The Marine Corps is seen by civilians as an organization made up of disciplined professionals — and this assumption is not wrong. It’s a reputation that we’ve been building ever since we decided to start a war-fighting force at a bar in Philadelphia. Now, in the modern day, we’re seen as these hard*sses who get things done. But none of this would be possible without first building good habits.
We’re known for being great planners and time managers because we devise plans so meticulous that we even know what color socks we’re going to wear a week in advance. We build routines, we formulate habits, and we execute with precision. And when we get out, many Marines hold on to some of these habits, and these habits continue to contribute to daily success for the rest of our lives.
Here are just a few of the Marine habits that will improve your daily performance and overall success.
This is the concept of first determining a deadline and then planning backwards from there on how you plan to meet said deadline. Using this concept, you’ll be able to determine exactly how much work is in front of you and accomplish tasks on time. You’ll also reduce stress and anxiety knowing, at a glance, that the big bad deadline isn’t sneaking up on you.
Double checking everything
Us Marines have do this thing where we pat ourselves down to make sure we have everything on our person that we need for the day, just how we’d inspect our gear numerous times to make sure we had everything we needed for a mission.
If you adopt this habit, you’ll rarely forget any of the essentials — you’ll just never leave home without them.
Clean your living space on a regular basis
You might not think this will help improve your entire life, but it does. Having a clean home promotes a healthy lifestyle and doing the mundane, repetitive tasks to keep it neat is what builds discipline. Plus, when you get done, you see the results. Nothing makes you feel better about accomplishing a task than seeing positive results.
Prepare for the next day before you go to bed
If you take half an hour or so each night before to prepare yourself for the next morning, you won’t have to scramble each day before work or school. Set up your clothes in the bathroom, set your gear keys next to the door, and all you need to do is grab and go.
Pay attention to small details
Paying close attention to detail will help you find minor problems that lead to much larger ones. The sooner you can identify a problem, the sooner you can devise a solution and resolve it. This type of skill can become lifesaving when refined.
As a rookie with the Los Angeles Police Department, Charles Bennett was sitting in his squad car with his white partner when the senior officer turned to Bennett and said, “You’re not black, I’m not white — we’re blue. And trust me; if something ever happens to you at 3 o’clock in the morning, they’re going to call guys, and they’re not going to care what color or nationality you are. They’re going to roll out here and solve the problem and win. We’re going to find out whoever hurt you, and we’re going to arrest them and do what we have to do.”
Those words resonated with Bennett 10 years later when he found himself answering the call to bring justice after a fellow officer’s death.
Charles Bennett retired in 2010 after serving 33 years on the LAPD. Photo courtesy of Charles Bennett.
Bennett started with the LAPD in 1977 and spent his last 10 years as a supervisor within the LAPD’s elite Special Investigation Section (SIS). The SIS completed surveillance on suspected criminals for all of the LAPD’s units and sometimes neighboring departments. Bennett said that his unit had a 99% conviction rate because of the airtight cases they built by observing the suspects planning the robbery, and sometimes watching the crime happen and making an arrest immediately after.
During his 33-year career, he rose through the ranks to detective three, which is a specialized detective who is considered a subject matter expert within the LAPD. He specialized in robbery and tracking down cop killers. One case in particular has always stood out in his mind.
Mylus Mondy was a US Customs and Border Protection agent who was murdered March 9, 2008. Mondy had just left his shift at the Los Angeles International Airport and had stopped by a Bank of America ATM in Ladera Heights, an unincorporated area in Los Angeles.
A robber was holding someone at gunpoint at the ATM location when Mondy went to withdraw from the ATM. When he saw Mondy, the robber struck him on the head with the pistol and demanded money. When Mondy tried to get away, he was shot and killed him.
Bennett’s team was called in to bring the murderer to justice. The team spent approximately a day and half chasing down leads, gathering evidence, and identifying different addresses to surveil.
Bennett supervised while one of his rookies in SIS sat “on the point,” gathering information on traffic to and from one of the locations, scanning for their suspect, and collecting every little detail that might lead to an arrest. Suddenly, the rookie broke radio silence to report, “Boss, it’s No. 1, and he’s on the move.”
Footage from the security camera footage at the ATM where US Customs and Border Protection agent Mylus Mondy was shot and killed. Photo courtesy of Charles Bennett.
Bennett asked if he was absolutely sure.
“I’m 1,000% sure,” the new officer fired back. Bennett ordered his man to let the suspect turn the corner and avoid alerting him of their presence in front of his house. Bennett knew others might be inside the suspect’s house and, if alerted, would destroy any evidence the SIS unit would need to finalize charges against him.
As 23-year-old McKenzie Carl Bryant turned the corner, the SIS team waited patiently. Once there was a good cushion of distance between Bryant and his house, they brought down the hammer and arrested him.
“That guy is doing life without possibility of parole now, and you know, it was a really good feeling,” Bennett said of Bryant’s arrest. “You understand that you just got justice for a fellow officer who you didn’t know. You didn’t need to know him because you knew he was out there doing his job the best he could, and he didn’t deserve what happened to him.”
Footage from the security camera footage at the ATM where US Customs and Border Protection agent Mylus Mondy was shot and killed. Photo courtesy of Charles Bennett.
The all-hands-on-deck approach to cases like Mondy’s murder is what Bennett enjoyed most about working within SIS, as well as their ability to remain silent professionals. He said there were officers who worked on tracing leads and then fed verified information to the officers conducting ground surveillance. Though some LAPD units knew what SIS was doing, the unit largely remained anonymous. The LAPD command handled press conferences regarding the work of the SIS unit but never named them.
“We always go to the fallen officer’s funeral, which is always sad,” Bennett said.
In another case, Bennett helped arrest three of the five men responsible for the death of an officer.
“There were a lot of people quietly slapping us on the back, including the chief,” he said.
In those times of sadness, the quiet slaps on the back brought back that “good feeling.” While they couldn’t change what happened, at least they had achieved some kind of justice for the fallen officer and their family.
If you’ve ever gone to see a medic or corpsman, chances are they’ve offered up their standard set of advice: drink some water, take a knee and change your socks. Troops use this “profound medical expertise” as a catchall for any kind of ailment you may have.
Your feet are starting to boil over from this ruck march? You should have a pair of socks in your pack. Starting to vomit profusely? Change your socks and down some Motrin. Here’s a pair of socks with your name on it, buddy!
All jokes aside, when medics recommend you change your socks, here’s why you should heed their advice.
It doesn’t matter if you’re the laziest airman in the chAir Force or the most intense operator in SOCOM, wearing the same pair of socks two days in a row is extremely unhygienic. Regardless of how active you are, your feet will get nasty and socks just collect all those germs and bacteria.
Being in the military means that your feet are constantly put to the test, exposed to all the crud that troops walk through in the field. If you shower and put on a fresh set of clothes every morning, you’ll be fine. But if you’re constantly on the move and have to skip your morning routine, all that bacteria is left with nowhere to go but into your skin.
Letting that nastiness build up on the soles of your feet can lead to a fungal infection, which leads to countless other foot-related problems. I’ll spare you the graphic details (and images), but it’s not pretty. Just know that trench foot is a very serious condition that will take you out of fight and it can happen if you wear dirty, sweaty socks too long.
But let’s not forget one of the biggest concerns of foot health: popped blisters. Over the course of a ruck march, the friction of your boots constantly hitting the pavement could cause your feet to form blisters. Those blisters may be painful, but they’re actually your body’s way of trying to heal the damage your feet sustained.
If that blister were to pop, though — which, if you’re on a ruck march with no rest stop in sight, is highly likely — then all that bacteria in your socks could infect that tiny, seemingly insignificant wound. That wound could turn gangrenous by the time you finish the 24-miler. In the worst possible scenario, the bacteria then makes its way into your bloodstream and you go into septic shock, which is very much life-threatening.
The only way to prevent this from happening is to take the advice from your medic or corpsman and change your socks at every occasion.
Your life as a military spouse is what you make it. There, I said it — it’s your responsibility to make yourself happy in this military life. Before you stop reading this article or leave me a nasty comment, give me a chance to explain.
I am a military spouse of twelve years and have been with my husband for fifteen years. I’ve moved eight times – from coast to coast and even to Alaska for a time. My first move with my husband was in 2006. I was only 21 years old. I left my family and all I knew, and two days after we arrived at our new duty station, my husband got underway on a boat for weeks.
I was alone, I didn’t have a job, friends, or even cable or internet!
It. Was. Horrible.
I remember feeling waves of depression and not wanting to get off the couch as I watched Grey’s Anatomy on DVD for the millionth time. I was isolating myself and never felt more alone in my life. Did you know that loneliness can literally hurt your brain?
One study found that loneliness was a risk factor of dementia later in life.
After a few days of living in this funk, I took a good hard look at myself. I saw my stained sweat pants, unwashed dishes, and wondered what I was doing. We had just PCS’d to one of the most beautiful beach towns in Florida, and here I was wasting away, getting paler by the minute. I got off that couch and set out to build a life.
I knew that I could stay in that space forever, but I was losing the opportunity of a lifetime in the process. This military life is beautiful – but it’s up to you to embrace it.
Fast forward to 2020 and I couldn’t imagine having any other life. MilSpouse life is my jam! I look forward to every PCS and see it as an adventure just waiting for me to dive into. Each new state is a new home filled with new foods to taste, cities to explore, and above all — friendships that await. Once you get off that couch and commit to building a life as a military spouse, the absolute best part of military life is waiting for you. Your future MilSpouse bestie is out there!
As military spouses, we are so lucky. We get to surround ourselves with people that we immediately have a connection with. A community that gets every annoying, frustrating and beautiful part of military life. You don’t have to say a word and these military spouse brothers and sisters see you and completely get it. There’s no fumbling about the weather or times of awkward silences – you are instantly in a circle that’s welcoming you with open arms.
So, what are you waiting for?
Here are my top seven reasons why you need to get up off your couch, change out of those sweat pants, and find your MilSpouse bestie:
1. They know the best hair stylist or barber
This information has been handed down like the holy grail to them and they are just waiting to share that beautiful treasure with you.
2. Got a nightmare PCS story to share? Pull up a chair.
Your future BFF wants to hear all about it and compare notes with theirs.
3. They’ve already scoped out all of the medical doctors, dentists, and specialists
Making decisions on your healthcare is exhausting and nerve-racking. They’ll be there to help you with the feedback you need to make your choices more securely.
4. Deployment sucks
They’ll let you cry on their couch, vent out your anger or hibernate alone for a few days. At the exact time you need them to, they’ll drag you on some adventure that’ll make those deployment days fly by. Your MilSpouse bestie will save you – I know, mine saved me.
5. Your holidays will be merry and bright
The military spouse community will fill your holidays with so much joy and laughter that you’ll be okay FaceTiming your family when you can’t go home. Friendsgiving all day every day.
6. They’ll carry you through the hard times
Whether it’s deployment, missing your family, or an unspeakable tragedy, they’ll carry you through loss that feels unbearable. I’ve held my friends through the broken space of experiencing a miscarriage, and when I went through my own years later, their strength kept me from drowning in grief. They’ve got you.
7. Mission first? No problem
The needs of the service will always come first. The needs of the Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and Air Force will always come above your birthday, anniversary, or planned dates. Know it, embrace it, and have a plan B.
Your spouse is working late and missing the delicious dinner you made? No problem, call your bestie to come over and eat with you. Date canceled because of a last-minute training exercise? Totally okay because now you can go see that RomCom with your friends instead. I absolutely treasure my time with MilSpouse besties – because at this point, they are spread all over the country.
I have friends that I can call anytime, anywhere, and know that they’ll be there. It’s a beautiful life and one I choose to make wherever we are. Even with all of the hard pages of my MilSpouse story, thanks to my besties, I would go back and do it all over again.
Folds of Honor honors the sacrifice of military members by providing their loved ones with access to education.
Kelli Campbell lost her husband, Marine Maj. Shawn Campbell, in a military helicopter crash in 2016. At the time, their children were 11, 9, 6, and 2. The family had to move out of their base home in Hawaii, losing connections built within the military community that Campbell was a part of for 15 years. Their lives changed overnight.
When the family temporarily moved into her parents’ house, Campbell says she felt “set adrift, no longer able to make decisions for herself.” She had always homeschooled their children in the Classical Christian method, but she was unable to continue without her husband as her homeschool partner.
(Military Families Magazine)
Placing her children in public school would require them to attend schools at several different locations. They would be thrown into new classes in the middle of the year when they had no prior experience attending school in a classroom. Then Campbell heard about Folds of Honor.
Folds of Honor helps Gold Star children like, the Campbells, find the education they need
“I was sitting on my parents’ floor, surrounded by library books and all the kids. I was panicking about school and their future and wondering how to move forward. My mom walked in and had gotten a phone call from a Classical Christian school who was giving my children an opportunity to attend and just be in class. My friend who had connected us to the school found Folds of Honor, called them that day and made it possible for my kids to enroll. That was our first step into this new life. I was handed not just education, but a community,” she said.
Folds of Honor was established in 2007 to support the education of children who lost a parent in military service. Lt. Col. Daniel Rooney, an F-16 fighter pilot and a PGA golf pro, was traveling on a commercial flight when he observed the body of Army Cpl. Brock Bucklin being returned to his widow and son. Rooney and his wife Jackie were moved to help the Bucklin family, so they organized a golf tournament and raised ,000. He then asked the PGA to invite golfers to contribute id=”listicle-2647631995″ on a round of golf during Labor Day weekend. In one weekend, they raised id=”listicle-2647631995″ million.
Last year, Folds of Honor awarded 4,500 scholarships to military families, providing million in educational support.
Ben Leslie, Executive Vice President at Folds of Honor, says the organization has always remained focused on its mission of educational assistance.
“We believe it is our duty and honor to provide generational assistance for Gold Star children to go to private schools. A lot of families may struggle to find employment, or they may be stuck living in neighborhoods with lousy public schools. We believe in teaching people how to fish: If you give them an opportunity to learn, they will be able to teach their own kids and have new opportunities,” Leslie said.
For the Campbell kids, Folds of Honor filled an important gap. Campbell says Folds of Honor gave her a piece of freedom after her husband’s death.
“There is very little federal assistance for young children’s education. As soon as my husband died, everyone talked to me about college scholarships for the kids. It was a great blessing, but I didn’t need that yet, because I had a two-year-old in diapers,” she said.
“Honor their sacrifice, educate their legacy”
Campbell, who now works for Folds of Honor, says it is equally important that the organization shares the names and stories of fallen service members.
“Their motto is, ‘honor their sacrifice, educate their legacy.’ They honor them by sharing their stories and saying their names. That is huge for these kids. It isn’t easy to share, but I do it to help other families,” she explained.
Campbell choked up as she shared her husband’s legacy.
“Shawn loved people so well. The day he said goodbye to us, he prayed for our family, that we would love each other well. His favorite days were the ones when he interacted with younger Marines and was a leader to them,” she said.
A portion of Red Gold ketchup sales to be given to Folds of Honor
Folds of Honor has partnered with the company Red Gold to support military families in a creative way. This year, a new red, white and blue ketchup bottle from Red Gold is on store shelves. Not only does this increase awareness of the Folds of Honor mission, but a portion of proceeds will be donated to the military family scholarship funds.
Leslie explains that it is a natural fit for both organizations.
“Red Gold is grown and made in America, as a 4th generation American company. Red Gold’s commitment to helping and honoring our military is apparent. The bottle stands out on the shelves, and you can buy something that was made in America and supports military families.”
Campbell hopes that the partnership will drive attention to the Folds of Honor mission and the service member stories they highlight. Even though the bottles and single-use packets will be sold nationwide in chains like Costco, Sam’s Club, and Albertson’s, Campbell is most excited that it will be stocked in commissaries, because military families know what the folded flag means.
“That folded flag has so much weight to it: they say it only weighs 2 pounds, but it feels like much more to carry. Red Gold is coming along and helping families carry that weight.”
Serving your country as part of the armed forces is easily one of the greatest accomplishments you can achieve. Simply raising your right hand, signing on the dotting line, and joining a branch is a selfless act, regardless of your actual job.
Right out of the gate, many have no idea what to expect — this is normal. There are certain days, however, that will always be shrouded in particular mystery and confusion. Just because joining the military is an admirable choice doesn’t mean it’s a path free of doubt or misunderstanding. It’s a blazed trail that many have walked before you, but every service member experiences these days that require serious adjustment.
Day one in service? Yea, it’s a big, fat WTF moment
(Photo by Lance Cpl. David Bessey)
The day you begin service is a special one — and we don’t mean “special” like when the moon shines perfectly over a still, beautiful lake, as if positioned just for you. It’s the kind of special that screams directly into your face with a kind of fury you’ve never seen before.
Sure, those who join from military families may have different expectations from those who had never seen a military uniform before meeting a recruiter. But no matter what you think your first day will be like, you’re going to be wrong.
Expect the unexpected.
What should be a joyous day can get really weird, really quick
The day you become a supervisor
This is a day that truly changes your military career, particularly for the enlisted. On this day, you ascend from the ranks of the Junior Enlisted and make your way to the glorious land of the NCO.
The birds are singing, you’re feeling like a million f*ckin’ bucks, and all is right in the world. Then, you’re forced to exercise your rank and authority either by general necessity or constitutional requirement. Nothing’s wrong with that, really, except that when this happens early on in your life as an NCO, your actions and decisions will be highly scrutinized. You are being watched.
It’s a weird place to find yourself in. You’re expected to make decisions and have some “know better” in your system, but you aren’t initially trusted with the unquestioned support we thought would come with the post.
This is what it feels like to get that glorious DD 214
Photo via Parade.com
The day you get out
There is a safe, happy post-service life waiting for all of us after we get that DD214, right? Well, maybe. But also, maybe not.
Even if you’ve prepared for the day you leave service for your entire career, when that day finally comes, adjusting isn’t always easy. You’ve been living a highly structured, organized life for the last several years and now it’s time to take the reigns 100%. But don’t fret; while getting your DD214 may be one of the most confusing days, it’s also one of the sweetest.
An F-35A Lightning II soars over Hill Air Force Base during a demonstration practice Jan. 10, 2020, at Hill AFB, Utah. The team is now assigned to Air Combat Command at the 388th Fighter Wing.
There are so many things that make the super bowl one of our favorite times of the year; the halftime show, the food, the tailgates and oh yeah, the game. But there is nothing that gets you more amped up for kickoff than a fighter jet screaming over the stadium as the high notes of the national anthem are being hit.
How do they decide who gets to fly in the Super Bowl flyover? Well this year’s honors came down to luck.
Major Alex Horne displays the challenge coin that decided who would get to fly in the Super Bowl LIV flyover.
Tessa Robinson/We Are The Mighty
At The NFL Experience’s USAA Salute to Service lounge, We Are the Mighty spoke to members of VMAFT-140, specifically the F-35 pilots assigned to the flyover for Super Bowl LIV in Miami, FL. Marine Major Hedges told WATM, “It’s a dream to fly over the Super Bowl on game day and it’s hard to choose … so we did what most Marines would do. We tossed a coin.”
It came down to Major Adam Wellington (callsign “Zombie”) and Major Alex Horne (callsign “Ape”). They used their squadron coin to call it. The front of the coin has a blue background, emblazoned with the words VMFAT-501 Warlords with an F-35 set across some lightning, while the back mimics the squadron patch and is largely silver.
“I called blue,” Ape said. “I lost the toss.” He said he was crushed, of course, but still thrilled to be in Miami as part of the squadron and to experience Super Bowl fever, even if they aren’t going to the game.
Troops lose their mind when they have to go to either Fort Irwin or Twentynine Palms. They’re both in insanely hot climates, offer very little to do outside of training, and the living conditions are far worse than what POGs are accustomed to. Despite all that, everything comes to a standstill when a single desert tortoise shows up.
The same thing happens when a red-cockaded woodpecker appears at Fort Benning, Indiana bats at Fort Knox, and piping plovers at RTC Great Lakes. These are all objectively unpleasant military installations that have endemic species of animals that put a stop to training just by showing up.
This causes a headache for many troops in leadership positions and is the butt of many jokes among the junior enlisted. It stops becoming funny, however, when leadership tells their troops that they can’t leave behind even a single breadcrumb that could attract the predators of said animals.
(Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)
This is all because the animals listed above are endangered and their safest habitats are on military installations.
Back in 1973, the Endangered Species Act was passed, stating that the government will do its part to protect its endangered animals and prosecute anyone who bring them harm. While it’s easy to issue out fines to anyone who accidentally kills a desert tortoise, it’s even easier (and you know, better) to take preventive measures and keep them alive.
The military does its part in a large way — far larger than most organizations dedicated to saving these species. In 2011 alone, the U.S. military spent $7.6 million on keeping desert tortoises safe — a grand total of over $100.9 million since 1993. That money has gone a long way in keeping these at-risk animals alive for many generations.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Williams)
“But these are just some dumb turtles!” someone in the back of the formation may yell. That class clown might be right — these tortoises could be dumb, indeed — but it doesn’t matter. If you allow one invasive fish, for example, to fade away because of the enormous amount of money required to protect it, then there’s a justification allowing any species to die out, putting the animal kingdom right back where it was in 1972.
Potential dumbness aside, every animal must be treated with the same delicate gloves or we risk losing them all.
The next “good idea fairy” solution is to just move them away from military installations. It should be fairly obvious why taking slow-moving prey away from a habitat where they’re cared for and are kept safe from predators and tossing them into a new, unfamiliar landscape devoid of such protections is a bad idea. If you’re having trouble seeing why that’s a problem, we’ve got an example for you:
They tried this once with the desert tortoises at Fort Irwin in 2008. The logic behind it was that the tortoises would be far safer somewhere where they wouldn’t be accidentally blown to bits by troops in training. The relocation effort cost $50 million and, within a year, about 30% of all the tortoises (who have an average life-span of over 100 years) died before the program was scrapped.
There were many factors that contributed to the dying off of thousands of tortoises. First, being put in an unknown environment meant that they had no idea where the food or water was. This was made worse when packs of predators discovered an enormous buffet of food that couldn’t run or hide.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Heide Couch)
There are over 400 species of endangered animals on military grounds and, even with human intervention, these are the best habitats for them. Each of the species that are protected by the U.S. Armed Forces are all carefully monitored to make sure that no harm comes to them.
It’s not uncommon for troops to incorporate their nesting grounds into their training. While preparing for a mission, their nests are treated in the same way as schools or hospitals in the battlefield. Troops just avoid them at all costs.
The good news is that this ongoing effort to protect them has yielded some very visible results. While there are outliers in the desert tortoise populations (California droughts are partially to blame), animal populations at other installations have all boomed in recent years. Simply adjusting fire from one part of the range to another at Joint Base Lewis-McChord has helped the streaked horned lark population almost quadruple in less than a decade.
Protecting these species requires a little effort and a creates bit of inconvenience, but it’s been proven that the military installations these animals call home are truly the best places for these species to thrive.
An American D-Day veteran was reunited with his French love, 75 years after they first parted, USA Today reports.
K.T. Robbins kept a photo of the girl he met in the village of Briey in 1944. Jeannine Pierson, then Ganaye, was 18 when she met the Army veteran, who was 24 at the time.
“I think she loved me,” Robbins, now in his late nineties, told television station France 2 during an interview. Travelling to France for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, Robbins said he hoped to track down Pierson’s family, the BBC reports. “For sure, I won’t ever get to see her. She’s probably gone now.”
Robbins left Pierson when he was transferred east. “I told her, ‘Maybe I’ll come back and take you some time,'” he said. “But it didn’t happen.” After the war, Robbins returned to the US, got married, and started a family. Pierson, too, married, and had five children.
After Robbins showed the photo of the young Pierson to France 2 journalists, they tracked her down — she was still alive, now 92, and living just 40 miles from the village where they had originally met.
75 years later, D-Day veteran meets long-lost French love
Robbins reunited with his wartime love at Sainte Famille, her retirement home in the town of Montigny-les-Metz.
“I’ve always thought of him, thinking maybe he’ll come,” Pierson said. And, 75 years later, he did.
“I’ve always loved you. I’ve always loved you. You never got out of my heart,” Robbins told Pierson upon their reunion.
The two sat together and told reporters about the time they spend together so many years ago.
“When he left in the truck I cried, of course, I was very sad,” Pierson told reporters. “I wish, after the war, he hadn’t returned to America.” She also started to learn English after World War II, in hopes Robbins would return.
“I was wondering, ‘Where is he? Will he come back?’ I always wondered,” Pierson said.
“You know, when you get married, after that you can’t do it anymore,” Robbins said about returning to find Peirson earlier. Robbins’ wife, Lillian, died in 2015.
While the two had to part again — Robbins left for Normandy to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion — they promised to meet again soon.
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright just wanted to get airmen talking — to each other, friends, family — with the service’s one-day pause to break down unresolved feelings they may have buried deep inside.
Wright doesn’t expect commanders at each base to draft a plan of what they believe could prevent suicide, which has plagued the service’s ranks in recent months, with 78 airmen taking their own lives between Jan. 1 and July 31, 2019. But the top enlisted airman hopes the effort might help struggling airmen again feel a sense of purpose when they come into work, even if they carry baggage from their personal lives with them.
“While mental health is a part of it, I personally think a larger part of this solution is us just being good human beings,” he said during a recent interview. Military.com accompanied Wright and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein on a trip to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, last week.
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright speaks to Team Travis airmen.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. David W. Carbajal)
The Air Force in August 2019 ordered a one-day “tactical pause” that had commanders and airmen address a rise in suicides across the force. As of Aug. 1, 2019, the service had exceeded the number of suicides in all of 2018 by nearly 20 people.
Wright said suicide has become the leading cause of death in the Air Force despite airmen serving overseas in combat.
“If some initiatives [at bases] came out of that, then I think that’s great. But it really wasn’t designed to develop prevention initiatives,” he said Oct. 9, 2019.
“All of the airmen that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, connecting with and talking to who’ve thought about committing suicide, none of them — not one — pointed to a program or a process or mental health [initiative]. … They all pointed to the thing that kept them going, and that was another person,” Wright said, but added some have been in therapy programs to keep talking to someone they’re comfortable with.
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright listens to an Airman’s question.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. David W. Carbajal)
Wright said he’s heard feedback from airmen who’ve felt the most hopeless during deployments, unable to connect with someone from their unit or loved ones back home.
On those occasions, help came from a friend or teammate — sometimes even a stranger — asking the simplest questions like, “How are you? Is there anything I can do?” Wright said.
“That’s all it was — meaningful connections,” the chief said.
“It makes a big difference if you walk into a work center where you feel like, ‘Hey, I’m a valued member of his team, and my supervisor, my teammates, they care about the things that I’m going through’ versus, ‘Hey nobody cares,'” Wright said. “This is about making airmen feel valued.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
It’s a sight seen all over the United States; a bronze casting of a sailor waiting by the ocean, next to a single duffel bag. His hands are in his pockets, his eyes are out to sea. The statue is a replica of the original Lone Sailor created for the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C. He stands watch over the Pearl Harbor Memorial and the Pacific Ocean from Long Beach, Calif. in the West, the USS Wisconsin in the North, Charleston in the southeast, and West Haven Connecticut in the northeastern United States, and many more.
Now, for the first time, he has the watch outside the U.S., looking out to the English Channel over what was once called Utah Beach.
In the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, U.S. Navy Frogmen – combat demolition units, forerunners to the modern-day Navy SEALs – landed on the shores of Hitler’s vaunted Fortress Europe. It was the first mission of Operation Overlord, the largest amphibious landing in history, and the most daring operation of World War II. Their mission was to destroy mines and clear obstacles and barriers, to clear the way for the D-Day landings.
They came ashore in the dark from the cold waters of the channel, outnumbered and outgunned to work through the night to give the U.S. 1st Army division the fighting chance they needed to capture those beaches. Their hard work and sacrifice is being honored with the first “Lone Sailor” outside the United States.
The Lone Sailor Memorial is a way to honor such deserving sacrifices. Since its 1987 debut at the Washington Navy Memorial, the statue has been replicated 15 times throughout various areas of significance in the U.S., including the Great Lakes Naval Training Center – where all Navy recruits pass to begin their career.
“This statue will serve as a reminder of the historic day the United States and Allies arrived from the sea to free the world from tyranny and repression, forging a lasting relationship with the people of Saint- Marie-Du-Mont, the first city to be liberated in France during WWII,” said Adm. James G. Foggo III, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa, at the statue’s dedication ceremony on June 6, 2019, 75 years after the landings took place.
This latest iteration of the statue will stand on the plaza at the Utah Beach Museum, where the United States’ invasion first appeared the morning of June 6, 1944, looking out to sea as a sign of respect to all the sea service personnel who passed through here on D-Day as well as those who served in the decades after through today.
“The Frogmen swam ashore to the beaches of Normandy to make them safer for the follow-on wave of Allied forces,” said Foggo. “The Lone Sailor statue is a reminder to honor and remember their bravery and to act as a link from the past to the present as we continue to protect the same values they fought to protect.”
Military pay raises in 2020 could be in the range of 3.1 percent, an increase of 0.5 percent over the 2.6 percent raise in 2019, according to federal economic indicators that form the basis for calculating the raise.
The first indications of what the Defense Department and White House will recommend for troops’ 2020 pay raise are expected to come March 12, 2019, in the release of the Pentagon’s overall budget request for fiscal 2020.
By statute, the major guideline for determining the 2020 military pay raise will come from the quarterly report of the U.S. Employment Cost Index (ECI) put out by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
In a January report, BLS stated, “Wages and salaries increased 3.1 percent for the 12-month period ending in December 2018” for the private sector, according to the ECI. The 3.1 percent figure will now be a major factor in gauging the military pay rate that will go into effect in January 2020.
(U.S. Army photo by C. Todd Lopez)
According to the Pentagon’s website on military compensation, “Unless Congress and/or the president act to set a different military basic pay raise, annual military basic pay raises are linked to the increase in private-sector wages as measured by the Employment Cost Index.”
However, the ECI formula, while setting a guideline, has often served as the opening round of debate over military compensation between the White House and Congress.
Congress is not expected to take action on military pay rates for 2020 until approval of the National Defense Authorization Act in 2019.
By law, the NDAA should be enacted before the start of the next fiscal year on Oct. 1, 2019, but Congress has often missed the deadline and passed continuing resolutions to keep the military operating under the previous year’s budget.
The debate over the NDAA could be more complicated and heated this year since the Democrats took control of the House.
Here are the basic military pay raises going back to 2007, according to the Defense Department:
January 2007: 2.2%
April 2007: 0.5%
January 2008: 3.5%
January 2009: 3.9%
January 2010: 3.4%
January 2011: 1.4%
January 2012: 1.6%
January 2013: 1.7%
January 2014: 1.0%
January 2015: 1.0%
January 2016: 1.3%
January 2017: 2.1%
January 2018: 2.4%
January 2019: 2.6%
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The six years of experience and hundreds of hours of flight time needed to become a pilot of the US Air Force’s oldest spy plane are no more, and now trainee pilots will be eligible to take the controls of the venerable Dragon Lady.
The new U-2 First Assignment Companion Trainer, or FACT, program will allow Air Force student pilots to jump directly into the U-2 pipeline and join the 9th Reconnaissance Wing.
“Our focus is modernizing and sustaining the U-2 well into the future to meet the needs of our nation at the speed of relevance,” Air Force Col. Andy Clark, commander of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, said in a release.
Pilots from Beale Air Force Base go through pre-flight checks on a U-2 at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, Sept. 29, 2018
(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Schultze)
The new program is meant to create ” a new reconnaissance career path for young, highly qualified aviators eager to shape the next generation of [reconnaissance] warfighting capabilities,” Clark said. The first selection will be among fall 2018 undergraduate training pilots with the next round coming in about six months.
The change comes as the Air Force seeks to modernize the U-2 airframe and mission, as well as its pilot-acquisition and development process.
Once selected, pilots in the FACT program will go the T-38 pilot instructor training course at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph in Texas before a permanent change-of-station to Beale Air Force Base in California, where the U-2s are based.
Airmen refuel a U-2 at Beale Air Force Base, California, Aug. 9, 2018.
(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Justin Parsons)
The selectee will then be a T-38 instructor pilot for the next two years, and once they have the requisite experience, they will undergo the standard two-week U-2 pilot interview process.
If hired, they’ll then start Basic Qualification Training.
“The well-established path to the U-2 has proven effective for over 60 years,” Lt. Col. Carl Maymi, commander of the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, said in a release.
“However, we need access to young, talented officers earlier in their careers. I believe we can do this while still maintaining the integrity of our selection process through the U-2 FACT program.”
A U-2 prepares to land at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, Nov. 16, 2017.
(Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Colton Elliott)
‘An art, not a science’
The U-2 entered service during the Eisenhower administration, carrying out covert missions high above enemy territory during the height of the Cold War. The aircraft have been overhauled and the missions have changed in the decades since, but the Dragon Lady remains one of the most unique and challenging aircraft US pilots can fly.
Today’s U-2s are larger than the original versions and are made of slightly lighter material, as less weight translates into more altitude — about one extra foot for each pound shed, according to Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Phillips, who ventured up in a U-2 in 2018, accompanied by Jethro, one of the few pilots who’ve qualified to fly it.
Every six years, each U-2 is totally overhauled by Lockheed Martin, which takes the plane completely apart and goes through “every wire, every connector, every panel,” Jethro told Phillips.
“They’ll X-ray it … make sure there’s no cracks, replace anything that’s broken, put it back together, new coat of paint, and it looks like a brand-new airplane again, and it flies like a brand-new airplane again,” Jethro added.
A U-2 is prepped for takeoff from Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, June 22, 2018.
(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kristin High)
The long, narrow wings allow the U-2 to quickly lift heavy payloads of cameras and sensors to high altitudes and stay there for extended periods. It’s capable of gathering an array of imagery, including multi-spectral electro-optic, infrared, and synthetic aperture radar products that can be stored aboard or transmitted to the ground.
Some parts of the preparation process are still low-tech, however.
The U-2 has a central fuel tank fed by tanks in each wing. Crews will fill up the wing tanks and then look to see which way the aircraft leans. They they transfer fuel from one side to the other until it balances out.
“So it’s really kind of an art, not a science,” Jethro said.
U-2 pilots work in two-man crews, but the pilots go up in the aircraft alone. Their pre-flight preparations begin with donning a full-pressure suit, like those worn by astronauts, that regulates the pilot’s pressure and temperature.
“If the cockpit lost pressure at 70,000 feet” — the usual cruising altitude — “and I weren’t wearing a space suit, my blood would boil,” Phillips said.
Once suited, pilots head to the aircraft, accompanied by a crew member carrying their oxygen supply.
Pilots give the U-2 a traditional pat on the nose, shake hands with each flight crew member, and clamber into the cockpit, where a team of technicians hooks them up to an array of regulators and sensors.
A U-2 pilot prepares to board his aircraft at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, June 22, 2018.
(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kristin High)
“I’ve got crew chiefs. I’ve got electricians. I’ve got different civilians for each of the sensors … so there may be 40 people around the aircraft, who are all there just to get you in the air,” Jethro said. “We don’t call it a takeoff. We call it a launch.”
The U-2’s 103-foot wingspan and broad turning radius make it hard to maneuver, and the wings, laden with fuel, are supported by bicycle-like wheels that break away during takeoff.
To help deal with those hazards, the other member of the two-man pilot team trails behind the U-2 at the wheel of a muscle car — like a Pontiac GTO or Tesla Model S — that can keep up with the U-2.
Other U-2 pilots who aren’t flying may be in Beale’s control tower, overseeing their fellow pilots’ missions.
During takeoff, the pilot wrestles with the plane as it gets off the ground.
“As soon as you throw the power up, you’re pushing 18,000 pounds of thrust out of the backend. You have those big, long wings, and it just wants to accelerate so fast,” said one U-2 pilot, identified only as Nova. “You gotta pull it up to about 40 degrees nose high just to keep the airplane within limits, and that is just one of the coolest feelings ever.”
“When you get a chance to look and just see the earth just falling away behind you so quickly, it’s awesome,” he added.
Temporary wheels, called “pogos,” that hold up the wings during takeoff drop away as the plane leaves the ground.
The U-2 ascends to about 70,000 feet for a typical mission. Up there, the curvature of the earth allows pilots to see 270 nautical miles in each direction — a field of vision of about 500 miles. It can map all of Iraq in a single mission.
On the edge of space, the cockpit is silent except for the raspy hiss of the breathing system, which sucks pure oxygen into the pilot’s helmet.
“The air pressure inside the cockpit is the equivalent to standing on top of Mount Everest,” Phillips said.
“Without the oxygen I’d be gasping for breath, and I’d be in danger of getting the bends,” he added, referring to an illness that occurs when dissolved gases enter the bloodstream as the body experiences changes in pressure.
“A lot of times when we get up to altitude, you’ll be able to look down and see the airliners,” Jethro, the pilot, said during the flight.
“And you can see that very gentle curve of the earth from here,” Phillips added, “It’s an extraordinary view.”
“When you get up there and you think, like, ‘What makes these people different from these people?’ And you just don’t see it from up there,” Nova, the other pilot, said. “It’s one world. There’s one planet.”
A U-2 lands at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, Nov. 16, 2017.
(Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Colton Elliott)
‘You’re in a small club’
The features that make the U-2 an exceptional high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft make it extremely difficult to land. Pilots have to perform a kind of controlled crash to bring the plane back to earth.
The two sets of wheels built into the plane are set up like bicycle wheels, with one set under the nose and the other under the tail. The massive wings, now relieved of their fuel, make the aircraft hard to control as it comes in.
The cars that saw the plane off zip in as it lands, their drivers giving the pilots a foot-by-foot countdown and alerting them to any problems. The cars can hit 140 mph while chasing an incoming U-2.
Once the plane has slowed down enough, one of the wings droops to the ground. Titanium skid plates on the bottoms of both wings help bring the plane to a full stop, at which point the temporary wheels are reattached. The plane then taxis off the runway.
Back on earth, technicians begin developing the imagery.
A flight can produce 10,500 feet of film, stored on a 250-pound spool, according to Phillips.
The U-2’s wet-film camera produces images that are clearer than digital images, which are analyzed with loupes or microscope-like optics that zoom in on the features captured on the film.
It’s an old-fashioned approach to aerial reconnaissance, Phillips noted. “But it works, and that’s why it’s still around,” one of the airmen overseeing the film-development process added.
After the first two undergraduate pilot training students are picked and enter the FACT program, the assignment process “will be assessed to determine the sustainability of this experimental pilot pipeline,” the Air Force said in its announcement.
For the time being, the Dragon Lady’s pilot corps will be a rare breed.
“A thousand pilots, [there are] way more Super Bowl rings out there. You’re in a small club,” Lt. Col. Matt Nussbaum, 99th Reconnaissance Squadron commander, told Phillips.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.