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.

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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

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful
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

This classified American special ops unit has been recruiting females for decades

With the Pentagon making strides to include women in combat arms roles, you might actually be surprised to hear that the Army’s top counterterrorism force has included female operatives for nearly 30 years.


That’s right, the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment “D,” also known as “Delta Force,” has a history of hiring female soldiers to serve alongside male operators, having begun the practice in the 1990s.

More commonly referred to as “the Unit,” Delta Force is home to some of the most elite soldiers in the world, famously called “operators.” The selection phase for prospective operators is nothing short of grueling. Former Delta operator Eric Haney details in his book, “Inside Delta Force,” this process which sees candidates hike and orient over adverse terrain, perform rigorous physical testing and training, and psychological evaluations.

 

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful
Members of the U.S. Army Cultural Support Team, attached to Special Operations Task Force – South, speak with women of the Shotor Gardan village in northern Khakrez District, Kandahar province, Afghanistan.

Upon completion, a candidate isn’t out of the woods yet, and can still be dropped or withdrawn from the course if the instructor cadre feels he’s unfit to serve with the unit.

An intensive Operators Training Course follows, which trains each soldier in a variety of skills which they’ll eventually use in real world situations. Millions (you read that correctly) of rounds of ammunition are expended on a monthly basis, honing each candidate’s proficiency with a variety of firearms. Vehicle instruction, VIP protection, surveillance, and even tradecraft (i.e. the art of spying) are all part of the OTC curriculum.

Also read: The definitive guide to US special ops

Operators are trained to blend into any environment and urban setting, though sometimes, that’s very difficult to do with a gaggle of military-aged males hanging around in groups.

In 1982, the Unit attempted to solve this problem by recruiting female operators. After putting a small group of candidates through a modified, yet still highly arduous, selection course, four women were able to graduate and meet the standard set before them. However, this solution turned out to be a bust, due to friction between male operators and the new female selectees to the unit.

Eight years later, Delta made another attempt to bring women into the fold, after SEAL Team 6 the Navy’s counterpart to the Unit, had demonstrated some success in pairing a female petty officer with a frogman, posing as a romantic couple, while reconnoitering objectives in Panama prior to Operation Just Cause in 1989.

In 1990, Delta began targeted recruitment initiatives that brought women into what was then referred to as the Operational Support Troop. Female candidates were once again put through a difficult unique selection and training course in order to bring them up to speed on firearms usage, espionage skills and tradecraft, advanced driving techniques and more, so that they could serve on surveillance and reconnaissance missions overseas along with male operators.

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

U.S. Army Cultural Support Team soldiers, with Special Operations Task Force – South, speak with a young Afghan girl in Darvishan Village, Khakrez District, Afghanistan, June 10, 2011. The CST serve as enablers, supporting U.S. Army special operations forces by engaging the female population. The CST also assist in medical civic action programs, search and seizures, humanitarian assistance and civil-military operations.

Among the first female operators to be recruited to the Unit’s OST was, in fact, the same Navy petty officer who served briefly with SEAL Team 6 in Panama, according to Sean Naylor in his book “Relentless Strike.” Later on, the OST was re-branded as “G Squadron” — a name which it apparently still has today.

In the mid-to-late ’90s, Delta Force was active in the Balkans, along with SEAL Team 6. It’s since been understood that female members of G Squadron were critical in helping make Delta missions a success in the region, with male and female operators posing together as lovers or married couples while conducting surveillance.

Today, the recruitment, selection and training process for G Squadron members is wholly unknown and completely classified, as is the modern iteration of OTC for Delta’s assault-troop operators. The requirements for OTC still stipulate that candidates sent over for selection be male, so it could be assumed that female operators continue to be brought in and trained through a modified program of their own.

However, what we do know is that women do indeed operate with the most elite special operations force in the world, undercover and sometimes even in plain sight.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard details the importance of the service to the nation

The United States Coast Guardsman will wear multiple hats during their service to this nation. They are an armed force, environmental protector, maritime law enforcer and first responder.

Every single day.


“We have eleven statutory missions that we perform for the country with 42,000 active duty, 6,000 reservists, and 8,000 civilians. We don’t get overtime, we are on duty 24/7 and are subject to the uniform code of military justice. We work a lot of hours to get it done,” shared Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, Jason Vanderhaden.
This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

He continued on sharing the differences between those that serve under the Department of Defense and the USCG. He explained that those under DOD leave to fight, and when they get home, they have a chance to recharge and retrain. That’s not the case for those in the USCG. When a ship returns home from deployment, there are continual repairs and work that doesn’t stop. Then – it redeploys again, to continue serving the mission.

The defense readiness aspect of the USCG is unique. They have always had a respected partnership with the United States Navy and have fought in every major war since their inception on Aug. 4, 1790. They are overseas even now, serving in the ongoing middle eastern conflict. It may surprise the public to learn that they are the nations oldest continuing seagoing service.

“I want to paint the picture that we have a very challenging mission set, but at the same time, we do it well,” shared Vanderhaden. He continued on saying that it’s almost as though coasties thrive on that environment, which is evidenced in the retention rate.

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

It may surprise people to learn that the USCG has an absolutely vital role in America’s anti-terrorism and counter-terrorism battle. As a matter of fact, they are on the front lines of it. On any given day, they are enforcing security zones, conducting law enforcement boardings, and working to detect weapons of mass destruction.

They are also the nation’s first line of defense against drugs entering the country. The USCG’s drug interdictions account for over half of the total seizures of cocaine in the United States.

While patrolling and protecting America, they are also continually serving her water and its marine inhabitants. They partner with multiple organizations and groups to protect the environment. One of the core missions of the USCG involves protecting endangered marine species, stopping unauthorized ocean dumping, and preventing oil or chemical spills.

“You’ll go a lot of places where people don’t know what the Coast Guard does, that’s for sure. We also struggle a little bit because people think they can’t join the Coast Guard because they don’t swim well. If you are in the water – something is probably wrong,” said Vanderhaden with a laugh. This is because there is truly only one rating or MOS where they have to get into the water, and that is the aviation survival technician, most commonly known as the rescue swimmer.

The USCG often conducts search and rescues in extreme weather conditions. This mission involves multi-mission stations, cutters, aircraft, and boats that are all linked by communication networks. Although public references to movies like The Guardian cause eye rolls within the USCG community; it did bring rescue swimming to a higher level of respect within the public. The rescue swimmer motto should give you goosebumps: “so that others may live.”

You’d think that recruiting potential coasties would be easy with the continuous news coverage and more visibility with certain movies, but it isn’t. Vanderhaden shared that only a small percentage of the population will actually qualify to serve in the armed forces, and getting the word out about the USCG is still very challenging. This is because they do not have the recruiting budgets that the DOD has, so you’ll almost never see a USCG commercial. “We rely on people finding us,” said Vanderhaden.

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

With the world currently being consumed with the coronavirus or COVID-19 spread, Vanderhaden was asked about the USCG’s response and continuing of its missions during the pandemic. “We still have the service that we have to provide to the nation…. We are still doing our job and we have to, we are just taking more precautions,” he shared. There is no stand down for all of the vital operations of the USCG. He continued on saying, “We do need to make sure that we are always ready to respond, and we will continue to do that.”

Their core values are honor, respect, and devotion to duty. These values guide them in all they do, every single day. They willingly don the multiple hats and are prepared to sacrifice it all in the name of preserving this nation. That’s the United States Coast Guard, always ready.

To learn more about the Coast Guard and their missions, click here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

There’s now scientific evidence MREs really do stop you up like nothing else

As anyone who’s ever deployed to a war zone knows, there’s no better cork for your ass than a meal at Uncle Sam’s House of Field Rations. This was a fact long denied by the Combat Feeding Directorate of the U.S. Army Soldier Research and Development center in Natick, Massachusetts. But a recent study in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry set out to prove us troops right.

That probably wasn’t actually the reason for starting the study, but the end result is the same.


There are a lot of myths and urban legends surrounding MREs. They’re a fascinating feat of culinary engineering, after all. Anything that will still be good to eat three years after it’s made is something magical. So it’s no wonder these meals have so many myths and urban legends surrounding them.

First, there’s the one about how eating them for more than 20 days in a row could kill you. That’s a myth. Then there’s the one about turning them into a weapon using the tabasco sauce and the heater, which is also a myth. Finally, there’s the one about how they’re designed to make the eater constipated to keep them from having to go while on an operation and how the gum is a laxative to use when the op is over. Both are myths.

Except the the one about blocking up the works. That’s real, but not for any reason except they physically alter your bowels, according to the study.

The study, called “A diet of U.S. military food rations alters gut microbiota composition and does not increase intestinal permeability,” used 60 volunteers, both military and civilian who were tested via feces, blood, and urine samples. Half ate only MREs two to three times a day while the other half ate normal meals with a similar number of calories. They were both only allowed to drink water and black coffee. Three weeks later, the results were in.

The MRE eaters reported one fewer bowel movement per week than the regular food group. The reason is that the MRE doesn’t promote the growth of stomach bacteria that fresh foods have, especially lactic acid bacterias, while promoting bacterias that actively prevent the smooth moves human beings are accustomed to. But even though the participants ate the MREs for longer than the dreaded 20 day threshold (remember the myth that 21 days of MREs would kill you?) participants’ bowel habits went right back to normal as soon as their food went back to normal.

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

(U.S. Air Force photo by Lauren Parsons)

If you’re experiencing some gastrointestinal distress, before or after your MRE experience, the reason may be that you just need some fresh food in your diet. Americans don’t drink enough water, and they definitely don’t get enough fiber, by and large, according to Dr. J. Phillip Karl, the study’s author.

So have some water and some yogurt and get back in the fight – as soon as you get off the throne.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Into the great outdoors with Military Wild

There is a rad group of military spouses trekking through your neck of the woods worldwide ready to take you from quarantine strolls to hilltop plateaus. Military Wild is blazing trails in the outdoor space connecting all skill levels to the profound beauty waiting close to each duty station.

Hannah Wolt, President of Military Wild, founded the organization after realizing her tribe was out there but hiking alone without connection. “The first group formed in Guam, where my husband was stationed. We had a blast, and when members came closer to a PCS date, the idea of planting groups wherever we went took flight,” Wolt said, who, after vacationing in New Zealand, knew she needed to get back to the outdoors regularly.


She explained, “It takes time to find what you’re looking for at a duty station, the same goes for hikes and trails, just generally knowing the area takes a while. With Military Wild, the goal is to establish that knowledge base and give our community members instant access, they’ll arrive ready to go with the research.”

Each local chapter is organized simply, an Ambassador serves as the area organizer who has working knowledge to assist all participant levels and establishes their perks program offering discounts for members in the area. “We have a highly active community online (Facebook and on their website) where things are organized. You’ll know exactly what to expect before you step out, from gear to difficulty to whether kids are recommended or not,” she said.

A large portion of hikes organized across all chapters are free, eliminating any financial barriers and opening more opportunities for all. “If a trek does have a cost, that’s outlined in the details. Our Ambassadors have been awesome to facilitate things at a discounted rate for the group if and when cost is a factor,” she said.

All too often, groups can be polarized by whether they are open to families or geared toward those without. That is simply not the case, and Wolt wants everyone to know that kids do not equal an automatic limitation outdoors. “I see moms with kids in the hiking backpack having a much easier time than I am on trails. It’s amazing what they can do, and only they know where their limits are.”

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

Wolt emphasized that Military Wild is a place for everyone, every level. “We once had a spouse who started terrified of water and by the end of her time was wading through waist-deep water up to a waterfall.”

Finding a niche over and over can be a daunting task for any spouse. Forging a connection to nature, working on goals and milestones which can be achieved anywhere in the world is a relationship no PCS can cut off. What starts with a simple willingness to walk can turn into a lifelong pursuit of adventure and self-discovery.

“This year we are building even more community. We are adding groups, outlining great trips nationwide, gaining even more discounts at local businesses, holding contests for kids, and creating unique patches for members,” Wolt said, who has used the international pause to really expand their mission.

“We’re a young organization but we’re growing. If there is not a group in your area, you can apply to start one on our website. We work to mentor our Ambassadors to cultivate their chapters and gain outdoor skills along the way. You don’t have to be a professional to lead,” Wolt said.

The organization is open to veterans, military service members, and spouses and are quickly popping up and mapping out the best recreation spots surrounding installations near you.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 of the world’s worst aircraft carrier (right now)

There are at least 42 commissioned aircraft carriers in service with at least 14 navies around the world.

Aircraft carriers come in many shapes and sizes: some carry large aircraft fleets of fighters and electronic attack planes, some only carry helicopters; some are nuclear powered, some are fueled by gas; some have vertical take-off and landing, some have short take-off and vertical landing, some have catapult assisted take-off and arrested recovery, where a tail hook snags a cable to catch the plane on landing.

Whatever the specifications, a carrier is not much use to any navy if it’s breaking down or not able to launch the full range of combat sorties it was built to perform.

So we put together a list of seven of the worst commissioned flattops, which have a history of breaking down or limitations on the missions that these ships were built to perform.

Check them out below:


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1. China’s Liaoning (16).

Commissioned in 2012, the Liaoning is a Kiev-class aircraft carrier that Beijing tricked Ukraine into selling by sending a Hong Kong businessman to purchase it under the guise of it being used as a casino in 1998.

The Liaoning was later commissioned in 2012, becoming China’s first aircraft carrier.

But just a few years later, the Liaoning was spewing steam and losing power, and in at least one incident, a steam explosion blew out the ship’s electrical power system.

Since then, the Liaoning has been rather unreliable, like most Soviet Kiev-class carriers, and used mostly as a training carrier.

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

2. Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov (063).

The Kuznetsov is a Kiev-class carrier that is currently undergoing repairs and won’t be ready for service until 2021.

In October 2016, the Kuznetsov was sailing to Syria through the English Channel on a combat deployment when it was spotted belching thick clouds of black smoke.

“The main problem with the ship is that is has a very problematic propulsion system,” Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist at the Center for Naval Analyses, previously told Business Insider. “It’s just unreliable.”

Commissioned in 1995, the Kuznetsov experienced a serious breakdown in 1996, and wasn’t available again until 1998.

The National Interest recently even placed the Kuznetsov on its list of 5 worst aircraft carriers ever built.

Take a tour of the Kuznetsov here.

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Thailand’s Chakri Naruebet.

(United States Navy photo)

3. Thailand’s Chakri Naruebet (911).

Commissioned in 1997, the Chakri Naruebet was once a fleet carrier, but was later relegated to a helicopter carrier in 2006, mostly because of budgetary issues.

Although the Chakri Naruebet was used after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsnuami and in rescue operations after flooding in Thailand in 2010 and 2011, the carrier has mostly resided in port for much of its 20-year career with the Thai Navy.

So while the Chakri Naruebet has not necessarily suffered from design flaws or repeated maintenance issues, we included it on the list because it’s simply not being used for what it was supposed to.

Read more about the Chakri Naruebet here.

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The Wasp didn’t sail on a combat deployment for seven years, at the height of the Iraq and Afghan wars, for reasons that remain mysterious.

(United States Navy photo)

4. America’s USS Wasp (LHD-1).

The Wasp is an amphibious assault ship that was recently fitted to carry F-35Bs.

But until then, the Wasp was conspicuously absent from major deployments from at least 2004 to 2011.

A Navy spokesman said in 2013 that it was because the ship was being “configured to serve as the Navy’s Joint Strike Fighter test platform,” but that reason only accounted for the years 2011-2013.

“That’s a CYA [cover-your-ass] reason. That is not the reason it’s not deploying,” a retired Marine general told the Marine Times in 2013. “It doesn’t seem to make sense to keep one of these ships out of the deployment rotation for so many years.”

Although F-35Bs have since touched down on the Wasp, and it departed its homeport in Japan for a mission in the Pacific in early August 2018, something might still not be exactly right with the ship.

“If people are worried about a hollow force, this is a hollow ship,” a congressional analyst told Military Times in 2013.

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HMAS Canberra, a Royal Australian Navy landing helicopter dock ship, arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for Rim of the Pacific 2016.

(United States Navy photo)

5. Australia’s HMAS Canberra (L02).

Commissioned in 2014, the HMAS Canberra is a Landing Helicopter Dock carrier, and one of two for the Royal Australian Navy.

Although the Canberra took part in RIMPAC 2018, it was sent back to port in March 2017 with serious propulsion problems.

It was expected to take only about seven to 10 days to resolve, but in May 2017, the Canberra was still undergoing repairs in dry dock.

“It may well be a design issue,” Rear Admiral Adam Grunsell told ABC in May 2017.

One of the problems appeared to have been that faulty engine seals were leaking oil into different engine areas.

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

The Adelaide is Australia’s second helicopter carrier.

(United States Navy photo)

6. HMAS Adelaide (L01).

Commissioned in 2015, the HMAS Adelaide is Australia’s other Landing Helicopter Dock carrier.

The Adelaide also took part in RIMPAC 2018, but it was sent back to port at the same time in 2017 as the Canberra with the same problems.

Given that both ships, which were commissioned around the same time, had similar problems at the same time, might very well hint at design problems.

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The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) is seen underway on its own power for the first time on April 8, 2017, in Newport News, Virginia.

(United States Navy photo)

7. America’s USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78).

Commissioned in July 2017, the USS Gerald R. Ford is the most powerful and capable supercarrier ever built — but it’s been dogged by repeated problems and is still not ready for combat a year after it entered service.

In April 2017 and January 2018, the Ford was sent back to port after experiencing a “main thrust bearing” failure.

In May 2018, the Ford was at sea undergoing trials, when its propulsion system malfunctioned, forcing back to port again after only three days.

The Ford has also had issues with the state-of-the-art Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System and Advanced Arresting Gear systems designed to launch and recover airplanes, which have suffered repeated delays, despite recent reports of progress.

The Ford’s AAG caught its first C2-A Greyhound aircraft in late May 2018, according to General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems.

When we reached out to renowned ship expert Eric Wertheim about our inclusion of the Ford in this piece, he pushed back.

“It’s important to give new complex warships and weapon systems time to mature through operational experience,” Wertheim told Business Insider in an email. “If you had looked at many of the most successful weapons and warship designs, they often might have looked like miserable failures early in their life cycle, but they eventually turned a corner.”

“If a warship is still underperforming its mission after a decade or more, it’s probably not a very sound design,” Wertheim added.

You can take a tour of the Ford here.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why a think tank puts teen girls in command of military operations

Though women have made a lot of progress in recent years, especially in the military and defense sectors, there are still very few women in senior positions in the U.S. military-industrial complex. Only a third of the senior positions at the Department of State are women, and less than a fifth hold such positions at the Defense Department.

That’s why a Cold War-era think tank agreed to put women in command of a large wargaming exercise. Were women able to prevent an all-out nuclear conflict on the Korean Peninsula?


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Alexis Visser is a 19-year-old international relations student and Army Reservist who helped game the South Korean and American forces.

(Dori Gordon Walker/RAND)

The RAND Corporation, a global, nonprofit policy research center created in 1948, wanted to bring a much-needed female perspective to the fields of defense policy and national security. The group of women are in age groups ranging from their late teens to early 20s, and most have never had any kind of wargaming or strategy experience before. Still, they are leading command discussion about scenarios facing troops in a war with North Korea in a conference room overlooking the Pentagon.

In the scenario, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has a long-range missile that can target locations on the U.S. West Coast. The North threatens “grave consequences” if the United States and South Korea conduct their annual joint exercises to practice their responses to a North Korean invasion. The warning from the DPRK is the same the Stalinist country gives the Southern Allies every year. This time, when the allies begin their drills, the North fires an artillery barrage into Seoul. South Korea responds with missile strikes. The new Korean War is on.

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

(Photo by Dori Gordon Walker/RAND Corporation)

RAND uses wargames like this one to study almost every national security scenario and has since the earliest days of the Cold War. It was the RAND Corporation who was at the center of the 1967 Pentagon Papers case that determined why the United States had not been successful in Vietnam. It’s very unlikely this is the first time RAND has wargamed a war between North and South Korea, but it’s the first time young girls were given command of the allied forces.

That isn’t to say no women have wargamed at the Pentagon. Many of the women who have participated in wargames at the highest levels of the U.S. government, including in the Pentagon, often admit to being the only woman in the room. RAND wants to create a pipeline for young women to be able to participate in such wargames – as professionals.

In the game, the women determine where to deploy infantry, how to stop North Korean advances, and even when to use tactical nuclear weapons, all under the advice and counsel of RAND’s expert and veteran women advisors.

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Samina Mondal, right, listens as RAND’s Stacie Pettyjohn reviews the blue team’s tactics.

(Dori Gordon Walker/RAND)

The game is working, and not just against North Korea. History majors decide to turn their attention instead to National Security Studies. Eighteen-year-olds decide on careers in nuclear security. Soon, women will begin to change the way we look at the defense of the United States.

Articles

Why ants and termites declare war on each other on sight

Ants vs termites –the rivalry that predates human language — is fought on a global scale. Although termites and ants are both considered pests, many people do not understand that termites and ants are mortal enemies. If nested close, ants and termites engage in war. When it comes to battles of insect proportions, the larger bug doesn’t always win.

Colony vs colony

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If only they’d stop this fighting, they’d probably take over the world (Wikimedia Commons)

Milligram for milligram, termites would easily emerge as the winner on a one-on-one fight. They’re larger than ants and have strong, coordinated soldiers as well. Scientists have identified that most termites are two to three times bigger than ants. Also, termites have heads that appear to be built for combat. However, the aspect does not apply when ants and termites wage war. When termites lock horns (no, not literally) with ants, it is usually not close to a fair fight. Termites get annihilated by ants. Despite their size and weight, ants tend to be more aggressive than termites. Termite colonies are numerically inferior ant colonies.

Termites are, in fact, defensive creatures and have no reason to attack ants: they are not interested in the ants’ food; whereas ants will happily use termites AS food and appropriate their tunnels.

In most cases, ants invade termites’ nests and kill the warriors and the queen on sight. The death of a queen virtually is the end of the termite colony. For this reason, some ant species have been known to specifically prey on termites for food.

Termite soldiers last stand

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Ants enjoying the spoils of war (Wikimedia Commons)

Although ants are generally superior in combat, termites also have an ace up their sleeve. There are unique, blocky adaptations that have been identified among termites’ heads. The heads are defensive, and there are cases where termites throw them up as they try to stop ant attacks. Some species also use them to intimidate intruders and warn the nest. As a last resort, some termites will use their heads to block tunnels into the colony in an attempt to buy the workers time to collapse passages. In most cases, this allows the termite defenders to hold the ant assault and pave new ways for the queen to escape. This last stand sacrifice is the only effective way to keep the queen alive when all else fails.

Lesser of the two evils

Most ants are less damaging to human habitation compared to termites. If you had to choose one or the other, most people would pick the one that doesn’t destroy your property value. People who have studied wars against these pests have been trying to use ants to get rid of termites. However, the practice is not recommended as one would require a supercolony of ants to get rid of all the termites. Using ants to destroy termites’ colonies by killing their queen is not feasible – yet.

Studies have identified that wars cull the old male and female termites from a colony as well. They are used as front-line soldiers when fighting against ants or any other enemy. The senior termites take a colony gate position and prevent enemies such as ants from accessing their queen. In most cases, the female soldiers are sailed forth while engaging ants. The younger soldiers usually stick to the nest and act as the final line of defense while engaging invaders. This aspect indicates that termite soldiers have an age-based task allocation that makes it more difficult for them to be over-powered by ants.

Regardless of the genetic advances termites make, they are no match for the ant. The desire to dominate and get more food is the major reason why ants and termites declare war on each other on sight. To ants, termites are the food.

Feature image: WATM composite, images via Wikimedia Commons

MIGHTY CULTURE

8 country music tearjerkers about troops

It’s 7:12 p.m. You’ve got a soggy McDonalds cup sweating sweet tea in your cup holder. You’re driving home after a long day, and the sun is dropping golden light on the horizon. Your sore right foot is pinning down the gas pedal. The fuzzy country FM radio station sharpens a bit, and you hear the beginning chords of a song you know every single syllable of. Maybe it reminds you of your brother overseas. Maybe it reminds you of your spouse’s deployment. Maybe they’re with you listening to it. Maybe they’re not. Chances are, if you have any ties to military service, you’ve had one of these still car ride moments, and been caught off-guard by misty eyes and a head full of thoughts about our nation’s heroes, while a solemn guitar and Southern twang underscore your drive home.


If you are reading this Tim Mcgraw live ACM

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“If You’re Reading This” Tim McGraw

This is about the letter many have written, and fewer have had to read. Tim McGraw sings, from the perspective of a soldier, writing a potential farewell letter. We don’t know if the soldier comes home. All we know is he wrote it to his wife. Like so many others have done, and will continue to do. It’s a testament to those who have been willing to make the sacrifice for those they love, as much as it is a testament to those loved ones who hopefully won’t have to read. “So lay me down, in that open field out on the edge of town/ And know my soul, is always where my momma always prayed that it would be.”

John Michael Montgomery – Letters from Home Official Music Video

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“Letters From Home” John Michael Montgomery

The first time you hear this song, it catches you by the throat in the third verse. John Michael Montgomery builds us in the walls of a world that feels gritty but perseverant in the first two verses. We hear of men finding gallows humor overseas. Then comes a letter from the old man… “But no one laughs, cause there ain’t nothin funny when a soldier cries.”

If I Don’t Make It Back

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“If I Don’t Make it Back” Tracy Lawrence

Tracy Lawrence paints the picture of a soldier talking to his buddies. These aren’t necessarily family members, they feel somehow more intimate to the solider in the story. They share beer together, he jokes, and they laugh. He doesn’t ever want to get his buddies down, he wants them to raise hell and drink and remember him with love, not with sadness. We can all remember a conversation over a couple dozen beers ending with the same altruistic, tough, sentiment. Plus—high school football. “On Friday night sit on the visitor side, and cheer for the home team.”

Dixie Chicks – Travelin’ Soldier (Video)

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“Travelin’ Soldier” Dixie Chicks

This song was actually written and performed by Bruce Robison first. The song was then optioned and made famous by the Dixie Chicks. Although the Dixie Chicks politically polarized country music fans in 2003, the rendition of the song is unquestionably impactful. There is a vulnerable broken to its performance. The female vocals also lend another layer to the song, as the song is about a high school girl after all. “Our love will never end/ Waitin’ for the soldier to come back again.”

David Ball Riding With Private Malone

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“Riding with Private Malone” David Ball

David Ball’s tone feels a little bit lighter than the other songs on the list in “Riding with Private Malone.” In that lightness though, there is deep feeling. The casual nature that he delivers the story of a soldier knowingly bestowing his ride to whoever picked it up next, shadows how selfless the act of service can be. It’s discreet. It’s quiet, it’s between two people. It has gas pumping through it, and life, and it is passed down from generation to generation. “Though you may take her and make your own, you’ll always be ridin’ with Private Malone.”

Lee Brice – I Drive Your Truck (Official Music Video)

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“I Drive Your Truck” Lee Brice

Lee Brice belts onto our list with the most recent entry into tearjerking country ballads. Here we find a brother left to find meaning and reason to his life after his brother makes the ultimate sacrifice. He connects with him by tearing up fields and peeling out in his old truck, blaring the same country station he left it on, highlighting the connective power of country music in the lives of people around the military. “People got their ways of coping, Oh and I’ve got mine/ I drive your truck.”

Toby Keith – American Soldier

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“American Soldier” Toby Keith

One thing that has always struck me as disappointing in songs about soldiers is that the survivors get forgotten somewhere along the line. This ain’t the case with Toby Keith’s “American Soldier.” It captures perfectly the duty that soldiers are responsible for. It brings to mind the simple, tough, resiliency of the military life, and it exalts those who answer its call. “And I can’t call in sick on Mondays/ When the weekend’s been too strong.”

Merle Haggard – Soldier’s Last Letter

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“Soldier’s Last Letter” Merle Haggard

The late Merle Haggard knew his way around storytelling. A soldier telling his momma not to scold him for having shaky handwriting on a battlefield is a tragically human moment. We can guess how young the soldier is. We can guess how long he’s been overseas. We can’t guess how desperate his momma felt. It captured the feeling of an era, the generation of young boys lost in Vietnam, and the hole that was left back home in their wake. “Then the mother knelt down by her bedside/ And she prayed Lord above hear my plea/ And protect all the sons who are fighting tonight/ and Dear God, keep America free.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

As Goldfein’s service as 21st Chief of Staff comes to a close, his bond to Airmen remains strong

Gen. David L. Goldfein’s four-year tenure as the 21st U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff is coming to an end. As he takes stock of a period marked by ground-breaking achievements, including birth of the U.S. Space Force, the evolution of Joint All Domain Command and Control, and unprecedented challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic, his most poignant – and treasured – memories are the bonds he forged with Airmen while engaging with them around the force over the years.


CSAF 21 Gen David L. Goldfein – The Exit Interview

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“Our Airmen are the most incredible, patriotic and disciplined,” he said in a recent interview. “This might be the next greatest generation. Every one of them joined the service while the nation was at war, and their innovative spirit, and willingness to endure hardships to serve in uniform is really inspiring.”

During his frequent travels, Goldfein gained a reputation for seeking out Airmen – often young in their service – to get a better understanding of who they are and to hear their stories. On one occasion in 2019, after meeting all day with air chiefs from more than a dozen nations about space, he struck up a conversation with a young officer. The officer mentioned that he was a second-generation Airman. Without hesitation, Goldfein asked the officer, “You got your phone? Call your dad.” The father and Goldfein had a 10-minute conversation while the startled officer watched.

“I always ask two questions: tell me your story, and what does it mean to be a part of the squadron they are in,” he said. “I’m asking them deeper questions, questions about the culture of the organization. What we want that answer to be is something along the lines of, It means I’m a valued member of this organization, it’s a high-powered team, the Airman to my right and to my left are some of the best Airmen I have ever worked with in my life, and we are doing something really important that is much bigger than myself. If we get that part right, so many other things are going to go right.”

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

Gen. David. L. Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, talks to a group of total force recruiters during the Bluegreen Vacations 500 NASCAR race in Phoenix. The general talked to the recruiters and answered any questions prior to the race. (AIR FORCE PHOTO // MASTER SGT. CHANCE BABIN)

The Air Force Chief of Staff position demands expertise in military doctrine and operations, as well as skill for developing policy, crafting priorities and helping assemble the Air Force’s budget request. It also requires acute political awareness since Goldfein represents the Air Force before Congress, influential think tanks and the public.

Goldfein, 61, is responsible for the organization, training and equipping 685,000 active-duty, Guard, Reserve and civilian personnel serving in the United States and overseas. As Chief of Staff, he also held a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As he prepares for his 37-year Air Force career to come to an end as the senior uniformed Air Force officer, Goldfein will take with him an approach to the job that was equal parts cerebral and disciplined.

“When I stepped foot on the Air Force Academy campus, only my wildest dreams would’ve ever allowed me to see myself in this seat,” he said. “It truly is the honor of the lifetime to be able to lead the service that has played such an integral part of my life.

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

Cadet David L. Goldfein and Dawn Goldfein at the the Air Force Academy.

He is a command pilot with more than 4,200 flying hours including combat missions in Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom, and most famously, Operation Allied Force when, in 1999, he was shot down flying a mission over Kosovo. His rescue only reinforced to him the important role – and valor – of combat search and rescue teams. It is also a reason that the naming this year of the Air Force’s newest combat rescue helicopter, the HH-60W as the “Jolly Green II,” carried special meaning.

“We don’t know, as young leaders, especially as young officers, when a young Airman is going to risk everything to pull us out of bad guy land, or a burning truck or an aircraft….and risk everything to save us,” he said. “All we know is on that day, we better be worthy of their risk. And so it is all about character, and what the nation expects of those who were privileged to serve in uniform.”

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfien talks to Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright after touring the new HH-60W combat rescue helicopter at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla., Feb. 27, 2020. During the event, the HH-60W was given the name “Jolly Green II,” following the legendary tradition of the Vietnam-era HH-3E Jolly Green and HH-53 Super Jolly Green crews who pioneered the combat search and rescue mission. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // STAFF SGT. JAMES RICHARDSON)

During his four years as Chief of Staff, Goldfein led multiple initiatives to improve and update the Air Force’s warfighting capability: including enhancing the service’s multi-domain capability, pushing to increase the number of operational squadrons to 386 by 2030, and the birth of the Space Force. He played a major role in bringing the F-35s into the fleet, as well the development of the B-21 strike bomber and the T-7A Red Hawk trainer aircraft, among others. The push to 386 was necessary, he said, to build “the Air Force we need” and to reconfigure the force to address China, Russia and other near-peer nations.

He and other Air Force leaders understood that the National Defense Strategy marked the reemergence of the long-term and strategic competition with China and Russia. The Air Force’s goal is to compete, deter, and win this competition by fielding a force that is lethal, resilient, rapidly adapting and integrates seamlessly with the joint force and its allies and partners. Expanding number of squadrons laid the groundwork to enhance the forces preparedness, and in turn will increase the number of fighting units, he explained.

“Today, we are the best Air Force in the world,” he said in 2018. “Our adversaries know it. They have been studying our way of war, and investing in ways to take away those advantages. This is how we stay in front.”

With an increase in fighting units underway, Goldfein led the way on a new, more universal, approach to communicate and fight: not only across all military branches, but between aircraft, operators and commands as well. He was one of the originators of a new, linked and network-centric approach to warfighting known as Joint All Domain Command and Control in which elements from all services from air, land, sea, space and cyber are seamlessly linked to overwhelm and defeat any adversary.

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

Members of the 6th Special Operations Squadron, perform a training exercise showcasing the capabilities of the Advanced Battle Management System at Duke Field, Fla., Dec. 17, 2019. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // TECH. SGT. JOSHUA J. GARCIA)

“Victory in future combat will depend less on individual capabilities and more on the integrated strengths of a connected network available for coalition leaders to employ,” he said in 2019. “What I’m talking about is a fully networked force where each platform’s sensors and operators are connected.”

In addition to spearheading the move to Joint All Domain Command and Control operations, Goldfein used his close working relationships with senior leaders, including Department of the Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett and former Secretaries Heather Wilson and Deborah Lee James, to realize some of the most sweeping changes for the Air Force in recent years.

He focused efforts on maintaining bonds with existing allies and partners while developing new global relationships. In 2019, he became the first Air Force Chief of Staff to visit Vietnam since the end of the Vietnam War.

He pushed the Air Force to embrace “agile basing” and to return to a more expeditionary mindset. Both efforts enhanced flexibility and scalability of units to address threats even in harsh, distant and contested areas. Goldfein drove this mindset by getting the wings to “train like they fight.” He also pushed units to deploy together, rather than deploying as aggregations of individuals rounded up from all over the Air Force.

“The next fight, the one we must prepare for as laid out in the National Defense Strategy, may not have fixed bases, infrastructures and established command and control, with leaders already forward, ready to receive follow-on forces,” he said in 2018. So, it’s time to return to our expeditionary roots. The expeditionary Air Force framework Secretary Peters and Gen. Ryan laid out remains valid today. But, it must be adapted and updated to support the Joint All Domain Command and Control operations of the 21st century.”

After initially being uncertain about the need for a separate Space Force, Goldfein reflected on his journey to a different understanding. He now sees himself as one of the Space Force’s strongest advocates.

Goldfein understood the need to shift the Air Force’s culture to make the service more diverse, he and former Secretary James recognized the benefits of diversity and to address problems connected to racial and criminal justice inequity in his first few years in office. This continued to be a focus when Barrett and Goldfein, for example, recently asked the Air Force Inspector General to examine the service’s promotion and military justice record so inequities can be better identified and addressed.

In early 2020 Goldfein also brought about changes to the Air Force’s official anthem to make the lyrics more inclusive. Goldfein didn’t go many places where he didn’t boast on his “best friend, Dawn” and his daughters and granddaughters. He often explained how they kept him grounded, and helped him appreciate the sacrifice our Air Force families endure. Dawn pushed to make improvements for Air Force families when she chaired the “Key Spouse Conference” and was an advocate for universal licensure. Goldfein actively embraced both.

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright learn about new innovations being made at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, May 14, 2020. Airmen at Team Minot, in the midst of a global pandemic, demonstrate the ever adapting ability of the Global Strikers to CSAF General Goldfein and CMSAF Wright during their visit to Minot Air Force Base. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // AIRMAN 1ST CLASS JESSE JENNY)

Perhaps the single most influential voice over Goldfein’s four years as chief was that of Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright. The tight bond between the two men was widely understood and often on display. It also was genuine.

“They don’t come any better than Chief Wright,” Goldfein said recently. “He is one of my closest life-long friends…. He’s the guy that I lean on the most.”

Goldfein and Wright took an active approach together to address resiliency, mental health and the overall culture of the force, often appearing side-by-side with Airmen. The close partnership came into clear view recently in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the national call for racial justice. Goldfein and Wright were prominent in their public calls for reform within the Air Force.

“Something broke loose that day, and what broke loose was there shouldn’t be any resistance to making meaningful changes in our United States Air Force to make sure we celebrate all of us, that we are a force that includes and embraces all of us,” he said. “History is not on our side here. If we follow history, we will be pretty excited for a couple of months and will make some marginal changes, we will feel good about ourselves, and then other things will pop up and this will be pushed to the back burner,” he said, referring to past efforts to address racial and criminal justice inequality. “Let’s prove history wrong this time.”

With a goal of a more inclusive Air Force always in mind, Goldfein made a point to show his appreciation and kinship to the Airmen he was able to meet.

Goldfein concedes that many people and events shaped his tenure. But, aside from his wife Dawn and Wright, none was more influential than his countless interactions with Airmen of all ranks and capabilities across the Air Force. It was shaped as well by a separate and tragic moment, the death of Air Force Master Sgt. John A. Chapman in 2002, and in 2018 when Chapman was awarded the Medal of Honor.

“While I never met John, I feel like I know him because his picture hangs in my office, as it has for the past two years,” Goldfein said in 2018. “… At difficult times and when faced with hard decisions, I can look at that picture and find strength in his strength, and I’m reminded that leading and representing Airmen like John Chapman remains the honor of a lifetime.”

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, Chief of Staff of the Air Force David L. Goldfein and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright present a plaque to Valerie Nessel, wife of Medal of Honor recipient Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, during the Hall of Heroes Induction Ceremony at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Va., Aug. 23, 2018. Sergeant Chapman was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for actions on Takur Ghar mountain in Afghanistan on March 4, 2002, an elite special operations team was ambushed by the enemy and came under heavy fire from multiple directions. Chapman immediately charged an enemy bunker through high-deep snow and killed all enemy occupants. Courageously moving from cover to assault a second machine gun bunker, he was injured by enemy fire. Despite severe wounds, he fought relentlessly, sustaining a violent engagement with multiple enemy personnel before making the ultimate sacrifice. With his last actions he saved the lives of his teammates. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // STAFF SGT. RUSTY FRANK)

That realization, Goldfein would often say, was his North Star.

As Goldfein’s time as Air Force Chief of staff comes to an end, he feels confident in the selection of the next Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr.

“I feel closure. I didn’t get everything done, I wanted to get done, but we certainly got a lot done, and I’m feeling so good,” he said. “I’ve been watching Gen. Brown for years, I got to see his intellect, his mind and work. He’s a brilliant, operational and strategic thinker. I’ve seen him interact with Airmen, and he’s just absolutely phenomenal. So, I’m feeling great about this opportunity to hand the Air Force over to a guy that I admire, and a good friend as well.”

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


MIGHTY CULTURE

Vietnam Veterans Memorial – why listing the names of the fallen matters

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated on November 10, 1982, with 57,939 names. Since then, more names have been added. Currently, there are 58,282 names listed. Ten new names were engraved in 2020, including the name of a Marine corporal whose 2006 death was determined to be the result of wounds received in action in 1967. 

Listing the names of the fallen matters for all the obvious reasons and the way returning veterans were treated in the US after coming home from war. The memorial is dedicated to honoring the courage, sacrifice, and devotion to duty and country of all who served in one of the most divisive wars in US history.  

The memorial was built without using any government funds

After watching the movie The Deer Hunter, Jan C. Scruggs, a wounded Vietnam War veteran, and advocate, stepped up his efforts to create a war memorial to honor those who died in Vietnam. He donated $2,800 of his own money to form the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund in 1979.

By 1981, that fund had grown to $8.4 million, thanks in part to celebrities helping out with fundraising. All donations for the memorial came from the private sector, even though many politicians expressed their support in funding the site. Congress passed legislation to reserve three acres in the northwest corner of the National Mall for the monument. 

What happens to items left at the memorial?

Items are gathered by park staff. Non-perishable items are archived in a storage facility. Tens of thousands of items have been left at the memorial since its opening. These so-called artifacts include letters, POW/MIA bracelets, photographs, military insignia, and religious items. Someone once left a motorcycle. Rangers from the National Park Service collect items every day. Except for unaltered US flags and perishable items, all artifacts are sent to a storage facility in Maryland. The facility isn’t open to the public, but sometimes certain memorial artifacts are put on view as part of traveling exhibits. A virtual collection can be seen at www.vvmf.org/items.

How are the names arranged on the wall?

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful
(National Park Service)

The names are arranged chronologically by date of casualty. The first names appear at the center of the wall at the top of panel 1E. The panels are filled like pages of a journal listing the men and women’s names as they fell. Upon reaching the farthest east end of the memorial at panel 70E, the pattern continues from the far west end of the memorial at panel 70W, continuing back to the center at panel 1W. In this manner, the memorial evokes a theme of closure or completion; the first are with the last.

All of the names have been read out five separate times

As part of the Wall’s 30th commemoration in 2012, all 58,282 named were read out loud just before Veterans Day. This was done five times – in 1982, 1992, 2002, 2007, and 2012. Volunteers, Vietnam veterans, family members of the deceased, and employees from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund read the names. In 2012, the team began reading on a Wednesday afternoon and didn’t finish until Saturday night. 

How can I find a name on the memorial?

Printed registries available at the memorial are organized alphabetically by last name. Electronic registries available online or accessible by park staff in the information kiosk at the memorial allow users to search by several data including first name, last name, branch of service, rank, date of birth, date of casualty, state, and/or city where they enlisted. 

Registry entries include a panel number and row number corresponding to its location in the memorial. Panel numbers are engraved in the memorial at the bottom of each panel. For row number, count down from the highest row on the panel. Each row contains five names (six where a name has been added since the wall was originally installed).

MIGHTY CULTURE

The history of the woobie and why they’re so beloved

The poncho liner — the lightweight blanket used and loved by many — is one of the most well-known items issued in the military. Despite having been around for decades, it’s still one of the most popular items to date. But what is this thing? Why’s it called a woobie? And why do grown men get so emotional about them? Seriously, steal or damage a man’s woobie and you might fear for your life. 

Woobies are kept in families for generations, passed down from veterans to their children, adult males sleep with them nightly – even when not in the field – and there are countless stories about tearful reunions when a woobie is replaced. 

There’s just something about this piece that hits home and makes a connection with the soldiers who sleep underneath them. 

Take this journey down memory lane and gain some insight on why the woobie is such a big deal, and how its tenure came to be.

What’s a woobie, anyway?

A woobie is a pet name for the liner, wet weather, poncho, a lightweight, yet surprisingly warm blanket that comes standard issue to soldiers with their outdoor gear and sleep system. A poncho liner, as it’s more commonly called, is made to provide warmth and comfort in mild to moderate temperatures, as well as a cozy place to get some rest. 

But somewhere along the way, it added a personal touch to its existence. Soldiers, especially infantry men and women, became attached. A person’s woobie became an extension of themselves, and it made missions more comforting. Because not only did the liner add to a person’s physical warmth, it met them at their emotional needs.

The history of the poncho liner

The poncho liner was first introduced in the 1960s during the Vietnam war. It’s made of two layers of nylon, meant to remain light enough for soldiers while they were fighting and sleeping in the Vietnam jungle climate. It also dries quickly, adapting to a moist environment.

The liner is sewn to withstand the elements, with a hard seam stitch, and a distinctive pattern throughout the bulk of the fabric to keep pieces in place, despite rough conditions. 

What’s most interesting about the poncho liner is its engineering that somehow keeps in heat while keeping the cold at bay. Even when wet, the liner can keep a solider warm, all while drying quicker than their wool blanket. This is even more impressive considering they were first made from excess parachute material, in duck hunter camo, that was leftover from WWII. 

Originally, that’s why liners were released in a dated camo pattern. But even once the excess material was used, the use of tri-color camo continued. 

Various patterns of poncho liners have been issued throughout the years, including different styles from each military branch. 

Finally rounding out poncho liner specs: each model sits at 62 by 82 inches, and has tie cords so they can be attached to rain ponchos. Useful and ready on the go.

Why call it a “woobie”?

It wasn’t always called a woobie. For years, soldiers referred to the poncho liner by its official name. Then somewhere along the way, it gained a nickname; the most common explanation is that “woobie” comes from the 1983 film, Mr. Mom, in which a child refers to their blanket as “woobie.” Others say it’s a portmanteau of “would be,” as in, “You would be cold without it.” No one knows for sure which theory is correct, though history shows the nickname taking hold somewhere in the early 1990s.

woobie hoodie
People love the woobie so much, someone made a hoodie that looks like one.

Considering the resounding reviews it gets from soldiers, it’s no wonder the pet name stuck. Even for grown men, the comfort of a security blanket does wonders for morale. 

Here are a few of the woobie’s rave reviews: 

“I HAD MANY HAPPY MOMENTS IN THE FIELD WITH THIS BLANKET, LIKE LINUS ON PEANUTS.”

“If you were limited to just a few pieces of survival gear, this should be at the top of your list. Versatile, rugged, weighs next to nothing, hides you, keeps you warm as toast with your own body heat.”

“These are amazing. If you have not ever had the pleasure of wrapping up in a true, govt-issued poncho liner when it is cold, you are missing out. It is like they are magic. They warm you up in seconds with your own body heat just like an electric blanket would.”

“I’ve been out of the military since 2001 and I’ve slept with my woobie almost every night since basic [training]. When mine wore out I thought I might have to re-enlist to get another one in good shape. Luckily, I was able to purchase another one in near perfect condition for less than two years of Army pay.” 

These are just a few of the item’s shining reviews. Task and Purpose even published an article naming it, “The greatest military invention ever fielded.” 

And don’t worry, if you ETSd or lost yours, you can find them on Amazon. They have cheaper versions too, like the one below. How warm it’ll keep you is debatable, but the reviews aren’t terrible.

woobie
A cheaper version of the woobie, available here for about 20 bucks.

However, consensus agrees, most prefer to take the loss and pay for their woobie outright, rather than turn it in with their issued goods. 

After all, can you really put a price on personal security? Either way, we can all agree that the woobie is one of the most loved military items of all time.

Do you have a beloved woobie? Tell us about yours below.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What spouses wish their husbands would do (but don’t)

Love is blind, but marriage is an eye-opener. So goes the old joke. Har Har. But there’s a lot of truth to this vaudevillian knee-slapper: marriage provides an opportunity for each partner to glimpse the other in a new light. This light shows polished surfaces we never knew were there, and also shows some rough or cracked edges that need assistance. And this results in complaints: things they wish they’d realize, things they wish they’d try to do more often, things they do that unknowingly make the other feel lesser or unloved.


And you know what? Listening to complaints is helpful. Really helpful. Because all of us have overlapping tendencies. That’s why we spoke to a variety of wives to find out what they really wished their husbands would stop doing. Most of their complaints boil down issues of emotional intimacy and self-awareness — and can help the rest of us understand what we can do to make life better for our partners. So, consider what these wives said, and look inward. Maybe you’ve been guilty of some of the same infractions. Maybe not. In any case, they’re good to hear regardless to keep yourself in check.

1. I wish he’d give himself more credit

“I wish my husband would give himself more credit. He’s an amazing dad, and an amazing husband – an amazing person, really. But, he’s got a confidence issue, and usually reverts to being extremely humble when he’s praised or when people compliment him. I think he’s afraid to let it sink in. I mean, I know he’s afraid to let it sink in. It’s something we’ve talked about. I admire his humility, I just wish he would pat himself on the back every once in a while for being so great. He deserves it.” – Jasmine, 36, Mobile, AL

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(Flicker / 401kcalculator.org)

2. I wish he’d include me in our financial discussions more

“My husband is very secretive about finances. We have joint finances, of course, but he also has a stock portfolio that he doesn’t share with anyone besides his broker, and maybe a friend or two. It’s not the money aspect, really. It’s more the secrecy – I wish he would tell me more about it, because it’s a part of his life. If I ask, he just says, ‘Don’t worry. We’ll be fine.” And that’s great and reassuring. But it still makes me feel like he doesn’t trust me, or doesn’t think I’m smart enough to understand the whole thing.” – Christine, 63, Chautauqua, NY

3. I wish he’d realize that he doesn’t have to explain everything to me

“I trust my husband – I wish he knew that. He always feels like he has to explain things to me. Like why he was late getting home, or who he just got off the phone with in the other room. I’m thrilled that he’s so honest, but I do trust him. It makes me feel like his mom. I don’t need to know every little detail about his day in order to know that he’s a good man. If it’s something he’s excited to share, that’s awesome. But if he’s just, like, providing an alibi, it makes me feel more like he’s afraid of me than in love with me.” – Jen, 37, West Palm Beach, FL

4. I wish he knew that just saying “sorry” sometimes isn’t enough

“I wish my husband knew that just because he says, ‘I’m sorry’, it doesn’t make the hurtful things he said or did go away. I believe him when he says he’s sorry, but the words we exchanged during the fight, or the hurtful thing he did – or didn’t do – just keeps replaying over and over in my head.” – Kayla, 29, Boston, MA

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

(Flickr / J Stimp)

5. I wish he would not make me feel as though I was talking at him

“Eye contact. When I’m talking to him about something important, I wish my husband would make eye contact with me. He does, but it’s usually only for a second, and then he goes back to looking at the floor, or off in the distance. I know he can hear me, but I don’t feel like he’s listening. And it makes me feel like he’s either disinterested or terrified – neither of which I want him to be. I just want us to be able to look at each other while we talk to each other, instead of me talking at him.” – Mary, 54, Cleveland, OH

6. I wish he’d realize he’s not as handy as he thinks


“My husband thinks he’s way more handy than he really is. His father is a total ‘Mr. Fix-It’. But my husband just didn’t inherit those genes. He’ll try to fix something around the house, and it’ll usually end up being a temporary solve until it breaks again. I wish he’d just shelve his pride and admit that we should call a pro to fix the problem correctly. I don’t care that he’s not ‘Mr. Fix-It’. Like, at all. And he doesn’t need to try and impress me – that part was cute at first, but now it’s just become annoying. And expensive.” – Zulma, 46, Phoenix, AZ

7. I wish he’d stop being so defensive

“When I come to my husband with a ‘complaint’, I wish he’d respond less defensively. When I say something’s bothering me, my goal isn’t to put him in the hot seat – it’s to try and figure out a solution that works for all of us. But, he immediately starts talking about how horrible he is for what he did, or forgot to do, or whatever. That’s not what I want. I just want to figure it out! Together!” – Erin, 37, Vancouver, Canada

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

(Flickr / Buscando ando)

8. I wish he would try to woo me again


“My husband used to play his guitar all the time when we were dating. He was trying to woo me, and impress me. He doesn’t play a lot anymore, if ever. It makes me feel like he’s stopped trying – like now that we’re married, with kids, he’s ‘got’ me. I imagine this complaint is similar to a lot of other women’s, but it’s very specifically his guitar in my case. He’s really good! I enjoy listening to him play. It’s not even the “trying to impress me” thing, really. I just know he loves his guitar, and I miss that part of him. When I ask him to play, he just shies away. It makes me sad that I have to practically beg him to play, when it used to be something he’d surprise me with.” – Emily, 40, New York, NY

9. I wish he’d stop being a martyr and just quit his job

“I wish my husband would quit his job. He hates it. Every day he comes home, he’s miserable. But, he’s afraid to quit. It’s not worth it, though – the stress this job puts on him. I don’t care if we have to tighten our budget for a while, so he can find something else. His happiness is more important to me then a temporary lack of security. Part of me feels like he enjoys being a martyr, but that’s stupid. His mood affects everyone in our house. Me and the kids. When he’s unhappy, it makes us unhappy, too. And it’s all because of this awful job. I appreciate the sentiment of wanting to take care of us, but not at this cost. He just needs to grow a pair and quit. He’d be so much happier.” – Sarah, 29, Columbus, OH

10. I wish he’d argue with me more

“When my husband and I are mad at each other, we go silent. Well, he goes silent. I wish he would argue with me more. It sounds silly, but I really do. I think arguing shows that you care about the problem enough to have an opinion. Staying quiet just makes everything so ambiguous. Show me some passion. I’m a big girl – if you think I’m being an idiot, tell me. If you think I’m wrong, tell me. Yelling is talking, and I’d rather talk like that than not talk at all.” – Meg, 32, Woodside, NY

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

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