9 military charities you can donate time and gifts to this holiday season - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

9 military charities you can donate time and gifts to this holiday season

This time of year, people of all belief systems band together to give back. To their communities, to families in needs, and of course, to military organizations. If you would like to offer something — anything — but aren’t sure where to go, look no further.

This guide includes military-based charities that are actively accepting goods, funds and/or donations of time. Send money, purchase gifts for others, offer gift cards for restaurants or groceries, or sign up to help put it all together. Even if you can’t give financially, these groups thrive from hands-on workers who help bring their mission into reality.

Find the organization that speaks to you and reach out to lend a hand. 

  1. Wreaths Across America

WAA is a nonprofit group that places donated wreaths on veteran graves each December. You can purchase a wreath or help place them during a ceremony at a participating cemetery this December 19th. 

Sign up at wreathsacrossamerica.org

  1. Pay Away the Layaway

This nonprofit organization is specifically designed to help kids and struggling families. It works with families placing items from their wish list on layaway, then donors helping to pay remaining balances. You can set up a local option to help those in your area, or find nearby families and help them get the items they need for the holidays and beyond. 

Give at payawaythelayaway.org 

  1. Full Circle Home

Deployed service members appreciate their family members back home, but don’t always know how to say thank you. Full Circle Home helps fill that gap by providing gifts and hand-written notes to the heroes at home. 

Donations help fund gifts and shipping costs, while volunteers help wrap and assemble gifts each holiday season. Learn more at fullcirclehome.org

  1. Operation Help a Hero

OHH is a 17-year organization that helps provide holiday spirit to military families in need. Most notably, they purchase and provide gifts for families. OHH also helps promote various service projects, such as camps, universal baby showers and random acts of kindness throughout the year. 

Volunteer or donate by signing up at operationhelpahero.org

  1. Operation Holiday Joy

A part of YMCA, OHJ is a branch that serves military families for the holidays. They strictly take monetary donations, which are then used to purchase gifts and food to those in need. Last year the group raised $1.5 million toward toys and food baskets. 

Sign up and give at asymca.org/donate-operation-holiday-joy

  1. Operation Homefront 

Operation Homefront is a year-round operation, helping provide needs for military families, often with housing or caregiver support. They also host an “urgent needs” section where visitors can help donate toward a specific cause, such as new babies or sudden loss of income. 

Find more at operationhomefront.org

  1. Spirit of Sharing

Adopt a military family and help provide them with the Christmas they deserve. Spirit of Sharing allows donors to anonymously donate presents to a family. Volunteers can also help wrap or deliver gifts so they show up in time for the big day.

Learn more at spiritofsharing.org

  1. Soldiers’ Angels

This is a unique holiday option that allows lower enlisted families to receive a one-time gift card. Amounts vary, but are meant to help provide a holiday meal ($50-$100) and gifts for kids under the age of 15.

Give at soldiersangels.org

  1. Local operations

For local charities accepting help, contact your MWR office. This locator site can help you find contact information for the MWR office nearest to you. 

Know of a military-friendly charity event or organization that isn’t mentioned? Please list and link it below. Happy volunteering!

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 ghost stories as told by your platoon sergeant

Bonfires in the military are rare — and almost no one tells ghost stories over them. But if you ever do find yourself on the receiving end of such tales, you’ll notice that, just like many ghost stories, they’re filled with all sorts of morality lessons — it’s just that the military’s morality lessons are a little different than everyone else’s. And when the platoon sergeant tells them, they’re always pretty bloody and seem to be directed at one soldier in particular.


9 military charities you can donate time and gifts to this holiday season

He was such a promising soldier before the incident… Before the curse…

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. David Meyer)

1. The AG who flagged the commander. Twice.  

It was an honest mistake, a lapse of judgement in the shoothouse. The assistant gunner had to take over for the gunner, and he shifted the gun’s weight at the wrong time and angle, pointing it up at the catwalks — and the commander — by accident. The platoon leader reached out his hand for a second, saw that it was done, and decided to wait for the AAR to address it. But then the AG rolled his shoulders again to settle the strap, pointing it at the commander again.

What happened next was epic. The platoon sergeant launched himself across the room, tackling the AG. The commander started screaming profanities. The platoon leader started doing pushups even though no one was yelling at him. But it was the eastern European military observer who did it. He mumbled something under his breath — a gypsy curse.

The AG took his smoking like a man, but he didn’t know the real punishment would come that night. He awoke to sharp pains throughout his abdomen and looked down to find three 5.56mm holes in his stomach. Now, he’s normal and fine during the day, but at night, he wanders as the ghost of live-fire exercises past. Eternally.

9 military charities you can donate time and gifts to this holiday season

When in large formations, always remember to shut up and color.

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Tojyea G. Matally)

2. The specialist who dimed out the platoon sergeant

Specialist Snuffy was an ambitious soldier — a real Army values kind of guy — but he took it too far. The platoon sergeant tried to provide some top cover to a soldier in trouble during a horseshoe formation, but Snuffy was kind enough to rat out the original soldier and the platoon sergeant for protecting him.

The rest of the platoon didn’t take it kindly, saying that Snuffy should’ve let the platoon sergeant handle it internally. So when Snuffy first started hearing the whispers in the barracks, he assumed it was just the platoon talking about him. But then he heard the whispers in the latrine. And on patrol. And while cleaning his weapon in a closed barracks room.

He slowly lost sleep, instead just tossing and turning to the unrelenting noises. When he was able to drift off, he was haunted by the visions of wrathful ghosts who declared him a blue falcon and buddyf*cker. It wore away at his metal foundation until he was finally chaptered out for insanity. It’s said that the voices are still out there, waiting for someone to screw over their own platoon once again.

9 military charities you can donate time and gifts to this holiday season

Talk back to first sergeant, and you will do pushups until you die, and then your ghost will do the rest of them.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Michael Selvage)

3. The team leader who actually talked back to the first sergeant

Corporal John was smart and talented, but also prideful and mouthy. He led a brilliant flanking movement during an exercise, keeping he and his men low and well-hidden in an unmapped gully until they were right on top of the OPFOR’s automatic weapons. But then he made a mistake, allowing his team to get bunched up right as a grenade simulator was thrown his way.

First sergeant took him to task for the mistake, and John pointed out that most other team leaders wouldn’t have seen or used the gully as effectively. He did push-ups for hours, yelling “You can’t smoke a rock, first sergeant!” the whole time. But first sergeant could smoke rocks.

The pain in John’s muscles should’ve gone away after a few days. He was an infantryman. But instead, it grew, hotter and more painful every day. On day three, it grew into open flames that would melt their way through his skin and burst out in jets near his joints. Then, his pectorals erupted in fire. The medics threw all the saline and Motrin they had at him, but nothing worked.

Slowly, the flesh burned away, leaving a fiery wraith in its wake. It now wanders the training areas, warning other team leaders of the dangers of mouthing off.

9 military charities you can donate time and gifts to this holiday season

Keep. Your. Eyes. Open.

(Photo by Senior Airman Gina Reyes)

4. The private who fell asleep in the guard tower

He was just like one of you. Barely studying his skill book. Rarely practicing for the board. But that’s you expect from privates — just a good reason for their leadership to encourage them. But then, he was up in the guard tower during the unit’s JRTC rotation. He had stayed up playing video games the whole night before his shift and, by the time the sun was going back down, he was completely wiped.

He fought his eyes falling, but a thick bank of fog that rolled in caressed him to sleep. As he drifted off, he felt the light tickle of skeletal fingers around his neck. He thought briefly of the rumors of undead that wandered the Louisiana swamps.

Despite the threat to him and his buddies, he dropped into the lands of dreams. He was found the next morning with his eyes bulging from his head and thick, finger-shaped bruises on his throat. It’s a tragic reminder to keep your stupid, tiny little eyes wide open.

9 military charities you can donate time and gifts to this holiday season

Not sure how he got so many negligent discharges with an empty magazine, but just go with it. It’s hard to find photos to illustrate ghost stories.

(U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Terry Wong)

5. The King of Negligent Discharges

It’s said that he whimpers as he walks. He was once like one of you, a strong, upstanding killer. But then we were doing “Ready, up!” drills and this moron kept pulling the trigger while he was still raising his weapon. Somehow, no amount of yelling got him to stop doing it. The impact points of his rounds kept creeping closer and closer to his feet until his platoon sergeant finally grabbed him and threw him, physically, off the range.

But the disease was in his bones by that point. He started accidentally pulling the trigger on patrols while at the low ready, and then again on a ruck march. They stopped giving him live ammo. Then they stopped giving him blanks. Then he was only allowed to carry a rubber ducky rifle, and then finally he was only allowed to carry an actual rubber duck.

Somehow, even with the rubber duck, he had negligent discharges, sharp squeaks that would split the air on patrol. But one day it wasn’t a squeak — it was the sharp crack of a rifle instead. He had shot himself in the foot with a rubber duck, a seemingly impossible feat.

He’s a gardener now, always careful to point his tools away from himself, because he never knows when the next one will go off.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to build the best bug-out bag, emergency kit, or go-bag for your family

We live in a world full of uncertainty. This has always been the case. But when you have kids, that uncertainty becomes less abstract and action is required. It needs to be met with the understanding that it’s on you to take the proper precautions to protect your family when shit hits the fan. There’s truth in that saying “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.” There’s also truth in the saying “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” The act of preparing helps you feel a bit less worried about hurricanes, floods, super viruses, and other such events. You can’t control anything; but you can control how ready you are.


One way to ensure you’re ready: prepare an emergency kits or go-bag. Companies like Uncharted Supply Co., Echo-Sigma, and Emergency Zone have made small fortunes in recent years selling premade emergency kits for this very reason. Affordable, portable, and packed with short-term survival essentials, their sole purpose is to arm people with the gear they need to get out of town should a life-or-death situation unfold right before your eyes.

9 military charities you can donate time and gifts to this holiday season

Emergency kits are also commonly known as bug-out bags. Borrowing military terminology, the moniker refers to when U.S. troops were directed to retreat (or “bug out”) with their vital survival gear during dire situations in the Korean War. Some other common nicknames used today include the battle box, 72-hour kit, go-bag, and INCH bag, the latter of which stands for “I’m Never Coming Home”.

Not necessarily intended for long-term survival, the modern-day bug-out bag emphasizes being ready to go with everything you would need should an unforeseen emergency evacuation arise. And while the concept of proactively preparing for a worst-case scenario can seem like a daunting task, it’s also incredibly important.

“Throw away the thought that it can’t happen to you, because it can,” says Les Stroud, famed Canadian survival expert from the hit TV series Survivorman and author of such books as Will to Live and Survive! – Essential Skills and Tactics to Get You Out of Anywhere–Alive.

“Natural disasters and society disasters such as a loss of power are not going to stop happening — we all know there will be something happening again sooner or later,” says Stroud. “It takes such little effort to prepare, yet the payoff can be very profound, and even save lives.”

Stroud, true to his reputation, doesn’t believe in taking the easy way out and is not a fan of the one-size-fits-all, ready-made bug-out bag. Why? For the simple reason that the hands-on nature of putting one together yourself makes you aware of its contents. “People must become comfortable making their own bug-out bags through research and learning,” he says.

“There is no shortcut here, and there is no company that is going to put together a grab-and-go kit that is going to work for your own family’s individual needs,” Stroud adds. “Most people will purchase such a kit and never open it or go through the contents to make sure they all work well.”

9 military charities you can donate time and gifts to this holiday season

images.pexels.com

So what does the proper bug-out bag contain? While an emergency kit for single guy in his 50’s will vary significantly from the contents of one prepared by parents evacuating with a newborn, there are certain items both need to contain..

Now, it’s important to keep in mind that you aren’t planning for a glamping vacation or a weekend family escape to the woods. These evacuation essentials are geared toward survival purposes. They’re intended to keep you covered during the first 72 hours after an emergency strikes. You’ll want to source items that are easy to carry, durable in unpredictable conditions, and most importantly, useful in keeping you and your family safe.

Here, with Stroud’s help, are some of non-negotiables that need to be included in a bug-out bag

What to Pack in a Bug-Out Bag or Go-Bag

There’s no shortage of online communities and websites completely dedicated to survivalism and preparedness. Popular digital destinations like The Ultimate Bug Out Bag Guide, The Prepared, and Ready To Go Survival are teeming with resources related to the topic, ranging from how-to-videos to in-depth gear reviews.

All of these sources keep updated master lists of everything you could possibly need in a bug-out bag. And a simple Google search for “bug-out bag essentials” will instantly return millions of results. But at the end of the day, only you can ultimately decide what needs to be included in your family’s survival kit. Personalization is paramount.

Stroud even brings it a step further, advising that every family member takes ownership of preparing for their specific needs.

9 military charities you can donate time and gifts to this holiday season

upload.wikimedia.org

“I recommend one bug-out bag per person,” he says. “Each family member, including all adults and any children capable of carrying, should have their own bug-out bag — personally designed — that they are familiar with.”

In addition to the general must-have survival elements, what should parents evacuating with kids in tow bring? Consider the below list a starting point. While there’s bound to be some crossover in the lists below, use your best judgement when curating each bag. Include any additional items that you feel would be absolutely necessary, and engage your kids in preparing their own bags so they’re familiar with the contents.

Bug-Out Bag Essentials for Babies

  • Diapers: Diapers are so lightweight, it’ll be easy to bring enough to last a 72-hour period. The absorbency of diapers also helps them come in handy as cold or hot packs when emergencies strikes.
  • Dry formula: Even if your baby is still breastfeeding, you’ll want to make sure to keep a healthy supply of dry formula packets on hand, just in case.
  • Bottle: Bring a bottle should you need to resort to using dry formula (plus, you can use the nipple as a pacifier, or store other items inside the bottle for extra protection).
  • Pacifier: Because a pacified baby beats a crying baby.
  • Antibacterial wipes While these can be used for the whole family, they’ll come in handy for a quick baby bath or other sanitation purposes.
  • Baby carrier You’ll want to be able to use your hands and carry your baby comfortably.

Bug-Out Bag or Go-Bag Essentials for Children Ages 3-6

  • Snacks: Food may be scarce, so be sure to bring some of your kid’s favorite snacks along. Bonus points if the snacks also pack a jolt of energy or nutrition.
  • Oral hygiene supplies: keeping to some routine habits, even in extreme situations, can help instill a sense of normalcy and independence―plus, healthy oral hygiene habits never hurt.
  • Multivitamins: your child’s diet can be severely challenged in an emergency, so stash a daily vitamin supplement in their bag.
  • Study walking shoes: terrain may be rough, so plan to pack a durable pair of walking shoes (that fit their ever-changing foot size) which can stand the conditions you may face.
  • Thermal blanket: A light, metal-coated space blanket is ultra-lightweight and designed to retain heat in colder temperatures. It can even be used as a make-shift shelter.
  • Ear plugs: depending on the scenario, ear plugs can help drown out frightening noises during the day and ensure a more sound sleep at night.

Bug-Out Bag Essentials for Children Ages 6+

  • Gum or hard candy: Whether they’re leveraged as an energy-booster or a pick-me-up when morale is low, you’ll be glad you brought a handful of sweets.
  • Pedialyte powder: Children aren’t the best at communicating when they’re thirsty, so avoid dehydration with a few packets of this electrolyte-infused powder.
  • Books: we’re not talking heavy, hard-cover books, but the mind can weaken faster than the body in times of stress―so keep a favorite paperback close by.
  • Other mind-occupiers: should boredom set in, it’s not a bad idea to have a deck of cards, coloring book, or other such extras on hand.
  • Emergency whistle: Kids six and older can let curiosity get the best of them, so arm them with an emergency whistle in case they get separated from the family.
  • Walkie-talkies: When whistles won’t cut it, or the family is planning to temporarily split up, a pair of walkie-talkies will definitely come in hand.

Additional Bug-Out Bag or Go-Bag Items to Keep in Mind

  • Power bank: pack a fully-charged power bank or two to keep cell phones and other necessary electronics charged. Ideally, you want a solar-powered bank that can be refueled via sunlight.
  • Document protection: during periods of uncertainty, it’s imperative to keep your family’s important documents (like birth certificates, social security cards, and passports) with you at all times, so invest in a waterproof document pouch for when you’re on the go.
  • Super Glue and duct tape: in an evacuation scenario, you never know when you’ll need to take a page from the MacGyver playbook (plus, Super Glue and duct tape can be used in a range of medical emergencies).
  • N99 masks: These face masks are effective at filtering out 99 percent of non-oil-based airborne particulate matter, including most pollution, bacteria, and viruses.
  • Extra money: In emergency situations, cash is king. Five-hundred dollars in small bills is a good amount.
  • Sunscreen: Because sun exposure is likely in emergency situations.

This covers the basics. The point here is to get you thinking about preparing and taking an active role in considering the worst. Luck, they say, is where preparation and opportunity meet. While it’s good to hope that the opportunity never arises in this case, you’ll be thankful to have prepared if it does.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

popular

The importance of buying American-made products

Billi Doyle was a military kid with a dream, one that her family nurtured and supported growing up in Oklahoma. Doyle saw her parents’ deep commitment to service in the military, which really impacted her. They continuously stressed the importance of values and working hard.

Doyle’s mother retired in 2018 as a Lt. Colonel from the Air Force Reserves after 20 years of service as a dentist. Her father, who is now deceased, was a medically-disabled Army veteran. Her step-father served overseas with the Navy during the Vietnam War. Sacrifice and hard work was ingrained in her.


“My grandma taught me how to sew and I was always interested in design…I spent a lot of time with her as a kid. She was very artistic so maybe that rubbed off on me. I moved to Dallas from Oklahoma so I could go to design school,” she shared. The first thing Doyle ever made as a teenager was a dress, which she laughingly described as “awful.” But that didn’t deter her and if anything, made her more committed to succeed.

9 military charities you can donate time and gifts to this holiday season

Doyle graduated from the Art Institute of Dallas in 2007 and started her business immediately. “The first three or four years, I didn’t really know what I was doing,” she said with a laugh. When asked if she ever thought about quitting, Doyle laughed again and said, “Every day.”

Doyle launched Honey Bee Swim after her graduation and began designing bathing suits and cover-ups, eventually adding yoga and athletic wear. What’s unique about her creations is that they are made in America with fine Italian fabrics. With much of what America purchases being made with cheap labor and fabric from China, Doyle’s business stands out.

“It is really difficult and frustrating to be an American designer. People want everything so cheap now. Other companies get everything made in China and it’s really hard to compete with them,” said Doyle. The negative impacts from sourcing and manufacturing in China have also really affected her business the last few years.

Now, businesses in China are also actively committing fraud.

“I’ve been getting knocked off by China for the last couple of years. They steal my pictures and sell knockoffs with my pictures on them and you can’t fight them. I would go out of business if I did,” she said. Doyle finds it hard to deal with it all, saying that watching someone take something you created and pretending it’s theirs is “beyond frustrating.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has also significantly impacted Doyle’s business as well. Typically, the late winter and spring seasons are where she does the majority of her business. But with the virus causing worldwide quarantines, no one is vacationing. This means people aren’t purchasing luxury line bathing suits, which was always the bulk of her business. “It’s our busiest time. We’d normally be selling 100 bathing suits a month and right now we are selling five,” Doyle said.

So, she started making masks.

9 military charities you can donate time and gifts to this holiday season

A lot of thought went into the making of the masks. Doyle shared that she spent a lot of time researching the fabrics that were most effective and chose polyethylene which is woven tighter than cotton. “We made probably 10,000 masks. We gave some away and sold the rest of them,” she said. Her masks are safer and she even sells filler packs for them.

Although it appeared things were looking up business-wise, pretty soon masks made in China were eventually restocked in most stores. “People are not buying American-made masks now because they can get a three or four dollar mask at Wal-mart because it’s made in China,” said Doyle.

“More things need to be made here in America, but how can you promote and encourage people to do creative things here when no one can make money doing it,” she said. Doyle continued on and explained that the country is in this trend of buying everything cheap and only worn once for social media posts.

A 2019 New York Times article interviewed Gen Z teenagers who admitted they want things cheap and much of what they buy is for a one-time photo op. Another article featured on Business Insider showcased that this type of shopping is on its way to killing brands because the number one motivator is the price.

Doyle hopes that when people make a choice to shop, they will begin to question sustainability and even the conditions of the shop where their clothing is made. Although the current trend is fast and cheap, the cost is much higher than the purchaser realizes in terms of devastating impacts to the environment and economy.

To learn more about Billi Doyle and shop her sustainable and American made clothing, click here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Five companies you didn’t know were in the arms industry

While companies such as Mitsubishi and Rolls Royce are well-known for producing everything from motorbikes to air conditioners, they’re not the only products the companies are manufacturing.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) most recent edition of its Arms Industry Database, includes a ranking of the top 100 companies involved in arms-production.

The ranking shows that 42 of the top 100 companies are US-based — while this isn’t particularly shocking, it may come as a surprise that a number of the companies involved in arms-dealing are much better known for manufacturing other products, such as vehicles and household appliances.

Here are 5 of the biggest tech companies you may not have known also manufacture arms.


9 military charities you can donate time and gifts to this holiday season

Fujitsu’s positioning isn’t just down to the quietness of its air conditioners.

1. Fujitsu

While, technically speaking, only a small portion of Fujitsu’s business is focused on arms, manufacturing weapons earned the giant id=”listicle-2637023891″.11 billion in 2017, making up 3% of its total turnover.

9 military charities you can donate time and gifts to this holiday season

Though Kawasaki is renowned for producing motorcycles, it also sells ships and military aircraft.

(Flickr/driver Photographer)

2. Kawasaki

Kawasaki’s sales in arms came to .14 million in 2017, making up 15.2% of its total turnover.

9 military charities you can donate time and gifts to this holiday season

The former Swedish car manufacturer Saab relies heavily on arms production.

3. Saab

Having earned the company .67 million, arms made up 83.9% of Saab’s .18 million turnover in 2017.

Since Saab’s automobile production ended in 2012, it has since depended on the Swedish state.

9 military charities you can donate time and gifts to this holiday season

Mitsubishi produces vehicles as well as household appliances, such as air conditioners.

(Mitsubishi)

4. Mitsubishi

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Ltd is a division within the larger Mitsubishi group. The company invoice showed it had totted up .57 billion worth of arms sales over 2017, making up 9.7% of its total sales.

9 military charities you can donate time and gifts to this holiday season

The British company is famous for manufacturing cars.

(Flickr photo by Armando G Alonso)

5. Rolls Royce

Placing 17th in the ranking of companies involved in arms sales, Rolls-Royce sold .42 billion worth of arms in 2017 — that represents 22.8% of its total turnover.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

WATCH: The Oldest Trainee in Fort Sill History

Most people who join the Military are young adults. In fact, as of 2012, the US Army reported the average age of people who enlist is 20.7 years. That’s almost as young as young adults come. Generally speaking, the maximum age of enlistment for most military branches is 35. However, there is one caveat: if you’ve served in the military before, they can waive the age limit. This means that some trainees might be even older. of course, that’s a rare exception. But it happens. Like with Spc. Swanson, BCT trainee at Fort Sill.  

A peek inside basic training at age 49

Fort Sill, an Army post in Lawton, Oklahoma is one of four Army BCT locations. It is also the post where John Swanson made the record for being the oldest trainee in Sill history. Swanson did his nine-and-a-half weeks of training at age 49, which was allowed because he had been in the military previously. The fact that he had also been in combat before earned Swanson a lot of respect from his fellow trainees. 

Swanson said his experience at Fort Sill not only re-trained him for the military, but it also gave him an inside view of the younger generation. He now has a much better understanding of how things work today versus the way things worked when he was a young adult. One of the things his Fort Sill Gen Z peers taught him was how to find humor in everything. Before re-doing his training at age 49, he found himself to be a lot more serious. Now Swanson has lightened up. 

Keeping up with the kids half his age couldn’t have been easy

Many of the other trainees, often half of Swanson’s age or even younger, watched in amazement at what Swanson was doing. The fact that he was so much older than them but was physically able to keep up with all the strenuous activity that Basic Training involves was notably impressive. 

Some even said it motivated them to push a little bit harder than they might have otherwise. Watching Swanson push on, doing things like one-armed push-ups when one of his shoulders started to hurt, gave them a true role model right in front of their faces. 

No slack for Swanson

Age and prior service didn’t mean they went easy on Swanson throughout his second time around at Basic Training either. They treated them just as they treated every other trainee, which is the way it should be. Giving Swanson slack would have defeated the purpose of re-enlisting anyway. But we can’t help but wonder what it was like for the Drill Sergeants shouting at him knowing full well he was twice their age.

Related: 5 of the worst misconceptions to have when joining the military

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 ways to water your own military marriage lawn

We see you. Peering through the windows of your government-issued duplex at the neighbor’s waving flag, sizzling grill and luscious green patch of America. No amount of rent-controlled water allowance has produced grass so green on your side of things, despite the best of efforts. How is it that lawncare has suddenly become a relevant metaphor for marriage? Happily ever military didn’t tell you about the unspoken vow we all recite, to endure. To preserve during droughts, rebuild after landslides, and endure no matter where we’re planted.


Military marriage is about watering the lawn you have today, and sometimes, calling it for what it is and putting down a patch of turf to get by. Here to help is advice from spouses in it for the long haul.

We all pick fights when the schedule goes completely nuts.

“I’m guilty of misdirecting my anger at my husband, when really it’s the late nights and last-minute changes that I’m angry at,” says Kayla Narramore, United States Marine Corps spouse.

A good marriage requires balance, but all too often, everything you had planned gets scratched at the last minute. Remembering that unlike conventional jobs, when they’re coming home, what happens next, and how long they’ll be gone can all change at any given time. Analyze what, not who you’re frustrated with instead.

9 military charities you can donate time and gifts to this holiday season

Relying on friends is how we all get by

Your service member is your life partner, but your military friends are who you can depend on. Scheduling a kid-free hair appointment, catching the flu, or even a night out are all normal tasks spouses rely on each other to tackle, but all run the risk of being canceled without much notice. Try penciling in your spouse as the back-up, with a non-active duty person as the primary. Always hope that they can step up, but this insulated plan keeps a fight or feelings of being let down out of the equation.

Counseling is not only for quitters

Between deployments, training, and schools that last for months, it’s no wonder why the common state of marriage in the military a bit is out of whack. Cohabitating is hard for anyone. Yearly marital checkups should be as commonplace as yearly physicals. Sometimes a nasty cold needs to run its course and sometimes may require treatment. There’s no body or no marriage that lives its life with a completely clean slate.

9 military charities you can donate time and gifts to this holiday season

 

We don’t love putting ourselves on hold either

“I’d love to open a bakery, but we move so often that’s nearly impossible,” explains Tiana Nomo, Army spouse when discussing her stress points. Coming to grips with what’s feasible versus possible is where spouses reframe their world in a positive light. While no one would blame you for feeling envious of their consistent career, remembering the bigger picture is helpful in eliminating circular arguments. Rehash the five-year goals often, to be a truer reflection of both parties’ interests.

We don’t always find fitting in easy 

“I had gone from working multiple fulfilling jobs to being alone, as a stay at home mom while my husband was deployed. My walls were up, to say the least,” says Anna Perez, Army spouse about her time at their first duty station. Military spouses may have one large common denominator but come together from opposite ends of all spectrums in career, life, expectations, and culture. The same can be said for the service member, however, with most of their days and time welded together, bonding appears to come more naturally than for the spouse. Without a secure network, it becomes easy for spouses to begin isolating themselves, even within their marriages. “I reached outside of the post, and into the local town where I found friendships and mentors who changed my outlook and career path,” says Perez who has her sights on becoming a lawyer.

Picking up on a theme? So much of military life is unpredictable, taking marital expectations through drastic ups and downs. Learning to love through potential decades of military service requires a strong tolerance for upheaval and a willingness to hang on, even if by one rooted strand.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Next military pay raise could be largest since 2010

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.

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(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.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to make it through Special Forces selection

Wondering what it takes to cut the mustard in Special Forces selection?

The time of my first (just) two-year enlistment in the Army was coming to an end. I originally enlisted for the shortest amount of time in the Army in the event that if I really hated it too much I only ever had two years to endure. There were two things that I was positively certain of:

  1. I really DID want to stay in the Army
  2. I really did NOT want to stay right where I was in the Army

    It wasn’t a matter of being so fervent about wanting to excel into the ranks of Special Forces soldiers at that time; rather, it was the matter of getting away — far away — from the attitudes and caliber of persons I was serving with at the time in the peace- time Army as it was. I understood, so I thought, that the way to ensure I could distance myself from the regular army aura was to go into Special Forces, namely the Green Berets.

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    (Special Forces Regimental insignia)

    That was a great path forward, but with a near insurmountable obstacle — you had to be a paratrooper! Jumping from an airplane in flight was fine by me, the problem associated with that was that most airplanes had to be really high up before you jumped out of them. I was then as I am still horrendously terrified of heights — woe is me! My fear of altitudes was keeping me from going to Airborne Jump School and stuck in my current morass of resolve.

    Well, just two short years in the regular “go nowhere, do nothing” Army and I was ready to jump out of high-in-the-sky airplanes parachute or no parachute. I was ready to jump ship!

    Jump School was indeed terrifying despite the small number of jumps, just five, that we were required to make. All of the jumps were in the daytime though mine were all night jumps. All that is required to qualify as a night jump is to simply close one’s eyes. I did. I figured there was nothing so pressing to see while falling and waiting for the intense tug of the opening of the parachute, so I just closed my eyes.

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    (Every jump can potentially be a night jump, so says I — Wikipedia commons)

    There were 25 of us paratroops headed to the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC) upon graduation from Jump School. I was the highest ranking man even as an E-4 in the group, so I was designated the person in charge of the charter bus ride from Jump School to Ft. Bragg, NC for the course — of course! I imagined that duty would not entail much on a bus ride of just a few hours. I was shocked when approached by two men from my group who wished to terminate their status as Green Beret candidates.

    Well, the course certainly MUST be hard if men are quitting already on the bus ride to the course.

    “Sure fellows, but can you at least wait until we get to Bragg to quit?” I pleaded.

    Once at Ft. Bragg, it was our understanding that we were on a two-week wait for our SFQC class to begin. Our first week we tooled about doing essentially nothing but dodging work details like cutting grass and picking up pine cones. The second week was an event that the instructors called “Pre-Phase,” a term that I didn’t like the sound of and braced for impact.

    “Pre-Phase,” in my (humble) opinion, was a pointless and disorganized suck-athon. It was a non-stop hazing with back-breaking, butt-kicking, physical events determined to crush the weak and eliminate the faint of heart. In the end we had a fraction of the number of candidates that we started with. I noted that of the 25 men I brought over from Jump School, only me and one other very reserved soldier survived. We nodded at each other and shook hands at the culmination of the mysterious Pre-Phase.

    “Good job, brother-man!” I praised him.

    “Thank you; my name is Gabrial, you can call me Gabe,” he introduced.

    “Great job, Gabe — George is my name — please, call me Geo!” I invited.

    The documented entry-level criteria included the ability to pass the standard Army Physical Readiness Fitness Test (APRFT) in a lofty percentile, though one I am loath to admit I do not remember. There was also a swim test that was required of us to perform wearing combat fatigues, combat boots, and carrying an M-16 assault rifle.

    We did it in the post swimming pool. It was a bit of a challenge but by no means a threat to my status as a candidate. I was nonetheless dismayed at several men who were not able to pass it after having gone through all they had. It was sad.

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    (Special Forces have a charter for conducting surface and subsurface water operations — Wikipedia commons)

    The first month of the SFQC was very impressive to me as a young man barely 20 years old. It was all conducted at a remote camp in the woods where we lived in structures made of wood frames and tar paper — barely a departure at all from the outdoor environment. We endured many (MANY) surprise forced marches of unknown distance, very heavy loads, and extreme speed that were hardly distinguishable from a full run.

    Aside from the more didactic classroom environment learning skills of every sort, there were the constant largely physical strength and endurance events like hand-to-hand combat training, combat patrolling, rope bridge construction with river crossings, obstacle course negotiating, living and operating in heavily wooded environments. We learned to kill and prepare wild game for meals: rabbits, squirrels, goats, and snakes. Hence the age-old term for Special Forces soldiers — “Snake Eaters,” a moniker I bore with proud distinction.

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    (Survival skills are essential in Special Forces — Wikipedia Commons)

    We all had to endure a survival exercise of several days alone. There were dozens of tasks associated with that exercise that we had to accomplish in those days: building shelter, starting and maintaining a fire for heat and cooking, building snares and traps to catch animals for food, and building an apparatus to determine time of day and cardinal directions.

    Since the same land was used time after time by the survival training, it was understood by the cadre that the land was pretty much hunted out, leaving no animals to speak of for food. Therefore there was a set day and time that a truck was scheduled to drive by each candidate’s camp to throw an animal off of the back. When the animal hit the ground it became stunned and disoriented. We had just seconds to profit from the animal’s stupor to spring in and catch it before it ran away… or go hungry for the duration.

    Hence the sundial I built and my track of the days, to have myself in position to capture my animal when the time came. The time and the truck came. I crouched along the side of the terrain road. The cadre slung a thing that was white from the truck. It hit the ground and was stunned. I pounced on what turned out to be a white bunny rabbit.

    “Oh… my God!” I lamented earnestly in my weakened physical and mental capacity, “I’ve stumbled into Alice in Wonderland’s enchanted forest… I can’t eat the White Rabbit!”

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    (He’s late, he’s late, for a very important date — Wikipedia Commons)

    Some men were unfortunately unable to capture their rabbits in time before they ran away. One man was overcome by grief at the prospect of killing his rabbit — his only source of companionship. He rather built a cage for it and graced it with a share of the paltry source of food that he had. Me, I was a loner and swung my Cheshire rabbit by the hind legs head-first into a tree. I ate that night in solace and in the company of just myself.

    Men who could no longer continue sat on the roadside each morning and waited for a truck, one that I referred to in disdain as the hearse, to be picked up and removed from the course. One of them was carrying a cage lovingly constructed from sticks and vines in which sat therein a nibbling white rabbit. The man was washed out of the course for failing tasks, backed up by quitting. There was no potential for a man to return for a second time if he had quit on his first try — quitting was not an option.

    The event that cut the greatest swath through the candidate numbers was the individual land navigation event. It lasted a week or so with some hands-on cadre-lead instruction, some time for individual practice, culminating in a period of several days and nights of individual tests. The movements were long, the terrain difficult, the stress level very high. Every leg of the navigation course was measured on time and accuracy — we had to be totally accurate on every move, and within the speed standard.

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    (SF troop candidate during Land Navigation Phase of SFQC moves quickly with heavy loads — DVIDS)

    I recall a particular night when all of us lay in our pup tents waiting for our release time to begin our night movements. Just as the hour was on us a monumental torrent of rain began to gush down. The men scrambled and clambered back to their tents like wet alley cats. I performed a simple mathematical equation in my head:

    • time equals distance
    • hiding in a tent for an undetermined period equals zero time
    • zero time equals zero distance
    • choosing one’s personal comfort over time equals failure

    I had a Grandma Whipple’s rum-soaked cigar clenched tightly in my teeth; it was lit before the rain but no more, and I assure you most fervently that it was never in any way Cuban! Plowing through the vegetation for many minutes I came to a modest clearing that I came to be very familiar with over the days. It told me that I was thankfully on course for the moment. The rain was tapering off generously and I felt a leg up on the navigation for the night.

    I reached for my cigar but there was none there save the mere butt that remained clenched in my teach. To my disgust the waterlogged cigar had collapsed under its weight and lay in a mushy black track down my chin and neck edging glacially toward my chest. There would be no comfort of the smoke, nor deterrence of mosquitoes by the smoke of the Grandma Whipple’s rum-soaked positively non-cuban cigar that night.

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    More than five months later I sat on my rucksack (backpack) of some 50 lbs just having completed a timed 12-mile forced ruck march, nothing any longer between me and graduation from the SFQC course. There were plenty of things to think of that had happened or did not happen to me over the nearly half-year, though I somehow chose the bus ride from Jump School to Ft. Bragg to ponder. How rowdy and arrogant the crowd had been, all pompously sporting green berets that they hadn’t even earned yet. Me, I had chosen to wear my Army garrison cap — nothing fancy.

    I filtered through the events that had taken each man who had not already quit from that arduous bus ride from Jump School. I remember how they had all failed or quit one by one except that one brother whose hand I shook at the end of pre-phase.

    Buses pulled up to move us back to some nice barracks for the night, some barrack at least 12 miles away by my calculation. Usually everyone snatched up his own rucksack by his damned self, but on this occasion the brother next to me pulled up my rucksack to shoulder height for me in a congratulatory gesture of kindness.

    I in turn grabbed his rucksack in the same manner though with a deep admiration and respect for the man who had come all the way with me from Jump School through the SFQC fueled by reserved professionalism. His name was Gabriel, but I just called him Gabe.

    By Almighty God and with honor, geo sends

    This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


    MIGHTY CULTURE

    The Army Museum Support Center is the biggest treasure trove you never knew existed

    Fort Belvoir, Virginia: The Army has a giant warehouse of war art that includes not just Hitler’s watercolors but also oil paintings by Norman Rockwell. 

    It might seem like the Army would be the last likely patron of the arts, but the truth is over the last hundred years, the Army has rescued and confiscated a vast collection of art. The collection of captured and commissioned war art features 16,000 paintings, photos and sculptures, and all are sitting inside a climate-controlled football-field-sized museum at Fort Belvoir. 

    Before being moved to the museum, this treasure trove of art was stashed inside a large warehouse. The collection features work by everyone, from enemy combatants to ordinary soldiers and even Hitler’s watercolors. The collection program initially started during WWI when the Army dispatched eight combat artists to roam the battlefields in Europe and record firsthand experiences of the average soldier. 

    The combat artists’ renderings would later be used as part of propaganda efforts to drum up support for the war before being collected and filed away in the Army warehouse. Then, during WWII, the Army added to their growing museum with captured Nazi and Fascist propaganda so it might be preserved for future generations. These materials were deemed too controversial for the public at the time, but the Army knew that future historians might find them useful. 

    Thousands of art pieces were returned to their rightful owners after the war, but the Army held onto anything that showed the Nazi leader or pictured a swastika. Other additions during WWII included historical pieces unrelated to war art that were initially stolen by the Nazis but then reclaimed and returned by the Monuments Men. The Monuments Men were a team of over 400 soldiers and civilians who worked to protect Europe’s cultural heritage, which might have otherwise been lost to the war. The Monuments Men have been the focus of several documentaries and movies, the most recent of which was in 2014 and detailed the challenging experience of discovering the world’s lost art. Thanks to the Monuments Men, some of the great art saves from WWII included the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, and the Altarpiece of Veit Stoss. 

    Of course, the cache at Fort Belvoir isn’t the only reserve of art and historical artifacts that the Army owns. There are collections all across the country under the Library of Congress, Archies, Smithsonian and Park Service stewardship. Most of these collections are tightly sealed and unknown to the public to help balance the compromise between preservation and security. However, Fort Belvoir is an exception to the norm, as the Army has routinely allowed researchers and journalists to come in and take a look. 

    Now that the Army has an official museum, the collection will be moved there, and access will be open to the public. Of course, that was before the pandemic put a wrench in those plans. The museum is located on 84 acres at Fort Belvoir, about thirty minutes south of Washington, D.C. The main building is approximately 185,000 square feet. It displays selections from the Army Art Collection and artifacts, documents, and images collected over the years. The American public has never seen most of these images, and the Army expects the museum will welcome at least 500,000 people every year. The National Museum of the United States Army is the capstone of the Army Museum Enterprise and offers visitors a comprehensive portrayal of Army history and traditions. In an ode to our nation’s veterans, the museum will be opening its doors on November 11, 2020. The opening ceremony will be limited to a small group of Army leaders, but the event will be live-streamed, so historians worldwide will be able to witness the historic moment. Free timed tickets are required for entry and available for request through the museum’s website

    MIGHTY CULTURE

    How to make the most of your next PCS

    Every few years you pick up your life leaving your friends and all that has become familiar to follow the love of your life to a new duty station. PCS…

    No matter how many times you move, that same excitement and crazy anxiety to start all over again appears. It is so easy to lose yourself in chaos.

    The chaos of getting things settled, finding a job, or just trying to find that normal day to day for your kids!


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    Starting over is never easy.

    Everything is so foreign no matter how much research you do. It is easy to fall into the shadow of the military world around you or just that mom-life, forgetting just who you are. Being able to establish yourself from scratch takes a lot out of you especially when you do it over and over again.

    It is easy to say the last place you were was the best. But really each new place is what you make of it.

    Finding yourself, or in other words, allowing yourself to bloom is key to thriving in a new place.

    But the question is where do you even start? Who are you or who do you want to be?

    Being a military spouse or a parent makes up just one tiny piece of that. A new duty station gives you the opportunity for improvements and new goals.

    You always wanted to open up your own business, well now is your opportunity.

    Take the leap and start taking college courses. Get your degree!

    Find your voice again by advocating for your new community.

    Volunteer to help out at the local food pantry.

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    (Photo by Rémi Walle)

    Just because you are putting down temporary roots does not mean you have to give up on you and what you want! There are many different programs offered at every duty station to help you thrive. From classes on networking, and job assistance to educational resources and volunteer programs. These things put into place to help you benefit yourself.

    Mask your fears and try something new.

    Do not hide out counting down the days until you move again.

    Join the gym, or go to a playgroup with your kids.

    Meet new people, you never know when you will find those lifelong friends. You should feel confident in yourself and all that you do or want to do.

    Nothing should hold you back from you being exactly who you aspire to be. You only have one life so make each place you live the best.

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

    MIGHTY CULTURE

    Here’s the group of veterans making the best NFL teams better

    Every professional athlete will tell you there’s a science behind elite performance. Every coach will tell you there’s one for team dynamics as well. And, every military leader will say their best performing units are men and women who understand the importance of not just bettering themselves, but constantly working toward improving the group as a whole.


    One Green Beret has cracked the code on understanding the battlefield and translating it to the professional playing field.

    Jason Van Camp is the founder of Mission Six Zero, a leadership development company focused on taking teams and corporate clients to the next level. “We have some of the best military leaders you’ve ever seen,” said VanCamp. From Medal of Honor recipients Flo Groberg and Leroy Petry, Green Beret turned Seattle Seahawk Nate Boyer, to plenty of Marines, Delta Force, Rangers and Navy SEALs, their team is stacked with experience.

    But that’s not where it ends. Van Camp has put research behind performance mechanisms with an equally impressive team of scientists to qualify their data and translate it into something teams can implement. One of the key factors to their success? “Deliberate discomfort,” said Van Camp. “Once you deliberately and voluntarily choose the harder path, good things will happen for you and for your team. You have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

    The reviews of the program speak for itself. “I thought I knew where I stood in the football world,” said Marcel Reese, former NFL player. “But after my experience with Mission Six Zero, along with my team, I learned more than I could have ever imagined… mostly about myself as a teammate, leader and a man in general. I would strongly encourage all teams to work with these guys.”

    Van Camp shared a story about one of the teams he worked with. A player asked him if the workshop was really going to make him a better player. He responded, “It’s not about making you a better player, it’s making the guy to your left and to your right a better player.” Van Camp took his lessons and parlayed them into a book with the title reflecting their greatest theory: “Deliberate Discomfort.”

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    Van Camp and 11 other decorated veterans take you through their experiences – intense, traumatic battles they fought and won, sharing the lessons learned from those incredible challenges. Jason and his cadre of scientists further break down those experiences, translating them into digestible and relatable action items, showing the average person how they can apply them to their own lives and businesses.

    The book is “gripping. Authentic. Engaging… prodigiously researched, carefully argued and gracefully written,” said Frank Abagnale, Jr., world-renowned authority on forgery (and also the author of Catch Me If You Can). It’s a heart-pounding read that will keep you turning the pages and wanting to immediately apply the lessons to your own life.

    In addition to writing books, running a company and being just a badass in general, Van Camp also has a soft spot in his heart for the veteran community. He founded Warrior Rising, a nonprofit that empowers U.S. military veterans and their immediate family members by providing them opportunities to create sustainable businesses, perpetuate the hiring of fellow American veterans, and earn their future.

    From the battlefield to the football field to the boardroom, with such an elite mission, it’s easy to see why Mission Six Zero is such an elite organization.

    MIGHTY CULTURE

    How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

    Over the last few years, the Air Force has been taking proactive approaches to prepare for a proverbial “sucker punch” via cyber-attack. In preparation for this assault, and to mitigate vulnerability, cyber resiliency is being ingrained into Air Force culture.

    By military definition, cyber resiliency is the ability of a system to complete its objective regardless of the cyber conditions, in other words, how well it can take a cyber-punch and keep fighting.


    Blue: Cyber in the Contested Domain

    vimeo.com

    To help lead these efforts, the Air Force, through Air Force Materiel Command’s Life Cycle Management Center, stood up the Cyber Resiliency Office for Weapons Systems, or CROWS, in response to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016. The NDA instructed the military to analyze the cyber vulnerabilities of major weapons systems and report findings back to Congress. In 2018, the program was fully funded by Congress to begin its mission.

    “It’s all about two things, making sure our warfighters are protected and making sure they are able to do their jobs,” said Joseph Bradley, director of CROWS.

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    Joseph Bradley is the director of the Cyber Resiliency Office for Weapons Systems (CROWS) which ensures cybersecurity is integrated into the development of all new programs from the start, then maintains and validates the cyber resiliency of the system throughout its life cycle. (U.S. Air Force)

    Initially CROWS was created to look at liabilities in legacy weapon systems, but now it is taking aim at ensuring cybersecurity is integrated into the development of all new programs from the start, rather than as an afterthought. Then CROWS maintains and validates the cyber resiliency of the system throughout its life cycle.

    Cyber resiliency needs change constantly and impact all Air Force missions — new threats emerge regularly and require new approaches to improve mission assurance.

    As an F-35 Lightning II pilot, Maj. Justin Lee flies one of the most advanced aircraft on the planet with systems that will be upgraded and enhanced well into the future.

    “We’re passing off a tremendous amount of data and, just like your computer, you want that data to be correct,” Lee said. “If you go into an adversarial environment against a frontline threat, then they’re going to be trying to do their best to interfere with it.”

    It’s not just his weapons system that is vulnerable; the data these systems take in and put out is just as vulnerable and critical to mission success.

    “If a hacker is able to get into the GPS time and get it off sync just by a few nanoseconds, then it can cause the bomb to land in a place that we don’t want,” Lee said.

    One key mission in the evolution of CROWS was to find ways to implement cyber resiliency in the acquisition process. This now includes embedding cyber professionals within a program’s executive offices. Also, an acquisitions guidebook was created to standardize cyber-related language for contract evaluations, reducing the burden on any future programs while also allowing better communication with industry partners.

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    An Air Force pararescueman, assigned to the 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, communicates with an Army Task Force Brawler CH-47F Chinook during a training exercise at an undisclosed location in the mountains of Afghanistan, March 14, 2018. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // TECH. SGT. GREGORY BROOK)

    CROWS allow cyber experts to join forces with the command responsible for the maintenance and development of a weapons system. Through testing and analysis, CROWS will then offer recommendations to make the system less vulnerable and ultimately safer.

    Combat and training missions, weapons delivery and air drops are all put together using computer-based air-space mission planning systems. When the Air Force’s Life Cycle Management Center wanted to overhaul their software to assist ground operations for aircraft, they called on the CROWS for help.

    “As the challenges were identified we put together an engineering plan for how we would start to resolve or mitigate some of those cyber security vulnerabilities. The CROWS walked us through that analysis,” said Col. Jason Avram, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Airspace Mission Planning Division chief.

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    Tech. Sgt. Michael Vandenbosch, 22nd Space Operations Squadron defensive counter-space operator, uses software to identify interference to a specific satellite at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, Dec. 16, 2019. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // AIRMAN 1ST CLASS JONATHAN WHITELY)

    “As that engineering plan came together, which looks specifically at how we’re going to deal with data integrity issues not only the data that we’re ingesting, but also how we’re processing that data through our software and then how we’re transferring that data to any platforms.”

    According to Avram, CROWS funded the effort to develop an engineering plan on how to mitigate vulnerabilities over time.

    Having cyber resiliency personnel inserted into a weapons system’s development and life-cycle management allows them to be at the tactical edge; fully understanding the system so they can detect if the obscured hand of an adversary is at play.

    “They’re (CROWS) the cop on the beat that sort of knows what their neighborhood is supposed to look like. They’re the first ones that can see that window over there isn’t supposed to be open, let’s go investigate,” said Maj. Gen. Patrick Higby, director of DevOps and lethality. “So, they go in (figuratively) with the flashlight, they investigate and ‘holy cow’ there’s somebody in there, where do you go with that?”

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    Initially created to look at legacy weapon systems, the Air Force CROWS office will be taking aim at ensuring cybersecurity concerns are taken into account from the start of new programs. (AIR NATIONAL GUARD PHOTO // KELLYANN NOVAK)

    Higby asked, how does that cop who is on the beat, how do they get the right experts, engineers and PhDs involved who may have built or designed that system to facilitate an agile response to the threat?

    He explained the responses to a threat could mean a number of repercussions to the Air Force. There could be a need to ground the asset and not fly the next sortie because the risk is too great. It may be a decision to still fly with the vulnerability in place because there may be other work arounds.

    It all goes back to the resiliency; can the weapon system maintain a mission effective capability under adversary offensive cyber operations. The fix may be the deployment of code to quickly patch and shut the window and get the adversary out of the system. But in all responses, you need the expert that built that system originally to be in that discussion alongside the CROWS.

    “We really want the CROWS to be that interface to the real expert of a given weapon system, whether it’s an aircraft, a missile, a helicopter or whatever,to understand, if you’re going to tweak this, it may have these other consequences to it. And then make that risk decision,” Higby said. “Grounding the asset is not always an option, we have to launch because we have other actors that are dependent on us striking a target.”

    In short, the Air Force has to be ready and able to take a punch.

    “That’s the idea behind resiliency; you are going to fight to get the mission done no matter what happens,” Higby said.

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

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