This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

A letter of appreciation feels like a wet dollar: It still has value but it does not do much – at first glance. When a Marine does something above and beyond but not to the point that they earned a medal it’s a gray area for some commanders. Officers in particular want to recognize their troops for their service but there are several politics at play when issuing awards. You can cross the no-man’s land between nothing and awards using letters of appreciation to close the gap.

How to get some

Letter of Appreciation. Any officer senior to a Marine whose performance is considered noteworthy or commendable beyond the usual requirements of duty may issue a Letter of Appreciation. Do not forward copies of Letters of Appreciation to CMC (MMMA) or to CMC (MMSB). A copy will not be entered into the Marine’s OMPF.

MCO 1650.19J

Attaining a letter of appreciation is easy on paper yet you must do something that is outside the norm. For young troops first entering the Fleet Marine Force, good luck on getting awarded anything before your first deployment. No one is going to give you a Navy Cross for taking charge of working parties. A sergeant, however, may take notice of your dedication to duty and run it up the chain of command to give you something.

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful
U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Roger B. Turner, commanding general, Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (MCAGCC), presents a letter of appreciation to Lance Cpl. Bradley Walsh, infantry instructor, Training and Education Command, at MCAGCC, Twentynine Palms, Calif., Aug 12, 2019. The Marines were presented the letters for their immediate response and timely medical evacuation report during a training accident at Range 410A. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Robin Lewis)

They’re the easiest award to pitch

The biggest mistake troops do when first meet their new platoon sergeant and platoon commander is not being upfront with what one wants out of the service. When they ask you ‘what motivates you?’ and you choose the generic, falsely altruistic response that doesn’t include awards that’s what you’re going to get – nothing. Months later you are in formation you will watch someone else get the recognition for what you’ve done a million times over. Its because you didn’t open your mouth.

One says that you do not want awards because that is the proper thing to say. Being a ribbon chaser, someone who pursues awards, is a perceived negative trait. However, you’re not chasing the enemy into an ambush so you can get the Medal of Honor, it’s an ‘atta ’boy’.

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful
Capt. Bradford Smith, Naval Medical Center San Diego’s (NMCSD) commanding officer, presents a letter of appreciation to Fireman Zachary Desko at the hospital July 23. Desko received the award from retired Rear Adm. William Roberts and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) for processing 41 badge requests and nearly 20 parking passes for USU medical students who reported to the hospital June 22. 

The next time you have a heart to heart with the first rung of your chain of command and they ask what motivates you, say ‘A letter of appreciation would be fine.’ They do not have to do too much paperwork, there isn’t a massive approval process, there is no investigation, its literally a letter saying that you did a good job. It takes less time to go to lunch. If your command won’t write two paragraphs thanking you for months of back breaking labor than it’s time to talk to your career planner and go somewhere else.

When you ask for so little, they may straight up give you the medal your deserve.

A side note: Although the order says a copy of the letter will not be put into your OMPF, it will annotated that you have received a letter of appreciation but not why. So, they’re still valuable.

Establishes a pattern of good conduct

Naval Support Activity Panama City Commanding Officer Cmdr. Kevin Christenson presented Ofc. Matthew Moskowitz, Security Department, with a letter of appreciation. Moskowitz’s quick action prevented the introduction of illegal and illicit contraband and the unlawful entry into a federal installation with a firearm. (U.S. Navy photo by Religious Program Specialist 3rd Class Onisha Simmons)

After every major field op, battalion movement, or deployment is the time when the top brass asks their officers if anyone within their command deserves an award for meritorious action. This is where those letters of appreciation come in handy. It is a negative quality for an officer to continuously give LOAs. Enlisted troops also judge their officers when they continuously give LOAs than an actual awards.

Officers high up the food chain will see you name time and again and recommend a higher award. For example, the battalion commander informed his officers that they can issue ‘X’ amount of ‘Y’ awards pertaining to the deployment in Afghanistan. Where ‘Y’ is the various kinds of individual awards they’re willing to approve. A troop with seven LOAs deserves a Meritorious Mast, surely. A troop with two or three Meritorious Masts should be only earning medals past this point. The administrative element of the military has evolved into a bureaucratic machine, a necessary evil to keep the gears of war lubricated. It may be a wet dollar but you can still buy things with it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

A soldier compared coronavirus quarantine to prison, Pentagon vows to ‘do better’

Defense Secretary Mark Esper is pledging to improve the way troops are treated while in coronavirus quarantine after a soldier in Texas reportedly called the situation “the most dysfunctional Army operation I’ve ever seen.”


A soldier, referred to by the pseudonym Henry Chinaski by The Daily Beast, told the outlet he has been stuck in a 15-by-15 foot room with three other troops at Fort Bliss since Sunday. The service members just returned from Afghanistan and have been ordered to remain quarantined for two weeks in case they caught the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, while deployed or returning to the States.

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

The group gets two meals a day and a couple bottles of water, The Daily Beast reported Tuesday. The soldier, who has served for 17 years, texted reporters with the outlet about their experience. He said they’ve gotten no information about what they’re supposed to be doing while they wait.

“Prisoners receive better care and conditions than that which we are experiencing at Fort Bliss,” the soldier told The Daily Beast. “The Army was not prepared, nor equipped to deal with this quarantine instruction and it has been implemented very poorly.”

The situation now has Esper’s attention, a Pentagon spokesman told reporters Wednesday.

“His response is, ‘We can do better, and we need to do better,'” Jonathan Hoffman said. “I know that the commander at Fort Bliss is aware; he has been in contact. My understanding is that he met with all the soldiers who are quarantined and talked through some of their concerns.”

The soldier at Fort Bliss told The Daily Beast his exercise has been limited to push-ups, sit-ups and lunges in the room. On Tuesday, the service members got 20 minutes of yard time, according to the report.

The military is now looking at allowing troops stuck in holding patterns before they’re considered to be virus-free more time outside, Hoffman said, and visits to base exchanges, where they can purchase toiletries and other items.

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

“[We’re] also looking at other bases that are doing quarantines,” Hoffman said. “We’re checking to see how they’re holding up and doing this, as well. We can do better.”

As of Wednesday morning, 49 U.S. troops had tested positive for COVID-19. Another 14 Defense Department civilians, 19 dependents and seven contractors also have the virus.

Hoffman said every base commander is looking at how the military should handle quarantine situations as a result of The Daily Beast’s story.

“This is something that’s unusual for all these bases to be handling, and they’re doing the best they can,” he said. “… [But] we owe it to them, and we’re going to look into it and try to do better.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Syracuse University just changed military education forever

For years, there was one benefit the Air Force had over all branches of the military, the one thing you could only get by crossing into the blue: an associate’s degree from the Community College of the Air Force, a two-year, accredited degree program that integrates all your military training with the addition of just a few general courses. You couldn’t get it with the Army or Navy.

Now, members of any branch can start a similar program to earn a degree from Syracuse University – for free.


In an age of skyrocketing tuition that has Presidential candidates debating if colleges and universities have gone too far, Syracuse University is opening its doors to more and more people, especially America’s active duty troops, reservists, National Guard members, and veterans.

With part-time learners like U.S. military members in mind, the school has created a way for the entire armed forces to go Orange. Syracuse University has aligned the part-time tuition rates it charges active duty members enrolled in online classes to match the Department of Defense Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) reimbursement. This means no matter where they’re stationed, if they want a degree from a top-tier four-year university, they can have it without ever touching GI Bill benefits.

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

The move is part of Syracuse University’s and Chancellor Kent Syverud’s dedication to the U.S. military, its veterans, and their families. Since Syverud took his post in 2014, his administration has taken enormous steps to further serve veteran students and their families. The number of military-connected students at the university has skyrocketed more than 500 percent in five years. The school even employs veteran admissions advisors who help military members transition from the service to student life, assisting with GI Bill and other Veterans Affairs processes. Syracuse even has a number of special programs dedicated to veteran student successes – including veteran-only offices, study areas, advisors, immersion programs, and even legal clinics.

It’s no wonder Military Times voted Syracuse the number one private school for veterans.

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

Syracuse University’s 2019 Veterans Commencement Graduates.

Syracuse has a long history of supporting American veterans. While the school recently established the interdisciplinary Institute for Veterans and Military Families, an on-campus non-profit that works to advance veterans’ post-military lives nationwide (not just at Syracuse), the school’s commitment to vets dates back to the end of World War II, when the school guaranteed admission for all veterans. Its university college for part-time students was initially created for veterans who couldn’t study full-time. Since then, the school has specially trained thousands of the Pentagon’s officers, photojournalists, and other disciplines in the military. Syracuse even allowed Marines deployed to the 1991 Gulf War to continue their studies independently.

Their work continues, with partnerships to train entrepreneurial military spouses backed by Google, conducting studies to tackle veteran unemployment and homelessness, and even testifying before the Senate Veteran Affairs Committee, no one is more dedicated to the post-military success of American veterans. If you’re looking for a powerful, positive community of veterans to join when leaving the military, look no further.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These are the 7 uniformed services of the United States

The seeds of America’s sixth branch of the military were sown yesterday, for better or for worse, as President Trump’s creation of the Space Force elicited many different responses. Those responses ranged anywhere between confusion and surprise. The Russians understandably expressed alarm at the idea of a U.S. military presence in space, whereas civilians in the United States were slightly confused – isn’t there an agency that already does what a Space Force would do?

The answer is yes and no – but that’s a post for another time.

Many currently serving in the military or part of the veteran community felt equal parts excitement and curiosity about the Space Force’s way forward. After all, it’s something that was kicked around for months before any official announcement, which prompted ideas from current servicemembers about uniforms, rank names, and whether there would be a Space Shuttle Door Gunner.

Mulling over the organizational culture of a service that doesn’t exist yet is a good time to remind everyone the U.S. has a number of uniformed services that are oft-overlooked.


This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

The U.S. Military has a great reputation among veterans.

1-5. The military branches

Since the Space Force exists only in our hearts and minds and not yet in uniforms, the existing five branches of the military make up the first five notches on this list. If you’re reading We Are The Mighty (or… if you’ve heard of things like “history”), you’ve probably heard of the Armed Forces of the United States: U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Air Force.

With the exception of the Coast Guard, which is directed by the Department of Homeland Security during times of peace, the big four are directed by the U.S. Department of Defense. For more information about the history, culture, and people in these branches, check out literally any page on this website.

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

Vice Admiral Jerome Adams, Surgeon General of the United States.

6. United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps

This uniformed division of the Public Health Service creates the beautiful utopia of a branch that doesn’t have enlisted people. Because it doesn’t. It consists only of commissioned officers and has zero enlisted ranks – but they do have warrant officers. While the PHS are labeled noncombatants, they can be lent to the Armed Services and they wear Navy or Coast Guard uniforms and hold Navy or Coast Guard ranks.

The Public Health Service has its own set of awards and decorations, a marching song, ready reserve, and probably deploys more than most of the Air Force. Its mission is to deliver public health and disease prevention expertise at home and abroad as well as to disaster areas and areas affected by U.S. military operations. Members of the Commissioned Corps enjoy (for the most part) the same veterans benefits as those who served in the Armed Forces.

The U.S. PHS falls under the Department of Health and Human Services and its top officer is the Surgeon General, which is why they’re always wearing a uniform.

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

NOAA Corps pilots. Considering risk vs. reward, you 100 percent joined the wrong branch.

7. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps

Or simply called the “NOAA Corps,” as it falls under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The NOAA Corps also has no enlisted or warrant ranks and is comprised entirely of commissioned officers. It is also the smallest of all the uniformed services, with just 321 officers, 16 ships, and 10 aircraft, compared to the PHSCC’s 6,000 officers.

They serve alongside DoD, Merchant Marine, NASA, State Department, and other official agencies to support defense requirements and offer expertise on anything from meteorology to geology to oceanography and much, much more. The Corps is a rapid response force, shuttling experts where they need to be in quick succession while supporting peacetime research. They can be incorporated into the Armed Forces during times of war, and so wear Navy and Coast Guard uniforms and rank, by order of the President of the United States.

The NOAA Corps also gets VA benefits similar to those of the Armed Forces of the United States, including access to the Blended Retirement System, health and dental benefits, and access to the Exchange and Commissary system.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 5 most and least patriotic states in America

No state is more patriotic than New Hampshire, with its early voting primary and “Live Free or Die” attitude. At least, that’s what a new WalletHub study on the most patriotic states in America says.

The ranking is not based on the sheer firepower of any state or city’s July 4th celebrations, sadly.

Because in that case, San Diego 2012 had the most patriotism of ALL TIME.


San Diego Fireworks 2012, LOUD and up close

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The data-crunching personal finance site took data points from all 50 states, using what it calls “13 key indicators of patriotism.” The indicators include military-related markers, like average number of enlistees, veteran population, active-duty population and reservists. Those make up the “military engagement” part of the calculation

The site also included other forms of patriotism, like voting, volunteering, civic participation and the emphasis schools put on civic education. These factors (and others) make up the “civic engagement” part of WalletHub’s calculation.

Without further ado, here are America’s most and least patriotic states.

The Most Patriotic

1. New Hampshire

We talked about this. The granite state is as hard-core patriotic as they come. True to the foundations of the United States, New Hampshire once threatened to secede from the Union in protest of what it saw as the federal government’s overreach in taxation and personal freedoms. In 2016.

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

U.S. Army artillerymen conduct a sling-load operation during Operation Granite Viper at the Udairi Range Complex in Kuwait, Sept. 9, 2015. The artillerymen are assigned to the New Hampshire National Guard. (U.S. Army/1st Lt. Benjamin Moreau)

2. Wyoming

If it seems like the least populous states tend to be at the top of the “most patriotic” list, you aren’t wrong. As of January 2020, Wyoming was No. 50 in terms of population in America, but still produced the ninth most troops as a percentage of population — and the fifth most veterans.

3. Idaho

The 39th most populous state is the third most patriotic, according to WalletHub. No small potatoes.

4. Alaska

The home of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, along with dozens of separate units from the Army, Air Force and Coast Guard, Alaska boasts thousands of military personnel. It also boasts the most military veterans per capita and the second most number of military enlistees. The Great North also invites veterans to come get a share of oil profits.

5. Maryland

Maryland, home of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, is the fifth most patriotic state on the list. Unlike some of the other states at the top of the list, Maryland is full of people, the 19th most populous state in the Union. It also produces the fifth most Peace Corps volunteers.

The Least Patriotic

To name the states that are “least patriotic” isn’t to say that they aren’t patriotic at all or that the people who live there don’t love their country. It simply means that they aren’t as active in the 13 areas WalletHub measured as a barometer of patriotism.

46. West Virginia

West Virginia sits atop the bell curve when it comes to military engagement but is close to the very bottom when it comes to voting in presidential elections. Maybe the mountains have something to do with it!

47. Texas

Don’t @ me, Texas. I didn’t come up with this study or its metrics. But while Texas sits at No. 11 for its military engagement (because of course it does, it’s Texas), its weighted civic engagement rating is all the way down at No. 49. If Troy Aikman told you to go vote, would you do it?

48. California

Despite being home to the U.S. Navy’s base in San Diego, the Marine Corps‘ base at Camp Pendleton, and a slew of other military bases, the sheer number of people in California makes it difficult for the state to rise to the top of the list of veterans per capita. The Golden State also has one of lowest numbers of volunteers per capita.

Maybe if we put a drug legalization referendum on the ballot, California’s voter participation will skyrocket.

49. New York

The Empire State has the fewest veterans per capita, which is hardly surprising, given how many people are in New York — and New York City, especially. The state also ranks below California on the volunteerism spectrum. It seems unfair to the rest of New York State, to be weighed down by the City, but the home of the 10th Mountain Division sits solidly at No. 49.

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

Statues aren’t part of the ranking. (The White House)

50. New Jersey

The state that saw George Washington cross the Delaware to MDK German mercenaries in their sleep on Christmas is now one of the states with the fewest veterans per capita, as the 11th most populous state. It’s also sitting at the bottom of the “military engagement” spectrum and somewhere near the bottom of the “civic engagement” spectrum.

Find out where your home state sits on the list of most patriotic states by visiting WalletHub and learning how it came up with the rankings. Once more, before I hand out my email address and Twitter handle, I’m not calling your home state “unpatriotic.” I’m just the messenger, reminding you to go vote.

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


MIGHTY CULTURE

Everything you need to know about today’s National POW/MIA day

Established in 1979 through a proclamation signed by President Jimmy Carter, National POW/MIA Recognition Day is an annual event held on the third Friday of September. This event is usually held at the Pentagon and is often observed at military installations around the country.

Generally somber events, the observances at installations around the country mark the fact that the American military does not forget about our Prisoners of War or those Missing in Action. Here’s everything you need to know about this important day.


The first POW/MIA Recognition Day included a ceremony held at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. The 1st Tactical Squadron from Langley Air Force Base flew the Missing Man formation.

The Missing Man Formation

This formation is an aerial salute performed as part of a fly-past of aircraft at funerals and memorial events. There are several variations of this formation, but the most common is based on the “finger-four” aircraft combat formation, which includes two pairs of aircraft.

Aircraft fly in a V-shape with the flight leader at a point and his wingman on his left. The second set of aircraft replicates the shape, with a wingman on the right. The formation flies over the event low enough to be seen. Once seen, their airman leading the second set pulls out of formation, and the remaining three aircraft continue in level flight until all are out of sight.

You Are Not Forgotten

This is the central phrase belonging to all POW/MIA remembrances to remind family members that America still concerns itself with those who are missing in action or who are suffering as prisoners of war.

POW/MIA Recognition Day aims to ensure that every American remembers to support those who serve in the military and risk their lives for our freedoms.

POW/MIA by the numbers

A Congressional research service report on POWs showed that 37 service members had been imprisoned during conflicts since 1991. This includes both Gulf Wars. At the time of writing, none of the POWs are still in captivity. However, during WWII, 130,201 service members were captured and imprisoned, and 14,072 died.

During the Korean War, 7,140 service members were imprisoned; 2,701 of them died. Of the 725 service members imprisoned during the Vietnam War, 64 died.

Of all the service personnel who participated in these wars, there are still 83,114 missing Americans. This includes six from conflicts from 1991, 126 from the Cold War, 1,626 from the Vietnam War, 7,841 from the Korean War, and approximately 73,515 from WWII.

Roughly 75 percent of all missing American personnel are thought to be somewhere in the Asia-Pacific region. More than 41,000 have been presumed lost at sea.

There’s a little bit of hope 

Efforts to find these service members, identify them correctly and bring them home are constant. In 2019, 41 MIA service members from the Korean War were accounted for, and of them, ten were previously buried as unknowns. Remains turned over by North Korean authorities helped identify 26, one was a recovery operation and four were combinations of recovery operations and the return of remains.

Fly the POW/MIA Flag

WWII pilot Newt Heisley designed the very famous POW/MIA flag, which features a black background and white lettering. The black and white color scheme was selected by Heisley to represent the sorrow and anxiety that accompanies POW and MIA service members. The hope that we all must have is represented by the image of a gaunt man featured on the flag.

Since 1982, for every POW/MIA Recognition Day, the flag has flown just below the National Colors at the White House, and it’s the only flag ever to do so. The flag is also flown on Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day.

Flying a flag at home helps remind us never to forget our POWs and those missing in action. No matter if you fly the colors or choose to wear a bracelet or piece of clothing to show your support, it’s important to remember the sacrifices that POWs and MIAs have made for our country and how we have to live up to our end of the bargain to help them make it back home.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What happens when a massive pop star goes to boot camp?

Imagine a world where 18-year-old music sensation Billie Eilish, fresh off her six Grammy wins in February, had to report to boot camp at Fort Benning, Georgia, in March. How would the Army handle the media glare, and how would her fellow recruits react?

That’s the situation in Israel right now. Noa Kirel has been famous since age 14 for her YouTube videos that led to stardom on reality television, teen dramas and TV commercials. She recently signed a multimillion-dollar recording contract with Atlantic Records.


The Washington Post reports that Kirel, now 19, has been drafted into the Israeli Army to fulfill her required service under the country’s mandatory conscription law. Noa will serve at least two years before she can return to her career full time.

Some of our readers are old enough to remember Elvis Presley’s Army service 60 years ago. A lot has changed since then, and the Army didn’t have to deal with a pack of paparazzi and a bottomless appetite for gossip on social media at that time.

Things in Israel have not gotten off to a great start. Kirel pissed off the brass by making a commercial for Israeli streaming service Yes+ that has her playacting in American fatigues in a fake boot camp. She’s singing “Let the Sunshine In” from “Hair,” a show that even Israelis remember for its anti-war sentiments.

נועה קירל פרסומת ל YES+ | כוריאוגרפיה טל הנדלסמן

www.youtube.com

“Wonder Woman” actress Gal Gadot also did her Israeli military service, but she had yet to launch her acting career at that point. Still, she was already famous as the winner of the Miss Israel pageant, but local media insist that Kirel’s current fame dwarfs Gadot’s at that time.

Kirel may be causing chaos, but she chose to fulfill her obligation even though she could have opted out because she’s got only one kidney. Her commitment to serve no matter what counts for a lot in Israeli society.

“I felt that, because I was famous, I had to serve to set an example to others,” Kirel said. “I know people abroad will probably not understand this, not understand why I have put everything on hold, but it was clear to me that I had to do this.”

Kirel represents the first wave of a new problem facing the Israeli military. The modern definition of fame is changing, and there are dozens of Israeli youths becoming popular solely through their social media profiles on YouTube, Instagram and TikTok.

Making an exception for one big star might be a challenge that the Israeli Army is prepared to meet, but what happens when you’ve got a whole platoon of teenage celebrities reporting to boot camp?

That’s not a problem we’re likely to face anytime soon. It’s not likely the USA will have compulsory national service in the near future. We can’t even convince people to wear a mask over here.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 reasons why you should never trust the barracks lawyer

So, you messed up. That sucks. It’s time to absorb whatever punishment your command team is about to drop on you like an adult and carry on with your career. “But wait,” you hear from the corner of the smoke pit, “according to the regulations, you can’t get in trouble for that thing you did!”

We’ve all seen this happen. That one troop — the one who thinks they know how to help you — is what we call a “barracks lawyer.” They’re not actual legal representation and they don’t have any formal training. More often than not, this troop catches wind of some “loophole” via the Private News Network or Lance Corporal Underground and they take this newfound fact as gospel.

For whatever reason, people routinely make the mistake of believing these idiots and the nonsense that spews from their mouths. Here’s just a brief look at why you shouldn’t take their advice:


This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

Think about it for more than half a second. If everyone knew all the stupid loopholes, there wouldn’t be a court martial system.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kathleen Polanco)

They think they found a loophole… They didn’t.

The actual rules and regulations have been finely tuned over the course of two hundred years. It’s very unlikely that some random troop just happened to be the only one to figure out some loophole. And, realistically, that’s not how the rules work. There’s a little thing known as “commander’s discretion” that supersedes all.

If the commander says it, it will be so. It doesn’t matter how a given rule is worded.

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

What they’re suggesting isn’t real. Want to know what is? Troops breaking big rocks into smaller rocks in military prison.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jessica Collins)

What they’re suggesting is often insubordination.

Advice that these pseudo-lawyers offer often involves a line that often starts with, “you don’t have to follow that, because…” Here’s the thing: Unless a superior is asking you to do something that’s profoundly unsafe or illegal, you have to do it. That’s not just your immediate supervisor — that’s all superiors.

The advice that they’re offering is a textbook definition of insubordination. Disregarding an order comes with a whole slew of other legal problems down the time.

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

If they’re on in the first sergeant’s office after every major three-day weekend, they’re probably full of sh*t.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret)

They’re usually not the best troops in the formation

If they do know what they’re talking about, it’s for good reason. They probably got in trouble once, talked their way out of that trouble, and got let off the hook because the command stopped caring to argue.

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

It’s not like there’s an entire MOS field dedicated to solving such issues… oh… wait…

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jarad A. Denton)

They don’t know what the f*ck they’re talking about

There are 134 articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice out there and countless other rules and regulations that pop up from time to time. There’s no way in Hell that some private in the barracks has spent the time required to study each and every one of them and how they interact with each other.

If they have, by some miracle of time management, spent the effort required to learn all of this, then why the hell have they been squandering their profound talents in your unit rather than going over to JAG? Which leads us perfectly into…

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

If you live with a lower enlisted troop who’s in JAG, they’re still a barracks lawyer if their head is firmly up their own ass about how they can help you. Catch them on the clock.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Mark R. W. Orders-Woempner)

There are actual military lawyers who will advocate for you.

They exist and aren’t that uncommon. They’re often found at the brigade-level or installation-level. It’s their job to take on your case and see how the military judicial system could work for you. Unlike your buddy in the barracks, these lawyers have spent years in military (and often civilian) legal training.

Don’t waste your time placating the barracks lawyer. Actual military lawyers in JAG will take care of you.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 surprising facts grunts do not know about the infantry

Infantrymen know everything. They know Marine Corps Orders, loopholes, when the trucks are coming, the secret to the Aztec Calendar, and where the military keeps the aliens. They know it all except for these six surprising facts grunts do not know about the infantry until now.

Monthly counseling carries no weight

Every Marine gets what is called a Training Jacket. It is a folder that contains print outs of information stored on your Marine Online profile. It is a reference of where you are administratively in your career: awards, courses, PFTs, CFTs, etcetera. This folder is stored in the company office and isn’t taken out of the dusty locker until one attends a specialty school, moves to a new unit, or a change of command.

Among those documents is a section for monthly counseling. They provide feedback between yourself and the next level up on the chain of command. For a young lance corporal it may be another lance corporal with the billet of team leader. Sometimes teams leaders and the teams they lead do not see eye to eye. You are not required to sign a negative counseling and you may refuse it.

When a troop changes from one command to another, one section to another, those counseling documents become null and void – because they’re no longer part of your chain of command. Your new leadership may be curious to read them before destroying them. Simply rip those out when you have a change in leadership for a fresh start. That won’t work for Non Judicial Punishments, however, those are permanent.

You did sign up to pick trash

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful
U.S. Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, pick up trash during the monthly Single Marine Program base cleanup on Camp Lejeune, N.C., Feb. 28, 2019. The Marines volunteered their time to create a cleaner environment for service members and their families. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Samuel Lyden)

As mentioned earlier, Marine Online (MOL) is the source where you can access most information about your career. Within the labyrinth of menus contained there is a section where you can view your enlistment contract. For Operation Security reasons, I will not publicly say where but there is a finite number of places where it can be. Think.

I remember once I was complaining about police calling, picking up trash, as a young private. That I did not sign up for this and the usual belly aching of a devil pup. My squad leader overheard me and instead of an a** chewing we pulled up my MOL. He scrolled and clicked and BAM! There it is, my contract, my initials, and next to it ‘police call’. Yes, without exaggeration we signed up to pick up trash too.

You pay for housing and MREs

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful
U.S. Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 31 hand out military rations to a group of refugees during a simulated humanitarian aid and disaster relief exercise at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan, July 13, 2016. CLB-31, the logistics element of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, took part in the HADR training to refine their ability to respond to humanitarian crises across the Asia-Pacific Region. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jorge A. Rosales/Released)

If you look at your Leave and Earnings statement you will see that housing is taken out of your check. When you go on field ops your meal card number is used and those meals are charged that way. For married troops who do not rate a meal card, your MREs are reduced from your pay. Troops pay for their uniforms and medals too, this should not come a surprise but it is.

Your name tapes do not require your full name

My last name is 13 letters long and so was my lieutenant’s. We’re both of latino descent and have two last names. The Marine Corps smushed them together, as is tradition. You can pick to have your first last name be the one displayed on your name tapes.

I was once at the operations office when a former gunnery sergeant of mine needed my signature for his checkout. After a moment he said I was out of regs and pointed to my name tape that read Cano. ‘Lieutenant A************ does not have A************* on his name tape. Only A***, I am within regs.’ He did not know what to say except ‘ok’. I signed his check out sheet and he was on his way.

You do not have to use issued gear

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful
Marine Officer Candidates attending Officer Candidate Class-220 are issued military gear and equipment at Brown Field Supply aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Jan. 19, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl Patrick H. Ownes/Released)

There is only one thief in the Marine Corps, everyone else is trying to get their stuff back. Well let me tell you, F*** that guy. As long as gear serves the same functions and is tactical you can use it during field ops. No one can mistake your gear as theirs, its easily identifiable if someone “accidently” takes it. When you check out of supply you will not have to run around base buying expensive lost items before you EAS. According to MCO 4400.201-V1, you are accountable for the gear but it does not state you must use it. When everyone else is freezing their butts off using issued sleeping bags you can sleep like a baby in your climate rated personal gear. Unless there is a standard operating procedure for uniformity, you’re in the clear.

You can do your annual training classes anytime of the year

You can do your cyber security, sexual assault prevention training, and other annual training any time of the year. The deadline is at the fiscal or calendar year depending on the training required. A battalion can have a certain percentage of the troops have their training in the red to prioritize mission critical training. This is when, pre-covid, thousands of troops would be packed together for their annual death by powerpoint presentations. You can get out of those if you do your annual training on an individual level. So, when everyone is suffering, you can play xbox in your room and get paid for it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Being productive: 10 things you’ve been putting off doing but shouldn’t

You’re stuck at home. You’ve watched everything interesting on Netflix, and it’s only been a week. It might be time to do some of those projects you always knew you should but have been putting off… and off… and off… If you can accomplish all of these, you’ll come out of this time of lockdown with a much more organized life and a clearer head.


This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

1. Get your documents in order

Put all of your family’s essential documents in one place. This includes marriage licenses, birth certificates, passports, social security cards, medical files, car titles, a copy of your LES and orders, the deed to your house and insurance documents. Do you have a will? If not, now is a good time to do one, either online or virtually with a lawyer. Make sure you have all the insurance you need – not just auto and health insurance, but pet insurance, disability insurance, cell phone insurance, and flood insurance. Also insure your wedding and engagement rings. These are the ones people typically overlook.

2. Photograph your house

Take a photo of everything in your house for insurance purposes. Make sure you have a photo of each room, and all of your valuables. If you have a prized book collection, photograph the titles – you’ll want to remember what they all are if you have to replace them. Keep the photos on the cloud and on a USB that you keep in your safe.

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

3. Clean your car

Now is the perfect time to clean your car! Like, really clean it. Take everything out – all the car seats, trash, reusable shopping bags, first aid kit, etc. Wipe down everything with a leather or car cleaner. Vacuum everything – get into the nooks and crannies. Clean the inside of the glass and all the crevices of the vents. Then tackle the outside of the car. Get a full tank of gas. You’ll feel SO much better.

4. Go over your finances

First, if you don’t have a budget, make one. It’s especially important now to stick to one and to know what you’re spending (and not spending). If you’re married, do this as a couple. Next, go over all of your bank accounts and make sure both you and your spouse know how to access all funds and what the passwords are (so military spouses don’t know the passwords to pay their bills until a deployment happens). Go over all of your investment accounts. If you have kids, consider setting up a 529 for them. If you haven’t yet, set up an IRA or Roth IRA. Put contributions on auto-debit if you tend to forget. Another tip to consider is splitting your savings accounts into different accounts. For example, have one for “vacation,” one for “auto tax (which usually is billed all at once every year), one for “utilities” or any quarterly bills, one for “auto maintenance fund,” etc. This will make it easier to see what you have in each.

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

5. Get rid of stuff

Go through every room and every closet and see what you have that you can either sell online, donate or save for a garage sale this summer (hopefully we’ll be able to have these this summer). This will help free up some extra cash if you need it, and it will also help you see what you have and what you don’t use. You’ll be surprised what you find. Commit to doing one room of the house each week.

6. Home improvement projects

Now is the perfect time to tackle those home improvement projects you’ve always wanted to do. Change out the hardware in your doors and outlets – it will make a big difference. Paint. Change out light fixtures. Replace your faucet or backsplash. Paint your front door. These are simple fixes that have big impact.

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

7. Make a list of grocery staples and meals

Write down all of the things you regularly buy at the grocery store – this will make your life so much easier when you’re shopping. Identify a place in your fridge or pantry for each of these items and always put them there; that way, you can see when you’re out. Also, put together a list of five to ten meals and recipes your make regularly. That’s the first step to meal planning, which is the first step to a much more organized dinner life.

8. Back up your files

Make sure all of your computer files are backed up. Clean out any unnecessary computer programs. Print out your favorite photos and put them in an album too, which will give you extra security.

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

9. Zero-out your inbox

This may be the most difficult, but it’s so important for your productivity. If you have thousands of emails (too many to sort through), I recommend creating a folder called “Emails until January 2020” and putting them all in there. Then create either work folders or folders for your person emails like “Online orders,” “Kids school,” “House,” “Military,” etc. Go through the last several months and start a new system of filing everything away (or deleting it) once you read it.

10. Talk about your future

Talk about your goals for the future with your spouse, or, if youre single, journal about them. Where do you see yourself in five years? In twenty? What is the one thing you’ve always wanted to do? What is that trip you always wanted to take? If you identify what’s important to you now, you can do the steps necessary to get there.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

VA wants to know if your alcohol habits are healthy

A new study finds that consuming alcoholic beverages daily — even at low levels that meet U.S. guidelines for safe drinking — appears to be “detrimental” to health.

The researchers found that downing one to two drinks at least four days per week was linked to a 20 percent increase in the risk of premature death, compared with drinking three times a week or less. The finding was consistent across the group of more than 400,000 people studied. They ranged in age from 18 to 85, and many were veterans.


Dr. Sarah Hartz, a psychiatrist at the VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System, led the study. It appeared in November 2018 in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical Experimental Research. She’s not too surprised by the findings, noting that two large international studies published this year reached similar conclusions.

“There has been mounting evidence that finds light drinking isn’t good for your health,” says Hartz, who is also an assistant professor at Washington University in St. Louis.

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

(Photo by Alan Levine)

Study considered a range of demographic factors

The study results don’t necessarily prove cause and effect. People who tend to drink more may indeed end up having shorter lives — but not necessarily because of more alcohol consumption. It could be, for example, that those people have harder lives all around, with more stress, which takes a toll on health and longevity. But the researchers did control for a range of demographic factors and health diagnoses to try to tease out the direct effects of alcohol.

Another limitation of the study is that it relied on in-person self-reports of alcohol use. Researchers believe this method may lead to under-reporting, compared with anonymous surveys.

But relative to some past studies that found health benefits from light-to-moderate drinking, the new study looked at a much larger population. This allowed Hartz’s team to better distinguish between groups of drinkers, in terms of quantity and frequency of alcohol consumption.

“We’re seeing things that we didn’t before because we have access to such large data sets,” she says. “In the past, we couldn’t distinguish between these drinking amounts. The larger the data set, the more statistical power you have and the easier it is to make conclusions.”

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

(Photo by Heather Hammond)

94,000 VA outpatient records part of study

The researchers reviewed two data sets of self-reported alcohol use and mortality follow-up. One set included more than 340,000 people from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). The other contained nearly 94,000 VA outpatient medical records. Health and survival were tracked between seven and 10 years.

According to the findings, people who drank four or more times a week, even when limiting it to only a drink or two, had about a 20 percent greater risk of dying during the study period.

As part of the study, Hartz and her team specifically evaluated deaths due to heart disease and cancer. For heart disease, they found a benefit to drinking, specifically that one to two drinks per day about four days a week seemed to protect against death from heart disease. But drinking every day eliminated those benefits. In terms of death from cancer, any drinking was “detrimental,” she says.

Current CDC guidelines call for alcohol to be used “in moderation — up to two drinks a day for men and up to one drink a day for women.” The guidelines don’t recommend that people who do not drink should start doing so for any reason.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

There’s a hidden language in how you stamp an envelope

Ever notice how some envelopes arrive to your deployed friends with the stamp upside down? Probably not, but oftentimes you’ll see it. Sometimes they’re also tilted at an angle. This is not an accident, it’s an antiquated but still-living little language in the placement of a stamp.


This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

There’s no better way to tell someone in jail you love them.

An upside-down stamp means “I love you.” The stamp posted slightly off-kilter means “I miss you.” There’s a lot more crammed into the placement of one little square on a slightly larger square. It’s an old-timey easter egg, a way to make the letter more than a piece of paper, to personalize it and make even the envelope ones own, transmitting a little emotion along with their ancient text message.

The coded messages are more than a century old now, having their origins in the Victorian Era and have somehow survived the advent of modern texting, email, and other forms of communication that don’t require stamps.

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

Of course, there are variations to the language.

“Another military wife told me that her grandmother used to flip her stamps when writing her husband, who was deployed overseas,” Janie Bielefeldt, an ex-marine living in Jacksonville, N.C. told the New York Times. “It’s just something you hear about on the base.”

In those days, young lovers couldn’t exactly be as open with their emotions as we have come to be. The idea of sending nudes or a dick pic might actually cause someone to get hanged or burned at the stake back then. Of course, not so these days, where an entire subculture grew up around sending racy photos. For U.S. military members and their families, however, the practice of writing letters is alive and well, and with it is the language of stamps.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marine veteran combats PTSD symptoms by serving others

Following World War I, many troops were rapidly diagnosed with “shell shock.” World War II brought the new label of “combat stress reaction.” Today, it’s known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD – which is diagnosed when negative symptoms arise after experiencing a traumatic event. Marine veteran John Welch doesn’t shy away from sharing his own diagnosis of PTSD caused by combat. In fact, he thinks it’s vital that it is talked about, because that’s the only way veterans will begin to heal.


Welch followed his father and brothers into the Marines. He always knew he’d become one himself because it was ingrained into him his whole life. Although he doesn’t regret a moment of his service to this country, he’s uncomfortable with talking about it. For a long time, being a Marine was all that he had and it wasn’t enough.

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

He knows the dark and deeply-rooted impacts of PTSD intimately because he lived in that space for a long time after leaving the Marine Corps. Welch said that he slowly came back to life after receiving his service dog, Onyx, four years ago. “She took me out of the darkness and brought me back into the world,” he shared. Once Welch was on his own path of healing, he wanted to find ways to help other veterans make it there too.

He started with reclaimed wood.

Welch feels like he was probably always artistic, but that by working through his trauma by using things like art, he flourished. Since then, he has spent years building and creating custom wooden American flags for veterans. He doesn’t charge for them or take requests but instead waits to be led to the person who needs one the most. At this point, he has made hundreds.

“Yeah, I have PTSD. But there is a way out. That way out is to do for others,” Welch said candidly. He believes serving others saved him. Welch uses his flag art to work through his own trauma and give back, but he is also a peer liaison volunteer at his local VA. There, he works closely with other veterans suffering from the debilitating effects of PTSD. He was feeling content. But there was more waiting for him.

While shopping at his local Christmas tree store, he ran into a friend. After talking a while, he suggested that Welch join Team Rubicon, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that serves communities by mobilizing veterans to continue their service and leverages their skills and experience to help people prepare, respond and recover from disaster and humanitarian crisis. The friend wouldn’t give him details and instead pushed him to look it up. After he learned TR’s mission, he realized it was a way he could continue to further his service, and joined immediately, spending almost his first year deployed on Team Rubicon operations.

“Team Rubicon gave me the ability to serve others,” Welch said. “I lost that sense of service when I left the military. When I joined Team Rubicon, it gave me that back.” Welch has now been a volunteer with Team Rubicon since 2018 and has gone on several deployments with them. Currently, he’s entering his tenth straight week serving in the COVID-19 response team for New York.

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

There’s nowhere he’d rather be than beside his fellow “Greyshirt” teammates helping people in need. “Team Rubicon has been instrumental in getting me better,” he shared. When the newest Team Rubicon volunteers didn’t receive their coveted grey shirts in time, Welch jumped in immediately and handcrafted wood plaques for them to welcome them to the team.

Welch shared that at one time he was deemed “broken.” He discovered that by serving others, he was made whole again. “When you look back at your life, you should ask, ‘Did I make a difference in the world?'” he said. Although he knows most people cannot give the amount of time that he does to service, he hopes that those who hear his story see the importance of giving back.

While Welch quite literally spends almost his entire day in service of some kind, he’s never been happier. It saved him. He’s hoping it’ll save others too.

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