund their program.

And they’re looking for artists!

Rohani adviser shares ‘Chernobyl’ love, awaits fallout

Aspect and Angles Photography

If you’re interested in painting a guitar, helping, or learning more, you can reach out to tori@guitarsforvets.org (and if you do paint a guitar, please send me a picture on social media!).

Guitars for Vets — and its impact — has gained national attention. Vietnam War veteran James Robledo is a graduate of the program and the chapter coordinator at the Loma Linda chapter in California who, as a volunteer, has helped hundreds of veterans graduate from the program.

Also read: This is why so many veterans turn to music after war

Robledo was named the 2015 National Humanitarian of the Year by the National Association of Letter Carriers, and he was invited to a music panel at the White House as well as to place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

“There have been students that have come back and said because of the program they no longer have suicidal thoughts. And that’s what we’re about,” added Robledo.

If you’re a veteran interested in enrolling in the Guitars for Vets program, you can check out their website to find a local chapter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Fighting fire with chainsaws

The sun was already bright and warm when I pulled up at the Twin Springs Preserve in Williamson County, Texas just before 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Stepping out of my car, I shielded my eyes to take in the dense stands of ash juniper and white oak trees against the cloudless blue sky. It felt unusually spring-like for early February; I opted to shuck my jacket.

With my back to the road and neighborhood, I could imagine this area north of Austin as the verdant forest it once was. But the human population of Williamson County has tripled over the last several decades, encroaching on the wildland. In 2009, the county bought 175 acres to create a preserve and mitigate against the destruction of natural habitat. In addition to wild turkeys, foxes, deer, and raccoons, Twin Springs is home to several threatened or endangered species, including the bone cave harvestman spider, Salido salamander, and golden-cheeked warbler.


The beauty and peacefulness of the preserve belie a hidden danger. Here, the forest floor is strewn with grasses, shrubs, and the litter of fallen leaves and branches. In hot, dry conditions, those materials become tinder. All it takes is a sustained wind and an errant spark—from a discarded cigarette, say, a car’s exhaust system, or a lightning strike—for the tinder to catch fire. Unchecked, the flames can climb to the upper canopy and then quickly spread from tree to tree.

Rohani adviser shares ‘Chernobyl’ love, awaits fallout

Cleaning up after the West Fire that hit Alpine, CA, in 2018.

Canopy fires are intense, fast-moving, and virtually unstoppable says Kyle McKnight, an Emergency Management Specialist with Williamson County. “A canopy fire could very rapidly progress to these homeowners, causing millions of dollars of losses and potentially loss of human life as well,” he said. “Look at what is happening in California. We’ve seen a huge loss of life and property.”

id=”listicle-2646945029″ OF PREVENTION VS. OF CURE

Greater Austin, which includes Williamson County, ranks fifth in the nation among metropolitan areas at risk for wildfires according to a recent report by CoreLogic, an online property data service. The only areas at greater risk are all in California.

Rather than wait to react to the inevitable wildfires, Williamson County officials put together a comprehensive plan to mitigate risk. “According to FEMA, [the Federal Emergency Management Association], on average, every id=”listicle-2646945029″ spent in mitigation results in of saved cost from fighting the fires and recovery from damage,” says McKnight. In some areas with more expensive real estate, he says, the return is as high as for every id=”listicle-2646945029″ invested in prevention.

The Williamson County mitigation plan calls for creating a 50-foot wide shaded fuel break along the perimeter of Twin Creeks Preserve, McKnight explains. The idea is to take out debris and shrubs, and remove tree limbs up to about 8 feet above ground, leaving the shaded canopy to keep the forest cooler and discourage the growth of flammable understory plants.

Rohani adviser shares ‘Chernobyl’ love, awaits fallout

Clearing a blowdown on a road after Colorado’s Spring Creek fire.

What Williamson County didn’t have, however, was the budget or manpower to carry out the work. That’s where Team Rubicon came in. For two weekends in February, teams of about 50 volunteers—known by Team Rubicon as Greyshirts—worked steadily to make the forest and surrounding neighborhoods safer by creating a shaded fuel break.

A BLUE-SKY OPERATION

The morning I arrive, the preserve is a beehive of activity. The insistent buzz of chainsaws and mechanical drone of woodchippers cut through the morning air. It smells amazing, like walking into a freshly built cedar closet.

Oscar Arauco, the Texas State Administrator for Team Rubicon, has me don a hard hat, goggles, and earplugs before we survey the worksite. As we walk, he explains that Team Rubicon coordinates “gray skies” operations to provide relief after disasters such as Hurricane Harvey, which roiled the Gulf coast in 2017, and “blue skies” prevention operations such as this that help mitigate risk. Often, Team Rubicon uses such mitigation work to further educate and train sawyers and other Greyshirts, too.

Like 70% of the people involved in Team Rubicon, Arauco is a military veteran, having served for 28 years as a U.S. Army artillery officer and chaplain. (The remaining members are affectionately known as kick-ass civilians, he explains.) Once Team Rubicon identifies a need and defines a project, a call for help goes out to members living within a 450-mile radius. With the exception of a couple of paid project managers, everyone here is a volunteer. Most have driven in for the weekend and are bunking on cots at the nearby First Baptist Church of Georgetown.

Rohani adviser shares ‘Chernobyl’ love, awaits fallout

Clearing debris for fire mitigation in the Twin Springs Preserve.

Arauco points out that the busy work site is well organized into sets of three teams, each supervised by a strike leader. People known as “sawyers” use pole saws and chainsaws to take out tree limbs and vegetation up to the 8-foot mark. “Swampers” carry the woody material to the perimeter where the “chippers” feed it into wood chippers to turn it into mulch that goes back into the preserve.

I’m struck by the diversity of Greyshirts and the lack of traditional hierarchies—a young woman is just as apt to be leading a team as an older man. That’s one of the things Arauco says he likes most about his work. “I love that Team Rubicon values service over any other factor,” he says. “There are no age- or gender-specific roles. It’s all about pulling your weight and getting the job done.”

FORMER ARMY MEDIC TURNS HER FOCUS TO HEALTHY FORESTS

M.D. Kidd, who takes a break from the chainsaw to talk, is one of the younger faces in the group. She served as a medic in the U.S. Army from 2011 to 2015 and then trained as a wildland firefighter for the Southwest Conservation Corp in Colorado. In 2017, she joined Team Rubicon and underwent training to become a regional chainsaw instructor. Now a full-time college student majoring in sociology and public health, Kidd says she would eventually like to work for the Peace Corps. For her, volunteering with Team Rubicon is the way to serve both people and the environment.

She points out that fire is a natural part of the cycle for healthy forests, but for more than a century people have focused on suppressing fires, leaving the tinder-like material to build up. “The longer we suppress fires and leave the fuel sitting there, the worse it is in the long run,” she said. “So efforts that mitigate the risk of fire are hugely important. As with medicine, I think prevention is really the way to go.”

Rohani adviser shares ‘Chernobyl’ love, awaits fallout

To mitigate against fire, Greyshirts take tree limbs out up to the 8-foot mark.

Kidd and others say a big reason they volunteer on mitigation projects like this for Team Rubicon is the break from routine it provides, and the camaraderie. “The reason I am so passionate about this organization is that it provides a purpose for veterans,” says Patrick Smith, a 23-year U.S. Army veteran who is coordinating logistics for the operation. Smith works as a Deputy Sheriff in charge of animal cruelty for Harris County and as a physician’s assistant at Memorial Herman Hospital in Houston. “Team Rubicon takes our skills and experience and finds a place where they can be put to good use,” he says.

Greyshirt Keith Elwell, a former project engineer for the defense industry, joined in 2018 after seeing people in Houston trying to cope with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey on the news. “Man, I’m sitting there just watching. I’m thinking ‘I’ve got some skills. I can help. I can do stuff’,” he says. He has now gained enough training and experience as a sawyer to mentor others.

Since then, he says, he’s “been all over the place”—from clearing trees felled by a fierce storm in Wisconsin to tearing down homes destroyed by Hurricane Michael in Panama City, Florida to cleaning up after the Mississippi River Flooded in Vicksburg, Tennessee. “There are all different roles and no two situations are the same,” he says. “I’ve been fortunate enough to help people on the worst day of their lives.”

OVER TWO WEEKENDS, MONTHS GET WHITTLED AWAY

It’s hard to put into words how meaningful the mitigation effort is to the county officials and inhabitants of this scenic area, says Mark Pettigrew, a Trails and Preserves Steward for Williamson County. We sat down on a couple of flat rocks in front of the trailhead and he gestured to the activity around us. “I’m one of only two main employees for the Williamson County Conservation Foundation. To get all this done would have taken us months and months,” he says.

Pettigrew points to the area in front of us, where the preserve abuts a busy road and neighborhood. The teams are mostly finished here and it looks like an arboretum with a wide, mulched path shaded by a graceful canopy of trees. “The most hazardous area is along this road and we’ve got the whole place completely cleared out and ready to go,” he says. “It’s phenomenal.”

Without the help of the Team Rubicon Greyshirts, it’s not clear when—or if—fire mitigation in the preserve would get done. As the county’s Emergency Management Specialist, McKnight says he knows that there’s currently no budget for the work. Grants often require extra steps and cost matching. “It’s a creative strategy for getting projects like this done,” says McKnight. “It requires a minimal investment on our behalf—some food and porta-potties—and we’re saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in labor costs. It’s a win-win.”

By the time I’d wrapped up, the day had shaped up to be unseasonably warm with low humidity—pleasant, but concerning, too, given what I had learned about wildfire risk. Climate change is bringing wave after wave of record heat to the Austin area. Last September was the hottest on record, with nearly three straight weeks of triple-digit temperatures.

On the way back to my car another Team Rubicon Greyshirt, Sam Brokenshire, stopped me. He wanted me to leave with a sense of scale for just how much the group had accomplished. At the end of the two-weekend project, he says, the team will have removed about 4,000 cubic yards—about 90 dumpsters worth—of brush.

Seeing people out working for the common good means a lot, says Brokenshire. “Yesterday, a guy from the neighborhood pulled up to thank us for the work we are doing,” he says. “That makes it all worth it.”

Rohani adviser shares ‘Chernobyl’ love, awaits fallout

Some of the Team Rubicon Greyshirts who worked on the Williamson County fire mitigation project.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY CULTURE

LinkedIn or CheckedOut: How to live your best life after service

Retiring from the armed forces can be a very stressful transition because there is no magic crystal ball that allows you to see into your future as a civilian. Veterans often have strong networks built over the course of their military service, but as useful as these networks are, they are also apt to keep you from branching out into something new, or taking time off to pursue uncharted possibilities. You don’t know what you don’t know, so it is easy to fall into a trap where income becomes the driving force behind career decisions rather than a deep introspective look into what you really want out of life. This leads to a pursuit of employment rather than fulfillment, and ends in a contract that forces you to trade more of your precious time for money. After giving so much to your country, and asking your family to sacrifice just as much or more, taking time to reconnect with them and yourself before a second career is worth your consideration. You might be pleasantly surprised where it will lead.


Consider the following in your calculus:

  • Military service didn’t leave much room for hobbies and passions. Do you have any languishing in the recesses of your life?
  • Military regulations and culture compelled you to identify yourself by an all-consuming job title, which in turn suppressed your identity as an individual. You were the Admiral, the Colonel, Skipper, Warrant, Chief, Senior, Top, OPSO, COS, the LPO, the First Sergeant. Do you really know who you are anymore without a job title to define you?
  • Time keeps ticking, but money comes and goes. Is time more valuable than money when you realize that you can bank one but not the other?
Rohani adviser shares ‘Chernobyl’ love, awaits fallout

This last thought is the one that gave me the most pause. If you are shackled to a life dictated by consumerism and workism, your “one day” list becomes less and less achievable. This is paradoxical, because chances are you might be making a decent salary on top of your retirement income, but you don’t have time for you, your spouse, your kids, your dog, your forgotten hobbies, or your wild and crazy ambitions. Why? Because your new job might provide a comfortable existence and a title to impress your friends, but it doesn’t guarantee you will have time for anything on your bucket list. How many successful people have all the toys in the world but no time to use them? More than you think. In this article, I will argue that as a veteran, you have been given all the resources you need to thrive in a life of your choosing. To be clear, I am not suggesting that you become completely “checked out” and retreat from society never to work again. Instead, I am advocating for a period of time that prevents you from rushing headlong into a second career. This will give you some “maneuver space” to sort through the stress, the noise, and the pressure that is screaming at you to immediately get a job and keep slogging forward. That space might be a few months, or it might be a few years, but either way, it is time well-spent.

Rohani adviser shares ‘Chernobyl’ love, awaits fallout

Try this little exercise. Mentally fast forward to the end of your life. You are looking back on your experiences wondering why you worked your whole life, yet missed out on so much living. Maybe you wanted to take a year and surf the south Pacific, or fish the great rivers in Alaska, or hike the Appalachian Trail, or follow the Tour de France, or start a business, or write a novel, or raise alpacas, or sell it all and buy a sailboat…but you didn’t, and now you are too old and tired to do anything but look back with sadness and regret. You realize there was always something standing in the way; there were always reasons why you couldn’t. So, instead of doing, you resigned yourself to watching others as you scrolled through your social media feeds and groused about your boss, staff meetings, the person who chews their food too loudly in their cubicle, the jerk who cut you off on your commute, and the endless mundane aspects of life in “The Matrix.”

As you contemplate those lost dreams, you might be asking yourself with a twinge of frustration, “Why didn’t I go for it? What was I afraid of? What was the worst thing that could have happened to me if I had unshackled myself from the ‘golden handcuffs,’ put down the electronic tether, and lived the life I always imagined?” You might be surprised to learn the worst thing that could have happened was nothing from which you could not have quickly recovered.
Rohani adviser shares ‘Chernobyl’ love, awaits fallout

Now, rewind to the present. Ask yourself this question, “Have I ever allowed myself to fail?” If you made it all the way through a 20-year (or more) career, chances are the answer is a resounding no! So why do you think you will start failing now? I’ll let you in on a little secret…you won’t. You already know how to succeed. The sad truth, however, is that many of us never take a chance, because we focus on the reasons we shouldn’t…the fears…rather than the reasons we should…the inspiration.

Every military member goes through transition class on their way out of the service. You learn that it is possible to reinvent yourself, but it isn’t easy. You are instructed to make a list of your assets, your liabilities, and any gaps you have in your skill set, then cross-reference it against what you need to break into a sector outside of what you have been doing for the past twenty-plus years. You are told to be willing to move to an area where that sector has a presence, be patient, be willing to evangelize yourself, build a network in your new community, use your hard-earned benefits to get the education or certifications you need to fill in any gaps, and be willing to start at the bottom. If you do these things while exhibiting all the qualities that made you successful on active duty, you will succeed.

What if I told you that same blueprint for reinventing yourself professionally is just as useful for reinventing yourself personally, and going after those “one day” dreams before you blindly (or deliberately) trade one overlord for another. With a little bit of planning and foresight, you can do it, and if I haven’t made my position clear, I think you should. When else will you get a planned break in your professional life to do something crazy?

I started my transition playing by the rules. I spent hours…no, weeks…working on a resume. I went to career fairs. I interviewed for jobs. I received job offers. None of it felt right in my gut. I started terminal leave in June 2018 in a panic-stricken state, grasping for a lifeline. At my wife’s urging I had been exploring the idea of trade school using my GI Bill benefits, but I was afraid to commit. “It’s not what I am expected to do,” was my typical reason, which was ridiculous. I was afraid of the unknown and everything that came with it. That was the truth. I had reached the first portal of fear, and with my wife’s encouragement, I stepped through it.

In September 2018, I enrolled in a six-month program at the IYRS School of Technology and Trades in Newport, R.I. that ended with a one-month internship and American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) certifications as a Marine Electrician, Diesel Mechanic, and Systems Technician. I wrote about how beneficial that was for me as a veteran while I was serving as a student ambassador at the school. But as I approached the end of the program, I realized I had only deferred my dilemma. I still had to figure out my life after the military.
Rohani adviser shares ‘Chernobyl’ love, awaits fallout

Once again, I found myself grasping for the familiar and hiding from my fears. I applied for a government job overseas, knowing it wasn’t what I really wanted. A friend was recruiting me to come back to the staff I had left a year and a half earlier, but after I submitted my resume, there were knots in my stomach. “What am I doing,” I asked myself. “Is this what I really want?” I wasn’t ready for staff meetings and point papers again. I wasn’t ready for days when I went to work at dawn and came home after dinner just to get up and do it all over again while my life ticked away a second at a time.

My wife had a dream that we could sell it all and go sailing. I was adamantly opposed. “If there is one thing I learned at the marine trade and technology school,” I joked, “it is don’t buy a boat!” The truth of the matter is I was terrified of selling everything and buying a boat. There were too many voices in my head telling me it would be our ruination…MY ruination. I hid behind my biggest fear – money. We couldn’t afford it. End of story.

But, it wasn’t.

It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it. As I tell my children, there is a solution to every problem, we only need to outthink it. So we looked at the problem again and realized we could afford it. But, I still wasn’t ready to commit. I needed a push.

Fate intervened on my behalf. Much to my surprise, my resume never made it through the initial screening for the civil servant position, so I never got the job interview on the staff overseas. Despite my ego being bruised, I actually breathed a sigh of relief. I was a free man again. A few weeks later, after some long, introspective conversations with my wife, I agreed to the sailing adventure. Failure had somehow opened a pathway to an outcome I did not think possible. That was in March 2019. Four months later, we would be boat owners after an exhausting push to sell, donate, or repurpose just about everything we owned. Three months after that, we would be getting underway from Hampton, VA for a 1,600 nautical mile ocean passage to Antigua.

How did we go from “normal life” to “boat life” so quickly? We followed the same blueprint I received in the transition seminar. We laid out a plan, prioritized our resources, and focused everything we had on the achievement of our goal. I had already filled in the knowledge gaps by becoming a certified marine mechanic. Anyone who knows boats will tell you that 90% of boat ownership is boat maintenance, so I felt confident I could handle that responsibility with my new skills. I grew up sailing, so that wasn’t an issue, but living aboard a boat full-time was another story. We hired a couple who had twice circumnavigated with their kids as “cruising coaches.” We built a network by talking about our plans with people who could help and guide us. We made sure we were able to fund our dream by paying cash for a boat and living within the means of my retirement income. Using our new and growing network, we found a boat, brokered the deal, and moved aboard on July 31, 2019.

It was not an easy transition from land life to sea life. In fact, it was harder than anything we had ever done. Being a military family, we were used to relocating and starting over every couple years, so we put all that experience to good use. But, this time it was different. It was all on us to get it done. There were at least three distinct points when we wanted to quit. We didn’t, largely due to the encouragement and instruction we received from people who had walked the same path. The rewards for persevering are too many to list. Suffice it to say, I answer to no master. I have learned more about myself and my family in six months than I have in six years. I have swum with a whale in 19,000 feet of water halfway between Bermuda and the Leeward Islands. We have sailed our way through 50-knot squalls and come out the other side stronger and more resilient. I have made lifelong friendships with people I would never have met had I stayed in my “safe” bubble. I have gained valuable perspective by using this time away from the rat race to sort myself; to be a better husband, father, and friend.

A good counterargument to this conversation would go something like this – “My professional stock is highest immediately after I retire. It will be irresponsible for me not to take advantage of that transition point and start building my professional resume in the real world. Statistics support the fact that I most likely will change jobs several times as I find my niche, so it doesn’t matter what I do. The important thing is to get into the ring and make a name for myself.” So you get a job and a fancy-sounding title that you eagerly post on LinkedIn. You beef up your profile with a power photo that has you leaning into the camera with a smile that says, “I’m a go-getter!” You add a description underneath that says something like, “I’m a results-oriented leader with a proven track record of astonishing accomplishments, fiscal maturity, operational prowess, cunning initiative, etc, etc, etc.” It becomes your identity, and it is the right thing to do, isn’t it? I certainly thought it was. But for me, at least, it wasn’t. I am not getting any younger. Neither are you. The counterargument doesn’t hold up, in my opinion. You can always get a job and make money, but you can’t make more time. Another aspect of this counterargument is that your network will abandon you if you take time for yourself and your family. I also believe that this is invalid, and would go so far as to suggest that your network will respect you more for leading in this manner.

Rohani adviser shares ‘Chernobyl’ love, awaits fallout

We as Americans have it all backwards. We work and work and work until we hit the “golden years,” then we retire with the idea that we are going to take off from our empty nest and explore the world. I have heard so many tragic stories about people who FINALLY get some time to do the things they have always wanted to do only to be sidelined by unexpected health crises that leave them debilitated or worse. Derek Thompson, a senior staff writer for The Atlantic wrote a compelling article in February 2019 titled, “Workism is Making Americans Miserable,” where he argues that work has become, unfortunately, the, “centerpiece of one’s identity and purpose.” It’s an excellent, thought-provoking read.

Work, pay taxes, then die.

As a retiring military member, you have the resources to do what you want – healthcare, education opportunities, steady income, and many more benefits to jumpstart your second life. You only need to face down your fears and embrace the possibilities that lay before you. I am not done working, but I guarantee whatever employment I pursue in the future will be far different than what I thought I had to shoehorn myself into when I first transitioned from service. We have had a lot of people tell us how amazing our life is…how lucky we are…how courageous we are to be out sailing with our kids full time. We don’t see ourselves as different or special. We are just us, living a life of our choosing. We realized in hindsight that fear had been holding us back, not resources. Once we made our decision, we were flabbergasted by how everything suddenly seemed to align behind us. It was all there to begin with, but we were blinded by our fears of the unknown, and therefore too afraid to take a chance.

Rohani adviser shares ‘Chernobyl’ love, awaits fallout

Fear is paralyzing, and in the weeks surrounding my transition there were days when I didn’t want to get out of bed and face reality. In the middle of those dark moments, a very wise friend of mine asked me to stretch my hands out in front of myself palms up, then she had me clench my fists. She looked at me and said, “There won’t be room for anything new in your life if you are holding onto everything so tightly, afraid to let go. You have to open your hands and be willing to release – toxic relationships, needless possessions, clutter, the wrong career, convenience, the safe and easy path, money. But more importantly, you have to open your hands so what you really want has a place to land.”

I stood there for a moment clenching and unclenching my upturned hands. I am not a particularly spiritual person, but I was shocked at how profoundly her simple exercise struck a chord. “Money comes and money goes, and it should,” she concluded, “but even though we have had our backs to the wall a number of times, we always believed we would be fine because we kept our hands, figuratively of course, upturned and open.” She and her husband are better now than ever after launching their own business nearly twenty years ago. They had been let go from their previous jobs at the same time, when their kids were still young, and their stress levels already high. In that moment of darkness, they chose to open their own business and live life according to their own terms. It wasn’t easy, but looking back, they wouldn’t want it any other way.

Rohani adviser shares ‘Chernobyl’ love, awaits fallout

In the final analysis, it’s not about how much you have, but what you do with it. Achieving your ambitions means making decisions, prioritizing and leveraging resources, and aligning efforts. Do you want to be linked in right away, or checked out to gain some perspective and clarity? The choice is yours, and it doesn’t matter how big your proverbial or actual boat is. It only matters that you believe in yourself and face down your fears. Trust me, someone always has a bigger boat. You can find dozens of YouTube channels where people are sailing the world on every manner of boat imaginable. I used to watch some of them and say, “Look at their boat. It’s so ugly, or small, or dilapidated.” My wife would answer, “Yeah, sure is…but they are doing it!” How true. Would you rather be sitting in a staff meeting wishing you were doing it, or actually doing it?

I’ll close with this final thought. Many, if not all of us, who are retiring from a career in the service lost shipmates, close friends, and comrades in training and combat. A few years ago, standing on a beach in Italy looking out into the Adriatic Sea, where a friend in Air Wing 17 had perished during a nighttime training flight off the USS George Washington (CVN-73) in 2002, I made a promise that if I somehow made it through my military career, I would not squander the opportunity to fulfill dreams and live an amazing life. I felt like I owed that to those who couldn’t. Life is short, and precious. Don’t let fear hold you back. Don’t let a false sense of obligation keep you from doing the things on your “one day” list. If you do, that list will go unfulfilled.

We keep a sign on our boat that reads, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” It is a constant reminder for us to keep pushing forward. You can, too.

Glenn Robbins is a retired Naval Officer cruising full-time on a 46-foot catamaran named FEARLESS with his wife Andi and their two children, Gavin and Alexis.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

A U.S. Air Force combat controller will receive the nation’s third highest award for valor for playing an essential role in two intense firefight missions against the Taliban in Afghanistan last year.

Tech. Sgt. Cody Smith, an airman with the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, 24th Special Operations Wing at Air Force Special Operations Command, will receive the Silver Star at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico on Nov. 22, 2019, the service announced Nov. 18, 2019.

AFSOC spokeswoman 1st Lt. Alejandra Fontalvo said the award is for his total service during a 2018 deployment alongside an Army special forces team in support of the Resolute Support mission and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan.


Smith was also named the “2019 Airman of the Year” by Air Force Times. As part of the award, the paper interviewed Smith and detailed his actions.

Serving as the sole joint terminal attack controller, or JTAC, during a two-week long mission, Smith and the joint Army and Afghan teams were sent out to disperse Taliban forces that had created a stronghold in the Maymana village in northwest Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2018.

TSgt Cody Smith: Air Force Times Airman of the Year

www.youtube.com

En route to the area, the forces, which included Green Berets, lacked aerial cover due to poor weather conditions, but pressed on despite roadblocks and dozens of improvised explosive devices hidden within rubble along the path to slow their progress, according to Air Force Times.

The groups were immediately met with machine gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades when they got to the village.

Smith called in nearby AH-64 Apache helicopters, as well as F-16 Fighting Falcons that dropped “multiple precision guided 500-pound bombs engaging as close as 90 meters away,” Air Force officials said.

The firefight went on for nearly 10 hours.

Exactly one week later, pushing forward to Shirin Tagab just due north of Maymana, Smith and the teams were met by an overwhelming force — nearly 600 Taliban fighters amassing on the village’s southern flank. The fighters once again set up roadblocks and IEDs to slow the U.S. troops’ convoy before another fierce battle broke out — this time with mortars.

Smith told Air Force Times the scene turned to chaos as dozens of civilians ran up to the troops for help to save their children wounded in the firefight.

Rohani adviser shares ‘Chernobyl’ love, awaits fallout

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Cody Smith.

(Air Force photo)

Smith tried to get medical aid all while protecting the convoy. First hit in his body armor, Smith kept firing.

Mortars rained down, and one exploded two meters away from his position, resulting in a severe concussion. When Smith awoke, he declined medical attention and fought for five more hours, Air Force Times reported, before an RPG hit his vehicle.

For a second time, he turned medics away to keep fighting, the paper said.

Smith called in 11 danger-close strikes amid the pandemonium during that Oct. 14 mission, resulting in 195 enemy fighters killed and 18 fighting positions destroyed. He aided in saving American and Afghan lives, and even helped medevac a wounded team member, Air Force Times said.

“[He] remained with his team for the 14-hour vehicle movement back to friendly lines to ensure their safety,” the Air Force said Monday.

The service has awarded 11 Air Force Crosses and 48 Silver Star Medals to Special Tactics airmen. Last year, President Donald Trump posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor to Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, also a combat controller, and promoted Chapman to master sergeant.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 civilian jobs that troops appreciate the most

Sometimes, civilians have a difficult time relating with troops. In many cases, they just don’t know how to talk to them. Realistically, it’s pretty easy. After all, we’re simple creatures; we like a handful of things — alcohol, tattoos, and anything else that’s fun with a dash of self-destruction. We’re, essentially, the kings and queens of counter-culture — “rebels with a cause,” as we were once described by a Marine general.

That being said, there are plenty of civilians out there who fit right in with the troops — usually those who work in a select few professional fields. The following are the civilian professionals that get a ton of love from the troops.


But, before we kick this off, I want to make it clear you don’t have to work in one of these fields for troops to appreciate you. Troops appreciate support of any kind — even if it’s a simple “thank you.”

Rohani adviser shares ‘Chernobyl’ love, awaits fallout

You should never piss off your bartender, honestly.

(U.S. Air Force)

Bartenders

Easily topping this list is your friendly neighborhood beer-slinger. Troops love to drink and, although some troops might find themselves embroiled in “friendly” disagreements with their bartender after kicking back a few, a good service member will always respect the person behind the bar that helps them wind down after a long week.

Rohani adviser shares ‘Chernobyl’ love, awaits fallout

Tattoo artists are almost always cool with service members.

(William Cho)

Tattoo artists

Troops love tattoos, too. For each new piece, a troop will sit on the chair or bench for hours at a time — so you kind of can’t help but become friends with your tattoo artist. Artists in a military town tend to understand troops because they tattoo a lot of us. They know what we like to talk about and they can probably all draw a perfect eagle, globe, and anchor with their eyes closed.

Rohani adviser shares ‘Chernobyl’ love, awaits fallout

Okay, okay. The ones from the shop on base aren’t always bad.

(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer’s Mate Chris Desmond)

Barbers

Troops need haircuts and a good barber is hard to find. If you’re lucky, you’ll find that one place off-base that isn’t too expensive and leaves you with a better cut than the clowns on base shop can offer.

Rohani adviser shares ‘Chernobyl’ love, awaits fallout

A lot of respect goes both ways in this regard.

(U.S. Navy)

Doctors

Life, especially one spent in the armed forces, leaves you with a lot of complications. As warfighters, we spend a lot of time working on our own bodies and training to deliver harm to the enemies’. Although doctors have a much more thorough understanding of human anatomy, troops certainly have a lot of questions.

Doctors specialize in fixing humans and grunts, well, we specialize in the opposite. Plus, grunts have medical professionals embedded with us in the form of medics and corpsman, who are usually the best friends any troop could have. So, we sort of lump all doctors in with them.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Online commissary privileges finally available to newly eligible shoppers

Nearly 4 million veterans and caregivers who were granted privileges to shop at commissaries and exchanges Jan. 1 can finally enjoy access to online features, a Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) news release said Friday.


However, the new patrons’ access to American Forces Travel (AFT), the official Morale, Welfare and Recreation travel site, is still spotty, according to the latest AFT Facebook post.

Rohani adviser shares ‘Chernobyl’ love, awaits fallout

Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war, veterans with any service-connected disability, and caregivers registered with the VA’s Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program became eligible to shop at commissaries, exchanges and MWR facilities beginning Jan. 1.

Since then, these new shoppers have experienced issues, including not being able to bring guests on base and trouble accessing MyCommissary and AFT online portals.

DeCA officials said they had to work with Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC), which is used to confirm shopping privileges, to let new patrons register their Commissary Rewards cards online to access coupons and to use, as available, the Click2Go curbside service.

“In the event a new shopper is still receiving an error message when trying to create an account, they should check with the [Department of Veterans Affairs] to ensure their information and privileges are correctly entered into the system,” DeCA system engineer Clayton Nobles said in a statement. “For those receiving a new Veterans Health Identification Card (VHIC), there may be a delay between when the veteran receives the card and when the system allows them access. This delay can take up to 30 days.”

Eligible veterans must have a VHIC to access bases for shopping or MWR use.

Customers who had access before Jan. 1, such as retired service members, Medal of Honor recipients and veterans with a service-related disability rating of 100%, are not affected.

Rohani adviser shares ‘Chernobyl’ love, awaits fallout

images02.military.com

Meanwhile, AFT is still updating its customer database of “millions of records.”

“We have sent examples to DMDC and they were able to see why some patrons are having issues,” AFT said on Facebook, the only place it is providing updates on the issue. “We will let you know when that resolve has been made and then ask you to try logging on again. Records are being updated every hour.”

But some veterans are getting tired of waiting.

“No luck today. Last week they said it would be fixed this week,” one Facebook user wrote. “The week before, it was going to be fixed last week. I sent a private message this afternoon and got an automated response to call the DMDC help desk at 1-800-727-3677. That number is for the Commissary. After 35 minutes, someone answered the phone and said they could not help me to get verified.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Marine awarded for saving teenager’s life

Sgt. Samantha Alexander, Distribution Management Office freight noncommissioned officer in charge aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal on Nov. 13, 2019, for saving the life of a local teenager April 25, 2019.

She was driving home with her daughter and as she turned into her neighborhood the car ahead of her slammed on the breaks and swerved, hitting two boys on their bicycles.

Alexander pulled safely off the road, and began to approach the scene. As she was getting closer, she noticed that the woman who had hit the two boys was standing over them screaming frantically, “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry!” Another gentleman ran to attend to one of the boys, so Alexander helped the other.


“While I started talking to the (boy), I asked him his name, how old he was and I told him who I was. He said he had just got released from high school, and they were riding their bikes home.”

Rohani adviser shares ‘Chernobyl’ love, awaits fallout

Three Marines receive The Navy Marine Corps Commendation Medal Nov. 13, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Aidan Parker)

As she talked to the boy, she examined his body for trauma.

“I noticed that he had blood on his pants and they were torn. I (moved) the sweatpants, and could see bone and fatty tissue. I pulled off my belt and I tied it as far above the laceration as possible.”

Alexander kept telling the boy to brace for the pain, but due to the traumatic leg injury he couldn’t feel his leg.

“Once I got it tightened down as much as I could, I locked it in place and sat there talking to him.”

Despite seeing tunnel vision, and having spiked adrenaline, Alexander remained calm for the boy until emergency services arrived.

Shortly after EMS arrived, the boys were taken to Beaufort Memorial Hospital where the 15-year-old was immediately medevacked to Savannah. The doctors confirmed that it was an arterial bleed, and Alexander’s quick reaction to stop the bleeding saved his life.

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

WWII vet surprised with 50,000 birthday cards

It feels like anything you get in your mailbox nowadays are bills, grocery store ads (wow, $3 raspberries. Thanks, Albertsons), and reminders from your dentist (I know I’m late for my cleaning Dr. Cruz, please stop guilting me). But a very special American hero received a whole lot more than that in his mailbox…


Sue Morse and Duane Sherman (96)

(Kevin Sullivan/The Orange County Register via AP)

Duane Sherman, a World War II veteran from California, recently had quite a big birthday surprise. His daughter, Sue Morse, posted on social media asking for letters to be sent to him for his 96th birthday. She expected maybe a hundred or so cards–but after her social media post went viral, they received over 50,000 hand mailed cards for Duane.

(Kevin Sullivan/The Orange County Register via AP)

Duane Sherman enlisted in the Navy following the attack on Pearl Harbor. He saw combat aboard the U.S.S. Lamson. He was struck by shrapnel from kamikaze pilots aboard the Lamson on December 7th, 1944–exactly 3 years after the Pearl Harbor attacks. The outpouring of support for the WWII veteran came from all walks of life: elementary school kids, prison inmates, Ohio State, and even the Pittsburgh Steelers. Letters were sent from all 50 states, and 10 different countries. The popular forum website “Reddit” reposted the request for letters–and it took the site by storm. Hundreds of thousands of users commented and shared the request, sending in their own handwritten love to the American vet.

Because Duane is legally blind, Sue has taken to reading the cards aloud to him. She’s read over a thousand letters and, according to Fox News, has enlisted the help of friends to complete the task.

In a world wrought with bad news, it’s refreshing to see such a massive gentle act of kindness affect so many people. Perhaps he will get 50,001 on his 97th birthday.

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Army soldier learns it takes two to earn coveted badge

“I walked over to the NCO of my starting lane for land navigation and I asked him, ‘Hey sergeant, do you want me to line up behind you?'” said DeMarsico as he recalled the first time he participated in Expert Field Medical Badge qualification testing. “He said, ‘I need your name and roster number.’ I did not think anything of it at the time so I went out and found all four of my points. When I came back he told me I was going to be an administrative ‘no-go’ for the lane because I spoke to him.”

Recently promoted U.S. Army Spc. Thomas DeMarsico, a combat medic assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division at Fort Polk, first attempted to earn the Expert Field Medical Badge at Fort Bliss, Texas. The 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division hosted the special qualification testing in September 2019.

“I attempted to rebut the decision with the board because AR 350-10 says you cannot talk to other candidates during land nav, not the cadre,” DeMarsico said. “The board denied my rebuttal. That was it; they just dropped me. I was super crushed after that. I decided at that moment I was done with EFMB and the Army.”


Similar to the expert infantry badge, the EFMB is not an easy badge to earn. Combat medics wanting to earn the coveted badge must be physically and mentally prepared to undergo rigorous testing after being recommended by their unit commanders.

Fort Polk’s 3rd BCT, 10th Mtn Div medics on temporary duty in the Fort Bliss area were invited to participate in EFMB qualification testing. When DeMarsico found out he had the opportunity to attend the testing he immediately volunteered.

Rohani adviser shares ‘Chernobyl’ love, awaits fallout

U.S. Army Pvt. 1st Class Thomas F. DeMarsico, a combat medic assigned to headquarters and headquarters company, 2nd Infantry Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Divsion at Fort Polk, Louisiana, poses with his new expert field medical badge in El Paso, Texas, Oct. 6, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Ashley Morris)

“I always take every opportunity that comes my way,” DeMarsico said. “I know that EFMB really sets you apart from your peers.”

EFMB candidates must successfully receive a “go” on all five sections of EFMB testing: The Army Physical Fitness Test, a written test, land navigation, combat testing lanes and a 12-mile forced march.

Candidates must receive a score of 80% or higher in each event of the APFT and be in compliance with Army height and weight standards. The only re-testable section is the written test in which candidates must successfully answer 60 out of 80 questions.

On the second day of testing soldiers must receive a “go” for both day and night land navigation. During the combat testing lanes medics must complete 43 tasks correctly: 10 tactical combat casualty care tasks, 10 evacuation tasks, 13 warrior skills tasks and five communication tasks.

After learning that his leadership tried to get him readmitted to the Fort Bliss qualification, DeMarsico realized that accepting defeat was not an option.

“I felt so much better knowing that they had my back,” Demarisco said. “They were willing to send us again so I was willing to try again.”

DeMarsico was afforded the opportunity to test again, this time at Fort Hood, Texas. DeMarsico, along with three other medics from 2nd Bn, 4th Inf Reg,were sent to Fort Hood to attend EFMB qualification hosted by 1st Medical Brigade. Standardization of the combat testing lanes began Sept. 23, 2019, with testing beginning Sept. 28, 2019, and ending with the forced march on Oct. 4, 2019.

One hundred and fifty-five soldiers started the event. DeMarsico was one of six medics that successfully earned the EFMB. He was the only junior enlisted to successfully complete the qualification.

DeMarsico attributed his success to lane standardization he received at Fort Bliss.

“We tried to train up for the Bliss EFMB but it was hard to tell exactly how the lanes would be run,” DeMarsico said. “After seeing the lanes at Bliss we knew how to study. I knew what I needed to work on. It helped me a lot.”

Although DeMarsico said he felt confident about the combat testing lanes, there was another area where he did not feel as confident. A self-proclaimed land navigation expert, DeMarsico admitted the night land navigation course was tough.

Rohani adviser shares ‘Chernobyl’ love, awaits fallout

U.S. Army Pvt. 1st Class Thomas F. DeMarsico, a combat medic assigned to headquarters and headquarters company, 2nd Infantry Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Divsion at Fort Polk, Louisiana, checks to make sure his compass is calibrated prior to the start of land navigation testing for the expert field medical badge on Fort Bliss, Texas, Sep. 6, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Ashley Morris)

The first time DeMarsico went through EFMB testing he was only able to complete day land navigation. With limited experience in navigating in the dark and a difference in terrain, DeMarsico was only able to find three out of the four points. Even though it was not a perfect score, it was enough for him to advance to the combat testing lanes. Out of the 155 that begin EFMB testing, only 19 medics passed land navigation testing.

During the final event of EFMB, nine soldiers started the forced march but only six finished within the required three hour time limit. DeMarsico came in first place. For most soldiers, coming in first during a timed 12-mile ruck march would feel like the crowning achievement. For DeMarsico, he felt frustration.

“My time was two hours and 56 seconds!” DeMarsico said. “Me and this major were in the lead the entire time, far ahead of everyone else. At the 11th mile marker point, the private giving directions told us to go down the wrong road. The major went a mile down that road with me trailing behind him. Luckily he had a GPS watch that told him he had hit 12 miles. He turned around, grabbed me and we went back to the 11-mile point. The private could not tell us the correct way to go. I walked into traffic and flagged down a car and asked him for directions to Cooper Field. The car drove slowly in front of us with the hazard lights and we followed him. Once I saw the finish line I sprinted to the end and came in first.”

Although he was unhappy with his finish time for the 12-mile ruck march, DeMarsico said he was thankful he was able to pass all five events of EFMB testing. He said becoming a part of the 3% of medics who earn the EFMB is just the beginning. He hopes to attend Airborne and Ranger schools in the near future. Ultimately he would like to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point and become a commissioned officer.

“West Point is my main goal,” DeMarsico said. “I want to become an officer. I feel like if I can earn my EFMB then nothing is impossible. I devote my spare time to achieving my professional goals so I am always looking for ways to improve myself.”

Hungry for more training, DeMarsico is preparing to attend the advanced combat life saver course on Fort Bliss.

“You have to want it,” said DeMarsico when asked if he had any advice for soldiers attending future EFMB testing. “Many of the people that I saw did not have the drive that is required to pass. You have to be physically and mentally prepared. The EFMB website has so much information to help you study so you have to develop a way that will help you memorize information the easiest.”

DeMarsico encourages all soldiers to keep trying no matter how many times they have to retest.

“I was proud to represent the brigade, 10th Mountain, 2-4 Infantry and my recon platoon,” DeMarsico said. “I showed that it is not impossible for a junior enlisted to have a shot an EFMB. It does not matter who you are; you can do it. At the end of the day it all comes down to how hard you are willing to fight for it.”

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

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