How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

Maneuver Advisor Teams (MATs) from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB) are creating their own legacy. As one of the first U.S. Army units purposefully built for advising, our MAT helped prove the advisor force structure concept. We were tasked with advising an Afghan Kandak (Battalion) during our deployment and now we are tasked with developing how best to train a team capable of advising partner nation security forces anywhere in the world. Our MAT captured our lessons learned and creatively applied them to our current training plan. Advising skills are developed and tested in the field, and here’s how they can translate into better preparation for our next employment.


SFABs were created to lessen the burden on the brigade combat teams for Security Force Assistance (SFA) missions. Small teams of advisors are not a new concept. The U.S. Army has been forming ad hoc advising elements from brigade combat teams and employing them in Iraq and Afghanistan for years. Maneuver Advisor Teams are different than the ad hoc teams. An SFAB has thirty-six MATs, specifically designed with 11 experienced non-commissioned officers with several different mission operational specialties and a post company command captain. MATs are the decisive element within an SFAB. Since the formation of SFABs, there is a new standard for how advising is conducted. With more preparation, additional resources, and a structured recruitment process, the pressure is high for the MATs to excel in advising operations.

Developing the plan

We knew we had to capitalize on our lessons from Afghanistan. Initially, our post-deployment training included similar tasks and events any regular Army unit would face after returning from a deployment. First and foremost we conducted reset of our equipment and began fielding new equipment. Much of our newly fielded communications equipment was unfamiliar.

Based on our experience in Afghanistan, we identified a requirement to maintain a focus on integrating communications training in anything we planned to do. Collectively we prioritized our training objectives and started planning our training. Following guidance from our higher headquarters, our team training objectives were to become master trainers of our warfighting functions, be capable of operating decentralized and expeditiously, and that we all must be capable of winning a fight.

Master trainers

Each advisor must be a master trainer of their specific skill set. To accomplish this, we began our training cycle with an emphasis on individual skill set enhancement. Individual skill set enhancement included additional schooling. For example, our infantrymen attended schools such as Pathfinder, Master Marksmanship Training Course, Infantry Mortar Leaders Course, and Heavy Weapons Leaders Course while our combat engineer attended Master Counter IED Trainer Course. We also conducted individual tasks such as weapons qualification and medical refresher training. Our individual skill set enhancement set the foundation to continue to build our team’s operating capability.

Refining technical and tactical skills provided us with individuals who were sound in their crafts, however as advisors, we needed individuals who could also teach and instruct their craft as well. All team personnel who attended a skill enhancement school were required to train the entire team in specific skills they learned. Not only did this requirement broaden the skill set across the team, it also provided our advisors with an opportunity to practice teaching their skills. As advisors, being a master of your warfighting function is good, being a master trainer of your warfighting function is required.

Decentralized and expeditiously

While advising our Afghan kandak, we identified the need to be capable of operating decentralized and expeditiously. During advising missions in Afghanistan, we found ourselves often separated from our higher headquarters and we were reliant on our mission command platforms to communicate them. The numerous types of mission command systems we owned, although overwhelming at first, became our greatest team strength. We could establish our command post and obtain communication on all of our platforms within minutes. While training, we established our command post with all of our systems during every event.

We planned, resourced, and executed an off-site training event several hundred miles away to practice our decentralized and expeditious capabilities. By taking the team to Camp Blanding, Florida for a 10-day field training exercise, we were able to conduct multiple ranges, land navigation training, and a team command post exercise utilizing our mission command systems. We successfully moved our equipment, established our systems, and communicated with our higher headquarters on multiple platforms for the duration of the training event.

Later in our training cycle, we planned, resourced, and executed a second off-site training event. We decided to treat this off-site training event less conventionally than our previous event. During this exercise we established our command post in a civilian hotel room to simulate operating out of a safe house. We conducted our movements as if we were operating out of a safe house in a foreign country. We wore civilian attire for the duration of the exercise and practiced multiple team tactics, techniques, and procedures to limit our interactions with the general public. We continued to learn from this experience and shared lessons learned with the rest of our unit. Without our persistent focus and practice with our mission command systems, we would not have gained the confidence required to operate in such a decentralized manner. Our team was confident we could operate decentralized from our higher headquarters and survive expeditiously if required.

Winning the fight

The entire team must be capable of fighting as a small element. Engaging in direct combat while accompanying our partners was unlikely during our next deployment, however training and being prepared to fight was non-negotiable. We aggressively attacked this skill set during our collective training. We executed two team live fire exercises during our training cycle and one force-on-force simulation round exercise. Many of our advisors had limited participation in any type of live fire exercise prior to joining the 1st SFAB. However, by the end of our training cycle, our logistic advisor and mechanic advisor were capable of planning and leading a mounted react to contact under live fire conditions.

Our culminating live fire exercise consisted of a three-event exercise utilizing three non-standard tactical vehicles. The scenario included our advising team returning to base after a day of advising their partners. The team encountered a non-hostile militia checkpoint, struck an IED rendering one vehicle disabled, and lastly, encountered a complex attack triggered by a second vehicle-disabling IED blast. During the complex attack, the team was forced to abandon disabled vehicles and strongpoint hard structures adjacent to the road. The team treated their casualties, communicated with their partners for assistance, and defended in place. This training event required the entire team to be capable of conducting individual skills and collective tasks during live fire conditions.

Throughout the year of training, our team became master trainers of their warfighting functions, we became experts in our mission command systems while operating decentralized and expeditiously, and we developed the tactical skills to fight in defense of each other and our partners.

Conclusion

The United States Army found the right people, gave them advanced equipment, and provided the best training. Nearly three years from inception, our MAT continues to build our legacy. Using our lessons learned and applying them to our training is setting a standard that should be used as the SFABs continue to mature and are employed around the world. While our first employment was in Afghanistan, the anticipated future of the SFABs will take them to nearly every Combatant Command area of operations. As the advising force structure matures, the breadth of talent and expertise afforded by these small units will continue to act as the decisive point for the SFABs now, and into the future.

MAJ Gerard Spinney is an Infantry officer in the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade. He has multiple operational deployments in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Inherent Resolve, and NATO’s Resolute Support Mission. The views expressed in this article do not reflect those of the US Army or the Department of Defense.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons why veterans make great artists

It might be easy to assume that military veterans get out and do something similar to what they did in the military, but that’s not always true. In fact, if you do a little research, you’ll find that plenty of us get out and become artists. We’re not just talking about painting and drawing; we’re talking about music and film as well. Either way, veterans can make some damn good art.


Service members may not always be seen as the artistic types, especially not those who served in the infantry, but the truth is that we go through the military and acquire all sorts of knowledge and experience that give us the tools we need to draw d*cks everywhere make great art.

Could it be that we all have stories to tell? Perhaps, but there’s a bit more to it than that.

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

The things that made our life tough are great for telling stories.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Life experience

We spend lots of time going places and collecting all sorts of experiences that one might not otherwise gain from sitting around their hometown. We get to experience life from a new perspective, and it helps us go from dumb, crayon-eating 18-year-olds to dumb, crayon-eating 22-year-olds with life experience.

This gives us a lot to say and the courage and wisdom to say it.

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

Even this photo is a great example.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jesse Stence)

Attention to detail

In the military, if you don’t notice even the smallest details, people can get hurt. That same quality contributes to making great art — attention to even the smallest of brush strokes.

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

We know how to stand almost completely still for hours.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Damon Mclean)

Discipline

We can sit down and force ourselves to focus on anything and continuously find ways to get better at it.

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

Standing in lines for hours is a great way to build this quality.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Walter D. Marino II)

Patience

Veterans know that good things come with patience. Creating art is no exception to this rule. You simply can’t rush great work. Those that do end up with something like Justice League, and we all know how that turned out (terrible — it was terrible).

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

Learning to never quit is your first lesson in the military.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Emmanuel Necoechea)

Persistence 

We don’t give up. We refuse to quit. Ask any artist and they’ll tell you that they’ve dealt with a good amount of rejection.

We’ve been trained to keep attacking an objective until we succeed.

MIGHTY CULTURE

23 memes to help you survive ‘Back to School’ in 2020

We brought you the best COVID-19 memes on the internet… and just when we thought we couldn’t make any more memes, or laugh at them for that matter, we realized the absurdity of trying to homeschool and work and exist and teach and cook and Zoom and do it all for the foreseeable future.

May the odds be ever in your favor, homeschooling parents. We’re sending you all our virtual vibes. And drink of choice.

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

1. I dunno

Fake it ’til you make it, bud.

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

2. All the options

Sometimes there are no good options.

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

3. Scribble scrabble

Wear masks. But maybe not outside at recess. But maybe at recess. But not if you’re eating at your desk. But what if you’re eating at recess?

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

4. Hold your breath

You’ll probably only lose your voice though if the kids stay home.

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

5. Poor Billy Madison

Nah, just put on Hamilton.

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

6. Screen time 

To be fair, Netflix has some great educational programs. I mean how else would you teach business practices other than letting your kids watch Narcos?

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

7. Schedules are important

7:00: Kids console crying parents.

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

8. Dwight!

No really, everything is fine!

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

9. ​90s kids 

To be fair, Zack Morris practically babysat us.

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

10. Biology 

Hilarious but DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

11. Pics

At least this kid has on pants.

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

12. Wishes for fishes

Pour all your money into the fountains, people.

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

13. Milton

Make sure your kids have a red stapler…

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

14. Smile!

We’ll never forget 2020. As much as we’d like to.

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

15. Karma

Be careful what you make fun of!

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

16. Bart

There’s that growth mindset…

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

17. Fire

Nothing to see here.

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

18. Gump

Where’s Jenny when you need her?

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

19. Plans

Homeschooling parents: Really putting the “win” in wine.

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

20. Lisa

It’s been a long five months. No judgement here, Marge.

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

21. Tiger King

We wanted to love it. We really did.

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

22. *Shrugs*

But to be fair… who does?

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

23. Teachers

Well at least your kids will learn something about science as they watch you age…

Whether you’re sending your kids back in person in full PPE or prepping for virtual learning, we’re wishing all of your kids (and all of our teachers!) a great school year… and fast internet, well-lit makeshift classrooms and lots of patience. Here’s to you, parents and educators!

MIGHTY CULTURE

According to the Army you need a coach to pass their toughest school

More than 90 percent of those who attempt to become an Army diver fail in the first 14 days of training.

The hopefuls are often overcome, physically and mentally, by rigorous drills meant to winnow down recruits to the elite few.

The journey to become an Army diver begins (and often ends) at the Phase I course of the U.S. Army Engineer Dive School at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. In fiscal year 2018, only six enlisted soldiers attained the 12D (Engineer Diver) military occupational specialty. Although nine graduated Phase I of their Advanced Individual Training, or AIT, only the six went on to graduate from Phases II and III held at the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center in Panama City Beach, Florida.


Sgt. 1st Class Eric T. Bailey, noncommissioned officer in charge and master diver for the 12D Phase I course, said a lot of the recruits arrive for training ill-prepared for what awaits them. The recruits have to pass a Diver Physical Fitness Test that, besides curl-ups and pushups, includes a timed 500-yard swim using the breast or side stroke, six pull-ups and a 1.5 mile run in 12 minutes and 30 seconds or less. They also need to pass the Class I Advanced Survival Swimmer Test. The ASST has five events including an underwater breath hold in which the trainees, in their full uniform, descend to the bottom of a 14-foot pool and swim the entire width of the pool on a single breath, touching the first and last of seven lane lines, before ascending. And that’s just Day 1.

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

Soldiers going through Phase I of Army Engineer Dive School honed their performance skills with the assistance of Performance Experts, or PEs, from the Fort Leonard Wood R2 Performance Center.

(US Army photo)

Throughout Phase I, students have to do increasingly arduous breath-holding drills, including “ditch and dons” which involve ditching their gear at the bottom of the pool then donning it again, making sure to clear their mask and snorkel. Bailey said the hardest part of the drill is for students to remain calm enough to don their gear even as their body urges them to breathe.

“They give up on themselves mentally, before they physically can’t do any more,” said Bailey.

As a result of the insanely high attrition rates, Bailey set out to find a way to “make soldiers better, faster.” And he thinks he has found it in the Fort Leonard Wood Ready and Resilient Performance Center or R2PC.

The R2PC is staffed with master resilience trainers-performance experts, or MRT-PEs, who are not only trained to increase soldier’s mental resilience but also have degrees in sports and performance psychology which they use to enhance soldier’s physical performance.

Dr. Kelly Dantin and Deanna Morrison, the performance experts on contract at the Fort Leonard Wood R2PC, observed the diver training and talked to the cadre and graduates of Phase I to get their input and develop a customized block of instruction for the 12D trainees. They found that if the students were physically prepared for the Phase I course, their next biggest challenge to graduating was their mindset. So they set about instilling in the students the mentality that quitting was “off the table” and simply not an option, Dantin said.

The performance experts started working with the 12D trainees in October 2018. The week prior to the students starting Phase I, Dantin and Morrison gave them training on techniques such as deliberate (or tactical) breathing, labeling (which includes the act of reframing a situation as a challenge instead of a threat) and Activating Events, Thoughts, and Consequences , or ATC.

ATC is a model that conveys that it’s thinking that determines what people do and how they feel, not the events that happen.”

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

Deanna Morrison (left) and Dr. Kelly Dantin make a list of what a person physically feels when they are calm during a block of instruction for students of the Army Engineer Diver Phase I course.

(US Army photo)

Students who fail from the Phase I course do so because they feel overwhelmed by the physical demands and don’t believe they can continue to perform over the entire course, Bailey said. To address this mental obstacle, the R2 performance experts teach the students a technique called segmenting. They teach them to break down the course into small chunks, and instead of thinking about the entirety of the course, just to think about making it until lunch. And then making it until dinner. And then making it until bedtime.

“Evolution by evolution, lap by lap, you can segment anything, breaking it up into bite-sized pieces,” that are manageable, Bailey said.

“We teach them how to perform better under pressure,” using both mental resilience and sports psychology, Morrison said.

In the four months since they started the R2 training, the course has achieved what previously took an entire year: graduating nine students out of Phase I. Bailey said that if the numbers bear out, he is looking at doubling the graduation rate in FY2019 from the previous year.

Bailey said he knows that the R2 training is working and has been a contributing factor with helping to reduce the attrition rates.

“Every time that we have done a debrief with a soldier that graduated, they said that training helped,” Bailey said. The students even start talking about the specific techniques, repeating what they learned from the R2 training. That success led to Bailey asking the MRT-PEs to continue to give the block of instruction in all future Phase I courses.

“Because of the R2 performance training we are sending to Florida soldiers that are better prepared, not only physically, tactically and technically, but also mentally,” Bailey said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

LRC develops future leaders by using hands-on practice in tackling both leader and follower roles

After the Second World War, the Air Force established their version of a LRC, Project X, which would be used as one of the four means to evaluate students of the Squadron Officers Course at Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.


“What we are trying to replicate for the students is being under stress and how you manage people under stress with limited resources, limited time and trying to solve a complex problem with a group of people with different personalities, different ways of leading and ways they want to be followed,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Clayton, Air University assistant professor of leadership.

The primary purposes of the course are to improve the students’ leadership ability by affording the student an opportunity to apply the lessons learned in formal leadership instruction. Secondly, to assess the students by measuring the degree to which certain leadership traits and behaviors are possessed. It’s also used to provide the students with a means of making a self-evaluation to determine more accurately their leadership ability and to provide the opportunity to observe the effects of strengths and weaknesses of others during a team operation.

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

Most importantly, the LRC is used to develop diverse individuals as future leaders in the Air Force.

Stress plays an important part in the evaluation of each leader as it is through stress the critical leader processes and skills will be observed by the evaluator. To produce a stressful environment for the working team, certain limitations are placed on them.

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

Officer trainees work together to overcome an obstacle at the Project X leadership reaction course. The course is designed to improve leadership traits to Air-men attending Squadron Officer School, Officer Training School, Air Force Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy and other schools on Maxwell AFB.

(Air Force photo by Donna L. Burnett/Released)

According to the LRC standard of operations, the course operation is designed so that each individual will be a leader for a task-one time and serve as a team member or observer the remainder of the time. For each task there is a working team and an observing team. The working team is responsible for completing the mission while the observing team acts as safety personnel, overwatch elements, support elements, or competition.

The tasks themselves vary. For example, one task may be to get personnel and equipment across a simulated land mine without touching the ground by building a makeshift bridge from supplies. Another task may incorporate fear and more physical endurance by getting a team and gear over a high wall. Each task has a time limit and unique problems to solve the mission.

Although completing the mission isn’t the goal of the LRC.

“As a leader, you have to recognize some of these people may be scared to do this task or to move across this task with me. So, how do you motivate those people? Do you have the emotional intelligence to understand that you may be able to get through this task on your own, but other people may be scared to do it, so how do you understand that? How do you communicate to your people, motivate them, lead them by example, inspire them to follow you and get through the task? These tasks are designed to cause that stress and to make you apply the leadership skills you learned in the classroom,” Clayton said.

The whole concept is getting students to identify what type of leader they are as well as understand and identifying leadership traits in others.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Hooyah! – The origins of the Navy SEAL battle cry

Hooah… Oorah… Hooyah… Few sounds grate on the ears of the non-initiated more than the service battle cry. If you have ever been around U.S. Army personnel for an extended period of time, for example, then you have surely heard “hooah” (rhymes with Tua, as in the NFL quarterback) flung about ad nauseam to indicate accordance with a command, suggestion, directive, exclamation, or any other kind of simple declaration. 

Examples:

“It sure is sunny out.”
“Hooah, ma’am.”

“Clean that toilet, Private.”
“Hooah, Sarge.”

“Johnson, go clear that bunker of the enemy!”
“Hooah!!”

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade
“Wait, did you mean ‘Hooah, I’ll do it’ or ‘Hooah, I’m excited?’” “Uh… Hooah?” “Damn it, Perkins!” (U.S. Army photo)

You get my drift. It is an indication of the affirmative, a response to almost anything, and a type of verbal salute. The U.S. Marine Corps, on the other hand, has its own battle cry, “oorah” (rhymes with Poobah, as in “the Grand Poobah”). The Marines’ “oorah” is more commonly reserved as a true battle cry than is its Army counterpart. In other words, “oorah” does not get thrown out dozens of times in a 15-minute conversation, but rather, is used to indicate a collective rallying cry, usually in response to some statement of motivation, or love for the Marine Corps. 

Example:

“Now, grab your weapons, and let’s introduce these bastards to the United States Marine Corps!”
“OORAH!!!” (thunderously exclaimed)

I am of course horribly simplifying these battle cries, and will no doubt be corrected for some error in my reporting on them. No matter. The above preamble is merely to set the stage for the U.S. Navy SEAL battle cry: “hooyah” (rhymes with boo yah!). The SEAL battle cry, similar to the U.S. Army “hooah,” is heard most commonly (and un-ironically) during Navy SEAL training. BUD/S trainees are expected to bellow a “hooyah” in unison throughout a typical BUD/S training day. They are also expected to use it in answer to instructors when spoken to by them. 

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Abe McNatt/Released)

Examples:

“Are you weak and stupid, Ensign Jones?”
“No, Instructor Patstone.”
“Are you sure, Ensign Jones?”
“Hooyah, Instructor Patstone

“Class 227, you are dismissed.”
“Hooyah, Instructor Allen!”

“Do you even wanna be here, Petty Officer Johnson?”
“Hooyah, Instructor Miller.”

The SEAL battle cry is also used after BUD/S, when one has made it into the SEAL Teams, but far more selectively. It’s usually in some particularly hairy moment, or when one is making a call-back to BUD/S, SEAL Team lore, or the culture in general. 

Examples:

“The helo can’t go any lower; screw it, let’s just fast-rope from 90 feet instead of the 60 we planned on.”
“Hooyah, man.” (with that resigned look, usually indicating, “Well, this sucks.”)

“I just heard that Tom Smith — from our BUD/S class — is picking up Master Chief (E-9).”
“Damn! Hooyah to him.”

Again, I am simplifying and not adequately explaining all the ways in which the battle cry is used, but hopefully you get the point. This leads one to ask, where the hell does the battle cry come from? And no, I am not about to launch into the etymology of the word itself (although, I assume it derives from the British huzzah, but that is neither here nor there as far as we are concerned).

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade
“Salt water in my brain… Hooyah!” (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

Here is what I know about the word’s origin as the Navy SEAL battle cry, which was provided on the occasion of the recent death of retired U.S. Navy Captain James Hobbs on December 12th, 2020. Hobbs graduated with Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) Training Class 16 back in the mid-1950s. UDT Training was BUD/S before it was called BUD/S. One of Hobbs’ instructors, Ken Wortley — who later became a teammate on UDT-12 (the UDTs were precursors to the SEAL Teams) —provided the background:

Jim was the senior trainee in UDT (BUD/S) class 16 in Coronado. That class, number 16, was the first to use the term HOOYAH, which has been a rallying cry of the UDTs and SEALs since that time.

Class 16 used the cry to respond to the BUD/S instructors to perform some difficult training requirements, i.e.: hit the surf in full combat gear, lie in the surf, arms linked with your teammates, get soaked in the 58-degree water, then roll around in the soft sand, and then run to the North Island fence and back to the team area.

This would be the start of Hell Week and the normal reaction of training classes prior to class 16 would be to lose 50 percent of the trainees before lunch the first day. However, class 16 was different. No matter what the instructors demanded the trainees do, the class would shout HOOYAH in defiance and perform the task and this lasted right up to class 16’s completion of training and graduation.

This rallying cry has become a tradition since class 16 in 1956 and is still being used by the SEALs today. Then-LTJG James Hobbs, as senior trainee of class 16, was the individual who was instrumental in getting it started.

So there it is. Of course, I have no way of knowing if this story is absolutely true —or merely apocryphal — nor do I really care. Ultimately, it does not matter how the battle cry came to be, only that it is. The above origin story is as good as any, and to that, I say, Hooyah.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Navy vet goes from fighting in Iraq to fighting fires

Navy veteran Tyler Welch used to patrol the streets of Iraq as a corpsman. Now, he’s fighting a new battle against fires.

Welch is part of the Veterans Fire Corps crewmember program, run through the Southeast Conservation Corps. SECC is an AmeriCorps-affiliated non profit that engages recent-era veterans, partnering with the U.S. Forest Service Southeast Region. SECC started the Veterans Fire Corps program in 2018. The 10-month intensive training program engages recent-era military veterans up to age 35 in fuels reduction, fuels management, and wildland firefighting.

For veterans like Welch, the program is a perfect fit for his transition.


“Wildland firefighting had been an idea in the back of my head for a few years as a job to looking into when I got out of the military,” Welch said. “The program that SECC is running piqued my interest because it is a veteran program and is a lengthy training program allowing me to see several parts of the wildland world.”

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

Navy veteran Tyler Welch went from corpsman to Veteran Fire Corps member.

Welch served tours in Hadditha, Iraq, with Marines as the senior corpsman; and in Basra, Iraq, and Kuwait as a search and rescue medical technician. Stateside, he served at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, and at Naval Hospital Whidbey Island, Washington. Seeking a new challenge, he sought something that could use his military service.

“The biggest skills I’ve carried over from the military that have helped with the program are team work and leadership,” he said. “Additionally, just being able to grind and get the work done on the hard day. It’s not always easy or fun, but at the end of the day you look back and see what you accomplished.”

For those looking for a challenge, Welch had three pieces of advice. The first is to keep fit, as days are long. The second is carryover advice from military service: get a good pair of boots. The third is to go camp and get used to being in the woods, living out of a tent and campground.

VFC crews

VFC crewmembers can earn certifications related to fuels management. This includes courses on firefighting, wildland fires, chainsaws, incident management, first aid and CPR. Southeast National Forests use VFC, which facilitates opportunities for crew members to work across a variety of districts and landscapes while simultaneously assisting forests with a myriad of fuels related needs.

“This program is designed to engage veterans in a truly hands-on experience,” said SECC Director Brenna Kelly. “Through rigorous and repeated trainings as well as field-based project work, veterans will earn necessary certifications and practical experience needed to compete for career positions related to fire and natural resource management.”

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

Navy veteran Tyler Welch went from corpsman to Veteran Fire Corps member.

Home base for VFC crews is the Conasauga Ranger District of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest in Georgia. The crew roves throughout the Southeastern United States for the duration of the program.

Some projects require members to work five days at a time with two days off. Other projects require camping and living on project locations for 8-14 days, with a set amount of days off. Members cannot use drugs or alcohol during work related travel at any time.

In addition to a stipend, members receive paid trainings and certifications and an education award upon program completion. Members also receive food and accommodations during overnight travel and transportation to and from work sites.

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

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6 reasons Marines go crazy for the M27 automatic rifle

Over the course of the past two wars, Marines learned a lot of lessons and gained a lot of new weapons and equipment to increase their effectiveness on the modern battlefield. But when we started to realize just how outdated the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon became, the search for a replacement began.

The M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle did just that for the standard Marine infantry squad, much to the disdain of many Marines until they realized its application fit a larger spectrum than the M249. Every Marine has their favorite gun and once the M27 became more widely used, it wasn’t long before it became a grunt’s best friend and greatest ally.

Once you hear an automatic weapon begin firing bursts, adrenaline and primal instinct start flowing and you get this sudden urge to break things. The M27 offers this experience to infantry Marines everywhere and that can be reason enough for a grunt to fall in love with it — but the love they have for the IAR goes beyond the feeling of automatic fire.

Here are the main reasons the M27 gets so much love:


How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

It’s just a fun weapon to shoot.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron Henson)

They’re fully automatic

Of course this is #1, Marines love weapons that fire on full auto or ones that cause explosions. It’s the chaos and destructive power that will get them motivated to break the enemy’s stuff.

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

It’s hard to miss with an M27.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Caleb T. Maher)

They’re accurate

The M27 is insanely precise and when its shooter has mastered the basic fundamentals of marksmanship, it creates a dangerous duo. An automatic weapon is only as good as the rifleman holding it. Let that Marine also be an expert in ammo conservation and they’ve become one of the most effective players on the board. 

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

The weight makes it easier to maneuver and shoulder-firing isn’t a problem, either.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Holly Pernell)

They’re light-weight

As opposed to the M249 SAW’s 17 pounds unloaded, the M27 comes in 8 pounds lighter when it’s loaded. Unfortunately, you’ll make up that weight with the amount of ammo you’ll have to carry but at least the weapon’s weight isn’t a problem.

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

You’ll be surprised at how clean it is even after it’s fired 800 rounds.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tojyea G. Matally)

An automatic rifle that’s easy to clean

The M27 features a gas-operated short-stroke piston which means the carbon residue is mostly outside of the chamber which means most of the clean-up is done on the inside of the hand guards.

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

They can even be fired from helicopters.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Breanna L. Weisenberger

Versatility

In the case of urban combat, size matters. The shorter barrel, the easier your life will be. Maneuverability is key and being able to fit yourself and your weapon in tight quarters helps a lot. Also considering the fact that it can fire on semi-automatic and is a closed-bolt system, this weapon can be the first through the door.

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

Just look at that design.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Caleb T. Maher)

They’re beautiful

Let’s be honest, the Heckler Koch design just looks good in your hands and when an automatic gun is both pleasing to the eyes and functionally sound, it’s good for the soul.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What to do with your TSP after the military

Leaving the military means making a lot of decisions — big decisions — often in a short period of time. One important decision, thankfully, doesn’t have a time limit: What should you do with the balance in your Thrift Savings Plan account?

Several myths and rumors surround the answer to that question, with plenty of salesmen wanting you to believe that you should move your money out of the TSP. Five clear options exist for service members and their TSP account assets after transitioning from the military. Even though there’s no single answer for everyone, three choices are more optimal for most people, and two choices are less right for most people.


The usually-better options include:

  1. Leave the money in your TSP account.
  2. Roll your TSP account balance into an Individual Retirement Arrangement.
  3. Roll your TSP account balance into your new employer’s 401(k) plan.

The rarely-better options include:

  1. Withdraw your TSP account balance in a lump sum.
  2. Transfer your TSP account balance to a qualified annuity.

Leave the balance in your TSP account

Once you have a TSP account, you can leave your money in there until you have to take required minimum distributions. There is no requirement to move it anywhere, at any time. In fact, most military-savvy financial planners recommend that you leave your retirement funds in TSP.

“As an entering argument, we don’t advocate doing anything different with your TSP,” says Sean Gillespie of Redeployment Wealth Strategies. “Just because you can’t contribute to it any more doesn’t mean you have to move it. And with low cost being one of the leading predictors of maximizing your returns, it’s darned difficult to do better than you will with TSP.”

Pros: Leaving your money in the TSP is by far the easiest option, and it’s a good option for many situations. The TSP has very, very low fees. You can move the money elsewhere later. TSP understands tax-free contributions from a Combat Zone Tax Exclusion. You can roll new money from other qualified plans into your TSP account to take advantage of the low costs.

Cons: TSP offers limited distribution options, though they are scheduled to expand this fall. You have limited investment options in TSP. You can’t roll from Traditional TSP to Roth TSP, so if you are trying to move your Traditional money into Roth accounts, it will have to be out of TSP. You can’t take multiple partial withdrawals out of your TSP account.

Roll your TSP balance into an Individual Retirement Arrangement

Pros: You have total control of how you invest your money, and unlimited investment options. You can still roll the money into a 401 (k) in the future. You can convert money that is currently in a Traditional account into a Roth account, but it will be a taxable event. And it’s really nice to put everything in one place!

Cons: IRAs don’t have any loan options, and will probably have higher fees.

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

Roll your TSP balance into your new employer’s 401 (k) plan

Pros: Moving your TSP balance will streamline your accounts, and that balance will be available for borrowing with a 401 (k) loan. (But don’t do it!)

Cons: Most 401 (k) plans have higher costs than TSP. You’ll still be limited to the investment options in the new plan. There may be a waiting period to participate in your new employer’s 401 (k). Not all 401 (k) plans have a Roth option.

Forrest Baumhover, a certified financial planner with Lawrence Financial Planning, suggests caution when moving your TSP to a 401(k).

“When you leave military service, don’t be quick to jump out of TSP. It has better and lower-cost investment options than 401 (k) plans.”

Withdraw your TSP account balance in a lump sum

Pros: Cash in hand.

Cons: Withdrawing money from your TSP account may be subject to withdrawal penalties (10%) and taxes (probably in the 20% range). More importantly, you’ll lose all future earnings on that money, and you can’t replace that money into a tax-advantaged account because they have yearly contribution limits.

Transfer your TSP account balance to a qualified annuity

Pros: Predictable, guaranteed income stream for life.

Cons: It is a permanent decision. There may be high fees involved. You may not get anywhere near the full value of your contribution. If it isn’t indexed for inflation, the purchasing power of your monthly benefit will decrease each year.

This is a relatively short overview and can’t possibly cover every possible situation. As with everything, there are exceptions and nuances for many different scenarios. If you are considering moving your TSP to another investment, you may find value in consulting a financial advisor to figure out which choice is right for you and your specific situation.

Lacey Langford, AFC ®, The Military Money Expert ®, suggests several reasons why you might want to consider using a fee-only financial planner vs. the advisor offered through a bank, insurance company or investment company.

“Fee-only allows you to have a clear picture of what you’re paying for and how the advisor is being compensated for the advice and recommendations they’re giving you,” Langford added.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why medics telling you to change your socks is actually sound advice

If you’ve ever gone to see a medic or corpsman, chances are they’ve offered up their standard set of advice: drink some water, take a knee, and change your socks. Troops use this “profound medical expertise” as a catchall for any kind of ailment you may have.

Your feet are starting to boil over from this ruck march? You should have a pair of socks in your pack. Starting to vomit profusely? Change your socks and down some Motrin. Jodie got your girl and you haven’t been the same since? Here’s a pair of socks with your name on it, buddy!

All jokes aside, when medics recommend you change your socks, here’s why you should heed their advice.


How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

“Huh. That doesn’t look good. You should change your socks about that,” said every medic ever.

(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Michael Merrill)

It doesn’t matter if you’re the laziest airman in the chAir Force or the most intense operator in SOCOM, wearing the same pair of socks two days in a row is extremely unhygienic. Regardless of how active you are, your feet will get nasty and socks just collect all those germs and bacteria.

Being in the military means that your feet are constantly put to the test, exposed to all the crud that troops walk through in the field. If you shower and put on a fresh set of clothes every morning, you’ll be fine. But if you’re constantly on the move and have to skip your morning routine, all that bacteria is left with nowhere to go but into your skin.

Letting that nastiness build up on the soles of your feet can lead to a fungal infection, which leads to countless other foot-related problems. I’ll spare you the graphic details (and images), but it’s not pretty. Just know that trench foot is a very serious condition that will take you out of fight and it can happen if you wear dirty, sweaty socks too long.

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

It really can cure (almost) everything!

But let’s not forget one of the biggest concerns of foot health: popped blisters. Over the course of a ruck march, the friction of your boots constantly hitting the pavement could cause your feet to form blisters. Those blisters may be painful, but they’re actually your body’s way of trying to heal the damage your feet sustained.

If that blister were to pop, though — which, if you’re on a ruck march with no rest stop in sight, is highly likely — then all that bacteria in your socks could infect that tiny, seemingly insignificant wound. That wound could turn gangrenous by the time you finish the 24-miler. In the worst possible scenario, the bacteria then makes its way into your bloodstream and you go into septic shock, which is very much life-threatening.

The only way to prevent this from happening is to take the advice from your medic or corpsman and change your socks at every occasion.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why you should never touch something that’s ‘red or dusty’

It’s one of the oldest sayings in aviation circles: “If it’s red or dusty, don’t touch it.” It seems obvious enough not to touch buttons or switches when you don’t know what they actually do, so how did this axiom become so common? Older planes with less intelligent avionics apparently had to be safeguarded against human error.

Still, accidents happen… because some people just have to touch the red button.


How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

Some people…

Planes from the Vietnam Era such as the F4 Phantom and others, even those entering service much later, like the AH-64 Apache helicopter featured red buttons and switches with red, protective coverings to prevent maintainers and pilots from accidentally pushing or switching them. The reason is they perform critical functions that should only be used when the situation calls for it.

For example, there’s no off-label reason to jettison your fuel tanks on the tarmac, as it turns out. This is the kind of prevention the color red is ideal for. Dusty switches are just controls that might be less obvious but are rarely if ever actually used.

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

You probably shouldn’t jettison anything while on the ground.

In Air Force flight school, new pilots are instructed, “don’t f*ck with the switches with red guards.” These control irreversible and potentially deadly functions in the cockpit, things that could really ruin any pilot’s day if accidentally toggled without reason. Often they are to be used in emergency situations only. This isn’t only for the pilots, but also for maintainers and anyone else who might be sitting in the cockpit while untrained or unsure of what they’re doing.

The military tries to make everything perfectly idiot proof, but the combination of complex controls with a high operations tempo can make anyone tense enough to make mistakes, cut corners, or just accidentally pour jet fuel everywhere you don’t want it to go. This phrase may have originated in the Vietnam War to keep new, potentially drafted troops aware of what they were doing and where they were doing it, to keep going through their lists and stations, even when the “Rapid Roger” tempo was very high.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These are the 5 deadliest James Bonds by body count

James Bond isn’t quite as deadly on the screen as he was when we all played him on Nintendo 64’s legendary Goldeneye 007 video game, but he still made short work of any number of psychotic evildoer in the name of Her Majesty the Queen. As a matter of fact, the world’s most non-secret secret agent has killed so many people over the years it would take 38 minutes to see them all.

Luckily, someone compiled all those kills for us.


While they didn’t include a count of clever puns, we can be reasonably sure the numbers mirror one another. But there is one other thing the video didn’t break down: who was the deadliest Bond? Unless George Lazenby went on a murder rampage in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, my guess is it was probably one of the other five.

Here they are, the deadliest Bond by average kills per movie.

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

1. Timothy Dalton

Timothy Dalton takes a hard fall at number five here, with only two movies and 20 kills, giving him an average of 10. But Dalton does get two of the most interesting kills, one for killing someone by sealing them in a maggot-filled coffin and another kill where the murder weapon is a bust of the Duke of Wellington.

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

2. Sean Connery

Connery had two runs as the dashing secret agent hero, with a total of seven Bond films and an average kill count of 12.5. If Connery’s Bond is in some way riding in a motor vehicle, look out: chances are good that someone is going to meet their maker very soon.

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

3. Daniel Craig

While Craig may not be the deadliest Bond, he is definitely the drunkest, averaging at least five drinks per movie.

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

Film and Television.

4. Roger Moore

Roger Moore’s Bond is long-known to be both the quippiest and at times creepiest Bond, but he’s also the second deadliest. The Bond films with the least number of kills, The Man With The Golden Gun, and the most number of kills, Octopussy, are both Roger Moore films. Still, it wasn’t enough because even if you take out the one-kill outlier, it’s not enough to catch up with…

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

5. Pierce Brosnan

Pierce Brosnan’s Bond was Murder, Incorporated, far outpacing the kill rate of his nearest competitor (including one of Sean Bean’s onscreen deaths). Keep this man away from any kind of explosives or firearms, almost every time he touches one, someone in the movie goes to walk with god.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Is Kim Jong Un dead? TV senior executive in China says YES.

After weeks of speculation about North Korea’s leader Kim Jung Un’s health, Reuters reported a medical team was dispatched to North Korea to care for Kim. And yesterday, a senior executive of a Beijing-backed satellite tv station in China said Kim is dead.


How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade
(KCNA)

The only thing we really ever know about North Korea is that we can’t ever be sure about what’s happening there, but rumors about Kim’s grave health and possible passing have been circulating for weeks.

When Kim failed to make an appearance on April 15 for the country’s most important holiday which honors the founder of the country (Kim’s late grandfather Kim II Sung), suspicion started building that Kim was sick. April 25 is another major holiday – the 88th anniversary of their armed forces, the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army. As night falls in North Korea, the leader again failed to appear, bringing more people to believe that there may be some truth to the rumors that Kim is dead.

As of this writing, the White House and senior officials in the United States government remain tight-lipped about his health and are giving no credence to the rumors.

“While the US continues to monitor reports surrounding the health of the North Korean Supreme Leader, at this time, there is no confirmation from official channels that Kim Jong-un is deceased,” a senior Pentagon official not authorized to speak on the record told Newsweek yesterday. “North Korean military readiness remains within historical norms and there is no further evidence to suggest a significant change in defensive posturing or national level leadership changes.”

Earlier in the week, President Trump sent Kim Jong Un his well wishes. “I’ve had a very good relationship with him. I wouldn’t — I can only say this, I wish him well, because if he is in the kind of condition that the reports say, that’s a very serious condition, as you know,” Trump said on Tuesday during a White House press briefing. “But I wish him well.”

But on Thursday, when asked about Kim Jong Un’s condition, the president said, “I think the report was incorrect, let me just put it that way. I hear the report was an incorrect report. I hope it was an incorrect report,” he added, without providing further details.

Although the US remains somewhat quiet about Kim’s health, a Hong Kong Satellite TV executive told her 15 million followers on Weibo that she had a source saying Kim was dead. While we’re not sure if she named her source, her uncle is a Chinese foreign minister.

Photos of Kim appearing to lie in state have also been circulating social media, but they look suspiciously a lot like Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il’s final resting photos. We’re guessing photoshop is far more likely than a leaked photograph.

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

What happens if Kim dies? Likely, another Kim would take over. The possibility of his sister, Kim Yo Jong, being named leader is “more than 90%,” said Cheong Seong-chang, an analyst at the Sejong Institute in South Korea, as reported by the Associated Press. He noted she has “royal blood,” and “North Korea is like a dynasty.” Kim’s sister has accompanied him on various high-profile meetings in recent years, prompting many to speculate she’s next in line.

Is Kim Jong Un dead? We’re not sure. But as soon as we know more, we’ll tell you.