Billi Doyle was a military kid with a dream, one that her family nurtured and supported growing up in Oklahoma. Doyle saw her parents’ deep commitment to service in the military, which really impacted her. They continuously stressed the importance of values and working hard.
Doyle’s mother retired in 2018 as a Lt. Colonel from the Air Force Reserves after 20 years of service as a dentist. Her father, who is now deceased, was a medically-disabled Army veteran. Her step-father served overseas with the Navy during the Vietnam War. Sacrifice and hard work was ingrained in her.
“My grandma taught me how to sew and I was always interested in design…I spent a lot of time with her as a kid. She was very artistic so maybe that rubbed off on me. I moved to Dallas from Oklahoma so I could go to design school,” she shared. The first thing Doyle ever made as a teenager was a dress, which she laughingly described as “awful.” But that didn’t deter her and if anything, made her more committed to succeed.
Doyle graduated from the Art Institute of Dallas in 2007 and started her business immediately. “The first three or four years, I didn’t really know what I was doing,” she said with a laugh. When asked if she ever thought about quitting, Doyle laughed again and said, “Every day.”
Doyle launched Honey Bee Swim after her graduation and began designing bathing suits and cover-ups, eventually adding yoga and athletic wear. What’s unique about her creations is that they are made in America with fine Italian fabrics. With much of what America purchases being made with cheap labor and fabric from China, Doyle’s business stands out.
“It is really difficult and frustrating to be an American designer. People want everything so cheap now. Other companies get everything made in China and it’s really hard to compete with them,” said Doyle. The negative impacts from sourcing and manufacturing in China have also really affected her business the last few years.
Now, businesses in China are also actively committing fraud.
“I’ve been getting knocked off by China for the last couple of years. They steal my pictures and sell knockoffs with my pictures on them and you can’t fight them. I would go out of business if I did,” she said. Doyle finds it hard to deal with it all, saying that watching someone take something you created and pretending it’s theirs is “beyond frustrating.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has also significantly impacted Doyle’s business as well. Typically, the late winter and spring seasons are where she does the majority of her business. But with the virus causing worldwide quarantines, no one is vacationing. This means people aren’t purchasing luxury line bathing suits, which was always the bulk of her business. “It’s our busiest time. We’d normally be selling 100 bathing suits a month and right now we are selling five,” Doyle said.
So, she started making masks.
A lot of thought went into the making of the masks. Doyle shared that she spent a lot of time researching the fabrics that were most effective and chose polyethylene which is woven tighter than cotton. “We made probably 10,000 masks. We gave some away and sold the rest of them,” she said. Her masks are safer and she even sells filler packs for them.
Although it appeared things were looking up business-wise, pretty soon masks made in China were eventually restocked in most stores. “People are not buying American-made masks now because they can get a three or four dollar mask at Wal-mart because it’s made in China,” said Doyle.
“More things need to be made here in America, but how can you promote and encourage people to do creative things here when no one can make money doing it,” she said. Doyle continued on and explained that the country is in this trend of buying everything cheap and only worn once for social media posts.
A 2019 New York Times article interviewed Gen Z teenagers who admitted they want things cheap and much of what they buy is for a one-time photo op. Another article featured on Business Insider showcased that this type of shopping is on its way to killing brands because the number one motivator is the price.
Doyle hopes that when people make a choice to shop, they will begin to question sustainability and even the conditions of the shop where their clothing is made. Although the current trend is fast and cheap, the cost is much higher than the purchaser realizes in terms of devastating impacts to the environment and economy.
To learn more about Billi Doyle and shop her sustainable and American made clothing, click here.
Military Working Dog Gabe started his Army career in a rare way, escaping near-euthanasia in a Texas shelter before becoming a remarkably successful working dog and a celebrity loved by famous humans, like Betty White and Jay Leno.
Gabe is credited with going on 210 combat missions and finding 26 caches of weapons and explosives before retiring to live with his handler in 2009 as a sergeant first class. He passed away in his handler’s arms in 2013.
He had been sitting in a shelter where he was reportedly a day away from euthanasia when the Southeast Texas Labrador Retriever Rescue Organization pulled him out. The Army found him then and tested him for potential as a military working dog. He passed and was assigned to Army Staff Sgt. Charles Shuck.
They find bombs. They find them in combat, in the burning desert, and sometimes under fire. Gabe finished a five-month training iteration and was the rock star of the class. After they graduated, Shuck’s commander asked if they could deploy to Iraq. They needed Gabe in the show.
And so he went, and Gabe and Shuck were quickly favorites with troops on the ground. They rolled out often, 210 times in a single deployment. Of those missions, 170 were combat patrols where they led columns of soldiers through dangerous areas, smelling for the tell-tale scents of IEDs.
And Gabe was able to find the goods. In one case, he hit on 36 mortar rounds stashed by insurgents. Mortar rounds are popular tools for bomb makers because their explosives are reliable and powerful. Recovering them saves lives. Gabe also visited soldiers during his deployment, improving morale.
Gabe would eventually garner three Army Commendation Medals, an Army Achievement Medal, and dozens of military coins and other awards. In 2008, he received the Heroic Military Working Dog Award Medal from the American Kennel Club.
Gabe visiting with children in a school.
But Gabe was senior and needed to retire soon after the deployment, something he did in 2009. The Army allowed Shuck, Gabe’s only handler, to adopt him. He visited schools and hospitals and became a celebrity, appearing in photos with Betty White and Jay Leno.
The heroic dog enjoyed almost four years of retirement, but cancer had stealthily crept through his liver and spleen. It was discovered in February 2013, but it was far too late to operate.
Shuck made the decision to have Gabe put to sleep and cradled him as he passed.
As soon as Shawn Campbell saw his name on a plaque next to a statue sunken 40 feet on the seafloor, the memories of soldiers he had once served with flooded his mind.
The life-size statue, one of a dozen concrete figures that make up the nation’s only underwater veterans memorial, depicted a soldier wearing combat gear from the Iraq War — a war he had fought in three separate times.
“It really took my breath away,” said the former staff sergeant, now a master diver at a Florida dive shop. “It was a huge honor.”
His company made a donation to place his name at the base of the statue before the figures were recently installed about 10 miles off the coast of Clearwater, Florida.
The memorial, called Circle of Heroes, honors the entire military with statues portraying a variety of service members in what organizers hope will serve as a therapeutic dive for veterans and a unique diving experience for all.
Plans call for an additional 12 statues to be added to the memorial next year.
Circle of Heroes is the nation’s only memorial of its kind and will eventually have 24 life-size statues depicting troops from all services.
(Circle of Heroes)
For Campbell, who served about a decade in the Army as a combat medic, he said the memorial helped him remember those who never returned home and those who struggled once they did.
“I had a lot of friends who didn’t make it back,” he said Aug.12, 2019, a week after the memorial officially opened. “And even more who did make it back, but then couldn’t win the battle with themselves after the war.”
One such friend was Staff Sgt. Victor Cota. He and Campbell had been in the same 4th Infantry Division unit that provided security for senior leaders traveling in and around Baghdad.
On May 14, 2008, Cota’s vehicle hit a roadside bomb, killing the 33-year-old Tucson, Arizona, native.
“He was a really good friend of mine,” Campbell said. “We lost him during [my] second deployment.”
In 2013, Campbell left the Army to finish his associate’s degree and then worked as a commercial deep sea diver. He now teaches courses at a dive shop in the Tampa area, where he grew up.
Shawn Campbell, a former staff sergeant and now a master diver, looks at his name on a plaque next to one of the statues at the Circle of Heroes underwater veterans memorial off the coast of Clearwater, Fla.
(Video still by Bill Mills)
“I was like, well, if I survived the war, I’m going to start doing everything I want to do now,” he said.
Campbell said scuba diving is a relaxing activity that calms his post-traumatic stress and gives him time to analyze his thoughts in peace.
“It helps me deal with things,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to have a bad day when you’re underwater and you get to reflect upon yourself.”
Former Staff Sgt. Jace Badia, also a diving instructor, agreed, saying the sport gives him more freedom of movement.
Badia, an infantryman who lost his left leg above the knee to a roadside bomb in Iraq, said he and others who have had amputated limbs can move however they like while floating below the surface.
He even knows a blind veteran who enjoys scuba diving.
“If you don’t have the ability to run because of prosthetics, you can get in the water with a tank and you can swim as fast as you want,” he said. “Nothing is stopping you.”
Shawn Campbell, a former staff sergeant and now a master diver, had a statue dedicated to him at the Circle of Heroes underwater veterans memorial off the coast of Clearwater, Fla.
Badia, who manned a boat so other wounded veterans could dive around the memorial last week, said he is looking forward to seeing it soon in an upcoming dive.
“I can’t believe that they finally made an underwater memorial for [service members],” he said. “That’s amazing, I never even thought that was possible.”
While memorials are typically above ground, this one can allow visitors to connect to it on a deeper level. There is even a nonprofit that specifically takes wounded veterans to the site as an alternative form of therapy.
“The one thing about scuba diving is when you’re down there, even if you’re in a group, you’re still by yourself,” Campbell said. “You have no choice but to reflect on what you’re looking at.
“It’s more of a serene experience that you never get an opportunity to experience above the water.”
Master Sergeant George Hand U.S. Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.
Officer: “Guys, if this job were easy monkeys could do it.” NCO: “Yeah, and if monkeys could do it… then we wouldn’t need officers.”
When I was stationed with Special Forces Dive Academy in Key West Florida as an instructor, I took to immortalizing events as I witnessed them in person: the good, the bad, the smart, the stupid, and always the funny. Heck, as a cartoonist I could always make events funny even if they weren’t; that’s just what a cartoonist does.
The beauty of being the cartoonist is that I got to choose the events that were going to get the attention. Sure, guys could come up and present their ideas to me and plead their case, but if I didn’t like it I simply could… ignore it! It was easy to become intoxicated with power.
I carried the tradition with me to the Delta Force. I anonymously hung my first cartoon in the day room to test the waters. The sterling response from the pipe-hitters meant I could claim my work, and I kept a working log of my cartoons in a binder on the bar in our squadron lounge titled: A-Squadron Tymz.
Most of the guys loved being featured in the Squadron Tymz and roared with laughter at their plight or praise. Others lamented their incidental turn to be in the book. I consoled them in all seriousness:
“Brother, you’re looking at this all wrong… you WANT to be in the book; everyone should WANT to be in it because you are then immortalized for all time!” They thought that the book was a record of their mistakes but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
I really am quite certain that piece of cheerleading in earnest gifted them peace of mind, and none of the features I added to the book were ever in poor taste. Brothers from the other squadrons tended to mosey over to our break room to have a casual gander at the latest cartoons and beg the backstory from any standers-by. Other squadrons even began to keep their own versions of my Squadron Tymz.
As for the back story of the featured cartoon, there are two parts depicting events that both happened on the same assault on a complex target objective. My assault team was designated to move in behind an initial ground floor clearing team. Once they cleared that ground floor of threats using assault weapons and flash-bang grenades, my team was to flow through quickly to the stairs and gain access to the top floor.
All went particularly well, if I may brag; assault rifles belched smoke, fire, lead, and hate as bangers thundered smashing out glass in the window pains and tearing holes through gypsum wall boarding. Calls rang out:
“CLEAR,” “CLEAR HERE,” “ALL CLEAR,”!!
Each of the guys on my team peered out and down the hall where our bro Guido had just swaggered out of a room and stood in the middle of the hall where you weren’t ever supposed to stop and stand. It was time for Guido-style post-assault levity as we had become accustomed to it. He stood with his rifle on his hip like a duck hunter, other hand on hip, head cocked to the side and stated in his best cool-guy voice.
“I think there’s something you guys don’t realized but need to know right now, and that is that this top floor is now officially… CLEAR!”
With that, the floor under his feet creaked and sagged, and Guido went instantly crashing through the floor of the old condemned building. His body fell roughly to its waist then jammed in the hole. On the floor below, startled men cursed as a half-dozen little red dots from visible lasers danced across his kicking legs.
We dashed to extract him. He cried out as we tugged and pulled him finally through the hole in the floor. Once out we headed back downstairs, Guido limping heavily. He had tweaked his hip in the fall, an injury we all insisted for days was actually his ass, a notion that he strenuously objected too at every opportunity.
Outside a car sped away with three more assaulters who had blocked the road leading to the target during the assault. Once we reported the objective secured, the men intended to push out farther away from the target to provide more advance notice to the assault force of approaching vehicles.
The vehicle they were in was purchased by the Unit from a local car dealer, and in need of repair, and fixed up by our crack mechanic shop. It was known by us all to have mushy breaks. As the driver, Jester, came up fast on the second security position in the dark he chose to right-leg break the car to a definitive stop, but didn’t have time to warn his riders.
As the car screeched to a halt, passenger Chainsaw came flying off his vinyl seat and slammed his head into and shattered the windshield. Poor Chainsaw… as Jester describes: “The brother is an accident magnet,” and indeed that may well be, as Chainsaw wrecked a motorcycle his first week in squadron plunging the kickstand through one of his calves.
Later he was blown up by the premature detonation of an explosive breaching charge. He is famous in the Unit for taking a .45 caliber ACP bullet to the forehead and surviving. The bullet struck his head at a shallow angle and bounced off just above his hairline. It snapped his neck back, injuring it, but otherwise he was ok. Only in the shower when his hair was wet could you see the .45 bullet-shaped scar on his scalp.
Sadly, Chainsaw was hit again in the head by an HK G3 rifle at the border with Afghanistan and Pakistan. This time he was gravely injured and still suffers to this day from that head wound. We two remain friends on Facebook, catching up and busting chops just like in the day.
“How’s your ass, Guido?”
“I told you guys it’s my hip… my hip is what is injured; not my ass!”
“Ok, whatever you say, Guido… you take care of that ass, ya hear?”
“I TOLD you it’s not my ASS!”
“Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha… sure thing, Guido.” And so it went.
Three years of a heavy-casualty war came to a close on this date in 1953 when the Korean War Armistice was signed. This conflict ended America’s first brush with the Cold War concept of “limited war,” which was the first “hot” war of the Cold War, where the aim of US involvement was not the total defeat of the enemy but instead the “limited” goal of protecting South Korea. During the three years of war, over 55,000 American troops were killed in action.
Korea was a Japanese colony for 35 years, from 1910-1045 until the US and the Soviet Union occupied it after WWII. The US proposed that the country temporarily be divided along the 38th Parallel to maintain influence in the region. Three years later, in 1948, the American-baked anti-communist southern government administration declared itself the Republic of Korea. The Soviet-back, communist north was quick to follow and declared itself the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea shortly after. Both governments were unstable, and border skirmishes were frequent before the Korean War officially began.
When the community of North Korea invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950, the U.S. quickly acted and secured a resolution from the United Nations calling for military defense. Within days, US forces had joined the battle by land, air, and sea.
Even though the armistice officially stopped hostilities between North and South Korea, it’s not a permanent peace treaty. The armistice agreement suspended open hostilities and withdrew all military forces.
Lots of brass was on hand to sign several copies. Eighteen official copies were signed in three different languages by US Army Lt. Gen. Willian K. Harrison, Jr., senior delegate, UN Command Delegation, North Korean Gen. Nam II, senior delegate, and delegations from both the Korean People’s Army and the Chinese People’s Volunteers were present for signatures.
It took a while to get to the discussion table. The armistice marked the end of the longest negotiated armistice in history. Spread over two years and 17 days, 158 meetings took place.
The established committee of representatives from neutral countries worked together to decide what would happen to POWs. Eventually, it was decided that POWs could choose what they wanted to do – stay where they were or return to their own country.
There were plenty of high-level POWs. One of the most well known is when US Army Brigadier General Francis Townsend Dodd was held hostage by North Korean POWs during a camp uprising. The incident was used widely to showcase North Korean victories and eventually led to the end of Dodd’s career.
Death tolls on all sides were significant and heavy. Currently, there are still more than 7,000 US soldiers missing in action from the war. There were up to a total of 5 million dead, wounded, or missing on both sides. Half of them were civilians.
New borders were drawn at the discussion table. This new border gave South Korea additional territory and established the Demilitarized Zone as a buffer between the forces.
It took twelve hours for the truce to go into effect. It was signed at 1000 and activated at 2200. But then, the US decided to lengthen the war period to January 31, 1955, to extend benefits eligibility for service members.
The Korean War armistice is strictly a military document, so there’s no nation as a signatory to the agreement. In March 2013, North Korean decided that the 1953 armistice was no longer valid. And, since neither side can claim they won the war, the region is now at an impasse.
It’s often called “The Forgotten War,” partly because of the lack of media coverage about the Korean war, post-conflict. Compared to WWII, there are far fewer movies about the Korean War than WWII. Officially, it’s still classified as a “police action” because President Truman never asked Congress for a formal declaration of war.
Sixteen countries participated in the conflict, but it’s not considered a “World War” by historians, even though it set the tone for the decades of Soviet-American rivalry and profoundly shaped the world we live in today.
Speaking of numbers, the U.S. dropped more bombs in Korean than in the Pacific Theater during WWII. In addition to 32,557 tons of napalm, U.S. forces dropped 635,000 tons of bombs.
It might be the forgotten war, but may we never forget.
Special operations personnel are often assigned missions in places where support is hard to come by. Expeditionary Support Bases, like the USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3) and sister ships, are, in essence, mobile bases, make it easier to bring support within range of troops in austere environments. However, supplies are limited; the United States Navy has just the Puller, with two sisters under construction.
Furthermore, these ships are large and lightly armed, making them vulnerable. The good news is that there may be an option to give more special ops personnel support — and the answer is a combination of two ships already in Navy service.
USS Independence (LCS 2), whose trimaran hull is the basis for Austal’s proposed Special Operations Support Vessel.
(U.S. Navy photo by Naval Air Crewman 2nd Class Nicholas Kontodiakos)
Austal is offering a Special Operations Support Ship. This concept vessel takes the trimaran hull used by Independence-class littoral combat ships and combines it with features from the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport, like a stern ramp and the ability to haul vehicles and troops around.
The model showcased at the 2018 SeaAirSpace Expo at National Harbor, Maryland showed a potent armament suite for this vessel. It included two quad launchers for anti-ship missiles, like the RGM-84 Harpoon or the Kongsberg NSM, as well as a turreted gun forward and a launcher for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile.
Elements of the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transports would be incorporated with the Independence-class littoral combat ship’s trimaran hull to make the Special Operations Support Vessel.
This Special Operations Support vessel also maintains the ability to operate a helicopter at least the size of a MH-60S Seahawk, which would not only allow it to insert special ops troops, but to also fire AGM-114 Hellfire anti-ship missiles. Even though the Navy is buying large expeditionary support bases, when it comes to supporting special operations forces in the future, deploying several little ships instead of something large may be the answer.
All you need to handle the hostile is a Sikorsky H-60 airframe, and it really doesn’t matter if it’s a UH-60 Blackhawk, MH-60R/S Seahawk, or an Air Force HH-60 Pave Hawk. Even a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk will do in a pinch. The real key to taking out these drones is the M240, M2, or M3 machine gun that the door gunners use.
In a sense, these door gunners are acting like the old waist gunners on B-17 Flying Fortresses. Back then, those gunners needed training films that included the voice of Bugs Bunny. Seventy-five years later, though, the gunners can actually train against a target similar to what they are shooting. And with live ammo, too.
This low-tech solution might not work in all situations, but it is good to know that the United States military does have these options in case they need them. In the video below, you can see a door gunner at the United States Navy Rotary Wing Weapons School get some very realistic training on how to deal with a hostile drone. Note the M240 that is used on this MH-60 Seahawk.
Seventy-seven National Guard members have died of suicide this year as of October, the month that the second annual Department of Defense Suicide Report was released.
According to the report, 498 total service members died of suicide, including 89 National Guard members, in 2019. Since 2014, the rates of suicide have increased among active-duty members but have stayed consistent for the reserves and National Guard, the report revealed. In 2019, the suicide rate in the National Guard was 20.3 per 100,000, down from 30.8 per 100,000 two years ago, said Maj. Gen. Dawne Deskins, deputy director of the Air National Guard.
Nearly 450,000 people comprise the National Guard this year.
“I personally am uncomfortable talking about rates, because these are our people,’’ Deskins said. “These are our members of the National Guard, and the National Guard is a family. So when we lose someone, we’ve lost a coworker. We’ve lost a family member. We’ve lost a friend.’’
The Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress at the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, Maryland, is assessing how the coronavirus has affected the New York National Guard, U.S. Public Health Service Capt. Matt Kleiman said.
“The time to do that is right now,’’ Kleiman said. “You can’t wait until it’s over. All of the things that our population deals with in this COVID environment that we’re in, we believe has an impact, but we want to see exactly what that impact is.’’
Kleiman is the director of the National Guard Warrior Resilience and Fitness division, which was formed last summer to develop programs that view health holistically. The number of its so-called pilot programs doubled from 11 to 22 this year and addresses mental-health issues through a variety of approaches.
For example, the New Mexico National Guard is screening for suicide risk factors, including early childhood trauma, when men and women enter their unit. In South Carolina, “one-stop shops’’ for health and wellness have been instituted, while the Utah National Guard has developed a mobile app to aid in crisis intervention. The Vermont National Guard is testing a device that potentially could treat traumatic brain injuries and PTSD through magnetic e-resonance therapy.
“What we’re hoping to do is establish a two- to three-year cycle for these pilots to test and then expand the ones [to other states] that seem to be promising,’’ Kleiman said.
“A big part of our strategy has been putting directors of psychological health at our wings and our states, so these are full-time resources that — most of them are clinical social workers or psychologists — and they work with a command. They also work within that unit to disseminate information, make referrals when there is an event that occurs, whether it’s a suicide or a sexual assault or some adverse action.’’
The National Guard has seen a 14% increase, year over year, in members accessing mobile vet-center support during weekends at the end of the 2019 fiscal year, stats from the National Guard Bureau showed. Other vet centers have seen a 44% spike in new members accessing their services. More than 3,600 National Guard members have been referred to vet centers this fiscal year, bureau data showed.
At least 700 civilian providers have been trained in specific treatment protocols for working with National Guard personnel, the bureau said.
“Anything that we do that makes behavioral health more about the natural rhythm, just something that’s very natural to do, is certainly something that we want to encourage,’’ Deskins said.
And if that happens, one life — hopefully more — can be saved.
“I’m pretty confident that if we keep doing it like we’re doing it, … over time, we would see a positive impact,’’ Kleiman said.
From January 2018 to June 2020, I served in key development positions as a battalion operations officer, battalion executive officer, and brigade executive officer. My key development time was the hardest I have ever worked in my life. Fortunately, I had great teammates, worked for wonderful bosses, had the opportunity to coach and mentor junior officers and NCOs, and formed lifelong bonds I will cherish for the rest of my life. Despite being part of a great team, stress took its toll, and by the end I was something of a wreck; my personal life was strained, I was mentally and physically exhausted, and, to add insult to injury, I had also gained about ten pounds.
Fortunately, my next assignment was one that advertised a much slower pace and exposure to parts of the Army I had never seen. Needless to say, I arrived excited. I would get to spend time with my family, refocus on my fitness, and get my life together while preparing for my future. However, myriad self-imposed expectations and a constant drive for excellence became destructive. I was still waking up at 0530 every day to go to the gym, do PT, and get to work early. Falling back on old habits, I once again found myself checking emails and responding to every single text or call at all hours of the day.
Despite a desire to recover, I continued to run at the same pace I had for the last two and a half years. My drive never turned off. I continued to redline and found myself once again breaking down. I thought I had slowed down, but I never truly began the recovery process.
Merriam-Webster defines “recover” as “to bring back to normal position or condition,” and The American Psychology Association defines “recovery time” as “the time required for a physiological process to return to a baseline state after it has been altered by the response to a stimulus.” The common element in each definition is a change in state. The drive for excellence during a demanding period is counterproductive, or even harmful, during recovery. We must give ourselves permission to power down, throttle back, and take time to heal. Not giving ourselves permission to slow down can impede recovery, multiply the damage incurred during a high demand period, and cause lasting negative impacts to our physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual well-being.
“If the Soldier cannot recover properly from the acute training load…then the training load will accumulate and not be absorbed. The continued volume and intensity of the workload becomes chronic. This failure to properly progress the workload increases risk of underperformance…” FM 7-22, pg 4-7, “Physiology”
In 1908, psychologists Robert M. Yerkes and John Dillingham Dodson demonstrated an empirical relationship between stress and performance, known as the Yerkes-Dodson Law. The law dictates that performance increases with physical and mental stress, but only to a point. When stress becomes too great, or endures for too long, performance begins to decrease. This relationship is often depicted by a bell curve:
While not explicitly mentioned, the Yerkes-Dodson Law can be found throughout the new FM 7-22, Holistic Health and Fitness. FM 7-22 mentions recovery, or some variant of, 623 times. Clearly, the Army recognizes recovery is a requirement, and not just for physical fitness. In addition to physical recovery, FM 7-22 explicitly mentions mental, spiritual, nutrition, and sleep dimensions. However, despite encapsulating a recovery requirement in the Holistic Health and Fitness program, the OPTEMPO within many BCTs remains unsustainably high, impeding any progress made with the publication of the new doctrine.
“Soldiers’ roles and jobs change, complicating the requirements for sustained character and psychological training across a Soldier’s lifecycle. …Therefore, commanders must consider this doctrine as providing best solutions and messaging for the collective mental health of the unit—procedures and tactics that allow Soldiers to prepare for, thrive in, and recover from the ordinary and extraordinary stressors that might degrade readiness.” FM 7-22, pg 9-1, “Mental Readiness”
FM 7-22 and other like programs are a much-needed step in the right direction, providing comprehensive doctrine and tangible steps individuals and leaders can take. However, they fail to address the cultural aspects at the root of the recovery problem. In my experience, some unit cultures, particularly divisional units, value work for the sake of work, not work for the sake of output. A Soldier who completes their assigned tasks on time, or even tasks beyond their assigned workload, but leaves at a reasonable hour is often seen as less committed or lazy. However, a Soldier who comes in early and stays late is seen as hard working and dedicated, despite producing little to no value for the organization.
When leaders tie value to input instead of output, they risk creating a culture where how hard and how long one works is equally, and sometimes more, important than what one produces. Worse, those cultures often also associate work length and effort to commitment and dedication to the organization. In these environments, it matters less what one does, as long as you do it for as long and as hard as you can. One of the most important things a person can do in these cultures is to be seen as “really getting after it”, regardless of what “it” is or whether “it” truly advances the organization or not.
This is not to say performance and output go unnoticed in these cases. Poor performers are eventually identified and rated accordingly. However, cultural norms allow average performers to “muscle through it” by putting in long hours, yet be viewed as equal to or more valued than the high performing individuals who complete their work on time while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
These cultural norms manifest themselves at both operational and institutional levels. Many commanders consider it acceptable to text, call, or email about non-emergent work at night, over weekends, and during leave periods. This naturally creates pressure for subordinates to respond, regardless of the time of day. It is routine for Soldiers to avoid behavioral counseling or therapy because they fear admitting they need help will harm their career. Over my 15 year career, I have routinely observed Soldiers at all ranks lose leave because the high OPTEMPO consistently produces a pressing requirement. Finally, there is the phenomenon of “waiting on the word”, where Soldiers will wait around for hours until the commander leaves, despite not having any assigned tasks to accomplish, just in case the boss needs something or has a question.
At the institutional level, the issue manifests in how assignments are viewed and managed. I’ve seen many raise an eyebrow when an individual seeks a job that isn’t viewed as “hard charging.” Instead, the expectation is that careerists who want to advance and eventually command must seek the hard jobs and “keep rowing.” Human Resources Command considers these high pressure nominative or competitive broadening assignments career enhancing, meaning that they increase one’s chance for promotion or CSL selection.
Based on this, why would someone who wants to promote and command select slower paced broadening jobs to round out the professional skill set and allow them and their family to recover when the Army has already told them that choice does not make them the most competitive? As a result, many Soldiers, especially those on track for early promotion or with high potential for CSL selection, will move from serving two years in high stress, key development billets to equally high pressure nominative or competitive broadening billets to maximize promotion and selection chances.
Ask yourself a question: when is the last time you took a four-day pass? Why do so many leaders overvalue work for the sake of work or disparage those who require recovery? Why do career managers often discourage people from picking jobs where they can rehabilitate an injury, be home every night for dinner, and build memories with their families? Resting our muscles after lifting weights enables muscle tissue growth, in turn allowing us to lift more the next time. Similarly, resting our minds, bodies, and families after a hard push in a key development billet enables us, and our families, to push hard again in the next big job.
“Recovery: The period of four to eight weeks when the Soldier begins to prepare for the primary mission. It is characterized by low workloads and general adaptation and recuperation.”, FM 7-22, pg Glossary-8
Recovery is a physiological necessity. This is an immutable fact that both high performers and the institutional Army recognize on an intellectual level. Still, both struggle with recovery, conceptually and in implementation. Fixing this problem requires action at the individual, unit, and Army levels; it also requires senior leaders to lead from the front in execution.
We can take three steps to improve the recovery process. First, we must give ourselves PERMISSION to recover. We must acknowledge it is permissible to perform below peak output all the time, and throttling down is both healthy and necessary. Second, we must recognize recovery is a process that takes TIME. These issues cannot be fixed over a long weekend. The length of the recovery period is tied to the length and intensity of the high demand period. Finally, we must be DELIBERATE about our recovery. We must budget time and resources for recovery the same as we would a training exercise. Like training, we must also avoid things that distract or pull us away from our recovery efforts.
At the cultural level we must shift how we view recovery. The Army’s Holistic Health and Fitness program is an amazing start and does a lot to cement recovery concepts into our doctrine. However, it requires leaders at every level to embrace it and put it into practice in tangible ways. First, effectively managing organizational capacity increases efficiency and enables routine working hours. Working late nights and weekends may be required to accomplish some missions, but those should be the exception, not the expectation.
Second, senior leaders at all levels must change their messaging and lead by example. How can they expect subordinates to truly recover if they are not willing to stop sending emails on the weekend, leave the office on time, unplug and actually take leave, or see a doctor when sick or injured? If board guidance and selection continue to weight high pressure operational assignments over broad experience, then what incentive is there to change the mold? Senior leaders must live the reforms for them to take root. Leaders at all levels must make it clear that long work hours, lost leave, and weekend emails are not a badge of honor, nor will they be viewed in a positive light.
In addition, we must embrace a concept of active recovery while in high stress, high demand jobs. When I was a battalion operations officer, my commander made a point to leave the office at 1730 each day. Even better, he chased everyone out, including myself, the command sergeant major, battalion executive officer, company commanders, and first sergeants. Making a habit to leave on time, being present for the little league game, or turning off the phone for date night are examples of “recovery in contact” that allow for some respite while enabling continued performance in a high demand job.
Finally, our culture must re-examine how it views assignments. Slower paced assignments should not be derogatively viewed as “taking a knee,” but rather rounding out areas in an individual’s professional development. Instead of pushing Soldiers from one high-pressure assignment to another, branch managers and senior leaders should encourage a greater diversity in assignments, not just in the operating force, but the generating force as well. Not only does the slower pace allow the individual and the family to recover, but the breadth of experience will benefit the Soldier in their next critical assignment.
Recovery can be uncomfortable. Over my 15-year career, the Army has trained and conditioned me to go farther, push harder, and move faster in everything I do. There was a metric for everything and if you didn’t perform better than before there was more work to do until you did. Trying to break this mindset is hard. In fact, forcing yourself to slow down and recover in many ways is more difficult than simply continuing to push the pace. However, we must remember one unalterable fact: what got you here, will not get you there. Maintaining the habits that made you successful in a high demand job will not make you successful while executing recovery.
Recovery is necessary. Recovery is a process. Recovery is healthy. While it may feel uncomfortable to power down, do less, and not push to our limits, we must realize this is a mental trap. Our personal growth happens as we consolidate gains, reflect, and rest during our recovery periods. By changing how we view recovery and taking a more deliberate approach in its execution, we can maximize our recovery, capitalize on our growth, and be ready to perform at our peak when called to do so.
A US Air Force F-16 assigned to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada crashed outside of Las Vegas on the morning of April 4, 2018, in the third aircraft crash in two days.
The pilot was killed in the crash, the Air Force confirmed in a statement. He was a member of the Air Force Thunderbirds demonstration squadron.
The F-16 crashed around 10:30 a.m. during a “routine aerial demonstration training flight,” and the cause of the crash is under investigation, according to the Air Force statement.
On the afternoon of April 3, 2018, a Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter crashed around El Centro, California, during a routine training mission. Four crew members aboard the helicopter were killed.
Additionally, a Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier jet crashed during a training exercise in Djibouti, east Africa on April 3, 2018. The pilot ejected and was being treated at a hospital.
Congress and the military have come under scrutiny amid the spate of aircraft crashes. Military leaders have long argued for an increased budget to combat a “readiness crisis” as foreign adversaries have gained momentum in other areas of the world.
Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Steven Rudder, the Corps’ deputy commandant for aviation, said in November 2017, that although pilot and aircraft readiness was steadily improving, the Corps was still dealing with the effects of “the minimum requirement for tactical proficiency.”
“Newly winged aviators … [are] the foundation of the future of aviation,” a prepared statement from Rudder said, according to Military.com. “When I compare these 2017 ‘graduates’ of their first fleet tour to the 2007 ‘class,’ those pilots today have averaged 20% less flight hours over their three-year tour than the same group in 2007.”
Only a few have gone through the extensive background checks needed to access Plum Island — where a secretive branch of the US government runs exercises to prepare for all-out cyber war.
The speck of land in the Long Island Sound, owned by the Department of Homeland Security is largely deserted. The main attractions are a defunct lighthouse and a center that studies infectious animal diseases.
It is also the perfect setting for the US government to stage mock cyber attacks on the power grid.
Every six months, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) — part of the Pentagon — ferries over experts who work to jumpstart a dead grid, while warding off a series of cyber threats.
A map showing the location of Plum Island, New York.
The exercise prepares them for a worst case scenario: if hackers succeed in taking the US electric system offline.
The country’s security services blamed Russia, which had occupied Crimea shortly before, and would ultimately annex it from Ukraine.
The US has not yet seen an attack on its grid. But the FBI and DHS warned that Russian government hackers have in the past managed to access other critical infrastructure like the energy, nuclear, and manufacturing sectors.
DARPA staged what a cyber attack on the US power grid could look like in November 2018.
(Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency)
Walter Weiss, the program manager overseeing the DARPA exercises, told Business Insider that his team is one of many studying how to defend the grid.
Weiss also sent Business Insider images of the site where DARPA carries out its operations.
“What we do that’s different is that we start from the assumption that an attack would be successful,” Weiss said.
“What scares us is that once you lose power it’s tough to bring it back online… Doing that during a cyber attack is even harder because you can’t trust the devices you need to restore power for that grid.”
Without electricity, the experts cannot count on light, phone service, or access to the computer networks they need to restart the grid. Their only source of power are old-fashioned generators which need to be refueled constantly.
That means the the specialists cannot focus solely on fighting off cyber attacks, Weiss said, because so much of their focus is taken up with other things.
Experts have to jumpstart a dead grid during the exercise.
Without being able to communicate, the tiniest misstep can set the team back dramatically.
Practicing on Plum Island in particular is useful, Weiss said, because it mimics the isolation that could come with a full-scale cyber attack on the mainland.
“That’s something we like about the island: You have what you brought with you,” he said.
With the exercise, DARPA hopes to reduce how interdependent the different teams are, because it is so hard to coordinate. The less time they need to waste trying to stay in contact, the quicker they can get power back to a population waiting in darkness.
Especially in a developed country like the US, every aspect that citizens consider a basic necessity would be affected — from light, to communication, to running water, to transportation.
“I’m trying to think through whose life would still be normal in the US or in England without power,” Weiss said. “I’m having a really hard time.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The increase in rates of sexual misconduct at the military academies detailed in the Defense Department’s annual report of sexual harassment and violence are “frustrating, disheartening, and unacceptable,” the Pentagon’s director of force resiliency said.
Rates of sexual crimes continue to be high, particularly against women, and rates of alcohol abuse by cadets and midshipmen continues to be a concern, Elise P. Van Winkle said.
Navy Rear Adm. Ann M. Burkhardt, the director of DOD’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office; Nate Galbreath, SAPRO’s deputy director; and Ashlea M. Klahr, DOD’s director of health and resilience, briefed Pentagon reporters on the department’s report to Congress.
The survey covers the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y,; the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Midshipmen walking to class at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis.
Van Winkle and Burkhardt stressed that addressing sexual harassment and violence at the academies is a leadership problem. Both said solutions require changing the culture at the academies.
“We know it takes time to promote and sustain a culture free from sexual violence,” Van Winkle said. “Our cadets and midshipmen must model the ethical behavior we demand of our future officers. But it is leadership’s responsibility to ensure they have the moral courage to demonstrate this behavior.”
Burkhardt stressed that cadets and midshipmen must promote “a climate of respect, where sexual assault, sexual harassment and other misconduct are not condoned, tolerated or ignored.”
The report noted that the prevalence of unwanted sexual contact increased from the 2016 report, while the rate of cadets and midshipmen choosing to report has remained unchanged.
“Leadership establishes culture,” Burkhardt said. “Leaders enforce standards, and leaders ensure the safety of those entrusted to their care.” The survey shows that cadets and midshipmen have great confidence in senior leaders, but that they have less confidence in their peer leaders, she said. “This is an area we must improve,” the admiral added. “These are our future leaders. We must instill in them the responsibility to intervene and prevent this type of behavior.”
Past initiatives made short-term progress, but that progress could not be sustained. “We are looking at the entire life cycle of our cadets and midshipmen from acceptance into the academies to entrance into the active force,” Van Winkle said.
Basic cadets run on the U.S. Air Force Academy’s terrazzo in Colorado Springs, Colo., July 12, 2017.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Darcie Ibidapo)
Alcohol abuse is clearly a factor in sexual harassment and violence. The survey found that 32 percent of men and 15 percent of women had five or more drinks when drinking. Twenty-five percent of women and 28 percent of men said they had memory loss from their binges, Galbreath said.
The overwhelming majority of cadets and midshipmen understand the special trust placed in them and the responsibility they bear to behave honorably to all. The military must get rid of the bad apples that poison the barrel, Van Winkle said.
“We will not waver in our dedication to eliminate sexual assault from our ranks, nor will we back away from this challenge,” she said. “Our commitment is absolute. While we are disheartened that the strategies we have employed have not achieved the results we had intended, we are not deterred.”
The service academies mirror what is happening in the greater American population. The last time there was a comparable survey for colleges, the service academies were doing better than their civilian counterparts, Van Winkle said.
In case you haven’t heard, David Spade has a new show called Light’s Out with David Spade. And one of the bits on that show is “Secret Stand-up” where he feeds jokes to another person who performs on stage. And he got Robert O’Neill, the Navy SEAL who claims the bin Laden kill, onto the stage at the world-famous Comedy Store.
The Navy SEAL Who Killed bin Laden Makes His Stand-Up Debut – Lights Out with David Spade
The video is available above, and Spade and Whitney Cummings give him some seriously edgy jokes to say, going from his sex life to the raid on Abbottabad to 9/11 with barely a beat. (And children probably shouldn’t watch the clip, but we don’t actually have the power to stop you. If you do watch it and don’t understand a joke, avoid image search when looking for the explanation.)
And you can tell that O’Neill really enjoys some of the jokes, because he hears them through an earpiece right before he has to deliver the line. He sometimes has to fight through his own laughter to deliver the punch line that he’s just heard from the real comedians.
O’Neill has 11 awards for valor and served on SEAL Teams Two and Four before being selected for the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (commonly known as SEAL Team Six). He left the Navy in 2012 after 16 years of service and having shot bin Laden. Everyone wants to end their career on that kind of high note.
Now, O’Neill is a media personality and public speaker, usually appearing on Fox News where he provides military expertise.
David Spade is returning to TV. For anyone young enough to not remember him, you probably shouldn’t watch the clip. It includes a lot of adult language. But Spade is probably best known for his roles in Joe Dirt, Tommy Boy, and Saturday Night Live. He’s performed in dozens of other movies and shows including The Hotel Transylvania and Grown Ups series.