5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

Soldiers of the post-9/11 generation have been part of a social experiment aimed at preventing them from doing dumb things. The idea was to pair each troop with an assigned “best friend” — a battle buddy — and that each pair would keep an eye on one another. Troops have to make sure their comrade is doing the right thing and, if they aren’t, say something before both of them make the blotter- aka, the buddy system.

At its worst, soldiers end up in trouble because their Blue Falcon of a squadmate decides to throw caution to the wind and do whatever’s on their mind. But, as much as soldiers bemoan always having someone by their side — and the system’s goofy name — it’s actually brought about plenty more benefits than downsides.


5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

Even if that means you’re now forced to take that guy into less-than-pleasant situations.

(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Robert Taylor)

It makes sure no one is left out

Let’s call the “battle buddy system” what it truly is — a forced-best-friend system. Everyone from the social butterfly specialist to the dorky private is forced to at least talk to each other after they join the unit.

Granted, you’ll eventually either become actual friends through the process — or you’ll swap to someone you’re cooler with — but it opens the social gates for some of the shier soldiers in the barracks.

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

If your squad leader is happy, everyone’s happy — or you should be terrified. Depends on the squad leader…

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Keeler)

It eliminates much of the stress of being an NCO

Specialists and below often miss the bigger picture when they’re at the lowest rungs of the totem pole, but taking any kind of weight off their shoulders is a blessing. When you’ve got to watch over six soldiers, things get missed and mistakes happen.

When those six soldiers are keeping to themselves and keeping each other in check, there’s a better chance that they’re doing the right thing.

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

Worst case scenario: You’ve got another person to help you win a fist fight against some overzealous douchebag.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Charles Highland)

It ensures someone will always watch your back

Soldiers stationed overseas in Korea or Germany know this all too well: You can’t even leave post without a battle buddy by your side. Drunk, American GIs being tossed into a foreign city without any means of figuring out how to get back in time for formation is actually pretty common.

Sure, now you run the risk of leaving two soldiers more lost than a butterbar on the BOLC land nav course, but the odds are better that they’ll at least be safe while they’re trying to find their way back.

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

Hopefully, at least one of you listened to the safety brief.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brian Johnston)

With the buddy system, it’s been proven that dumb stuff happens less frequently

As with everything in the Army, there have been studies upon studies that have analyzed the efficacy versus the cost of telling your squad to be friends with one another. Because, you know, even the Army can make something as simple as drinking a beer with your friend into a PowerPoint slideshow.

It’s simple, really. Soldiers who have a person that’ll say, “what are you doing, you friggin’ idiot?!” are less likely to end up in the commander’s office.

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

Everyone needs a good, steady shoulder every now and again. It’s the least you can do for someone who’ll do the same for you.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Tyler Kingsbury)

The buddy system gives soldiers at least one person to talk to when it gets rough

Those studies also point to why the battle buddy system was implemented to begin with — to help decrease the alarming number of self-inflicted deaths and injuries within the ranks.

Everything else on this list is all fine and dandy, but if just a single soldier is saved because they had just one person to talk to, the program is a success. If hundreds of soldiers were talked out of that darkness because their squadmate became their best friend, I’ll forever argue its merit, no matter how goofy it sounds calling another grown-ass warfighter my “battle buddy.”

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4 reasons why infantrymen don’t need full auto weapons

The author served as a Navy Corpsman with Marines in Sangin, Afghanistan. 

The primary mission of a U.S. Marine infantry rifle squad is to locate, close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver or to repel the enemy’s assault by fire and close combat. This mission statement is branded into each infantryman’s brain and consistently put to practical use when the grunts are deployed to the front lines.

In the event a Marine infantry squad takes enemy contact, the squad leader will order the machine-gunners to relocate themselves to an area to return fire and win the battle for weapon superiority. The squad leader will also inform his fire team leaders of the situation and they’ll deploy their two riflemen and SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon) gunner to a strategic area — getting them into the fight.

Once they have a fix on the enemies’ position, they’ll call the mortar platoon to “bring the rain.”

At literally the flip of a switch, troops go from having a cold weapon system to knocking a fully automatic weapon, bringing death to the bad guys at the pull of a trigger.

This sounds super cool, right? Well, it kind of is when you’ve experienced the situation first hand. We understand that having a fully automatic machine gun gives troops a commanding advantage, but when you look at how ground pounders are trained to fire the weapon system, the rate of fire nearly mirrors that of an M4’s after a few bursts.


They can get trigger happy

For the most part, grunts love to take contact from the enemy when they are locked and loaded. When you’ve trained for months to take the fight to the enemy, nothing feels better than getting to fire your weapon at the bad guys. However, it’s not uncommon for machine-gunners to squeeze their triggers and fire off more than the recommended four to six rounds.

We’d also like to add that the feeling of sending accurate rounds down range is fun as f*ck! Unfortunately, infantrymen often lose their bearing and keep the trigger compressed and end up wasting ammo.

Negligent discharges can be worse

Most times, a negligent discharge means you accidentally fired one round from your rifle or pistol. For a troop carrying a fully automatic weapon, the negligent discharge can be much more violent and dangerous. Instead of firing off one round accidentally, you can fire two or three.

We understand that the M16 has both semi-automatic (one round at a time) and burst (three shots at a time) firing capabilities. But it’s more unlikely you’ll ND on the burst setting than the semi-automatic one.

Barrel changes

Remember when we said troops can get trigger happy? Hopefully, you do, because we just mentioned it a few minutes ago. When grunts do get trigger happy, their weapons systems can overheat. To combat the overheating, troops must change out their barrel in order to stay in the fight.

Which takes precious firefight time that you won’t get back.

It can lower accuracy

Machine guns are very, very powerful weapons. They can kill the enemy positioned beyond the maximum effective range of an M4 and M16. Sounds awesome, right? Well, it is.

Unfortunately, since they are very powerful, when the mobile operator fires the weapon, the recoil will bring the rifle’s barrel up and off target. This mainly happens when the ground pounder gets trigger happy. In a firefight, mistakes need to be kept to a minimum or people can die.

MIGHTY CULTURE

TDY to Paradise: 11 fun facts about Hawaii

Usually, we imagine American history as, well, history. Surprisingly, Hawaii is probably younger than most grandmas; as a state, at least. Hawaii gained statehood on August 21st, 1959, as the 50th and final US state. Here on the mainland, most of us know Hawaii as the land of hula dancing, beautiful beaches and family vacations, but our 50th state has a rich cultural history that’s still alive and well today. Keep reading for 11 interesting facts about the Aloha state.


Hawaii has an impressive and diverse military presence.

The US Army has the largest presence there, with over 16,000 active duty members. Next comes the Navy with roughly 8,000, the Marine Corps with 7,000, and the Air Force with about 5,000. These forces operate from numerous military bases, which gives Hawaii the largest and most diverse concentration of our military within a metropolitan area.

Veterans love Hawaii. 

Because of the strong military presence on the islands, over 120,000 veterans live in Hawaii, making up about 11% of the population. As of late 2018, Hawaii has over 18,000 military retired personnel. Of those individuals, over 17,000 receive monthly pensions.

The attack on Pearl Harbor changed life in Hawaii. 

​When the Japanese Navy Air Service attacked Pearl Harbor, over 2000 Americans were killed, but the impact on Hawaii didn’t end there. Tourism and production industries on Oahu ground to a halt. Meanwhile, over 160,000 Japanese people were being held in Hawaii- a setup that the struggling islands could no longer support. If they were removed all at once, however, the economy would crumble.

Martial law was strictly enforced until the end of the war, leaving the US military in direct control of many aspects of life in Hawaii. Over time, the military transformed Hawaii’s culture. Sugar plantations were turned into housing and training sites, more roads were built, and some of the smaller islands were destroyed. At the end of the war, military personnel returned to the mainland, resulting in even more economic challenges for Hawaii. Fortunately, the people there have since worked together to rebuild a thriving, beautiful Oahu.

Hawaii was once a monarchy.

Until 1893, the islands were ruled by the Hawaiian Monarchy. Queen Liliuokalani was sin power at the time, when a group from her Committee of Public Safety conducted a military coup. After the Hawaiian Kingdom was overthrown, President Grover Cleveland believed the monarchy should be restored. When President McKinley took office, however, he saw Hawaii as a chess piece in the game of the Spanish-American War and annexed the region. As mentioned before, it took until 1959 for Hawaii to officially become a US state.

Hawaii still honors its historical royalty.

As a former monarchy, Hawaii has traditions dating back long before it became a state. Hawaiian royalty, or ali’i, is still celebrated today. Kamehameha Day is held on June 11 in honor of King Kamehameha the Great, and Prince Kuhio Day takes place on March 26. Both of these dates are official state holidays, celebrated with annual festivals, traditional foods, and colorful parades.

Hawaii is the only U.S. state with two official languages.

The rest of the states only recognize English as the official language, but Hawaii includes its original Hawaiian tongue. Hawaiian pidgin, a Creole language based on English, is also commonly spoken, but it’s not considered an official state language.

Learning the alphabet in Hawaii is easier.

To tourists, Hawaiian names can look intimidating, but they’re actually pretty simple once you learn how the Hawaiian alphabet works. There are only 12 letters plus two symbols that change pronunciation. Once you learn the basics, it’s actually easier to sound out than English!

There are actually 137 Hawaiian Islands.

Most people have heard of some of the largest Hawaiian islands, like Maui, Oahu, Kauai, and “the Big Island”. In addition to the eight major ones, there are over 100 more smaller islands, each with unique reefs. Across the many islands, the climate varies too, covering 10 of the world’s 14 climate zones! This natural variation is responsible for the vast diversity of flora and fauna in Hawaii, making it a place like none other on Earth.

Hawaii is home to the world’s largest dormant volcano.

Maui’s Mount Haleakala reaches a peak of 10,023 feet above sea level, with a 7.5 by 2.5 mile crater. That said, the bulk of the volcano is actually located under water. Measured from the sea floor, it’s nearly 30,000 feet; similar to the height of Mount Everest! This volcanic giant was responsible for creating the majority of the island of Maui, and it’s likely to grow again in the future. Mount Haleakala isn’t extinct, just dormant, so it may erupt again one day.

Surfing started here!

With white sand, warm water, and epic waves, it’s not shocking that surfing was invented in Hawaii. It originated over a century ago, and it’s believed that stand up paddle boarding began there as well. Surfers at Waikiki started the trend several decades ago, but it wasn’t until a more recent revival by big wave surfers that the sport began to increase in popularity.

There are no snakes in Hawaii.

If you’re scared of things that slither, Hawaii is your ideal destination. The state has a strict ban on snakes and other species that may disturb native species, including hamsters, gerbils, and squirrels. Anyone who does bring a snake in should be prepared for hefty fines and possible jail time! Hawaii also requires a quarantine period for other pets, which has prevented the transmission of rabies completely.

MIGHTY CULTURE

When was the last time you chose Deliberate Discomfort?

There’s a reason why elite Special Operations courses always begin with intense physical training. The shock value of initial stress overload is the best discriminator while assessing an individual or group’s willingness and capacity to accomplish difficult tasks. It’s because after twenty minutes, when you are tired of holding a log over your head, you can’t fake it any longer. When the pressure is on and the stress increases, your true personality comes out.


The vocal, motivated cheerleader types who try hard to encourage others? They suddenly shut up. The pessimists who are there because they were told to be there but don’t really want to be there? They suddenly quit. The eternal optimists who are always positive and see the good in everything? They suddenly wonder if they have what it takes to make it in the first place. The playing field is now even because everyone is in survival mode and doing whatever it takes to get by. Fatigue makes cowards of us all.

Eventually, there is a moment when everybody is miserable and focused on themselves. Our heads are down, and we are contemplating when the suffering will end. As the level of stress increases, our brains narrow our focus, and our sensory attention goes inward. Our body language reflects, as the pupils dilate, heart rate increases, breathing intensifies, heads go down, shoulders slump, and our thoughts begin to race: What in the hell did I get myself into? When will it all end? How much longer can I keep this up? Is it all worth it?

During log PT on day one of selection, for whatever reason, almost counterintuitively, even though it spent energy on something that was risky, I looked up. I looked up and looked around. I deliberately chose discomfort. The guys around me were all suffering just as badly as I was, if not worse. In that moment, my friend Pat lifted his head up as well. He looked around, and we looked at each other. He shouted, “Let’s go, J. You got this!” I shouted words of encouragement back at him, even though it required energy that could have been used on myself.

More guys lifted their heads and looked around. We began to focus on one another rather than on ourselves. Looking up became infectious. Strangely enough, we began to forget about our pain, the time seemed to move faster, and the log felt lighter. The reality is that nothing changed about the situation except our attitudes. The conditions still sucked, it was hot as hell, our bodies still strained, and the logs didn’t get any lighter. It was our minds that had changed. We began choosing how we thought, deciding where to direct our attention and energy.

In these difficult moments, situations that make or break individuals and teams, we find our collective purpose. When the pressure is on and you’re on a team, it’s never about you. It’s about the people to your left and right who are going through the experience and process with you. In this moment, I found purpose. My purpose was to make the team succeed.

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

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Misery is suffering without a purpose. The guys who make it through these types of courses are the guys who experience an aha moment. When they realize that they’re not alone. That they are on a team and the success of the team is more important than their own personal success.

The people who don’t make it are the guys who are self-centered, who don’t risk any energy that doesn’t immediately serve their own interests. The people who don’t look up.

The secret to the elite mind-set of Special Operations Forces, no matter how many books you read or podcasts you listen to, is to look up.

The same “look up” mind-set applies to the everyday mundanity of real life. As a lot of well-intending families do, my wife and I are committed to attending church services every Sunday. As a couple with young children, parenting lessons come early and often. Our daughter is a toddler with boundless energy, which means that we spend a good majority of the service outside in the foyer. Whenever she acts up, screams, or causes a distraction during the sermon or in Sunday school, we do the polite and sensible thing and remove her from the situation.

After several months of faith in the foyer went by, my wife and I looked up at each other and asked ourselves, “What are we doing here?” We don’t hear the sermon; we don’t hear the Sunday school lesson. We just sit out in the foyer and distract our daughter. What’s the point of getting up early and getting dressed to come to church and play with our daughter in the foyer?

I thought back to my experiences during log PT. I was embarrassed that I had forgotten that critical lesson from years ago. I realized that I wasn’t going to church for myself. I was going for the other members of the congregation. I asked myself, “What can I do this Sunday to serve the church and church members’ needs?” Sitting out in the foyer with a screaming daughter, maybe all I could give was a hello or a smile. If that was all I could give, then I would give that. For me, Sundays are sacred because they represent our commitment to spending that quality time together in fellowship to reflect and celebrate our common values and beliefs. This is the foundation of our collective purpose. Is the quality of time we invest now showing an immediate return? Certainly, not immediately, but that’s a limited and short-sighted way of looking at the situation. That’s the same reason why people decide to quit: the log is too heavy right now, and they want to make the pain stop. It’s not about the log, and it’s not about the foyer. It’s about the people to our left and right.

We chose a different perspective and approach to the situation. Through this choice, we realized that if we continued our routine, our daughter’s behavior would eventually improve. By the time she is old enough to know better, this routine as a deliberate and weekly choice will not just be something she does but an integral part of who she is. Suddenly on Sundays, chasing my daughter in the foyer doesn’t seem as bad as it once did.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Vietnam veteran Dr. Robert Primeaux, Lakota Warrior

Native American Vietnam veteran Robert Primeaux shared his journey from a Lakota reservation to the Army and even to Hollywood.

As a young man, Primeaux was eager to get off the reservation and see the world. To leave, he decided to join the Army. He trained in Fort Lewis and Fort Knox before joining the 101st Airborne Division and sent off to Vietnam.

In 1972, Primeaux returned to the United States. His younger brother had been killed in a car accident, leaving Primeaux as the sole male survivor of his family.


However, he did not stay in the Army long. A car accident of his own put him in a coma for three weeks. After he recovered, he was discharged.

Primeaux then lived on his grandmother’s ranch while he recovered from his injuries. To help with his recovery, he began to self-rehab by working with the horses on the ranch. His love for horses gave him the opportunity to go to school through a rodeo scholarship from the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA).

Between school and living on his family ranch, Primeaux met Michael Apted on the set of Thunderheart in South Dakota. Through this meeting, he landed a stunt role on Thunderheart and become eligible for access to the Union of the Screen Actors Guild.

Later, Primeaux moved to LA to begin his film career where he landed roles in Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and a more prominent role in Rough Riders. This role as Indian Bob was special to Primeaux because the director John Milius specifically created it with him in mind.

Recently, Primeaux has worked as an advocate for fallen service-members.

Throughout his life, through thick and thin, Primeaux credited the Four Cardinal Lakota Virtues for helping him recover from the Vietnam War and his car accident. He listed the Lakota Virtues as:

  1. Bravery. “Individual valor meant more than group bravery, and the warrior who most fearlessly risked his life earned the admiration of all the people and received the most cherished honors.”
  2. Generosity. “If you have more than one of anything, you should give it away to help those persons.”
  3. Fortitude. “All had to be borne without visible signs of distress.
  4. Wisdom. “A man who displays wisdom, displays superior judgment in matters of war, the hunt, of human and group relationships, of band and Tribal policy, and of harmonious interaction with the natural and spiritual world.”

From childhood, Lakota Warriors were taught these four virtues. Primeaux stated that warriors who were taught the true meaning of these virtues learn to treat their Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

According to the Army you need a coach to pass their toughest school

More than 90 percent of those who attempt to become an Army diver fail in the first 14 days of training.

The hopefuls are often overcome, physically and mentally, by rigorous drills meant to winnow down recruits to the elite few.

The journey to become an Army diver begins (and often ends) at the Phase I course of the U.S. Army Engineer Dive School at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. In fiscal year 2018, only six enlisted soldiers attained the 12D (Engineer Diver) military occupational specialty. Although nine graduated Phase I of their Advanced Individual Training, or AIT, only the six went on to graduate from Phases II and III held at the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center in Panama City Beach, Florida.


Sgt. 1st Class Eric T. Bailey, noncommissioned officer in charge and master diver for the 12D Phase I course, said a lot of the recruits arrive for training ill-prepared for what awaits them. The recruits have to pass a Diver Physical Fitness Test that, besides curl-ups and pushups, includes a timed 500-yard swim using the breast or side stroke, six pull-ups and a 1.5 mile run in 12 minutes and 30 seconds or less. They also need to pass the Class I Advanced Survival Swimmer Test. The ASST has five events including an underwater breath hold in which the trainees, in their full uniform, descend to the bottom of a 14-foot pool and swim the entire width of the pool on a single breath, touching the first and last of seven lane lines, before ascending. And that’s just Day 1.

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

Soldiers going through Phase I of Army Engineer Dive School honed their performance skills with the assistance of Performance Experts, or PEs, from the Fort Leonard Wood R2 Performance Center.

(US Army photo)

Throughout Phase I, students have to do increasingly arduous breath-holding drills, including “ditch and dons” which involve ditching their gear at the bottom of the pool then donning it again, making sure to clear their mask and snorkel. Bailey said the hardest part of the drill is for students to remain calm enough to don their gear even as their body urges them to breathe.

“They give up on themselves mentally, before they physically can’t do any more,” said Bailey.

As a result of the insanely high attrition rates, Bailey set out to find a way to “make soldiers better, faster.” And he thinks he has found it in the Fort Leonard Wood Ready and Resilient Performance Center or R2PC.

The R2PC is staffed with master resilience trainers-performance experts, or MRT-PEs, who are not only trained to increase soldier’s mental resilience but also have degrees in sports and performance psychology which they use to enhance soldier’s physical performance.

Dr. Kelly Dantin and Deanna Morrison, the performance experts on contract at the Fort Leonard Wood R2PC, observed the diver training and talked to the cadre and graduates of Phase I to get their input and develop a customized block of instruction for the 12D trainees. They found that if the students were physically prepared for the Phase I course, their next biggest challenge to graduating was their mindset. So they set about instilling in the students the mentality that quitting was “off the table” and simply not an option, Dantin said.

The performance experts started working with the 12D trainees in October 2018. The week prior to the students starting Phase I, Dantin and Morrison gave them training on techniques such as deliberate (or tactical) breathing, labeling (which includes the act of reframing a situation as a challenge instead of a threat) and Activating Events, Thoughts, and Consequences , or ATC.

ATC is a model that conveys that it’s thinking that determines what people do and how they feel, not the events that happen.”

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

Deanna Morrison (left) and Dr. Kelly Dantin make a list of what a person physically feels when they are calm during a block of instruction for students of the Army Engineer Diver Phase I course.

(US Army photo)

Students who fail from the Phase I course do so because they feel overwhelmed by the physical demands and don’t believe they can continue to perform over the entire course, Bailey said. To address this mental obstacle, the R2 performance experts teach the students a technique called segmenting. They teach them to break down the course into small chunks, and instead of thinking about the entirety of the course, just to think about making it until lunch. And then making it until dinner. And then making it until bedtime.

“Evolution by evolution, lap by lap, you can segment anything, breaking it up into bite-sized pieces,” that are manageable, Bailey said.

“We teach them how to perform better under pressure,” using both mental resilience and sports psychology, Morrison said.

In the four months since they started the R2 training, the course has achieved what previously took an entire year: graduating nine students out of Phase I. Bailey said that if the numbers bear out, he is looking at doubling the graduation rate in FY2019 from the previous year.

Bailey said he knows that the R2 training is working and has been a contributing factor with helping to reduce the attrition rates.

“Every time that we have done a debrief with a soldier that graduated, they said that training helped,” Bailey said. The students even start talking about the specific techniques, repeating what they learned from the R2 training. That success led to Bailey asking the MRT-PEs to continue to give the block of instruction in all future Phase I courses.

“Because of the R2 performance training we are sending to Florida soldiers that are better prepared, not only physically, tactically and technically, but also mentally,” Bailey said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Failing Forward

Senior U.S. Air Force leaders are embracing and promoting the concept that if their Airmen are not failing, then they are, more than likely, not moving forward.

They believe pushing the envelope is necessary to keep the U.S. Air Force dominant and the occasional failure should be viewed by supervisors not as a negative, but as part of a greater positive.


In this series, we hear senior Air Force leaders give examples of how taking calculated risks and failing throughout their careers taught them valuable lessons, propelled them to future success and made them better leaders.

DR. WILL ROPER, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF THE AIR FORCE FOR ACQUISITION, TECHNOLOGY AND LOGISTICS

As the Air Force’s Service Acquisition Executive, Dr. Will Roper oversees Air Force research, development and acquisition activities with a combined annual budget in excess of billion for more than 465 acquisition programs.

Failing Forward: Dr. Will Roper

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He promotes the concept of “Fail Fast, Fail Forward” as a foundational culture shift necessary to keep the U.S. Air Force dominant.

This philosophy is manifested in his promotion of rapid prototyping and funding innovative ideas through Air Force Pitch Day and AFWERX’s Spark Tank.

Roper believes that by spending money to develop fledgling technologies and ideas quickly, and then prototyping them rapidly, flaws are found much earlier in the development process.

This method avoids committing to the huge cost of the much longer traditional system and weapons development and acquisition where flaws are only found years and hundreds of millions of dollars later. Then the Air Force is stuck with that flawed system for decades.

However, in order for “Fail Fast, Fail Forward” to work, Roper believes the Air Force must adjust its attitude towards risk.

He points out that his own success actually points to a persistent flaw in the Air Force’s tolerance for risk – people are only rewarded for taking a risk that pays off. Roper insists that to foster an innovative culture, people must be rewarded for taking a good risk in the first place.

“Why are the people who succeed the only people we cite when we talk about risk taking as a virtue?” Roper said. “I’m trying to be very mindful with Air Force program managers and people taking risk that they get their evaluation and validation for me at the point that they take the risk.”

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Everybody looks up

In this video, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, a member of the Defense Innovation (Unit) Board, talks about how space exploration, and the development of technologies that make it possible, can inspire a new generation to seek careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.


Everybody Looks Up

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As with the Apollo and space shuttle missions of previous generations, the U.S. Air Force was once again an integral part of a launch that had everybody looking up. It was an event which will undoubtedly inspire future STEM generations to consider a career in the Air Force.

In a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, NASA astronauts Air Force Col. Robert Behnken and retired Marine Corps Col. Douglas Hurley launched at 3:22 p.m. EDT May 30, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida–the same launch pad used for the Apollo 11 Moon Landing mission.

They were the first astronauts to fly into space from U.S. soil in nine years aboard the first commercially built and operated American spacecraft to carry humans to orbit, opening a new era in human spaceflight.

The astronauts’ spacecraft then docked with International Space Station’s Harmony module at 10:16 a.m. EDT May 31, where Behnken and Hurley were welcomed as crew members of Expedition 63 by fellow NASA astronaut Navy Capt. Chris Cassidy.

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

Astronaut U.S. Air Force Col. Robert Behnken is welcomed aboard the International Space Station after he and retired Marine Col. Douglas Hurley docked their SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on Sunday, March 31, 2020. The two astronauts were the first to launch from American soil in nine years. (STILL PHOTO FROM VIDEO // NASA)

In addition, U.S. Air Force “Guardian Angel” pararescue forces were pre-positioned in key locations, alert and ready to deploy at a moment’s notice, had the astronauts needed to abort the launch and splash down within 200 nautical miles of the launch site. An HC-130 Combat King II aircraft along with two HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters were set to deploy from Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, if needed.

These aircraft will carry a team of up to nine pararescue specialists along with rescue equipment and medical supplies. The pararescue specialists would jump from the aircraft with inflatable boats and an inflatable ring called a stabilization collar to steady the capsule and other equipment in the water.

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

Pararescue specialists from the 304th Rescue Squadron, located in Portland, Oregon and supporting the 45th Operations Group’s Detachment 3, based out of Patrick Air Force Base, prepare equipment during an April astronaut rescue exercise with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and SpaceX off of Florida’s eastern coast. The pararescue specialists, also known as “Guardian Angels,” jumped from military aircraft and simulated a rescue operation to demonstrate their ability to safely remove crew from the SpaceX Crew Dragon in the unlikely event of an emergency landing. The pararescue specialists are fully qualified paramedics able to perform field surgery, if necessary. (PHOTO // U.S. AIR FORCE)

For contingency landings outside of the 200 nautical mile-radius, a C-17 Globesmater III aircraft would have deployed with the same type of team and equipment to execute rescue operation from either Charleston AFB, South Carolina, or Hickam AFB, Hawaii, depending on the splashdown location.

The “Guardian Angels” will also be ready when the astronauts return to Earth.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Military skills help soldiers brew up business

When Army Reserve Maj. Clay Keel is in uniform, he plans military medical operations by organizing personnel and logistics as part of the Army Medical Service Corps. Off duty, he runs the Keel and Curley Winery and Keel Farms Agrarian Ale + Cider brewery in Plant City, Florida.

In many ways, the two jobs aren’t so different. Both require problem solving and teamwork skills that service members learn early on, Keel said.

“The further up you go, the more civilian the training kind of becomes,” he said. “You start learning about how to make decisions, how to allocate resources and plan for resources, and then you go beyond that … where the Army teaches you about strategy.”


5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

Maj. Clay Keel

For small business owners like Keel who serve in the military part time, continuing their service while also running a brewing business can be rewarding ⁠— a way to stay connected to the military while also pursuing entrepreneurial passions.

“In my Army Reserve career, I’m never going to be a general because I’m not putting in the time and doing those really challenging jobs that are going to lead me to that. But I’m still able to serve in a role that takes a less amount of time, or at least it gives me more flexibility,” he said.

Keel’s father started the Keel and Curley Winery at Keel Farms, where Keel grew up, in 2003. In his twenties at the time, Keel owned the wine distribution part of the business while his dad ran the winery. He recently bought the entire business from his father and, after nearly two decades of service in the National Guard, active-duty Army and Reserve, including two deployments to Iraq, Keel said it’s time to focus on the company.

“Unless I get orders and I get called up and my country needs me — day to day, the business comes first,” he said.

Balancing the two careers isn’t always easy, however, and requires some difficult choices.

“Sometimes that means telling the military like, ‘Hey I can’t take that job.’ And I’ve made that decision,” Keel said.

Army veteran Torie Fisher also faced a difficult choice in 2016 — continuing her 13-year military career or getting out of the New Jersey Army National Guard as a Black Hawk crew chief to pursue her Backward Flag Brewery business full time. After about a year of overlap, she decided to choose one instead of letting both suffer.

“It being such a new venture — and it’s a very hands-on type business — it was kind of difficult to do both,” she said.

So, Fisher found her niche by staying connected to the military in other ways as she grew her business, which supplies beer to MetLife Stadium, home of the New York Giants and Jets.

She attended a veteran entrepreneurship training through Bunker Labs and has almost exclusively hired veterans or veteran spouses at her company, named for a patch on the Army uniform. Staff frequently donate a portion of their tips to military charities.

Fisher also operates the nonprofit Arms 2 Artisans, working with Post-9/11 veterans interested in artisan trades.

“Everything that we do is based and rooted in the veteran community,” she said.

Both Fisher and Keel said their military-learned skills go a long way in the brewing business.

“In business, things never really ever go right or the way that you expected them to,” Fisher said. “The military does a good job of teaching us how to bounce back from those failures. You never just get to screw something up and just sit there and say, ‘I guess it’s never going to work out, I give up.'”

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

The Army also helped both entrepreneurs be better leaders. And for Keel, staying in the military has had its perks in that regard. For times when he is activated, including recently for COVID-19 response efforts, he needs to train others to run things well in his absence.

“In the long run I think it helps you work on the business instead of in the business, which I think a lot of entrepreneurs struggle with,” he said. “The Army Reserve forces that on me a little bit, and I think there are some positives to that.”

Want to support veteran-owned businesses? Connect at https://www.facebook.com/keelandcurleyatkeelfarms/ and https://www.facebook.com/backwardflagbrewing/.

This article originally appeared on Reserve + National Guard Magazine. Follow @ReserveGuardMag on Twitter.

popular

This is why golf courses are important to military installations

Golf is a fun and relaxing sport that’s excellent for relieving stress. Nothing’s quite like aimlessly swinging your club, hoping to hit the caddy cart on the driving range. It makes for a fantastic pastime to bond over while you and your guys get drunk as you wait for your respective turns. I’ve also heard that some people actually play the game as a sport and get enjoyment out of it, too — if you’re into that sort of thing.

The sport is directly linked to U.S. military culture. There are 234 golf courses spread across the over 800 U.S. military installations located around the globe. Nearly every major location has a course. And these courses are much more than just a place senior officers go to hide from staff meetings.


5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant
Golf courses on deployed locations also double as rifle ranges. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Charles Highland)

All golf courses on military installations are required by federal law to remain completely self-sufficient and not rely on government funding for upkeep and maintenance. Despite this, the courses will almost always be the first things suggested for the chopping block when installations need to cut costs; they’re often seen as either a waste of resources or space. In reality, however, they’re neither.

When the golf course is not in use, they are, essentially, large plots of land that are free from trees. They’re secure, defendable locations that can used for any purpose at the drop of a hat.

Military golf courses are also conveniently located near population centers on most installations. If there ever came a moment when the sh*t hits the fan, the course could be quartered by the military and transformed into a landing site for helicopters, a troop staging area, or even a mass casualty site to aid the wounded.

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant
In the meantime, I guess it’s fine if people play golf on it. (Photo by Airman 1st Class Christian Conrad)

And this isn’t just theory — golf courses have been used as back-up locations in the past.

The most recent time in history a U.S. military base on American soil was attacked was when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. There, when the American pilots took to the skies to fight the Japanese, some planes were damaged. The island of Oahu is dense with hills and forests, but golf courses became invaluable places to make a relatively safe landing.


Feature image: US Army Photo by Edward N. Johnson

MIGHTY CULTURE

Celebrate your Fourth of July with these easy drinks and recipes

This is the time of year to celebrate our country’s independence and our loved ones that fight for our freedom every single day. Whether this will be your first Fourth of July party that you will be throwing or the 40th, below are some tips and tricks to have an awesome and relaxing Fourth of July party.

Keep it simple! No one will complain about a backyard barbeque. Below will be a mix of appetizers, sides, and drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic).


Below are five crowd favorite appetizers and sides to accompany your hot dogs and burgers:

1. A simple and light salad for any crowd

  • 6 cups romaine lettuce
  • 2 cups mixed greens
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 whole cut avocado
  • 1 cup Parmesan
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes halved
  • ¼ red onion thinly sliced
  • 2 chicken breast, baked and cut into 1/4in. pieces
  • 8 oz. Caesar dressing
  • Mix all together with dressing and serve.
5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

(Photo by Maddi Bazzocco)

2. Bacon Green Beans

  • 1 lb. green beans halved
  • 2 cups cooked bacon cut into ¼ in. cubes
  • 3 cloves garlic diced
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • ½ yellow onion thinly sliced

Place butter into a saucepan with the onion and garlic. Let brown and add green beans and cooked bacon. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

3. Pasta Salad

This is one of my favorites things to make. It takes about 30 minutes in total to make and I can make it the night before any barbeque and it tastes great the next day.

  • Two boxes tri-color Rotini pasta
  • Cook the pasta all the way through. Drain. Add olive oil to the drained pasta so it does not stick together.
  • Chop one green and red bell pepper into ¼in. cubes
  • Chop one half red onion
  • Chop 7 oz dry salami into ¼in. cubes
  • 8 oz. sliced black olives
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan
  • 2 cup quartered tomatoes
  • 8 oz. mozzarella cheese ¼in. cubes
  • Mix all together with 8 oz. light Italian dressing. Serve.

4. Macaroni and Cheese.

I am in love with macaroni and cheese, the cheesier the better in my opinion. To be honest the better the cheeses the more expensive. So this could be the most expensive of the sides, but it is soooo worth it. Also when purchasing the cheese DO NOT purchase already shredded cheese. Just buy a block and shred it.

  • 1 lb. Cavatappi noodles
  • ½ cup butter
  • ½ cup flour
  • 4 cup whole milk
  • 6 cup cheese of your choice.
  • ½ tbsp. salt
  • ½ tbsp. black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. oregano
  • ½ cup panko bread crumbs

Boil pasta in salted water until cooked. Drain and pour in 1 tbsp. olive oil to keep the noodles from sticking. While the pasta is cooking melt butter in a saucepan and sprinkle in flour and whisk. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, add in salt and pepper. Slowly pour milk whisking until smooth and thickened. Remove from heat. Place noodles into a greased casserole dish. Over the top of the noodles sprinkle the shredded cheese. Pour the thickened cream sauce over the cheese and noodles. Melt the 2 tbsp. butter, oregano and panko bread crumbs together. Cook until golden brown. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the macaroni and cheese. Bake in preheated oven 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

(Photo by Kimberly Mears)

5. 7-Layer Dip

So I will admit this is not my favorite of all appetizers, but it was always a huge hit at any family function. In a casserole dish:

  • Layer refried beans
  • Layer sour cream
  • Layer Guacamole
  • Layer salsa
  • A layer of Mexican shredded cheese mixTomatoes cut in half and sliced olives for the top layer. If you are feeling extra festive you can arrange the tomatoes to be in rows and olives in the upper left corner to replicate our flag.

Of course, some chips and dip are always a crowd pleaser, this could be a great item to ask guests to bring (along with any alcohol) to help keep the cost reasonable.

Since I am a California girl I do have to suggest trying some tri-tip for your barbeque. If you have never heard of tri-tip it’s incredibly normal, it’s mainly a California barbeque meat. Baking or grilling tri-tip with a basic marinade will be a big crowd pleaser for any party. It takes about 30-45 minutes to cook and can be found at almost any base. A simple dry rub of salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and red pepper flakes is my hands down favorite when I am rushed for time.

Top 4 alcoholic drinks (besides beer):

1. Red, white and blue jelly shots

  • 1 berry blue Jell-O packet
  • 6 oz. vodka
  • 1 plain gelatin packet
  • 3 oz. sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 ½ oz. raspberry vodka
  • 1 strawberry Jell-O packet
  • 6 oz. vodka
  • Boiling water
  • Cooking Spray
  • Heat six oz. water to boiling, pour in a bowl with blue Jell-O and whisk until dissolved. Stir in blueberry vodka. Pour into a casserole dish (8×8, 9×9, or 13×9). Refrigerate until solid.
  • Repeat previous steps, but with plain gelatin, condensed milk and raspberry vodka. Pour over the solid first layer and place it back in the fridge.
  • Repeat one last time with the strawberry Jell-O and plain vodka. Pour over solid white layer and place back in the fridge until solid. When Jell-O is completely set, run a knife around the edges of the Jell-O and turn over onto a large sheet pan sprayed with cooking spray. If the Jell-O is not separating you can place the bottom of the pan under hot water to help separate from the pan. From the sheet pan, you can either cut the Jell-O into any shapes. Serve.
5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

(Photo by Stephanie McCabe)

2. Red, White, and Blue Sangria

  • 1 bottle white wine
  • 1 ½ can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed.
  • ½ cup vodka
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • 2 granny apples (if feeling extra festive cut apples into thin slices and cut slices with a star-shaped cookie cutter)
  • ½ cup raspberries
  • ½ cup blueberries
  • Pour all ingredients into a 3qt. pitcher and stir. Let sit in the fridge for at least 4 hrs. Serve over ice. Add a few pieces of fruit in each glass.

3. Star Spangled Sparkler

  • 2 cups watermelon stars
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 bottle chilled dry white wine
  • 1 litter chilled Sprite
  • Pour all ingredients into a 3 qt. pitcher and stir. Let sit in the fridge for at least an hour. Serve with a few pieces of fruit in each glass.

4. Spiked Arnold Palmer

  • 4 cups of water
  • 10 black tea bags –
  • 1 oz. mint leaves
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 1 can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
  • 1 cup bourbon
  • Bring 4 cups water to a boil. Remove from heat and add tea bags and mint. Let steep for 5 minutes. Remove tea bags and mints. Stir in sugar until melted. Pour the tea into drink dispenser and stir in cold water, thawed lemonade concentrate and bourbon.
  • Serve over ice.

Top 3 non-alcoholic drinks (besides soda):

1. Patriotic Punch

  • Fill the cup halfway with ice
  • Filled 1/3 cup with cranberry juice
  • Fill 1/3 cup with Sobe Pina Colada
  • Fill remainder of the cup with blue Gatorade
  • (Always fill the bottom of the cup with the beverage that has the highest sugar content)
  • Serve.
5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

(Photo by Danielle MacInnes)

2. Classic Arnold Palmer

  • 4 cups of water
  • 10 black tea bags –
  • 1 oz. mint leaves
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 1 can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
  • Bring 4 cups water to a boil. Remove from heat and add tea bags and mint. Let steep for 5 minutes. Remove tea bags and mints. Stir in sugar until melted. Pour the tea into drink dispenser and stir in cold water and thawed lemonade concentrate. Serve over ice.

3. Sonic’s Cherry Limeade – Ingredients per drink

  • Maraschino Cherries
  • 2 tbsp syrup
  • 2 cherries per drink
  • 1 can Sprite
  • Lime wedges cut in ½
  • 1 per drink
  • Serve over ice.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of February 7th

On Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper released a memo to the troops reminding them that it’s against the Uniform Code of Military Justice for active-duty troops to participate in anything political while in uniform. Obviously, it’s not saying that troops can’t hold political opinions or that they can’t participate in anything while in civilian clothes.

It’s just saying while in uniform as it gives the impression all troops support one candidate/policy/movement. Why? I’m so glad you asked my rhetorical question. Because civilians (and I’m taking the politically neutral stance by mocking both sides of the aisle on this one) tend not to know any better. They look at Private Snuffy in his dress blues, and they just see his uniform and assume he’s some official envoy from the military because that’s apparently the Pentagon giving their seal of approval – which they’re obviously not.

It’s like how civilians all assume every troop knows every aspect of how WWIII is going to play out. Private Snuffy is clearly fifty levels too low on the totem pole for that kind of stuff, but the civilians wouldn’t know. I’m just saying. Even top generals appointed by a sitting president can’t even clap during their State of the Union because of this rule, so even they are obviously not going to officially back any politician.


But who am I kidding? We all know troops aren’t going to listen, and there’s going to be at least one ASVAB-waiver this political cycle who’d rather be the poster boy for social media likes than follow the rules. Here are some memes.

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

(Meme via Call for Fire)

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

(Meme via Not CID)

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

MIGHTY CULTURE

14 things milspouses actually want for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day has quickly become one of the most commercialized holidays. It doesn’t help that we are inundated with red and pink chintzy gifts in stores as soon as the clock strikes 12:01 am on December 26th of each year. All that aside, there is something to be said for taking a day to recognize and celebrate your significant other.


When you add in the complicated military lifestyle to your love affair, how you express that love is also complicated. In fact, it’s immediately elevated from chocolates and flowers (although nice!) to ‘I need a gift that is actually going to help me out here.’

So what are the Valentine’s Day gifts that can easily impress your military spouse? We’ve got 14 for you!

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1. The ability to plan an actual vacation without hesitation

Can you imagine a life where you decide you want to take a vacation, and you just…book it? It seems far fetched, but it could actually happen! And even if you aren’t close to transitioning out of the military, perhaps you can dream about it together over dinner.

2. Orders to the place they really want to be stationed

This may be at the top of every military spouse’s list. There are many variables to living this lifestyle, but actually getting stationed at your dream duty station? That’s THE Ultimate Valentine’s Gift, for sure.

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3. For the family to come to visit you for once

When you do get the luxury of taking leave, many military families often feel torn between going to a bucket-list destination or going home to visit. We won’t even get started on the associated guilt that happens when you do choose to travel instead of visiting family. But guess what can help alleviate some of that guilt? Yep, by having family visit you for once. Planes, trains, and automobiles work both ways!

4. Retire the whole ‘dependa’ thing

Can we just not? While I’m happy to see the recent movement to make the word something more positive, it is still cringeworthy. We’ve been at war for 18 years. No one has time for online bullying— or at least we shouldn’t.

5. A smooth PCS move

Does it exist? Who knows! But, can you imagine being able to buy nice furniture with reckless abandon? Or a home that’s actually ready when you need it to be. Other necessities like childcare, and schools, doctors, and dentists and— well, you get what we’re saying. If it were easy for once.

6. A deployment where nothing breaks- no appliances, cars, etc

What if Cupid could call his friend Murphy Law and tell him to steer clear of your home during a deployment? We’d take that for Valentine’s Day. Or any day, honestly.

7. A wellness day – spa, range, whatever your spouse actually likes

No matter if you’re a spouse that stays home, works remotely, or outside of the home— it’s all difficult. So we’re always up for taking a ‘mental health day’ and just enjoying the things that relax you and make you happy. It could be a spa day or a day at the gun range. As long as it floats your boat, it’s a wellness day.

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8. A friend reunion – gather up all their friends in one space

If you’ve been in the military community for any length of time, you know there is always someone that you miss. Whether it’s family, a friend from your last duty station, or your college roommate. Ever wonder what it would be like to have all the people you love in one room? Perhaps this isn’t limited to military spouses. Still, we’re willing to bet milspouses have a wide array of people around the world that they miss immensely.

9. Just some peace and quiet

For real. We’ll take a few hours of quiet; however we can get it. Have a weekend at your favorite hotel? Cool. Have someone take the kids out for half a day while you sit on your couch and listen to nothingness? Completely get it.

10. Some help

Or all of it. Cooking. Cleaning. Planning. Adjusting. We’ll take any help that you offer. Please, and thank you.

11. Jobs

You know what would be really pleasant? A job. One where we’re not discriminated against as soon as the employer takes note of our military affiliation. Milspouses are chronically underemployed and unemployed, simply because there’s a possibility a military family will move. While that may be true, civilians move on and leave jobs, too. However, military spouses are also one of the most educated demographics. A great military spouse employee for three years can better position your organization than three years of just a “meh” employee who’ll never leave.

12. Stop it with the stereotypes

We don’t know a milspouse who could do without ever hearing, “but you knew what you signed up for,” and other unoriginal— yet oft-repeated —stereotypes.

13. Our own battle buddy

Making friends as an adult is hard. Add military life to the equation, and it gets harder to create a friendship that goes beyond just the surface. Honestly, that’s what we need, though. Someone who is there, boots on the ground, and can listen, step in to help. And of course, you get to be that person for them, as well.

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

14. Chocolates and flowers are okay, I guess

Last but not least— the chocolates and flowers aren’t the worst Valentine’s gifts, especially if they’re your thing. There’s a particular type of appreciation for someone to take a moment to express their love and gratitude for you. If chocolates and flowers can do that for you, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

What is your idea of the perfect Valentine’s Day present? Here’s to your Valentine’s Day being exactly what you need it to be, whether that’s flowers or a new housecleaner.

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