The Iowa Military Veterans Band boasts a roster of 100 veterans who have served in almost every conflict from WWII to the GWOT. These musician veterans represent every branch of the military – even the Coasties!
And the crowd went wild!
The Iowa Military Veterans Band got together to perform at the dedication of a WWII monument back in 1996. That just made sense, since the majority of the veterans at that time served in WWII. Others served in Korea and Vietnam in both combat and combat support units. But the crowd responded so well to their performance that these talented musicians decided to stay together and permanently form a band. They’re still going strong 20 years later!
Music has been a part of military history since, well, forever. Back in the day, regiments used to perform on the field to convey orders and keep the grunts motivated. Then militaries got wise and formed official bands that traveled with their units to keep up the espirit de corps. In fact, that’s where marching bands as we know them came from! These days, there are plenty of examples of great military bands. Some have even gained fame from shows like America’s Got Talent.
It’s not likely the Iowa Veterans Band is going to perform for AGT anytime soon, but maybe they should think about it?
Service is part of their blood
Here’s what makes this band so special. It’s the only one of its kind in the entire country. True to their military roots, the Iowa Military Veterans band is officially a nonprofit organization. They’re all about giving back, helping their community, and improving the lives of veterans. They help support other VSOs in the Iowa veteran community. All concerts are free and most of the admin expenses are paid for by veterans themselves.
They keep going thanks to generous donations from Iowa businesses and individuals. Not once have they used tax dollars for support.
An orchestra of veterans
Of course, these accomplished musicians in the Iowa Military Veterans Band play a variety of instruments. This includes the usual you’d expect in a band like trumpets and clarinets. But there are also some harp and euphonium musicians, too! As a matter of fact, the band even has a vocalist. With that in mind, most of the band’s set lists are performances of songs by great American composers. These include the big names like Karl King, Meredith Wilson, John Philip Sousa, Irving Berlin and George M. Cohan.
In a normal year, the band plays between six and seven concerts from early May to Veteran’s Day in November. All members volunteer their time for rehearsals and shows to share their love of music with the people of Iowa.
A dishonorable discharge is, plainly, something nobody serving wants to get. It comes with a lot of adverse consequences that will follow you long into your civilian life and it’ll also will cost you any service-related benefits you may have acquired, including a military funeral, VA loans for a house, and medical care from the VA. If that wasn’t enough, you also lose out on the right to keep and bear arms.
The good news? There’s only one way to get this type of discharge that absolutely, positively, ruins your life. You need to be convicted in a general court-martial of violating any of a number of provisions outlined in the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
These include, but are not limited to: Striking a warrant officer (Article 91), failure to obey an order or regulation (Article 92), unlawful detention (Article 97), misbehavior before the enemy (Article 99), falsifying official statements (Article 107), and misbehavior of a sentinel or lookout (Article 113).
So, how often does this sort of thing happen? Well, during the shortest month of this year, Navy courts-martial, as summarized in this release, resulted in four sailors earning themselves dishonorable discharges.
Now, before we get started, know that commissioned officers cannot get discharges of any type. The officer equivalent of a dishonorable discharge is a dismissal from the service. Whether dismissed or dishonorably discharged, that service member forfeits all benefits.
These troops hold their honorable discharges – the complete opposite of a dishonorable discharge.
The Manual for Courts-Martial has a detailed breakdown of what can earn you the dreaded dishonorable discharge. One way to get that life-ruining piece of paper is described on page II-134,
“A dishonorable discharge should be reserved for those who should be separated under conditions of dishonor, after having been convicted of offenses usually recognized in civilian jurisdictions as felonies, or of offenses of a military nature requiring severe punishment.”
Another way, however, is called the “four strike rule.” If you’ve been repeatedly court-martialed and convicted of three offenses, your fourth will net you a dishonorable discharge. Described on page II-136 of the Manual for Courts-Martial,
“If an accused is found guilty of an offense or offenses for none of which a dishonorable discharge is otherwise authorized, proof of three or more previous convictions adjudged by a court-martial during the year next preceding the commission of any offense of which the accused stands convicted shall authorize a dishonorable discharge and forfeiture of all pay and allowances and, if the confinement otherwise authorized is less than 1 year, confinement for 1 year.”
A third way is to get a death sentence for an offense, according to page II-139 (190 on the PDF). The manual states,
“A sentence of death includes a dishonorable discharge or dismissal as appropriate.”
This is, in a sense, kicking you while you’re down. For all intents and purposes, you’re already dead, and they then stick your corpse with bad paper.
Perhaps the most notorious dishonorable discharge in recent memory is that of Bowe Bergdahl, who left his unit in Afghanistan and was captured by the Taliban. He received a dishonorable discharge for desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. As a result, he forfeited any and all benefits he would’ve earned from service.
A dishonorable discharge takes away all of your benefits, including a your right to funeral with military honors.
Often, when someone messes up, they’re more likely to receive an other-than-honorable discharge. This discharge doesn’t require a court-martial — it just takes a commanding officer. That gets you kicked out of the military, but has a much lesser effect than a dishonorable discharge.
According to GIJobs.com, an OTH discharge costs a departing military member a good portion of their post-service benefits, and generally precludes re-enlistment in another branch. To get a bad-conduct discharge, you need to be convicted by a special court-martial — this is a streamlined version of a general court-martial and comes with lesser penalties. You lose out on virtually all your benefits, though.
None of these “bad papers” are good to get. So, before you try something that could get you in trouble, think it through.
Jenny Byers, a first time mom living in San Diego at the time, laid on the hospital bed with tears streaming down her face as her son, Declan, was placed on her chest.
In what was such a joyous moment in her life, Byers wished just one thing — that her husband could be there to witness the occasion. She turned over her shoulder as a nurse nearby held up a computer with a live FaceTime call with PJ Byers, meeting his son for the first time.
Courtesy of Jenny Byers
“That’s your daddy,” she said to her newborn son experiencing skin-to-skin beneath a blanket.
PJ Byers redeployed when Declan was five months old and they met for the first time face-to-face in an emotional airport family reunion.
“At first I was scared our family was being robbed of one of the most special moments of our lives,” Jenny Byers told We Are The Mighty. “But I was wrong. That moment was still just as special, but in a way I wasn’t expecting. Thanks to modern day technology, we got to meet our son together.”
The Byers family’s story is not an outlier. Being married to someone in the military often means facing many of life’s challenges without your significant other and pregnancy is no exception.
“When my son was born we were at Fort Campbell, and my daughter was four,” said Sophie Pappas, a journalist and Army spouse. “I ended up driving myself to the hospital while my mom from Indiana stayed with my daughter. The midwife was super amazing during my second birth. She held one of my legs up with one of her hands and with her other hand she held my iPhone so my husband could FaceTime and see everything! I will always be grateful he was able to at least watch over FaceTime.”
Pappas credits the love and adrenaline running through her body for being able to deliver her baby boy without focusing on the absence of her husband.
Courtesy of Sophie Pappas
“When I was pushing, I remember laying in the hospital room at 8-centimeters dilated, totally alone,” she shared. “My water broke and I started to push right then and there with not even a nurse around. I didn’t know how to call anyone in, so I just started doing it alone. Looking back, that was one of the most amazing moments of my life. The strength that your body has to just do what it needs to do is incredible.”
While military spouses facing pregnancy alone and delivery without their spouse is not new, this is an unprecedented situation for many pregnant civilians as the coronavirus outbreak continues.
Heading to appointments without spousal support or delivering a new baby in a plan that looks different than it did six months ago is a scary realization that is top-of-mind for many moms-to-be.
Here is what military spouses who were pregnant and/or delivered alone want to share with expectant moms:
“I wish I trusted in myself a little more that I was capable and strong enough to do it alone and that it wouldn’t be forever. I also talked to my OB/GYN who knew about my experience and would let me videotape parts of the appointment such as ultrasounds. She was also really good about giving me lots of US pictures that I could send to my husband.” – Maureen Hannan Tufte
“I would tell them to be sure and ask for help when they need it. I was pretty stubborn about trying to do it all on my own, but when I did have help, I would realize how much I really needed it. Maybe find pregnancy groups (fitness or otherwise) to get involved in. Maybe they’ll find a kindred spirit who is going through the same thing? I would tell them that they can get through this.” – Julie Estrella
“I think the biggest thing with any pregnancy is that whether a national pandemic or a deployment or any event gets in the way, you’re going to have this ‘idea’ of exactly how you want things to go or you think things will go. I can 10000% guarantee that no pregnancy has ever turned out exactly like the mom and dad to be imagined, it’s just life. The sooner you adjust to the idea that things may change or unexpected events may occur, the better your anxiety and nerves will be and the less it will sting when that inevitable curveball comes your way.” – Kati Simmons
“It’s scary to be pregnant by yourself, especially during a first pregnancy. But the baby will keep growing no matter whether or not your partner is available. All you can do is take care of yourself and try not to stress out. Then be sure to Reach out to friends, call family, do what you can to find support because there are definitely people who are willing to help.” – Julie Yaste
“What brought me comfort before giving birth without my husband was hearing about other women who had labored alone before me. Knowing I wasn’t the only one to ever face this situation gave me every affirmation I needed, to know I was going to be okay.” – Jenny Byers
“I would tell someone to not get hung up on who won’t be there, think about who will. You and your baby! Embrace these moments to bond and build a connection. Dwelling on the sadness of your spouse not being there takes away from the joy.” – Kelsey Bucci
“We are capable and able to do hard things. It will be ok. Not having your spouse around for the birth is really hard. But, it will be ok. Lots of pictures and FaceTime. We are lucky to live in a land of technology.” – Alana Steppe
“Know it’s only temporary and the feeling of seeing your husband or spouse with your baby will be the most amazing feeling and make it all worth it.” – Emily Stewart
Courtesy of Kelly Callahan
“You are stronger than you know, and while the situation may not look anything like what you pictured, it is amazing what our mind and body will do (and do well) when we are faced with the challenge of bringing a new life into the world. What I realize now that we are on the other side of it, is that this situation is a small piece of our story and it’s a beautiful one. Lucy is in kindergarten now and I’ve heard her share with classmates and teachers more than once that her daddy could not be there when she was born, so she got to meet him on the computer, because he was fighting bad guys in other places. It all adds to who we are and how we are shaped. I would also add that the nurses and doctor who helped me deliver stepped up in ways I never could have imagined. They made sure the technology was just right so that my husband was included and included him in the conversations. They supported me like we had known each other for years and cried with me when she was born. The medical community is amazing and will not let anyone feel alone.” – Kelly Callahan
A spouse who wished to remain anonymous gave sage advice for expectant moms from the perspective of both a mom of six and labor and delivery nurse of ten years:
“I can confidently tell you that now, more than ever, your nurses are ready to be your doula, photographer and friend,” she shared. “You will not be left alone. You will have our entire team here to celebrate with you on your special day.”
The futurists over at DARPA are pursuing a vision that most of us knew was coming: creating artificial intelligence that can outperform human pilots in dogfights, can survive more Gs in flight without expensive life support, and can be mass produced. But it turns out, DARPA doesn’t think dogfights are the real reason the technology is needed.
DARPA is working “mosaic warfare,” a vision of warfighting that sees complex systems working together to overcome an adversary. Basically, a military force would be deployed across a wide front, but the sensors and command and control would be split across multiple platforms, many of them controlled by artificial intelligence.
So, even if the enemy manages to take out multiple armored vehicles, planes, or other platforms, the good guys would still have plenty of sensors and computing power.
And those remaining platforms would be lethal. The humans making the decisions would be in tanks or other vehicles, and they would have their own weapons as well as control of the dozens of weapons on the AI-controlled vehicles. Think multiple armored vehicles, a couple of artillery platforms, and maybe some drones in the sky.
In this vision of the future, it’s easy to see why dogfighting drones would be valuable. Human pilots could stay relatively safe to the rear while commanding the weapons of those robot dogfighters at the front. But the real reason DARPA wants the robots to be good at dogfighting is just so human pilots will accept them.
A DARPA graphic illustrates how manned and unmanned systems could work together in fighter engagements.
Turning aerial dogfighting over to AI is less about dogfighting, which should be rare in the future, and more about giving pilots the confidence that AI and automation can handle a high-end fight. As soon as new human fighter pilots learn to take-off, navigate, and land, they are taught aerial combat maneuvers. Contrary to popular belief, new fighter pilots learn to dogfight because it represents a crucible where pilot performance and trust can be refined. To accelerate the transformation of pilots from aircraft operators to mission battle commanders — who can entrust dynamic air combat tasks to unmanned, semi-autonomous airborne assets from the cockpit — the AI must first prove it can handle the basics.
Basically, DARPA doesn’t want robot dogfighters so they can win dogfights. After all, dogfighting is relatively rare now, and it doesn’t matter much if we lose one or two robots in dogfights because they’re cheap to replace anyway. But DARPA knows that pilots trust good dogfighters, so an AI that would be accepted by them must be good at dogfighting.
Once they’re in frontline units, the robots are more likely to act as missile carriers and sensor platforms than true dogfighters. Their mission will be to hunt down threats on the ground and in the sky and, at a command from the human, destroy them. It’s likely that the destruction will be conducted from beyond visual range and with little threat to the robot or the human pilot that it’s protecting.
Soldiers of the post-9/11 generation have been part of a social experiment aimed at preventing them from doing dumb things. The idea was to pair each troop with an assigned “best friend” — a battle buddy — and that each pair would keep an eye on one another. Troops have to make sure their comrade is doing the right thing and, if they aren’t, say something before both of them make the blotter- aka, the buddy system.
At its worst, soldiers end up in trouble because their Blue Falcon of a squadmate decides to throw caution to the wind and do whatever’s on their mind. But, as much as soldiers bemoan always having someone by their side — and the system’s goofy name — it’s actually brought about plenty more benefits than downsides.
Even if that means you’re now forced to take that guy into less-than-pleasant situations.
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Robert Taylor)
It makes sure no one is left out
Let’s call the “battle buddy system” what it truly is — a forced-best-friend system. Everyone from the social butterfly specialist to the dorky private is forced to at least talk to each other after they join the unit.
Granted, you’ll eventually either become actual friends through the process — or you’ll swap to someone you’re cooler with — but it opens the social gates for some of the shier soldiers in the barracks.
If your squad leader is happy, everyone’s happy — or you should be terrified. Depends on the squad leader…
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Keeler)
It eliminates much of the stress of being an NCO
Specialists and below often miss the bigger picture when they’re at the lowest rungs of the totem pole, but taking any kind of weight off their shoulders is a blessing. When you’ve got to watch over six soldiers, things get missed and mistakes happen.
When those six soldiers are keeping to themselves and keeping each other in check, there’s a better chance that they’re doing the right thing.
Worst case scenario: You’ve got another person to help you win a fist fight against some overzealous douchebag.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Charles Highland)
It ensures someone will always watch your back
Soldiers stationed overseas in Korea or Germany know this all too well: You can’t even leave post without a battle buddy by your side. Drunk, American GIs being tossed into a foreign city without any means of figuring out how to get back in time for formation is actually pretty common.
Sure, now you run the risk of leaving two soldiers more lost than a butterbar on the BOLC land nav course, but the odds are better that they’ll at least be safe while they’re trying to find their way back.
Hopefully, at least one of you listened to the safety brief.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brian Johnston)
With the buddy system, it’s been proven that dumb stuff happens less frequently
As with everything in the Army, there have been studies upon studies that have analyzed the efficacy versus the cost of telling your squad to be friends with one another. Because, you know, even the Army can make something as simple as drinking a beer with your friend into a PowerPoint slideshow.
It’s simple, really. Soldiers who have a person that’ll say, “what are you doing, you friggin’ idiot?!” are less likely to end up in the commander’s office.
Everyone needs a good, steady shoulder every now and again. It’s the least you can do for someone who’ll do the same for you.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Tyler Kingsbury)
The buddy system gives soldiers at least one person to talk to when it gets rough
Those studies also point to why the battle buddy system was implemented to begin with — to help decrease the alarming number of self-inflicted deaths and injuries within the ranks.
Everything else on this list is all fine and dandy, but if just a single soldier is saved because they had just one person to talk to, the program is a success. If hundreds of soldiers were talked out of that darkness because their squadmate became their best friend, I’ll forever argue its merit, no matter how goofy it sounds calling another grown-ass warfighter my “battle buddy.”
On September 11, 2001, America was attacked. Thousands of innocent people lost their lives at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. From the ashes of that horrible day rose a wave of patriotism that unified a nation to say in one voice, “We will never forget.”
Across the country, and especially in the state of New York, monuments and memorials to the people we lost that September day stand in keeping that promise. Of course, the most prominent of these is the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in Manhattan which is located at the World Trade Center. The memorial fountains bear the names of the people that perished there nearly two decades ago and the museum houses incredible artifacts and stories collected from that day. However, remnants of that day can be found elsewhere too.
One of the reflecting pools (9/11 Memorial Museum)
Roughly 190 miles north of the World Trade Center lies the city of Saratoga Springs, NY. Just over 30 miles north of the state capital of Albany, Saratoga Springs is a hub for thoroughbred horse racing as the home to the Saratoga Race Course as well as the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. The city is also in close proximity to the Saratoga National Park which preserves the Revolutionary War site of the Battles of Saratoga. Nestled among some of the town’s famous natural mineral springs stands a sculpted metal structure paying tribute to the tragedies that took place on 9/11.
Tempered By Memory (Author)
Crafted from World Trade Center steel, Tempered By Memory serves as the focal point of the town’s 9/11 Memorial Monument. A plaque at the memorial explains to visitors that the Saratoga Springs community lost residents in the attack and how first responders, ironworkers, and humanitarians from the area assisted with response and recovery efforts in the aftermath. In 2002, Saratoga Springs residents and businesses created a respite program which granted retreats to 178 NYC firefighters, policemen, and their families.
In 2010, the Saratoga Arts Center Council, Saratoga Springs City Council, and the Saratoga Springs Naval Support Unit entered into a collaboration to bring steel artifacts from the World Trade Center to the community. After a year of work by local sculptors and a volunteer team of ironworkers, crane operators, and community-wide support, Tempered By Memory was completed in 2011. On the eleventh anniversary of the attack, the sculpture was donated by Saratoga Arts to the City of Saratoga Springs. Reinforced by the healing and restorative properties of the natural mineral springs that surround it, Tempered By Memory invites visitors to quietly reflect on the history of the site and transcend the tragedy.
However, if the sculpture brings more pain than healing and a visitor finds themself in need of further inspiration of hope, they need only look off to the side. Planted a few yards away from the center of the memorial is a rather unassuming tree. Compared to the large and lush trees in the park, this diminutive Callery Pear Tree appears to be out of place.
In fact, the tree is called the Survivor Tree and was grown from a seedling of the last standing Callery Pear Tree that once stood on the site of the original World Trade Center. The attack on 9/11 nearly destroyed the original tree which now stands at the 9/11 Memorial Museum. Since its return to the site in 2010, the original Survivor Tree has spawned seedlings which have been gifted to communities that have endured tragedy. In addition to Saratoga Springs, recipients of Survivor Tree seedlings include Las Vegas, Parkland, Boston, Manchester, and Paris. The trees serve as a reminder of hope, strength, and unity through adversity.
Saratoga Springs Survivor Tree (Author)
Though memorial events for the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attack will look different compared to previous years as a result of COVID, tributes like Tempered By Memory and Survivor Trees across the country and around the world stand as monuments to the memory of the people lost on that terrible day and the loved ones that they left behind.
Virtual recruiting teams, outreach to civic leaders and 770 more recruiters on the ground are helping the Army sign up more new soldiers this year in some of America’s largest cities.
Recruiting is up 27 percent in Minneapolis over this time last year. New York City has improved 19 percent and Baltimore is up 17 percent, according to Army Recruiting Command figures for April 2019.
Cities are where the people live, so the Army needs to recruit there, said Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy. Until this year, however, recruiting success typically seen in the rural South was not shared by the big cities.
“We’re trying to bring a lot of balance to our recruiting effort and focus in on the largest metropolitan areas in the country,” McCarthy said.
A recruiter hands out a water bottle from a table of Army items near the Eutaw Street gate during an Orioles game May 3, 2019.
(Photo by Gary Sheftick)
Last year, Army senior leaders selected 22 cities to apply those efforts. These were areas with large populations that had little exposure to soldiers because most were located far from active Army training centers.
Senior leaders began meeting with mayors of those cities. McCarthy, for instance, first met with the mayor of Chicago, his hometown. He has since met city leaders in Baltimore, Houston and Orlando.
“We’ve got to get out there and forge relationships,” he said.
At the Baltimore meeting, city officials decided that Army interests aligned with one of theirs: keeping youth out of trouble. As a result, the city opened up all 43 of its recreation centers to recruiters.
“It was a great meeting because it opened doors,” said Col. Amanda Iden, commander of the Baltimore Recruiting Battalion, who sat with McCarthy at the meeting table.
“They’ve given us carte blanche access” to the rec centers, she said, adding her recruiters “don’t just play basketball and do sports with these kids,” they actually provide educational aids to help students study.
A young fan slaps five to the Orioles mascot as Staff Sgt. Antwon Yourse (left) and Staff Sgt. Bryan Lenis of the Baltimore Recruiting Company watch May 3, 2019.
(Photo by Gary Sheftick)
Recruiters uploaded the Army’s “March2Success” software on computers at the centers so students could study there for college boards and other entrance exams.
“You want to take the LSAT, LCAT, MCAT, all those other different tests, the GMAT, SAT, AECT, it’s a tool to teach you how to take tests,” Iden said, “and it focuses on your weaknesses.”
Meetings with city officials also help open up schools to recruiters.
“It’s a relationship,” Iden said. “It’s about getting to know leaders, principals and guidance counselors.”
Recruiters are there to help students and influencers — such as parents and teachers — make “informed decisions,” she said. It’s not just about “trying to pull you into the Army,” it’s about helping students be successful and explaining options, she said.
Many students and influencers don’t know the Army has more than 150 career paths, said Col. James Jensen, director of the USAREC Commander’s Initiatives Group.
They don’t know Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, has the world’s only school that certifies students in handling hazardous material for serious nuclear-biological-chemical threats, he said, adding graduates can get a job at dozens of agencies once they leave the Army.
They don’t know that military police officers are automatically certified in 32 different states and can become state police officers without attending that state’s police academy, he said.
“We’re trying to expand the audience and touch not only the potential applicants, but the influencers, too,” Jensen said. “Especially within the latest generation, influencers hold a huge amount of weight with the decisions to go into the military.”
Influencers are among the target audience for “Meet Your Army” events in many of the cities. These events often include senior Army leaders returning to their hometowns for speaking engagements mixed with editorial boards, meetings with civic leaders and other public forums.
Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville, for instance, returned to Boston April 14, 2019, to throw out the first pitch at a Red Sox game. The next day he ran the Boston Marathon — all part of the first-ever “Boston Army Week” proclaimed by the mayor.
Nearly 30 different events took place during the week, including an expo on the Boston Common that had the Army Special Operations Command “Black Daggers” parachute team jump in. Over 30 Army units and 10 senior Army leaders also took part.
Sgt. Chobie Van Rossum, a Baltimore area native assigned back to the city as a recruiter, stands on Eutaw Street during an Orioles Game May 3, 2019, to discuss Army opportunities with potential prospects and influencers.
(Photo by Gary Sheftick)
These events maximize resources, Jensen said.
Beginning later this year, new mobile Army recruiting platforms will participate at events such as the one in Boston, Jensen said. These semitrailers will include video-game terminals where visitors will be able to play against members of the Army’s new esports team, consisting of soldiers who will compete at gaming events across the country.
Virtual recruiting teams
Last year USAREC tested the concept of virtual recruiting teams at some of its battalions. Now each of the Army’s 44 recruiting battalions have VRTs that focus on social media.
The teams consist of three to six soldiers proficient in all types of social media. These VRTs are currently manned at about 80 percent, Jensen said, but he added they will be going up to 100 percent by this summer.
The Baltimore Recruiting Battalion’s VRT stood up in September with three members at its headquarters on Fort Meade. Each of the battalion’s six recruiting companies across Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia also have liaisons who work directly with the VRT, Iden said.
These VRTs are “force multipliers” for recruiters, Jensen said. When a potential candidate responds to a social media post and asks a question, the virtual recruiters will initially respond, then pass the prospect off to a neighborhood recruiter, Jensen said.
“This helps the recruiter on the ground with less prospecting and more processing,” he said, “putting [prospects] in boots.”
The VRTs have access to “segmentation” data from the command’s G-2. The Recruiting Command has identified 65 different types of neighborhoods or “segmentations” based on demographic data from the last U.S. census.
Sgt. Chobie Van Rossum (left) and Staff Sgt. Antwon Yourse of the Baltimore Recruiting Company hand out water bottles as they discuss opportunities in the Army with young fans attending an Orioles game May 3, 2019.
(Photo by Gary Sheftick)
“There’s a plan for every zip code,” Jensen said.
One of the main segmentations in downtown Baltimore is the “Urban Modern Mix,” Iden said. Characteristics for people in this segmentation include listening to urban adult contemporary music and having an interest in boxing. Virtual recruiting teams use such data to help target their social media posts, she said.
In a Chicago test that began in October, the Army is “micro-targeting” different neighborhoods and changing Internet ads weekly if they don’t resonate with particular segmentations. The pilot program is about to expand to Boston, officials said, and perhaps to more cities in the future.
In another pilot program, the recruiting company in Baltimore is partnering with the Maryland National Guard. In most areas, the National Guard has its own recruiters, but the five recruiting stations in the Baltimore area sign applicants up for the Guard. In return, the Guard provides assets to help recruit at different events, Iden said.
Recruiters also partner with the Baltimore Department of Recreation and Parks to plan participation in events such as the African American Festival in August.
“It’s inherent when you are amongst the public that you will integrate” and form partnerships, Jensen said.
During the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the mayor signed the city up for the Army’s Partnership for Youth Success program.
Under the PaYS program, recruits are guaranteed two job interviews at the end of their enlistment. For instance, if recruits pick the city of Houston, they might interview for a job with the Department of Public Works and Engineering.
Recruits are 15 percent more likely to sign up with the Army if they are offered the PaYS program, McCarthy said.
Staff Sgt. Bryan Lenis of the Baltimore Recruiting Company hands an Army water bottle to a young fan at the Eutaw Street concessions of Camden Yards during an Orioles game May 3, 2019.
(Photo by Gary Sheftick)
About 900 different companies and agencies across the country are now part of the PaYS program. The Baltimore Police Department is a partner and Iden said the Maryland State Police are about to sign up.
With these initiatives, recruiting is now up in 18 of the 22 focus cities, according to USAREC. But still, “there are cities all over the country where we know we have to do better,” McCarthy said.
Jensen cautions that it will take time. “While these initiatives go on, this is a plane in flight,” he said of the Army’s recruiting force. “We have to deliver every day. So you’ve got to be very cognizant of what you’re doing and how many ripples in the water you do to the recruiting force.”
Since the Army Training and Doctrine Command gained oversight of all accessions in September, he said focus and unity of command has improved.
“Having the TRADOC commander has been absolutely phenomenal,” he said. “Now it really helps us get after our mission and stay focused on our mission, and they [at TRADOC] handle a lot of the things that we used to have to handle.”
The TRADOC focus has brought more total Army assets to help with recruiting, he said, and more senior leader involvement to help educate influential audiences about the Army.
“I think it’s a requirement for every leader of this institution to get out there and talk about the U.S. Army as an organization, to educate our fellow countrymen, to encourage young men and women to take a hard look at this profession,” McCarthy said.
Editor’s Note: This is part two of George Hand’s story about his Special Forces team operating in Alaska. Read part one here.
I admit I got some pretty decent shuteye in that Patrol Base (PB). I ate cold food because I just don’t care, plus heating food is such a hassle in the field. I did heat up a canteen cup of coffee, and of course we had plenty of water thanks to the run to the babbling brook.
I took my shift on security which was sitting in a Listening Post/Observation Post (LPOP) a few hundred meters to the rear of our PB for a few hours being quiet, listening, and — you guessed it — observing. It was the usually tearful boredom save for the herd of Caribou that went meandering some 700 meters out. I had binos hanging around my neck tucked just inside my jacket which made for a closer pleasing eyeful of the herd.
When I was relived, I headed back to the PB and helped build the explosive cutting charges to take down the RF tower. We didn’t want to build those forward in the hide sight because it’s bad policy to plan on doing any work in a hide site other than shutting-up, being still, and freezing.
To cut the cylindrical steel at the base of the tower we built Diamond charges — shaped like an elongated diamond and duel-primed on both ends of the short axis with blasting caps:
(Diamond High-Explosive Steel Cutting Charge [photo courtesy of the author])
C-4, in simple block form, made up the two other charges that were to cut the support cables. Our plan was to tie all three charges in together so they would detonate as near simultaneous as possible. I caught a slight whiff of burning time fuse. Another team was calculating the burn time of the fuse. They cut a length of fuse, burned it, and timed the burn so they would know how long of time fuse they needed to give us three minutes to get away from the tower once the fuse was ignited.
Gosh, a breeze picked up and as God is my witness I saw a piece of paper blow by that looked like a page out of cryptography One-Time Pad (OTP)… and it was! I lunged to grab it. Our Commo Sergeant must have been in the process of encrypting his next message transmission to our Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Anchorage.
I moved to his location and sure enough he was shacking up a message:
“Hey, dick… think you’ll need this?”
“Wha… woah — where did you get that??”
“Oh… it just kinda came blowing by.”
“Bullshit! Gimme that!!”
He snatched it up, struck up a lighter under it, and burned it — a thing he was supposed to do before he ever laid it down.
“Here, sign this, dick!”
He passed his his burn log for my signature as a witness to the burning of the crypto page. He was the best commo man I ever knew, just had some housekeeping issues. He set to constructing his quarter-wave doublet antenna; in those days we used the High-Frequency bandwidth (3-30 MHz) and bounced our radio signal off of the ionosphere. He needed to cut his antenna length to match the frequency he was going to transmit on.
(An example of a crypto One-Time Pad [OTP] page [photo from the author])
I find it interesting that the Army has not used the HF band for such a long time, depending on satellites and Internet for most of its communication. Now days, satellites are being targeted for disruption, and the military is actually going back to the dependable HF band for backup communications. It was used during the Russian mercenary Wagner Group attack on U.S. troops in Syria; that battle ended in some 250 dead Russians.
Departing our patrol base, we slipped along tundra quietly to our hide sight. When we got close, we could occasionally spy the RF tower target through openings in the bush. Team Daddy halted us and laid us down while he moved forward with an Engineer Sergeant to have a reconnaissance of the terminal hide area.
He was gone long enough for us to get to freezing again. He lead us into the area where we laid down and established our hides: we stretched camouflage nets out low to the ground. We spread foliage on the top and sides were also covered up. Once inside, there was only enough room for two men to lay prone.
To our front was an open field of some 100 meters by 75 meters. We were just back off of the edge of the field where the men on watch could see the tower and the support corollary building. It was concrete with a pickup truck parked near the door — someone, likely a technician or maintenance person, was in there.
It was time to be cold for the next 24 hours. I went out with our commo man to help him construct an antenna and make his commo shot. He couldn’t do it from our hide site; we had to push back to the rear a thousand meters and sneak that transmission back to the FOB. It was great to be up out of the hide and moving around.
Twenty-four hours later we tore down our hides and packed up our rucks. Leaving the rucks behind, we took six pipe-hitters — half of our Green Beret detachment — and crept through the field ahead toward the tower. The other six pipe-hitters surrounded the target tactically establishing security for the demolitions teams. One of the security teams was blocking the access road incase the pickup returned, upon which they were to pull him out of the vehicle and detain him until the target was destroyed.
Our diamond charge went on smoothly and I paid out lengths of explosive det cord to the cable teams. All went together without a blunder. We collapsed back to our hide site leaving one man to tie in and fire the charges. Security remained in place. Team Daddy was glancing at his watch often, then finally lifted his hand-held radio:
“Bergie, this is Tango Lima, over…”
“Tango Lima, this is Bergie, ready to fire, over…”
“Bergie, stand by to fire in fife, fo-war, tree, two, one — fire!”
Even from our distance we heard the faint *pop* of the two M-60 fuse igniters fire. After about a nervous minute we witnessed brother Bergie, the trigger man, approaching quietly. He had stayed a little while to make sure he had a good fuse burn. I admired his dedication in that instance. He went to his ruck and laid to wait with the rest of us.
Team Daddy in typical fashion was observing his watch and called over his hand-held to the security teams:
“Standby for detonation in fife, fo-war, tree, two, one…”
And there came an ear-splitting *CCCRRRRAAAACCCCCKKKKK* of high-order C-4 expanding at 24,000 feet per second followed seconds later by a ground-shaking cacophony of steel slamming onto the ground with sheiks and groans of twisting steel.
“Security, collapse to hide site,” Team Daddy called out, followed seconds later by the panting pipe-hitters from the security perimeter. We threw on our rucks and stepped out smartly some 90 degrees from our original target approach azimuth.
(Destroyed tower [photo courtesy of the author])
Approximately 20-minutes into the walk, our Senior Medic pulled Team Daddy aside for some bad news; he had left his hand-held radio back at the hide — major blunder. How could we possibly return to the target so soon after destruction? We simply had to, that was is just the way it was.
Team Daddy had the men form a PB while he, the medic, and I went back for the radio. The sun had been steadily dropping lower to the horizon. Dark would be to our advantage as we swung around to make our approach to the hide site from the bush rather than the open field.
Doc found his radio immediately once we got there. There were a number of first responder vehicles scattered around the ruined target site with men milling around. We scampered like rabbits back in the direction of the patrol base. With Team Daddy up front and me walking in back, Doc from the middle kept turning around looking with awe on his face.
“What’s the deal, Doc?” I finally had to ask him.
“It’s going back up! The sun is… it’s going back up! It dropped low but it never went below the horizon and I swear to you its going back up now!!”
“Well, yee-haw, Daktari… so you saw it too, yeah? You saw the sun not set — was that cool or what??”
(“It dropped low but it never went below the horizon and I swear to you its going back up now!!”
An Air Force veteran has created a business that provides variety and comfort in military lodging. Ever heard of Airbnb? Well, Military Crashpad is similar, but specifically caters to military personnel, veterans, and their families.
Above is a general example of TDY billeting at Fort Indiantown Gap, PA.
Active duty personnel in every military branch travel a lot, whether it be for TDY or a permanent change of station (PCS). The only problem with travel is finding a place to stay for a government rate. Military Inns and on-base facilities are okay for short stays, but when a military member has to remain in a certain place for an extended period of time, government accommodations just don’t cut it.
Captain Johnny Buckingham, CEO and Founder of Military Crashpad.
Captain Jonathan Buckingham is the man behind the mission of Military Crashpad. Buckingham started off in the Air Force Academy and commissioned as a pilot, flying mainly KC-135 aircraft. With six deployments under his belt and over twenty TDY’s to count, he is well-seasoned in living in government quarters.
It was during his first 5-month TDY to Altus, OK, when Buckingham realized that military lodging could be ten times better. Base billeting, normally, is not equipped with kitchens or many of the everyday amenities that makes a place ‘homey’ or cozy.
Instead of staying on base, he went in search of a crashpad to fit his needs. A “crashpad” is a home, fully-furnished, that anyone can rent a room in to stay for a period of time. Unfortunately, there were no crashpad rooms available in the area. That’s when Buckingham got the idea to make crashpads exclusively for military personnel. As CEO and Founder of Military Crashpad, his motto is always, “because it was difficult for me, I want to make it better for the next guy.”
Above, the first Military Crashpad location in Altus, OK.
Why stay at a Military Crashpad? Below is only a taste of the amenities that are offered at their locations:
More space than a hotel room
Fully furnished with 60″ TV’s
Full Cable packages
Not active duty? No problem. Military Crashpad caters to veterans, reserves, and active duty alike. You want to take your family with you? No problem. Customers can rent a room or a whole house for privacy — all at the government rate. The mission behind Military Crashpad s to help our nation’s military and it’s evident in the care that comes with customer service. Military Crashpad offers thoughtful consideration to those serving in our armed forces.
Johnny Buckingham says it best,
“If we can make veterans lives easier when they’re stateside, then they’ll be more energized and rested which will allows them to fight harder, better, and faster. That benefits everyone.”
The last month of deployment can either drag slowly on or fly by, depending on how you keep your mind busy. If you’re looking for an escape from the drudgery, keep yourself distracted. And there’s no better way to keep your mind off the present quite like imaging all of the food you’ll eat when you arrive stateside. America is the melting pot of all the world’s cultures, which also means we have the very best of the world’s cuisine.
I can guarantee you, based on personal experience, that the question of, “what’re you going to eat first?” will come up. If you’re looking to start the discussion off with a delectable imaginary dining experience, fantasize about the spots on this list:
Pinch Kitchen — Miami
Restaurants overseas never perfectly nail the taste of American cuisine — and I do not mean fast food (admittedly, foreign countries can’t get that right, either). If you’re lucky enough to be stationed in Florida, or you’re planning on using some of your post-deployment leave days down south, make sure to stop by Pinch Kitchen in Miami, Florida.
They take American classics and add a dash of this and that to really bring out the taste in the classic meals we love. Now, before people start saying that hamburgers and hotdogs are not American because they originated from Germany, I’ll say this: Just like we did to the moon, we put our flag on them and now they belong to us.
Two executive chefs, John Gallo and Rene Reyes, put every effort into ensuring the food is perfect, the ambiance is unpretentious, and the place is filled with all of our favorite beers.
This is a piece of art that you’re encouraged to eat. What a concept.
Delmonico Steakhouse — Las Vegas
If Vegas is in your future, do not miss Delmonico Steakhouse. The genius in the kitchen is Emeril John Lagassé III who, as you might know, had his own show on the Food Network. This restaurant is more upscale, and I’d strongly recommend taking someone you’re more serious with than that stripper you just met thirty minutes ago.
Regardless, the filet mignon and other steaks here are so good you’ll wish you were exclusively carnivorous. Treat yourself to a quality meal because you’ve earned it. Vegas has buffets and deals around every corner, and there are plenty of comfort foods for after you have stumbled out of the casino (and almost married that stripper I told you not to take to the Steakhouse while successfully evading capture from the police and being black-out drunk). So, take some time to enjoy a meal that isn’t self-served, warrior.
It’s a family restaurant… I swear!
(Twin Peaks, Front Burner Restaurants, LP.)
Twin Peaks is a sports bar that started in Texas, but now has franchises all over the U.S. and is the primary competitor of Hooters. They serve beer at 29 degrees and have a made-from-scratch menu that includes American favorites, like burgers and nachos. It’s themed like a hunting lodge and goes to great lengths to put forth a degree of manliness, like offering “man-size” 22oz beers.
It’s a wholesome family restaurant with friendly waitresses that will make sure your table receives the attention a patron deserves. The themed events are fun and, sometimes, they have bikini car washes. The best part is that new franchises are opening every year so you won’t have to travel far if you’re lucky.
Worth every penny.
Sushi Iki — Los Angeles
Sushi Iki is in Los Angeles County, not the city itself. It’s in what the locals call “The Valley,” a barren wasteland of broken dreams. Just kidding — the Valley’s fine. It’s just really far from Hollywood, Santa Monica, or anything LA you’ve seen on television. However, don’t let the distance from your hotel deter you from this place; the sushi is legendary.
The variety of fish and shellfish served here can’t be found in just any sushi restaurant, and some are prepared so fresh that they were alive when you walked in the door. This is an expensive restaurant, but if you find yourself in L.A. this is one of those places you should not miss. Expect to pay around 0 per person for the full experience and for something modest.
Kevin Baetz was born in Westwood, New Jersey and raised in Hollywood, Florida. He served with 1st Battalion, 9th Marines Regiment and deployed on the 24 Marine Expeditionary Unit where he earned the Humanitarian Service Medal during the 2010 Haiti earthquake crisis. He also served in Marjah, Afghanistan in 2011 alongside We Are The Mighty’s interviewer Ruddy Cano. Upon relocating to St. Augustine Florida with an Honorable Discharge, he took up a job at the Fountain of Youth Archeological Park as a Blacksmith, reenactor and grounds keeper. It was here that he got into reenacting the Spanish colonial life of the 16th century in the state of Florida.
Fountain of Youth Archeological Park is home to the first Catholic mission in the United States. The cross of coquina and other weathered documents were found in 1909 that verify that this site was contemporary with Ponce de Leon’s landing in Florida in 1513. Dr. Luella Day MacConnell’s mission, the owner in 1909, was to prove that her property was the location of Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth. The archeological site has been a window into the past with findings such as the earliest known remains of Christian burials of indigenous people, artifacts, and even a prehistoric finds 500 years before the Spanish arrived.
WATM: How did you first become interested in being a war reenactor?
I did reenactment before the Marine Corps. I got into the 16th century reenactment because I worked at the original 16th century settlement site that the Spaniards had here in St. Augustine. It is the longest continuous settlement since 1565, its part of the job and I’m really into it.
WATM: What kind of gear do you usually work with?
Well, it depends. A lot of the clothing is custom by this tailor we know out in Italy, Luciano. The clothing is really important but weapon wise; it’s matchlock arquebus, cannons, long swords – it all depends what we’re portraying for the day. As a job it’s either cannoneer or shooting off the matchlock.
WATM: What kind of historical training do you receive?
Training as a job is basically: show up and work with the other reenactors here at the site. For someone who’s new-new, like they want to get into it, they should do it for fun to see if they like it. For example, my buddies and I go downtown dressed up to drink. That part isn’t so much reenacting but reliving that style of life — we wear funny clothing, order wine, play card games. If someone comes up to us and wants to get involved and wants to hang out, just like anything else, we have loaner gear. If they’re serious enough they start to buy their own gear.
As far as weapons training, it’s like any other weapons. Safety, this is how one of these things works. Carrying the weapon as a display, walking around downtown as a soldier. We do not shoot the weapons at people, we don’t do a lot of that. As reenactors, you give people the run down; how it works, how much powder you’re supposed to use, but in town you’re not going to do that.
WATM: What was your favorite battle to reenact?
A lot of the stuff we do out of here is two [main] 16th century battles. The big one is the recreation of Drake’s raid, [his English expedition] came into the town and burned it to the ground. One of [Francis Drake’s] guys got killed fighting the Spaniards, so, he took revenge. He came back and rebuilt it. It’s really the only true battle we recreate in the United States from this era and St. Augustine specifically.
The more intense ones are over in Europe. You have the Battle of Grolle in the Netherlands, That’s a massive one. You got some that go on in Spain…the anniversary of the Battle of Pavia in Italy is coming up. That one puts all other to shame – full contact, shock and smash, regal.
WATM: Is there anything you want to say to the military audience?
I don’t know, it’s fun! (laughs) I enjoy reenacting, it has put me in contact with a good number of veterans. Especially guys my age that miss the comradery and get the chance to put on funny clothing, drink, pretend gamble and have a good time. People should try it out, I enjoy it.
The park is open from 09:00 am to 06:00 pm daily and has attractions such as the navigator’s planetarium, blacksmithing, Timucuan burials and village, Nombre de Dios mission, cannon firing, classical boat building excavations, the 1565 Menendez settlement, and drinking from the Fountain of Youth itself.
Be it known by this that I, Alonzo Soriano, shareholder and resident of Brillar, contributed and certify to the public that I was present at the beginning of the rising and setting of the Sun. By order of the Royal Crown of Aragon he made his description at the Fountain which is good and sweet to the taste. It was in the year 1513. – FROM THE SORIANO VELLUM AT PONCE DE LEON’S FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK
“Til Valhalla” is becoming a more and more common exaltation among veterans today, especially when hearing about the passing of a fellow veteran. Whether you believe in Odin, Master of Ecstasy, leader of the Gods, chief of the Æsir and the king of Asgard, is irrelevant, the warrior ethos is the heart of the expression. It’s not necessarily meant to be a religion.
Unless you’re Japanese, that is.
The Yasukuni Shrine is a Shinto temple that was founded at the beginning of the Meiji Restoration, a period in Japanese history that saw the Emperor return as the true ruler of Japan. Around this time, the Shinto worship of nature spirits and ancestors became an official state apparatus, the Emperor himself became one of these divine spirits. Today, there are some 80,000 of these public shrines, and the Yasukuni Shrine is just one of many.
What’s unique about the Yasukuni Shrine is that it is dedicated to the memory and spirit of those who died fighting for Japan from the first war in which the shrine was founded – the civil conflict that restored the Emperor in 1869 – and World War II in 1945. The Meiji Emperor originally wanted the shrine to honor the souls of those who died fighting for him in that conflict, but as more conflicts came to pass, the Emperor decided to house the souls of more and more war dead there. As the Empire expanded, so did the ethnicities of those enshrined at Yasakuni. There are more than Japanese souls; there are Koreans, Okinawans, Taiwanese, and more – anyone who fought for Japan.
Anyone. And these days, that’s a problem.
That’s a problem.
These days, the Yasukuni Shrine is an incredibly controversial subject in Asia. It’s so taboo that Japanese Prime ministers can’t even officially visit. Even though war criminals prosecuted by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East were denied enshrinement after World War II, lower classes of war criminals were slowly admitted to the shrine in the following years. Still, those class-A criminals like Hideki Tojo (above) were excluded…
… until the late 1970s, when the chief priest included them in secret during an enshrinement ceremony. There was nothing the government or the Emperor could do about it. Shinto was separated from the state in the 1947 MacArthur Constitution.
So now, the shrine causes a lot of friction between Japan, China, and the Koreas. The latter three accuse the shrine of encouraging historical revisionism and forgetting the crimes of its past. The museum attached to the shrine accuses the United States of forcing World War II on Japan with economic sanctions and military aggression. Thus, the last time an Emperor visited the shrine was in 1975.
U.S. Navy sailors visit the Yasukuni Shrine in 1933.
Any time a Japanese official visits the shrine, officially or unofficially, it sets off a firestorm of anger in the Pacific region. The last time a sitting Prime Minister visited Yasukuni was 2013 when Shinzo Abe made a visit, calling it an “anti-war gesture.” The Chinese said the visit was “absolutely unacceptable to the Chinese people,” and South Korea says it expressed “regret and anger.” Since then, Abe has opted out of the visit.
Yasukuni now lists the names of 2,466,532 men, women, and children (and even some war animals) enshrined as deities. Of those,1,068 are convicted war criminals.
This past year has been unusual to say the least. The pandemic upended people’s lives around the world, and the same was true for members of the US military. Still, US troops continued to serve, doing incredible things both at home and abroad.
The following 27 photos by military photographers are awesome and offer a glimpse into some of what the military has been up to in 2020, from firing artillery to battling blazing infernos.