Journey from Secret Service to Airman - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Journey from Secret Service to Airman

 For one Airman, deciding to switch careers from a law enforcement tradition to serving her country was no easy decision.

Joining the Air Force wasn’t an easy decision for Senior Airman Shayna Dunn, 690th Cyberspace Operations Squadron network manager operator, but looking back she feels it was the right one for her.

“My father was a Marine and he met my mother while stationed in Germany,” said Dunn, who grew up in Stafford, Virginia. “By the time I was born, my father was no longer in the military, and was working as a Capital Police officer.”

While in high school, Dunn developed an interest in criminal justice from influences from her father and television.

Journey from Secret Service to Airman
Senior Airman Shayna Dunn, 690th Cyberspace Operations Squadron network manager operator, works on a cyber-related issue at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, April 1, 2021. As a member of the 690th COS, Dunn’s unit provides agile cyber combat support to Pacific Air Forces, enabling warfighters the ability to leverage advanced weaponry against adversaries. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jermaine Ayers)

“I used to watch a lot of criminal justice shows like ‘NCIS’ or ‘Criminal Minds’ and I ended up taking a class in high school and it piqued my interest,” she said.

Dunn attended James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

After college, Dunn was offered an opportunity to work with the U.S. Secret Service, but while training, an injury caused her to rethink her plans.

“One day while training, I ended up fracturing my wrist and during my recovery I was tasked with more administrative work,” said Dunn. “During this time I had to decide if I wanted to continue down my current path or did I want to do something else. On one hand, I was in a position where I should have been content with this job, however, on the other hand, something internally just didn’t feel right.”

Secret Service to Airman
Senior Airman Shayna Dunn, 690th Cyberspace Operations Squadron network manager operator, provides cyber network operations at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, April 1, 2021. After technical school, Dunn received orders to JBPHH where she helps to provide global cyber supremacy for the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jermaine Ayers)

After much deliberation, Dunn decided to resign from the U.S. Secret Service and start on a new path by joining the Air Force.

Breaking the news to her family and friends about her decision wasn’t easy.

“To some, my decision was surprising,” said Dunn. “It took a little while for people to understand where I was coming from, which made it difficult for me because I didn’t want to let anyone down, I didn’t want to let my family down, my friends down.”

Even though it took Dunn a year to make it Basic Military Training, it wasn’t until she arrived that she felt confident with her decision to enlist.

After being assigned to the 690th COS for her first assignment, Dunn earned several awards, made Senior Airman below-the-zone, and met her future husband.

Secret Service to Airman
Robert and Shayna Dunn celebrate her birthday at the Sky Waikiki Hotel in Honolulu, Hawaii, February 9, 2020. Robert and Shayna met a little after she arrived to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, and after their first date they’ve been together ever since. (courtesy photo)

“If I had to describe Shayna, she is humble and caring, always putting others before herself,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Dunn, 690th COS cyber systems operator.

To some, the uncertainty of not knowing the outcome of a decision can be exhausting, but for Shayna, her difficult choice proved to be worthwhile.


-Feature image: Courtesy photo via DVIDS

MIGHTY CULTURE

Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves

More than 250 new Virginia Beach City Public School (VBCPS) secondary teachers (those who teach children between the ages of 11 and 18) and school counselors participated in scenario-based training at Tallwood High School in Virginia Beach, Aug. 22- 23, 2018, which afforded them a unique opportunity to learn about and experience firsthand some of the challenges military families face during a permanent change of station (PCS) move.

The training, titled “The PCS Challenge – Building Empathy for Transitioning Students,” engaged the participants by simulating a military PCS move in an effort to help them better understand the lives of military families and helped to generate empathy toward transitioning military-affiliated students. Local Hampton Roads installation school liaison officers (SLOs) provided intrinsic value and credibility to the training by ensuring the information presented was both timely and relevant with regard to military policies, culture and trends. Throughout the scenarios, the SLOs donned the hats of detailers, Fleet and Family representatives, and various school staff members to test the mettle of the participants. They also provided feedback and expertise in their respective areas to assist the participants when questions or issues came up.


Each participant was given a family assignment and an initial duty station to start. Some were given the role of the service member, others played the role of a spouse, a child, or multiple children if applicable. Of the family units that had multiple children, a least one of those children had special needs and were enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP), which is a mandatory enrollment program that works with other military and civilian agencies to provide comprehensive and coordinated community support, housing, educational, medical, and personnel services to families with special needs.

The training scenarios included military acronyms and jargon, emotional stages of the PCS cycle, a duty station wish list or “dream sheet,” receiving orders for the service member and/or connecting with the Fleet Family Support Center for the spouse, doing a pack out and deciding what items could be taken with the family to the new duty station based on rate/rank and the weight of household goods allotted, choosing specific housing to meet the needs of the family, and deregistering and registering a child/children in a new school. Like a real PCS move, each choice made along the way by the participants caused a potential impact on the service member, the family unit as a whole, and ultimately the child(ren).

Journey from Secret Service to Airman

Karen Phillips, a School Liaison Officer for Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek, plays the role of a detailer for simulated military service members during a scenario exercise as part of The PCS Challenge ” Building Empathy for Transitioning Students training that was offered by the Military Support Program for Virginia Beach Public Schools at Tallwood High School in Virginia Beach, Aug. 23, 2018.

(U.S. Navy photo by David Todd)

One of the biggest obstacles military families face during a PCS move is not having enough time to prepare, especially when faced with the various items required by the school districts for student enrollment. The training scenarios amplified the stress levels by giving the participants a very short period of time to make major family life decisions.

“Because this training was interactive and simulated, each participant actually became a member of a military family,” explained Debbie Patch, the Regional School Liaison Officer who assisted VBCPS with the training. “Each participant was given characteristics with their new military family role and each participant played their role accordingly. The groups made ‘family’ decisions based on their unique situation. It is my hope that this training provided the participants with an experience that will give them a greater awareness of the unique challenges military students face as a result of their parent’s service to our country. I believe that once someone has experienced this training, there can be no doubt that all military children ‘serve too.'”

Although many of the participants did not have a background of working with military families, some were military spouses new to the area and were able to offer some hands-on experience to help their peers.

“Their life experiences make it real for the people in their group,” said Karen Phillips, the SLO for Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek who was one of four SLOs in attendance to assist VBCPS and the teachers during the training. “They are not just hearing from us [SLOs], they are hearing it from people with experience who are sitting right there at the table with them.”

Journey from Secret Service to Airman

Participants discuss their pack out and family housing selection during a scenario exercise as part of The PCS Challenge ” Building Empathy for Transitioning Students training that was offered by the Military Support Program for Virginia Beach Public Schools at Tallwood High School in Virginia Beach, Aug. 23, 2018.

(U.S. Navy photo by David Todd)

The training was originally developed by Army SLOs that work for Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County, Virginia. The collaborative team of SLOs and VBCPS personnel were fortunate to see the training delivered to Northern Virginia school personnel last year and were eager to bring the PCS Challenge to Virginia Beach Schools.

“The ‘PCS Challenge’ was a collaboration that began between Virginia Beach City Public Schools, the Navy Regional Mid-Atlantic School Liaison Officer, and the VBCPS SLOs,” said Natalie Meiggs, the Coordinator of Military Support Programs for Virginia Beach City Public Schools. “An area of support for transitioning military students was identified through a needs assessment that was conducted from a Department of Defense Education Activity [DoDEA] grant called ‘Project GRIT.'”

The basic session of the PCS Challenge took approximately 80 hours to develop and the content in each session is tailored to meet the audience. The sessions range from one to two hours depending on the complexity of the scenarios and the number and type of participants in attendance. Overall, more than 300 hours have been devoted to developing and crafting the program.

Meiggs explained that approximately 25 percent of the school division’s student population is comprised of active duty, military-dependent youth, and noted that VBCPS is committed to providing support, resources and enrichment programs to enhance the educational experiences of those children and their families.

“Our military-connected students transition about every three years,” she explained “So they could possibly attend six to nine schools in their K-12 educational career.”

“The goal of the PCS Challenge training for teachers is to help them understand more about military life and build empathy about the moving process,” said Phillips. “After participating in this interactive session, teachers will better understand the challenges military families face when having to PCS and be inspired to assist in making the transition smoother for their students.”

Journey from Secret Service to Airman

Debbie Patch, the Regional School Liaison Officer, helps to hand out family assignment packages to participants during The PCS Challenge ” Building Empathy for Transitioning Students training offered by the Military Support Program for Virginia Beach Public Schools at Tallwood High School in Virginia Beach, Aug. 23, 2018.

(U.S. Navy photo by David Todd)

VBCPS has further demonstrated their commitment to military families by collaborating with SLOs on various other projects, including “Art of Being a Military Child,” military volunteer opportunities and Navy birthday school outreach, the Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story oyster restoration project, and the 5th Grade STEM LAB Learning Day field trip at NAS Oceana, among others.

Meiggs said she always looks for new ways to improve the training and values the feedback she receives during each session, but emphasizes that military families should contact their respective SLOs prior to PCSing to help navigate the nuisances of school districts and ease the school enrollment process.

“I want to continuously learn from the participants each time the PCS Challenge is completed,” she said. “I am always learning how the training can be improved to increase understanding of the military culture and how I can improve my own practice of supporting our military families. The PCS Challenge is adapted to meet the needs of the audience each time it is delivered.”

Patch said the training is also beneficial for SLOs, who work directly with military families and schools across the Hampton Roads area during the school year, as well as during summer and winter breaks.

“The SLOs work daily with families who face real educational challenges as they move from state to state, and city to city,” she said. “Each state and city have different educational policies and procedures that must be navigated by military families. SLOs have been able to ensure that this training emphasizes to educators that military families’ frame of reference is the previous school’s policies and experiences. Enabling local teachers to understand this mindset helps them to better understand military families and how to support them.”

In addition to the recent training, VBCPS and SLOs have offered similar training to military family life counselors; as well as coordinators, directors, administrators, school counselors, teachers, and leadership teams throughout VBCPS since its inception. Similar training is scheduled to be offered to Chesapeake Public School’s elementary school counselors in September 2018, with secondary school counselors training scheduled later in the year.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 episodes of the Jocko Podcast you can’t miss

Jocko Willink’s podcast “Jocko Podcast” hits hard, talks openly and bluntly about real topics and is unapologetic for every bit of it. These are the stories that need to be told and heard, especially by the military community. Tuning in requires headspace because the content flowing through your ears is so completely captivating that the monotonous life dragging on the other side of your ear buds becomes unimportant.

With well over 200 episodes, there’s a lot of ground to cover. Instead of going for an all-time must listen to list, we opted for our top five out of our recent listening history.


Journey from Secret Service to Airman

#221 Jonny Kim

In this episode, Jonny Kim — United States Navy lieutenant, physician and NASA astronaut — tells story after story, unimaginable events that are scattered throughout his young life that had every right to break him but didn’t. Kim’s outlook on these pivotal moments are completely inspiring, humbling and exactly why he’s accomplished all that he has.

He talks eloquently and intelligently through failed endeavors and perspective gained that we’re sitting here wondering how in the world he doesn’t have his own book already, let alone motivational speeches written from his comments.

Another unbelievable point in Kim’s story is the unplanned paths that led him to become a Navy SEAL, Doctor and Astronaut. Instead, he speaks clearly on specific events that shaped his journey and have led him to the next chapter in an already remarkable life.

#219 Ruth Schindler

Stories of the Holocaust are fading in both media, airwaves, and from the survivors themselves as time passes on. In this episode, like many others, Willink reads excerpts from the guest’s book and discusses passages in depth. Ruth Schindler’s book, “Two Who Survived” is the dual story of both her and her husband’s separate experiences as Auschwitz Holocaust survivors.

Reminding ourselves of both the magnitude and depth of the horrors experienced less than 100 years ago is critical to ensure nothing remotely close ever occurs again.

Journey from Secret Service to Airman

#118 Dan Crenshaw

Texas Congressman and former Navy SEAL Dan Crenshaw’s interview details a lot about the grit and determination of a warrior. From losing an eye in combat to running a successful first-time congressional campaign on a shoestring budget, this man knows how to push ahead.

Fun fact, Willink was one of Crenshaw’s BUDS instructors and the two discuss the dynamic in this episode. The interview goes on to discuss the differences in each’s paths to becoming a SEAL and how each approached life before and after. He’s on in episode #222 too.

#192 Sean Parnell

Leadership. Willink wrote an entire book dedicated to its ins and outs. This episode with Sean Parnell, author of “Outlaw Platoon,” talks a great deal about various seasons and types of leadership as the book is read throughout the episode.

Combat forges men in ways known and unknown to those undergoing its transformation. Who emerges on the other side says a lot about what’s in a man’s heart, in his soul. Jarring experiences and the forging of a seasoned soldier make up quite a bit of the air space in this episode. It’s a long talk, but well worth every minute.

Journey from Secret Service to Airman

#115 Dakota Meyer

Like we said up top, make headspace when you’re listening. The reading from Dakota Meyer’s book “Into the Fire” is emotional and vivid. There’s a refreshing amount of honesty going on when Meyer discusses his separation from the Marine Corps, PTSD and finding a new path after service.

This episode tops a lot of charts for good reason. Meyer’s book describes events surrounding a single choice- the choice to head in the direction everyone was trying to escape to look for his team. Revisiting the events of a single day in such detail will have you holding on to every word, analyzing every detail alongside Willink and Meyer in awe.

Honestly, there’s no wrong choice when listening. Pick up anywhere and you’ll find motivation, strength and zero bull. It’s American, it’s raw, it’s real.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to find a remote career in military life

As remote jobs become more popular and feasible among the masses, military spouses are finding ways to keep their careers mobile. With frequent moves, working in years prior meant staying behind or fighting one’s way to the top every few years. (With no tenure, it’s hard, if not impossible to ever reach seniority.)


However, with new technology and remote positions becoming more globally accepted, military spouses can keep a budding career, no matter how many times they PCS.

Get yourself interview ready

Before you start the hunt for a remote position, get yourself employer-friendly. Update your resume, take headshots, and scrub your social media profiles. This means going private or ensuring your visible posts are appropriate, and an overhaul on your LinkedIn. Fill in all the details and share what you’ve been up to in your professional world.

With more access to personal information, you want to make sure you’re showing yourself in a good light online. It’s one more way to land a great job and keep a career that moves right along with you.

Meanwhile, if you have a field of study and need to renew any licenses, now is the time to do so! Showing you’re work-ready can only help your chances.

Journey from Secret Service to Airman

Create a home office

It doesn’t have to be fancy; it just has to work! Set up a dedicated area where you can get away and focus. A desk, computer, paper/calendar, writing utensils, chargers, etc. are all smart additions. Best-case scenario: your office space is separate from the rest of your living space. However, this isn’t always possible. Work to make your space as secluded as possible so you won’t be distracted by the rest of your home.

Remember, you can also work from outside locations, too, for instance, libraries, coffee shops, or co-working spaces that offer desk rental memberships.

Start applying!

Now, it’s go time. Start applying for work-from-home positions on any number of sites. You can search on aggregators that post remote jobs from many companies, or search individually for businesses that offer home office options.

Remember, you don’t have to share that you’re a military spouse, but in some cases, it can actually help your chances. There are certain companies that exclusively hire military spouses (be prepared to share documents proving that status for their tax purposes). But don’t fret — this actually helps cut down the applicant pool.
There are MANY places you can look for jobs, including paid subscriptions. However, there are plenty of free options. Look on military affiliated sites (like this one!), Military One Click, or even spouse social media pages for application resources.

Journey from Secret Service to Airman

Ready yourself for working from home

If you’ve never worked from home, know that it’s a different type of setup. It requires self-discipline and staying on task. (Think homework, but with a paycheck.) You’ll certainly get better at it, but there can be a learning curve if you aren’t prepped for at-home distractions.

Take regular breaks, leave the TV alone, and remember that chores can wait! (This is also why it’s important to keep a separate working space.)

Rock it!

Now it’s time to rock your new stance as a remote worker. Enjoy your freedom to work in your jammies, but even more so, celebrate your ability to keep a career longer than you can keep a house. No matter where you’re located (or in what timezone), you can keep a successful career as a milspouse remote employee.

Would you consider a remote job?

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why helicopters don’t crash when they lose an engine

Myth: Helicopters will drop like a rock when the engine shuts down.

In fact, you have a better chance at surviving in a helicopter when the engine fails than you do in an airplane. Helicopters are designed specifically to allow pilots to have a reasonable chance of landing them safely in the case where the engine stops working during flight, often with no damage at all. They accomplish this via autorotation of the main rotor blades.

Further, when seeking a helicopter pilot’s license, one has to practice landing using this no-power technique. When practicing, instead of actually shutting the engine off completely though, they usually just turn the engine down enough to disengage it from the rotor. This way, if the student encounters a problem during a no-power landing, the helicopter can be throttled back up to avoid an accident. Given that this isn’t an option during actual engine failure, it’s critical for helicopter pilots to practice this until they have it down pat.


A landing via autorotation is also sometimes necessary if the rear rotor blades stop functioning properly, no longer countering for the torque of the main rotor blades, so the helicopter will spin if the engine isn’t turned off. Whether this happens and the pilot shuts off the engine or in the case of actual engine failure, once the engine drops below a certain number of revolutions per minute, relative to the rotor RPM rate, a special clutch mechanism, called a freewheeling unit, disengages the engine from the main rotor automatically. This allows the main rotor to spin without resistance from the engine.

Journey from Secret Service to Airman

Once the engine fails or otherwise is shut off, the pilot must immediately lower the pitch, reducing lift and drag, and the helicopter will begin to descend. If they don’t do this quick enough, allowing the RPM of the main rotor to drop too far, they’ll then lose control of the helicopter and will likely not get it back. When this happens, it may well drop like a rock. However, this isn’t typical because as soon as the freewheeling unit disengages the engine, the pilot is trained to respond appropriately immediately.

Exactly what the correct glide angle is to maintain optimal rotor RPM varies with different helicopter designs, but this information is readily available in the helicopter’s manual. The glide angle also varies based on weather conditions (wind, temperature, etc.), weight, altitude, and airspeed, but in all cases a correct glide angle has the effect of producing an upward flow of air that will spin the main rotor at some optimal RPM, storing kinetic energy in the blades.

As the helicopter approaches the ground, the pilot must then get rid of most of their forward motion and slow the decent using the stored up kinetic energy in the rotors. If done perfectly, the landing will be quite gentle. They accomplish this by executing a flare, pitching the nose up, at the right moment. This will also have the effect of transferring some of that energy from the forward momentum into the main rotor, making it spin faster, which will further allow for a smooth landing. Because the flare will often need to be somewhat dramatic, the tricky part here is making sure that the rear of the helicopter doesn’t hit the ground. Ideally the pilot executes the flare (hopefully stopping most all the forward motion and slowing the decent to almost nothing), then levels the nose out just before touchdown.

Autorotation may sound like a fairly complex and difficult thing to do, but according to one instructor I briefly chatted with about this, it’s really not all that difficult compared to a lot of other aspects of flying a helicopter. In fact, he stated that most students have a lot more trouble when they first try things like hovering, than they do when they first try a no-power landing. Granted, this is partially because students don’t try autorotation landings until they are near the end of their training, so they are more skilled than when they first try a lot of other maneuvers, but still. It’s apparently not nearly as difficult as it sounds and most of the problems students have just stem from being nervous at descending at a higher rate than normal.

You can see a video of someone executing a near perfect autorotation landing below:

Helicopter Autorotation EC-120

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why some military survival kits include condoms

Listen, condoms will save your life. You may not believe it, but the condom is a multipurpose force multiplier that does more than protect one’s little trooper from NBC threats during unarmed combat. The idea of having condoms isn’t even all that new, so this may be old news to many readers. Even the Army’s official survival handbook lists condoms as a necessary item for survival kits.

The reasons are many, and I’m going to list them without a single dick joke. Sorry.


Journey from Secret Service to Airman

Water.

Water is the number one reason you should carry condoms in your survival kit as a U.S. troop. Water is the number two reason you should carry condoms in your survival kit as a civilian. Condoms, of course, are designed to keep fluids in – and they are really, really good at it. When properly handled, a condom can carry two liters of water. Just tie it off with a stick and wrap it in a sock, and you’ve got yourself a durable water container.

You should probably use non-lubricated condoms for this purpose.

Journey from Secret Service to Airman

Tinder.

I don’t mean you should be using condoms just for the Tinder dating app (although you should definitely be using condoms if you’re on the Tinder dating app). A condom can carry a lot of flammable material and – as I mentioned – the condom is totally waterproof so it will keep your cotton, newspaper, Doritos, whatever you use as tinder, dry.

We use dryer lint.

Also, be advised that a condom will go up in flames faster than you’re going to be comfortable watching. You can use them as tinder themselves and will even start a fire.

Journey from Secret Service to Airman

Barrels.

Turns out condoms are good at protecting a rifle and a gun, whether you’re fighting or having fun. This is actually a fairly common use among survivalists who spend a lot of time outdoors. You may see (again, non-lubricated) condoms over the barrel of a weapon to keep mud, dirt, and water out. They even make little condoms for this purpose.

Journey from Secret Service to Airman

First Aid.

If you haven’t noticed by now, the condom’s greatest strengths are its elasticity and waterproofing. You can use the condom as a crude tourniquet in case of injury, but you can also use it as a rubber glove to protect both yourself from blood-borne disease and protect your patient from whatever muck is on your grubby little hands.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Topgun Days: Dogfighting, cheating death and Hollywood Glory

We here at SOFREP recently made the acquaintance of Dave “Bio” Baranek. We were interested in doing a review of his upcoming book “Tomcat RIO.” Baranek agreed to send us his book for review, but as a bonus he recently also sent us a copy of his previous book “Topgun Days” for us to look over.

Baranek was an F-14 RIO (Radar Intercept Officer). He not only flew Tomcats in real-world missions but became an instructor at the Navy’s Topgun school. He also worked closely on the Tom Cruise film “Top Gun.” (An interesting footnote is the Navy has Topgun as one word while Hollywood had it as two.)


When Baranek’s book arrived in the mail, I was scanning the movie channels for an action film and Top Gun popped up. Was it fate? So, switching off the television, I sat in a chair, where’d I remain for the next several hours, because once you begin reading the book, it puts its hooks into you right away and you won’t be able to put it down. This move much irked my wife who was expecting yours truly to be helping put stuff away from our recent move.

One of the first chapters deals with Baranek ejecting from the Tomcat’s GRU-7A into the Indian Ocean. The ejection subjects pilots to forces of 20 Gs which makes them blackout for a few seconds. Baranek was heavily entangled in his parachute lines and silk but managed to free himself, and — in testimony to the speed and professionalism of the rescue choppers — spent only about three minutes in the Indian Ocean.

Baranek went through Topgun school in 1982. He was the only one from his class of 451 pilots, from the flight school of 1980, to be chosen. One of the things that was interesting is that Baranek stated that the Topgun instructors were not arrogant or swaggering but delivered their lectures with enthusiasm and a seemingly limitless amount of knowledge on the subject matter.

After his graduation, he returned to his squadron. He was then selected to return to Topgun, this time as an instructor. For Navy combat pilots, that is the pinnacle.

Journey from Secret Service to Airman

Nearly all fighter pilots have very cool nicknames or call-signs. Baranek chose “Bionic” because it sounded like Baranek. But being thin, the Navy pilots didn’t believe he looked very bionic so it was shortened to “Bio.”

Of course, he was an instructor at Topgun when the Hollywood people came around in 1985 to begin filming the movie which made the Tomcats and the school so famous with the public.

The F-5 fighters, which were the ones the instructors flew as aggressor aircraft for the school, were normally painted in camouflage patterns that Navy pilots might encounter on deployment somewhere in the world: They would either be of a green and brown camouflage, similar to the Soviet-style, or painted in a tan that would blend in with the desert environment in the Middle East.

But for the Tony Scott film, the producers had the F-5s painted flat black with a red star on the tail. The planes were called MiG-28s — a fictional aircraft that did not exist. The film director and cameramen got some incredible footage from the F-14s. The quality and dramatic effect of the shots even impressed the Tomcat pilots.

Baranek’s wife got to kiss Tom Cruise on the cheek and they met some of the other actors including Anthony Edwards (Goose), Michael Ironside (Jester), and Tom Skerrit. I remember my own wife being similarly star-struck meeting Mark Wahlberg and Flash Gordon on the set of Ted 2 in Boston. Seeing those pictures and remembering these moments reinforces how our families are a big part of what we do.

The Navy officially retired Tomcats from active service in 2006, but due to Tom Cruise’s film, they live on as one of those iconic aircraft in the public’s imagination. An interesting fact is that most of the naval aviators of today weren’t even born when Cruise, Anthony Edwards, and Val Kilmer rocked across the screen in 1986. And Cruise has just recently finished another Top Gun film.

Baranek completed a 20-year career in the Navy, starting with assignments to F-14 Tomcat squadrons and the elite Topgun training program, and a later assignment to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the U.S. 7th Fleet. He commanded an F-14 Tomcat fighter squadron, with nearly 300 people and 14 aircraft worth about 0 million. He completed his career with 2,499.7 F-14 Tomcat flight hours and 688 carrier landings. His logbook also records 461.8 flight hours in the F-5F Tiger II.

As Special Forces guys, we always joked about fighter pilots: “What’s the difference between God and a fighter pilot?” Answer: “God doesn’t think he’s a fighter pilot.” Pilots would also poke fun at us. One of the pilots I knew would always ask if we picked the gravel out of our knuckles. But the respect is always there.

A particularly gripping aspect of “Topgun Days” is the fantastic aerial photography that Baranek took. The book is peppered with some great pictures that put the reader right smack in either an F-14 or F-5.

Baranek’s “Topgun Days” is a page-turner and comes very highly recommended. Its 322 pages with awesome photography will zip by in the blink of an eye. “I feel the need…the need for speed.”

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

Articles

Recruit training at Parris Island vs San Diego, according to Marines

It’s a well-known fact that Marine recruits east of the Mississippi go to the flat lands of Parris Island for basic training while those from the west head to sunny San Diego.


What many don’t know is there is a huge rivalry between “Island” and “Hollywood” Marines, and it all boils down to who had it tougher. Although the competitive nature between the two is all in good fun, Marines are known for fighting both big and small battles.

Journey from Secret Service to Airman

Since the curriculum at both of the training camps is the same, there are a few differences that separate the two.

“I think the sand fleas give you that discipline because you’re standing in formation and you got them biting on the back of your neck,” Capt. Robert Brooks states during an interview, fueling the rivalry in support of Parris Island.

Capt. Joseph Reney, however, jokes in favor of California:

“San Diego has hills and hiking is hard. I would say San Diego makes tougher Marines.”

Regardless of the training location, both boot camps produce the same product — a patriotic Marine.

Check out this Marine Corps Recruiting video to hear from Corps’ finest on who they think makes tougher Marines.

YouTube, Marine Corps Recruiting

Military Life

13 pictures of military working dogs being good puppies

Military working dogs hold a special place in the hearts of the troops who work with them. In a practical sense, they’re treated with the same honor and respect as any other troop.


They have a ceremony when they receive awards and are buried with military honors. They hold a rank, and as tradition dictates, one higher than their handler. It’s a tongue-in-cheek custom to ensure the handler treats them properly while giving the working dog some leeway to be a dog if they ever disobey an order.

They have very specific skills tailored to each mission. The role of a MWD can range from a mercy dog, assisting in locating wounded on the front lines, military police K-9s sniffing out narcotics, and EOD dogs, sniffing out explosives. Even fighting dogs join troops on raids, scouting missions, and as sentries in guard posts.

These dogs are comrades, allies, battle-buddies, and  – of course –friends.

13. Cpl. Chesty XIV is the current mascot of the U.S. Marine Corps. He is also far more disciplined than nearly every Lance Cpl. in your unit

Journey from Secret Service to Airman
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dan Hosack)

12. Sgt. Maj. Fosco was the first MWD to complete an airborne jump while being held by his handler, 1st Sgt. Chris Lalonde.

Journey from Secret Service to Airman
Don’t let this dog out-airborne you, leg. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Vince Vander Maarel)

11. Selection and training of MWDs starts the moment they’re born. The more energetic the puppy, the more willing they are to learn.

Journey from Secret Service to Airman
(DOD photo by Linda Hosek)

10. The training process is a rough 93-day program but positive reinforcement is the key.

Journey from Secret Service to Airman

9. As with human troops, nothing can prepare you for a deployment.

Journey from Secret Service to Airman
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Dengrier Baez)

8. Many statues and memorials have been dedicated to the commitment and loyalty of the Military Working Dogs.

Journey from Secret Service to Airman
(Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Crystal Housman)

7. Aeromedical personnel need to learn the basics of veterinary care in case they get the call to evacuate a wounded MWD.

Journey from Secret Service to Airman
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Jessica Donnelly, Task Force Marauder)

6. MWDs never complain about spending time with their handlers, even if that means they have to train.

Journey from Secret Service to Airman
(U.S. Air Force photo by Machiko Arita)

5. Did you know that tennis balls are a key item in the detection of explosives?

Journey from Secret Service to Airman
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Gloria Lepko.)

4. MWDs are the only troops who are 110% willing to train constantly and at all times of the day.

Journey from Secret Service to Airman
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ramon A. Adelan)

3. When they call us “Dogfaced Soldiers,” this isn’t what they had in mind.

Journey from Secret Service to Airman
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Lindsay Cryer)

2. As a handler, it is your solemn duty to love and care for your dog. If they want to play, well, technically, they outrank you.

Journey from Secret Service to Airman
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Lauren Jorgensen)

1. MWDs are given the same respect of an American human troop. Complete with their own canine-version of the battle cross.

Journey from Secret Service to Airman
Rest easy, Satin. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tristin English)

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How troops learn to sleep anywhere, any how, any way

Sleep is, apparently, one of those things that medical professionals tend to claim is vital to not dying. While in the military, you’ll get so little sleep that your body grows accustomed to functioning at a high level with just four hours of non-continuous sleep.

For one reason or another, putting aside large chunks of time for that vital sleep just doesn’t happen. So, troops quickly learn how to rack out at the drop of a dime while smothered in their gear. Or they find a nice, cozy spot underneath a HUMVEE in the glaring Afghan sun with only their rifle and pebbles to keep them comfy.

It’s really an impressive skill — and it’s usually among the first truly mastered by even the most average of recruits.


Journey from Secret Service to Airman
That’s not to say that calories are a good thing either. It’s a level of complication that can’t be footnoted into an article about sleep deprivation, though. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kimberly Hackbarth)

 

The biggest contributing factor to this mastery over snoozing is that troops are constantly on the move. The human body is only meant to exert so much effort and that limit is pushed daily by all troops. Normally, the body needs to both sleep regularly to rebuild damaged muscles and eat healthy foods to replenish what’s lost.

Troops supplement this by maintaining a higher-than-average caloric intake. It’s assumed that an average active male in their twenties should take in about 3000 calories to function normally. The average deployed troop takes in three MREs per day, which totals 3,750 calories.

Contrary to popular belief, eating calories is actually a good thing if you’re moving about as much as troops do. This intake means that the body has more to work with when it finally has time to recharge.

Troops exhaust themselves by being constantly in motion. When an opportunity to knock out arises, even if it’s just for a few minutes, it will be seized.

Journey from Secret Service to Airman
And you really don’t want to try that while on guard duty. That’s still punishable under the UCMJ.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Charles M. Willingham)
 

The next contributing factor is that troops are generally sleep deprived and have their sleep cycles interrupted constantly. Starting in basic training, a drill sergeant could wake everyone up at 0100 for sh*ts and giggles, have a special someone pull fire guard at 0300, and wake up for the rest of the day at 0500.

The body does most of its recharging during cycles of REM sleep, the first of which starts after roughly 45 minutes of sleep and again in another 45 minutes. The rigors of training, however, rarely permit troops to achieve multiple cycles of REM, so the body tries to recharge as much as possible during those first 45 minutes. As this pattern of interrupted sleep becomes the norm, the body adapts and requires less time to get into REM cycles.

In essence, this pattern resembles polyphasic sleeping — which is a terrible thing to try without adding in a solid, 6-8 hour chunk of rest into the mix.

Journey from Secret Service to Airman
Even if it’s in broad daylight on a pile of sharp rocks. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ken Scar)

 

The body actually can’t handle this type of sleep deprivation but, by sheer power of will (and a metric f*ck-load of caffeine), troops can shut off their body’s warning signs.

Troops’ bodies can endure this for a few days, typical of a combat mission while deployed, but a dearth of sleep can’t last for weeks. There will have to be a time when that troop hits their rack to get a full night’s rest.

And when they do, it’s some of the best sleep they’ve ever gotten.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 cringeworthy military slang terms (that we should actually retire)

Anyone who knows what Marines call the jerry can tube adapter knows there are a lot of inappropriate nicknames in the military. American troops come up with a simple shorthand for just about everything. Think about it: is it easier to ask for the jerry can tube adaptor or its three-syllable nickname? Time is of the essence in the military. U.S. troops have to move and speak with purpose – and some of that talk isn’t for the faint of heart.


Journey from Secret Service to Airman

“Donkey D*ck”

This is the nickname of the aforementioned jerry can tube adapter, basically, the spout for a gas can. In everyday usage, however, this moniker would actually be used to describe anything with a phallic shaper longer than six inches. That’s just how it is.

Journey from Secret Service to Airman

Then-Seaman Apprentice Luis Fonseca, who was probably never called this again after saving his Marines at the 2003 battle of Nasiriyah.

“Pecker Checker”

This is the nickname given to the Navy’s Hospital Corpsmen, all of which are assigned to be the medic (for lack of a better term) to a group of United States Marines. Also known as “Doc” or “Devil Doc” (if the corpsman is deserving of the title), the term refers to the propensity of Marines on liberty to “send their junior enlisted troop into unarmed combat without his chem gear,” and thus has to be checked for a venereal disease.

In reality, the doc is much more likely to administer a drip bag for alcohol-related dehydration than a daily STD check, but the nickname sticks.

Journey from Secret Service to Airman

“Kickin Chicken”

An American troop who is said do be doing the “Kickin’ Chicken” is a victim of a chemical weapon attack. There are certain chemical agents used in warfare that will cause the human body to spasm and kick, maybe even flail around before death. Seeing a battle buddy doing the “Kickin’ Chicken” is a sure sign of a chemical attack and means your buddy needs you to use the autoinjectors he’s hopefully packing in his MOPP gear.

Journey from Secret Service to Airman

Pictured: How you should actually think of Military Spouses.

“Dependa”

This is a terrible blanket nickname given to military spouses, even when undeserved. The full word is dependapotamus, from the word hippopotamus and refers to the physical appearance of the spouse. If there’s any animosity toward military spouses, it’s usually based in some kind of urban legend, such as a spouse pulling their husband or wife’s rank with other troops or the perception that milspouses are just in their marriage for the benefits.

While some individual examples of this behavior might be found anecdotally, actual research shows military families – spouses in particular – are undeserving of this nickname. Military spouses have a huge network and do their best to make sure new milspouses are taught their own customs and courtesies from the get-go.

Journey from Secret Service to Airman

Train wreck coming.

“In Country”

This seems like a pretty innocuous expression and in the modern era, it really is. Most people won’t even know it’s short for “Indian Country,” and is referencing a U.S. troop’s arrival in the original theater of combat: the American Frontier, also known as hostile territory, according to historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. The most recent use of the full term was actually said to the American media in a press briefing during Operation Desert Storm, when Brig. Gen. Richard Neal actually said the term “Indian Country,” referring to Kuwait. The term was apparently shortened during the Vietnam era, according to research from American anthropologist Stephen Sillman.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How these Vietnam War veterans honor Old Glory

Tony Garcia knew he was in trouble. He was diagnosed with PTSD and was starting to understand why he was feeling disconnected and depressed – but he was still feeling alone in his experiences as a Vietnam War veteran.

“We were trained to be a sharp blade for fighting,” Garcia said, “but we were never shown how to come back home. I felt like nobody understood me.”

The years of silently dealing with his time in Vietnam as a soldier had nearly caught up to Garcia when he started attending weekly group counseling sessions at the newly established VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System in 2011. He and 10 other veterans were some of the first veterans to meet in the new space in Harlingen, Texas, and the more his fellow veterans shared their experiences the more he recognized the similarities in their struggles.


It’s this group of veterans, and the stories they shared with each other at VA, that Garcia credits with changing his outlook on life and giving him new purpose.

Guardians of the Flag: Veterans honor legacy of Vietnam War

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“That gave me the tools I needed to keep moving forward,” he said. “If it hadn’t been for the VA and the therapy – I would still be lost in my depression.”

It was during one of his group meetings that Garcia learned of a special piece of history that somehow found its way to South Texas.

One of the veterans began talking about his experience at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon before it fell to North Vietnamese forces in April 1975. The Marine and Rio Grande Valley native recalled how in the middle of trying to evacuate the compound he encountered two employees trying to destroy the ceremonial flag in Ambassador Martin’s office. According to the story, the veteran approached the men who were apparently angry that they would not be evacuated and wrestled the flag from them before they could further damage it.

The veteran, who asked Garcia to keep his identity private, took the flag home with him to South Texas and kept it in his home for about 30 years. After his wife asked him to get rid of the tattered flag, the veteran gave it to a friend in a neighboring town with instructions to pass the flag along to another veteran should he ever need to part with it too.

“I couldn’t believe what they were telling me,” Garcia said. “I couldn’t believe the flag had made it all the way here and it was in somebody’s garage.”

At that time, it was an amazing story that piqued Garcia’s interest. He felt a connection to the flag even then, but he wouldn’t get to see or hold it until a few years later when his fellow veterans asked if he would take it.

“They didn’t know what to do with the flag, so they offered it to me,” Garcia said, “and immediately I said I would take it and care for it.”

Journey from Secret Service to Airman

Tony Garcia (left) and his fellow Warriors United in Arms members move the ceremonial flag in Brownsville, Texas.

Garcia, who had recently founded a veterans organization with several of his friends, decided the flag would not be hung up on a wall in his home or stay in storage. As the Warriors United in Arms of Brownsville, the group would find a way to protect, display, and tell the story of the flag they all felt a deep connection with.

“I really do believe this flag represents the American fighting man in Vietnam,” Garcia said. “This flag represents everything we went through as Vietnam War Veterans. Like the flag we all went and did what Uncle Sam wanted, and like the flag we were disrespected when we came home . . . I just wanted to make sure it wasn’t forgotten.”

Today, the ceremonial flag is encased and held in the main vault at the IBC Bank in Brownsville, Texas. Garcia and his fellow warriors frequently take it to local schools, businesses and events. They tell the story of how the flag founds its way to them, and they explain why it’s such an important symbol.

On 2019s Vietnam War Veterans Day, the group will display the flag at the VA clinic where Garcia first heard its amazing story. The goal, Garcia said, is to help Vietnam War veterans and show them that they are not alone.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Air Force just changed enlisted performance reports

The Air Force recently updated evaluation policies for enlisted airmen, refining the process and requirements for enlisted performance reports.

The revised policies are in response to feedback from the field and are geared towards increasing flexibility for commanders and empowering performance within the enlisted corps.

“We are continuously making strides to reform our talent management system, including evaluating updates we previously made to the Enlisted Evaluation System,” said Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services. “Our focus is on making our system more agile, more responsive, simpler and more transparent to better meet the needs of our airmen and our Air Force.”


The updated policies will impact almost every active duty enlisted airman as well as those in the Guard and Reserve.

One of the more significant updates covers a long and widely debated subject. Under the new policy senior noncommissioned officers who complete an associate’s degree or “higher level degree from a nationally or regionally accredited academic institution” are eligible for promotion and senior rater stratification or endorsement consideration.

Prior to this update, only degrees obtained from the Community College of the Air Force could be considered for senior rater stratification and endorsement. Airmen should ensure completed degrees are updated in their personnel records in the Military Personnel Data System.

Journey from Secret Service to Airman

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez)

Another update focuses on equitability and streamlines the stratification process by removing ineligible airmen from the senior rater stratification pool. The previous policy allowed airmen with an approved high year of tenure, or HYT, retirement date to be factored into the senior rater’s endorsement allocations. For airmen reaching HYT, performance evaluations are also now considered optional.

An additional update authorizes the senior enlisted leader, previously only an advisor, to be a voting member of the Enlisted Forced Distribution Panel. In addition, the policy affords large units the ability to use the Enlisted Force Distribution Panel process. If a designated large unit chooses not to do so, the unit commander must publish and disseminate alternate procedures no later than the accounting date for each evaluation cycle to ensure transparency.

In yet another update, commanders now have authority to designate any number of non-rated days if they determine an airman “faced personal hardships during the reporting period.” The option provides commanders the agility to reflect periods of extenuating circumstances on annual evaluations without negatively impacting the airman.

Air Force senior leaders also made recommendations regarding referral evaluations. Currently, a report is automatically referred when “met some, but not all expectations” is selected on the AF Forms 910 and 911. To allow raters the opportunity to identify and document potential areas of improvement, these ratings will no longer be considered a mandatory referral enlisted performance report. This particular policy change will take effect in conjunction with the staff sergeant static close out date on Jan. 31, 2019.

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright said the change to referral evaluation requirements allows raters to provide airmen with more honest, realistic feedback of their performance while, at the same time, allowing airmen more room to improve.

“Under the previous policy, if we set 100 expectations for an airman and they met or exceeded 99 of them but fell short on one, in essence we were saying they should be removed from promotion consideration,” Wright said. “That doesn’t align with our vision of talent management. We want supervisors and command teams to have the option to make decisions that make sense for our airmen, tailored to each individual situation.”

Wright added that providing this decision space for commanders aligns with the Air Force’s effort to revitalize squadrons and empower leaders.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

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