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

You should have joined a military parachute team when you had the chance

Six military parachute teams from around the world are training together with the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights to sharpen their skills and share lessons learned.

About 80 parachutists have been dotting the sky each day with colorful parachutes identifying them as Army, Air Force, Navy or one of the international training partners from the British Army.

“They learn from us. We learn from them,” said Lt. Col. Ned Marsh, commander of the Golden Knights, the U.S. Army Parachute Team. “We establish joint and combined interoperability. That familiarity boosts safety among parachutists in preparation for shows thousands of feet about the ground.”


Amazing Helmet Cam Footage From The U.S. Army Parachute Team “Golden Knights”

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Amazing Helmet Cam Footage From The U.S. Army Parachute Team “Golden Knights”

Joint training is a normal part of the Golden Knights’ annual certification cycle; however, in the past, each of the other teams have come separately for training. This is the first time all seven of these teams have come to train together at the same time. Throughout the week they are developing advanced skills and maximizing safety standards for combined military performances at show sites for the 2019 season.

In addition to the Golden Knights, the teams here for training include: the British Army’s Red Devils, the U.S. Army Special Operations Command Black Daggers, the U.S. Navy Leap Frogs, the U.S. Air Force Wings of Blue, the U.S. Special Operations Command Para Commandos, and Fort Benning’s Silver Wings.

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

Talk about precision.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brandan Parra)

“It’s great to be over here and get some cross training,” said British Sgt. Maj. Dean Walton, who is one of 13 Red Devils who traveled to Homestead for the week. “Each team does things differently, and we can always improve. If we can improve and do things better and safer, it’s great to learn from each other how we can perform public displays.”

During the demonstration season, the Golden Knights perform with other U.S. and foreign military parachute teams at numerous events across the globe. Providing training for these teams is a key mission of the Army Parachute Team.

“There is no rivalry between the teams,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Hardy, USASOC paratrooper from the Black Daggers. “We all have good bases and we build off of that. If you look at the little targets on the drop zone, it’s a friendly rivalry to see who can land closest to the ‘X.'”

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

The Black Daggers use this training to perfect their demonstration team skills.

(Photo Credit: Lara HartmanPoirrier)

For the British Army’s Red Devils, the camaraderie is about much more than coming together to train each year. The team’s history with the Golden Knights dates back to the 1960s.

“When the Red Devils were originally formed, it was the Golden Knights that helped us get set up,” Walton said. “During the 1960s for an event, we actually jumped into Stonehenge with the Golden Knights.”

In June the Golden Knights will jump with the Red Devils for a demonstration in the United Kingdom.
“Personally, the best part is getting to train with these guys,” Walton said. “They are exactly the same as us. Similar sense of humor, similar experiences, and it’s great to meet up once a year. We have some quite good friends on the teams.”

The Golden Knights, based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, are one of U.S. Army Recruiting Command’s key outreach teams dedicated to creating awareness about the Army and educating the American public about the opportunities and benefits of service.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest memes for the week of June 22nd

Several months ago, no one believed us when we said that there would eventually be a Space Force. Everyone thought it’d be a foolish idea. We were the biggest fans of the idea from the very beginning. It’s not like we’re mad or anything — just that we’re calling first dibs in line at the Space Force recruitment office.

Whatever. Here’s a bunch of memes that are about the Space Force curated from around the internet and a hand full of other ones that aren’t space related, I guess.


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

(Meme via Shammers United)

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

(Meme by WATM)

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

(Meme by Yusha Thomas)

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

(Meme via PT Belt Nation)

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

(Meme by WATM)

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

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

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

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

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

(meme via Disgruntled Vets)

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

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

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

(Meme via BigRod50Cal)

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

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

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

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

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

(Meme via Terminal Lance)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Which military branch SHOULD you join?

So you’re thinking about joining the military. Good for you, you little patriot! Whether it’s for the experience or the benefits or maybe just the emptiness inside you that makes you want to be a hero call to serve a higher good, the military has a lot to offer.

But not all military experiences are equal. There’s a major difference between being a Marine Scout Sniper and an Air Force Linguist. Both have pros and cons, so let’s talk about some of them, starting with the culture and mission of each branch.

Keep in mind that these are broad generalizations. A Special Operations mission in any branch will differ significantly from, say, a Public Affairs perspective, which will also influence the training requirements and deployment tempos for the individual.


As a note, this article was written based on a compilation of Department of Defense publications, interviews with veterans and my own experience. It cannot cover everyone’s experience, so it’s important to do your own research and talk to veterans (not just the first recruiting officer you meet).

As an additional note, the Boot Camp descriptions here are for enlisted personnel – officers have shorter boot camps because they undergo less academic training during boot camp itself and more during additional officer training. This isn’t the only difference between being an officer and an enlisted member; from the mission to the pay to the benefits, the experiences are extremely varied — once you’ve found a branch you like, make sure you check out our article about commissioning compared to enlisting.

If you want to join the military, it’s wise to reflect on why that is and what you want your life and job to look like. This is a good place to start:

What New Marine Corps Recruits Go Through In Boot Camp

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U.S. MARINE CORPS

Boot Camp:

“What you’re really made of can only be revealed at the brink of exhaustion. Marine Recruit Training will take you there. Only those who possess the never-quit spirit required of every Marine will find the strength they never knew they had, the willpower they never knew they needed and the commitment to find that second wind even when it hurts to breathe to overcome the Marine boot camp requirements.”

Phase One — Weeks 1-4

Recruits transition from civilian to military life with strenuous physical training and martial arts as well as Marine Corps history and classes. They learn Marine Corps culture and values, including how to wear the uniform and handle weapons.

Phase Two — Weeks 5-9

The second phase consists of combat skills and marksmanship training. Recruits undergo gas chamber training and the Crucible.

Phase Three — Weeks 10-13

Recruits undergo specialty training such as combat water survival and defensive driving.

Physical Fitness Test:

  1. Pull-ups or push-ups (as many as you can; you can only max out on pull-ups — with push-ups you can get a maximum score of 70 points)
  2. Crunches or plank pose (as many crunches as possible in two minutes or holding plank pose for up to four minutes and twenty seconds)
  3. Timed run (three mile run in 28 minutes or less for men, 31 minutes or less for women)

Combat Fitness Test:

  1. Movement to Contact (timed 880-yard sprint)
  2. Ammunition Lift (lift 30-pound ammo can as many times as possible overhead in set amount of time)
  3. Maneuver Under Fire (300-yard course that combines battle-related challenges)

Deployments: The Marines remain at a 1:2 deployment-to-dwell ratio (or 1 year deployed with 2 years at home), which Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps General Robert Neller referred to as “unsustianable.” The goal is to achieve a 1:3 deployment-to-dwell ratio.

Culture: Marines are trained for combat and they are very good at that mission, which they should be proud of.

Unfortunately, the Marine Corps still struggles with health and care of its service members. A 2018 Annual Suicide Report showed the Marine Corps had the highest rate of active duty suicides, with a rate of 31.4 per 100,000 (compared to the Army with 24.8, Navy with 20.7 and Air Force with 18.5).

The Marine Corps also had the highest reporting rate of sexual assault with 5.7 percent, followed by the Army at 5.5 percent, Navy at 4.8 percent and the Air Force at 4.3 percent.

What Army Recruits Go Through At Boot Camp

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U.S. ARMY

Boot Camp:

Army Basic Combat Training comes in three phases and lasts about ten weeks depending on your military occupational specialty (MOS) — in other words, your job for the Army.

During the Red Phase, you learn the basics about Army life, such as how to wear the uniform and comport yourself. You also get your ass in line with physical readiness training and formation marching. Also, as a treat, you get your introduction to Chemical Radioactive Biological and Nuclear readiness, including getting gassed proper usage of breathing masks.

During the White Phase, you receive weapons and hand-to-hand combat training. You continue your physical readiness training, including obstacle courses and rappelling from the 50-foot Warrior Tower.

During the Blue Phase, you receive advanced weapons training, including machine guns and live grenades. You embark on a multiple-day land navigation course to test your survival skills. If you pass all of your challenges, you become a fully qualified Army Soldier. Huzzah.

Physical Fitness Test:

  1. Two minutes of push-ups
  2. Two minutes of sit-ups
  3. Timed two mile run

Army Combat Fitness Test:

  1. 3 repetition maximum deadlift
  2. Standing Power Throw
  3. Hand release push up arm extension
  4. Sprint-Drag-Carry
  5. Leg Tuck
  6. Two mile run
Deployments: The Army has maintained a high operations tempo when it comes to deployments. Current high deployment thresholds consist of 220 days deployed out of the previous 365 days, or 400 days deployed out of the previous 730 days.

In 2017, the Secretary of Defense’s standard was a 1 to 2 deploy-dwell ratio — or one year deployed with two years at home, for example — with the “red line” at 1 to 1. At the time, that ratio was at about 1 to 1.2 or 1.3, according to Army Times. It isn’t uncommon to expect 12-18 month deployments.

Culture: Like the Marine Corps, the U.S. Army has a proven history on the battlefield. Soldiers are trained to operate under a “suck it up” attitude to endure long deployments and combat as well as physical and mental stress. The Army has the second highest reported incidents of suicide and sexual assault, just behind the Marine Corps. Anyone joining the Army can expect to join a branch with a proud lineage, but it’s wise to evolve your own sense of self-care and to learn how to protect your health and the health of your battle buddies.
US Air Force Recruit BOOT CAMP Documentary

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U.S. AIR FORCE

Basic Military Training:

Air Force BMT consists of eight and a half weeks where recruits are introduced to military life through academics and uniform wear as well as physical fitness and weapons training. Academics and certifications, such as learning the Code of Conduct and becoming CPR certified, remain peppered throughout training.

Air Force recruits will complete a Tactical Assault Course and M9 pistol training, but unlike the Army or the Marine Corps, airmen are not required to qualify on the weapon during BMT. Active duty enlisted personnel and officers will qualify on their weapon only as required by their job or deployment status.

Compared to the Marine Corps and Army and even the Navy or Coast Guard, with firefighting and water survival, the Air Force BMT is probably the least strenuous of the branch boot camps.

Physical Fitness Test:

  1. One minute of push ups
  2. One minute of sit-ups
  3. Timed one and a half mile run

Note that this test is less strenuous than the Army/Navy/Marine Corps fitness tests. Soldiers and Marines are more likely to become “boots on the ground” in combat zones.

Deployments: The Air Force maintains an Air and Space Expeditionary Force (AEF) deploy-to-dwell tempo system, depending on career fields: The deployment categories are called tempo bands. Air Force officials have created five tempo bands: A through E. Tempo Band A reflects the original AEF cycle of a 1:4 dwell ration based on 120-day deployments. Bands B through E are based on 179-day deployments. Tempo band B is a 1:4 dwell ratio — or six months deployed 24 months home. Tempo band C is a 1:3 dwell, band D is a 1:2 dwell and band E, reserved for the most stressed career fields, is a 1:1 dwell, or six months out, six months in.

Culture: Other branches like to tease the “Chair Force” due to its reputation for cleaner housing and higher quality chow halls. The average Air Force mission will be less physically strenuous or dangerous than that of the Marine Corps or Army.

You might say the Air Force operates with the motto of “work smarter not harder,” and for better or for worse, this pays off. In recent reports, the Air Force had the lowest number of active duty suicides and sexual assaults. That being said, if you want to join the military to get in the fight and kick down doors in a combat zone, there are few Air Force positions available.

Boot Camp: Behind The Scenes at Recruit Training Command (Full documentary, 2019)

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U.S. NAVY

Boot Camp:

Recruit training or “boot camp” is about seven weeks long for the U.S. Navy. It will include physical fitness and Navy heritage, as well as seamanship and firearms training. The first two weeks are a challenging adjustment period filled with medical screenings and physical training as well as military education, including uniform wear and rank recognition.

The next four weeks include class and hands-on training environments that cover everything from firefighting and shipboard damage control to water survival and weapons training. Navy sailors aboard a ship must know how to respond to ship emergencies including flooding and fires as well as how to survive at sea. Every sailor is a qualified swimmer, able to swim 50 yards and complete a five minute prone float.

The final hurdle for Navy recruits is called Battle Stations, which includes numerous obstacles to test everything learned in the weeks prior.

Physical Readiness Test:

(Note, in 2020, the U.S. Navy will be introducing changes to the PRT)

  1. 1.5 mile run for time
    1. Alternate per commander’s discretion: 500 yard swim for time
    2. Alternate per commander’s discretion: Stationary cycle calorie burn in 12 minutes
    3. Alternate per commander’s discretion: 1.5 mile treadmill; run/walk for time
    4. (2020 alternate per commander’s discretion: 2 kilometer row machine test)
  2. Two minutes of curl-ups
    1. (To be replaced by forearm plank test)
  3. Two minutes of push ups
Deployments: Deployments will depend on what type of ship and mission sailors are assigned to, but they are often around seven months and during that time, sailors might not see land for long periods of time. While at sea, there are no breaks: you stand a 6-12 hour watch, even on Sundays, although there are often “holiday routines” with modified shifts. Ship/shore rotation tends to happen after about three years, depending on the job. Some career fields have longer ship rotations and some have only shore duty stations. It’s important to research ahead of time to try to secure the best job suited for you and your capabilities.

Culture: Navy ships especially continue to operate in historical fashions, so change is slow. Segregation of ranks is still strictly enforced (junior enlisted does not mingle with senior enlisted and fraternization with officers is especially prohibited in such close quarters). While women do serve at all ranks, there is still sexism and harassment in alarming numbers (though statistically less than the Marine Corps and the Army).

What It Takes To Survive Coast Guard Boot Camp

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U.S. COAST GUARD

Boot Camp:

U.S. Coast Guard boot camp consists of eight weeks that begin with military and physical fitness fundamentals and mature to hands-on application of Coast Guard proficiencies. Recruits learn firefighting and marksmanship as well as seamanship and water survival. Recruits must pass a three part swimming test (swim circuit) that includes a six-foot jump followed by a 100 meter swim and treading water for five minutes.

Physical Fitness Test:

  1. One minute of push ups
  2. One minute of sit-ups
  3. Timed 1.5 mile run
  4. Swim circuit

Deployments:

The Coast Guard consists of about 40,000 active duty members. As such, it is a very selective branch with missions that involve everything from Search and Rescue to Maritime Protection. Coast Guardsmen “deploy” every day in their duties and units and cutters can be away from port for months at a time. Coast Guard deployments tend to be more frequent, but can be as short as a few days or as long as several months.

Not all Coast Guard assignments are on “the coast” — there are inland assignments protecting inland waterways and lakes. The Coast Guard will also deploy to combat zones to provide additional support to maritime operations or to augment the Navy throughout the world.

Once you’ve researched the differences between each branch, there is still one more major consideration that can affect your military experience: whether to enlist or commission. We go into the benefits and downsides of each right here — check them out!

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veterans finding connection through social and physical activities

Did you know that there are 3.5 million post-9/11 veterans nationwide, and that 250,000 more service members will leave active duty this year to join them? These veterans often face isolation, lack of physical fitness, and a lack of purpose in a world that doesn’t understand the military.

Team Red, White & Blue‘s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity. Utilizing a nationwide network of chapters, Team RWB hosts and participates in events designed to bring veterans together and engage in the communities where they live and work.

Whether it’s workouts, races, social activities or community service projects, Team RWB members, also known as Eagles, support each other through shared values and experiences; there’s probably an RWB chapter near you.


Joining Team RWB is easy

Visit the Team RWB homepage to sign up. New members also receive a free Team RWB Nike t-shirt ( shipping and handling charge). New eagles are also quickly connected to their local chapter to learn about upcoming local activities. More than 160K veterans, their families, and non-military supporters have already joined Team RWB.

This is Us – Team RWB

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Team Red, White Blue is a nonprofit founded by veterans working to solve the epidemic of loneliness through physical activity. Team RWB is the bridge connecting communities where veterans and civilians work together to gain common understanding.

Team RWB takes the best of military service–the camaraderie and physical challenges–and creates a new family of Eagles connected through physical activity.

“Staying active both physically and socially is key for a lot of veterans, especially those who have been wounded, ill or injured,” said Tampa VAMC Chief of Recreation and U.S. Army veteran Geoff Hopkins. “It’s very important for those veterans with ‘invisible wounds,’ such as PTSD, to engage in activities in the community, to draw them out of their dark places and get them interacting with others.”

Take the 1776 Challenge

Independence Day is for celebrating our nation’s freedom. This summer, Team Red, White Blue will showcase their commitment to the men and women who have fought for our freedom with the 1776 Challenge.

Team RWB invites you to join all Team RWB Eagles across the nation. Whether you do it with someone else or weave it into your workout, you will know that thousands of others will be taking on that day’s unique challenge with you! Dedicate your hard work and sweat to celebrate our nation’s veterans and their commitment to this great nation. Every time you “check in,” you will be entered into a chance to win prizes!

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Nonprofit to collect Valentines for veterans and forward deployed

Soldier’s Angels, a national non-profit organization, is continuing its annual tradition of collecting Valentine’s Day cards to send to veterans in VA hospitals and to those who are forward deployed. But this year they are asking volunteers to include a financial donation of $1 to their cards.

Each year, Soldier’s Angels collects thousands of Valentine’s Day cards to send to veterans around the country as well as to service members who are deployed overseas. However, this year, with the increase in the cost of shipping, the non-profit cannot afford to send the boxes of cards.

“This year the organization is asking for those who send Valentine’s cards to include $1 per card. The money received will help to offset the cost of shipping boxes of cards overseas or shipping to representatives for distribution at VA Hospitals,” a press release statement said. 

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

Soldier’s Angels is a non-profit organization that provides aid, comfort, and resources to active military, veterans, and their families. It was founded in 2003 by the mother of two soldiers and it currently has thousands of volunteers that assist veterans, deployed service members, and their families. Solider’s Angels volunteer network is mostly virtual this year due to COVID-19 restrictions but they continue to provide support in the form of care packages, hand-crafted items, and cards and letters.

Although the act of sending a simple card is small, the leaders at Soldier’s Angels note that it can mean a great deal to veterans and those who are deployed.

“Many deployed service members do not receive any mail from home,” said Amy Palmer, Soldiers’ Angels CEO, and a U.S. Air Force Veteran in a press release. 

“Receiving a card from someone they may not know, but who supports them nonetheless, is a fantastic way to boost the morale of our service members.” 

In addition to those who are deployed, veterans in VA hospitals are experiencing even less interaction from family due to COVID-19 precautions.

Many are staying in a hospital that may be many miles or several states away from their nearest family members,” Palmer said. 

“And, due to COVID-19 restrictions, these patients may not have any visitors so receiving a card or other support helps to keep them going.”

If you would like to send a Valentine’s Day card, along with a $1 donation per card, to Soldier’s Angels, you can send it to the address below:

Soldiers’ Angels
2700 NE Loop 410, Suite 310
San Antonio, Texas 78217

If you would like more information about their Valentine’s Day project, you can visit their website here.

If you would like to volunteer with Soldier’s Angels, visit their website here.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

WATCH: Struggle, legacy and honor through 3 generations

The U.S. Navy’s first African American diver, Carl Brashear, used to always say, “It’s not a sin to get knocked down, it’s a sin to stay down.” His son, Army Reserve Chief Warrant Officer Phillip Brashear, tells his family’s story of struggle, legacy and honor.

From conquering racism and alcoholism to refusing to let a leg amputation end his Navy career, Carl is truly an American hero. Watch as both Phillip and his son continue that legacy.


MIGHTY CULTURE

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans

If 2020’s stay-at-home order told us one thing, it’s how much we rely on entertainers to keep us sane. Music, movies and online entertainment have been our lifeline to the outside world. Many of the celebrities who have kept us amused have also spoken out about the importance of recognizing the achievements of Black Americans — and that includes veterans!


Over 160,000 Black people are currently in the United States military, serving a critical role in keeping our country safe, and they’ve been doing so for a long, long time. In fact, many of the Black celebrities you know and love are veterans! Keep reading to learn about 10 of the most famous Black veterans…you might be surprised!

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

Montel Williams

Born in 1956, Montel Brian Anthony Williams is best known for his work as a TV host and motivational speaker. His show, The Montel Williams Show, ran for 17 years, but that’s not his only claim to fame. Williams served in both the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy. After enlisting in 1974, he attended a four-year officer training program, graduating with a degree in general engineering and a minor in international security affairs.

After completing Naval Cryptologic Officer training, he spent 18 months as a cryptologic officer in Guam. He later became supervising cryptologic officer at Fort Meade, eventually leaving the navy after achieving the rank of Lieutenant Commander.

He earned several awards including the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal and the Navy Achievement Medal.

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

Sunny Anderson

Food Network personality Sunny Anderson grew up as an Army brat. Her family’s ongoing travels and her parents’ love of food gave her a chance to explore international cuisines, inspiring her future career. After graduating high school in 1993, she joined the United States Air Force, where she earned the rank of Senior Airman. She also worked as a military radio host in Seoul, South Korea, going on to work for the Air Force News Agency radio and television in San Antonio from 1993 to 1997.

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

(Wikimedia Commons)

MC Hammer

Stanley Kirk Burrell, better known as MC Hammer, is one of the most well known American rappers of the late 80s. He rose to fame quickly both as a rapper, dancer and record producer, coming out with hits like “U Can’t Touch This” and “2 Legit 2 Quit.” In addition to creating the famous “Hammer pants” and his successful entertainment career, Burrell served in the Navy for three years as a Petty Officer Third Class Aviation Store Keeper until his honorable discharge.

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

(Wikimedia Commons)

Ice-T

Tracy Lauren Marrow, AKA Ice-T, is a multi-talented entertainer with a tumultuous background. He had more than one run-in with the law in his youth, but after his daughter was born he decided to join the Army. Marrow served a two year and two month tour in the 25th Infantry Division.

Military life wasn’t for him, however, and he used his status as a single father to leave the Army and begin his career as an underground rapper. Since then, he has made a name for himself as a musician, songwriter, actor, record producer and actor, starring as a detective on Law Order SVU and hosting a true-crime documentary on Oxygen.

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

Harry Belafonte

Jamaican-American singer, songwriter, activist and actor, Harold George Bellanfanti Jr is no stranger to hard work. He enlisted in the Navy at the start of World War II while he was still finishing high school. After an honorable discharge two years later, he focused on his music career, bringing Caribbean-style music to the US. One of his first albums, “Calypso,” was the first million-selling LP by a single artist.

He was also a passionate supporter of the civil rights movement, going on to advocate for humanitarian causes throughout his life. Since 1987, he has been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and currently acts as the American Civil Liberties Union celebrity ambassador for juvenile justice issues.

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

Shaggy

Ever heard of Orville Richard Burrell? Don’t worry, I hadn’t either, but you probably know his stage name: Shaggy. Burrell was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1968. He began taking voice lessons in the early 80s, filling the streets with music. His talent was apparent early on, but in 1988 he joined the Marine Corps, serving with the Field Artillery Battery in the 10th Marine Regiment during the Persian Gulf War. He achieved the rank of lance corporal, and continued to sing while he did it. He went on to earn seven Grammy nominations, winning twice for Best Reggae Album.

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

(Wikimedia Commons)

Jimi Hendrix

James, better known as Jimi, Hendrix, began playing guitar in his hometown of Seattle at just 15 years of age. After enlisting for a short time in the Army and training as a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division, he continued his music career to become one of the most renowned guitarists of all time. His music career, much like his military career, was brief, but powerful. He earned a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which describes him as “the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music.”

Berry Gordy Jr

American record, film, and tv producer and songwriter Berry Gordy Jr didn’t get his start in the music industry. He dropped out of high school to become a professional boxer, which he excelled at until he was drafted by the U.S. Army in 1950. He was first assigned to the 58th Field Artillery Bn., 3rd Inf. Div. in the Korean War, later playing the organ and driving a jeep as a chaplain’s assistant. When his tour was over in 1953, his music career took off.

He founded the Motown record label, which was the highest-earning African American business for several decades. Several of his songs topped the charts, and he’s known for helping budding artists like Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and the Supremes achieve greatness.

How to build an SFAB: Lessons learned from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade
2016 Invictus Opening Ceremony

Morgan Freeman

Actor and film narrator Morgan Freeman is yet another famous veteran. He earned a partial drama scholarship from Jackson State University, but he turned it down to enlist in the U.S. Air Force. There, he served as an Automatic Tracking Radar Repairman, rising to the rank of Airman 1st Class.

After being discharged four years later, he moved to Los Angeles and studied theatrical arts at the Pasadena Playhouse. Considering he has since won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, a Screen Actors Guild Award and many Oscar nominations, it looks like his hard work paid off!

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

(Wikimedia Commons)

James Earl Jones

Few voices are as iconic and recognizable as that of American actor James Earl Jones. Before launching his acting career, Jones served in the military, receiving his Ranger tab and helping to establish a cold-weather training command at the former Camp Hale. During his time in the military, he was promoted to first lieutenant. Following his discharge, he served his country in a different way, with over seven decades of theatrical excellence. In addition to winning numerous Tonys, two Emmys and a Grammy, he was presented with the National Medal of the Arts by President George H.W. Bush in 1992. Nearly two decades later, President Barack Obama invited him to perform Shakespeare at the White House. Wow!

These Black veterans aren’t the only ones we should care about.

The history of African American military personnel is as old as our country itself. Countless Black Americans have made their mark on U.S. Military history, and they continue to do so today. Click here to explore the firsthand experiences of Black vets, or learn more about how to support them here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday

A birthday celebration was held at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans on Oct. 2, 2018, for retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima. A man with bright eyes and heartwarming laughter, 95 years old never looked so youthful.

Williams watched as his brothers were drafted into the U.S. Army and decided he wanted to become a U.S. Marine. He enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in 1943 and retired after approximately 17 years of service.


“I joined the Marine Corps primarily because I knew nothing about the Marine Corps,” Williams said. “I was totally uneducated about the armed forces. The Marines were always very sharp, neat, polite, treated women very respectfully, and it caught my eye.”

Williams joined the Corps with the ambition to protect the country he called home. Little did he know, he would end up on enemy territory fighting for the freedom he loved so dearly.

“I thought that we would stay right here in the United States of America to protect our country and our freedom, so nobody could take this country away from us,” Williams said. “In boot camp, I was being trained by individuals who had been in combat. They were teaching us that if we were going to win, if we were going to survive, we had to fight a war.”

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

Brig. Gen. Bradley S. James, commanding general of 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, reads a letter written by Gen. Robert B. Neller, Commandant of the Marine Corps, addressing retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl Tessa D. Watts)

A boy from West Virginia working on a farm, Williams underwent the same honorable transformation endured by those before him and those after him; becoming a U.S. Marine headed overseas to enemy territory to defend his country.

“In boot camp, a person’s life completely changes,” Williams said. “From the time they arrive to the time they graduate, they become a new person. There is a spirit created within us that I cannot explain. It makes you so proud to be a Marine.”

Every Marine a rifleman, Williams had another asset that made him valuable to the Marine Corps and the war effort. He was selected to carry and use a flamethrower during World War II.

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

Retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima, explains the importance behind the Gold Star Flag and the Blue Star Flag to the attendees of his 95th birthday party at the National World War II Museum, Oct. 2, 2018. Williams established the “Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation” in 2010. The foundation encourages the establishment of Gold Star family Memorial Monuments.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tessa D. Watts)

“Naturally, we were all trained to be a rifleman first,” Williams said. “I was selected to be in a special weapons unit with a demolition flamethrower. Flamethrowers were being used a lot in the Pacific because of caves, and on Iwo Jima there were many reinforced concrete pillboxes that bazookas, artillery, and mortars couldn’t affect.”

Little did he know, his actions with that flamethrower would earn him the Medal of Honor on Oct. 5, 1945, for his heroic actions during the Battle of Iwo Jima.

“At that point in time, I did not understand what I was receiving,” Williams said. “I had never heard of the Medal of Honor. I didn’t even know such a thing existed. As far as I was concerned, I was just doing what I was trained to do at Iwo Jima. That was my job. It wasn’t anything special.”

After receiving the Medal of Honor at the White House in Washington, D.C., Williams was called upon to speak to the 18th Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Alexander Archer Vandegrift. A conversation of a lifetime, something very specific stuck with Williams despite the fear of speaking to a man known to never crack a smile.

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

The Victory Belles, a vocal trio, sing the Marines’ Hymn during the 95th birthday party of retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient of the Battle of Iwo Jima, at the National World War II Museum, Oct. 2, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl Tessa D. Watts)

“When the commandant spoke to me, much of what he said I do not recall because I was too scared,” Williams said as he laughed. “One of the things he did say that registered and has never escaped me is ‘that medal does not belong to you. It belongs to all of those Marines that never got to come home. Don’t ever do anything that would tarnish that medal.’ I remember those words very well.”

Williams joined the Marine Corps with a pure heart, dedicated to perform his duty to his country. Those duties ended up being significant enough to earn himself the Medal of Honor. A hero in the eyes of many, when he looks in the mirror he sees a man who was simply doing his job and caring for the fellow Marines around him.

With the distant gaze of a mind recalling nostalgic memories, “We were just Marines looking out for each other,” Williams said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

America’s Got Talent is collaborating with We Are The Mighty to give you a special chance to audition

Calling all singers, dancers, performers and musicians! If you’ve ever thought about auditioning for AGT, now’s the time! This year, America’s Got Talent auditions are going virtual. We know our military community has lots of talent and are ecstatic to offer an audition opportunity for WATM readers, veterans, military spouses, and active duty service members. 

Not sure if you have what it takes? Check out this list of military community members who made it pretty far. Take a look at their auditions  to help you prepare yours.  

(America’s Got Talent)

Season 3

Daniel Jens is a native of Milwaukee. He joined the Army after 9/11 and deployed to Iraq in 2006 with the 1st Cavalry Division. He auditioned for Season 3 with Edwin McCain’s “I’ll Be,” while playing the guitar. Despite forgetting the song’s lyrics during the Vegas Round, Jens advanced to the Top 40 Quarterfinal, where he sang The Police’s “Every Breath You Take.” Jens was eliminated in Part 1 of the Semifinals after performing Lonestar’s “I’m Already There.” 

(America’s Got Talent)

Season 8

American Military Wives Choir, previously known as Homefire, helped give military spouses a voice through music. Their first single, “The Promise,” was commissioned by famed Producer David Foster and written by Charlie Midnight (“Living In America”), Jay Landers (head of A&R for Universal Music) and Bernie Herms (writer and producer for Natalie Grant).

The group came together after rigorous and quick casting at the request of Foster, who had a performance scheduled at the Kennedy Center and wanted to include a choir of military wives. Foster contacted CAMMO (The Center For Military Music Opportunities), and they quickly answered the call with an exhaustive search. The day after they met – and with only one rehearsal – these spouses found themselves on the Kennedy Center stage with Jewel, Chaka Khan and Chris Botti as the finale to a star-studded show of David Foster and Friends.

AWM auditioned for season 8 with a choral version of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” The group made it to Week 2 Semifinals but didn’t receive enough votes to be sent to the finals. 

(America’s Got Talent)

Season 12 

In the Stairwell was formed in 2004 by a group of freshmen at the Air Force Academy. Because of their rigorous coursework and other duties, the group could only sing “in the stairwell” – which is how the group got their name. The a cappella group was featured on Season 12. Now an official club at the Air Force Academy, cadets have dedicated time to practice each week. In the Stairwell’s audition was One Direction’s “Drag Me Down.” The judge’s reactions to the audition were mixed, but ultimately the group got enough yes votes to move forward in the competition. The group was cut in Week 2 of the semifinals

(America’s Got Talent)

Season 14

Voices of Service were a vocal group act from Season 14 of AGT. They finished the competition in 5th place overall and returned to AGT: The Champions 2, where they were unfortunately eliminated in the primaries. Voices of Service includes Master Sgt. Caleb Green, Staff Sgt. Ron Henry, Sgt. Maj. Christal Rheams, and Sergeant First Class Jason Hanna. Voices of Service represents the diversity and excellence within our military and veteran communities and is an inspiring example for the nation that they serve, have served and continue to service through music. They have performed at the Canadian Embassy, American Legion Convention, the Joining Forces event at Vice President Joe Biden’s home, and many more. Check out their audition video to get some ideas of what the judges might be looking for this season. 

A special submissions portal has been created for all WATM readers and will go live November 10. Be sure to follow our Facebook page to see FAQs and get the live link! Casting producers will be reviewing these submissions to select the right person to appear in a live remote virtual audition and the chance to participate in Season 16 of this hit show. 

MIGHTY CULTURE

This could be the origin of the ‘lucky cigarette’

Smoking cigarettes has been a popular pastime among troops since the very first line formed at the armory. Everybody, both civilian and service member alike, has their reason for smoking, but one thing is consistent between the two crowds — flipping one cigarette upside down and saving it for last.

This last cigarette is referred to as the “lucky cigarette” and it’s considered bad luck to smoke it before the others in the pack. People all over the internet have speculated at the origin of this superstition, but it’s very likely that it all started with troops in WWII — and the Lucky Strike brand cigarettes they used to get in their rations.

So, if you’ve ever wondered why your veteran friend saves a single, specific cig for last, here are the best explanations we’ve found:


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

(U.S. Marine Corps)

World War II

In WWII, troops would get Lucky Strike cigarettes in their rations and each cigarette was stamped with the brand’s logo. It’s believed that those fighting either in Europe or the Pacific would flip every cigarette in the pack except for one. That way, when a troop sparked one, they’d burn the stamp first (this was before the days of filtered cigarettes).

That way, if a troop had to drop the cigarette for any reason, the enemy couldn’t quickly determine the country of origin — any identifying mark was quickly turned to ash. The last cigarette was the only exception — and if you survived long enough to smoke it, you were considered lucky.

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

U.S. Marine Corps LVTP-5 amphibious tractors transport 3rd Marine Division troops in Vietnam, 1966.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Vietnam

Some swear that this tradition comes from the Vietnam War.

By this point, filtered cigarettes were becoming the norm, so you could only smoke ’em one way. Still, the tradition remained largely intact. Instead of flipping every cigarette on end, troops would invert a single one and, just as before, if you lived long enough to smoke it, you were a lucky joe.

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

Hopefully you can quit when you get out.

(U.S. Army)

In either case, having a “lucky cigarette” in your pack has since become a universal superstition.

Whether you’re in the military or not, flipping that one cigarette is considered good luck, even when your life isn’t in immediate danger.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet Callie, the military’s only search-and-rescue dog

This is Callie, the only search and rescue dog in the entire U.S. military.

Callie and her handler, Master Sergeant Rudy Parsons, are assigned to the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, Kentucky Air National Guard.

Callie was “born” out of experience.

In 2010, a catastrophic earthquake rocked Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti. The impoverished country’s infrastructure doubled under the strain of the magnitude 7 earthquake, which caused apocalyptic devastation.

The US military responded in force to the aid of the tried Haitians. In that humanitarian effort, the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) played a big part because of their unique capabilities. More specifically, it was AFSOC’s Combat Controllers (CCT), who specialize in airfield surveys and air traffic control, among other tasks, and Pararescuemen (PJ), who are the Department of Defense’s sole specially trained and equipped search-and-rescue (SAR) unit, that contributed the most.

Master Sgt. Parsons was one of the Pararescuemen that deployed to the Caribbean nation.

“Local sources were telling people that there was a schoolhouse that had collapsed with about 40 children inside,” Parsons had said in a 2019 interview. “A team of special tactics Airmen went over and started looking through the rubble, just carrying these rocks off, looking for these missing kids. A few days into the search, (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) was finally able to land. They brought a dog to the pile and were able to clear it in about 20 minutes. There was nobody in that pile.

Callie and Master Sergeant Rudy Parsons
Callie and Master Sergeant Rudy Parsons (SOCOM).

“It had been a couple [of] days of wasted labor that could’ve been used to help save other lives. It was at that time that we kind of realized the importance and the capability that dogs can bring to search and rescue. Every environment presents different difficulties, but it’s all restricted by our human limitations. Our current practice is: Hoping that we see or hear somebody.”

When he returned to the US, Parsons advocated and pushed for a search-and-rescue K-9 capability. In 2018, almost a decade after Haiti, his determination bore fruits and the Search and Rescue K-9 Program was created. The program aims to increase the effectiveness of Pararescue teams during natural disasters by pairing PJs with specially trained dogs.

Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search and rescue K-9, land at Fort McCoy, Wis. July 17, 2019, as part of an domestic operations exercise. Callie is currently the only search and rescue dog in the Department of Defense. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton).

The first, and only, canine to have been accepted in the program is Callie, a Dutch shepherd. What differentiates her from other military working dogs (MWD) and special operations military working dogs (SOMWD) is her ability to located people, injured or not, in adverse conditions. Whether it’s in a forest, collapsed building, or the wilderness, Callie can use her nose, senses, and body to go where humans cannot go easily. And in emergencies, time is of the essence.

To be operational, Callie, and any future SAR dogs, has had to qualify in a number of insertion methods that Pararescuemen use, such as fast-roping, mountain climbing and rappelling, and parachuting (both static-line and military freefall).

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

TDY to Paradise: 11 fun facts about Hawaii

Usually, we imagine American history as, well, history. Surprisingly, Hawaii is probably younger than most grandmas; as a state, at least. Hawaii gained statehood on August 21st, 1959, as the 50th and final US state. Here on the mainland, most of us know Hawaii as the land of hula dancing, beautiful beaches and family vacations, but our 50th state has a rich cultural history that’s still alive and well today. Keep reading for 11 interesting facts about the Aloha state.


Hawaii has an impressive and diverse military presence.

The US Army has the largest presence there, with over 16,000 active duty members. Next comes the Navy with roughly 8,000, the Marine Corps with 7,000, and the Air Force with about 5,000. These forces operate from numerous military bases, which gives Hawaii the largest and most diverse concentration of our military within a metropolitan area.

Veterans love Hawaii. 

Because of the strong military presence on the islands, over 120,000 veterans live in Hawaii, making up about 11% of the population. As of late 2018, Hawaii has over 18,000 military retired personnel. Of those individuals, over 17,000 receive monthly pensions.

The attack on Pearl Harbor changed life in Hawaii. 

​When the Japanese Navy Air Service attacked Pearl Harbor, over 2000 Americans were killed, but the impact on Hawaii didn’t end there. Tourism and production industries on Oahu ground to a halt. Meanwhile, over 160,000 Japanese people were being held in Hawaii- a setup that the struggling islands could no longer support. If they were removed all at once, however, the economy would crumble.

Martial law was strictly enforced until the end of the war, leaving the US military in direct control of many aspects of life in Hawaii. Over time, the military transformed Hawaii’s culture. Sugar plantations were turned into housing and training sites, more roads were built, and some of the smaller islands were destroyed. At the end of the war, military personnel returned to the mainland, resulting in even more economic challenges for Hawaii. Fortunately, the people there have since worked together to rebuild a thriving, beautiful Oahu.

Hawaii was once a monarchy.

Until 1893, the islands were ruled by the Hawaiian Monarchy. Queen Liliuokalani was sin power at the time, when a group from her Committee of Public Safety conducted a military coup. After the Hawaiian Kingdom was overthrown, President Grover Cleveland believed the monarchy should be restored. When President McKinley took office, however, he saw Hawaii as a chess piece in the game of the Spanish-American War and annexed the region. As mentioned before, it took until 1959 for Hawaii to officially become a US state.

Hawaii still honors its historical royalty.

As a former monarchy, Hawaii has traditions dating back long before it became a state. Hawaiian royalty, or ali’i, is still celebrated today. Kamehameha Day is held on June 11 in honor of King Kamehameha the Great, and Prince Kuhio Day takes place on March 26. Both of these dates are official state holidays, celebrated with annual festivals, traditional foods, and colorful parades.

Hawaii is the only U.S. state with two official languages.

The rest of the states only recognize English as the official language, but Hawaii includes its original Hawaiian tongue. Hawaiian pidgin, a Creole language based on English, is also commonly spoken, but it’s not considered an official state language.

Learning the alphabet in Hawaii is easier.

To tourists, Hawaiian names can look intimidating, but they’re actually pretty simple once you learn how the Hawaiian alphabet works. There are only 12 letters plus two symbols that change pronunciation. Once you learn the basics, it’s actually easier to sound out than English!

There are actually 137 Hawaiian Islands.

Most people have heard of some of the largest Hawaiian islands, like Maui, Oahu, Kauai, and “the Big Island”. In addition to the eight major ones, there are over 100 more smaller islands, each with unique reefs. Across the many islands, the climate varies too, covering 10 of the world’s 14 climate zones! This natural variation is responsible for the vast diversity of flora and fauna in Hawaii, making it a place like none other on Earth.

Hawaii is home to the world’s largest dormant volcano.

Maui’s Mount Haleakala reaches a peak of 10,023 feet above sea level, with a 7.5 by 2.5 mile crater. That said, the bulk of the volcano is actually located under water. Measured from the sea floor, it’s nearly 30,000 feet; similar to the height of Mount Everest! This volcanic giant was responsible for creating the majority of the island of Maui, and it’s likely to grow again in the future. Mount Haleakala isn’t extinct, just dormant, so it may erupt again one day.

Surfing started here!

With white sand, warm water, and epic waves, it’s not shocking that surfing was invented in Hawaii. It originated over a century ago, and it’s believed that stand up paddle boarding began there as well. Surfers at Waikiki started the trend several decades ago, but it wasn’t until a more recent revival by big wave surfers that the sport began to increase in popularity.

There are no snakes in Hawaii.

If you’re scared of things that slither, Hawaii is your ideal destination. The state has a strict ban on snakes and other species that may disturb native species, including hamsters, gerbils, and squirrels. Anyone who does bring a snake in should be prepared for hefty fines and possible jail time! Hawaii also requires a quarantine period for other pets, which has prevented the transmission of rabies completely.

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