LEGO Masters attracted the attention of millions of viewers with its first season in the first half of 2020. The reality competition show was hosted by Will Arnett and pit teams of two against each other to take on LEGO building challenges and prove themselves to be LEGO Masters. Builds were judged by two Lego Group creative designers and the show incorporated various guest stars to serve as hosts and judges. On November 11, 2020, it was announced that the show had been renewed for a second season which would begin filming in 2021. The Veterans Day announcement was coupled with the announcement of a partnership with the Merging Vets & Players charity.
Founded in 2015 by FOX Sports NFL Insider Jay Glazer and former Green Beret and Seattle Seahawk Nate Boyer, MVP connects combat veterans with former professional athletes to provide them with a new team, assist in their transition and show them that they are not alone. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MVP is currently working to help veterans remotely—that’s where LEGO Masters comes in.
Lockdowns and quarantines forced people all around the world into their homes. While the new reality was difficult for some, the effect it had on combat veterans was even greater. To counter the stress of confinement, many people turned to building LEGO. “One of our vets, Robin Fox, [brought] up that he uses LEGOs to help his PTSD,” Glazer said. From that mention, other veterans in MVP were inspired to pick up LEGO sets and start building. The idea culminated in the partnership with LEGO Masters.
LEGO Masters provided hundreds of LEGO sets to MVP to allow vets to find the joy and peace of building during this challenging time. “I’m really proud to be able to be here as a representative for LEGO Masters to present these LEGO sets to MVP chapters all around the country,” Arnett said.
Currently, MVP has chapters in Los Angeles which serve the Pacific region, Las Vegas which serve the Rocky Mountain region, Chicago which serve the Midwest, Atlanta which serve the Southeast and New York which serve the Northeast. Combat veterans can join by submitting proof of eligibility including Authorized Campaign Medals, a military pay statement reflecting Hostile/Imminent Danger Pay, or Korea duty. Though a DD-214 can generally provide sufficient information for eligibility, MVP encourages interested veterans to reach out for assistance.
A new study finds that consuming alcoholic beverages daily — even at low levels that meet U.S. guidelines for safe drinking — appears to be “detrimental” to health.
The researchers found that downing one to two drinks at least four days per week was linked to a 20 percent increase in the risk of premature death, compared with drinking three times a week or less. The finding was consistent across the group of more than 400,000 people studied. They ranged in age from 18 to 85, and many were veterans.
Dr. Sarah Hartz, a psychiatrist at the VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System, led the study. It appeared in November 2018 in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical Experimental Research. She’s not too surprised by the findings, noting that two large international studies published this year reached similar conclusions.
“There has been mounting evidence that finds light drinking isn’t good for your health,” says Hartz, who is also an assistant professor at Washington University in St. Louis.
(Photo by Alan Levine)
Study considered a range of demographic factors
The study results don’t necessarily prove cause and effect. People who tend to drink more may indeed end up having shorter lives — but not necessarily because of more alcohol consumption. It could be, for example, that those people have harder lives all around, with more stress, which takes a toll on health and longevity. But the researchers did control for a range of demographic factors and health diagnoses to try to tease out the direct effects of alcohol.
Another limitation of the study is that it relied on in-person self-reports of alcohol use. Researchers believe this method may lead to under-reporting, compared with anonymous surveys.
But relative to some past studies that found health benefits from light-to-moderate drinking, the new study looked at a much larger population. This allowed Hartz’s team to better distinguish between groups of drinkers, in terms of quantity and frequency of alcohol consumption.
“We’re seeing things that we didn’t before because we have access to such large data sets,” she says. “In the past, we couldn’t distinguish between these drinking amounts. The larger the data set, the more statistical power you have and the easier it is to make conclusions.”
(Photo by Heather Hammond)
94,000 VA outpatient records part of study
The researchers reviewed two data sets of self-reported alcohol use and mortality follow-up. One set included more than 340,000 people from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). The other contained nearly 94,000 VA outpatient medical records. Health and survival were tracked between seven and 10 years.
According to the findings, people who drank four or more times a week, even when limiting it to only a drink or two, had about a 20 percent greater risk of dying during the study period.
As part of the study, Hartz and her team specifically evaluated deaths due to heart disease and cancer. For heart disease, they found a benefit to drinking, specifically that one to two drinks per day about four days a week seemed to protect against death from heart disease. But drinking every day eliminated those benefits. In terms of death from cancer, any drinking was “detrimental,” she says.
Current CDC guidelines call for alcohol to be used “in moderation — up to two drinks a day for men and up to one drink a day for women.” The guidelines don’t recommend that people who do not drink should start doing so for any reason.
Cooking with kids can be a fun and rewarding experience. It allows them to learn and grow, and to feel like they are a part of the family meal. But it can also be messy and frustrating. In fact, it usually involves all of the above.
But with some key planning and a lot of patience, you can work to have meaningful experiences through cooking with your kids. Follow these simple tips for a better way to prep meals as a family. Remember, cooking offers up some great life skills they can call upon later in life, whether working as a military cook or getting crafty with MREs to make a better meal in the field.
Make it a lesson
Any homeschooling parent will tell you cooking is where it’s at for math, science and more. Don’t miss an opportunity to help your kids learn as you’re whipping up something delicious. You don’t have to do anything elaborate, just mentioning cooking temps or measuring sizes can do wonders for sparking questions.
Let them do the dirty work
Sure, as a parent who can easily do tasks like cracking eggs or flipping pancakes, it’s easier to just do it yourself. But allowing kids to do them (so long as it’s age appropriate) lets them learn. Plus, just imagine their little faces glowing with pride!
Let them choose the cuisine
No kid wants to make some fancy meal that they aren’t interested in eating. On the other hand, they’ll be over the moon to make pretzel dogs, pizza, cookies or any other kid-friendly fare. Let them choose the menu for an added dose of fun.
If ingredients are short on hand, lay forth some kid-friendly options and let them choose. You might even remind them that on a deployment or when the D-Fac is out of key items, making due is part of military life!
Have them clean up
Boring, right?! But cleaning is part of the cooking process. Teach them now that after cooking, you have to clean up to your standard of cleanliness. You may not normally clean like you’re getting an impromptu home inspection, but when there’s help, it’s a great time to start the practice.
Do you cook with your kids? What are your favorite dishes to make together?
On April 6, 1917, the United States declared war against Germany and entered World War I. Since August 1914, the war between the Central and Entente Powers had devolved into a bloody stalemate, particularly on the Western Front. That was where the U.S. would enter the engagement.
How prepared was the country’s military to enter a modern conflict? The war was dominated by industrially made lethal technology, like no war had been before. That meant more death on European battlefields, making U.S. soldiers badly needed in the trenches. But America’s longstanding tradition of isolationism meant that in 1917 U.S. forces needed a lot of support from overseas allies to fight effectively.
In Europe, American combat troops would encounter new weapons systems, including sophisticated machine guns and the newly invented tank, both used widely during World War I. American forces had to learn to fight with these new technologies, even as they brought millions of men to bolster the decimated British and French armies.
Engaging with small arms
In certain areas of military technology, the United States was well-prepared. The basic infantrymen of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps were equipped with the Model 1903 Springfield rifle. Developed after American experience against German-made Mausers in the Spanish American War, it was an excellent firearm, equal or superior to any rifle in the world at the time.
With far more soldiers than supplies of modern machine guns, the U.S. Army had to adopt several systems of foreign design, including the less-than-desirable French Chauchat, which tended to jam in combat and proved difficult to maintain in the trenches.
Meeting tank warfare
American soldiers fared better with the Great War’s truly new innovation, the tank. Developed from the need to successfully cross “No Man’s Land” and clear enemy-held trenches, the tank had been used with limited success in 1917 by the British and the French. Both nations had combat-ready machines available for American troops.
Instead, U.S. ground forces used 239 of the French-built versions of the tank, as well as 47 British Mark V tanks. Though American soldiers had never used tanks before entering the war, they learned quickly. One of the first American tankers in World War I was then-Captain George S. Patton, who later gained international fame as a commander of Allied tanks during World War II.
Also new to Americans was poison gas, an early form of chemical warfare. By 1917 artillery batteries on both sides of the Western Front commonly fired gas shells, either on their own or in combination with other explosives. Before soldiers were routinely equipped with gas masks, thousands died in horrific ways, adding to the already significant British and French casualty totals.
Scientists on both sides of the war effort worked to make gas weapons as effective as possible, including by devising new chemical combinations to make mustard gas, chlorine gas, phosgene gas and tear gas. The American effort was substantial: According to historians Joel Vilensky and Pandy Sinish, “Eventually, more than 10 percent of all the chemists in the United States became directly involved with chemical warfare research during World War I.”
Blinded by German tear gas, British soldiers wait for treatment in Flanders, 1918.
(British Army photo)
Naval power for combat and transport
All the manpower coming from the U.S. would not have meant much without safe transportation to Europe. That meant having a strong navy. The U.S. Navy was the best-prepared and best-equipped of all the country’s armed forces. For many years, it had been focusing much of its energy on preparing for a surface naval confrontation with Germany.
A German submarine surrenders at the end of World War I.
In May 1917, the British Royal Navy pioneered the convoy system, in which merchant ships carrying men and materiel across the Atlantic didn’t travel alone but in large groups. Collectively protected by America’s plentiful armed escort ships, convoys were the key to saving Britain from defeat and allowing American ground forces to arrive in Europe nearly unscathed. In fact, as military historian V.E. Tarrant wrote, “From March 1918 until the end of the war, two million U.S. troops were transported to France, for the loss of only 56 lives.”
A U.S. Navy escorted convoy approaches the French coast, 1918.
(US Navy photo)
Taking to the skies
Some of those Americans who made it to Europe climbed above the rest – right up into the air. The U.S. had pioneered military aviation. And in 1917, air power was coming into its own, showing its potential well beyond just intelligence gathering. Planes were becoming offensive weapons that could actively engage ground targets with sufficient force to make a difference on the battlefield below.
An American-painted British-made Sopwith Camel in France, 1918.
Despite often lacking the weapons and technology required for success, it was ultimately the vast number of Americans – afloat, on the ground and in the air – and their ability to adapt and use foreign weapons on foreign soil that helped turn the tide of the war in favor of the Allies.
Troops stationed around the world don’t have very many options when it comes time to grab a quick bite to eat. Either they’re entirely at the whim of the dining facility (if they live in the barracks), they’ll grab something from one of the handful of fast-food chains (which aren’t the healthiest options), or they’ll go off-post (which could take a while).
Since cooking from home is almost always out of the question during short lunch breaks, most troops opt for the less-than-healthy options to save on more-than-limited time.
Chick-fil-A already has a working relationship with the military community, so this petition could make it official.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Josh Plueger)
The petition is geared towards convincing AAFES, which is privately-owned and operated, to include the chicken sandwich chain in their list of Name-Brand Fast Food (NBFF) Direct partners. Troops are drawn to the restaurant’s customer-first attitude, healthy food options, and generally positive reviews.
A Name-Brand Fast Food Direct partnership would allow Chick-fil-A to open franchises on military installations at no cost to the installation itself while allowing the franchise access to an entirely new demographic. Chick-fil-A’s just off-base tend to be packed during rush hour, so adding one on-base would mean wasting less time for troops. Additionally, the healthier options provided by Chick-fil-A would be an excellent alternative to fried foods. Gone would be the days of waiting thirty minutes for a greasy burger.
There’s no doubt that the demand is there. In just 5 days, the petition has reached 19,885 supporters, the poll on Military Times is at a whopping 98%, and comment sections throughout the veteran sphere have been overflowing with support.
Petitions are nice, but it’s all up to the all-mighty dollar to really make things like this move.
(Photo by Mike Mozart)
In all reality, there are countless other things that could (and probably should) be addressed before adding another fast-food restaurant to a military installation, as Military Times half-sarcastically pointed out. Any new restaurant on an installation would be swarmed by chicken-hungry troops, leaving everyone unwilling to wait to go to other on-base fast-food chains, like Subway, Burger King, or Popeyes (direct competitors of Chick-fil-A).
Also, as awesome as it is that almost 20,000 people have signed an online petition for something that they’re passionate about, that’s just not how government contracts work. Change.org is nice for getting a rough headcount, but the website’s track record for enacting actual change has been iffy.
It would be phenomenal if, by some miracle, Chick-fil-A does start opening up shops on military installations — just don’t get your hopes up too high.
“I walked over to the NCO of my starting lane for land navigation and I asked him, ‘Hey sergeant, do you want me to line up behind you?'” said DeMarsico as he recalled the first time he participated in Expert Field Medical Badge qualification testing. “He said, ‘I need your name and roster number.’ I did not think anything of it at the time so I went out and found all four of my points. When I came back he told me I was going to be an administrative ‘no-go’ for the lane because I spoke to him.”
Recently promoted U.S. Army Spc. Thomas DeMarsico, a combat medic assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division at Fort Polk, first attempted to earn the Expert Field Medical Badge at Fort Bliss, Texas. The 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division hosted the special qualification testing in September 2019.
“I attempted to rebut the decision with the board because AR 350-10 says you cannot talk to other candidates during land nav, not the cadre,” DeMarsico said. “The board denied my rebuttal. That was it; they just dropped me. I was super crushed after that. I decided at that moment I was done with EFMB and the Army.”
Similar to the expert infantry badge, the EFMB is not an easy badge to earn. Combat medics wanting to earn the coveted badge must be physically and mentally prepared to undergo rigorous testing after being recommended by their unit commanders.
Fort Polk’s 3rd BCT, 10th Mtn Div medics on temporary duty in the Fort Bliss area were invited to participate in EFMB qualification testing. When DeMarsico found out he had the opportunity to attend the testing he immediately volunteered.
U.S. Army Pvt. 1st Class Thomas F. DeMarsico, a combat medic assigned to headquarters and headquarters company, 2nd Infantry Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Divsion at Fort Polk, Louisiana, poses with his new expert field medical badge in El Paso, Texas, Oct. 6, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Ashley Morris)
“I always take every opportunity that comes my way,” DeMarsico said. “I know that EFMB really sets you apart from your peers.”
EFMB candidates must successfully receive a “go” on all five sections of EFMB testing: The Army Physical Fitness Test, a written test, land navigation, combat testing lanes and a 12-mile forced march.
Candidates must receive a score of 80% or higher in each event of the APFT and be in compliance with Army height and weight standards. The only re-testable section is the written test in which candidates must successfully answer 60 out of 80 questions.
On the second day of testing soldiers must receive a “go” for both day and night land navigation. During the combat testing lanes medics must complete 43 tasks correctly: 10 tactical combat casualty care tasks, 10 evacuation tasks, 13 warrior skills tasks and five communication tasks.
After learning that his leadership tried to get him readmitted to the Fort Bliss qualification, DeMarsico realized that accepting defeat was not an option.
“I felt so much better knowing that they had my back,” Demarisco said. “They were willing to send us again so I was willing to try again.”
DeMarsico was afforded the opportunity to test again, this time at Fort Hood, Texas. DeMarsico, along with three other medics from 2nd Bn, 4th Inf Reg,were sent to Fort Hood to attend EFMB qualification hosted by 1st Medical Brigade. Standardization of the combat testing lanes began Sept. 23, 2019, with testing beginning Sept. 28, 2019, and ending with the forced march on Oct. 4, 2019.
One hundred and fifty-five soldiers started the event. DeMarsico was one of six medics that successfully earned the EFMB. He was the only junior enlisted to successfully complete the qualification.
DeMarsico attributed his success to lane standardization he received at Fort Bliss.
“We tried to train up for the Bliss EFMB but it was hard to tell exactly how the lanes would be run,” DeMarsico said. “After seeing the lanes at Bliss we knew how to study. I knew what I needed to work on. It helped me a lot.”
Although DeMarsico said he felt confident about the combat testing lanes, there was another area where he did not feel as confident. A self-proclaimed land navigation expert, DeMarsico admitted the night land navigation course was tough.
U.S. Army Pvt. 1st Class Thomas F. DeMarsico, a combat medic assigned to headquarters and headquarters company, 2nd Infantry Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Divsion at Fort Polk, Louisiana, checks to make sure his compass is calibrated prior to the start of land navigation testing for the expert field medical badge on Fort Bliss, Texas, Sep. 6, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Ashley Morris)
The first time DeMarsico went through EFMB testing he was only able to complete day land navigation. With limited experience in navigating in the dark and a difference in terrain, DeMarsico was only able to find three out of the four points. Even though it was not a perfect score, it was enough for him to advance to the combat testing lanes. Out of the 155 that begin EFMB testing, only 19 medics passed land navigation testing.
During the final event of EFMB, nine soldiers started the forced march but only six finished within the required three hour time limit. DeMarsico came in first place. For most soldiers, coming in first during a timed 12-mile ruck march would feel like the crowning achievement. For DeMarsico, he felt frustration.
“My time was two hours and 56 seconds!” DeMarsico said. “Me and this major were in the lead the entire time, far ahead of everyone else. At the 11th mile marker point, the private giving directions told us to go down the wrong road. The major went a mile down that road with me trailing behind him. Luckily he had a GPS watch that told him he had hit 12 miles. He turned around, grabbed me and we went back to the 11-mile point. The private could not tell us the correct way to go. I walked into traffic and flagged down a car and asked him for directions to Cooper Field. The car drove slowly in front of us with the hazard lights and we followed him. Once I saw the finish line I sprinted to the end and came in first.”
Although he was unhappy with his finish time for the 12-mile ruck march, DeMarsico said he was thankful he was able to pass all five events of EFMB testing. He said becoming a part of the 3% of medics who earn the EFMB is just the beginning. He hopes to attend Airborne and Ranger schools in the near future. Ultimately he would like to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point and become a commissioned officer.
“West Point is my main goal,” DeMarsico said. “I want to become an officer. I feel like if I can earn my EFMB then nothing is impossible. I devote my spare time to achieving my professional goals so I am always looking for ways to improve myself.”
Hungry for more training, DeMarsico is preparing to attend the advanced combat life saver course on Fort Bliss.
“You have to want it,” said DeMarsico when asked if he had any advice for soldiers attending future EFMB testing. “Many of the people that I saw did not have the drive that is required to pass. You have to be physically and mentally prepared. The EFMB website has so much information to help you study so you have to develop a way that will help you memorize information the easiest.”
DeMarsico encourages all soldiers to keep trying no matter how many times they have to retest.
“I was proud to represent the brigade, 10th Mountain, 2-4 Infantry and my recon platoon,” DeMarsico said. “I showed that it is not impossible for a junior enlisted to have a shot an EFMB. It does not matter who you are; you can do it. At the end of the day it all comes down to how hard you are willing to fight for it.”
San Francisco’s housing shortage has gotten so dire that developers are increasingly eyeing old military sites.
For the last several years, the development company Lennar has been building a 12,000-home community at the Hunters Point Shipyard, the former site of a top-secret nuclear-testing facility operated by the US Navy. Across the bay, Lennar is also participating in a joint venture to add 8,000 residential units to Treasure Island, another former Naval base.
Now the company has set its sights on a naval weapons station in Concord, a city less than an hour from San Francisco. The land is scattered with dozens of empty bunkers that once housed World War II munitions, but Lennar wants to turn it into a full-fledged community with 13,000 homes.
2006 aerial view of the former San Francisco Naval Shipyard at Hunters Point.
The plans call for many of the bunkers to get torn down, but a few could be transformed into pop-up cafés or beer halls.
The idea is just a proposal for now, but here’s what the community could look like when it’s finished.
The Concord Naval Weapons Station spans 12,800 acres, but developers plan to renovate less than one-fifth of that land.
More than 7,600 acres are currently occupied by the US Army. Another 2,500 acres have been set aside for a regional park. Lennar intends to use around 2,300 acres for its planned community.
“In terms of the Bay Area, this is certainly one of the largest contiguous pieces of land that is available for this kind of planning,” Craig Hartman, the project’s lead architect, told Business Insider. Hartman’s firm, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, was hired by Lennar to create an architectural vision for the site.
The station is technically just north of Concord, but developers hope the new community would be an extension of the city.
Developers want to build a hiking trail that connects the community to Concord. Hartman said it would be the first time the two areas were physically linked since the Navy occupied the site.
But developers also don’t want to alter the land too much.
“It still has this beautiful rolling form of typography,” Hartman said. “That is a really, really important part of the history of the site.”
Most of the bunkers would need to get removed to make way for new development, but a few could be converted into neighborhood hangouts, like bars or cafés.
“Our intention is to examine them and, to the extent that some of them could be used, that will be the goal,” Hartman said. “We certainly would not be trying to save all of them.”
Developers already know that the structures are sturdy and that no more weapons are stored inside.
“They’re designed to actually withstand major blasts,” Hartman said.
But the bunkers will have to be inspected to see if they’re waterproof.
Once the structures are torn down, the concrete could be repurposed and used to build new roads.
The bunkers sit along 150 miles of defunct railroad tracks. Steel from these tracks could help finance some of the project.
The tracks were built by the Navy, but they’re no longer operational.
They were the site of a notable anti-war incident: In 1987, an Air Force veteran sat in the middle of the railroad to protest the United States’ participation in a war in Nicaragua. The train ran into him going 17 miles an hour, fracturing his skull and slicing both his legs. In solidarity, a group of anti-war protesters dismantled some of tracks.
The new community could have 13,000 homes, including apartments and single-family units.
A quarter of the residences would be affordably priced, according to the plan; that means the prices would be set so that lower-income families, veterans, teachers, and senior residents would spend less than 30% of their total income on housing.
The prices of the remaining units would range in order to cater to multiple income levels, Hartman said.
“This will not solve the Bay Area’s problems by a long shot, but the density and the mixture of housing is important,” he added.
Hartman expects that most of the residents who move in would be relatively young.
The development could also include a new sports complex and public schools.
The developers’ plan sets aside more than 6 million square feet for commercial space, including offices and retail stores. Another 2.3 million square feet would be for an academic campus that might eventually house a university or research and development center.
Separately, developers plan to build six public schools — or as many as the local school district requires.
Pedestrian walkways and bicycle lanes would run through the community like a spine.
The neighborhood could also feature shuttles and buses that connect residents to a BART station (the Bay Area’s main public transportation system). Residents also have the option to walk to the North Concord BART station, which would be less than a quarter mile away from some of the development’s offices, shops, and homes.
“You could live in this place and, if you wish, not even own a car,” Hartman said.
But there are some environmental concerns to address before any residents could move in.
The naval station is a Superfund site — a label given to hazardous waste sites that pose a risk to human health or the environment.
In 1944, a load of munitions exploded at the station as the weapons were being loaded onto a cargo vessel. The Navy has been working to clean up the land since 1983, when it identified around 1,200 acres that had been contaminated. The soil at the site contains chromium, a radioactive isotope, and the groundwater contains industrial chemicals like trichloroethene and tetrachloroethylene.
The Environmental Protection Agency says the land doesn’t present a risk to human health, but levels of contamination in the groundwater still aren’t considered safe. Last year, Concord’s former mayor, Edi Birsan, said the land was “not suitable for public habitation.”
Construction could begin next year, but the entire project would likely take up to 35 years to complete.
Concord’s city council still needs to vote on the development plan, but the city already has a roadmap for how to move forward: Nearby sites like Treasure Island and Hunter’s Point were also cleared for development despite a legacy of Navy weapons tests in those areas.
If the new Concord community follows in their footsteps, it could soon offer new homes and a refurbished set of bunkers.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It’s easy to complain about training for a sh*t deployment to Okinawa, Japan, when there’s an active war going on that you would rather be fighting in. Realistically, training exists for a reason. If there wasn’t a solid reason for it, you’d go straight from boot camp graduation to combat, but, after centuries of warfare all over the world, we’ve learned a thing or two.
We get it. You didn’t join the military in the post-9/11 era just to be sent to some stable country in East Asia, but you knew the deal when you signed the contract: Where you go and what you do when you get there is officially no longer your choice after you set foot on those yellow footprints.
But just because there’s a war going on doesn’t mean your “peacetime” training is pointless or worthless. Here’s why:
Just cause you use fake rifles now doesn’t mean you’ll be doing it that way forever.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brendan Mullin)
So you don’t get complacent
It’s been famously said — complacency kills. If you get too used to training against a fictional enemy to the point of no longer putting forth effort, you’re just going to start performing that way. If you’re slacking when real bullets are flying, there’s a good chance you’ll f**k things up.
You don’t want to be the unit that goes to combat only to get whooped by the enemy.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Darien J. Bjorndal)
So you’re prepared for the next real mission
You don’t train like you fight, you fight like you train. If you train like sh*t, you’re going to fight like sh*t. If you take every training event as seriously as real combat, your unit will be better off for it.
Depending on where you’re at and what you’re doing, chances are a mistake in training won’t get someone killed.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Christian Ayers)
So you can learn from your mistakes the easy way
If you step on a simulated IED, you won’t lose your limbs — but you’ll sure-as-hell remember the mistakes you made that led you there. This is a little bit easier than waking up in a hospital room wondering what you could’ve done differently.
Train your boots like their life depends on it.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dylan Chagnon)
So you can prepare the next generation
Even if you never go to combat while you’re in, you’ll still be responsible for training the FNGs as they fill the ranks. But here’s the thing — they’re going to stick around long after you’re gone and they’re going to train the guys after them. This cycle continues until, eventually, someone goes to war — and they’ll have generations of experience at their backs.
Those Korean Marines just might experience some real sh*t after you leave.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
So you can prepare other countries
If you get the opportunity to train with another country, keep in mind that they might be using the knowledge they gain from you on a combat mission in the near future. You can teach them to be just as lethal on the battlefield as you are and they’ll get the chance to prove it.
In August 2008, 17-year old Kirstie Ennis enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in Pensacola, Florida. After training, she served as a door gunner and airframes mechanic on the CH-53 helicopter.
As a Marine Corps “brat,” choosing to enlist was not a question for her; she had been committed to serving and protecting her country since childhood. However, her plan to serve for 20 years was cut down to six after suffering traumatic injuries during her second deployment to Afghanistan.
On June 23, 2012, while performing combat resupplies to Forward Operating Base Now Zad, the helicopter Kirstie served on as an aerial gunner made a crash landing in the Helmand Province. She sustained a traumatic brain injury, full thickness facial trauma, bilateral shoulder damage, cervical and lumbar spine injuries, and severe left leg wounds. After approximately 40 surgeries over the course of three years, Kirstie’s left leg was amputated below the knee. One month later, she underwent an amputation above the knee. Even though she was forced into medical retirement from the Marine Corps in 2014, she still found a way to serve to prove to herself and the world that circumstances do not control us.
Although Kirstie does not have a background in sports, her competitive spirit led her to consider extreme sports as a way to raise money for others going through difficult situations like hers, and to inspire the world.
Even while lying in a hospital bed post-operation, snowboarding was one of the first sports Kirstie considered. She competed for three years, winning a USA Snowboard and Freeski Association national title.
In the future, Kirstie hopes to compete in the X Games, and — via her partnership with Burton Snowboards — create a program to take adaptive athletes on skiing and snowboarding trips.
When she’s not snowboarding, Kirstie also enjoys mountaineering, and is determined to climb the highest peak on each continent, a feat known as the “Seven Summits.”
In 2017, she climbed the Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia, and also Mount Kilimanjaro. There, she left behind the dog tags of her friend Lance Cpl. Matthew Rodriguez, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2013. This endeavor also made her the first female above-the-knee amputee to summit Mount Kilimanjaro. Since then she has taken on several other challenging preparation hikes to train for the Seven Summits.
Kirstie Ennis Goes From Survivor To Competitive Athlete In The 2017 Body Issue | ESPN
As if that wasn’t enough, Kirstie started a non-profit organization to raise money for organizations that strive to improve lives through education. She also sits on multiple charity boards. She even learned how to create her own prosthetics for climbing, and then used these skills to create a climbing foot for another retired Army veteran who will use it to climb Mount Rainier.
From physical battles in combat to personal battles after her accident, Kirstie serves as a constant reminder to never hold back, to always live life to the fullest.
Thank you for your service, Sgt. Kirstie Ennis.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Transitioning from the military is hard. Habits and disciplines established over years of service are supposed to fall away as you drive off base. Here are the biggest things you’ll have to deal with when becoming a civilian.
1. Civilians don’t have safety briefs
Literally none. Everyone just expects you to remember to not drink and drive, to use protection while doin’ it, and to practice weapons safety. To help ease the transition, record your last safety brief from your unit commander and set it as an alarm on your phone. Set the alarm for every Friday at 1700.
2. Learning that ten minutes early is early
Yes, your platoon sergeant has told you for years that ten minutes early is late, but it’s actually ten minutes early because that’s how words work.
Most civilians will aim to be “on time,” which is anything up to the scheduled meeting time.
3. Civilians have no idea what military time is
Speaking of 1700, after you leave the military you will notice that 1700 hours isn’t a thing. It’s called “5 p.m.” This is completely separate from 0500 which is called “5 a.m.” If you find yourself having trouble, check out this helpful book. Books are like field manuals but there are more types. They’re also similar to magazines (the paper kind).
4. Learning the language
Yes, “magazines” can also refer to devices that store “rounds” for your “weapons.” Your new civilian friends will call these things “clips,” “bullets,” and “guns.” They don’t care what you call them. In the civilian world, military vocabulary falls under the category of “trivia.”
5. Civilians actually have to look before they cross the street
In the civilian world, you will most likely run on your own without supervision or a cadence caller. You can choose to wear headphones to keep your motivation and pace up, but remember that no one will be stopping cars at intersections for you. The trick is to identify the sidewalks and run on them when possible. When you must cross a street, look left, right, and then left again. Only cross if no vehicles are approaching your route.
6. Avoiding danger without a reflective belt
Compounding this problem will be the fact that you won’t be wearing a reflective belt. In theory, you should still be fully visible, but it turns out that civilian drivers are about as stupid as military drivers. Stick to the “left, right, and then left again” thing described above. Or you could just start moving through the world in human hamster balls.
7. Defining your personal value without PT scores or military evaluation records
You will not have a records brief listing all your rewards and accolades, and you will have to determine your personal value without these aids.
If you find yourself unable to decide if you’re a good person without this help, go ahead and assume you’re not. Then, start putting any awards or certificates you earn, along with any really good drawings you do, up on your parents’ fridge. The fridge can serve as a pseudo-records brief.
8. Trading badges, ribbons, and medals for a single lapel pin
Not only will you not have a piece of paper stating your accomplishments, you won’t be able to wear them on your shirts anymore either. This is especially tough for soldiers who are used to wearing their badges and patches year round.
You can wear a lapel pin, but that’s only good for bragging about one thing at a time. If you need to brag about graduating basic while also making sure people know you were a marksman, you’ll have to put stickers on your car.
9. Figuring out who you can yell at when no one wears ranks
Like the sudden absence of awards, there will be no ranks in the civilian world. But, if you work in a company, some people are still more powerful than you.
What can you do? If just treating everyone with respect is out of the question, grab a copy of your company’s personnel list and make flash cards for yourself. The CEO is like a general, your district manager equals a battalion commander, and the head custodian is essentially your squad sergeant. You can only yell at people who don’t outrank you.
10. As a civilian, choosing your own outfits is normal
Notice how all those people who aren’t wearing ranks are wearing different clothes from each other? Don’t worry! You don’t have to match any of their outfits, and no platoon sergeant is about to yell at everyone.
See, in the civilian world there are no uniforms, so you pick your own clothes to wear. Cargo pants and shirts are a good starting point when you first get out. You’ll get these at stores rather than exchanges. If the first store doesn’t have anything you like, don’t worry. Where bases only have a couple of different stores with the same tired inventory, civilians live in cities with tons of different shops all selling different merchandise.
11. Speaking without acronyms
FYSA, the DoD isn’t the only AO where acronyms are prevalent, but civilians still think you’re weird when you string together a sentence of alphabet soup. Go ahead and plan on stating entire words when speaking to civilians.
If you need to, use lozenges and honey to soothe your throat during the transition.
12. Civilians speak with a whole lot less cussing
Even more important than not using acronyms is not cussing. Most people find it harsh in the civilian world, especially if you’re around children at all. Avoid other colorful language as well, such as “BLOOD! BLOOD! BLOOD MAKES THE GREEN GRASS GROW!” and “KILL!” Click here for a more complete list.
13. Pointing instead of knife-handing
Knife hands have been disappearing from the armed forces and even the Marine Corps seems to be cutting back. If that bothers you, hold on to your butts. Civilians don’t even know what the knife hand is! And using it would be a major mistake.
When you want to knife hand to point out an object, civilians use a finger instead or even a verbal description of where someone should look. Where a knife hand would be used to emphasize a point or establish displeasure, civilians rely on tone of voice or a sternly worded note.
14. First names
That’s right, instead of ranks or last names, civilians use first names. You’ll be expected to as well unless you’re a doctor.
But we both know you’re not.
15. What to do with all your moto
In the military, you could throw on a gas mask and some armor for a 10-mile run when you were over-moto, but in the civilian world that ends with you dodging Taser shots from nervous cops. You can still go running or head to the range, but you’ll probably just deaden the moto with reality T.V. like everyone else.
America has a car culture. Our country is connected by highways and interstates. For a teenager, a driver’s license and a set of wheels is a passport to freedom on the open road. For service members, packing up the car and driving cross country is just a standard PCS move. As such, the cars we buy need to be dependable, practical and a bit of efficiency never hurts either. USAA put together a list of the top 10 vehicles purchased by service members for 2019. The list is based on internal data from active duty and former military members who purchased a car through the USAA car buying service, obtained an auto loan through USAA, or added a vehicle to their USAA insurance policy between January 1 and August 31, 2019. Note that the list does not cover vehicle specifics like model year or trim level.
Derived from the Subaru Legacy, the Outback is a safe, practical, and reliable mode of transportation which makes it an easy pick for the discerning servicemember. Originally classified as a station wagon, the Outback was reclassified as a crossover in the 2015 model year. It has received the Top Safety Pick Award from the IIHs and a five-star safety rating from the NHTSA. With its large cargo space, the Outback is PCS-friendly and its torquay boxer engine mated to an all-wheel drive drivetrain means that you’ll be able to get around just fine when your assignment manager tricks you into moving to the frozen landscape of Fort Drum.
In 2016, the Toyota Corolla overtook the Volkswagen Beetle as the best-selling automobile in the world when it reached 44 million units sold. The name has been used across a range of vehicles over the years, but we know it best in the US as a reliable and affordable front-wheel drive compact car. While it’s not going to win any awards for styling or performance (although Toyota’s marketing would like you to think otherwise), no one can deny the Corolla’s legendary reliability. Even if you buy a used model with your enlistment bonus, a Corolla can last you through to retirement and onwards.
Originally based on the underpinnings of the Corolla, the RAV4 was one of the first compact crossover SUVs in the US market. While not a serious off-roader by any means, its reliable 4-cylinder engine provides enough power to move you around town while hauling more of your stuff than you could fit in the aforementioned Corolla. Today, the RAV4 offers a hybrid trim and comes equipped with a 7-inch touchscreen, Entune 3.0, Apple Carplay, and Amazon Alexa as standard; plenty of bang for your government salary buck.
Yes, there’s been a million-mile Chevy. Of course there’s a million-mile model of the aforementioned Corolla. There’s even a million-mile Porsche out there. But, the Accord can claim two million-mile examples (one from 1990 and another from 2000). Its status as one of the world’s most reliable vehicles has led to the Accord’s inclusion on the Car and Driver 10Best list a record 30 times. In recent years, the rising popularity of crossover SUVs has led to a decline in 4-door sedan sales. Honda responded by refreshing the Accord for the 2018 model year and boy did it work. Beyond its sleek, almost European styling, the latest Accord offers a surprising amount of cargo space for a mid-size sedan and a suite of safety features which earned it an IIHS Top Safety Pick and 2018’s North American Car of the Year. For the service member that wants an affordable, practical, and sporty car, the Accord can be had with a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine derived from the same block as the famous Honda Civic Type-R. The Accord is also one of the few vehicles you can buy today with the option of a manual transmission. Just keep your head on a swivel for MPs.
Compared to the Camry, the Accord is a sales disaster. In 2007, the Camry outsold the Accord by a margin of 392,231 units. In fact, the Camry has been the best-selling car (not vehicle; don’t worry truck fans, we’ll get there) in America from 1997 to 2019 with the exception of 2001 when it was edged out by the Accord with a margin of just over 24,000 units. Like the smaller Corolla, the Camry is famed for its reliability. Suffering from a loss of market share to crossover SUVs like the Accord, the Camry received a refresh in 2017, though the styling cues are not as much of a departure as the Accord’s. However, Toyota did introduce a TRD trim and a two-tone paint scheme for drivers who want to stand out a bit more. Yes, it’s a bit vanilla, but a Camry will ferry you between duty stations no problem and get great gas mileage doing it.
Yes, it’s another Japanese car, but at least this one’s a truck. Originally classified as a compact pickup, the Tacoma has dominated the midsize pickup market in the US…partly because it didn’t have much competition until Chevy and Ford revived their Colorado and Ranger pickups respectively. But that’s not to say that the Tacoma hasn’t earned its reputation. After all, its lineage can be traced back to the unkillable Toyota Hilux pickup. In 2005, the Tacoma was named Motor Trend‘s Truck of the Year. Overall, the Tacoma is a versatile pick for a service member’s vehicle. It’s capable enough to get you through a posting at Minot AFB or JBER, yet economical enough that filling the tank won’t break the bank if you get sent to somewhere to somewhere with a higher cost of living like San Diego or Hawaii.
The Ram marks the end of the Japanese brands on this list. And yes, the Ram Trucks brand has split off from the Dodge brand under Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Whatever you call it, the Ram pickup is a common sight on military bases, often seen in a matte black trim. Ram trucks have been named Motor Trend‘s Truck of the Year a total of seven times, including 2019 and 2020. Ram trucks also offer plenty of torque if you decide to haul a boat or RV between duty stations.
The Chevy Silverado is arguably the most popular truck in country music, both in lyrics (as Chevy or Silverado) and in music videos. Even if you’re not a fan of country, the Silverado is an extremely popular and capable truck, consistently ranking as one of the best-selling vehicles in the United States. It’s worth noting that the USAA list does differentiate between the Silverado and its upscale GMC counterpart, the Sierra. The Silverado delivers a very capable package of power and performance for your towing needs. It also serves as an excellent candidate for a lift kit so you can cruise around base in style while blasting Florida Georgia Line from your speakers.
These things are everywhere. Seriously, I don’t think there’s a single military base in the United States that doesn’t have a Jeep Wrangler driving around it. I’ve even seen one in Japan. Servicemembers love their Jeeps and the Jeep community (see Jeep wave). Some might argue that the military’s love affair with the Jeep is only natural given the use of the Willys MB Jeep in WWII. However, without going into it, the Wrangler is a descendent of the famed military vehicle in name only. Regardless of this, the Jeep Wrangler has evolved into a cultural icon in its own right. Whether you want two doors, four doors, soft-top, hard-top, doors on, or doors off, Jeep Wranglers offer plenty of versatility and options to their drivers. You can even get a pickup in the form of the Jeep Gladiator. Servicemembers enjoy customizing their Jeeps with militaristic star roundels, reversed American flags, and even the occasional jerry can. Just don’t expect award-winning mpg from one of these.
I don’t think this is a surprise to anyone. After all, the Ford F-Series has been the best-selling pickup truck in America since 1977 and the best-selling vehicle since 1981. If you lined up every F-Series truck variant sold bumper to bumper, they would circle the globe almost four times. In 2017, an F-Series truck was sold every 35 seconds. Ford has achieved such incredible sales figures by providing consumers with the best all-round truck. Fuel efficiency is good enough to drive it daily without bleeding yourmeg wallet dry. That said, the F-150 is still capable enough to haul around the family and your favorite weekend toys. Perhaps its greatest advantage is simply its brand image. Ketchup is Heinz. Tissues are Kleenex. Trucks are Fords. I know this will garner some hate from the Silverado and Ram fans out there, so I’d like to remind readers that this is simply an analysis of the numbers. I’m also not a truck owner, so I’ve got no skin in the game.
So there you have it. Those are the top 10 servicemember vehicles in 2019. It’s worth noting that the USAA list can also be filtered by branch. For example the Toyota Highlander didn’t make the overall military list, but it did take the #8 spots for the Air Force and Coast Guard. Similarly, the Chevy Equinox was ranked #10 amongst Army personnel and the F-250 ranked #10 for the Marine Corps. Only the Navy list featured all 10 vehicles from the overall military list, with the only difference being that the Dodge Ram and Chevy Silverado switch spots between #3 and #4. Regardless of what you drive, just make sure it can get you through your next PCS without incident. And if you’re in the market for your first vehicle after joining the military, try to avoid used car lots just off base, loan sharks are not your friends, and a high interest rate is not a good thing.
With Confederate statues coming down across the nation, it’s time to ask: Should we change the name of Army bases named after Confederate Generals?
I think it’s a good discussion for us to have as a nation and an Army. When we can assess the problem and make rational decisions, I trust the Army leadership to make the best decision for our force and nation. We may not all agree on that or those decisions, but one of the greatest parts of America is civil discourse. It’s not difficult to see the pain these names may cause or why the current names don’t matter.
I’ve been to countries where they’ve torn down statues and changed names, erasing history without dialogue. There were many more significant issues, but none of those places have peace and prosperity. A statue or name change alone will not change society or bring a land of opportunity. When not done correctly, it divides people. However, this is an opportunity to do something right for the current and future generations.
We can have discussions and study our Civil War for years. There are a few undeniable conclusions. The Confederates attempted to succeed from the Union and the score was Union – 1, Confederates – 0. The Confederates implicitly or tacitly endorsed slavery of people based upon the color of their skin. We can learn from these difficult times in our nation’s history, so as not to repeat them. We should not honor these generals that fought against their country and therefore the right to own slaves.
In my 20-plus year military career, I never once cared about a base’s name, let alone whether the name of a general inspired me. What motivated me were the units that called those bases home. The famed 82nd Airborne, 101st Airborne, 10th Mountain Division and United States Army Special Forces — these and other storied units are what inspired me. We stand on the shoulders of giants. I’d read about these units in books and watched them in movies. The unit lineage is what mattered to me, and I’m willing to bet most of those I served with would agree.
I also didn’t care that they were named after famous generals. They didn’t inspire me or give me a sense of pride. Truthfully no generals, living or dead, ever inspired me. I had the privilege to work with some of the finest generals of our time. I have immense respect for these men and what I learned from them is invaluable. However, I wouldn’t say I was inspired. Why, you might ask? These generals are so removed from the fight that I find it hard to gain inspiration. Those that inspired me were leaders closer to us out conducting missions in the dirt, and my brothers and sisters that I served with.
I will not lose sleep if we change the names of our bases to Fort Tomato or Fort Pine Tree. I hope that we make these decisions with a thorough process. If Army leadership is considering such a process, I do have some excellent suggestions. Medal of Honor recipient, MSG Roy P. Benavidez, Fort Benavidez. Commander of the Tuskegee airmen, General Benjamin O. Davis, Fort Davis. The list of worthy American soldiers is much longer than the number of bases.
The truth is, we are hurting as a country. If this can help our nation heal, I’m all for it. It’s absurd not to have the discussion. Let’s reinvigorate patriotism and pride in our Army. We can run major marketing campaigns sharing the stories of these worthy soldiers. We can all be proud to say “I’m reporting to” or “served at” Fort (insert great American name).
I leave you with only one question: Will you be part of the discussion with me?
As military spouses, when our husbands or wives announce they finally put in for orders, our minds drift in one direction after we’ve learned possible locations…
Prepping for our PCS
As we have moved from duty station to duty station, our family has collected PCS purges from other families, thrift store finds we needed while waiting for our own household goods to arrive, souvenirs and other mementos, and of course, boxes from three duty stations ago that we’re too afraid to even open and sort through.
Every PCS ends up the same way – we’re stressed out, frustrated about going through our stuff and hoping we’re still under the maximum weight allowance, and then we’re passing our stress, anxieties, and frustration onto our children because we’re now trying to do a million things before the movers arrive.
But what if I told you that it could be different? What if we didn’t have a million things to sort through? What if our homes were already pretty much prepped for the next PCS, no matter what time of the year it is? When I stumbled across Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix, I was skeptical. I hadn’t heard of her before and I hadn’t read her books, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy, though I had learned about how people within the Japanese culture often purge any objects within their homes that do not bring them joy on a regular basis.
(Flickr photo by TheMuuj)
Like many other military families, we start sifting through our stuff months in advance of a PCS to get rid of what we don’t want or need anymore, and I wasn’t quite sure that anyone could make it easier than going systematically from room to room, starting with our storage.
And yet, as I watched, I was quickly sucked in because you could actually see the joy she experienced teaching people how to become more tidy, and she even has a system, which she calls the KonMari Method, which is to organize by category rather than by location, and also to tidy the five categories in the home in a specific order:
Komono (Kitchen, Bathroom, Garage, and anything miscellaneous)
According to the KonMari Method, you should hold each item individually and ask if it brings you joy. If it does not spark joy, it should be given to a friend or donated (check out your local installation thrift store information and how to donate!) However, if it is an item that is well used but does not spark joy (I’m sure my garage tools would fall under this), you can keep the item and try to change the way you feel about those items.
If you’ve been holding onto clothes that don’t fit, Marie says you should ask: do those clothes inspire you to work out so that you fit back into them or do they make you dread exercise because you don’t fit into them anymore? Marie also believes that folding your clothes is another way to show love and appreciation to your clothes, and to maximize storage space, she has a method of folding your shirts and pants into thirds so they can stand upright, which is similar to how servicemembers learn how to fold in bootcamp.
So what does it feel like for an item to bring you joy?
Marie says that the item should spark the same feeling as holding a puppy or wearing your favorite outfit, giving you a warm, positive feeling. If you do not get that feeling and it is not something that you use regularly, you should let the item go and thank each item before you donate or give it away.
After you sort through the first three categories by taking everything out and touching each item, the next step is sorting through the Komono category, which includes all of your miscellaneous items (everything in your home that is not clothes, books, and papers (such as legal documents, orders, and military records) as well as the garage and kitchen.
Marie is a huge fan of using boxes to store items that are of like-size as well as sorting items into categories. She recommends standing items up when possible, designating spots for everything, and using tiny boxes in the kitchen to give everything a “home.”
For the final category, Sentimental items, there are many categories – memorabilia, old letters, photos, and even old medals, challenge coins, and uniform items could be considered to have sentimental value. Marie challenges you to store your sentimental items where you can view them, such as putting photos into frames and coffee table albums so that they can be more easily viewed. Military families could utilize shadow boxes for our uniform items and/or medals to display them, and there are also great challenge coin holders available on websites like Etsy.
Can our next PCS move be different?
The best thing about the KonMari Method is that she doesn’t expect you to complete this in a day – you are literally touching every item in your home and purging the items that do not bring you joy. Our family’s goal will be to use the KonMari Method in the spring and late fall so that the next time we need to move, it won’t be such an overwhelming process to purge all of the things we hadn’t been using in the past 2-3 years.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.