The musical transformation of Aaron Lewis - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

The musical transformation of Aaron Lewis

The Hoyt Sherman Place has been an icon in Des Moines, Iowa, for more than 140 years. Filled with eclectic paintings and sculptures, the structure once hosted some of America’s most powerful and influential people, including former presidents Ulysses S. Grant and William McKinley, as well as General William Tecumseh Sherman, whose brother is the namesake. Today, it’s a music and theater venue.

Last November, on an overcast and snowy evening, I visited the Hoyt Sherman to interview Aaron Lewis, who was taking the stage that night. The world-renowned musician rose to stardom in the early 2000s with the rock band Staind. However, Lewis’ current pursuit in the country music genre signifies a path most fans didn’t expect. The journey has brought his career full circle, reconnecting him to childhood memories and his roots. This unique musical dichotomy embodies who he is, was, and always will be — the ultimate outsider who is still trying to make it.


At 6:30 on the dot — just as expected — Pete Ricci, Lewis’ tour manager, found me in the lobby and took me to Lewis’ tour bus. I walked inside from the bitter cold and was immediately pursued by a small dog who jumped on my lap as I sat down. With a cigarette in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other, Lewis looked at me and said, “That’s Levi. He must like you.” I laughed and shook his hand while introducing myself. He took a sip of his coffee, sat down across from me, and said, “I’m ready.”

The musical transformation of Aaron Lewis

The stage at the Hoyt Sherman before Aaron Lewis started playing.

(Photo by Christopher Hart/Coffee or Die)

At that moment, I was taken back to my youth — the endless nights as a teenager memorizing his harrowing and cryptic vocals. His two-decade career with Staind spawned seven studio albums — including the five-times-platinum “Break the Cycle” — with over 10 million units sold and worldwide tours but that was only the beginning for Lewis. In recent years, Lewis’ path has taken him in a different direction. A serendipitous voyage back to his first music listening experience: country music.

Lewis began to reveal how he transformed from a rockstar into a country musician whose second country album, 2016’s “Sinner,” debuted at No. 1 on the Top Country albums chart and fourth on the famous Billboard 200. Growing up, Lewis spend a lot of time with this grandfather, a man who had a deep love for the foundations of old-fashioned country music — artists like Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Hank Williams Jr.

Aaron Lewis – “Country Boy” (Official Video)

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“Growing up I didn’t dig it at all,” Lewis said. “It was a forced listening for sure. I ran as far away from that style and type of music as I possibly could and ended up in a rock band. But it’s kind of a funny story with what rekindled it.

“I was on Kid Rock’s bus one night back in 1998. […] It was one of those nights where we stayed up all night drinking and using substances,” he continued. “The whole time he is playing this old country music, and in my head it’s replaying the soundtrack of my childhood. It was the first time I had let any of that style of music, that twang, come back into my life or listening choices.”

That late night alongside Kid Rock was life changing with respect to Lewis’ future. It was the start of something new, a transformation that would lay dormant as he ascended to the top of the rock industry with Staind. It erupted full flame years later.

The musical transformation of Aaron Lewis

Aaron Lewis performing “So Far Away” by Staind in the official music video.

(Screen capture via Atlantic Records/Youtube)

“When I got to the end of my record contract with Staind I was good with that,” Lewis said. “I needed to put that away for a bit and reinvent what I was doing, something that wasn’t going to get compared. So the music of my childhood is where that manifested itself.”

There are endless stories of musicians who tried to transform themselves and failed, but Lewis’ isn’t one of them. His past creations have topped the charts, and his country music has received critical acclaim and best-selling status. Despite that, Lewis still feels out of place. He considers himself an outsider, a man who doesn’t fit in the country-music box.

The musical transformation of Aaron Lewis

(Photo courtesy of Aaron Lewis/Instagram)

Part of the reason is that today’s country music hardly resembles the pillars upon which it was built. It is often conflated with pop culture crossovers in order to appeal to a wider audience and generate more revenue, something that frustrates Lewis. On the business side, Lewis said the conglomeration of radio stations led to the Top 40 industry taking over country radio.

“When [Taylor Swift] came out as a cute little country girl and got airtime on Top 40 radio, all of a sudden [country music] had an audience of hundreds of millions of people across the world,” Lewis said. “It set up a model to strive for. […] Do I get it from the competitive road of radio and advertising? To an extent, but I am also able to see the short-sightedness of it. When you handle the country genre like Top 40, you are alienating a majority of your listeners.”

It’s a conflict that Lewis has never shied away from, even putting it into a hit single from the album “Sinner.”

“Life’s not all sunshine and roses. I mentioned that in ‘That Ain’t Country,'” Lewis said. “Most stuff on country radio these days are tales of good times and happy endings. But guess what? Life isn’t like that. Life is a struggle from the time you realize it is a struggle. But if life wasn’t a struggle, those happy moments wouldn’t stand out so much.”

Lewis’ comments on struggle hit on something he has spoken about over the years. When comparing what he wrote while in Staind to what he is putting out now, there are similar themes. His lyrics are brooding, introspective, and explore the scope of the human experience. It’s curious how a man who has accomplished so much routinely speaks from such a dark place.

The musical transformation of Aaron Lewis

Aaron Lewis performing at the Hoyt Sherman.

(Photo by Christopher Hart/Coffee or Die)

“I just can’t help but be a bit dark with my writing. That’s just the vein of creativity I have that is evoked by music,” Lewis said. “I’m never really inspired to write about happiness. I have a couple of times completely by accident and been really weirded out by recording it, as weird as that sounds.”

He continued: “I tend to tap into the darker side of myself for writing purposes. The things that I can’t say in life and normal conversation are what I tend to express in songs. We can all be socially challenged sometimes when trying to say what is on our mind the right way — to truly express it to the person sitting in front of you in the manner you are trying to. To say it in a manner they won’t take the wrong way for any multitude of reasons. I’m not affected by those limits in the writing process.”

After accepting a cup of coffee and a cigarette from Lewis, the conversation veered into the acceptability of the aforementioned lyrical topics — how it may be okay in one genre but considered taboo in another. I relayed how my parents were conflicted about the music I listened to as a teenager: Marilyn Manson, Slipknot, Limp Bizkit, Korn, and a handful of others. These bands were contemporaries of Lewis and Staind. My stepmother was convinced that this music made me rebellious and was the work of the devil.

The musical transformation of Aaron Lewis

Aaron Lewis performing at the Hoyt Sherman.

(Photo by Christopher Hart/Coffee or Die)

“That was a way for parents to define how this music could have such an effect on their children,” Lewis said. “As a parent, to wrap your head around the fact that your child is finding solace in something like that — that can be a tough thing to define. To someone who is super religious, well, it must be the devil for it to have that much of a hold and an impact — but that’s just the magic of music.”

But as magical as music can be, it still takes a toll on someone who makes it their career. Life on the road can present a troublesome and extreme burden. The sacrifices made by artists like Lewis aren’t often recognized by listeners beyond what they hear in a song. Fans aren’t necessarily attached to the plight of their favorite artists, just what they produce.

Lewis mentioned that the Thanksgiving holiday prior to our meeting was one of the only breaks he’d had from touring since February. There is certainly a cost to being in the limelight. But what exact price has he paid — and has it been worth it?

The musical transformation of Aaron Lewis

Aaron Lewis performing at the Hoyt Sherman.

(Photo by Christopher Hart/Coffee or Die)

“As crazy as it might sound coming from my mouth, I still feel I am only as good as the next song that comes out,” Lewis said. “I still have a really, really hard time stopping and smelling the roses. I still feel at times that maybe one day I will make it — it’s really fucked up.

“Most creatives are the walking wounded. We would do just about anything to be seen and heard. We are so broken on the inside that we will wager anything to feel that connection and acceptance. This ride that I’ve been on, this ‘dream come true’ that everybody calls it, that I’m living my dreams — yeah, okay, maybe. But it’s also cost me everything that has ever meant anything to me.”

After letting that sentiment sink in, I took one more drag of my cigarette and one last sip of coffee before asking what advice Lewis would give an aspiring musician.

The musical transformation of Aaron Lewis

Aaron Lewis performing at the Hoyt Sherman.

(Photo by Christopher Hart/Coffee or Die)

“Be careful what you wish for. There is a cost to everything,” he said. “There is a lot of truth to that old story about Robert Johnson meeting the devil at the crossroads and selling his soul. That is kind of what you are doing when you sign a record deal. The longer you survive having a record deal, the more your soul fades and pretty soon there is nothing left — because your feet never touched the ground and you never slowed down enough to see it all go away. So be careful what you wish for.”

With those cautionary words, I turned off my recorder. Lewis was set to take the stage in an hour, so after a final handshake, I prepared to head back into the venue.

“Enjoy the show, Chris,” Lewis said as I made my way off the tour bus.

Over the next few hours, Lewis and his bandmates performed a memorable set for the sold-out crowd at the Hoyt Sherman. The set list included most of his recent country efforts, but he also threw in several Staind hits. Lewis played a few new songs from his upcoming album, “State I’m In,” including “The Party is Over,” “God and Guns,” and “Keeps on Working,” the latter of which he joked would make him some more friends in Nashville. “State I’m In” is slated for release on April 12, 2019.

The musical transformation of Aaron Lewis

Aaron Lewis performing at the Hoyt Sherman.

(Photo by Christopher Hart/Coffee or Die)

Lewis’ musical transformation is a testament to the idea that life isn’t about the destination — it’s about the journey. And while his solo country music career appears to have solid footing, he’s made headlines recently for walking off stage when the audience was being unruly. He also mentioned during a live performance earlier this month that Staind might be making a comeback. “I might be lying, but I might not. There might even be live shows this year. I can’t say for sure. You never know.”

Lewis shows no signs of slowing down, but he also appears to be living in constant conflict. As I left the Hoyt Sherman, I replayed the night’s events in my mind and wondered when, if ever, Aaron Lewis would feel that he had made it.

Aaron Lewis – That Ain’t Country (Official Video)

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY FIT

How Navy SEALs swim for miles without getting tired

With the beginning of summer, pools all over the US are opening for recreational swimming — but in the Navy, recruits are getting ready for the brutal Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, or BUD/S, that will turn some of them into Navy SEALs.

In the SEALs, where recruits of the elite special operations unit are pushed to their limits, there is no room for inefficiency. So it developed a more efficient swimming stroke: the combat swimmer stroke.


The stroke combines the best elements of breaststroke and freestyle to streamline a motion that not only reduces resistance on a swimmer’s body, but makes the swimmer harder to spot underwater.

Here’s a sample of the stroke:

Unlike freestyle, the combat sidestroke calls for the swimmer to stay submerged for most of it.

To do the combat swimmer stroke, dive in or kick off as you would in freestyle, but at the end of your glide, do a large, horizontal scissor kick instead.

Now comes the unique part — as the horizontal scissor kick tilts your body so that one arm is slightly higher than the other, pull that arm back while leaving the other outstretched.

Turn your face up toward the surface as you pull that arm down, take a breath, and begin to pull down your other arm. Another scissor kick, then reset your arms. You should not switch your orientation or the order in which you pull back your arms.

www.youtube.com

Here’s a step-by-step breakdown:

Using the combat swimmer’s stroke, Navy SEALs can go for miles in grueling training events that push their physical and mental strength.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Navy takes out a drone in new weapons test

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect that the event occurred on a test vessel, not aboard the Ford as previously stated.

The Navy recently got a step closer to getting the first ship in its new class of aircraft carriers ready for combat missions with a live-fire test off the coast of California.

A drone was taken out by Raytheon’s latest integrated combat system that’s being developed for the supercarrier Gerald R. Ford, Raytheon announced Feb. 5, 2019. The event took place on a test vessel off the coast of California, said Ian Davis, a Raytheon spokesman.


The system the Navy used to take down the drone is called the Ship Self-Defense System. It integrates a myriad of equipment that will be used aboard the Navy’s first Ford-class carrier, such as sensors, missiles and radars.

Raytheon program manager Mike Fabel said in a release that the new system allowed for “seamless integration” when its sensors and missiles were put to the test.

The musical transformation of Aaron Lewis

Aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford.

(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Christopher Delano)

“This first-of-its-kind test [proves] the ability of the system to defend our sailors,” Fabel said. “This integrated combat system success brings Ford [herself] one step closer to operational testing and deployment.”

At least five of the integrated-combat system’s capabilities, which are also used on amphibious assault ships, were used during the live-fire event, according to the release detailing the test.

That included a radar that searched for, tracked and illuminated the target; the Ship Self-Defense System, which processed the data and passed launch commands to the missile; and missiles that took out the targeted drone.

The Ford, which is the first in its class of next-generation carriers, is expected to deploy in 2022.

The first in the new generation of carriers, the flattop has faced a series of mechanical and technological setbacks. That has left lawmakers and the commander in chief pressing Navy officials to explain the issues, including those with the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System and advanced weapons elevators.

The problems have even left some members of Congress reluctant to bless future multi-carrier purchases, a process that some say saves the service billions.

Navy and Raytheon officials are planning to conduct more live-fire events this year as they continue putting the Ford’s integrated combat system to the test.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The top 10 most popular cars among service members

America has a car culture. Our country is connected by highways and interstates. For a teenager, a driver’s license and a set of wheels is a passport to freedom on the open road. For service members, packing up the car and driving cross country is just a standard PCS move. As such, the cars we buy need to be dependable, practical and a bit of efficiency never hurts either. USAA put together a list of the top 10 vehicles purchased by service members for 2019. The list is based on internal data from active duty and former military members who purchased a car through the USAA car buying service, obtained an auto loan through USAA, or added a vehicle to their USAA insurance policy between January 1 and August 31, 2019. Note that the list does not cover vehicle specifics like model year or trim level.


The musical transformation of Aaron Lewis

(Subaru)

Subaru Outback

Derived from the Subaru Legacy, the Outback is a safe, practical, and reliable mode of transportation which makes it an easy pick for the discerning servicemember. Originally classified as a station wagon, the Outback was reclassified as a crossover in the 2015 model year. It has received the Top Safety Pick Award from the IIHs and a five-star safety rating from the NHTSA. With its large cargo space, the Outback is PCS-friendly and its torquay boxer engine mated to an all-wheel drive drivetrain means that you’ll be able to get around just fine when your assignment manager tricks you into moving to the frozen landscape of Fort Drum.

The musical transformation of Aaron Lewis

(Toyota)

Toyota Corolla

In 2016, the Toyota Corolla overtook the Volkswagen Beetle as the best-selling automobile in the world when it reached 44 million units sold. The name has been used across a range of vehicles over the years, but we know it best in the US as a reliable and affordable front-wheel drive compact car. While it’s not going to win any awards for styling or performance (although Toyota’s marketing would like you to think otherwise), no one can deny the Corolla’s legendary reliability. Even if you buy a used model with your enlistment bonus, a Corolla can last you through to retirement and onwards.

The musical transformation of Aaron Lewis

(Toyota)

Toyota RAV4

Originally based on the underpinnings of the Corolla, the RAV4 was one of the first compact crossover SUVs in the US market. While not a serious off-roader by any means, its reliable 4-cylinder engine provides enough power to move you around town while hauling more of your stuff than you could fit in the aforementioned Corolla. Today, the RAV4 offers a hybrid trim and comes equipped with a 7-inch touchscreen, Entune 3.0, Apple Carplay, and Amazon Alexa as standard; plenty of bang for your government salary buck.

The musical transformation of Aaron Lewis

(Honda)

Honda Accord

Yes, there’s been a million-mile Chevy. Of course there’s a million-mile model of the aforementioned Corolla. There’s even a million-mile Porsche out there. But, the Accord can claim two million-mile examples (one from 1990 and another from 2000). Its status as one of the world’s most reliable vehicles has led to the Accord’s inclusion on the Car and Driver 10Best list a record 30 times. In recent years, the rising popularity of crossover SUVs has led to a decline in 4-door sedan sales. Honda responded by refreshing the Accord for the 2018 model year and boy did it work. Beyond its sleek, almost European styling, the latest Accord offers a surprising amount of cargo space for a mid-size sedan and a suite of safety features which earned it an IIHS Top Safety Pick and 2018’s North American Car of the Year. For the service member that wants an affordable, practical, and sporty car, the Accord can be had with a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine derived from the same block as the famous Honda Civic Type-R. The Accord is also one of the few vehicles you can buy today with the option of a manual transmission. Just keep your head on a swivel for MPs.

The musical transformation of Aaron Lewis

(Toyota)

Toyota Camry

Compared to the Camry, the Accord is a sales disaster. In 2007, the Camry outsold the Accord by a margin of 392,231 units. In fact, the Camry has been the best-selling car (not vehicle; don’t worry truck fans, we’ll get there) in America from 1997 to 2019 with the exception of 2001 when it was edged out by the Accord with a margin of just over 24,000 units. Like the smaller Corolla, the Camry is famed for its reliability. Suffering from a loss of market share to crossover SUVs like the Accord, the Camry received a refresh in 2017, though the styling cues are not as much of a departure as the Accord’s. However, Toyota did introduce a TRD trim and a two-tone paint scheme for drivers who want to stand out a bit more. Yes, it’s a bit vanilla, but a Camry will ferry you between duty stations no problem and get great gas mileage doing it.

The musical transformation of Aaron Lewis

(Toyota)

Toyota Tacoma

Yes, it’s another Japanese car, but at least this one’s a truck. Originally classified as a compact pickup, the Tacoma has dominated the midsize pickup market in the US…partly because it didn’t have much competition until Chevy and Ford revived their Colorado and Ranger pickups respectively. But that’s not to say that the Tacoma hasn’t earned its reputation. After all, its lineage can be traced back to the unkillable Toyota Hilux pickup. In 2005, the Tacoma was named Motor Trend‘s Truck of the Year. Overall, the Tacoma is a versatile pick for a service member’s vehicle. It’s capable enough to get you through a posting at Minot AFB or JBER, yet economical enough that filling the tank won’t break the bank if you get sent to somewhere to somewhere with a higher cost of living like San Diego or Hawaii.

The musical transformation of Aaron Lewis

(Dodge)

Dodge Ram

The Ram marks the end of the Japanese brands on this list. And yes, the Ram Trucks brand has split off from the Dodge brand under Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Whatever you call it, the Ram pickup is a common sight on military bases, often seen in a matte black trim. Ram trucks have been named Motor Trend‘s Truck of the Year a total of seven times, including 2019 and 2020. Ram trucks also offer plenty of torque if you decide to haul a boat or RV between duty stations.

The musical transformation of Aaron Lewis

(Chevrolet)

Chevrolet Silverado

The Chevy Silverado is arguably the most popular truck in country music, both in lyrics (as Chevy or Silverado) and in music videos. Even if you’re not a fan of country, the Silverado is an extremely popular and capable truck, consistently ranking as one of the best-selling vehicles in the United States. It’s worth noting that the USAA list does differentiate between the Silverado and its upscale GMC counterpart, the Sierra. The Silverado delivers a very capable package of power and performance for your towing needs. It also serves as an excellent candidate for a lift kit so you can cruise around base in style while blasting Florida Georgia Line from your speakers.

The musical transformation of Aaron Lewis

(Wrangler)

Jeep Wrangler

These things are everywhere. Seriously, I don’t think there’s a single military base in the United States that doesn’t have a Jeep Wrangler driving around it. I’ve even seen one in Japan. Servicemembers love their Jeeps and the Jeep community (see Jeep wave). Some might argue that the military’s love affair with the Jeep is only natural given the use of the Willys MB Jeep in WWII. However, without going into it, the Wrangler is a descendent of the famed military vehicle in name only. Regardless of this, the Jeep Wrangler has evolved into a cultural icon in its own right. Whether you want two doors, four doors, soft-top, hard-top, doors on, or doors off, Jeep Wranglers offer plenty of versatility and options to their drivers. You can even get a pickup in the form of the Jeep Gladiator. Servicemembers enjoy customizing their Jeeps with militaristic star roundels, reversed American flags, and even the occasional jerry can. Just don’t expect award-winning mpg from one of these.

The musical transformation of Aaron Lewis

(Ford)

Ford F-150

I don’t think this is a surprise to anyone. After all, the Ford F-Series has been the best-selling pickup truck in America since 1977 and the best-selling vehicle since 1981. If you lined up every F-Series truck variant sold bumper to bumper, they would circle the globe almost four times. In 2017, an F-Series truck was sold every 35 seconds. Ford has achieved such incredible sales figures by providing consumers with the best all-round truck. Fuel efficiency is good enough to drive it daily without bleeding yourmeg wallet dry. That said, the F-150 is still capable enough to haul around the family and your favorite weekend toys. Perhaps its greatest advantage is simply its brand image. Ketchup is Heinz. Tissues are Kleenex. Trucks are Fords. I know this will garner some hate from the Silverado and Ram fans out there, so I’d like to remind readers that this is simply an analysis of the numbers. I’m also not a truck owner, so I’ve got no skin in the game.

So there you have it. Those are the top 10 servicemember vehicles in 2019. It’s worth noting that the USAA list can also be filtered by branch. For example the Toyota Highlander didn’t make the overall military list, but it did take the #8 spots for the Air Force and Coast Guard. Similarly, the Chevy Equinox was ranked #10 amongst Army personnel and the F-250 ranked #10 for the Marine Corps. Only the Navy list featured all 10 vehicles from the overall military list, with the only difference being that the Dodge Ram and Chevy Silverado switch spots between #3 and #4. Regardless of what you drive, just make sure it can get you through your next PCS without incident. And if you’re in the market for your first vehicle after joining the military, try to avoid used car lots just off base, loan sharks are not your friends, and a high interest rate is not a good thing.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This band’s veterans served in all conflicts from WWII to the GWOT

The Iowa Military Veterans Band boasts a roster of 100 veterans who have served in almost every conflict from WWII to the GWOT. These musician veterans represent every branch of the military – even the Coasties!

And the crowd went wild!

The Iowa Military Veterans Band got together to perform at the dedication of a WWII monument back in 1996. That just made sense, since the majority of the veterans at that time served in WWII. Others served in Korea and Vietnam in both combat and combat support units. But the crowd responded so well to their performance that these talented musicians decided to stay together and permanently form a band. They’re still going strong 20 years later!

Music has been a part of military history since, well, forever. Back in the day, regiments used to perform on the field to convey orders and keep the grunts motivated. Then militaries got wise and formed official bands that traveled with their units to keep up the espirit de corps. In fact, that’s where marching bands as we know them came from! These days, there are plenty of examples of great military bands. Some have even gained fame from shows like America’s Got Talent.

It’s not likely the Iowa Veterans Band is going to perform for AGT anytime soon, but maybe they should think about it?

Service is part of their blood

Iowa Military Veterans Band
The Iowa Military Veterans Band in all their glory

Here’s what makes this band so special. It’s the only one of its kind in the entire country. True to their military roots, the Iowa Military Veterans band is officially a nonprofit organization. They’re all about giving back, helping their community, and improving the lives of veterans. They help support other VSOs in the Iowa veteran community. All concerts are free and most of the admin expenses are paid for by veterans themselves.

They keep going thanks to generous donations from Iowa businesses and individuals. Not once have they used tax dollars for support. 

An orchestra of veterans

Of course, these accomplished musicians in the Iowa Military Veterans Band play a variety of instruments. This includes the usual you’d expect in a band like trumpets and clarinets. But there are also some harp and euphonium musicians, too! As a matter of fact, the band even has a vocalist. With that in mind, most of the band’s set lists are performances of songs by great American composers. These include the big names like Karl King, Meredith Wilson, John Philip Sousa, Irving Berlin and George M. Cohan.

In a normal year, the band plays between six and seven concerts from early May to Veteran’s Day in November. All members volunteer their time for rehearsals and shows to share their love of music with the people of Iowa.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army veterinarians help wounded dog after suicide blast

Military Working Dogs, or MWDs, play a huge role in the defense of the United States — and when one of them is injured, the Veterinary Medical Center Europe plays a huge role in getting them back in the fight.

Recently, while on patrol with his handler in Afghanistan, MWD Alex, assigned to the 8th MWD Detachment, 91st Military Police Battalion, Fort Drum, New York, was injured in an attack by a suicide bomber. Following care in Bagram, Afghanistan, Alex was medically evacuated to VMCE for further treatment.


Like many of their human counterparts, when an MWD is injured while deployed, they are often medically evacuated to Germany. Service members are transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center for care, and MWDs are transported to VMCE for comprehensive veterinary care.

According to Maj. Renee Krebs, VMCE deputy director and veterinary surgeon, when Alex arrived in Germany, he had a fractured left tibia, shrapnel wounds, and multiple other fractures below and above his shin bone.

On the day he arrived, Krebs performed surgery to stabilize Alex’s leg, “which worked pretty well,” she said. “But his other wound, particularly the one over his ankle, started to get worse and worse every day despite appropriate medical therapy and pain management.”

The musical transformation of Aaron Lewis

Maj Renee Krebs, Veterinary Medical Center Europe Deputy Director and Veterinary Surgeon, greets Alex, Military Working Dog from the 91st Military Police Battalion, 16th Military Police Brigade, prior to surgery.

(U.S. Army photo by Ashley Patoka )

Alex’s wound over his ankle was getting so bad that it would likely require up to six months of reconstructive and orthopedic surgery. And because of bone and tissue loss, he was also at a very high risk for infection.

In addition to this, Krebs said that Alex was “not using the limb as well as he had been the first week or so after surgery — it was getting more painful. And he began to develop some behavioral problems, centered on some of the things we had to do when we were treating him.”

Krebs said some of the behavioral problems included aggression and snapping when the team would move him to the table to do treatments.

“I spoke to a behaviorist about it and she thought he was having some post-traumatic stress disorder-type acute episodes,” Krebs said. “So we changed the way we were managing him, but he was still getting worse, so in the interest of allowing him to move on with his life and improve his quality of life, we went with amputation.”

Krebs said that had they not performed the amputation, it was likely that Alex would have still ended up losing his leg if they had gone with the option of three to six months’ of wound management.

“The risk was very high. It was a very guarded prognosis to begin with that he would ever have normal return of function to the leg, and I knew if I amputated his leg he would be functional as a pet or regular dog probably within a week — so it seemed like the best option for him.”

Alex was described as relatively calm by Krebs, and during his time at the VMCE, the staff learned more about him, enabling them to cater to his needs and ensure he was comfortable.

“MWDs run the gamut from very high strung, very nervous and needing to be restrained because they have so much energy and are so anxious, to being very mellow,” Krebs said. “Alex was sort of a strange combination — he was relatively calm, but there were things that you knew if you did them he was going to get angry, like touching his tail.”

At Alex’s home unit, Sgt. First Class David Harrison, kennel master for the 8th MWD detachment at Fort Drum, said Alex always felt like an old soul to him.

“[Alex has] the experience of a career soldier, and always carried himself in a way which always made trainers and handlers just believe he was focused on the mission at hand,” Harrison said. “He carries the ability to simply be a fun-loving dog who values his rapport with his handler as much as he enjoys executing his duties.”

The musical transformation of Aaron Lewis

Military Working Dog Alex is recovering well following leg amputation surgery, after suffering extensive wounds in a suicide bomber attack in Afghanistan.

(U.S. Army photo by Ashley Patoka )

Even while recovering from his injury and going through surgery, Alex was teaching those around him some important lessons.

“It’s tragic what happened,” said Spc. Landon DeFonde, MWD handler with the 8th MWD detachment at Fort Drum, who has been with Alex for his recovery in Germany. “But it just goes to show how selfless and resilient these animals are. For him to go through that blast and still be as strong as he is and kind and gentle towards people, it really amazes me that what they are capable of living through and surviving through. It definitely teaches me resiliency.”

But these lessons don’t just come when an injury happens, as the relationship between MWD and handler is one that both benefit from over the course of their pairing.

“The relationship between handlers and their partners is a relationship I’ve always found difficult to put into words,” Harrison said. “It’s a familial bond, but it almost goes deeper in some ways. The co-dependent nature of the business puts handlers in a position where they have to give more trust to their canine than most put in fellow humans. It’s not always a comfortable or easy process, but once they reach the point where they independently trust each other while working in tandem, the connection the team develops is unparalleled.”

DeFonde, who has been a MWD handler for three years, shares similar sentiments.

“It is truly incredible how selfless one can be and I think it shows the true side and caring side of humans — how much compassion and care we can show another living being — it is really special,” said DeFonde. “It is really amazing how we interact and how we can combine to create such a strong and powerful team.”

Alex will head back to the states at the end of August 2018 where he will continue his recovery. Due to his injury, his home station kennel will submit a medical disposition packet to allow Alex to retire and be adopted.

“I’ve built a bond with Alex—- not as deep as his handler’s,” DeFonde said. “But it is always hard to say goodbye. Dogs do come and go — that is part of the job, but I am just really happy I was able to come over here and help him recover and then get him back to the states and get him to see his handler.

“I’ve always heard the saying, humans don’t deserve dogs because of how kind they are, and I 100 percent agree. You could not ask for a more selfless companion.”

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

Articles

The 7 enlisted jobs with awesome entry-level salaries

Serving in the military can be very rewarding personally and professionally, but a lot of potential recruits want to know which jobs make the most cash. The military pay tables are here, but in the meantime, here are seven of the most lucrative military jobs for new enlistees:


1. Army Military Working Dog Handler

The musical transformation of Aaron Lewis
Photo by Pierre Courtejoie

Military working dog handlers train and work with dogs that specialize in finding explosives, drugs, or other potential threats to military personnel or law and order. They train for 18 weeks after the Army’s 10-week basic combat training.

Starting annual salary: $18,561.96 plus benefits.

2. Air Force Histopathology Specialist

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Photo: US Air Force Master Sgt. David Miller

Histopathology specialists in the U.S. Air Force prepare diseased tissue samples for microscopic examination, aiding doctors in the diagnosis of dangerous diseases.

Starting annual salary: $18,561.96 plus benefits

3. Marine Corps Engineer

The musical transformation of Aaron Lewis
Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. John McCall

Engineering Marines build and repair buildings, roads, and power supplies and assist the infantry by breaching enemy obstacles. There are different schools for different engineering specialties including Basic Combat Engineer Course, the Engineer Equipment Operator Course, and the Basic Metal Workers Course.

Starting annual salary: $18,561.96 plus benefits

4. Navy Mass Communications Specialist

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Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Kamaile Chan

Mass Communications Specialists tell the Navy story through photography, writing, illustration, and graphic design. They educate the public and document the Navy’s achievements.

Starting annual salary: $18,561.96 plus benefits

5. Army Paralegal Specialist

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Photo: US Army Sgt. Darryl L. Montgomery

Paralegal Specialists assist lawyers and unit command teams by advising on criminal law, international law, civil/administrative law, contract law, and fiscal law. The are experts in legal terminology, the preparation of legal documents, and the judicial process.

Starting annual salary: $18,561.96 plus benefits

6. Air Force Firefighter

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Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Kathrine McDowell

Firefighters in the Air Force have to combat everything from building fires to burning jets to forest fires. They operate primarily on Air Force bases but may also be stationed at other branches installations or be called on to assist civilian fire departments.

Starting annual salary: $18,561.96 plus benefits

7. Marine Corps Light Armored Vehicle Crewman

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Photo: US Navy Geoffrey Patrick

Light armored vehicles support the Marine Corps mission by carrying communications equipment, Marines, and mobile electronic warfare platforms. The heart of the LAV mission is the LAV crewman, who drives, maintains, and operates these awesome vehicles.

Starting annual salary: $18,561.96 plus benefits

MIGHTY TRENDING

Oregon Veterans Home pleads for video messages to bring hope to residents in lockdown

The veterans currently living in the Lebanon Veterans Home in Lebanon, Oregon have walked through tough times. The majority of them are over 70 years old and around one third of them over 90. Many of them saw combat in the Korean War, Vietnam War and even World War II. They made it home from those wars only to have another show up at their doorstep at what should be a quiet time in their lives: COVID-19.

Trying to survive a global pandemic is their new war.


The Lebanon Veterans Home houses more than 145 veterans and some of their spouses. There have been 14 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the home, which has been wreaking havoc on the world. On Sunday March 22, 2020, a veteran of the home died from the disease. He was in his 90s and served this country with honor.

While the residents of the home continue to reel from the death of one of their friends and neighbors, the fight for their well-being is just beginning. The entire facility is now in complete lockdown with no visitors allowed. The residents are also now barred from doing group activities or even eating together anymore. In a sense, they are quarantined to their rooms. This is a traumatic change for these veterans and is causing a negative impact to their mental health.

The intensity of the response to combating COVID-19 for these veterans is due to all of them being considered high risk with their age and medical conditions. Although warranted to prevent the spread of this disease, the veterans are suffering in their isolation.

But the public can help change this.

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vimeo.com

Tyler Francke, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs spoke with We Are The Mighty to ask our readers for their help by submitting messages of hope, encouragement and gratitude via homemade videos. The veterans home has a closed-circuit TV that they can showcase the videos on. These videos would go a long way to let these veterans know they aren’t alone and they can make it through this tough season.

“The Lebanon Veterans’ Home is an amazing place,” Francke said, “and it’s all because of the dedicated and hard-working staff, and the incredible residents who live there. The men and women there are unbelievable. They’re our nation’s heroes, and yet, they ask for nothing. Instead, they do what they can to brighten your day. Around the Home, I know it’s become something of a rallying cry: ‘They fought for us, now we fight for them.’ I know there are a lot of people all around the community, the state and even the country who are pulling for them, and we just thought this would be one really cool way for everyone to show it.

Francke asked that people send 30-45 seconds of positive videos with big smiles and clear voices offering messages of support, encouragement and hope. These can easily be done on a cell phone and do not require any production.

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Residents smile for a photo. Picture via Facebook.

These videos would take but a moment out of your day to make a veteran smile and bring hope to their hearts. This is a great project for kids to do while they’re in virtual learning. Many of the veterans have grandchildren and great-grandchildren they’re unable to see, and it’s a great way to teach your kids about history, service and selflessness.

These veterans sacrificed so much for America, help show them they haven’t been forgotten and that they can make it through this.

Videos should be submitted to: odvainformation@odva.state.or.us

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How to make a great living room obstacle course

Long before obstacle-course races became the dad fitness fad du jour, kids enjoyed crawling, jumping, and swinging from station to station in PE class. And they still do, even if not all of them want to train for a Mini Mudder. Most young kids have a good notion of what obstacle courses are (the world looks like one when you’re small enough) so getting them to race through homemade gauntlets is fairly easy and, when it comes to tiring them out, incredibly effective. It’s an activity that naturally builds on itself because kids will want to provide feedback on specific obstacles and courses can have endless permutations, at least until someone breaks something. The perfect obstacle course should be challenging, silly, and easily deconstructed or reconstructed. But, most importantly, it should be safe ⏤ so no fire pits!


Prep Time: About 30 minutes.
Entertainment Time: 20 minutes to two hours.
Energy Expended by Child: Mostly physical, unless you want to throw in a puzzle or two.

What You Need:

  • Things to jump over, onto, or from. Interlocking foam play mats and tumbling mats are great. So are ropes, toys, cushions, and very stable pieces of furniture.
  • Things to crawl under or through. If you don’t already have a play tunnel, pull a sheet taut and have them crawl under it, army style.
  • Things to throw. Make a station where aim is important. Throwing is a skill very young kids can develop.
  • Things to balance on. An extra piece of woods in the shed can be a balance beam. So can a floorboard if everyone agrees it’s surrounded by lava.
  • If you’re setting an outdoor obstacle course up in the backyard, there are plenty of ready-to-buy obstacles, as well.

How to Play:

The best way to play ‘Obstacle Course’ is by building several stations, each with their own challenge. Depending on the age of the kids, they can help with this part. Here’s an example (note that writing it down can be helpful and make comprehension part of the game):

  1. Balance beam.
  2. Knock down all the cans.
  3. Jump from block to block.
  4. Ride the tricycle across the living room while making a silly face.
  5. Crawl through the tunnel.
  6. Drag a heavy thing past the line.
  7. Walk a ping pong ball with a spoon.
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The individual stations can be anything and are only limited by space and imagination. You can add special challenges as kids figure out how to manage certain obstacles. It’s also important to note that stations can reoccur in each running of an obstacle course. It is, for instance, a great idea to get kids to jump multiple times between activities that require more precise muscle control. This forces kids to engage different muscles and tires them out.

It’s also important to note that obstacle course are not merely physical. They are based on rules. It’s good to establish a points system that informs timing (plus 10 seconds for falling off the balance beam) because it incentivizes kids to really do the thing while turning you into a referee and arbiter of success, which puts you in a better position to encourage certain approaches or dish out positive feedback so kids feel like they’re making progress over time. If they aren’t, it also puts you in a prime position to obscure that fact.

To that end, it’s smart to make yourself one of the obstacles. Make kids dodge balls you’re throwing, chase you down, or play the levels game. This allows for you to make the course increasingly difficult and gets you directly involved, which is likely to ramp up interests (kids are predictable like that). On that same note, it’s a good idea to try to do the course — the parts you can fit through — to set a baseline time for your kid to beat. A bit of competition, no matter how silly, provides kids with a way to compete with mom and dad and understand their abilities and bodies in relation to other people’s. This leads to an ability to do a kind of athletic self-assessment that can be helpful later in life. It also tends to lead to absolute exhaustion.

Wrap Up:

Obstacle courses are a great way for your kids to burn off excess energy. And if they ever get tired of the same old course, change the theme or turn it into a narrated adventure: Superhero tryouts, ninja training, find the hidden treasure. Younger kids will especially enjoy embarking on the course as a character on an expedition. In the end, not only is it satisfying to watch your kids challenge themselves but also to watch them enjoy something you all built … even if it was made with couch cushions.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy just sent an F-35 carrier to the South China Sea

The US Navy broke with its tradition of hyping up F-35 deployments when it sent the USS Essex jump-jet carrier into the Western Pacific with a deck full of the revolutionary fighter jets this week — and it could signal a big change in how the US deals with its toughest adversaries.

When the USS Wasp became the first small-deck aircraft carrier to deploy with US Marine Corps F-35Bs in early 2018, the media was in on it. But the Essex’s departure marks a change, as the Navy announced the deployment only after the ship departed, USNI News noted.


The Navy regularly deploys capital ships like small- and large-deck carriers for patrols around the world but has only twice deployed ones like these.

The F-35 has become the most expensive weapons system in history and earned its share of criticism along the way as costs ballooned and deadlines fell through. The Marine Corps’ F-35B is designed to land vertically and take off from short runways, like an amphibious assault ship, and will replace the AV-8B Harrier in ground and air attack missions; the Navy’s F-35C has a tailhook to snag an arresting cable and land on an aircraft carrier.

The musical transformation of Aaron Lewis

The F-35

(Photo by Tom Reynolds)

Naturally, the US military would be keen to show off the jets, which it bills as a revolution in aerial combat because of their stealth design and advanced sensors and controls. But it seems it has opted to skip the public-relations coup for something a bit more operational.

The Navy wants to change the media’s expectations regarding ship deployments to the Pacific, sources told USNI News.

The US military usually prides itself on publicizing its ship deployments and often says its carrier deployments are drawn up apolitically and months ahead of time, but insisting on some level of secrecy betrays that.

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The flight deck of the USS Ronald Reagan in the Luzon Strait.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan McFarlane)

What does the US Navy have to hide in the Pacific?

The US has major adversaries in the Pacific — namely China and, to a lesser extent, North Korea.

It makes sense that with dialogue underway with North Korea, the US would want to quiet big deployments to the Western Pacific, and a high-profile deployment of next-generation stealth jets could seriously spook North Korea.

But it’s China’s navy that poses the biggest threat to the US, and it’s possibly the reason the US is staying quiet.

When the USS Ronald Reagan, the US’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier in Japan, patrolled the South China Sea, which China unilaterally claims as its own in defiance of international law, the US said very little about it. Repeated requests for comment from Business Insider went ignored.

The US uses its Navy to challenge what it calls excessive maritime claims of dozens of nations around the world in passages called “freedom of navigation” operations. Basically, if a country claims an excessive amount of maritime territory, the US usually sails a destroyer through to inform it that its claims are not recognized.

China views these patrols as a challenge to its sovereignty and makes a big deal out of them. For the US, it’s better if the challenges to China’s claims are the norm and not a news story. Some observers have speculated that the US wants to send a message to China’s military leadership without the publicity that may compel them to escalate.

By keeping quiet high-profile deployments to the Pacific, the US could be signaling that it’s getting ready to put the ball back in China’s court, with high-end military hardware checking it and disputes handled between navies rather than via press releases.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US grounds B-1 fleet over ejection seat precautions

The U.S. Air Force has grounded the entire B-1B Lancer bomber fleet, marking the second fleetwide stand-down in about a year.

Officials with Air Force Global Strike Command said that, during a routine inspection of at least one aircraft, airmen found a rigged “drogue chute” incorrectly installed in the ejection seat egress system, a problem that might affect the rest of the fleet.

“The drogue chute corrects the seat before the parachute deploys out of the seat,” said Capt. Earon Brown, a spokesman with Air Force Global Strike Command.


The issue is “part of the egress system,” or the way airmen exit the bomber in an emergency, Brown told Military.com on March 28, 2019. The problem does not appear to be related to the issues that occurred last year, AFGSC said.

“There are procedural issues of how [the drogue chute is] being put into place,” Brown said.

Officials will “look at each aircraft [para]chute system and make sure they are meeting technical order requirements to employ” the drogue chute appropriately, he added. The B-1 has four seats, for the pilot, co-pilot and two weapons systems officers in the back.

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A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 28th Bomb Squadron, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, maneuvers over New Mexico during a training mission on Feb. 24, 2010.

(U.S. Air Force photo/ Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald)

AFGSC commander Gen. Timothy Ray on March 28, 2019, directed the stand-down for “a holistic inspection of the entire egress system,” according to a press release. “The safety stand-down will afford maintenance and Aircrew Flight Equipment technicians the necessary time to thoroughly inspect each aircraft.”

Brown said the Air Force does not have a timeline for when fleet will be back in the air, but said the fixes are a “high priority.”

The bombers will return to flight “as the issues, any issues, get resolved,” he said, adding that B-1s are not currently deployed overseas.

In 2018, the command grounded the fleet over safety concerns related to the Lancer’s ejection seats. The stand-down was a result of an emergency landing by a B-1 on May 1, 2018, at Midland Airport in Texas.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson confirmed speculation at the time that the B-1, out of Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, had to make an emergency landing after an ejection seat didn’t blow.

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A B-1B Lancer.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brian Ferguson)

The B-1 crew “were out training,” she said during a May 2018 speech at the Defense Communities summit in Washington, D.C.

Local media reported at the time the B-1B was not carrying weapons when it requested to land because of “an engine flameout.” Weeks later, images surfaced on Facebook purporting to show the aircraft with a burnt-out engine. Photos from The Associated Press and Midland Reporter-Telegram also showed the B-1B, tail number 86-0109, was missing a ceiling hatch, leading to speculation an in-flight ejection was attempted.

Officials ordered a stand-down on June 7, 2018, which lasted three weeks while the fleet was inspected. Months after the incident, UTC Aerospace Systems, manufacturer of the bomber’s ACES II ejection seat, said the seat itself is not the problem.

After coordinating with the Air Force, UTC determined “there’s an issue with the sequencing system,” said John Fyfe, director of Air Force programs for UTC.

It had been implied “that the ejection seat didn’t fire, when in fact the ejection seat was never given the command to fire,” Fyfe told Military.com in September 2018.

“This particular B-1, [the sequence system] was not ours,” he said, adding that there are multiple vendors for the sequencing systems.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Bin Laden’s mother says the terror leader was ‘brainwashed’

The mother of the late Al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, has said in her first interview with Western media that her infamous son was “brainwashed” into a life of extremism.

Alia Ghanem said in the interview published by The Guardian newspaper on Aug 3 that “the people at university changed him. He became a different man,” referring to the time when bin Laden was in his early 20s and an economics student in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.


She appeared to blame Abdullah Azzam, a Muslim Brotherhood member who became bin Laden’s spiritual adviser at the university.

Ghanem, speaking from the family home in Jeddah, said prior to that time, the future terror leader had been a shy and academically capable student.

“He was a very good child until he met some people who pretty much brainwashed him in his early 20s,” Ghanem said.
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Abdullah Azzam

“You can call it a cult. They got money for their cause,” she said. “I would always tell him to stay away from them, and he would never admit to me what he was doing, because he loved me so much.”

The United States invaded Afghanistan in late 2001 because the Taliban-led government had protected Al-Qaeda and bin Laden, who organized the September 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States that killed nearly 3,000 people.

The Taliban was driven from power, and bin Laden, hiding in the northern Pakistani city of Abbotabad, was killed in a U.S. raid in 2011.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Brothers carry on family legacy in aviation

Decades ago, a father took his two young sons to the aviation museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Although the father might have known it would be a great vacation for his family, he had no way of knowing the impact the trip would have on his sons’ future decision to join the Air Force.

“I remember that one of the airplanes we stopped at, our dad was like, ‘look it’s a Hercules,'” said Staff Sgt. Jeremy Putnam, a 94th Maintenance Squadron jet engine mechanic here. “We were like that’s really cool and they let us in and we climbed around in it. I just remember it being so big! And then, lo and behold, later I’m an engine guy that works on them. We’ve always been around aircraft and drawn to it.”

Jeremy’s older brother, Joel Putnam, is a 94th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief at Dobbins Air Reserve Base. The Putnam brothers come from a family legacy of military aviators.


“Our dad was in the U.S. Army air cavalry and he worked on airplanes,” said Jeremy. “That was a big inspiration for both of us to work on airplanes. We come from a long line of military aviators. Our grandfather on our dad’s side was in the Air Force. On our mom’s side, our grandfather was a helicopter crew chief in the Marines and then Army.”

The brothers’ camaraderie growing up continued into their adult lives as they worked in the military. Joel and Jeremy deployed to Qatar and recently participated in Exercise Swift Response together. Exercise Swift Response is an annual U.S. Army Europe-led multinational exercise featuring high-readiness airborne forces from nine nations.

The brothers spoke about their unique experience of partnering with each other in real world scenarios of exercises and missions.

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Tech. Sgt. Joel Putnam, a 94th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, left, and his brother, Staff Sgt. Jeremy Putnam, a 94th Maintenance Squadron aerospace propulsion technician, pose for a photo in front of a C-130H3 Hercules at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Justin Clayvon)


“We were doing some reconfigurations for the Swift Response exercise, changing from one layout in the cargo department to another,” said Joel. “We were setting up seats for the Army paratroopers to jump out, and I look up and Jeremy is there helping me — tag teaming.”

“Yeah, I didn’t have anything engine related, so I jumped on the airplane to help him set up for the configuration,” Jeremy added.

Joel highlighted that between the two brothers they can take care of a whole plane. “We can go on TDY together and he can do the engine work and I can do the crew chief stuff,” said Joel.

“We can run the plane, we can get it serviced up, gassed and go, or handle any major issues,” added Jeremy.

Joel spoke about completing inspections at Dobbins ARB. When a plane comes in and is jacked up, as Jeremy works on the motor, Joel will be over in the flaps.

Jeremy works as an Air Reserve technician full time at Dobbins ARB. Joel serves as a traditional reservist, frequently working on orders at Dobbins ARB.

The bond between the brothers carries into their civilian life as well. The airmen live as roommates and even produce electronic music and disc jockey together. But their favorite experience is working together in the military.

“Going out and doing real world missions together is really cool,” Jeremy said. “When we grew up playing in the backyard together trying to accomplish something, or helping dad work on the cars, it was together, and now being on a much bigger scale, in a bigger family in the Air Force, still being and working together towards the mission is awesome.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

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