Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves

More than 250 new Virginia Beach City Public School (VBCPS) secondary teachers (those who teach children between the ages of 11 and 18) and school counselors participated in scenario-based training at Tallwood High School in Virginia Beach, Aug. 22- 23, 2018, which afforded them a unique opportunity to learn about and experience firsthand some of the challenges military families face during a permanent change of station (PCS) move.

The training, titled “The PCS Challenge – Building Empathy for Transitioning Students,” engaged the participants by simulating a military PCS move in an effort to help them better understand the lives of military families and helped to generate empathy toward transitioning military-affiliated students. Local Hampton Roads installation school liaison officers (SLOs) provided intrinsic value and credibility to the training by ensuring the information presented was both timely and relevant with regard to military policies, culture and trends. Throughout the scenarios, the SLOs donned the hats of detailers, Fleet and Family representatives, and various school staff members to test the mettle of the participants. They also provided feedback and expertise in their respective areas to assist the participants when questions or issues came up.


Each participant was given a family assignment and an initial duty station to start. Some were given the role of the service member, others played the role of a spouse, a child, or multiple children if applicable. Of the family units that had multiple children, a least one of those children had special needs and were enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP), which is a mandatory enrollment program that works with other military and civilian agencies to provide comprehensive and coordinated community support, housing, educational, medical, and personnel services to families with special needs.

The training scenarios included military acronyms and jargon, emotional stages of the PCS cycle, a duty station wish list or “dream sheet,” receiving orders for the service member and/or connecting with the Fleet Family Support Center for the spouse, doing a pack out and deciding what items could be taken with the family to the new duty station based on rate/rank and the weight of household goods allotted, choosing specific housing to meet the needs of the family, and deregistering and registering a child/children in a new school. Like a real PCS move, each choice made along the way by the participants caused a potential impact on the service member, the family unit as a whole, and ultimately the child(ren).

Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves

Karen Phillips, a School Liaison Officer for Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek, plays the role of a detailer for simulated military service members during a scenario exercise as part of The PCS Challenge ” Building Empathy for Transitioning Students training that was offered by the Military Support Program for Virginia Beach Public Schools at Tallwood High School in Virginia Beach, Aug. 23, 2018.

(U.S. Navy photo by David Todd)

One of the biggest obstacles military families face during a PCS move is not having enough time to prepare, especially when faced with the various items required by the school districts for student enrollment. The training scenarios amplified the stress levels by giving the participants a very short period of time to make major family life decisions.

“Because this training was interactive and simulated, each participant actually became a member of a military family,” explained Debbie Patch, the Regional School Liaison Officer who assisted VBCPS with the training. “Each participant was given characteristics with their new military family role and each participant played their role accordingly. The groups made ‘family’ decisions based on their unique situation. It is my hope that this training provided the participants with an experience that will give them a greater awareness of the unique challenges military students face as a result of their parent’s service to our country. I believe that once someone has experienced this training, there can be no doubt that all military children ‘serve too.'”

Although many of the participants did not have a background of working with military families, some were military spouses new to the area and were able to offer some hands-on experience to help their peers.

“Their life experiences make it real for the people in their group,” said Karen Phillips, the SLO for Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek who was one of four SLOs in attendance to assist VBCPS and the teachers during the training. “They are not just hearing from us [SLOs], they are hearing it from people with experience who are sitting right there at the table with them.”

Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves

Participants discuss their pack out and family housing selection during a scenario exercise as part of The PCS Challenge ” Building Empathy for Transitioning Students training that was offered by the Military Support Program for Virginia Beach Public Schools at Tallwood High School in Virginia Beach, Aug. 23, 2018.

(U.S. Navy photo by David Todd)

The training was originally developed by Army SLOs that work for Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County, Virginia. The collaborative team of SLOs and VBCPS personnel were fortunate to see the training delivered to Northern Virginia school personnel last year and were eager to bring the PCS Challenge to Virginia Beach Schools.

“The ‘PCS Challenge’ was a collaboration that began between Virginia Beach City Public Schools, the Navy Regional Mid-Atlantic School Liaison Officer, and the VBCPS SLOs,” said Natalie Meiggs, the Coordinator of Military Support Programs for Virginia Beach City Public Schools. “An area of support for transitioning military students was identified through a needs assessment that was conducted from a Department of Defense Education Activity [DoDEA] grant called ‘Project GRIT.'”

The basic session of the PCS Challenge took approximately 80 hours to develop and the content in each session is tailored to meet the audience. The sessions range from one to two hours depending on the complexity of the scenarios and the number and type of participants in attendance. Overall, more than 300 hours have been devoted to developing and crafting the program.

Meiggs explained that approximately 25 percent of the school division’s student population is comprised of active duty, military-dependent youth, and noted that VBCPS is committed to providing support, resources and enrichment programs to enhance the educational experiences of those children and their families.

“Our military-connected students transition about every three years,” she explained “So they could possibly attend six to nine schools in their K-12 educational career.”

“The goal of the PCS Challenge training for teachers is to help them understand more about military life and build empathy about the moving process,” said Phillips. “After participating in this interactive session, teachers will better understand the challenges military families face when having to PCS and be inspired to assist in making the transition smoother for their students.”

Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves

Debbie Patch, the Regional School Liaison Officer, helps to hand out family assignment packages to participants during The PCS Challenge ” Building Empathy for Transitioning Students training offered by the Military Support Program for Virginia Beach Public Schools at Tallwood High School in Virginia Beach, Aug. 23, 2018.

(U.S. Navy photo by David Todd)

VBCPS has further demonstrated their commitment to military families by collaborating with SLOs on various other projects, including “Art of Being a Military Child,” military volunteer opportunities and Navy birthday school outreach, the Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story oyster restoration project, and the 5th Grade STEM LAB Learning Day field trip at NAS Oceana, among others.

Meiggs said she always looks for new ways to improve the training and values the feedback she receives during each session, but emphasizes that military families should contact their respective SLOs prior to PCSing to help navigate the nuisances of school districts and ease the school enrollment process.

“I want to continuously learn from the participants each time the PCS Challenge is completed,” she said. “I am always learning how the training can be improved to increase understanding of the military culture and how I can improve my own practice of supporting our military families. The PCS Challenge is adapted to meet the needs of the audience each time it is delivered.”

Patch said the training is also beneficial for SLOs, who work directly with military families and schools across the Hampton Roads area during the school year, as well as during summer and winter breaks.

“The SLOs work daily with families who face real educational challenges as they move from state to state, and city to city,” she said. “Each state and city have different educational policies and procedures that must be navigated by military families. SLOs have been able to ensure that this training emphasizes to educators that military families’ frame of reference is the previous school’s policies and experiences. Enabling local teachers to understand this mindset helps them to better understand military families and how to support them.”

In addition to the recent training, VBCPS and SLOs have offered similar training to military family life counselors; as well as coordinators, directors, administrators, school counselors, teachers, and leadership teams throughout VBCPS since its inception. Similar training is scheduled to be offered to Chesapeake Public School’s elementary school counselors in September 2018, with secondary school counselors training scheduled later in the year.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army veteran is world-champion hoop dancer

The grassy hill surrounding the arena is packed full of spectators and family members. The emcee calls out a dancer’s name; there’s movement in the crowd. The competitor makes it into the arena, throws out his hoops for his sequence.

Upon the dancer’s cue, the drum starts singing. Bells on his ankles sing in time with each beat of the drum and each step he makes.

He has five minutes to convey a story, using small hoops as his medium to paint each scene, as part of the 28th Annual Heard Museum World Championship Hoop Dance Contest held in Phoenix in 2018.


“The competition opens everyone’s eyes to the Native American culture,” said Timothy Clouser, the museum’s facilities director and a Navy veteran. “I find it very fascinating how each dancer puts their own artistic expression in their dance and story they are trying to convey. Not one dance is the same.”

Brian Hammill, an Army veteran of the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin and a previous World Hoop Dance champion, competed in Phoenix. He uses his dancing to help bridge the cultural gap between Native Americans and non-natives, sharing his culture everywhere he goes.

“As native people, we don’t give gifts of objects because an object goes away, but we give the gift of a song, or a dance,” Hammill said. “When you do that, if you give somebody a song, and you tell them, ‘Every time you sing this song, you tell the story,’ or ‘Every time you do this dance, you tell the story and you give it away,’ that dance will last forever. That’s how this hoop dance carries on; it’s given from one person to the next.”

Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves

Army veteran Brian Hammill of the Ho-Chunk Nation applies face paint before grand entry at the 28th Annual Heard Museum World Championship Hoop Dance Contest at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, Feb. 10, 2018.

(Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anita C. Newman)

The hoop dance is different than other Native American dances, such as powwow dancing. Powwows are inter-tribal celebrations of Native American culture. Tribal affiliation doesn’t matter, nor does what region someone is from. It doesn’t even matter if someone is native or non-native.

Powwow dancing consists of at least six categories. Men’s categories include the fancy dance, grass dance and traditional dance. Women’s categories are the fancy dance, jingle dress and traditional dance.

The hoop dance regalia is minimal compared to that of the powwow dances. Typically, a hoop dancer will wear a shirt, breechcloth, side drops, sheep skin, bells (or deer hooves) and moccasins. The colors and designs are specific to each person. The hoops are small and vary in size, typically depending on the height of the dancer. Sometimes they have designs on them, again, specific to each dancer.

“Traditionally, the hoops were made out of willow, depending on where the tribe was located,” Hammill said. “I make mine out of a very exotic wood called plastic.”

The hoop dance has different origin stories with a common thread that it originated in the Southwest. To some native nations, the hoop dance is a healing dance, Hammill said. A hoop would traditionally be passed over an afflicted person, then the dancer would break that hoop and never use it again.

“Basically, it was a way of taking away all that pain or sickness away,” Hammill said. “That’s not done in public. There is also a story of the children, the Taos Pueblo children. It is said that the children saw this ceremony taking place and began to emulate what they saw. Instead of telling the kids, ‘No, you can’t do this,’ the adults encouraged them. They began to sing songs for them. They took what was a prayer and made it something the kids could do. So, basically, the dance changed, it evolved.

“In the north, it tells of a warrior’s journey,” he continued. “As you see these hoops come together, they start to make formations. You’ll see the eagle, the butterfly, the warrior on the battlefield defending his family, the clouds in the sky.”

Each person, he explained, will see that dance in a different way, interpret the story differently. There are hundreds of hoop dance stories, but each one revolves around the sacred circle of life.

“The significance of the hoops is that it represents the circle of life. There’s no beginning and no ending,” Hammill said. “We are taught that each and every one of us — doesn’t matter who we are, where we come from, the color of our skin — we are all created equal in that sacred hoop.”

Another part of Hammill’s culture that he lives every day is the tradition of service.

“The way I was always taught is, as a native person, we are always here to serve the people,” he said.

Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves

U.S. Army veteran, Brian Hammill of the Ho-Chunk Nation, competes at the 28th Annual Heard Museum World Championship Hoop Dance Contest at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona on Feb. 10, 2018.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anita C. Newman)

“We serve them by cooking and providing food for them. We teach them, or protect them. One of the greatest things I was always taught that we do, is we put ourselves in harm’s way to protect our families and our identity. It was something I’ve always wanted to do, I felt I needed to do.”

Hammill enlisted in the Army while still in high school. He went to basic training during the summer between his junior and senior years, and went on active duty after graduation.

“It’s just something that we do,” he said. “You’ll find that throughout the United States, there are a higher percentage of native veterans per capita than any other race.”

While he was stationed in South Korea, one of his first sergeants learned that he had danced while growing up, and asked Hammill to share his culture with everyone. He performed the men’s fancy dance for his fellow soldiers.

“A lot of these soldiers weren’t exposed to different cultures, so he had me do one of my first presentations there,” he said. “I called my dad in Wisconsin, and he shipped all of my dance regalia to me. I started doing presentations for the people I was stationed with, and in different areas throughout the Korean theater. That’s where I really got the passion to share the story, and I found out how important it is.”

Hammill was introduced to the hoop dance prior to his transition out of the military in 1994. Back then, he would travel about 120 miles from Fort Polk, Louisiana, to Livingston, Texas, where he performed and danced with the Alabama-Coushatta tribe.

“A good friend of mine, Gillman Abbey, basically gave me this hoop dance,” he said. “He told me the story. He told me every time I dance, to always make sure I share the story, and give the dance.”

He said the hoop dance helped him heal from his time in service. Still brand new to hoop dancing, Hammill actually competed in the World Hoop Dance Championship for the first time about six months after he got out of the military.

“I was 24, in the adult division,” he said. “I remember I was scared because this is a huge competition. Some of the dancers I’m still dancing with today pulled me aside, said to me, ‘Hey, you’re doing good. Let me show you some different moves. Let me help you.’ I’ll never forget that because that’s what really kept me coming back. Being here, feeling that hoop and how it affects people, it keeps me coming back. It took me a long time, about 15 years, until I won my first world title. I moved to the senior division and won four more. But it’s a family. It really is something we all have in common.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Can community engagement prevent veteran suicides?

Social isolation and feelings of loneliness are associated with suicidal thoughts. Consequently, the more people feel disconnected from their friends, peers and colleagues, the more isolated they become.

One antidote for social isolation is social connectedness. That is, people coming together and interacting. But there’s been little research on suicide prevention programs that target social connectedness.


Dr. Jason Chen of the VA Portland Health Care System is leading a study to establish a stronger sense of social connectedness for Veterans at high risk of suicide. He’s doing this by increasing their participation in community activities.

Chen and his team have been identifying the community engagement needs and preferences of Veterans who have been hospitalized and evaluated for psychiatric conditions. Specifically, the team interviewed participants within a week of their discharge from an inpatient psychiatric unit. They discovered Veterans analyzed for psychiatric conditions, such as PTSD, are at much greater risk than other cohorts of taking their own lives within three months after leaving the hospital.

Dr. Jason Chen

Veterans Affairs

Social connection could decrease suicidal thoughts

“When working with Veterans, I noticed that many didn’t have social connections,” Chen says. “We know that feeling connected to others can be a form of protection against suicide. So I thought to myself, if the Veterans I work with don’t have many connections, perhaps we could help them create new connections through community activities. My hope is that by helping Veterans increase their engagement in community activities, they’ll feel a stronger sense of social connection that will, in turn, decrease their level of suicidal thoughts.

“The first part of our study was to learn more from Veterans about what gets in the way of connecting. For example, we interviewed 30 Veterans to learn about their past experiences connecting to the community and their thoughts about what would get in the way in the future. Our Veteran sample varied in age from their 20s through their 70s. The average age was 48. We wanted to understand a broad range of experiences across different eras of conflict and generations.”

Suicide prevention is VA’s top clinical priority

Eventually, Chen and his colleagues plan to create clinical toolkits for VA and community figures. The toolkits will focus on increasing social connectedness for Veterans in this vulnerable population.

VA considers suicide prevention its top clinical priority. The most updated analysis of Veteran suicide rates, issued in 2016, notes Veterans accounted for 18% of all deaths from suicide among U.S. adults. This compares with 22% in 2010.

Chen and his team have identified patterns of Veterans’ needs and preferences for social connectedness.

“Veterans appear to be interested in a broad range of activities,” he says. “However, they noted having difficulty knowing how to access these activities and how to make new social connections. Within our sample, Veterans have discussed needing more hands-on support for engaging in community activities. They generally value and believe these activities are important for their wellness and recovery. But they could use extra support for navigating logistics and interactions with new people. We plan for this support to come from a Veteran peer support specialist. That is a Veteran who has undergone his or her own mental health recovery and is now helping support other Veterans with their experiences.”

Working with communities

Researchers are partnering with communities to provide a broad range of activities tailored to the interests of Veterans who are at high risk for suicide. These activities include engaging with Veterans or non-Veterans in the Chinese martial art tai chi or outdoor activities, such as fly fishing or playing music.

“We do not have good evidence that any one type of activity is more protective than another,” Chen says. “They’re worthwhile as long as folks develop a sense of belonging and feel like they’re giving back to others.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The best way to defeat annoying ‘robocalls’

Ask the Federal Communications Commission’s Patrick Webre when he last received a robocall, and he’ll quickly tell you: yesterday. “I don’t think I’ve received any today,” he says, “but it’s a pretty regular occurrence for me.”

This, of course, only illustrates the extent of America’s problem with automated phone calls. If the chief of the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, which oversees rule making efforts regarding issues including robocalls, is himself a repeated victim, are any of us safe from the annoyance?


The stats back it up: In 2017, there were around 30.7 billion robocalls made. The following year? Almost 48 billion. If you were to do the math, the average American would receive a machine-operated call approximately every other day. But some end up receiving way more. One Florida woman received thousands of calls from Wells Fargo bank, with as many as 23 per day. The state you live in can also have an effect. Living in Georgia; Washington, D.C.; or Louisiana? They’re the three states with area codes that receive the greatest number of robocalls per person, with an average of 55 per day, according to a recent report. “We get more robocalls during the day than we do real phone calls,” one resident said. With the number of calls the average American receives coming fast and furious, the machines seem to be winning.

Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves

(Photo by Alexandre Boucher)

“There’s no silver bullet here,” Webre says, “so we’re taking a multi-pronged approach.”

In the last two years, the FCC has been going hard at these companies, levying over 0 million in fines to businesses found in breach of existing regulations. “It’s not only our top consumer complaint, but it’s also our top consumer protection priority,” Webre adds.

Fatherly spoke Webre on a particularly good day (any day without robocalls is a good day) and he recommended measures everyone can take to reduce the presence of robocalls in their life.

1. Do not pick up

When you receive a call from an unknown number, do not answer it. “Our first guidance is, if you don’t recognize the phone number, you should let it go voicemail,” Webre says. The reason for this is simple: Human interaction can be detected by the computer monitoring on the other line, even if you just hang up after a few seconds. This, however, can start a chain reaction in which your number can be marked for increased calling. By screening for unknown numbers, in the system you’re just another no-response.

 2. Check with Your Phone Provider

“Phone companies are providing blocking tools for consumers both on the landline and on the wireless side,” Webre says. Does your provider have these? Best give them a call and ask. In March 2019, Verizon rolled out free services to its wireless customers, simply requiring a signup. ATT and T-Mobile introduced these services two years ago gratis, while Sprint offers a service for an added monthly fee. To activate, you’ll need to contact your carrier to opt in while also having a device that can shoulder the workload. Still, for many, this should be the first line of defense.

Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves

(Photo by William Iven)

3. There’s an app for that

Third-party app makers have jumped into the game with both feet, and they’re providing more and more sophisticated tools to prevent unwanted contact. The FCC even has a handy list here. While each of these apps has its own special sauce, generally speaking, each scans a mega-database of all reported robocall numbers. What it does from there varies. One blocks calls en masse. Another allows you to automatically send calls to voicemail so that you may manually report them to the FCC at a later date. One even allows you to record your own pre-recorded gibberish to was these companies’ time in a cathartic action of schadenfreude.

4. Add yourself to the “Do Not Call” list

Of course, the preexisting “Do Not Call” list continues to grow, and legitimate telemarketers are required to check it and abide by your decision or face stiff fines. After navigating its multi-step verification process, your information is recorded, which should cut your number of unwanted calls. Furthermore, you can also report additional harassing numbers. But one word of caution for those to whom it seems like a catchall panacea: “Unfortunately it doesn’t work well when you have a scammer trying to reach consumers,” Webre says. “They’re not going to check the ‘Do Not Call’ list.”

5. Report every ring

Finally, report any number guilty of harassment, unwanted phone calls, or texts directly to the FCC. Webre says it’s Pai’s most important priority right now, and he’s bringing down a multi-stranded hammer, which includes working with carriers to eliminate the scourge of robocalls from the public experience: “If your phone doesn’t ring, you’re not frustrated, you’re not getting an unwanted call, and we’re all better off for that.”

Featured image by Gilles Lambert.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why Motor Pool Mondays are more important than troops realize

Every Monday morning in the United States Army, companies gather around their battalion motor pool to conduct maintenance on their vehicles. On paper, the NCOs have the drivers of each and every vehicle perform a PMCS, or preventive maintenance checks and services, to find any deficiencies in their Humvee or LMTV. In reality, the lower-enlisted often just pop open the hood, check to see if it has windshield-wiper fluid, and sit inside to “test” the air conditioning.

Not to rat anyone out or anything — because basically everyone with the rank of specialist does it — but there’s a legitimate reason the chain of command keeps it on the schedule each week, and it’s not to kill time until the gut truck arrives.


Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves

It’s then on the mechanics to handle the serious problems. And trust me, mechanics are rarely sitting on their asses waiting for new vehicles to fix. They’ve got a lot of actual issues to worry about.

The biggest reason why the troops need to conduct a PMCS is to help the mechanics in the unit determine which vehicles need repairs. A platoon of mechanics can’t honestly be expected to monitor and address each and every fault across a 200-plus vehicle motor pool. Sharing the responsibility among all troops in the battalion means that more attention can be given to the problems that need them.

If there is a deficiency found within a vehicle, then it can be brought to the mechanics. If it’s something simple, like low fluid levels, the mechanics can just give the troops the tools they need to handle the minor things.

Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves

If it’s leaking, well, at least let the mechanic know before you make a made dash for the gut truck.

(Meme via Vet Humor)

Say a vehicle does eventually break down (which it will — thank the lowest bidder), the mechanics are the ones taking the ass-chewing. Sure, whoever was assigned that vehicle may catch a little crap, but the the mechanic is also taking their lashing — all because someone else skimmed through the checklist and said it was “fine.” So, if you don’t want to blue falcon your fellow soldier, do your part.

Having a vehicle deadline is terrible — but having a vehicle break down in the middle of the road is much worse. If you want to be certain that the vehicle is operational, you should probably give it a test drive around the motor pool to check the engine and brakes. If you can’t take it out for a spin, there are a number of major issues that you can see just by opening the hood and kicking the tires.

Even if you’re strongly opposed to putting in extra effort, the two costliest defects can be found just by looking around the vehicle. If you’re going to sham, at least check to see if there are any fluids leaking or if the tires are filled.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD

Thirteen years after a medical discharge from the Air Force, photographer Omar Columbus received an assignment that was the stuff of dreams: to shoot for a hip fashion and culture magazine filled with models and feature-length stories.

It was a long road for Columbus to travel, to use photography and writing to cope with PTSD, to suddenly shooting fashion in New York City. But it wasn’t always this way.

Columbus grew up in Washington, North Carolina, raised by a single mom. Feeling that he did not have much opportunity, he enlisted into the Air Force, serving from 1994 to 2006. In that time, Columbus served in South Korea, Colorado Springs, and to Saudi Arabia in 2003 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.


After exiting service, Columbus moved to New York City, where he found art and community in veterans’ writing groups around the city. He found his voice through writing poetry and performing with Warrior Writers, Craft of War Writing, and Voices from War.

Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves

Veteran Omar Columbus and Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Marion Creasap.

“My PTSD is related to specific things I experienced on deployment, as well as a general feeling of guilt,” says Columbus. Writing poetry gave him a sense of confidence, a way to express traumas of his military experience through art. The chance to perform in front of civilians is powerful. “Words like desert, combat, and bomb become part of artistic expression rather than just association with personal guilt and doubt or shame.”

Columbus also recognized that photography gave him a way to manage his anxiety in public. Through the imaginary barrier created with his camera lens, he chooses if he wants to interact with his subjects or just photograph the streets from a distance. Featured in a group gallery show at the legendary Salmagundi Club in Manhattan, Columbus recently sold a photo collage called “New Yawk State of Mind.”

Columbus found help at the VA NY Harbor, with his psychiatric nurse practitioner, mentor and counselor, Marion Creasap, who has been a steadying and stabilizing influence. “She’s been a rock for me to hold on to when I was down and wanted to give up.”

Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves

“Eye on Brooklyn” collage by Omar Columbus.

Recently, celebrity fashion photographer and TV personality, Mike Ruiz, called Columbus and made him an extraordinary offer. He wanted Columbus to photograph a project. “The photoshoot was over-the-top and such an exhilarating experience,” Columbus recalled.

Now, Columbus is giving back, to help others as he has been helped. Later this year, he will be sending disposable cameras to service members deployed to Afghanistan, to capture the good times with their friends. He raised id=”listicle-2639096820″,000 to purchase boxes of Girl Scout Cookies and sent them to military personnel serving on the front lines to remind them of home.

“The biggest reward was the photos they sent back holding up the boxes of cookies and the joy on their faces,” said Columbus. “I want to do more of that.”

The taste of acknowledgment has helped Columbus feel optimistic. “I want to be a healer and advocate for veterans through art. Hear my story, hear my words.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the cop who inspired ‘Dirty Harry’ and ‘Bullitt’

Few cinematic crime fighters are more revered than Inspector Harry Callahan, from Clint Eastwood’s 1971 film, Dirty Harry. Before that, it might have been Frank Bullitt, as portrayed by Steve McQueen in 1968’s Bullitt. Both movies are centered around a hard-boiled police detective working the streets of San Francisco. Frank Bullitt was fighting mafia hitmen while Harry Callahan was trying to bring down an insane serial killer.

Both of these fictional detectives are based on one man: real-life San Francisco detective, Dave Toschi.


Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves
Behind that glorious bow tie is a force of nature. (Photo by Nancy Wong/ Wikimedia Commons)

 

At his desk in San Francisco’s Hall of Justice, one might not have picked out the man in a bow tie as someone who served in the 24th Infantry Division in Korea. It was the unit that took the brunt of a full-scale North Korean invasion with no reinforcements in sight, the unit that held the Pusan Perimeter for months on end, and the unit that pushed the Chinese back to the 38th Parallel the very next year. David Toschi was that guy, but he truly made his name as a police detective, cleaning the streets of San Francisco for 32 years.

He joined the force right after leaving the military, in 1953. His ties, signature suits, and “exaggerated” trench coats earned him the attention of the San Fran news media, but his work was his enduring legacy – and what ended up translated to the silver screen.

Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves
Actor Steve McQueen, upon meeting Toschi, demanded his character, Frank Bullitt, wear a similar shoulder holster. (Warner Bros.)

Even though Toschi’s flair won him attention from the media, it was his biggest case that earned him the most acclaim – and would later be his downfall. He began working homicide in 1966. Just three years in, he was assigned to work the murder investigation of cab driver Paul Stine. Stine picked up a passenger who wanted to be taken from Geary Street to Maple Street in San Francisco’s Presidio Heights neighborhood. Just one block North of Maple, the passenger shot Stine in the head, then took his keys, wallet, and a portion of his bloody shirt.

No one knew why until three days later, when the Zodiac sent a threatening letter to the San Francisco Chronicle with a piece of Stine’s shirt, to prove the cabbie was a victim of the Zodiac; the only time Zodiac killed inside the city.

Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves
In 1971’s ‘Dirty Harry’ the Toschi-inspired inspector hunted the killer calling himself ‘Scorpio,’ a figure ripped from the Zodiac headlines at the time. (Warner Bros.)

 

Toschi estimated that he investigated 2,000-5,000 people while looking for Zodiac but the killer was never found. Toschi left homicide in 1978 and retired in 1985. Toschi was reassigned from the Zodiac case in 1977 after it was revealed that the detective sent so-called fake “fan letters” about his own performance in the case to the San Francisco Chronicle. Zodiac was active from 1969 through the early 1970s but sent letters to the paper for years.

Zodiac had a confirmed seven victims but claimed as many as 37. His last confirmed victim was Stine, and his last letter to the paper came in 1978. The prime suspect in the Zodiac case – and the man Toschi always suspected – was U.S. Navy veteran and schoolteacher, Arthur Leigh Allen.

Why didn’t we get this guy?” Toschi once asked the Chronicle. “I ended up with a bleeding ulcer over this case. It still haunts me. It always will.

Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves
Allen (left) in 1969, compared to the composite sketch of Zodiac from a 1969 attack in Napa County, Calif.

 

Toschi could never find enough evidence to bring Allen to trial, despite spending nine years on the case. Toschi’s other cases include bringing down a gang of murderers calling themselves the “Death Angels.” The group committed racially-motivated killings against white victims. They are known to have killed at least 15 but may be responsible for as many as 73 murders in San Francisco in 1974.

Dubbed the “Zebra Murders,” they caused widespread panic in the city of San Francisco at a time when the city was still reeling from the exploits of the Zodiac. Toschi was part of the team that helped bring the gang down and put them away for life.

It was Zodiac that kept his attention, but he never managed to pin the killer down.

I’m not a vengeful type, but when a life is taken, there must be justice,” he said.

Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves
Mark Ruffalo as Toschi in the 2007 film, ‘Zodiac.’ (Paramount Pictures)

 

In the years following his service on the SFPD, he took a job doing private security and even as a technical advisor on the 2007 David Fincher film, Zodiac, watching actor Mark Ruffalo portray him on screen.

Every October 11, from 1970 until 2017, Toschi sat in his car at the same Presidio Heights location where Paul Stine was murdered by the Zodiac, wondering what he missed. Toschi died in January 2018 at the age of 86.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What is the phonetic alphabet and why is it used?

The military does a lot of things, from humanitarian aid missions to security operations for the world’s shipping lanes, but without a doubt, the thing the military excels at is war-fighting. Specializing in such a dramatic and chaotic enterprise requires a great deal of preparation, planning, and above all else, communicating.


In fact, communication plays an integral role in just about everything the military does — from fire teams that need to “shoot, move, and communicate” in combat operations to policy level decisions that need to be relayed and enforced across a massive body of service members across dozens of different commands. At the end of the day, the military may use weapons to enforce America’s foreign policy, but it’s the communication from the top down and back again that really makes it happen.

Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves

This isn’t the time to be misunderstood.

(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

Of course, communicating isn’t always easy — especially over great distances and in hectic environments. That’s why the U.S. military relies on numerous forms of communication systems, teaches common hand gestures in combat training, and instills the use of the phonetic alphabet, sometimes referred to as the “military alphabet” when communicating over radios or telephone lines.

The phonetic alphabet wasn’t originally intended for military use — back when a group of French and English language teachers led by Paul Passy invented it, the point was to have an international system of transcription. It didn’t take long, however, for the military to recognize its value in relaying letters across communication lines that were susceptible to background noise or interference in the signal.

Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves

It’s not always easy to talk over the BRRRRRT

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kevin Tanenbaum/Released)

Today, many service members are expected to memorize the phonetic alphabet (often at basic training) and use it commonly when communicating over the radio or telephone. As a result, it’s not all that uncommon to hear veterans continue to use it while talking on the phone — not as a means of holding on to their military pasts, but because the method has proven extremely effective when it comes to relaying the spelling of a name (for instance) over a phone line. While a listener might mistake a “B” for “P,” as an example, it’s pretty tough to mistake “Bravo” for “Papa.”

There have been changes to the phonetic alphabet over the years, bringing us to the most modern iteration in common use today among members of the U.S. military.

The Phonetic Alphabet is as follows:

LetterWordMorse
Code
Phonic
(pronunciation)
AAlfa/Alpha● ▬AL FAH
BBravo▬ ● ● ●BRAH VOH
CCharlie▬ ● ▬ ●CHAR LEE
DDelta▬ ● ●DELL TAH
EEcho.●ECK OH
FFoxtrot● ● ▬ ●FOKS TROT
GGolf▬ ▬ ●GOLF
HHotel● ● ● ●HOH TELL
IIndia● ●IN DEE AH
JJuliett● ▬ ▬ ▬JEW LEE ETT
KKilo▬ ● ▬KEY LOH
LLima● ▬ ● ●LEE MAH
MMike▬ ▬MIKE
NNovember▬ ●NO VEMBER
OOscar▬ ▬ ▬OSS CAH
PPapa● ▬ ▬ ●PAH PAH
QQuebec▬ ▬ ● ▬KEH BECK
RRomeo● ▬ ●ROW ME OH
SSierra● ● ●SEE AIRRAH
TTangoTANG OH
UUniform● ● ▬YOU NEE FORM
VVictor● ● ● ▬VIK TAH
WWhiskey● ▬ ▬WISS KEY
XX-ray▬ ● ● ▬ECKS RAY
YYankee▬ ▬ ● ●YANG KEY
ZZulu▬ ▬ ▬ ▬ ▬ZOO LOO

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why we need you to rally around the military spouse community

News broke earlier this week that a military spouse shot and killed her child before turning the gun on herself, dying by suicide.


The news hit the community hard and military spouses are left wondering, where is her movement? Where is her foundation? Where are the bills being passed to help people like her? Silence. As America prides itself on patriotism and strength, we neglect to support the nurturers our foundation was built upon: the military spouse.

Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves

Tristen Watson and her son Christopher. Watson was also pregnant with her second child at the time of her suicide.

So many military spouses have silently struggled; myself included. Our community claims to be uplifting and empowering, but when do we really support us? After it’s too late? Once the person is gone, then do we band together for support and strength?

It’s time we put as much energy into someone’s life as we do in mourning their deaths.

Up until recently, the Department of Defense did not keep track of the number of suicides committed by military spouses. Why? Because it wasn’t important. We have always been an afterthought in this community. Our struggles have been minimized as we are called “dependa” and other derogatory slurs that paint an incorrect image of our lives.

According to the Department of Defenses’ first ever study on dependent suicide, in 2017, nearly 200 military dependents committed suicide, that year. Of that, over 100 were military spouses. Knowing that these men and women were spouses of a military member and internally battled something we knew nothing about is not okay. Did they ask for help? Maybe. Our community is pretty tough and often times asking for help may result in actions that are not helpful at all, like bullying.

Our lives aren’t easy. The images of military spouses you see on television aren’t completely accurate. We hurt, too. We face mental health issues like every other human. Yes, we endure hardships within military life. We work, we go to school, we solo parent, we struggle with PTSD, and yet we still find the strength and courage to care for our service members. Many military spouses have college diplomas that are collecting dust, as our student loans collect interest, because we cannot obtain gainful employment. We are turned down by employers because of gaps in our resumes or lack of longevity.

New military spouses receive briefings from members of the Military and Family Readiness Center and Key Spouses during a spouse orientation seminar April 5, 2018, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

We volunteer within the military community as Soldier and Family Readiness Group Leaders, Crisis Response team members, and so many other positions that help keep our military strong. We are a valuable asset to the military that is often overlooked and underserved. We deserve to have a voice. You need to hear our stories.

Remember, when you are sharing that meme and berating the struggles of our military spouses, you are contributing to the destruction of an already under supported community. Our stories matter. We matter. Let’s spread this message of love and support to our sisters and brothers living their lives with wounds we cannot see. Be the voice of the silent. Speak up!

If you are a military spouse struggling, reach out. Know that your sisters and brothers love you and want you to be okay. We are a village. It’s time to embrace one another and uplift each other during these tumultuous times.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Female Marine recruits will train in San Diego for the first time ever

For the first time ever, female Marine recruits will begin training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego in February, as the branch continues to assess new ways to integrate the genders in training environments.

“Beginning Feb. 12, 2021, an integrated company of male and female recruits is scheduled to begin their journey to become Marines at MCRD, after undergoing a two-week COVID-19 quarantine protocol,” the Marine Corps said in a statement. “This initial opportunity for male and female recruits to train concurrently at MCRD San Diego will serve as a proof of concept to validate requirements needed to sustain integrated training on the West Coast in the future.”

All Marine Corps recruits train in one of two installations: Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego or Recruit Depot Parris Island, in South Carolina. Historically, all female recruits have been trained in Parris Island’s female-specific 4th battalion, with the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd battalions made up of all male recruits. San Diego, on the other hand, has never trained female recruits in its century-long history.

Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves
Recruits of Company F, 2nd Recruit Training Battlion, watch as drill instructors demonstrate how to properly climb the rope during the obstacle course aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego Sept. 7. (Marine Corps photo)

Last year, Parris Island made headlines when it graduated its first ever gender-integrated company of recruits. The company was made up of five all-male platoons and a single all-female one. That means male and female recruits interacting with one another during certain training evolutions, but were housed in separate squad bays and had little to no opportunity to socialize. A similar approach will be testing in San Diego next year, where around 60 female recruits will form a platoon within Lima Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion.

“Information collected from Lima Company will be used to validate long-term facility and personnel needs to accomplish one of the Marine Corps’ top priorities of gender-integrated training companies at recruit training,” reads the statement.

The female recruits who will be training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego have already been notified of where they’ll be training, and will depart for San Diego this coming February.

“In an effort to forge Marines of the highest quality, we must give them every opportunity to succeed. This is the first time we are able to give Marines who graduate from MCRD San Diego the same integrated experience that many of their peers at Parris Island have received already,” Brig. Gen. Ryan P. Heritage, the commanding general of MCRD San Diego, said in a statement.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Commission on Military, National, and Public Service

Should every American Citizen serve in the military? Should women be required to register for the selective service (draft)? What should the future of the Selective Service look like?

Navy veteran Shawn Skelly and Marine Corps veteran Ed Allard are commissioners for the Commission on National, Military and Public Service. Their mission is to recommend answers to these and many more questions to Congress by March 2020. Shawn and Ed visited Borne the Battle to discuss the two years of data that the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service has gathered to answer those and many other questions.


Some of the goals of the National Commission are:

  • Reviewing the military selective service process.
  • Listening to the public to learn from those who serve.
  • Igniting a national conversation about service.
  • Developing recommendations that will encourage every American to be inspired and eager to serve.

According to their interim report, the Commission has learned:

  • Americans value service.
  • Americans are willing to consider a wide variety of options to encourage or require service.
  • Some Americans are aware of the details of the Selective Service System while many are not.

Some Barriers to Service include:

  • Military Service is a responsibility borne by few.
  • National Service is America’s best-kept secret.
  • Public Service personnel practices need an overhaul.
  • Civic knowledge is critical for our democracy, but too few Americans receive high quality education.

Finally, the commissioners came on Borne the Battle to let listeners know that they can provide input.

Click here to learn how – deadline is Dec. 31, 2019.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 differences between Chesty XIV and the ‘Chesty’ Puller

On Friday, August 24, the illustrious Chesty XIV retired from the Marine Corps after five years of service as a ceremonial animal. While Chesty XIV is an illustrious Marine veteran, some aren’t sure if he quite measures up to his namesake, Lt. Gen. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, a hero of World War II and Korea who led the 1st Marine Regiment during the breakout from the Chosin Reservoir.

So, which is the real “Chesty,” the true hero of the Marine Corps? We find out in five easy steps:


Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves

1. Body composition

Chesty Puller was famous for his stature and ramrod posture. A physically imposing man, he inspired the loyalty and rallied the spirits of thousands of Marines over his nearly four decades of service. He also had two feet.

Chesty XIV has four feet, approximately twice as many as Chesty Puller.

Point: XIV.

Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves

2. Heroics

Chesty Puller received five Navy Crosses for heroics performed during things like leading national guardsman in Haiti and Nicaragua through devastating ambushes deep in the jungle and personally leading the naval artillery to rescue his Marines under fire during a Japanese ambush on Guadalcanal.

Chesty XIV, meanwhile, is a dog assigned to ceremonial duties who once wore a drill instructor’s hat.

Point: Puller.

3. Time in service

Chesty XIV served for five years. The general guideline for dog years is that one human year equals seven dog years, meaning the Chesty XIV would be credited with a joint-aching 35 years. That’s a long time to march with Marines in (modified) dress blues.

Meanwhile, Chesty Puller served for… let’s see… 37 years. Yeah, the human Chesty tried to deploy to World War I, but was assigned to training instead in 1918, then served in Haiti and Nicaragua, then the Pacific Theater of World War II, and, finally, Korea before retiring in 1955 as a two-star general.

Point: Puller

Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves

4. Battle scars

Chesty XIV has a small black spot under his eye that the Wall Street Journal said looked, “…as if he stepped out of a bar fight while on shore leave.” It’s a cool look.

But, Lt. Gen. Chesty Puller had a Purple Heart and was so well known for standing in the heat of battle and rallying his troops that some Marines claimed his nickname of “Chesty” was in reference to his steel prosthetic chest, which was installed after Haitian rebels hacked away his old bony chest, but still failed to kill the man.

Point: Puller

5. Ranks and demotions

Chesty the XIV rose from recruit to sergeant in just five short years, an impressive rise to be sure, but not unheard of. He managed to hold onto his rank despite being physically incapable of properly wearing the rank according to Marine Corps Order 1020.34H.

Chesty Puller, meanwhile, rose all the way to two-star general on active duty and three-star general after retirement. But, he only did this after rising from recruit to corporal to second lieutenant multiple times until finally entering the officer ranks to stay.

Sure, all the demotions for Puller were either due to downsizing or the removal of foreign ranks that he held while leading local national guard forces, but still. Only one of the Chestys was demoted.

Point: XIV

Final tally:

Seriously, no one needs a final tally. Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller is deservedly a legend of the Marine Corps who trained and led Marines from World War I to Korea, became one of America’s most decorated heroes, and was a class act that nearly anyone could inspire to, despite the fact that they’d almost certainly fall short of his example.

But Chesty XIV did, and Chesty XV now does, represent the tenacious spirit of Puller himself and the Marine Corps as a whole. Hopefully, Chesty XIV will enjoy his well-deserved retirement, and Chesty XV will bring high morale to the young Americans under his charge.

Good luck, good boy.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Green Berets head ‘into thin air,’ training for mountain warfare in Nepal’s legendary Himalayan Peaks

The Army’s Green Berets need mountain warfare training — and what better place to do it than on the so-called roof of the world?

About the size of the US state of Georgia, Nepal is wedged between India and China along the length of the Himalayan mountain range. The mountain kingdom is home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains, including 29,029-foot Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak. For two 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) Green Berets, this was the perfect turf on which to hone their mountain warfare prowess.

Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves
Two 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) Green Berets stand along with their course mates and instructors atop Thorang Peak during the culminating exercise for the Nepali Army’s High Altitude and Mountain Warfare School in Nepal, October 2020. US Army courtesy photo via DVIDS.

In September and October, the pair of Special Forces soldiers spent six weeks with the Nepali Army High Altitude and Mountain Warfare School (HAMWS), training on all sorts of hard-charging mountain warfare skills, including ascending and descending techniques, survival and rescue techniques, the use of special equipment, and cliff assault tactics.

And for the pièce de résistance, the Green Berets put their new skills and equipment to the test scaling Thorang Peak, a 20,200-foot mountain. At that altitude, there’s roughly half as much air pressure — and half as much oxygen — as at sea level.

“Marrying a deep expertise in mountain warfare tactics and mountaineering techniques with breathtaking terrain, the program succeeded in not only sharpening our capabilities but in forging strong bonds between new friends,” a detachment commander from the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) said, according to a Department of Defense release.

Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves
Green Berets with 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), navigate difficult terrain during the Nepali Army’s High Altitude and Mountain Warfare School in Nepal, October 2020. US Army courtesy photo via DVIDS.

Nepal has more than 13,000 peaks higher than 6,000 meters, or about 19,700 feet. (Alaska’s Denali, the highest mountain in North America, is 20,310 feet high.) For the past 30 years, the Nepali Army’s HAMWS has hosted some 16 foreign students from 23 participating countries. This year, four total students from the US, Pakistan, and Bangladesh participated.

US Special Operations forces have trained in Nepal for years — including parachute jumps in the shadow of Mount Everest in the country’s Khumbu region.

It was on one of those deployments when disaster struck.

On April 25, 2015, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake devastated much of Nepal’s Himalayan landscape, killing about 9,000 people. Ancient monuments in the capital city of Kathmandu were turned to rubble. A massive avalanche at Mount Everest base camp killed 24 people, National Geographic reported.

Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves
A Green Beret with 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) scales a wall using mountaineering techniques taught at the Nepali Army’s High Altitude and Mountain Warfare School in Nepal, October 2020. US Army courtesy photo via DVIDS.

After the 2015 earthquake, the deployed Army Green Berets ditched their training and went into real-world search and rescue mode. Among other efforts, they performed a helicopter rescue mission in the Himalayas, saving 30 stranded trekkers, including an American named Corey Ascolani.

US military personnel traveled to Nepal in 2017 for a humanitarian aid mission called Pacific Angel 17-4.

The US has another, more clandestine military connection to Nepal, dating back to the Cold War when the CIA supported Tibetan guerrillas based in Nepal’s Mustang region. Known as the Chushi Gangdruk, the CIA-backed irregular Tibetan force conducted cross-border raids against Chinese forces inside Tibet — a lingering point of contention between Beijing and Washington.

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

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