That time we took on the Navy's hunter-killer dolphins - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

That time we took on the Navy’s hunter-killer dolphins

a service member feeds a dolphin

I was a platoon commander with reserve UDT-22 (Underwater Demolition Team 22) in Little Creek, Virginia in June of 1980. I had been promoted to lieutenant (SEAL) following a previous platoon commander tour with UDT-11. The current platoon had 21 men including my assistant platoon commander and chief petty officer.

We formed the platoon into squads of seven men each; a senior NCO or officer was in charge of each squad. We trained for everything daily. Diving, free fall, and static line parachuting, demolition, beach surveys, shooting, rappelling, and surf work with boats kept us busy. A lot of what we trained to do was carry out common tasks, but we were testing new ideas regularly. The fast rope rappelling method to insert from hovering helicopters was new and fun. The IBS (Inflatable Boat Small) “rubber duck drop” had been perfected recently allowing us to jump our rubber boats with motors from aircraft at night. We were innovators and loving it.

A new task came our way when we were asked to plan a mission to attack the USS Lexington (CV-16) moored pier side in Pensacola, Florida. She was a World War II-vintage Essex Class aircraft carrier that would serve until her decommissioning in 1991. But for now, she was going to be guarded by the famed, and then-classified, dolphins that had been trained to detect or attack swimmers in the water. No one had ever successfully evaded them.

The bottlenose dolphins were outfitted with devices on their heads that could “kill” a swimmer when they slammed into them.  The training devices were not dangerous, but the idea of a large mammal swimming out of the dark and bumping aggressively into our wet-suited bodies was downright fearsome. We were expected to die as all others had done in the past. We were to be cannon fodder for the training element that ran this special force of water attack mammals.

There were no previous after-action reports that we could learn from, as all before had failed. Past platoons had tried launching from every direction around the target at once in the hope that one pair might make it in successfully, but this was the dolphins’ backyard and they were very fast and capable. So we began to brainstorm methods that might work. Our solutions focused on what we thought would keep us undetected by one of the most advanced sonar systems in the world — the dolphin.

One pair decided to try paddling on surfboards covered entirely with seaweed in order to look like floating trash. This was appealing to the swimmers as a dolphin attack might just hit the boards instead of their tender underbellies. The other swim pairs decided to make their approach in the rolling surf zone with fins and masks only. No scuba systems had ever worked as the bubbles were too easy to detect. Additionally, the quieter pure oxygen Dragger scuba systems, which produced no bubbles, had likewise already failed since they produced a detectable clicking sound upon inhalation and exhalation. We would also all need to be carrying the magnetic limpet mines that we would use to sink the carrier.

Our window of attack was to be from sunset to dawn. We chose a 0200 attack time in the hope of catching the boat handlers tired and off guard. Another factor that made the event more interesting was that all night the beach would be patrolled by roving guards with night vision scopes and beach capable vehicles. We could not get out of the water undetected. At 0200 we used our motorized launch craft to simulate putting multiple dive pairs in at various places around the target. Our boats had been cruising the area at a safe distance for a few hours, with stops and starts, to confuse the dolphin handlers. During that time, we could hear them giving whistle commands to the dolphins. Our real launches occurred close to shore.Read Next: The US Navy’s Deadly MK6 Attack Dolphin Program

As the seaweed-covered surfboard pair used their fins to move very slowly toward the target, just outside the breaking surf they passed a channel marker pole in the water. Undetected atop the pole was a large pelican. As the pair passed close by, the startled pelican launched noisily in the air and the already very nervous paddlers, fearing a sudden underwater attack, both screamed involuntarily and could be heard easily by all. They did not make it much further before a dolphin suddenly surfaced and squeaked a warning to the waiting handlers who zoomed in and threw simulated grenades at the embarrassed, and now eliminated, attackers. Now they knew we were attacking and one of our pairs was gone.

I was in the surf zone concentrating on staying in the froth of the breaking waves. I could hear engine noises as boat-borne handlers zoomed around. Our planning had included two essential concepts: First, we believed that the crashing surf would mask our presence by interfering with the dolphins’ sonar. (They were reported to always avoid breaking surf.) Second, if we could remain undetected by the beach patrols in the fluffy blackness of the rolling surf, we could then get to, and under, the barnacle-covered pier pilings and work our way slowly to the carrier. There were three long piers that jutted out into the harbor to which other boats and craft could tie up. We had been told that the dolphins would not come under the piers and risk their soft skin on the barnacles. We were counting on that.

That time we took on the Navy’s hunter-killer dolphins
K-Dog, a bottle-nose dolphin belonging to Commander Task Unit (CTU) 55.4.3, leaps out of the water in front of Sgt. Andrew Garrett while training near the USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) in the Persian Gulf. Attached to the dolphin’s pectoral fin is a “pinger” device that allows the handler to keep track of the dolphin when out of sight.

The swim was exhausting as the surf tried to dash us repeatedly against the shallow bottom while we traversed over 1,000 yards to the pier area. One pair made it safely to the first pier and whispered to each other that perhaps they could save some time and energy by scooting across the open area between piers. They heard no area boats so took a chance by quietly and quickly swimming underwater across the short 30-yard distance between piers. Bad choice. They just managed to cover 20 yards when the dolphins hit them both. Two pairs down.

The two other pairs, including me and my swim buddy, stuck to the plan. We worked under the piers slowly toward the shore, across the gap under the pilings, and up along the next one until we made it past all three piers to the bow of the huge looming carrier. There were guards and vehicles moving above us, but we were invisible in the dark filthy waters under the piers. The carrier sat quietly with a draft of 35-feet. The seawater intakes had been shut down for the exercise, and the ship was entirely on shore power and water.

Four of us made it to the ship and, as briefed, dove down about 20 feet, planted our limpet mines on the metal hull, pulled the time-delayed fuses, and made it back safely under the pier. Separately, and quietly, we retraced our paths back along the pilings and worked back to the nearby surf zone. Once again, we stayed in the rolling, exhausting, noisy surf zone and swam slowly to our extraction point. It took over an hour but we were able to signal, undetected, for pickup by our launch vessels.

The crew was all smiles when it picked us up. Our limpet mines had detonated after the 30-minute time delay producing heavy red smoke that was seen by the pier patrols. Mission accomplished. One carrier sunk or severely damaged.

To this day the dolphin handlers swear we must have cheated!

MIGHTY CULTURE

A brief history of US Army snipers

Throughout history, snipers have had two basic roles: deliver long range precision direct fire and collect battlefield information. Their heritage can be traced to the Revolutionary War.

Many of America’s soldiers fighting for their independence in the late 1700s were militia, marksmen by necessity, farmers, and settlers who hunted to feed their family. At the time, their weapons were still relatively primitive, little more than basic hunting rifles, but these hunters were skilled and, according to the American Shooting Journal, while fighting the British, long-range kills were common. Without any formal guidance, these volunteers were doing exactly the same mission as snipers do today.


Snipers continued to play an integral part in battlefield operations during World War I, when trench warfare provided good hiding places for sharpshooters, World War II’s lengthy field deployments, and the Vietnam War, when sniper fire eliminated more than 1,200 enemy combatants.

Since 1945, we have recognized the sniper as an increasingly important part of modern infantry warfare. Sniper rifles and their optics have evolved into costly but effective high-tech weaponry. Although technology, as far as snipers are concerned, can never replace experience and skill.

That time we took on the Navy’s hunter-killer dolphins

Annual International Sniper Competition, October 2018.

(U.S. Army photos by Markeith Horace)

Infantrymen U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Micah Fulmer and Spc. Tristan Ivkov, 1st Battalion, 157th Infantry (Mountain), Colorado Army National Guard, showed off their sniper skills, taking second place at the 2018 International Sniper Competition at Fort Benning, Georgia, in October 2018.

The International Sniper Competition is also open to law enforcement agencies, and the 2018 competition featured some of the best snipers from around the globe, including the U.S. military, international militaries, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The best teams face a gauntlet of rigorous physical, mental and endurance events that test the range of sniper skills, including long range marksmanship, observation, reconnaissance, and reporting abilities as well as stealth and concealment.

It is a combat-focused competition that tests a sniper team’s ability to communicate and make decisions while stressed and fatigued, to challenge comfort zones of precision marksmanship capability and training methodology, and to share information and lessons learned regarding sniper operations, tactics, techniques, and equipment.

That time we took on the Navy’s hunter-killer dolphins

Army Staff Sgt. Mathew Fox waits to engage a target in the live-fire stalk event during the 2012 International Sniper Competition at the U.S. Army Sniper School on Fort Benning.

(U.S. Army photo)

Ivkov suffered a knee injury prior to the National Guard match. Despite the injury, his team took first place, securing their spot in the international competition. However, concerned about how the injury may impact the team’s ability at the next level, he felt as if they shouldn’t have even been there.

“We went in with quite the train up,” Ivkov said. “Coming in with a second place medal was even a little higher than we figured on.”

The team attended an eight-week training course just before the competition took place.

In order to keep things fair, “We used schoolhouse-issued weapons so everyone was running the same gear,” Ivkov said. “The competition lasted 96 hours…we probably slept 10.”

Their targets ranged from “M9 (Pistol) targets at 5 feet to .50 caliber at a little over a mile away,” Fulmer said. “The actual shooting is just a fraction of the knowledge and discipline you have to have to be a sniper.”

The team must gauge atmospheric and wind conditions, factors that can change a bullet’s course. At some of the longer ranges, even Earth’s rotation must be taken into account. They must also move undetected through varied terrain to get into the right shooting position.

That time we took on the Navy’s hunter-killer dolphins

Sgt. Nicholas Irving, of 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, takes aim during the “Defensive Shoot” event at Wagner Range on Fort Benning, Ga., during the Ninth annual U.S. Army International Sniper Competition.

(U.S. Army photo)

Hitting the target also takes “a little bit of luck,” Fulmer said.

Fulmer served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps before joining the Colorado National Guard. Working as mentor and spotter for Ivkov, he earned the honor of top spotter at the international competition.

U.S. Army Staff Sgts. Brandon Kelley and Jonathan Roque, a team from the 75th Ranger Regiment, took first place, for the second consecutive year. Swedish Armed Forces Lance Cpls. Erik Azcarate and David Jacobsson, from the 17th Wing Air Force Rangers, finished third.

The key for any sniper is to remain “calm, cool and collected,” Fulmer said. “We’re not going to let up now; this is just the beginning.”

With ever-changing combat environments and the necessity to stay ahead of the adversary, the U.S. Army, as recently as November 2018, awarded contracts for the fielding of the M107 .50-caliber, long-range sniper rifle. These rifles will assist soldiers such as Ivkov and Fulmer continue to take the fight to the enemy.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why finding war allegories in Tolkien’s work is complicated

There’s an old saying within the writer’s world. “Write what you know.” Meaning that every artist should always put a bit of their own life experiences into their creations to help create the feeling that the world they’re creating is real enough – regardless of its fictional setting. This is especially important when it comes to analyzing works created by war veterans when they tell stories dealing with war.

This leads us to literature’s biggest question about authorial intent: Is The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien an allegory for WWI? From the mouth of Tolkien himself, it’s not. Yet scholars still debate this.

The honest answer is that it’s much deeper than a surface level “the orcs are really these guys” and “the ring actually means this thing.”


That time we took on the Navy’s hunter-killer dolphins

If you’re still not convinced… If the One Ring was about the bomb, then the eagles would have definitely been the ones to drop the Ring in Mt. Doom and not about the struggles of two hobbits going in on foot.

(United States Department of Energy)

The novel was released in 1954, and, as people do, there was speculation that it was about either World War I or World War II. The straight-forward nature of Sauron being purely evil and the works of the Fellowship purely good puzzled Tolkien’s life-long friend and Jesuit priest, Father Robert Murray, who also questioned if it was a message about Christianity – since Tolkien himself was a devout Catholic.

His response to both was included into the forward to the second edition of The Lord of the Rings, which Tolkien has this to say:

As for any inner meaning or ‘message,’ it has in the intention of the author none. It is neither allegorical nor topical…. I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence.

Later on in life, many questioned if the One Ring was also symbolic of atomic weapons. This is easily debunked by the simple fact that he began writing The Lord of the Rings in 1934 – many years before the Manhattan Project was even known.

That time we took on the Navy’s hunter-killer dolphins

Need to come up with a war-torn hellscape that’s riddled with death and decay? Tolkien’s mind went to the worst hell he could imagine: the swamped trenches of the Battle of the Somme.

(Warner Bros.)

In Tolkien’s eyes, his work were, and always should be viewed as, a fairy tale. This is why the chapters of The Hobbit feel slightly disconnected from each other – because they’re meant to be bedtime story-sized chunks to read to children at night.

When it came time for his magnum opus, The Lord of the Rings, it was intended as a more mature follow-up to that world while still holding true to its fairy tale spirit. Sauron is the unequivocal embodiment of evil. Frodo Baggins, though flawed and unlikely to be the hero, was a nuanced embodiment of good. The core of the series is always that good, no matter where it comes from, will always triumph over evil.

The debate lies in the unexpected journey of how that happens, which brings us back to writing what you know.

That time we took on the Navy’s hunter-killer dolphins

To be fair, this place would be what Tolkien’s friend Father Murray may have called an allegory for Heaven.

(Warner Bros.)

As every combat veteran can tell you, war is a hell that you can never really get out of your mind. Tolkien himself saw his two best friends die within the first day of combat, a first aid station he was at destroyed with many inside, and he would be sent back to the rear for health reasons. He would eventually learn his battalion, and everyone he knew would be destroyed by the end of the war.

Tolkien’s survivor’s guilt would haunt him throughout the rest of his life. This is reflected in the most powerful moment of The Lord of the Rings – Frodo’s return to the Shire. Frodo lost many of his friends along the way. What was once a happy, cheery little town felt alien to him. He couldn’t just slip back in like nothing had happened because, it did. His scars healed but still hurt while his mind wandered. This is not unlike what happened to Tolkien, but it’s not unique to him.

But this isn’t where Frodo’s story ends. Neither is it for every returning veteran. For all of his good deeds, Frodo is allowed passage into the Undying Lands. He can be free of his pain and know that he fought the good fight. His battles with his trauma were over. This pained and injured hero can finally have his happy ending.

There is no allegory for the pure good and pure evil of The Lord of the Rings. The Orcs weren’t the Germans (from either war), and the Hobbits weren’t the peaceful Welsh. The story is meant to be interpreted by anyone who sees themselves in Frodo’s shoes (well, in the metaphorical sense. Hobbits never wear shoes.)

Tolkien wrote the fairy tale he’d have wanted to hear as a returning veteran. To be told that no matter where you’re from, no matter how big or small, no matter the pain you endure, no matter the friends you lose along the way, your story will eventually have a happy ending.

This is the basis for the Fox Searchlight film Tolkien about how his life experiences influenced his writing. Check it out in theaters May 19th.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Taco Bell is opening a Taco Bell-themed hotel

Taco Bell is opening a hotel.

On May 16, 2019, the fast-food chain announced it would open The Bell: A Taco Bell Hotel and Resort in Palm Springs, California, on Aug. 9, 2019.

Taco Bell said the hotel would be fully Taco Bell-themed, with new menu items, a gift shop, and a nail-art, fades, and braid bar inspired by the chain.

And executives want to be clear: This isn’t a stunt, but part of Taco Bell’s wider strategy of moving the brand beyond the traditional fast-food experience.


“This idea of allowing people to kind of fully experience and embrace and immerse themselves in every aspect of the Taco Bell lifestyle led us to the idea of doing a hotel,” Taco Bell’s chief global brand officer, Marisa Thalberg, told Business Insider.

That time we took on the Navy’s hunter-killer dolphins

The Bell: A Taco Bell Hotel and Resort.

(Taco Bell)

Thalberg said Taco Bell’s experience with hosting weddings in Taco Bell’s Las Vegas Cantina instructed the chain’s thinking around the hotel. Since Taco Bell began hosting weddings there in 2017, more than 165 couples have gotten married at the festive location.

“We’re really just creating experiences that feel like a reflection and extension of the essence of Taco Bell at its very best,” Thalberg said. “Oftentimes they’re born out of real consumer insights or behaviors. And I think that’s what makes them very valid and very legitimate.”

Taco Bell fans can book reservations at the hotel starting in June 2019. Reservations are first come, first served, so be ready to book if you’re looking for a Taco Bell-inspired vacation this August.

While The Bell is set to be open only for a limited time, Thalberg said she would “never say never” to a full-time Taco Bell-themed hotel.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

You have to see this rare video of Civil War vets doing the Rebel Yell

The Rebel Yell haunted the dreams of many Union soldiers during the Civil War. It wasn’t scary or fearsome on its own, but it was rarely if ever heard on its own. Usually, the listener heard a mass of voices raising from the din of battle. Everyone knew what was coming next, which was more often than not, a bayonet charge from a bunch of gray uniforms worn by troops with nothing to lose.


The Library of Congress has released video of “ol’ Confeds” who “haven’t got much but will give you what we got left.”

At the end of the Civil War, there were hundreds of thousands of veterans on both sides of the war. Many enlisted while they were young, others when they were adults. For the decades that came after, veterans from all walks of life would meet up and share their experiences. With the advent of television and film, these meetups were filmed, and certain cultural notes that might have been lost to history were preserved forever, like the famed Rebel Yell.

The video above was taken in the 1930s, as the men in it are visibly aged but still seem to be in relatively good health. Their original uniforms in the backdrop of the post-World War I world stand in dramatic contrast, marking their emergence from a bygone era of American history. Civil War vets from North and South would meet up through the 1940s, as they began to die off in droves in the 1950s.

The Library has also released a trove of other amazing historical videos, including African-American Civil War veterans from the North and South, proudly wearing their uniforms to members of the Army and the Grand Army of the Republic (a Civil War Veterans’ political group) escorting the casket of Hiram Cronk, the last surviving veteran of the War of 1812, down the streets of New York City in 1905.

When Civil War veterans came together in later years, especially in the pre-war and interwar years, people were less inclined toward national divisions of decades past than they were coming together to confront the threats against the country coming from overseas.

There’s nothing that can bring Americans together like a common enemy.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What it’s really like for military families when troops are deployed

#WWIII, #NoWarWithIran, and other trending Twitter hashtags from the past week reveal the anxiety people across the globe are feeling amid near-boiling-point tensions between the US and Iran.

The US is sending 3,500 Army paratroopers to the Middle East, reports Tuesday revealed, adding more uncertainty — especially for military families.

To add to that distress, those being deployed have been told to leave their cellphones at home.


Eighteen-year old Melissa Morales is one of those family members caught off guard. Her twin sister, Cristina, is scheduled to leave Wednesday, she said in an interview with CNN.

“As her twin sister, it kind of hurts. It stings,” she told the outlet.

Research shows deployment can have a very real psychological impact on family members, particularly military spouses and children.

That time we took on the Navy’s hunter-killer dolphins

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Sean Mathis)

Among a range of feelings, studies have shown that families of deployed military personnel experience a range of challenging emotions.

Learning of a spouse’s deployment can mean “emotional chaos.”

A qualitative study of 11 women married to deployed Army Reserve military members had a heart-wrenching finding.

Nearly all of the women described the moment they learned their husband would have to deploy fell into a category researchers call “emotional chaos,” or experiencing a range of emotions — like stress, disbelief, and sadness — all at once.

Partners of those deployed report higher levels of anxiety and stress.

One study of 130 US military spouses (68 spouses of non-deployed servicemen and 62 spouses of servicemen deployed to a combat zone) took a close look at stress.

Spouses of deployed servicemen had markedly higher stress scores than spouses of non-deployed service members, the study found. Additionally, anxiety levels were “significantly higher in spouses of deployed versus non deployed servicemen,” the researchers found.

Spouses are at an increased risk for substance abuse.

UK-based King’s Centre for Military Health Research collected data from 405 women in military families with at least one child.

That time we took on the Navy’s hunter-killer dolphins

Shared routines, rituals and set rules help keep members feeling stable and grounded.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel Snider)

These women reported higher rates of binge drinking than women in the general population, 9.7% compared to 8.9%, respectively. They also reported higher rates of depression, 7% compared to 3%.

For parents, there’s often no room for self-care.

When spouses deploy, many partners are left to take care of their families by themselves.

One 2018 study found that spouses report not having enough time to take care of themselves. As one participant said, when it comes to taking care of themselves, “Everything else comes first.” Time to go to the gym and money to buy healthy food is nonexistent, they said.

Children are at a higher risk for depression and other psychosocial issues.

Kids with a deployed parent show higher incidents of lashing out, sadness, worry, and depression, a meta analysis of several studies shows.

Toddlers of deployed parents can experience confusion and separation anxiety.

The American Academy of Pediatrics writes on its blog that toddlers “may not understand why mom or dad isn’t there for bedtime” and that school-aged children “may worry mom or dad will be hurt.”

That time we took on the Navy’s hunter-killer dolphins

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brad Mincey

A 2014 research analysis supports this finding, with author Dr. Suzannah Creech, a research psychologist with Veterans Affairs and a professor at Brown University writing, “For children, deployment-separation can bring a sense of fear, anxiety, uncertainty, and absence.”

Trouble sleeping and poor academic performance can weigh on kids.

A 2009 study that looked at children ages 5-12 with a deployed parent found that 56% had trouble sleeping and 14% had school-related issues.

Social support and therapy are proven to help spouses and children.

While these findings paint a grim picture, there is help out there for military families.

Studies show that factors such as increased social support and cognitive behavioral therapy, where people learn to challenge their patterns of thought, can greatly help families during and after a loved one’s deployment.

Within military families individually, maintaining shared routines, rituals and set rules help keep members feeling stable and grounded. And regular family meetings before, during, and after deployment can be helpful, researchers report.

Editor’s note: If you or someone you know is struggling, please call the US National Suicide Prevention Helpline anytime at 1-800-273-8255.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This video of KC Chiefs’ star Patrick Mahomes thanking a veteran will make you cry

We already love Kansas City Chiefs’ star quarterback Patrick Mahomes for his contagious spirit, incredible arm and infectious attitude. Plus, the fact that he builds homes for veterans in his spare time doesn’t hurt. And now, this video of him writing a letter of support and gratitude to die hard fan and Army veteran Scott Buis will bring a tear to your eye.


www.youtube.com

The letter was part of an NFL Veteran’s Day campaign in which NFL stars wrote letters to their superfans who have served.

Mahomes’ gratitude for Buis and the military is sincere: “Without your service,” he said, “there would be no football, no NFL, and of course no game days.”

Buis’ emotional response is so touching: “Wow. It’s things like this that helps me, veterans, people believe in the American dream.

Be sure to tune into We Are The Mighty on Facebook this weekend as we interview players and veterans in the USAA Salute to Service Lounge as part of the NFL Experience.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veteran organizations pressuring congress on medical marijuana

Over the last few weeks, U.S. military veterans have been trying to persuade congress to expand VA research into the benefits of medical marijuana.


2019-03-06 Joint HVAC-SVAC Full Committee Hearing: Legislative Presentation of the VFW”

www.youtube.com

The charge for marijuana reform is being led mainly by representatives from the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).

It’s no secret that veteran issues of post-traumatic stress disorder and brain injuries have been pushed to the forefront of thought of the general public. Vincent Lawrence, commander-in-chief of VFW, claims that this alone could call for the VA to look into the potential benefits of medical cannabis.

Lawrence went on to say that VA patients who also use marijuana for medical purposes are doing so without regimented care from the VA and therefore it is unregulated. However, he then went on to say, “This is not to say VA providers are opting to ignore this medical treatment, but that there is currently a lack of federal research and understanding of how medical marijuana may or may not treat certain illnesses and injuries, and the way it interacts with other drugs.”

This idea is not revolutionary or specific to the VA, Lawrence continued, “There is currently substantial evidence from a comprehensive study by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academic Press that concludes cannabinoids are effective for treating chronic pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, sleep disturbances related to obstructive sleep apnea, multiple sclerosis spasticity symptoms, and fibromyalgia –– all of which are prevalent in the veteran population…”

There are already some bills that have been submitted for the advancement of medical marijuana research–such as the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act which would mandate that the VA conduct trials on the effects of medical marijuana for veterans afflicted with PTSD and chronic pain.

That time we took on the Navy’s hunter-killer dolphins

A similar piece of legislation was proposed last year but did not pass a floor vote.

Medical marijuana has also been linked to lowering instances of opioid abuse as well. Lawrence even mentions this before congress explaining, “states that have legalized medical cannabis have also seen a 15-35 percent decrease in opioid overdose and abuse.” Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA) echoed Lawrence’s statements in support.

The momentum of medical marijuana in the VA is gaining some bipartisan steam, too. Recently, a similar proposal was brought to the floor by the ranking member on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs– Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) when he said, “The VA is where cannabis should be studied[…] Let’s find out the risks, the benefits, the black box warnings and so on. I could not agree more with you there.”

That time we took on the Navy’s hunter-killer dolphins

Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN)

While it’s clear that there is support for medical marijuana within the structure of VA, there is a long way to go before its application is widespread. The positive links between marijuana for medical purposes and veterans dealing with afflictions derived from service are apparent and numbered–and congress is starting to take notice.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 dumb things only military spouses do

Everybody does dumb stuff, and military spouses are no exception. (Example: eating Ben & Jerry’s for dinner every night during a deployment and then wondering why we didn’t hit our goal weight.)


But there are a few dumb things that only military spouses do, such as:

Hey, I just met you. And this is crazy. But give me your number. And be the emergency contact for my baby.

Every PCS means starting over, in every way. We get three to five weeks to unpack and arrange everything, get everyone registered for school, find a doctor, find a dentist, find a … oh yeah, find a place to live. Wonder of wonder, during that mad dash, what we didn’t manage to find was a friend we would trust with our child’s life.

For military spouses, emergency contacts are the proverbial Canadian girlfriend/boyfriend from summer camp. “I swear I know people, and they like me enough to take my kid to the ER, but they just don’t live here.” So, we list the name of, literally, the very first person we meet, cross our fingers and hope no one gets hurt this year.

Ooh! PCS stickers! I can craft with those!

When the ever-lengthening “Home is Where” plaque in the entryway doesn’t make the point loudly enough, we peel those little PCS stickers off the backs of our furniture and use them to make Christmas ornaments, maps, and other crafts.

Because nothing says “holiday spirit” and “welcome home after a hard day,” like a passive-aggressive homespun visual that basically means “remember that time your job forced the whole family to move to Ft. Huachuca? Where there are TARANTULAS! Good times…”

That time we took on the Navy’s hunter-killer dolphins

As if we don’t see enough camo…

Make a purse out of a uniform.

Why, and I mean why, do we do this? The ACU pattern was ugly and impractical when soldiers wore it. Multi-cam and MARPAT look like a pigeon flew over after an all-night sugar binge. Basically, anything that ends in “uniform” was not designed to be stylish, except for maybe the Navy blueberries (Why did they want sailors to blend in with the OCEAN? If a sailor is in the water, don’t we need to see him so we can fish him out? I digress.) None of these handbags are cute.

But that doesn’t even touch on the real issue, which is – these are old clothes. Worn by people who get paid to do dirty, sweaty, disgusting things. You don’t see the wives of garbage collectors making diaper bags out of threadbare, bright orange coveralls for a reason. Why are you putting your baby’s bottle and snack pack of Cheerios into something your husband wore on the Darby Queen, Kayla? It’s not even hygienic.

Gauge life events by location and childbirth.

Forget journals and Facebook memories, we can tell you what was going on in the world in any particular year by recalling where we lived and which child was born there. “Let’s see, we were at Camp LeJeune, and Jackson was a newborn … he had the worst colic, you know … so that must have been 2016 and Hurricane Matthew.”

Get itchy every three years.

Fish and houseguests start to smell after three days. For duty stations, it’s more like three years. Three years into each move, the grass starts looking greener elsewhere, and the luster of our current location begins to wear off. We’ve eaten in all the good restaurants, visited all the local sites, shopped in all the cute boutiques, and now all we notice is what this duty station doesn’t have.

At the first rumor of a new base, we start googling, joining Facebook groups, and surfing real estate apps. If Uncle Sam wanted us to be settled and content, he wouldn’t keep moving us all over the planet.

That time we took on the Navy’s hunter-killer dolphins

Prom photo? Military ball? What’s the difference?

Go to Prom every year until menopause.

Okay, so it’s not really prom, but it’s the same rubbery chicken, the same DJ, the same up-do and mani-pedi, and the same expensive dress we’ll never wear again (or at least not until we PCS). Military balls feel a lot like prom, except there’s alcohol, uniforms, symbolism, and patriotism.

Well, even if it isn’t prom, we still feel like Cinderella getting ready for the ball, just like we did in high school.

MIGHTY CULTURE

MightyScopes for the week of February 27th

Hey Noadamus, how did you get so wise? Were you always so enlightened? If I study at the feet of the master, can I hope to become as wise as you one day? Should I take up a musical instrument? What sort of stocks should I day trade in?

You ask a lot of damn questions. What are you, Congress?


Enough of that noise; let’s jump into what’s important here: your future.

Pisces

Life is even better than you can imagine and the best part is that it’s only getting better. But alas, nothing is simply all good or all bad, and this time of growth and prosperity will wane. Don’t waste it, because what goes up must also come down. Even though you might have some struggles today, they are minor and tomorrow looks better and brighter.

That time we took on the Navy’s hunter-killer dolphins

Maybe do this privately. In front of your mirror. Not on the corner at rush hour.

Aries

It is rather difficult to picture how things could get better than they are right now, and if that is your viewpoint then it will be true, but if you can open your mind to the possibility of even greater improvement, you will experience it. Just try not to rub your perfect life in everyone’s face — that’s just rude.

Taurus

You should practice finding peace in chaos because you are about to experience a sh*tload of it. I mean, so much effin’ chaos and discord that it will challenge your deepest well of calm. Best course of action? Remember there are things outside of your control and let them go. The only thing you can control are your choices.

So, you can choose to develop an even deeper well of calm or choose to erupt when angered or annoyed by the almost-unlimited stressors in your life. This week, regardless of what you choose, you will be incredibly successful either way. So, choose wisely.

Gemini

You know what I like about you? When you have something to say, you always say it. Hell, even when you don’t have something to say, you say that, too. You should really try not saying something, and instead, try listening. In fact, you should try to speak less overall this week, you may find yourself revealing things which are completely inappropriate. This is not just a possible embarrassment, but an incredibly damaging event which could ruin your career. If you wouldn’t say it in front of your grandmother or the chaplain, don’t say it at all this week.

That time we took on the Navy’s hunter-killer dolphins

We get it. You’re sad. Move on.

Cancer

You may find yourself filled with nostalgia for a person or situation from your past. You may even fool yourself into believing that you want this person or situation back in your life, but you need ask yourself this very important question: Do you truly want this back in your life because you miss it from your life or is your current situation not going the way you hoped and are wishing for better times gone by? You may find yourself rethinking the wisdom of returning to someone or something which you have already let go.

Leo

What is a captain without the crew? A star without fans? If the captain neglects the crew, he or she may find himself walking the plank. And a star without fans is a star no more. While you may believe yourself completely independent of others, this is a falsehood to the extreme. Don’t forget about the little people, you depend on them far more than they depend on you. Be extra kind to folks this week, you’ll thank me for it later.

Virgo

My Virgo brothers and sisters, just because you are stressed doesn’t mean you should tear yourself apart for every tiny little flaw. You’re only human. Allow yourself some grace and try talking nicely to yourself once in a while. Financial problems at home cause conflicts with your career. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t want the unit EO rep to overhear because this week, everyone will be repeating any dirt you speak aloud.

That time we took on the Navy’s hunter-killer dolphins

We’re all just as sick of your indecision as you are.

Libra

OMG. It’s hard to be so tall, and attractive, and successful, and, on top of that, you have two incredible opportunities to select from and you can’t decide. You know if you pick one the other option is not possible. Please stop trying to make everyone feel sorry for your dilemma. It’s beneath you. Just shut the F up and make a decision already.

Scorpio

I’m not one to judge people for their deviant behavior, but recently you have been a tad bit out of control. Instead of snowballing, this current pattern of behavior into something worse, you can pull the breaks and save yourself from doing something that will leave a serious lasting mark. Have you ever seen that movie where that dude doesn’t touch himself or anyone else below the belt for 40 days? Try it, but let’s start small and aim for a week. You can do it, I believe in you.

Sagittarius

Seriously, do your effin’ laundry, Private. Just because you fall in a pile of sh*t and think you smell like roses, doesn’t mean you really do. In fact, it means you’re covered in crap. So this week, clean yourself up, hit the laundromat, and try drinking something other than booze. Like, I don’t know, water maybe? Just a thought.

That time we took on the Navy’s hunter-killer dolphins

Yeah, we see you on your way to ruin everyone else’s lives.

Capricorn

It’s hard to be you, seeing how things should be done and wondering why you have yet to be promoted to Sergeant Major of the Universe so you could implement your plans, but such is life here on earth. Your genius will continue to be unrecognized this week, but you will probably continue to be a terrible human to everyone you meet as the chaos of life overwhelms you. So take a deep breath and try not to such a prick; things will improve, at some point. Okay, that last part about things improving is a lie, but… I got nothing, good luck with that.

Aquarius

Wow, I want to lie say I’m not impressed, but the bylaws of the intrawebs and my contract with the big guy forbids it. So, good job skating through the nonsense of your life relativity unscathed. It is impressive, inspiring even. However, just because your lack of planning and your tendency to wing it has been successful in the recent past, this doesn’t mean that method will hold up this week. Even your luck has limits – don’t test ’em, not this week, at least.

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 tips for all military spouse job paths

If there’s one thing we know about military spouse careers, it’s that they rarely follow a set path. Work from home? Full-time job? Part time? Retail? Home sales?

But military spouses don’t just forge their own paths, they willingly share the lessons they’ve learned on the way to make working easier for everyone else. And that was exactly the theme during an employment help panel at a military spouse town hall event in May before the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year awards.

The employment panel featured spouses who work for nonprofits, work from home, spend time on the road or operate their own multi-level marketing business, popularly known as home sales.

Here are some of their best tips.


That time we took on the Navy’s hunter-killer dolphins

(Photo by Christin Hume)

1. Show up.

Working from home can be isolating; operating a home sales business requires keeping a robust network; and getting a new gig after your next move could be all about who you know. Those are just some of the reasons the panelists said spouses should make the extra effort to show up at networking events in person, no matter what kind of job they have.

But it’s especially important for those in home sales, said Mary Nelson, a former Coast Guard spouse of the year who has long operated her own home-based business. She even suggests attending your home sales company’s conference whether you are making enough to cover the cost or not.

“Always make an effort to attend functions. You never understand what that company is about unless you make it a point to spend that money you may not have,” she said.

That time we took on the Navy’s hunter-killer dolphins

(Photo by Domenico Loia)

2. Have a designated work space and keep work hours.

Work from home? Make sure you set aside a space in your home as an office, even if it’s just a corner, and only do work there. And be careful to work only during designated work times, not around the clock. By setting work hours and a work space, you can keep your job from taking over your entire life, even if it’s based in your home.

That time we took on the Navy’s hunter-killer dolphins

(Photo by Patrick Perkins)

3. Use all the tools you can.

Meal kit delivery? Amazon Subscribe and Save? Curbside grocery pick-up? Asking a friend for help? All of these are important tools military spouses should be using to keep life simple, especially during deployments or training absences, panelists said. It’s not about working harder — it’s about working smarter.

That time we took on the Navy’s hunter-killer dolphins

(Photo by Harry Brewer)

4. Do things that make you happy.

Lindsey Bradford, a former Navy spouse of the year, said she keeps her sanity as a remote worker with a heavy travel schedule by doing things throughout the day that bring her joy. On the road, for example, she finds a local coffee shop to work from and sample. It’s all about the little moments, she said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marine credits triathlons with making him a better warfighter

After finishing his second Boston Marathon in 2013, Maj. Ken Parisi, a logistics specialist at Marine Corps Systems Command, wanted to tackle a new challenge — triathlons.

He has completed four full-distance 140.6-mile races and 10 half-distance 70.3-mile races. He said this passion for triathlons gave him confidence and made him a better Marine.


“I realized I got myself into something pretty big, so I did what all Marines would do — I made a plan, hired a coach, bought a bike, and then just actively and aggressively pursued my training plan until I crossed each finish line,” Parisi said.

In 2018, he participated in the Ironman 70.3 World Championship at Nelson Mandela Bay in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, placing in the top 25 percent of 4,500 competitors. The race included a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile run.

That time we took on the Navy’s hunter-killer dolphins

Maj. Ken Parisi, a logistics specialist at Marine Corps Systems Command, talks about his passion for triathlons and how they gave him confidence and made him a better Marine.

It was Parisi’s first World Championship race, and he had to overcome a few obstacles: it rained the entire race and his bike never arrived in time after he shipped it from the U.S. Luckily, he was able to rent a bike and was only six minutes short of his fastest time. He also beat his personal record in running by six minutes and matched his fastest swim time.

“It was an incredible experience competing with the best athletes and Olympians across the globe,” said Parisi. “I enjoy triathlons because they push me past my uncomfortable limitations into becoming a better athlete and a better person. I’m more patient and confident in myself and what I can do because of this sport.”

Parisi said training for a full-distance Ironman consumes his off-duty time. He alternates between swimming and running one day, then biking and running the next day, training at least 14-18 hours a week. This does not include the time he spends on travel, preparation, cool down, stretching, and calorie consumption.

That time we took on the Navy’s hunter-killer dolphins

Maj. Ken Parisi, a logistics specialist at Marine Corps Systems Command, crosses the finish line at the Ironman World Championship at Nelson Mandela Bay in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

“On Saturdays I’ll wake up at 5:00 a.m. and go for a five or six-hour bike ride, follow it up with a run, try to get home early enough to have a late lunch or early dinner, go to bed, and then do another workout the following day,” he said. “I’m a very goal-driven Marine and individual. I think if you are going to be a successful and competitive athlete, having realistic, identifiable and attainable goals is critical.”

Parisi said he believes competing in distance triathlons has increased his endurance and strength, which makes him a better Marine, even after 23 years of service. He earned a perfect score of 300 on his physical and combat fitness tests, and is more driven and disciplined to conquer every goal he sets.

That time we took on the Navy’s hunter-killer dolphins

Maj. Ken Parisi, a logistics specialist at Marine Corps Systems Command, shows off his Ironman World Championship coin which signified his qualification into the race at Nelson Mandela Bay in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

“As Marines, we are put in hard situations and expected to come out on top,” said Parisi. “It’s really up to us to focus, drill down, and get the job done, and I believe this sport challenges me enough to know that I can do anything.”

Parisi will continue working toward his goal to compete in the Ironman World Championship, a 140.6-mile journey, which is double the distance from the Ironman in South Africa.

“It is very challenging, but I’m focused on the common quote ‘failing doesn’t make you a failure,'” he said. “I know that every workout I do will make me a little bit stronger for the next workout, and getting across the finish line at the world championship one day is my ultimate goal.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty (In GIFs) – Part I

At NVI, we love to talk about “user experience” (check out any of our previous blogs here, here, or here on the topic). Part of user experience is perspective taking, or walking a mile in your user’s shoes. To that end, we’re inviting you to join us on an emotional rollercoaster full of anticipation, promise, disappointment, and resilience. Welcome to the life of one transitioning veteran.


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Part I: Getting Out

Your separation request has been approved. This is happening. It’s really happening.

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You get a date for TAP (now Transition GPS) and don your finest (OK, only) business casual duds (or, if you’re me, drop some serious coin at Ann Taylor Loft because you own no business casual attire). Turns out you clean up alright!

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Welcome to your Transition GPS. Cue three-to-five days of sipping from a proverbial firehose full of PowerPoint presentations. Job search, interviewing, benefits (oh my). Not exactly how a soon-to-be veteran spends every single day for umpteen years until this day, but onward.

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To be fair, you’re also guided through exercises like a financial wellness worksheet that alerts you that, without BAH, life’s going to be tough.

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Then, you get to the section on labor market information and find out (shock, horror) that your hometown has precisely zero jobs matched to your career field. Guess it’s time to consider your soft skills…

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At the end of the program, you’ve got a signed transition plan that says you know what you’re going to do and you’re clear on how you’re gonna do it. In reality, it’s more like this:

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Oh well. Onward to outprocessing!

For the uninitiated, this bureaucratic rite called “outprocessing” is essentially a quest for about two dozen signatures. Your mission is complicated by your signatories’ preternatural ability to have just stepped out when you show up. Challenge accepted.

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A few weeks and a couple dozen signatures later, it’s your special day. The much-fabled “final out.” If you’ve satisfactorily completed your quest, you’re outprocessed! If you bungled any of your tasks, do not pass “go” or collect 200 dollars. You’re in for a wild goose chase (and possibly a stern talking-to). Time for the most sacred of paid time off: terminal leave.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information