Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier

The US Navy’s carrier-based pilots are skilled aviators who have to be able to take off and land on a ship moving swiftly through the open ocean. Two experienced naval aviators recently talked to Insider about the thrills and the dangers of the job.

Fighters and other aircraft aboard the US Navy’s Nimitz-class aircraft carriers are launched using steam catapults. The new Ford-class carriers use the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), a more advanced catapult system.


“Taking a cat shot is the most exciting roller coaster you will ever be on in your life,” Lt. Cmdr. Matt Deppen, who has served for 11 years and trapped on every aircraft carrier in the Navy except the USS Ronald Reagan, told Insider.

“It’s zero to a buck 70 [170 mph] in two, two and a half seconds,” Capt. J.J. Cummings, commanding officer of the USS Gerald R. Ford, told Insider. “The ride, I argue, is the best part of this. The traps are great, but in my view, the catapult is a blast, literally.”

“It’s the ride of a life. It’s great,” he explained. “I think the best part of flying off the ship is the catapult shot. There’s no ride like it in the world.”

The USS Gerald R. Ford recently wrapped up its first Fleet Replacement Squadron carrier qualifications for naval aviators while operating in the Atlantic Ocean. Cummings said that activities aboard the first-in-class ship have brought back memories of his first catapult launch more than 20 years ago.

“I still remember vividly my first trap on board the USS America in a T-2 Buckeye, and I remember even more vividly my first catapult shot,” he told Insider.

“As the catapult fired, I wasn’t ready for that. Those Gs,” Cummings added, revealing that he still remembers shouting out as his aircraft shot off the carrier’s flight deck.

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An F/A-18F Super Hornet, assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 41, launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) in the Red Sea, April 18, 2019

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Skyler Okerman

‘The craziest 15 to 18 seconds of your life’

Landing a plane on an aircraft carrier can be exciting too, but it isn’t an easy task. It can be both difficult and dangerous, Deppen told Insider, saying, “I think the toughest thing is landing a plane onboard an aircraft carrier.”

To land on a carrier, Navy pilots have to bring their aircraft in just right. Once on deck, a tailhook on the plane will snag a collection of arresting wires, bringing the plane to a stop.

“When you roll in behind the boat, your heart is pounding,” Deppen said. “It’s the craziest 15 to 18 seconds of your life. It’s the toughest thing we do in naval aviation.”

There is a thin margin of error, he explained, adding that “it can go south really quickly and develop into a very bad situation.” He told Insider it can be “very terrifying.”

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The stress of landing on a carrier gets ratcheted up even more at night, when the carrier is just a “dot of light miles out and you’re in the middle of the ocean with no land for a thousand miles away,” Deppen said.

“You’re like, well, crap, I have to land on that thing. It is not easy, and it really gets your blood flowing.”

Still, the naval aviators love to fly. “The plane handles like no other airplane I can get my hands on,” Deppen said of the F/A-18 Super Hornet, the Navy’s main carrier-based fighter. “I just think it’s awesome.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 memes that wrap up 2020 perfectly

We have nothing good to say about you, 2020. So instead, let’s review with this completely spot on list of memes. Take a look below at what the best of the internet has to offer about how this year has gone so far. (And fingers crossed that it doesn’t get worse in the next month). 

Jumping straight into the deep stuff. 

  1. This reminder in case you forgot:
Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier

No really … where’s the punchline?? We’re owed one after this year, right??

  1. When you can’t even enjoy coffee.
Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier

2020 PLEASE stop ruining good things. I mean, pleaseeee! 

  1. Then there’s this totally accurate meme. 
Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier

A breather would be nice. 

  1. When you hate to spread the bad news:
Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier

We just can’t deal with this right now. 

  1. Because this has been the longest year of all time. 
memes

Sums it up.

  1. No good options ahead:
Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier

Where’s the option for “None of the above?”

  1. But seriously, this is not your typical year.
memes

Can we just be the House on Fire Girl meme?

  1. The difference is slightly noticeable. 
memes

Is this our past vs. our future? 

  1. Even celebs are feeling this heat.
memes

Can we get everyone to re-do this with the full calendar year? 

  1. Finally, waiting for this line to end:

Enough with the hidden scenes, 2020!

MIGHTY CULTURE

Coast Guard cooks its way to the top

The United States Coast Guard Culinary Team beat 19 competitors to be named 2020 Joint Culinary Training Exercise Installation of the Year.

The competition included teams from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and international teams from France, Germany and Great Britain, with the Coast Guard earning 20 medals — five gold, six silver and nine bronze, according to a Facebook post. Chief Petty Officer Edward Fuchs, team manager, says training time helped the chefs prepare.

“One of the things that gave us a leg up this year that we’ve never had before is that we had 10 days of training time leading up to it,” Fuchs said. He added that time to run through everything with a team that had never worked together before, made all the difference. He credits Master Chief Matthew Simolon and his crew for opening up the USCG Yorktown, Virginia, galley for their team as one of the reasons they won.


Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier

Chief Petty Officer Scott Jeffries, the Coast Guard Team Advisor, shared that many of the other military branch teams competing there had been working on their craft together for six months or longer to prepare for the competition.

“The reaction from them when they would learn about us (USCG team) only being together for nine days prior to the start of the competition was pretty awesome. They understand how hard this thing is and how much work goes into it,” Jeffries said. “The Yorktown galley made it all possible by getting us rations or running us to the store. Without them, this wouldn’t have been successful at all.”

The road to competing in this culinary competition isn’t easy. The hours are long, often stretching into 12-plus hour days. Fuchs shared there was one stretch where he was away from his hotel room for 30 hours. But that continuous hard work and unfailing dedication paid off.

Fuchs said the Coast Guard has always had to work a little harder because all of the rules and important communications come through the Department of Defense, which led to his team being behind on this year because the group was left out of those important emails. He also shared that throughout the 14 years since the Coast Guard first competed, there were years they weren’t funded to compete.

“For a while it was just us and our personal funds keeping it alive,” he said.

One year, as an example, they were sponsored by The Coast Guard Foundation. In years past, the chefs competing were mostly those located in Washington, D.C. and the Virginia areas that were close by to the Fort Lee competition because they just couldn’t afford to bring in chefs from units throughout the country. He continued saying that “we kept it on life support, waiting for that funding stream to come through.”

Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier

Jeffries echoed Fuchs statement, saying for years it really was a few of them spending thousands of dollars each to maintain a Coast Guard team.

“The coverage was still there because that was our way of being able to showcase to the right avenues, ‘hey we are out here doing awesome stuff and representing the Coast Guard in a great light’ … let’s fund this thing so we can get other people out here,” he said.

They got their wish. The Coast Guard team has been funded for the last two years and this year they were able to bring in chefs from all over the fleet; something they have never been able to do before. And this year’s team was a vibrant representation of the force’s culinary rate and it made all the difference.

“We’ve done this for 14 years and every year you think you have a chance (for culinary team of the year) and then it’s not you. … It’s indescribable, that feeling that you feel when you train a team and they win it. I can’t even put into words the pride and the joy watching them go up on stage to receive the award for culinary team of the year,” Fuchs said.

“We were celebrating the night before because of how great of a job that everyone did in their own personal competitions. The Coast Guard medaled every competition and we already knew that our Coast Guard Chef of the Year had a shot at Armed Forces Chef of the Year, something that the Coast Guard had never won. There was just already so much to celebrate,” Jeffries said.

Both Fuchs and Jeffries describe an “intense” energy in the room after Team Coast Guard was announced as the winner. And so was the respect.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty, in GIFs – Part IV

Need to get caught up? Check out Part I, Part II, and Part III.


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Part IV: Hitting Your Stride

First couple of paychecks under your belt, and you’re ready to look for a place. Game on! You didn’t watch those hundreds of hours of HGTV for nothing.

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You found a place! Time to get your stuff out of storage and find out what broke during the PCS. You’re not sure how your dresser was shattered into five million pieces, but who cares? You’re too excited.

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When you went through TAP and everyone told you to file a VA disability claim, you said “no thanks.” You’re not that hurt, and other people need it more, right?

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But lying awake with your bum ear ringing (and/or your knees throbbing, back hurting, your amygdala telling you you’re about to be eaten by a bear in the comfort of your own bed), you’re beginning to question the wisdom of that decision. Ok, maybe it’s time to file a claim.

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You can figure this out! It’s just some paperwork, right? A visit to eBenefits to check out the details suggests otherwise.

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You call in reinforcements in the form of a VSO. For the low, low price of zero dollars and your medical records, they’ll take care of it for you. Score! Asking for help isn’t that bad. You should do it more often.

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You realize you haven’t talked to any of your old military friends in months, so you text a buddy who separated around the same time. As it turns out, they’re dealing with the same stuff. You communicate through memes, which is surprisingly cathartic. You’re not alone!

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Everybody from your therapist to your partner to your Facebook ads seems to think you’ll feel better if you start exercising again. You attempt an old PT workout, but it’s not the same when nobody is yelling at you. Time to try something new.

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Ok, apparently there’s exercise outside of pushups/situps/running and it’s actually fun. Now, you’re a lean, mean dancing machine.

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Your new exercise routine has got you on an endorphin high. Things are really looking up!

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You love your job, but one of the things you miss most about the military is serving others, so you track down a volunteer gig in your community. Sense of purpose restored!

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At some point, you begin to realize that your military service will always be a part of who you are (a huge part), but it’s not your entire identity forever. You have an opportunity to use your skills and experience to benefit your community, to learn new skills and have new experiences, and to write your next chapter. It’s actually pretty exciting.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of October 26th

Oh boy, picking just one military news story and riffing on it is going to be hard this week.

Let’s see… The Coasties beat the Marines in a sniper competition. The Marines drew another skydick over Miramar. Civilians learned that the Air Force has enough money to waste hundreds of thousands on easily broken coffee mugs. A soldier got arrested in South Korea for kicking a policeman in the nads. And the Commander-in-Chief said he’d, “send in the military — not the guard — but the military,” effectively discrediting the efforts of over half a million guardsmen.

Because I can’t come up with anything funnier than reality has been this week for the military, I’ll just remind you that your Cyber Security cert is almost expired. You should probably get on that.


Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier

(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier

(Meme via Battle Bars)

Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier

(Meme via Private News Network)

Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier

(Meme via Ranger Up)

Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier

(Meme via Untied Status Marin Crops)

Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

13. The perfect Halloween costume doesn’t exi-

No, seriously. You should probably get your Cyber Security training done.

MIGHTY CULTURE

We tried Google’s veteran job search to see how well it works

Firing 155mm howitzers at targets spotted with high-tech drones in order to open a corridor for sappers and infantry to break through enemy defenses is great and fun, but it doesn’t translate easily into corporate skills.

So now, Google is helping make a translator that will match up veterans and corporations.

As companies realize more and more that veterans as a community bring many ideal traits to the business place, such as an accelerated learning curve and attention to detail, there’s a bigger push to hire a vet. So now it’s just a matter of translating “COMBAT ARCHER linchpin; prep’d 4 tms/1st ever JASSM live fire–validated CAF’s #1 F-16 standoff capes” into a resume bullet.

Enter Google.


No simple code can define who you are, but now it can help you search #ForWhateversNext → http://google.com/grow/veterans pic.twitter.com/yrrA1SdKqc

twitter.com

First, watch the Super Bowl commercial announcing it:

In one of two 2019 Super Bowl commercials, Google advertised their Job Search for Veterans initiative, where service members can enter their military occupational specialty codes into a google search and find relevant civilian jobs that require similar skills.

Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier

“Will a cubicle in the corner work for you?”

By typing “jobs for veterans” in Google followed by the appropriate MOS/NEC/AFSC/etc, they can pull up a more streamlined job search. It still seems to be a hit-or-miss function, but I just assume most computer algorithms get more efficient with time. Remember CleverBot?

Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier

I should definitely ask We Are The Mighty for a raise…

Google picked up on my management experience and even though I don’t have a business background, I feel confident that I could go in and land any of these jobs. As an Air Force intelligence officer, however, I have one of the easiest careers to transition into the civilian work place.

So then I tried it out on Logan Nye, one of our Army guys:

Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier

Logan, come back to Los Angeles.

According to Nye, “[Public Affairs Print Journalist] doesn’t learn video at all. You know, the 3rd entry in that list. And public relations managers mostly build programs, which is a 46A thing. Editor is arguably within reach for 46Qs. Assistant editor is definitely within reach for good 46Qs. But the rest of these have only a limited connection to what 46Qs actually do and learn.”

Nye argued that it might be the most difficult for junior- to mid-enlisted vets to step straight into these kinds of six-figure jobs, especially given how specific military training is in reference to the equipment used and the culture that surrounds the job. Troops considering getting out will need to make sure they’re developing the skills needed for the target job, because the military “equivalent” won’t be a perfect match.

That might be true, but I would maintain that this gives veterans insight into civilian careers similar to their own. This gives them a place to begin with adjacent training requirements.

I’ll bring it back to the accelerated learning curve. Vets are used to moving around and learning on-the-job training quickly; we’re conditioned to adapt because of our military foundation: discipline, hard work, mission-focused, service before self.

Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier

At the end of the day, I appreciate any resource or hiring initiative out there for veterans, many of whom put their careers on hold to serve in the military. Adjusting to the civilian workforce can take some time, but ‘Job Search for Veterans’ seems to make it just a little bit easier — and will hopefully give vets more confidence about the jobs they apply for.

Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier

Just keep your quirks to yourself until after you get the job.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 ways your veteran friend will prove they always have your back

Friendship within the ranks is the glue that holds a unit together. It doesn’t matter who a person is, where they’re from, or what their personal hobbies are, friendships forged in the suck become stronger than anyone can imagine.

It isn’t much of a stretch to say that troops in the same unit become closer than family — but all good things must come to an end. Contracts expire, retirement ceremonies are held, and DD-214s are filled out. Those veterans then go forth to find their new family — which is no easy task.

These are troops who spent years of their lives knowing that even the guys they were only kind of close to were willing to die for them — and vice versa. It’s a lifestyle that makes loyalty a top-shelf virtue. So, if you’re a part of the civilian world and you’ve managed to fill the role of a veteran’s “good friend,” know that they’ve got your back.


It should be noted that, of course, every veteran is different — and it really depends on how close you are with your veteran friend. But, generally, they’ll offer to help you out in these ways:

Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier
(U.S. Air Force)

Or you could buy them a beer. That always works.

They don’t care about the majority’s opinion — just the trust of a few

Social norms are laughable to most veterans. As long as something doesn’t put anyone in serious danger (other than the veteran if it means there’s a laugh or two to be had, of course), they’ll most likely do it.

If you’re too scared to go talk to that someone who’s grabbed your eye at the bar, veterans really don’t give a sh*t about being embarrassed. They’ll make sure you get their number as long as you make them proud by having a good night.

Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. James Avery)

Don’t play with their emotions about free beer, though.

They’ll always be willing to hang out

This is a bit tricky. Most veterans aren’t outgoing or social to the point that they want to be friends with everyone, but if you’re in their close circle, they’ll treat that call like it’s from blood family.

If your veteran friend is on the fence about a social event, just toss in the phrase, “first beer is on me” and they’re already ordering a taxi.

Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kristina Truluck)

Just don’t ask for their woobie. That’s about the only thing they won’t give up.

They will (sometimes literally) give you the shirt off their back

Worldly possessions and money mean something else to veterans. Of course, just like anyone else, they need money to buy whatever they need to get by. But, for the most part, they can do without when it comes to frivolities. They probably managed to sleep just fine underneath a HUMVEE for months at a time with nothing but a woobie and their rifle.

If you find yourself a few bucks short for a meal, your veteran pal will more than likely help you out without giving it a second thought — it’s for the greater good.

Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Adam Dublinske)

But if you were to ask them to help dig a hole in the middle of the desert for no reason… Well, that’s almost literally all we did while deployed.

They’ll offer to help with things that may not be exactly legal

Veterans also tend to have an alternate perspective on the law. This mentality probably comes from the days when one guy getting caught doing something bad meant equal punishment for everyone in the platoon. Unless that guy did something so heinous that just associating with them was a crime, they looked after their own.

If you’ve ever heard your veteran friend joke about, “burying a body with you. No questions asked.,” just take it as a compliment — we recommend against putting that loyalty to the test.

Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. David Flynn)

If it’s an emergency, don’t worry about waking us up. We probably weren’t sleeping anyway.

They’ll always answer the phone at 4am

No good news comes over the phone at 4 am. It likely means one of three things have happened: Someone is hurt, someone is in danger, or someone needs a shoulder to lean on. Veterans have first-hand experiences with all three — and they know when it’s time to pick up the phone.

You might be surprised to learn that your veteran buddy — the guy that’s normally the crudest of the group — is actually a great freelance psychiatrist when the circumstance calls for it.

Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Paul A. Holston)

Every vet just wants to unleash their inner cage fighter every now and then.

They will put themselves in harm’s way for you

There’s an old saying that’s been modified by pretty much everyone: “Pain is temporary, but pride is forever.”

Blood drys. Broken noses mend. Bloody knuckles heal. These mean nothing so long as everyone’s safe now.

Some vets may hold true to the “sheepdog mentality.” They’ll never let anyone harm the ones they love. But to be completely honest… many veterans are half-way hoping someone runs their mouth or gets a bit handsy so they have a legally valid reason to feed someone their teeth.

Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Meredith Brown)

We are perfectly content with chilling out all day and playing Spades in the smoke pit. We’re up for anything, really.

They will always enjoy the little moments with you

The bonds between troops aren’t just the result of completing rigorous training or fighting in combat missions together (even though those play a big role). It’s the little moments that cement friendships — it’s those times when troops are bored out of their minds in the tent or stuck on the same boring detail.

You don’t have to plan some intense friendship-bonding thing just to appease them. Most veterans are completely happy sharing a beer in the living room for hours and just relaxing with you — that’s what means the most.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Air Force just launched a podcast

The inaugural Airman Podcast for the At Altitude channel features a conversation with Dr. Will Roper, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

As the Air Force’s Service Acquisition Executive, Dr. Roper is responsible for and oversees Air Force research, development and acquisition activities totaling an annual budget in excess of $40 billion for more than 465 acquisition programs.


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In this position, Dr. Roper serves as the principal advisor to the secretary and chief of staff of the Air Force for research and development, test, production and modernization efforts within the Air Force.

In the interview from early in 2019, Dr. Roper discusses how reforming the acquisition process is foundation to building the Air Force we need to maintain dominance in the battlespace today and tomorrow.

Listen to At Altitude Podcasts here.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Washington, DC: Inside the city of spies

At first glance, Mr. Smith’s in the trendy Georgetown area of Washington, DC, may seem like a regular bar.

On any given day — at least before COVID-19 — you’d find a cross-section of Washington’s society there for the burgers and the beer. Drunk tourists, young Capitol Hill staffers, K Street lobbyists with money to burn, and cynical old Washingtonians sharing inside-the-Beltway gossip all gather there.


Like dozens of other sites in the city, however, the bar has a dark past. It was at this bar in 1985, then known as Chadwicks, that CIA officer Aldrich Ames betrayed his country by meeting with Victor Cherkashin, a KGB counterintelligence officer stationed at the Soviet embassy in Washington.

Over weeks and months of meetings at the bar — which proclaimed itself “casual dining at its best” — Ames revealed the identities of more than 100 CIA assets operating in the Soviet Union, many of whom promptly “vanished” or were executed. His reward? A total of $4.6 million. He was finally arrested in 1994 after the CIA began looking into his lavish lifestyle, which included a $540,000 house in nearby Arlington paid for in cash, a $50,000 Jaguar, and tailor-made suits that even his bosses couldn’t afford on a government salary.

Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier

Mr. Smith’s replaced Chadwicks in Georgetown, where CIA officer Aldrich Ames betrayed the US by meeting with a Soviet counterintelligence officer. Photo courtesy of Mr. Smith’s/Facebook.

Chadwicks is just one of dozens of sites across the Washington area that speak to its past, present, and future as a hub of foreign espionage activity and American efforts to stop it.

“DC is a hotspot of espionage activity, between all of the embassies that are located there that have their diplomatic attachés that sometimes work for their home country’s government or intelligence operations,” explained Francis Gary Powers Jr., the founder and operator of Spy Tour of Washington, DC. “There’s always some kind of intrigue going on in DC.”

For Powers, tales of Cold War espionage are a personal affair. His father, Francis Gary Powers Sr., was the pilot of a CIA U-2 spy plane that was famously shot down while flying a mission over the Soviet Union on May 1, 1960. Although the elder Powers successfully managed to bail out of the aircraft, he was quickly captured and remained in Soviet captivity until he was exchanged for a Soviet intelligence officer at the Glienicke Bridge in Berlin in February 1962.

These days, the younger Powers takes private groups on trips across the many drop points, safe houses, and other clandestine sites that make up Washington’s spy history dating back all the way to Rose Greenhow, a Washington socialite who spied for the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier

Rose O’Neal Greenhow, a spy during the Civil War, with her youngest daughter and namesake, “Little” Rose, at the Old Capitol Prison, Washington, DC, 1862. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

“We go by Aldrich Ames’ homes, [convicted spy] Alger Hiss’ home, and have briefings on FBI agent Robert Hanssen drop points,” he said. “Or we go by the Russian Embassy and talk about the underground tunnel that was dug out there. There’s a variety of places to see.”

Many of the publicly known spy locations in Washington revolve around “traditional” espionage tradecraft that was perfected over many decades. The innocent-looking Foxstone Park in Vienna, Virginia, for example, was where disgraced FBI agent Robert Hanssen left classified materials for his KGB handler — who, incidentally, was the same Victor Cherkashin who handled Aldrich Ames.

Long before mobile phones, the internet, communications technology, and the cloud changed the way government — and intelligence services — operated, many of these sites were in use. Spy agencies in both the US and around the world are now increasingly reliant on technology to communicate, intercept communications, conduct surveillance, and perform other day-to-day functions of intelligence.

Technology, however, is no replacement for tried-and-true methods.

“There is something to be said for ‘sticks and bricks.’ Going back to the old school is always there, even if it’s as a fail-safe,” explained Marc Polymeropoulos, who served 26 years in the CIA before retiring from the agency’s Senior Intelligence Service in June 2019.

Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier

The “Ellis” drop site — under a footbridge over Wolftrap Creek near Creek Crossing Road at Foxstone Park near Vienna, Virginia — where FBI Special Agent Robert Hanssen clandestinely placed a package containing highly classified information for pickup by his Russian handlers. Photo courtesy of the FBI.

According to Polymeropoulos, who oversaw and took part in clandestine operations across Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia, there is simply no replacement for meeting an asset face-to-face.

“That lets you really sit down and assess them and talk to them,” he said. “You need to be able to look someone in the eye and assess them, regardless of this new environment in which we live. […] We’ll always find a way.”

Meeting people in person, Polymeropoulos said, allows intelligence officers to judge a person’s motivation and trustworthiness in a way that a Zoom call, for example, never will.

“People do lie to you, all the time. There’s no doubt about that. But it’s also the sense of getting a feel of someone and their motivations,” he said. “It’s even things that just sound silly, like going over the details of stories with someone over and over. If they’re telling the truth, they might not slip up as much.”

“It’s like taking a graduate class in psychology. Ultimately, what you’re doing is assessing someone and their mental ability and motivations to betray their country,” Polymeropoulos added. “Doing so remotely is difficult. It’s certainly possible, but I don’t think you’re ever going to get as much.”

Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier

Marc Polymeropoulos. Photo courtesy of Twitter/@mpolymer.

Whether new tech-savvy techniques or old espionage methods are in play, there’s no doubt that Washington remains a hub of foreign intelligence activity.

“There are different intelligence operations going on all the time in DC and Northern Virginia,” Powers said. “There’s definitely espionage taking place every day.”

Polymeropoulos, for his part, is even more blunt in his assessment. In his view, current political tensions mean that foreign adversaries are perhaps even more active in the nation’s capital now than they were during even the tensest years of the Cold War.

“Washington is still a spy capital; it always has been. One of the troubling things that’s happening in the United States is that any country — as we would — is going to try to take advantage of political turmoil and chaos,” he said. “If I was looking at the United States, I’d be looking at people within the government that have secrets, who are dissatisfied. You have a lot of that now.”

Foreign intelligence services, he added, are likely assessing targets in both political parties and across government agencies in Washington.

“This has to do with people in government, staffers on the Hill. If you think about it, it’s such a target-rich environment for hostile intelligence organizations to target the United States right now, and ground zero is Washington,” he said.

“There’s a lot for our adversaries to work with right now, and that’s a huge concern and a huge counterintelligence worry.”

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


MIGHTY HISTORY

Everything you didn’t know about FDR’s monument

One of the most overlooked monuments at the National Mall, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial is located in West Potomac Park between the Tidal Basin along the Cherry Tree Walk and the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. The memorial dedicated to America’s 32nd president is about halfway between the Lincoln Memorial and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.

President Roosevelt led the nation during both the Great Depression and WWII during his four terms as president. The sprawling memorial is designed to guide visitors through a walk back through each of those terms. There are more than seven acres of space to explore the FDR Memorial. Each feature at the site is designed to help a visitor understand more about this dynamic president and how he directly impacted modern-day America. 

The memorial was dedicated on May 2, 1997, by President Bill Clinton. 

There are sculptures at the memorial inspired by photographs of DRF seated alongside his dog Fala. There are also scenes from the Great Depression, ranging from bread lines to people gathered at a radio to listen to FDR’s Fireside Chats. A bronze statue of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt standing in front of the United Nations emblem honors her dedication to the UN and global causes. FDR’s memorial is the only one at the national mall which depicts a First Lady. 

Capstone Achievement for Designer

The memorial was designed and developed by Lawrence Halprin. He called this his crowning achievement because of the difficulty in creating the monument and because of Halprin’s fond memories of listening to Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats. 

Halprin won a design competition to create the memorial back in 1974, but Congress didn’t appropriate funds for more than 20 years. The final design features Halprin’s work and ideas and several other prominent architects and designers, including Leonard Baskin, Robert Graham, Thomas Hardy, George Segal, and Neil Eastern. 

Water features 

(Library of Congress)

Running water is an important metaphor that’s carried throughout the memorial. Each of the four rooms contains a waterfall, and as visitors move from one place to the next, the waterfalls become larger and more complex. This is meant to reflect the complexity of the presidency. 

The five main water features all represent something specific.

The single large drop of water represents the economy’s crash, which led the country to the Great Depression.

Stair-stepped water features are meant to pay homage to the Tennessee Valley Authority dam-building project, which was the first of its kind in the country. 

There are also several chaotic waterfalls at sharp angles, all that signify WWII. 

To commemorate President Roosevelt’s death, there’s a still water pool. 

The array of combining waterfalls is intended to be a retrospective of Roosevelt’s presidency.

The memorial is designed to give people options on how they experience it, allowing them to reverse directions, experience different sites, smells, and sounds, pause and reflect, and even be alone. All of these options are meant to indicate some of what Roosevelt did as president. 

Steeped in Controversy

Because of Roosevelt’s disability, the memorial designers wanted to create an experience that would be accessible to all. The memorial includes an area written in braille for people who are blind, and the wide pathways are accessible for those who use wheelchairs. 

However, disability advocates say that the braille is incorrectly spaced and positioned at eight feet, too high for anyone to actually read. 

One of the statues of FDR also stirred controversy. Initial designs planned to showcase FDR in his wheelchair, but the final design depicts the president in his chair with a cloak obscuring the wheelchair. This is often how he maneuvered throughout his day, even though his reliance on a wheelchair wasn’t widely publicized during his lifetime. Historians and disability rights activities wanted the wheelchair to be shown since they believe it depicts his source of strength. Finally, the sculptor decided to add casters to the back of the chair to create a symbolic wheelchair. However, the casters are only visible behind the statue.

In 2001, an additional statue was placed at the memorial entrance that shows FDR seated in a wheelchair. 

This is actually the second memorial

In a conversation with friend and Supreme Court Associate Justice Felix Frankfurter in 1941, Roosevelt said if he were ever to have a monument erected in his honor, it should go in front of the National Archives and be no later than his desk. Roosevelt said he wanted the memorial to be simple, without any ornamentation. 

In 1965, a 3-foot tall, 7-foot long, and 4-foot wide white marble block was dedicated to Roosevelt. This memorial was placed near the southeast corner of Ninth Street NW and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. The simple stone reads, “In Memory of Franklin Delano Roosevelt,” just like the president wanted.

MIGHTY CULTURE

A leukemia survivor just became a Marine and it’s amazing

Deciding to be a Marine means you have to accept the challenges that you’ll have to face along the way. Earning that Eagle, Globe, and Anchor is no easy task. To become a Marine, you have to be willing to stare every challenge straight in the eye and say, “I got this.” That’s what it means to be a Marine. That is the very quality at the core of every person who becomes one. This is no exception for Michael Campofiori, one of the Corps’ newest Marines — and a survivor of leukemia.

According to the American Cancer Society, patients with childhood leukemia very rarely survive after five years. This disease is a monster of a challenge for anyone to overcome, and it’s a tragedy for any child to have to experience. That didn’t stop Michael Campofiori from wanting to become a Marine, despite being diagnosed at age 11.

This would be his first challenge on a path of many:


Naval aviators talk the dangers and thrills of taking off and landing on an aircraft carrier

Michael Campofiori poses for a photo with Sgt. William Todd, a recruiter with Recruiting Substation Myrtle Beach, and Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Falk, the Staff non-commissioned officer-in-charge of Recruiting Substation Myrtle Beach, after swearing in to the Marine Corps on Aug. 16, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lcpl Jack Rigsby)

Recruitment

Joining the military is difficult when leukemia is a part of your medical history. There’s a special waiver for it, but Campofiori had trouble finding recruiters willing to take on the paperwork and help him realize his dream of becoming a Marine. The journey took him, a native of New Jersey, all the way to South Carolina.

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Poolees with RSS Myrtle Beach posing with the recruiters.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lcpl Jack Rigsby)

The recruiters at Recruiting Substation Myrtle Beach were willing to do the work necessary to get Campofiori in. They felt he had what it took — and they were absolutely right. Not only did his waiver go through, but Campofiori dominated as a Poolee, earning nearly a perfect score on the Initial Strength Test, the prerequisite fitness test for eligibility to join.

Of the maximum 20 pull-ups, 100 crunches, and 9:00 minute run-time, this badass got 29 pull-ups, 121 crunches, and a 9:18 run-time for the mile and a half. He wasn’t even a Marine before he was going above and beyond.

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Michael Campofiori, a recruit with Platoon 2020, Company E, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, participates in the Day Movement Course as part of Basic Warrior Training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, Feb. 6, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jack A. E. Rigsby)

Recruit Training

Campofiori was sent to boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina on Dec. 10, 2018. Of course, the challenge isn’t over there — boot camp is its own obstacle to overcome. It’s difficult in its own right. But, Campofiori was already slaying dragons.

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Welcome to the Corps.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jack A. E. Rigsby)

On February 23, 2019, Michael Campofiori completed the Crucible and received his Eagle, Globe, and Anchor, completing the transformation into a United States Marine. From battling leukemia to earning the title, Campofiori overcame every challenge that he ever had to face. Campofiori embodies the very spirit of being a Marine.

You can watch the video of him receiving his EGA here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

LRC develops future leaders by using hands-on practice in tackling both leader and follower roles

After the Second World War, the Air Force established their version of a LRC, Project X, which would be used as one of the four means to evaluate students of the Squadron Officers Course at Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.


“What we are trying to replicate for the students is being under stress and how you manage people under stress with limited resources, limited time and trying to solve a complex problem with a group of people with different personalities, different ways of leading and ways they want to be followed,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Clayton, Air University assistant professor of leadership.

The primary purposes of the course are to improve the students’ leadership ability by affording the student an opportunity to apply the lessons learned in formal leadership instruction. Secondly, to assess the students by measuring the degree to which certain leadership traits and behaviors are possessed. It’s also used to provide the students with a means of making a self-evaluation to determine more accurately their leadership ability and to provide the opportunity to observe the effects of strengths and weaknesses of others during a team operation.

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Most importantly, the LRC is used to develop diverse individuals as future leaders in the Air Force.

Stress plays an important part in the evaluation of each leader as it is through stress the critical leader processes and skills will be observed by the evaluator. To produce a stressful environment for the working team, certain limitations are placed on them.

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Officer trainees work together to overcome an obstacle at the Project X leadership reaction course. The course is designed to improve leadership traits to Air-men attending Squadron Officer School, Officer Training School, Air Force Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy and other schools on Maxwell AFB.

(Air Force photo by Donna L. Burnett/Released)

According to the LRC standard of operations, the course operation is designed so that each individual will be a leader for a task-one time and serve as a team member or observer the remainder of the time. For each task there is a working team and an observing team. The working team is responsible for completing the mission while the observing team acts as safety personnel, overwatch elements, support elements, or competition.

The tasks themselves vary. For example, one task may be to get personnel and equipment across a simulated land mine without touching the ground by building a makeshift bridge from supplies. Another task may incorporate fear and more physical endurance by getting a team and gear over a high wall. Each task has a time limit and unique problems to solve the mission.

Although completing the mission isn’t the goal of the LRC.

“As a leader, you have to recognize some of these people may be scared to do this task or to move across this task with me. So, how do you motivate those people? Do you have the emotional intelligence to understand that you may be able to get through this task on your own, but other people may be scared to do it, so how do you understand that? How do you communicate to your people, motivate them, lead them by example, inspire them to follow you and get through the task? These tasks are designed to cause that stress and to make you apply the leadership skills you learned in the classroom,” Clayton said.

The whole concept is getting students to identify what type of leader they are as well as understand and identifying leadership traits in others.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why taking care of people is key to success on battlefield

Gen. James McConville smiled as he reminisced of when he was chosen to lead the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), before he became its longest-serving commander.

It was the same week in 2011 he commissioned his eldest son into the Army after he graduated as an ROTC cadet from Boston College.

But perhaps the most proud was his father, a former enlisted sailor who had served in the Korean War and then spent nearly 50 years working at the Boston Gear factory.

At the ceremony, his father, Joe, was asked by a local newspaper how he felt about his family’s generations of military service.


Sixty years ago, he told the reporter, he was a junior seaman on a ship. And today, his son was about to command a famed Army division and his grandson was now a second lieutenant.

“‘What a great country this is,'” McConville recalled his father saying. “I don’t think I could have said it better.”

McConville, who was sworn in as the Army’s 40th chief of staff on Aug. 9, 2019, said he credits his father for inspiring him to join the military.

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(Photo by Spc. Markus Bowling))

After high school, McConville left Quincy, a suburb of Boston, and attended the U.S. Military Academy, where he graduated in 1981. Since then his 38-year career has been marked with milestones and key assignments.

McConville has led multiple units in combat before most recently serving as the 36th vice chief of staff under Gen. Mark Milley, who will be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He also oversaw the Army’s G-1 (personnel) and legislative liaison offices.

The idea of serving the country was sparked by his father, who, now nearing 90 years old, still passionately shares stories of his time in the military.

“I was always amazed that a man who I had tremendous respect for, who had tremendous character, just really loved his time serving in the Navy,” the general said.

Currently with three children and a son-in-law in the Army, McConville and his wife, Maria, a former Army officer herself, are continuing the family business.

People first

The sense of family for McConville, though, extends beyond bloodlines.

As a father and a leader, McConville understands the importance of taking care of every person in the Army, which he calls the country’s most respected institution.

“People are the Army,” he said of soldiers, civilians and family members. “They are our greatest strength, our most important weapon system.”

Fine-tuning that weapon system means, for instance, providing soldiers with the best leadership, training and equipment through ongoing modernization efforts.

As the vice chief, McConville and current acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy supervised the development of Army Futures Command’s cross-functional teams.

Designed to tackle modernization priorities, the CFTs revamped how the Army procures new equipment. The teams allow soldiers to work directly with acquisition and requirements experts at the start of projects, resulting in equipment being delivered faster to units.

Modernization efforts are also changing how soldiers will fight under the new concept of multi-domain operations.

“When I talk about modernization, there are some that think it is just new equipment,” he said. “But, to me, it is much more than that.”

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The family of Gen. James McConville poses for a photo during a promotion ceremony in honor of his son, Capt. Ryan McConville, in his office at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., May 2, 2019.

(Photo by Spc. Dana Clarke)

He believes a new talent management system, which is still being developed, will help soldiers advance in their careers.

As the Army pivots from counterinsurgency missions to great power competition against near-peer rivals, the system could better locate and recognize soldiers with certain skillsets the service needs to win.

“If we get them in the right place at the right time,” he said, “we’ll have even a better Army than we have right now.”

The talent of Army civilians, which he says are the “institutional backbone of everything we do,” should also be managed to ensure they grow in their positions, too.

As for family members, he said they deserve good housing, health care, childcare and spousal employment opportunities.

“If we provide a good quality of life for our families, they will stay with their soldiers,” he said.

Winning matters

All of these efforts combine into a two-pronged goal for McConville — an Army that is ready to fight now while at the same time being modernized for the future fight.

“Winning matters,” he said. “When we send the United States Army somewhere, we don’t go to participate, we don’t go to try hard. We go to win. That is extremely important because there’s no second place or honorable mention in combat.”

Readiness, he said, is built by cohesive teams of soldiers that are highly trained, disciplined and fit and can win on the battlefield.

“We’re a contact sport,” he said. “They need to make sure that they can meet the physical and mental demands.”

To help this effort, a six-event readiness assessment, called the Army Combat Fitness Test, is set to replace the current three-event Army Physical Fitness Test, which has been around since 1980.

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Gen. James McConville, the Army vice chief of staff, swears in recruits during a break in the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia, Dec. 8, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

The new strenuous fitness test, which is gender- and age-neutral, was developed to better prepare soldiers for combat tasks and reduce injuries. It is expected to be the Army’s fitness test of record by October 2020.

Soldiers also need to sharpen their characteristic traits that make them more resilient in the face of adversity, he said.

Throughout his career, especially in combat, McConville said he learned that staying calm under pressure was the best way to handle stress and encourage others to complete the mission.

In turn, being around soldiers in times of peace or war kept McConville motivated when hectic days seem to never end.

“Every single day I get to serve in the company of heroes,” he said. “There are some people who look for their heroes at sporting events … or movie theaters, but my heroes are soldiers.

“My heroes are soldiers because I have seen them do extraordinary things in very difficult situations,” he added. “I’m just incredibly proud to serve with them.”

And given his new role overseeing the entire Army, he is now ultimately responsible for every single one of those “heroes.”

“I know having three kids who serve in the military that their parents have sent their most important possession to the United States Army,” he said, “and they expect us, in fact they demand, that we take care of them.”

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

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