15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

Transitioning from the military is hard. Habits and disciplines established over years of service are supposed to fall away as you drive off base. Here are the biggest things you’ll have to deal with when becoming a civilian.


1. Civilians don’t have safety briefs

 

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

 

Literally none. Everyone just expects you to remember to not drink and drive, to use protection while doin’ it, and to practice weapons safety. To help ease the transition, record your last safety brief from your unit commander and set it as an alarm on your phone. Set the alarm for every Friday at 1700.

2. Learning that ten minutes early is early

Yes, your platoon sergeant has told you for years that ten minutes early is late, but it’s actually ten minutes early because that’s how words work.

Most civilians will aim to be “on time,” which is anything up to the scheduled meeting time.

3. Civilians have no idea what military time is

Speaking of 1700, after you leave the military you will notice that 1700 hours isn’t a thing. It’s called “5 p.m.” This is completely separate from 0500 which is called “5 a.m.” If you find yourself having trouble, check out this helpful book. Books are like field manuals but there are more types. They’re also similar to magazines (the paper kind).

4. Learning the language

 

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

 

Yes, “magazines” can also refer to devices that store “rounds” for your “weapons.” Your new civilian friends will call these things “clips,” “bullets,” and “guns.” They don’t care what you call them. In the civilian world, military vocabulary falls under the category of “trivia.”

5. Civilians actually have to look before they cross the street

 

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

 

In the civilian world, you will most likely run on your own without supervision or a cadence caller. You can choose to wear headphones to keep your motivation and pace up, but remember that no one will be stopping cars at intersections for you. The trick is to identify the sidewalks and run on them when possible. When you must cross a street, look left, right, and then left again. Only cross if no vehicles are approaching your route.

6. Avoiding danger without a reflective belt

Compounding this problem will be the fact that you won’t be wearing a reflective belt. In theory, you should still be fully visible, but it turns out that civilian drivers are about as stupid as military drivers. Stick to the “left, right, and then left again” thing described above. Or you could just start moving through the world in human hamster balls.

7. Defining your personal value without PT scores or military evaluation records

 

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

You will not have a records brief listing all your rewards and accolades, and you will have to determine your personal value without these aids.

If you find yourself unable to decide if you’re a good person without this help, go ahead and assume you’re not. Then, start putting any awards or certificates you earn, along with any really good drawings you do, up on your parents’ fridge. The fridge can serve as a pseudo-records brief.

8. Trading badges, ribbons, and medals for a single lapel pin

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

 

Not only will you not have a piece of paper stating your accomplishments, you won’t be able to wear them on your shirts anymore either. This is especially tough for soldiers who are used to wearing their badges and patches year round.

You can wear a lapel pin, but that’s only good for bragging about one thing at a time. If you need to brag about graduating basic while also making sure people know you were a marksman, you’ll have to put stickers on your car.

9. Figuring out who you can yell at when no one wears ranks

Like the sudden absence of awards, there will be no ranks in the civilian world. But, if you work in a company, some people are still more powerful than you.

What can you do? If just treating everyone with respect is out of the question, grab a copy of your company’s personnel list and make flash cards for yourself. The CEO is like a general, your district manager equals a battalion commander, and the head custodian is essentially your squad sergeant. You can only yell at people who don’t outrank you.

10. As a civilian, choosing your own outfits is normal

 

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

 

Notice how all those people who aren’t wearing ranks are wearing different clothes from each other? Don’t worry! You don’t have to match any of their outfits, and no platoon sergeant is about to yell at everyone.

See, in the civilian world there are no uniforms, so you pick your own clothes to wear. Cargo pants and shirts are a good starting point when you first get out. You’ll get these at stores rather than exchanges. If the first store doesn’t have anything you like, don’t worry. Where bases only have a couple of different stores with the same tired inventory, civilians live in cities with tons of different shops all selling different merchandise.

11. Speaking without acronyms

FYSA, the DoD isn’t the only AO where acronyms are prevalent, but civilians still think you’re weird when you string together a sentence of alphabet soup. Go ahead and plan on stating entire words when speaking to civilians.

If you need to, use lozenges and honey to soothe your throat during the transition.

12. Civilians speak with a whole lot less cussing

Even more important than not using acronyms is not cussing. Most people find it harsh in the civilian world, especially if you’re around children at all. Avoid other colorful language as well, such as “BLOOD! BLOOD! BLOOD MAKES THE GREEN GRASS GROW!” and “KILL!” Click here for a more complete list.

13. Pointing instead of knife-handing

 

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life
Photo: Marine Corps

Knife hands have been disappearing from the armed forces and even the Marine Corps seems to be cutting back. If that bothers you, hold on to your butts. Civilians don’t even know what the knife hand is! And using it would be a major mistake.

When you want to knife hand to point out an object, civilians use a finger instead or even a verbal description of where someone should look. Where a knife hand would be used to emphasize a point or establish displeasure, civilians rely on tone of voice or a sternly worded note.

14. First names

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

That’s right, instead of ranks or last names, civilians use first names. You’ll be expected to as well unless you’re a doctor.

But we both know you’re not.

15. What to do with all your moto

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

In the military, you could throw on a gas mask and some armor for a 10-mile run when you were over-moto, but in the civilian world that ends with you dodging Taser shots from nervous cops. You can still go running or head to the range, but you’ll probably just deaden the moto with reality T.V. like everyone else.

NOW: This Army vet uses Tumblr to show civilians the realities of war

WATCH: These veterans transitioned to unique jobs after the military

MIGHTY CULTURE

Air Force Strikers are figuring out how to be competitive

Airman Magazine sat down with Gen. Tim Ray, the Air Force Global Strike Command commander, for an in-depth interview. The below excerpts highlight how the command continues to innovate and explore the art of possible. There are only historical traces of Strategic Air Command; these Airmen are now Strikers. Excellence and teamwork is in the job description; they’re attracting talent and working hard to keep it in-house, building the world’s premiere nuclear and conventional long-range strike team.


“This is about figuring out how to be competitive.” – General Timothy M. Ray

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Airman Magazine: What does it mean to be a “Striker”?

Gen. Tim Ray: Strikers stand on the shoulders of giants like Schriever, Doolittle, Arnold and Eaker. That’s our heritage. We understand that air and space power is not about perfection; it’s about overcoming obstacles and challenges. Strikers are in a business that no one else can do. Strikers know the score; and the score is that there are no allied bombers out there. There are no allied Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. What we do every day as a Striker is the foundation of the security structure of the free world. This fact is viewed in the eyes of our adversaries and it’s viewed in the eyes of our allies. In a very important way, there’s a lot riding on our Airmen, and we have to get it right every day.

Airman Magazine: What are some of the challenges Global Strike is facing and some of the conversations and solutions your team is coming up with?

Gen. Tim Ray: For us it’s to think about the competitive space we’re in, when the Cold War ended; there really was only one team that stopped competing at this level, of great power competition—the United States. We enjoyed a world order that was to our benefit. Now we have players on the scene with regional reach and capacity, and also global capacity, and we’ve got regional players who want to make sure that they have more sway. So think North Korea, Iran, China and Russia. So how we compete with them is not something that you can take lightly. When you step back and think about it, in this long-term strategic competition, how do we compete?

One of the things I’m very proud of in the command is what we’ve done with our weapons generation facility. Here’s an example: the old requirements for how you would build that were very expensive and somewhat outdated. We brought in a cross-functional team from across the Air Force. We gave everybody a right and left limit and we made them really think about this thing. The outcome of that effort is an option to re-capitalize our facilities at a third of the cost. We’re saving hundreds of millions of dollars that’ll have better security and better capacity. I think that’s the kind of business game we need to continue to play; to go and provide great, relevant capabilities, much more affordable for who we are as an Air Force and who we are as a military. I think that’s how we continue to take this particular thing on, is thinking about the context, what do we have to do to find ways to solve those problems.

A United States Air Force B-52H Stratofortress, accompanied by four Saudi Arabian F-15C Eagles, conducts a low pass over Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, Nov. 1, 2019. The B-52H, deployed from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., is part of a Bomber Task Force operating out of RAF Fairford, England. The aircraft is a long-range strategic bomber capable of delivering massive amounts of precision weapons against any adversary. The bomber conducted a sortie to the U.S. Central Command area of operations in order to conduct interoperability training with Saudi partners in support of our shared regional security interests. Strategic bombers contribute to stability in the CENTCOM and U.S. European Command (EUCOM) areas of operation, and when called upon, they offer a rapid response capability for combatant commanders. This mission to CENTCOM follows the B-1B Lancer mission to PSAB last week, again demonstrating the U.S.’s commitment to the defense of allies and partners.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)

Airman Magazine: Can you talk about the atmosphere of how we handled things back during the Cold War and how, in today’s great power competition, things are different?

Gen. Tim Ray: With the Cold War, there was bipolarity and a set number of competitors. With the Warsaw Pact and Soviet Union versus everybody else; we had the lead. Now we have multi-polarity with competitors like China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, violent extremist organization challenges; they are now part of the equation. So you have to think more broadly about this global situation.

Things are in this conversation now that weren’t back then, space, cyber, hypersonics, the information domain, the internet, what happens in social media, all those influencers. That’s a very different game when you start to understand what’s really going on out there.

Airman Magazine: How do you maintain a vector and vision for the command in an ever-changing competitive space?

Gen. Tim Ray: When you read the book Why Air Forces Fail, we see that there’s no loss based on a lack of tactics, techniques, or procedures. It’s always for a lack of ability to adapt to what’s going on. So when I think about that particular space, you have to realize this is really more of a chess game. So you can’t try to win every move. But you have to avoid being put on the chess board without options, and that’s how the enemy is playing the game. So you need to know how you get to checkmate on the enemy. And certainly when it comes time to maneuver on the board, you think more strategically. When you consider that dynamic, so how the Soviet Union dealt with us, they tried to win every day, and it didn’t work for them. So we step back and consider what’s going on, you have to set a pace to build margin and to compete that is sustainable.

Airman Magazine: What does the Global Strike Command of 2030 look like?

Gen. Tim Ray: The command in 2030 understands readiness and capacity as an ecosystem. How we tend to look at it these days is fairly numerical. And as you begin to modernize and change you have to think about it as an ecosystem. You have to think about the rate at which you can bring new technology on. You have to think about it in the rate at which you can keep it relevant for the conflict ahead of you, and put those capabilities in on time. You have to understand the training requirements, and the manpower.

So we’re standing up our innovative hub that’s connected to AFWERX—StrikeWerx. We’ve got great connections with academia here locally, and then building that more broadly. So that innovative space, that data, that ecosystem approach, means that I think we can be much more capable of keeping that margin in play, and doing it as affordably as we possibly can. So that piece, that’s an important part of just the organize, train, and equip.

We’re absolutely tying ourselves to space in a very formal way because that’s a big part of how we’re going to operate. Multi-domain command and control, multi-domain operations, means many sensors, many shooters. And to be able to connect them all together, I tell you, if you’re serious about long-range strike, you’re very serious about multi-domain operations, because that’s how we’re going to do this. And so it’s a big part of who we are.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during a developmental test at 12:33 a.m. Pacific Time Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Clayton Wear)

Airman Magazine: How important is it to develop and adopt simulation training technologies that are compatible across the command and that are scalable to an Air Force level?

Gen. Tim Ray: Starting locally at each of the wings, we’re beginning our own efforts to use augmented and virtual reality. It’s already in play in a couple of our wings. Certainly I see the ability to bring artificial intelligence into that, to make sure that we’re doing really smart stuff. We can measure human performance now more accurately, and so you can compare that to a standard.

I’m a huge fan of simulation. There’s a lot of things you can do, but there’s also some real-world things that you’ve got to do. So you’ve got to keep those two things in balance. Not one before the other, but really it’s about putting them together correctly to give you the best trained Airmen, and that you’re relevant. I see us continuing to work down that line. I believe that all the new platforms that we’re bringing on with the new helicopter (MH-139 Grey Wolf), certainly the B-21, the new ICBM, and the new cruise missile, all those capabilities I think we have to bake in the virtual reality, augmented reality, dimensions to training, and the maintenance and the support and the operations. I think that’s got to be foundational, because it’s a much more affordable and more effective way to go.

Airman Magazine: General Goldfein said when it comes to the nuclear enterprise, that there might be a great cost to investing in it, but the cost of losing is going to be much higher. Can you expand on that statement?

Gen. Tim Ray: When you think of our nuclear triad, it must be looked at through the lens of the Chinese triad. Which is not big, but it’s a triad and modernized. The Russian triad which is large and modernized. Then, look at our triad through the minds of our allies and partners. That’s the context. And we don’t get to pick our own context. We don’t get to pick how we want to manage that. That’s the reality of how this operates.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

Airmen from the 90th Missile Maintenance Squadron prepare a reentry system for removal from a launch facility, Feb. 2, 2018, in the F. E. Warren Air Force Base missile complex. The 90th MMXS is the only squadron on F. E. Warren allowed to transport warheads from the missile complex back to base. Missile maintenance teams perform periodic maintenance to maintain the on-alert status for launch facilities, ensuring the success of the nuclear deterrence mission.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Braydon Williams)

Airman Magazine: How important is our commitment to our allies in this fight?

Gen. Tim Ray: What you’ll find is that, whatever happens in the nuclear realm, will need to play out in the capitals of all of our allies. What it is and what it isn’t, what it means and what it doesn’t mean. Because there are countries out there who are, on a routine basis, asking themselves whether they need to build a nuclear program. And because we’re doing what we do, the answer to that is no, they don’t have to. So there is a counter-proliferation dimension here. Back in the Cold War there was the United States, there was the UK, the French, and the Russians. Now there’s India, Pakistan, you’ve got North Korea, and China and so on. You’ve got a very different world. We don’t need more of those. It simply complicates it and makes it more difficult. So it has to play out in our minds, how we intend to stay the course in a way that works. That’s the difficult piece.

Airman Magazine: The Minuteman III was placed in the ground in 1973. As we look at updating those systems, moving toward more integrated, how do you look at the security aspect of that when it comes to the ICBM capability?

Gen. Tim Ray: Security on all dimensions for the nuclear portfolio is so critical. You have to have a very high degree of assurance there. What we’re doing is a priority

You now have a challenge with the old ICBM. When, not if, you need to make a modernization move for a new component, you have a phenomenal integration bill. Right now, we don’t own the technical baseline, which means we have to pay a very high price for that. It was not built to be modular, so now we have to have a lot more detailed engineering, and it’s going to take a lot longer to do that. And it’s less competitive, because there’s only handful of people, maybe one or two places which might even want to take that on.

For the new system, the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent, there’s a different value proposition there. One, it’s modular in design. It’s mature technology. It’s built to be in the ground for a long time. We’re talking about a two-third reduction in the number of convoys, which is a significantly safer world. It’s two thirds fewer openings of the site to do work on it, and to expose it to the outside. You’ll have a more modern communication capability, which means you can design in a much more cyber-resilient capability, and you can look at redundant paths. So I think at the end of the day, the value proposition of being able to make affordable modernization moves or changes to reduce the security challenge, and to bring in that modern technology that you can now work on in a competitive environment, that’s just a much smarter way of doing business.

Airman Magazine: You mentioned the Air Force just acquired a new helicopter which your command will be utilizing. Can you please talk about the acquisition of new technology for your command?

Gen. Tim Ray: There’s a formula for affordability. You need to have mature technology. You have to have stable requirements. You need to own the technical baseline so that you don’t have to pay the prime contractor extra money to go fix it. You need to be modular so that you can make very easy modern modifications without it having to be an entirely new engineering project. So you just have to reengineer that one piece to interface with it all. Then you’ve got to get it on the ramp on time, and then begin your modernization plan. That’s the formula. That’s exactly how the new helicopter played out in a competitive environment. It was the best option. I think we’re going to find it’s going to meet our needs quite well. That’s going to be a tremendous help, and I think it’s going to go faster than fielding a brand new system. So we’re modifying something that has the capacity to be modified. I think it’s a great, great success story.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

The MH-139A Grey Wolf lands at Duke Field, Fla., Dec. 19, 2019, before its unveiling and naming ceremony. The aircraft is set to replace the Air Force’s fleet of UH-1N Huey aircraft and has capability improvements related to speed, range, endurance and payload.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

Airman Magazine: The Air Force has the great responsibility of being entrusted with the most powerful weapons on the planet. What’s your view in being part of such a huge responsibility?

Gen. Timothy Ray: It is a tremendous responsibility to be in charge of two thirds … On a day to day basis, to be in charge of two thirds of the country’s nuclear arsenal, while there may be some instability, the world without these particular capabilities would be very different. I believe it’s important for us to look at it beyond simply day to day stewardship. If you really think about it, it’s not just the global strike portfolio, or the Air Force portfolio, or even the DoD, the Department of Defense, this is the nation’s arsenal. And the nation’s arsenal, and our leadership role in the world, and the role we play, there’s a tremendous application across the planet. So that just underscores how important it is on a day to day basis.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

11 most sophisticated scams you should watch out for

As the internet continues to expand into every aspect of society, online scams are only growing in sophistication.

From phishing schemes to fake ticket vendors, online scams prey on different facets that drive us, like sympathy, fear, and greed.

What online scams all have in common is that they prey on their audiences’ naïveté and ignorance.

Some of the most elaborate scams are circulating the corners of the internet right now, from the front page of YouTube to right in your inbox.

Here are some of the most sophisticated online scams on the internet.


1. Phishing has major consequences for the victims.

One of the most widespread online scams is phishing. In 2016, depending who you ask, phishing at most derailed Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid, and at the least, revealed her campaign manager’s delightful recipe for creamy risotto.

Phishing, when successful, tricks the user into unwittingly handing over their passwords to the scammer, often through professional-looking emails purporting to be from trustworthy businesses. The endgame is generally acquisition of personal information, like credit card and social security numbers.

According to the Anti-Phishing Working Group, nearly 100,000 attempts of phishing are reported each month worldwide.

Recently, phishing has been weaponized to varying degrees of sophistication with a key technique: impersonation.

The trick was enough to convince one employee at Gimlet Media, which runs the everything-internet podcast “Reply All,” to open an email from his “coworker.” Except the sender was not his coworker, but a hacker attempting a work-sanctioned phishing test on the company’s employees.

Familiarity fraud is an online tactic people have to be especially wary of on social media, where friends’ pictures and handles are rife for imitation. Duplicate accounts fish for personal information under the guise of intimacy.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

2. The Nigerian prince scam is one of the oldest on the internet.

The Nigerian prince scam is one of the oldest scams on the internet.

The scam rose to prominence in the 1990s, and is referred to by the FBI as “Nigerian Letter” or “419” fraud.

The premise is simple: You get an email, and within the message, a Nigerian prince (or investor, or government official) offers you an opportunity for lucrative financial gain.

The catch? Pay a small portion of the amount up front, or hand over bank account information and other identifying information so that the transfer can be made. Of course, you lose that “seed money,” never receiving a dime in return.

According to a 2018 Wired article, the conspiracy has risen in sophistication, netting millions in scam money and minor celebrity status for the Nigerian email schemers who commit the fraud.

“It’s malware and phishing combined with clever social engineering and account takeovers,” James Bettke, a counter threat unit researcher at the security firm Secureworks, told Wired reporter Lily Hay Newman in 2018.

“They’re not very technically sophisticated, they can’t code, they don’t do a lot of automation,” he added. “But their strengths are social engineering and creating agile scams. They spend months sifting through inboxes. They’re quiet and methodical.”

3. Ticket fraud leads to consumers buying fake sports and music tickets.

Another popular online scam is ticket fraud, in which consumers are tricked into buying fake tickets for sporting events, concerts, and other events.

Scammers usually target high-profile events that are likely to sell out so they can take advantage of increased demand. Often, the tickets they send customers have forged bar codes or are duplicate copies of legitimate tickets. Other times, consumers won’t receive any ticket at all after they pay up.

More than 10% of millennials have been victims of ticket fraud, and the Better Business Bureau recommends customers take several precautions before buying tickets online.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

4. Some people have been messaged by celebrity impersonators.

A variation on the phishing game is when online scammers masquerade as celebrities and influencers.

In January 2019, YouTube star Philip DeFranco had to warn his 6 million-plus subscribers of one such scam.

“If you have gotten a message from me or any other creator on YouTube that looks something like this, that is very likely someone trying to scam you,” DeFranco said in a video posted to his channel.

The faux DeFranco slid into targets’ Youtube messages, promising “gifts” via the click of a hyperlink. The scammer’s real endgame: identity theft for financial gain through a classic online phishing scheme.

More than 150 YouTube users on the community page said they fell for the ploy.

“We’re aware and in the process of implementing additional measures to fight impersonation,” a YouTube employee wrote in response to complaints of scam. “In the meantime, we’ve removed accounts identified as spam.”

The company also said users could block any account spamming them and that the perpetrating channels can be reported through its reporting tool.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

A promotional video for Fyre Festival.

(Scribd/NickBilton)

5. Other times, people feel scammed by the real influencers.

It’s one thing to be duped by an imaginary celebrity. But there’s also a trend of feeling swindled by the IRL influencers.

One viral Twitter thread accused Instagram influencer Caroline Calloway of using her online image to scam attendees out of 5 to attend her “creativity workshop.”

And angry mobs incensed by the fiasco that was Fyre Festival — an event so botched it warranted not one, but two documentaries — directed much of their ire at the event’s celebrity influencers.

The defrauded cited a lack of transparency as to what the influencers were paid to hawk the festival to their millions of followers online, although not everyone agreed they deserved the blame to begin with.

6. But sometimes the influencers themselves can get scammed.

One variety of online grift victimizes the influencers themselves with identity-fraud tactics common to phishing.

Earlier this year, a scammer posing as entrepreneur and investor Wendi Murdoch used email handles and other techniques so convincing, social media stars were tricked into buying their own flights to Indonesia and paying for fake photography permits as part of the scam.

The victims, influencers and travel photographers among them, got bilked out of thousands of dollars in the process.

The FBI and New York Police Department opened investigations into the scam in 2018, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Also assisting is the corporate investigations firm K2 Intelligence, which tracked the scam’s pivot from celebrities to influencers.

“For a long time, they were going after people in Hollywood. [Now, they’re] routinely targeting influencers — Instagram stars, travel photographers, people who do stuff that involves them travelling all over the world,” Nicoletta Kotsianas, a director at K2 Intelligence, told INSIDER in January.

“It’s about convincing some people that there’s someone else, and manipulating them, being into that, and world-building around the whole thing,” she added. “They’re making some money off it, but it’s really about the ride along the way.”

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

A screenshot shows a WannaCry ransomware demand, provided by cyber security firm Symantec.

7. Ransomware held a whole city hostage in 2018.

Some of the most insidious online scams involve ransomware.

In a ransomware attack, hackers install malware onto a computer or system of computers that restricts a victim’s access to their files. Payment, often in the form of bitcoin, is demanded to undo it.

Atlanta’s government was hobbled by a ransomware attack in 2018, and wound up costing the city more than .6 million to recover from, according to a Wired report.

The hackers behind the scheme “deliberately engaged in an extreme form of 21st-century digital blackmail, attacking and extorting vulnerable victims like hospitals and schools, victims they knew would be willing and able to pay,” Brian Benczkowski, the head of the criminal division of the Justice Department, said in November.

It’s no wonder the menacing form of attack has made it into a “Grey’s Anatomy” plotline.

8. Fake ransomware traps can be equally damaging.

At their worst, ransomware scams exploit the victim’s sense of security and privacy.

And in one terrifying variation, attackers claim via email to have hacked a webcam while the target watched porn.

The cam-hacking claim, which is bolstered by parroting the user’s password in the email, is means for blackmail: Send us bitcoin, or we send all your contacts the footage.

The reality? Pure manipulation. The scammers don’t have dossiers of footage. They never even hacked you. How? Because the password they flaunted wasn’t hacked, but harvested, gleaned from publicly available databases of leaked passwords and emails.

So there’s no need to cover your laptop’s camera. For now.

9. GoFundMe fake-outs take advantage of people’s generosity.

Another thriving online grift is the GoFundMe sob story fake-out.

One notable example came in a feel-good story from 2017 about a couple raising 0,000 for a homeless veteran who had lent them his last . As prosecutors discovered, the trio had concocted the entire story, and not only do they face a mix of federal and state charges, but GoFundMe refunded the donations of all 14,000 contributors.

Another example of strategic storytelling in the art of crowdsourced scamming: A black college student who raised money from Republicans on GoFundMe after claiming her parents disowned her for supporting Trump.

The narrative was suspiciously convenient — because it was a hoax. Although she quickly returned the money she raised, she also exposed how easily you can take advantage of people’s generosity.

10. Pump-and-dump schemes can artificially inflate the value of a currency.

Cryptocurrency is often the form of payment in online scams, but in one scheme, the crypto itself is the fraud.

Investment schemes were always destined to flourish online. By using the web to mass target would-be investors, a schemer can commit the Securities and Exchange Commission no-no of artificially “pumping” up the value of stock to the masses in order to then “dump” the stock on a falsely inflated return.

According to The Outline, thousands of people gather online on apps like Discord and scheme to pump and dump cryptocurrencies (known as “s—coins” and “scamcoins” to those duped by the ploy):

“[The] ethos is simple: Buy low, sell high. The implication is that investors outside the pump group will see the rapidly rising price and rush to buy in, anxious not to miss the next Bitcoin-style gold rush,” Paris Martineau of The Outline wrote.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

Ethereum cofounder Vitalik Buterin.

11. And fake news can fuel the problem.

The online manipulation gets even weirder. According to Buzzfeed, spreading fake news online is one of the “pump” tactics used by scammers to pilfer naive fawns in the highly unregulated forest that is cryptocurrency.

“There are frankly a lot of groups that have now centered around misinformation,” Laz Alberto, a cryptocurrency investor and editor of the newsletter Blockchain Report, told BuzzFeed reporters Ryan Mac and Jane Lytvynenko in 2018. “It’s obviously illegal, but there’s no regulation and they’ve gotten away with it.”

A cryptocurrency founder was even himself the target of a fake news hoax in 2017, when news spread that Vitalik Buterin, cofounder of the cryptocurrency Ethereum, had died in a car crash.

The fake reports of Buterin’s death caused Ethereum’s valuation to plummet in the market — and later rebound — when the very-much-alive Buterin debunked the rumor himself.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what it’s like to visit America’s Gold Star Families

In 2018, Navy veteran Anthony Price burned through more than 450 gallons of gasoline and three sets of tires. He spent more than 700 miles in the rain, many days in temperatures above 100 degrees, and at least one day in the snow. He did all of it to honor the families who lost a loved one to America’s wars. And he’s going to do it again in 2019, as he has for the past six years.


15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

The Gold Star Ride of a lifetime.

Price began his ride for Gold Star families in 2013 as a means of calling attention to those families and saying thank you in his own way. Since then, he has been to more than 44 states, enduring extreme temperatures and conditions just to ensure the families of fallen service members are taken care of. As the Gold Star Ride website says, “We ride because they died… We do the work that our fallen heroes would do if they hadn’t fallen for all our freedom.”

Soon the Minnesota-based Price and his fellow riders were a full-fledged nonprofit, dedicated to the mission of helping those in need. Gold Star Riders actively support, comfort, and provide education benefits to Gold Star Families throughout the United States directly with personal visits via motorcycle. They also vow to partner with any group who actively helps these Gold Star families.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

Price literally even wrote the book on the subject, “Yours, Very Sincerely and Respectfully.” the story of their 2018 ride, which covered 18,000 miles over 58 days, visiting 64 families of fallen troops. The proceeds of which go toward the Gold Star Ride Foundation.

“The families themselves are not looking for any stardom or any fame or any glory,” Price says. “They’re just looking for someone to remember, to remember a huge sacrifice.”

The title of Price’s book is a reference to Abraham Lincoln’s “Bixby Letter,” a letter the 16th President penned to Mrs. Lydia Bixby, a widow believed to have lost five sons during the Civil War. In it, the President is said to have written his regret at her loss and his attempt to console her by reminding the mother of the Republic they died to save. He ends the letter with “Yours, Very Sincerely and Respectfully.”

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

Price in an interview with a Fox affiliate.

The letter is an apt reference, as Price describes on commercial producer Jordan Brady’s Respect the Process” Podcast. Price mentions that he would talk to twenty or so people a day, on average, for two months straight. He found that 19 of those 20 didn’t know what a Gold Star Family was. In one case, even a Gold Star Family did not realize they were a Gold Star Family.

To be clear, a Gold Star Family member is the immediate family of any military member who lost their life in military service – mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, wives, and children.

“One of the reasons we do this is because no one else was doing it,” says Price. “Every once in a while I hear someone say ‘you’re adding an element that makes [the loss] a little more palatable… the work you’re doing is helping me make sense of the tragedy I have to go through.'”

MIGHTY CULTURE

DARPA wants AI to dogfight, but not for reasons you think

The futurists over at DARPA are pursuing a vision that most of us knew was coming: creating artificial intelligence that can outperform human pilots in dogfights, can survive more Gs in flight without expensive life support, and can be mass produced. But it turns out, DARPA doesn’t think dogfights are the real reason the technology is needed.


DARPA is working “mosaic warfare,” a vision of warfighting that sees complex systems working together to overcome an adversary. Basically, a military force would be deployed across a wide front, but the sensors and command and control would be split across multiple platforms, many of them controlled by artificial intelligence.

So, even if the enemy manages to take out multiple armored vehicles, planes, or other platforms, the good guys would still have plenty of sensors and computing power.

And those remaining platforms would be lethal. The humans making the decisions would be in tanks or other vehicles, and they would have their own weapons as well as control of the dozens of weapons on the AI-controlled vehicles. Think multiple armored vehicles, a couple of artillery platforms, and maybe some drones in the sky.

In this vision of the future, it’s easy to see why dogfighting drones would be valuable. Human pilots could stay relatively safe to the rear while commanding the weapons of those robot dogfighters at the front. But the real reason DARPA wants the robots to be good at dogfighting is just so human pilots will accept them.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

A DARPA graphic illustrates how manned and unmanned systems could work together in fighter engagements.

(DARPA)

From a DARPA release titled Training AI to Win a Dogfight:

Turning aerial dogfighting over to AI is less about dogfighting, which should be rare in the future, and more about giving pilots the confidence that AI and automation can handle a high-end fight. As soon as new human fighter pilots learn to take-off, navigate, and land, they are taught aerial combat maneuvers. Contrary to popular belief, new fighter pilots learn to dogfight because it represents a crucible where pilot performance and trust can be refined. To accelerate the transformation of pilots from aircraft operators to mission battle commanders — who can entrust dynamic air combat tasks to unmanned, semi-autonomous airborne assets from the cockpit — the AI must first prove it can handle the basics.

Basically, DARPA doesn’t want robot dogfighters so they can win dogfights. After all, dogfighting is relatively rare now, and it doesn’t matter much if we lose one or two robots in dogfights because they’re cheap to replace anyway. But DARPA knows that pilots trust good dogfighters, so an AI that would be accepted by them must be good at dogfighting.

Once they’re in frontline units, the robots are more likely to act as missile carriers and sensor platforms than true dogfighters. Their mission will be to hunt down threats on the ground and in the sky and, at a command from the human, destroy them. It’s likely that the destruction will be conducted from beyond visual range and with little threat to the robot or the human pilot that it’s protecting.

This may sound like far future stuff, but it’s likely DARPA will find solid proposals fast. They’re soliciting proposals through May 17, but University of Cincinnati students created an AI named ALPHA in 2016 that repeatedly defeated a retired Air Force colonel in simulated dogfights. If that AI and similar tech can be properly adapted to work in current or future fighter aircraft, then we’ll be off to the races.

MIGHTY CULTURE

One Year In: The Elegant and Ugly Truth Behind Space Force

“I said maybe we need a new force,

we’ll call it the Space Force,

and I was, not really serious, 

and then I said, ‘What a great idea,

maybe we’ll have to do that.’”

– excerpt from a speech by President Donald Trump, March 2018

Stop me if you’ve heard this one. Five military veterans walk into a bar. A Soldier, a Sailor, a Marine, a Coast Guardsman, and an Airman. They all order a drink. The Soldier orders a German beer, raises his stein, and says, “Prost.” The Sailor orders a shot of rum, raises his shot glass, and says, “Fair winds.” The Marine orders a tequila, salts his thumb, and says, “Semper.” The Airman orders a blue ice bomb, elevates his plastic cup, and says, “Aim high.” The Coast Guardsman orders a dark and stormy, clinks glasses, and says, “Down the hatch.” A sixth veteran arrives, a Space Guardian, and the Airman buys him a shot of Jim Beam bourbon whisky. The Space guy raises his glasses and says to the others, “Beam me up.” 

Get it? It’s a bad joke that I just made up. It was ill-conceived, poorly timed, and expensive in terms of the time it took me to think it up. It was just a dumb idea. These are all adjectives that the new Space Force has been called as well. Ill-conceived, prematurely timed, created at the expense of more important priorities. A dumb idea. A bad joke. Absurd. Another in a series of punchlines that critics of the current administration feel have pockmarked the last four years. In a year that’s been hard to laugh at, a lot of “humor” has derived from making fun of the administration. Here’s something more lighthearted: The late 2000s gave rise to the popular trend known as “gender reveal parties.” Those being the touchy 2000s, these parties couldn’t avoid being the subject of controversy. Critics argued that it’s the baby’s sex, not gender, that is being revealed. Gender is a social construct, not tied to biological characteristics. After a pyrotechnic device at a gender reveal party in Yucaipa, CA started the El Dorado Fire in September, the fad has thankfully faded. Not because it is said to heavily reinforce stereotypical gender roles, but because it’s just plain dumb.

On June 18, 2018, the Space Force, still a fetus, was given, what could be called, its gender reveal party. On that day, President Donald Trump spoke in front of the National Space Council. “My administration is reclaiming America’s heritage as the world’s greatest space-faring nation…our destiny, beyond the Earth, is not only a matter of national identity, but a matter of national security.”

Three months earlier, on March 13, the day before Stephen Hawking died, the president teased the military’s sixth child at a speech aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. “My new national strategy for space recognizes that space is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air, and sea.”

At the National Space Council meeting in June, he continued, “When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space.” Remember that line; a lot of press did. Then came the reveal: “I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces… We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force — separate but equal.” Addressing the chairman of the Joint Chiefs he said, “General Dunford, if you would carry that assignment out.” Marine General Dunford replied, “We got it.”

No fires were started with the president’s reveal that day in March 2018. Unless you count the one started in the press, or all the laptop fires started by bloggers, writers of various online magazines and publications, columnists, journalists, amateur or professional, Twitter users, and internet trolls, as they furiously pounded keyboards, drumming up mocking headlines, retorts, and rebuttals that called into question the declaration’s timing, sanity, legality, and everything in between.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life
U.S. Space Command commander Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond and Senior Enlisted Advisor Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman present President Donald J. Trump with the Space Force flag in the Oval Office of the White House, May 15, 2020.

Jokers Gonna Joke

Do an online search for the words “space” and “force” and the first result is www.spaceforce.mil. Then the official Space Force Wikipedia page, and third, Space Force, a new TV series The Office creator Greg Daniels and actor Steve Carell. The collaboration, ordered by Netflix, capitalized on the president’s June 2018 announcement, which must have been catnip to comedy writers. The show was announced on January 19, 2019, seven months later. In the show’s promotion, the words from an August 2019 speech by Vice President Pence are used: The Space Force’s mission is to “defend satellites from attack and perform other space-related tasks… or something.” The “or something” was their clever and completely groundbreaking addition.

In a review of the show by Sophie Gilbert for The Atlantic, Gilbert seems to have made a judgment on the merit of the Space Force (the military branch, not the show) without having done any real digging:

“The show was supposedly dreamed up a few years ago when President Donald Trump announced the founding of a sixth, extraterrestrial branch of the armed forces, a project so absurd that most people just carried on living their lives without really processing that it was real — barring occasional reminders in the form of Star Trek badges and Scientology-vague recruiting ads. A grandiose, totally unnecessary, obscenely expensive militaristic monument to one man’s porcelain-dainty ego!”

Why is it so absurd, grandiose, totally unnecessary, obscenely expensive, and a militaristic monument to one man’s porcelain-dainty ego? We’ll never know because she doesn’t back up any of those claims with facts. She just provides some links to affiliated content and the Space Force’s recruiting video on YouTube. Comparing it to Scientology is like comparing a Marine Corps recruiting video to the NXIVM cult because Marines sometimes get eagle, globe, and anchor or USMC brandings and tattoos. Her journalism in this regard is emblematic of the epidemic that has plagued supposedly objective journalism in the past few years. Feelings have taken the place of facts and unconscious bias has been replaced by an angry and very conscious one. To weigh the idea of the Space Force on its own, apart from the president, would be too much and risk the possibility that not all things he says are bad, a thought that would send some writers, reporters, and journalists into a catatonic state.

On September 18, 2018, three months to the date after the president’s announcement, Stephen Colbert yukked it up on his late show with guest Neil deGrasse Tyson. Colbert simply invoked the words “space force,” twisted his mouth into a wry grin, and looked into the camera. He was validated by the audience with a mixture of equal parts incredulous laughter and contemptuous cackles. It has since become a worn-out comedy shtick, a crutch for comedians with little else to offer but to say what the audience wants to hear. Speak the name of the president or one of his “crackpot ideas” and win the crowd, their clapping, and laughter, or clappter,” offered up in agreement, not as a response to anything said being funny, clever, or original.

“People make fun of it, I among them,” Colbert went on. “I like space exploration, I’m excited about us conquering space scientifically and through knowledge. Why do we need the Space Force?” The audience, satisfied with another skewering of the president, lapped it up.

“Just ‘cuz it came out of Trump’s mouth, doesn’t require that it then be a crazy thing,” responded Tyson. More chuckles in the crowd. The implication – that everything the president says and does is a hair-brained scheme of some sort – tickled all the pleasurable nerve endings in their high blood sugar bodies.

“It don’t help,” Colbert replied drily, and the audience’s clappter crescendoed. Colbert beamed, then got down to business. “But why do we need a Space Force?”

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life
Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, United States Space Force Chief of Space Operations, addresses basic military graduates Dec. 10, 2020, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Seven members of the graduating class are the first Space Force trainees to graduate. The number of Space Force trainees will continue to increase over time as processes for recruiting and training are solidified. Approximately 312 Space Force accessions will graduate from BMT this fiscal year. Currently, all Space Force accessions will become Space Systems Operations specialists. (U.S. Air Force photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)

More Than an Absurd Idea

It’s a question necessary to answer if we’re ever to get past the ignorance and idiocy of such lowbrow comedy shows like the Colbert-created Our Cartoon President and a thousand other virtually identical satires with identical premises that have capitalized on the prevailing sentiment of the last four years: orange man equals bad.

While Chinese and Russian space operations have been cited by the president and backers of the Space Force as a rationale for the move, countries aligned against the West are not the only reason. Like the other warfare domains – land, air, sea, and cyberspace – America continuously strives to achieve and maintain dominance. Space, now recognized as a crucial and contested domain, is no different. The creation of the Space Force is not a publicity stunt, it is not a calculated move for political gain or Emperor Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burns, it’s more than fodder for late show monologue jokes or, apparently, even a good premise for a Netflix comedy series. (Ms. Gilbert did not give the show a favorable review). It is the evolution of the military-space relationship long in the making.

It might help critics if they understood the difference between going to space in order to arm it, and arming space because we are, inevitably, driven into it. And we’re not alone in our aspirations. Anti-west sentiment doesn’t end in space. The opposition has decried the Space Force as a continuation of Reagan-era rhetoric, saying it hurls war into space like Red Bull Flugtag where competitors launch homemade flying machines off a pier into the water for no other reason than to excite the audience with a fun, slightly dangerous spectacle. But is that really the case, or is that just the lazy observation to make when one disagrees with a president and his administration?

The word “spacepower” is not in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary. Neither is the word “warfighting.” Like the Space Force itself, spacepower is newly minted. On August 10, nearly eight months after the birth of the Space Force, the same time when infants transition from rocking on their bellies to crawling, the Space Force published its doctrine titled Space Capstone Publication, Spacepower (SCP). Dedicated to past, present, and future spacepower pioneers, the Space Capstone Publication sheds light on and provides clues to several of the questions critics have been asking.

The 60-page document, with a foreword penned by General John W. Raymond, Chief of Space Operations, begins with a preface and a quote from the 35th president of the United States, John F. Kennedy: “The eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace.”

The quote is echoed in the first guiding principle for military spacepower, which calls for a “peaceful, secure, stable, and accessible space domain.” Let us not forget that oft-cited Roman general Vegetius quote, “Si vis pacem, para bellum.” (If you want peace, prepare for war). China certainly has not, neither has Russia. Aerospace experts and legislators in Congress, notably Representative Jim Cooper (D-TN) and the chairman of the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces Representative Mike Rogers (R-AL) have said the Air Force needed an immediate congressional push to match the “potentially threatening progress from China and Russia.”

“One thing we can all agree on is that space superiority for our nation is critical, so we appreciate the attention the issue is getting right now,” said an Air Force spokesman.

Like Vegetius witnessing the deterioration of the Roman army’s quality, Mr. Cooper cited “eroding dominance” in U.S. satellite and related technology in comparison to China and Russia. Both countries are developing anti-satellite weapons that could threaten U.S. satellites. This concern is a real one, say Defense Department officials and aerospace experts. In June 2018, shortly after the president’s announcement, the New York Times reported that in February, “a U.S. intelligence threat assessment warned that Russia and China would be able to shoot down American satellites in two to three years, potentially endangering GPS satellites as well as military and civilian communications satellites and the country’s spy satellites.” China made history on January 3, 2019, by achieving the first attempt at and successful landing of an unmanned robotic spacecraft on the “dark side” of the moon, which is never visible from Earth.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life
In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, recovery crew members film the capsule of the Chang’e 5 probe after it successfully landed in Siziwang district, north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. A Chinese lunar capsule returned to Earth on Thursday with the first fresh samples of rock and debris from the moon in more than 40 years. (Ren Junchuan/Xinhua via AP)

Where Space Force and Global Security Collide

The U.S. military is reliant on space. From satellites that “help guide aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf, drones in the skies above Yemen and fighter jets over Syria, to American ground troops on patrol in Afghanistan using GPS coordinates to track their movements, and intelligence officers at C.I.A. headquarters depending on spy satellites to gather information on adversaries.”

The Air Force itself was also highlighted as a reason America needs a “separate but equal” Space Force. Representatives Cooper and Rogers argue that the Air Force does not pay enough attention to outer space. Other critics of the Air Force say that it will never make space its top priority when it also has pilots and warplanes to worry about.

“We keep buying these big expensive satellites that are juicy targets for our adversaries,” said Todd Harrison, the director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Meanwhile, our existing space forces are fragmented across our military.”

“Over the years, the Air Force has used space programs as a money pot to reach into and subsidize air-dominance programs when they feel like Congress hasn’t given them enough for tankers, fighter jets, whatever,” Representative Rogers said. “Congress has not given any of the services enough, but that doesn’t mean you starve to death one of your subordinate missions.”

U.S. military officials have acknowledged that America’s adversaries have caught up to it in space. But classified reports paint an even more troubling picture, the lawmakers said. Rogers called the over-classification of such information “disturbing.”

“There would be a hew and cry in the American public to fix this situation if they knew how bad things were and what we’ve allowed Russia and China to do,” he added.

Brian Weeden, the director of program planning at the Secure World Foundation, a nongovernmental organization that studies space policy, emphasized the military’s reliance on space assets. “Take drones, for instance. Their signals are routed over satellites. Data is routed over satellites. Intelligence satellites do the B.D.A. [battle damage assessments] after strikes.” Mr. Weeden continued, “In the early 1990s, after the fall of the Soviet Union, the American military exercised restraint on anti-satellite weaponry.” But other leading powers did not follow in America’s footsteps, and Russia and China “have not decided to exercise the same restraint.” As those countries continue to develop ways to disable American satellites, they could interfere with U.S. communications in potential future conflicts.

For the past two decades, it seems the main arguments against creating a Space Force have been money and bureaucracy. In 2017, White House, Pentagon, and Air Force leaders pushed back on a proposal from the House Armed Services Committee to create a “Space Corps” (its name chosen to reflect that it would be what the Marine Corps is to the Navy). They argued that it would add unneeded bureaucracy. Despite Rep. Rogers’s championing efforts in Congress, the provision faced opposition in the Senate, and the 2018 defense policy law forbade the creation of such an organization.

However, the law did give Air Force Space Command “authority over space acquisitions, resource management, requirements, warfighting, and personnel development — viewed as a start for the potential creation of a Space Corps in the future.” And it required that an independent organization develop a roadmap to start a separate military department to encompass “national security space.” To the charge that the Space Force would “create unnecessary bureaucratic responsibilities for a military already burdened by conflicts,” the SCP states that it embodies the Department of the Air Force’s continued commitment to “establishing the Space Force in a manner that minimizes cost and bureaucracy and maximizes focus on space doctrine, training, and capability.” 

Public opposition to the Space Force has included grievances over the needless militarization of space, specifically citing the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, some going so far as to claim that the Space Force is a blatant violation. There’s been a resurgence in popularity in the public space for citing this treaty, seemingly without actually giving it a close read. The treaty provides a basic framework for international space law. Some have written that 90 countries signed the treaty, others say 106 countries. Wikipedia states that as of June 2020, 110 countries are parties to the treaty, while another 23 have signed but have not completed ratification. Signatory countries are barred from “placing weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, biological, and chemical) in Earth orbit, installing them on the Moon or other celestial body, or otherwise stationing them in outer space.” Of course, this can all become subject to interpretation, and orbiting space debris and satellite disabling technology likely do not qualify as weapons of mass destruction, nor conventional weapons, such as ballistic missiles. Generally speaking, the treaty is meant to control arms in space and maintain the peaceful, shared use of outer space. But the militarization or weaponization of space is not prohibited. Article IX, however, states:

“A State Party to the Treaty which has reason to believe that an activity or experiment planned by another State Party in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, would cause potentially harmful interference with activities in the peaceful exploration and use of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, may request consultation concerning the activity or experiment.”

And according to the Space Force’s Space Capstone Publication, “In keeping with international law, the United States acknowledges that the use of space is for peaceful purposes while preparing for the reality that space must be defended from those who will seek to undermine our goals in space.”

This is Part I of a multi-part series on the United States Space Force. Part II will publish tomorrow. 

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

GySgt Danny Draher: From New York to Force Recon, from Marine Raider to family man

UAP is excited to share this exclusive interview featuring GySgt Danny Draher – a seasoned former Reconnaissance Marine and current Marine Raider with more than eighteen years in the Marine Corps.

When did you join the military and why?

I joined the military right after 9/11. I was going to Borough of Manhattan Community College. Once the towers fell, that school was right there, and they used it as a triage facility. They basically gave us this opportunity to withdraw without penalty. So, I took advantage of that opportunity.

I was kind of playing with the idea of joining the military before that, but then I just figured I’d followed through with it. I signed up in December of 2001, and then I actually went to boot camp in February of 2002.

Why the Marine Corps in particular?

I have Navy in my family, my grandfather was in the Air Force, we had Army, and they all kind of thought I should go the Army route. Bu after having a conversation with my oldest brother, I have two older brothers and I respect their opinions very much, but I just happened to be having this conversation with my older brother while I was kind of playing with the idea of joining and trying to figure out what branch, because I had recruiters from all the branches calling me.

My brother is a pretty wise dude, and he’s always been like that. It’s just kind of like that stereotypical older brother where it’s just like, that’s the guy you go to when you have problems, he helps you sort things out.

And he just said, “if you’re going to jump off a cliff, why not get a running start?” So, you know, take the toughest one you can bear and, you know, make that your home. So, and it was words to that effect. He basically told me to go for the challenge, the most challenging branch, and based on all the stories I’ve ever heard, nobody denies that the Marine Corps has the hardest boot camp and, you know, even beyond that more difficult opportunities.

So that was ingrained in the back of my mind and later I started to learn more about the different jobs and opportunities. So yeah, that was why I chose the Marine Corps.

Draher (right) during a combat deployment.

Is there a particular moment or period in your military career that you’re most proud of?

I’m proud that I had a little bit of diversity in the Marine Corps. I had time in the reserves, I had time in the infantry, time in Force Recon, and Special Operations in general, but I also have a lot of diversity within Special Operations.

I’ve been in all three Marine Raider Battalions and I spent time down in Tampa at SOCOM headquarters, and it really broadened my perspective and understanding how the enterprise works. But what I’m kind of most proud of is my time as an instructor, that was the most fun that I had. The most rewarding time that I had.

It’s kind of like the typical cheesy answer, but I mean, it really is. You’re there and you’re part of this whole entire process and you’re the presentation, right? For, for a lot of guys, I was one of the first special operators that they met from any branch and with that comes a lot of responsibility. And, you know, I learned a lot about myself and I learned a lot about people having that job. It was my opportunity to essentially mold the future generation. And really the only thing that matters once you become a senior guy, once you become seasoned, is the next generation of guys.

You’re the tip of the spear of putting your hands on those guys and leaving an impression and then making them a better product at the end than when they showed up so that they’re major assets for their team.

What specifically were you responsible for teaching?

I taught close quarter battles. I taught marksmanship. I taught breaching, which deals with explosives.

Is there a particular military school that you feel was the most difficult to pass?

I went into a lot of schools with my mind made up that that’s what I was going to become. Whatever it was I was going to get out of that school. I’ve gone to a lot of academically demanding courses and a lot of physically demanding courses. I think that the most defining course was the Amphibious Reconnaissance School (ARS).

There’s no doubt about it that place is etched in history – Marine Corps history – and, you know, just to be there was an honor and a privilege. So, there was no way I was going to come back without being a Recon Marine. I just tried to have my mind made up that I was going to go to those schools, and I was going to be successful.

As a student, I wanted it to come out better than I went in. So, I can be the best Reconnaissance Marine, Raider, diver, jumper, whatever the skillset was – I wanted to add value to the team. I really wanted to go there and hone whatever those skills were just for the greater good.

ARS was a very interesting school and I mean; it was every single day you had to show up with your game-face on otherwise you would kind of get left behind and you probably weren’t gonna make it.

Were you a good swimmer from the start, or did you have to learn to be proficient in the water?

Well, coming into the Marine Corps, no. Coming into Amphibious Reconnaissance School, I was well-prepared. My RIP (Recon Indoctrination Program) instructor asked me if I’d been on a swim team, but I was never on a swim team or in the pool doing anything that was physically demanding until I learned exactly what reconnaissance was.

I got letters from my cousin in boot camp and he told me that he was a machine gunner. And as soon as he got done with the school of infantry (SOI) and got to his grunt unit, he immediately went to recon.

And then I was like, oh, so there’s something more. So, recon was, you know, playing off what my brother said about doing what was most challenging. I actually took the recon screener when I was in comm school, right after I got done with combat training, and I just showed up.

Once I learned about that unit, I was like okay I’ll just go do that. Kind of like how I just showed up to bootcamp and did that, but once they threw us in the pool, I was like, wait, I’m way out of my element. I’m from a place where it’s the four-foot pool and that’s where we go to basically hang out with the guys and look at the girls.

After I got that experience with the failed screener under my belt and figured it out, then I took, you know, I took that really hard and figured it out and learn how to swim. I learned how to swim by doing a lot of different drills and spending a lot of time speaking with guys who had been there and done that and figuring out what made them successful.

And then I really took that personally and I tried to make that part of my everyday routine. So that kind of changed the way I looked at the water and I never wanted to fail anything again after that. First thing in the morning, I would go to the pool. I would get out of work and go right to the pool. You know, when you want something bad enough, you’ll get it.

After I got that experience with the failed screener under my belt and figured it out, then I took, you know, I took that really hard and figured it out and learn how to swim. I learned how to swim by doing a lot of different drills and spending a lot of time speaking with guys who had been there and done that and figuring out what made them successful.

Draher during an underwater reenlistment ceremony.

What three personality traits are most important for someone interested in joining the special operations community?

There’s a lot of different traits that I think are good to have, but I think the top three would be discipline, perseverance, and integrity. I’d also add in a fourth, which would be that it’s hard for someone coming in to be successful if they don’t have a little bit of flexibility.

Nobody wants to get up first thing in the morning and go to the pool. And then you can get traumatized if you have a bad experience. You could be treading water with a group of guys and all of a sudden, you know, because you are in such close proximity, one person grabs you and drags you down to the bottom. And then you’re trying to swim up and getting kicked in the face by some of these other guys. It takes a lot of discipline that gets back in the pool after that.

But you know what it takes to get to where you want to be, and you have to stay after it. So that’s where discipline comes from, which also kind of leads in the perseverance.

You have to take those different challenges and you have to persevere through them no matter what the outcome could be. You have to kind of fix your mind on what you want it to be, and then persevere through all those odds and all the, you know, the cold weather and being wet and tired. Nobody really cares. You got to find a way to persevere through it. And that trait alone right there has helped me a lot in life even to this day. And I’m sure up until I’m in my death bed, that’s going to be something that I hold dear.

Integrity, I mean, a good friend of mine, he says to do the right things at the right time for the right reasons. To me, having integrity is a lot about being a trustworthy guy. And if you don’t have that integrity, it’s really hard for people to trust you to the left and the right. If you want to be a good team member and you want to be a reliable person, having that integrity is kind of where that starts from.

Flexibility is showing up somewhere and having a packing list, being ready to go and then, after I receive the first brief it turns out that I’m going to need a lot more than they told me to bring. Now I have to improvise all these things. Or I train all the time in pretty ideal conditions because we have a lot of limitations as to what we can do. We can do a lot of realistic training, but there’s always some type of limitations or some type of backstop for safety reasons. And we call this “training-isms”. You take those training-isms into a real-world environment and into combat and you’re going to be disappointed, right? Cause it’s not going to be a hundred percent what you were trying to do.

Ideally, I think, you know, you don’t want to see anything for the first time in a real-life scenario. You want to be exposed to those things in training, but you may not have that opportunity. I’ve been fortunate enough over the course of my career to have some pretty good training opportunities that have translated into a lot of things that I’ve done for real.

There’s no such thing as a two-way range in the training area. But you only find that when you go overseas and the next thing you know, you’re looking at somebody’s muzzle flashes. It’s a very different experience. There are not many ways to prepare for that outside of actually being there. So, you have to stay flexible and when you encounter something new, you have got to be a problem solver and work through it.

What advice would you give a young person that’s interested in joining the military?

You know, in all honesty, my experiences have just equated to my ability to maintain an open mind. So, coming in with an open mind. You don’t know what you don’t know and when you join, it’s like in Forrest Gump, life is like a box of chocolates and you never know what you’re gonna get.

I think guys should come in and they should look, you know, just first and foremost to serve your country, but I think they should look to professionalized themselves as much as possible. There’s a lot of benefits that the military offers. Take advantage of it.

You’re going to come in and you’re going to do what the government asked. And they’re gonna ask a lot. It’s a lot to ask a 17 or 18-year-old, or somebody fresh out of college to put their life down for somebody to their left and their right. It may be someone that they didn’t grow up with, that they’re not best friends with, or maybe even somebody that they don’t get along with. But, you know, we’re going to ask that of you when you join. And I think, you know, in return you should seek out every opportunity you can to look for things, to make yourself more marketable when you get out.

And everybody always talks about the intangibles that military members gain throughout the course of their career, whether it’s four years or whether it’s 30 years. I think education benefits is one thing. I also think that guys can take advantage of internships. While they’re in there’s certain training opportunities that they have that can bleed over into the civilian world, you know, I would say, find something that you’d love to do.

And if you don’t find something that you’d love to do, just try and seek it out the whole entire time that you’re in.

Draher (right) during a pause in jump training.

What does your typical workout routine look like?

We always refer to ourselves as a Jack of all trades, master of none. And somebody told me that all that really equates to is not being good at anything. So, I took that to heart and, you know, because I always wanted to try like a little bit of everything.

And I think it’s important to try out a little bit of everything. But the goal overall is being functionally fit. You want to be able to run long distances and be rather comfortable. You’re going to be able to run short distances with weight. You want to be able to move weight. And then you need to adjust that to your environment.

Trying a little bit of everything and finding what you like is good, but don’t stick to any one thing. Try to be well balanced and that’s not just, you know, physically, that’s how you eat. And that’s also your emotional fitness as well. And I mean, you’ve got to have to have the right mindset.

So, you know, watching videos and studying things. It’s another part of fitness that a lot of people don’t talk about. You’ve also got to be your own doctor at times in this community because you gotta be good at medicine. You gotta be a scientist because you gotta understand how to mix all these different explosives together.

You have to be a philosopher. You have to be a historian. You have to be a mathematician. Yeah, there’s a lot of formulas that we have to know when it comes to long range shooting, dealing with mortars, dealing with explosives. So, you gotta have a little bit of all of these skill sets.

Who do you look to as a role model and why?

I really look up to Major Capers. And the reason that I look up to the Major is because I sit with him and I listen to him talk. And for years I I’ve just heard over and over a lot of the same stories and they never get old because from the time he was young, he was determined to do more, and he kept seeking that out.

And that resonates with me because it’s like me telling you why I went to the Marine Corps versus the army, or why I didn’t just stay a comm guy, or why I tried to get to all these different units and why I wanted to get to Force Recon, and eventually we became Raiders – always trying to seek out more.

Not only did Major Capers have a lot of hardships during his service from being a minority – not just because of the color of his skin – but just by the virtue of his job and being the minority who also had all these great qualities just to get from the beginning of something, to the end of something, whether it’s a school, a training evolution or a deployment, but he was able to be great in the military.

And then as he got out and transitioned, he tried to become a great businessman. He tried to be the best husband he could be. He tried to be the best dad he could be. So, you know, just like fitness, right? It’s your physical, mental, emotional fitness as well. For him, he wasn’t just this great Reconnaissance Marine, this great enlisted man, this great officer. He tried to be the very best husband he could be, the very best parent that he could be.

And, you know, as a young guy, I only cared about the unit and cared about the Marine Corps, I only cared about special operations, I only cared about recon. As I grew older, I really started to understand that, you know, those things at one point will become a fraction of your life, a small fraction of your life. Those other things that you do, you have to be investing equally, if not more, and the longer you stay on, the more you should be investing in yourself and in your family, because those people go with you to the grave.

During a very kinetic period of the Marine Corps, I served. There was a long time that I didn’t think I’d make it to 30. Now I’m almost 38 years old. So, I mean, I beat that by eight years. When I sit with him and I talk to him, you know, I think I got the Marine Corps stuff – the military stuff – figured out, but what came slowly to me was understanding family and investing into that. So, I appreciate him. I look up to him. I admire him because he reminds me all the time to hug my wife, to kiss my wife, to hug my kids, to kiss my kids. And I think about that because he doesn’t have that anymore. So, when I come home first thing I do is hug and kiss my wife and I hug and kiss my kids.

When you join, you’re new to the institution, and you’re trying to find your way through, and it can be easy to get lost. But you can learn from your mistakes and you can employ those lessons learned and you can have a better life. You can create more opportunities and a better life for the people around you as well, just by being humble and being open.

Draher with his family at Christmastime.

What is something interesting about you that most people wouldn’t know about?

Well, I used to be a DJ. I started when I was eleven years old and I thought I was going to be a famous one. I actually joined as a communicator in the Marine Corps because I thought that somehow that would tie into my DJ career and help me further my DJ career.

I quickly learned that that wasn’t the case! And I got fully immersed in the whole Marine Corps thing and I kind of let go of the DJ thing.

GySgt Danny Draher was born on June 26, 1983 and raised in New York City, New York. He is married to Destiny Flynn-Draher and they have two beautiful children. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Strategic Studies and Defense Analysis from Norwich University after graduating Summa Cum Laude.

Draher has attended numerous courses including the Multi Mission Parachute Course, as well as various other parachuting courses, Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape, Marine Combatant Diver Course, Dive Supervisor, Special Operations Planners Course, The Senior Instructor Course, Fast Rope Master, Multiple Explosives and Assault Breacher Courses, Multiple Direct Action & Special Reconnaissance Packages, Advanced Special Operations, The Merlin Project, Martial Arts Instructor Course, Sergeants Course, Career Course, Advanced Course, Joint Special Operations University Joint Fundamentals, Enterprise Management, and Enhanced Digital Collection Training.

His personal decorations include the Purple Heart Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Commendation with Valor, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, and the Combat Action Ribbon with one gold star.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

Ace aviation photographer Mr. Liyu Wu shot this remarkable photo of no less than three Airbus Defense A400M Atlas aircraft and three (or is it four?) Pilatus PC-7s of the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) in the same camera frame at the same time during an amazing formation break maneuver. The aircraft seem to be heading in about four different directions. The optic compression of Mr. Wu’s telephoto lens and his perfect timing make the aircraft appear much closer together than they are in horizontal space, but even with this visual effect, the photo and the flying are spectacular.


The photo was posted on Facebook by Mr. Liyu Wu on March 23, 2019 during preparation for the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition 2019 (LIMA 2019) at Mahsuri International Exhibition Centre (MIEC) and the Langkawi International Airport. LIMA 2019 is “the largest show of its kind within the Asia Pacific region” according to the event’s promoters.

The aircraft pictured include three new Airbus Defense A400M Atlas tactical transports of Malaysia’s 22 Squadron from Subang AFB in Malaysia. Malaysia operates only four of the new A400M aircraft, so this photo represents fully three-quarters of their inventory. The three visible Pilatus PC-7 two-seat, single-engine light turboprop training aircraft are operated by 1 FTC training unit from Alor Setar AFB in Malaysia. The RMAF operates a training inventory of 22 Pilatus PC-7s.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

Photographer Liyu Wu.

(Liyu Wu / Facebook)

The Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition 2019 ran from March 29-30 at Langkawi International Airport and is 15 years old. A major international air, defense and maritime exhibition, LIMA 2019 included participants from Australia, Belarus, China, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Russia, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the U.S. according to the event organizers.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Omaha veteran honored by France for WWII service

A World War II veteran who served with the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division in multiple campaigns, including Normandy where he landed on Omaha Beach with the second wave of troops on D-Day, was awarded the French Legion of Honor.

Edward H. “Ed” Morrissette, age 96, was presented the award by France’s Consul General from Chicago, Guillaume Lacroix, during a special ceremony Oct. 30, 2019, at the Omaha Army Reserve Center, surrounded by dozens of family, fellow veterans and distinguished guests.


“It means a lot to be here in Omaha, Nebraska, with you 75 years after you landed on Omaha Beach,” Lacroix said. “Our gratitude, sir, is forever because you changed the destiny of France and the destiny of Europe forever.”

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

Hon. Guillaume Lacroix, Consul General of France in Chicago, shakes the hand of WWII veteran Edward Morrissette after presenting him the French Legion of Honor medal Oct. 30, 2019, at the Omaha Army Reserve Center.

(Photo by Maj. Scott Ingalsbe)

The medal pinned on his jacket, Morrissette walked slowly to the lectern, thanked everyone, and said he accepted the award for others who served and many who never returned home.

“I don’t know that I particularly deserved it, but I know that the men and women of the First Division that landed in Europe deserve it, especially those that are not back with us now,” Morrissette said. “I had some friends that didn’t make it off of that shore, and I miss them terribly. But I want to say one thing: I’m glad that we helped France… got them out from under the heels of Nazi boots.”

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

WWII veteran Edward Morrissette shares thoughts with the audience after receiving the French Legion of Honor in a special ceremony Oct. 30, 2019, at the Omaha Army Reserve Center.

(Photo by Maj. Scott Ingalsbe)

On June 6, 1944, Morrissette was a squad leader in charge of machine gun crews with the 16th Infantry Regiment headquarters. It was his third beach landing, having already landed and fought in North Africa and Sicily.

Speaking with reporters after the award ceremony, he shared a story of what happened as he and his men jumped out of the landing craft just short of French soil.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

A photo of Edward Morrissette is displayed at a ceremony in which he was presented the French Legion of Honor Oct. 30, 2019, at the Omaha Army Reserve Center.

(US Army photo)

“It was difficult for our boat to get into shore, and when it did we jumped out into water up to our chest,” Morrissette said. He and another soldier were carrying a roll of telephone wire above their heads, in addition to their rifles, and as they realized the roll of wire was drawing the aim of enemy gunners they decided to jettison the extra load.

“If they need to communicate, I guess they’ll just have to holler,” Morrissette said, holding his arms above his head and reenacting the struggle to get ashore.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

WWII veteran Edward Morrissette tells a story of jumping out of landing craft into chest deep water off Omaha Beach while carrying a rifle and a roll of telephone wire above his head, speaking to reporters Oct. 30, 2019, at the Omaha Army Reserve Center.

(Photo by Maj. Scott Ingalsbe)

On the beach he found cover behind a concrete block, and eventually crawled the rest of the way to higher ground.

By the time Germany surrendered in May 1945, Morrissette and the Big Red One fought their way through Northern France, the Ardennes, and were headed to Prague.

“This country should be proud of our soldiers,” he said. “They are remarkable people, and they can do remarkable things.”

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

Nebraska Army National Guard Soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division’s Main Command Post – Operational Detachment gather for a photo with Big Red One WWII veteran Edward Morrissette after he received the French Legion of Honor in a special ceremony Oct. 30, 2019, at the Omaha Army Reserve Center.

(US Army photo)

Morrissette was nominated for France’s Legion of Honor by his family. Although the number of medals awarded each year is limited, most American veterans of World War I and II can be inducted. Past American recipients include Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Adm. Michael Mullen.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The winter bucket list for military families

While the weather can be frightful and the days full of hustle, there are so many ways to pause and enjoy this season. Our winter bucket list is geared for you to recharge and rejuvenate in ways you have not done all year.


1. Fresh snow? Make this quick 3-ingredient snow ice cream.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life
15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

(Photo by Bob Ricca)

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life
Giphy
15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

(Photo by Santi Vedrí)

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

(Photo by Lana Abie)

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

(Photo by Josh Felise)

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life
Giphy
15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

(Photo by Marc Ruaix)

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

(Photo by Steve Wiesner)

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

(Photo by Jay Wennington)

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life
Giphy
15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

(Photo by Jake Dela Concepcion)

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

(Photo by Michał Parzuchowski)

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life
Giphy
15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

(Photo by Daniel Bowman)

15. Go on a winter scavenger hunt.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Military leaders talk about diversity in the armed forces

The House Armed Services Committee’s military personnel subcommittee heard testimony from Defense Department personnel chiefs on diversity in recruiting and retention.

Testifying were: Army Lt. Gen. Thomas C. Seamands, deputy chief of staff for personnel; Navy Vice Adm. John B. Nowell Jr., chief of naval personnel; Air Force Lt. Gen. Brian T. Kelly, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services; and Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael A. Rocco, deputy commandant for manpower and reserve affairs.


Army diversity efforts

“People are the starting point for all that we do. Today, the total Army is more diverse — the most talented and the most lethal force in our nation’s history,” said Seamands.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Weismiller)

An important tool the Army has is the new talent management system, which amplifies diversity, he said.

Trends are pointed in the right direction, he noted. For example, in the last five years, the percentage of Hispanic soldiers went from 12.5% to 14.6% and female representation went from 16.6% to 18.8%.

Also, the first female graduate of Ranger School went on to become the first female infantry company commander, and she then deployed to Afghanistan.

“We want our Army to look like our nation and to reflect what’s best of our citizens,” he said. “As the country has become more diverse, so has the Army.”

He added that service members are not only diverse in race and gender, but they’re also diverse in thought, talent, knowledge, skills and experience.

Navy diversity efforts

The Navy is promoting diversity and inclusion, said Nowell. “We have increased participation in diverse talent and outreach events and marketing materials.”

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Spencer Fling)

Nineteen percent of the recruiting media budget focuses on multicultural and female prospects, he said. Navy ROTC scholarships are also offered to minorities, he said.

More than 25% of this year’s U.S. Naval Academy accessions were female or minority, he said.

Air Force diversity efforts

“The Air Force considers diversity a warfighting imperative,” said Kelly. “As such, the Air Force set a goal for our force to mirror and be representative of the population of Americans eligible to serve by race, gender and ethnicity.”

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Amanda Dick)

The Air Force currently consists of 22% women; 15% African Americans — including 6% in the officer corps; and 13% Hispanics — including 7% in the officer corps. Those demographics have increased over the last 10 years, he added.

Marine Corps diversity efforts

“Diversity remains critical to the Marine Corps,” said Rocco. “It is our responsibility to ensure the Marine Corps is comprised of the best and brightest from every segment of the diverse society.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

(Official Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Brian A. Tuthill)

“Diversity must be included in meaningful ways in order to take advantage of a wide array of aptitudes and perspectives necessary to maintain our current and future warfighting excellence,” he continued.

Diversity in the Marine Corps is increasing, he said. In 2010, 30% of Marines identified as minorities. Today, that number is more than 40%. “We expect these numbers to continue to rise.”

In 2010, 6.7% of the Marine Corps was female. It’s now almost 9%. These numbers should also continue to rise, he said.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Weekend safety briefs are on the chopping block and it’s about time

Soldiers of the Army, rejoice! It has officially come down from the Secretary of the Army Mark Esper that weekend safety briefs are freakin’ stupid and should be nixed. I’m paraphrasing, obviously — but they have been put on the chopping block.

For everyone not in the know, a safety brief is held after every Friday afternoon formation (or the final formation before an extended weekend), during which the chain of command will lecture the troops on what to do and not to do over the weekend. In short, it’s just one of those boxes to check so the commander can get a warm and fuzzy before they go relax.

The problem is that simply standing in front of adults who’ve dedicated their lives to being warfighters and treating them like kids any time they’re left alone for longer than 24 hours isn’t going to decrease the frequency of legal incidents. There are countless other, more effective ways relaying lessons like, say, buzzed driving is still drunk driving, to troops without simply, bluntly, and repeatedly telling them not to do something.


15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

If you’re the type of person who can’t be dissuaded from driving drunk by being told it’s against the law and it puts the lives of countless others around you at risk, you have no honor and do not deserve to wear the uniform of America’s finest.

(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Lauren M. Sprunk)

The standard safety brief always covers three things that are very serious topics:

  1. Don’t drive and drive.
  2. Don’t assault your spouse.
  3. Don’t assault your children.

These are three objectively terrible things that are unbecoming of a United States soldier. Anyone who commits any of these crimes rightfully deserves to have the hammer dropped on their pathetic ass. The problem is that three issues are addressed weekly to satisfy a requirement and they’re rarely given the gravity that they deserve.

To be completely fair to the Army, there are still safety stand-down days that do far more than a PowerPoint slide. There’s been no word as to whether those will still stay around, but those days actually give the situations proper attention and troops come away learning why it’s a bad idea to be inebriated and operate a 2-ton piece of steel at top speeds through an area with filled with innocent people.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

​As long as it’s not a theater-sized PowerPoint, it’s fine.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Timothy Moore)

There is one positive aspect of a safety brief, however, and that’s when obscure laws are brought to the forefront of peoples’ minds. For example, one of the only individual safety briefs I personally remember (one that stood out from the repeated, standard, “don’t do dumb sh*t” message delivered by a disgruntled infantry first sergeant) was when someone made the blotter (a list of all the troops in legal troubles for an installation) for having an expired fishing license. I was going fishing with some of the guys that weekend and I didn’t even know fishing licenses were a thing (I’m a city boy. Quit judging me). The odd reminders are good things, and there’s a time and place for those even still.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

The ultimate irony is when the senior NCO, who literally screamed at everyone to get a freakin’ taxi, gets arrested for DUI.

(U.S. Army)

In the face of the Army canning safety briefs, some might expect the barracks to turn into some lawless Hellscape running rampant with drunken bastards committing all sorts of felonies. It won’t. Soldiers already know that breaking the law is a bad thing. Any good soldier will continue to stay in line and any sh*tbag soldier would’ve done it anyways — regardless of whether they’ve slept through several weeks of being told not to.

In fact, for many, safety briefs are a lower-echelon commander’s excuse to a higher-echelon commander should anything go wrong. They can turn to their superior and say, “but I told the troops not to do that! My hands are clean!” In reality, I think we all know it never played a role in keeping troops off the blotter.

15 things troops should understand when transitioning to civilian life

A smaller scale safety brief will probably happen, because old habits die hard. Honestly, these might be more effective.

(U.S. Army photo by SFC Lloyd Shellenberger)

The younger troops will be present at each and every safety brief — no exception. Troops of higher ranks will often find some reason to justify an early weekend and skip ’em. Put plainly, not everyone in the unit ever goes to all of them. When was the last time you saw a CW5 endure a safety brief?

And yet, if you take a look at the legal f*ck ups, the ranks of offenders span the gamut. Yes, there are lower enlisted who get locked up by the MPs — Get their asses. They knew it was wrong and did it anyways. Then there’s the senior enlisted who’ve been in for ages and have been present at literally hundreds of safety briefs. I think it’s safe to say that there’s little to no connection between committing a heinous act and the number of times a troop is told not to do such a thing. Simply being told that an obviously terrible something is against the law is not a way to prevent it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 benefits of having duty on Christmas

We’ve all at one point or another had to pull duty on a holiday and the news is demoralizing. Pulling duty on a holiday is generally terrible if you had plans with family. However, there are several benefits to having duty on Christmas, specifically. All I want for Christmas is no duty, no duty…All I want for Christmas is no duty…Oh no here come Gunny; to ruin Christmas.

  1. You can charge to take over Christmas duty if you weren’t assigned it

This happened to me once. An acquaintance of mine had duty and he already bought his plane ticket and made plans with his family. Nonrefundable, in true boot Marine tradition. They were devastated. He offered me $400 to take over a 24-duty shift. The going rate during OEF in garrison was $100 for a normal day of duty, $200 for a bank holiday and $400 for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years. 

Easiest money I ever made because I was not even planning on going home. 

2.   Usually, the barracks is empty and at low risk of an incident happening

While I was on duty as an NCO on Christmas the barracks were empty. Only the Marines who had to pull duty were left while everyone was on block leave. Everyone followed the rules, we knew who everyone was, and when there was a person we didn’t recognize they stood out like a sore thumb. You rover your post, log it and report to the OOD (Officer of The Day) when he/she is on deck. Nothing new or unusual to report at this time.

  1. You earn brownie points toward not working the next holiday

Nothing in the Marine Corps is guaranteed but you can be certain you will have a strong case against ending up on another roster. If you have solid leadership and you’ve kept your name clean, there is a good chance you can save yourself from being on duty during a holiday or another block leave.

  1. Christmas and New Years events on or around base

There are some events nearby that, if you are married and your family lives nearby, you can still enjoy the holiday season with them. Recently on December 9, 2020, hundreds of Marines and their families participated in the annual Trees4Troops event where FedEx delivered live Christmas trees at MCAS NewRiver. The same event was held at the Paradise Point Golf Course on Camp Lejeune. On the other side of the continent at Camp Pendleton there is a ‘Santa’s Village’ set up at the Mission Marketplace near Oceanside, CA. There is also a socially distant drive-thru light show at the Del Mar Fairgrounds until January 2, 2021.

A quick google search of your base, across all branches of the military, will yield results of socially distant events that can be enjoyed from your car.

  1. At least you are not on duty with seven other Marines right now

In true Marine Corps Staff NCO fashion, a Sgt. Maj with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines regiment at 29 Palms, California is forcing Marines to pull eight duty spots per day for the month of December because two Marines on Thanksgiving got into a fight with each other.  All eight duty spots are to be filled by NCOs, the backbone of the Marine corps. These Marines have not seen their families in almost two years due to COVID and travel restrictions. Senior Staff NCOs usually get away with pulling this kind of corporal punishment. However, a group of Marines are standing up to this conduct unbecoming of a staff NCO and requesting mass. 

Corporal punishment does not work, and it is the chief reason good Marines leave the Corps. So, as bad as it is for you to be pulling duty on Christmas, at least you do not belong to this unit. If you do belong to this unit, lawyer up, gents. A media circus is going to make the stress even worse.

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