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

Why Neil deGrasse Tyson deserves to be the first Space Force Secretary

There is no living astrophysicist to have a place in the hearts of as many space nerds as Neil deGrasse Tyson. Hell, he even holds the honor of being named People Magazine’s sexiest astrophysicist in 2000, before making his mainstay in the public view with his works to promote scientific advancements and way before he helped declare Pluto the dwarf planet it actually is. ( It has an orbital pattern similar to a comet, it’s beyond the gas giants and lies in the Keiper Belt, and has a surface area just slightly bigger than Russia. Fight me.)

But he has also been a vocal supporter of the Space Force. Once you tear away all the jokes, fantasies, and memes that the internet’s generated the Space Force, you’re left with a very serious take on how to to best look into the future. If or when the Space Force becomes a reality, there’s no single human being better suited to become the first Secretary of the Space Force than Neil deGrasse Tyson himself.


Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves

Though he never served in the military and, obviously, not in the Space Force, but that’s never been a disqualifying factor for many of the armed forces’ secretaries.

(NASA photo by Bill Ingalls)

Tyson is no stranger to serving with the United States Government on issues regarding space. In 2001, he served on a government commission to help determine the future of the U.S. aerospace industry. He again served on the President’s Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy, where he helped cement America’s commitment to once again be the pioneers of the final frontier.

He’s also no stranger to working with both the Air Force Space Command and NASA, the main two predecessors of the proposed Space Force. His work in the American Astronomical Society also places him as a top contender for the role.

Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves

It’ll be perfect. Tyson could help prevent the film ‘Gravity’ from being a reality. Well, he’s also got plenty of choice words about the film’s scientific accuracy, but that’s beside the point.

(Warner Bros. Pictures)

His appointment would also bring legitimacy to the often-joked-about branch. The true gravity of the Space Force’s responsibility seems to be lost on much of the internet community. In response, Tyson has been making the rounds on the late-night circuit and internet talk shows to showcase the various, great benefits of maintaining a such a force.

As much as we all want to be the first space shuttle door gunner (and trust me, I’ll be the first in line at the USSF recruiter’s office if that job is announced within my lifetime), there are a million other things that the Space Force would realistically be doing.

Treaties bar any overt acts of war in space, but there’s a clause in there about defensive measures. If anyone were to launch a missile at any of the countless military or civilian satellites in orbit (a capacity both China and Russia have both bragged about possessing), there needs to be a way to stop them. Some kind of defensive force.

The Space Force would also act in situations where astronauts become stranded in space, much in the same way the Coast Guard does on the water. This isn’t a problem right now, seeing as there are only six people up there at this very moment, but when space travel becomes more of a reality for many people, it will become one.

There are no officially released statements that outline the details of how the Space Force will be created other than the briefings that say it will happen. Tyson has also never officially shown any interest in heading the Space Force outside of giving it his approval, but when the eventual shortlist of candidates surfaces, we’re hoping Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson tops it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

US government warns against Chinese-acquired gay dating app Grindr

A Chinese company that acquired gay-dating app Grindr is reportedly selling it off after the US government labeled it a national security risk.

Chinese gaming company Beijing Kunlun Tech Co Ltd acquired a 60% stake in Grindr in 2016, before buying the rest in 2018.

But sources told Reuters that the company did not clear its purchase with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a US government agency which assesses the national security risk of foreign investments.


The sale prompted a review, after which CFIUS told Kunlun that its ownership of the California-based app constitutes a security risk, sources told Reuters.

The company is now looking to sell Grindr, according to the report, despite announcing preparations for an IPO in August 2018.

CFIUS last year blocked the acquisition of money transfer company MoneyGram International Inc by a Chinese financial group owned by billionaire Jack Ma, reportedly citing security concerns.

Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves

Jack Ma.

The US has increased scrutiny of app developers and the data they handle, which it argues could compromise the security of military or intelligence personnel.

Elliott Zaagman, a tech writer partly based in Beijing, said that apps like Grindr hold sensitive information about its users which could be exploited.

Grindr, which had 27 million users as of 2017, allows users to say whether they are HIV positive, and also allows users to send photos, which are often sexually explicit.

Zaagman says that, while China has an interest in hacking into such a database filled with personal information, they can probably breach the system “whether or not it’s owned by a Chinese company.”

“If a sophisticated state actor is determined to get into an app’s database, they will probably be able to find a way.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why troops wearing unearned awards is still stolen valor

Troops and veterans have little sympathy for the clowns that put on a military uniform around Veterans Day just to try and get 10 percent off their restaurant bill. For lack of a more polite word, the military community offers nothing but unbridled rage to those unworthy of wearing uniform who degrade it in the public eye.

But there is another form of so-called “stolen valor” that rarely gets brought up within the military community — and that’s in-service stolen valor. The Army simply refers to it as being a “PX Ranger,” named after the fool who goes to the PX, buys a Ranger tab, and slaps it on without even stepping foot on the course, let alone completing it.

In addition to going against many official regulations, the troops who do this are damaging the good order and discipline of the military far more than the phonies who make laughable attempts to shave a few bucks off their lunch.


Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves

You should know which awards you have. After all, you were likely there to receive them.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russell Martin)

Now, to be clear, there’s a huge difference between in-service stolen valor and the obligatory embellishments that come with military storytelling. It’s one thing to tell a group of younger Joes that, “no sh*t, there you were…” and it’s another to wear an unearned award to back up your claim. For starters, everyone knows to take service stories with a grain of salt. Amplifying a few details to get the point across is harmless; wearing accolades you’ve not earned, on the other hand, is strictly forbidden by Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Depending on the severity of the infraction, the accused could face a maximum punishment of forfeiture of all pay and allowances, a bad conduct discharge, and up to six months in confinement. According to the rules, there’s no distinction made between the guy who adds an extra oak leaf cluster to an Army Commendation Medal and the scumbag who tells everyone their Silver Star is “still being figured out by their last unit.”

Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves

There’s just some things you can’t just “yeah, well, you see. What had happened was” your way through. Being a ranger is one of them.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steve Cortez)

This harms the military in several ways, the most prominent being that it takes away from the hard work and dedication of those who spent blood, sweat, and tears to get recognized. Regardless of the decoration, there’s weight behind it. If you see an NCO wearing a Ranger tab, you can assume that they’ve got a solid understanding of what it takes to be a bad*ss. They will become the go-to expert on all things relating to operational and tactical planning. If that understanding is built on a lie, then the entire unit suffers.

Because it is punishable under the UMCJ and it’s assumed that wearing a decoration means you’re worthy of it, there shouldn’t have to be the background checks that have inevitably cropped up because of these Blue Falcons. Sure, the old lady at the register still doesn’t ask for a Ranger School graduation certificate when someone buys the tab, but these phonies have helped foster an unwarranted level of scrutiny among the troops. Any real Ranger can easily provide proof, yes, but it’s a shame we need to spend time validating what we’ve already earned because of a few bad apples.

There isn’t anything wrong with being the average Joe in the formation. The moment you raised your right hand and completed your branch’s initial entry training, you’ve earned the respect of all the brothers and sisters who’ve come before you.

Embrace who you are. If you want to be better, go out and be better. Talk to your training room about getting into that school you want. Do extraordinary things in your unit to get that prestigious award. Request a change in MOS if you feel like you’re being held back by your position in the unit. Whatever you do, don’t just pin yourself with something unless you’ve earned it — or else you’re no better than the prick screaming for a military discount after buying a uniform online.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Airborne for old guys

Here is a great information piece from an Army Soldier who completed the US Army Basic Airborne Course (BAC) at age 42. He has always been a great runner but needed to focus on the PT for the arms and legs to prepare for the landings / regular PT.

Phil Lowry is a JAG officer with the Utah National Guard. Here is his story of how to survive BAC during your late 30’s and early 40’s:


Airborne School poses particular challenges for Soldiers over 35 (which under the reg is the normal age cutoff for Airborne students). Those challenges come in two forms: (1) the PT test, and (2) the accumulating burdens of falling down a lot.

The PT test is very handily addressed in Stew’s preparation book for the Airborne School. Pay particular attention to the timed drills, since as we age our ability to make explosive movement decreases. Timed drills allow you to retain the muscle memory required to efficiently do 42 pushups and 53 situps in under two minutes (hopefully in less than 90 seconds).

Remember that the PT test is done in washed river gravel, about the size of almonds. That means that the pushups will be done on a plank, a strange feeling. The plank may not be wide enough for those of you who prefer a wide stance. It wasn’t wide enough for me (I like about 27 inches of space between the inside of my hands). Be sure to be able to comfortably pass the pushups at about a 25-inch stance. I found the situps to be easier in the gravel. Wiggle yourself into a depression before you begin so you are comfortable.

As for the falling down – there is a reason that there are not many football players older than 40. You will fall in a variety of ways in Airborne school. First, during ground week, in the 34-foot tower you will be falling in a harness onto a zip line, at least 6 times-if you master your exit. One guy in my stick went out the 34-foot tower 22 times. That takes a toll on the pinch points around legs, crotch and chest. It also taxes your neck to fall while tucking your chin in an ACH.

You will fall a lot more when learning parachute landing falls. Young guys tend to “get” PLFs quickly. Older guys can master it quickly, also, especially natural athletes. But if you are not very coordinated, or have to “unlearn” a technique (a martial arts forward roll, or a combat roll learned in combatives), you will be falling off the lateral drift apparatus (LDA) a lot. It does not really hurt at any given time, but it slowly but surely gives you bruises all over. It can also be very hard on your neck as you have to keep your chin tucked in all of your landings. A lot of bells get rung. Also, while in the PLF pit the only way you can travel is by bunny hopping with your feet and knees together. Sounds easy – until you do it for four hours.

During tower week, in the swing line trainer, you will fall even more. The SLT tends to hurt more than the LDA, since it is more realistic and harder to master. Mass exits in the 34-foot tower are comparatively easy, but come on the last day when you are beat. The two different harness training exercises are also easier, but once again give you that wonderful “pinching” feeling.

Learn more about Army Airborne PFT.

And, of course, there is jump week, where you put it all together, along with five 1/2 to 1-mile hikes at double time across a very soft drop zone that is as hard to run in as a newly plowed field. The manner of carrying the parachute, especially when hucking a combat load, puts a lot of stress on your already sore neck.

How does an oldster get ready for this? Some practical exercises:

1. Increase your endurance sets for your upper body, and try to use methods that engage large and small muscle groups in both power and stabilizing moves. Dumbbells are better than barbells, calisthenics are really good.

2. Focus on pullups. You need them to pull on your risers. But make sure not only your lats are strong, but also your hands and your forearms. Rock climbers do drills on these extremities-you should, too. Old guys tend to pull muscles in these areas more easily (I did), and it takes us longer to heal if we do.

3. Focus on your neck. There are a variety of techniques and exercises in published material that can help with both neck strength and endurance. The PLF puts a lot of strain on your neck (better your neck than your head). Even the youngest students complain about their necks at the end of ground week. It’s worse when you’re older. Also, get used to your ACH before you go to Airborne. You will always have it on whenever you train. It is a good idea to run or ruck with your ACH on as an endurance exercise. This will help your neck.

4. Run in boots. You will be doing so at Airborne. Get used to it. High-tec boots (Exospeeds, etc.) are authorized at Airborne.

5. Do more running than you need for the APFT. You should probably do at least half as much running as recommended by the training guide.

6. Endurance is more important than mass or strength, in all areas. Muscles with high endurance are highly vascularized, and so they heal quickly, and are less likely to be injured in the first place. Airborne training does not really require explosive strength-it requires efficient repetitive taxing motion, with the ability to absorb repetitive mild trauma.

7. The PT at Airborne is easy. Don’t worry about it. Focus on the APFT and preparing for the actual training. That way, when you do PT, you won’t worry about aggravating a training injury (try doing pullups with a pulled forearm muscle. Better to avoid pulling the muscle in training in the first place than having to baby it in morning PT).

8. Be ready for having to perform even if hurt. Cope and compensate as you can-there is no periodicity to the training. All of us oldsters had to suck it up, most of us more than once. I jumped three times on a badly bruised knee; a 43-year-old master sergeant jumped three times on a mildly sprained, but very painful, ankle.

The upside to being older at Airborne is that you will likely deal better with the mental stress that your physical ailments and the training environment place upon you.

“Remember, there is a difference between being hurt and being injured. You are all hurt-you are about to jump out of a plane for the fifth time. None of you are injured. Injured means you are in the hospital.” stated the First Sergeant, Charlie Company, 1/507 PIR, BAC.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

3 great uses for your “forgotten to return” woobie

By far, the most coveted and “forgotten to return” item that’s ever been issued to members of the military is the woobie. Maybe you’ve forgotten that your most cherished bit of military memorabilia is actually a poncho liner … since so few people ever actually used it for its intended purpose. The woobie designers intended for you to use the little holes on the sides to tie it together, but let’s be serious – no one has ever done that. It’s probably a really excellent poncho liner, but chances are you’re never going to use it for its manufactured purpose. Instead, let’s take a look at some great ways to use your woobie besides using it as a blanket.


History of the woobie

But first, do you even know why it’s called a woobie? The real origin story is likely lost to history, but most people tend to think it’s because of the phrase, “Because you would be cold without it.” “Would be” eventually evolved into woobie, and a military star was born.

The truth is that the woobie history stretches back even further to the 1850s when ponchos were first in use by the American military. Forces assigned to patrol the Western Plains were issued ponchos to keep them warm. These ponchos were made from “gutta-percha muslin,” which was muslin fabric coated with rubber. The rubber coating made the poncho waterproof but also made it hard to fold.

During the Civil War, these rubber coated ponchos were standard issue. Ponchos were used as both waterproof groundsheets and to keep dry.

By 1900, ponchos were made from rubberized canvas, which was great for weatherproofing, but really freaking heavy.

During WWI and WWII, service members used ponchos because they could protect both the pack and the wearer as well as serving as a makeshift shelter in the field.

The 1950s saw ponchos made from synthetic fabrics, and this is when the earliest predecessor of what we know as the woobie began to emerge. During the Vietnam War, the standard-issue Army wool blanket was unsuited for the terrain and climate, since it got really heavy when wet. The woobie made its first field appearance sometime between 1962 and 1964.

Okay, enough history. Here are three fun things you can do with your woobie.

1. Repurpose as a robe

Find a seamstress and make your woobie into the coziest robe ever. Trust us when we say you’ll never want to take it off. If you’re not the robe-wearing type, what about making it into the warmest hoodie ever? Or you could go all out and have it repurposed into a light jacket, thereby getting pretty darn close to the woobie’s intended original use.

2. Camp

Use it as a tent divider if you’re still keen on camping. That is if being in the field wasn’t enough camping to last a lifetime. Woobies make perfect tent dividers to section out space inside a large tent or to create rooms if you’re camping with your family.

3. Pets

Let your cat or dog appropriate it and use it as their new favorite bed. It smells like you, it’s soft, warm, and it makes for the perfect traveling pet bed because it’s so compact. It’s especially useful for the inside of kennels if you have to move since the woobie is waterproof and dustproof.

A few years back, the Marine Corps unveiled the Woobie 2.0, and four years on, we’re still smiling about its enhanced benefits. This upgrade includes the things service members have been asking for – better insulation, a way to keep various tie-down points in place, and the addition of parachute cord loops. The latest version also includes a heavy-duty reversible zipper to make the woobie into the ultimate cozy cocoon. Woobie 2.0 doesn’t have as much stitching as the older version because the insulation is so much better. But to prevent rips, some stitches run down the length of the woobie.

We’re obsessed with the new zipper function and like all the old times always said, these new kids don’t know how good they’ve got it. From its humble beginnings in the earliest days of the American military to the jungles of Vietnam, the woobie truly is the greatest military invention ever fielded.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Have a good idea for the Army? Here is your chance to shine

Think you have a great idea that will revolutionize Army readiness and resilience? The Army wants to boost your chance at making it happen.

Starting in June 2019, the Army implemented a formal process to capture and evaluate grassroots, personal readiness, and resilience initiatives, before considering the idea for potential Army-wide use.

The new process, outlined in the just released Initiative Evaluation Process technical guide, is designed to ensure ideas can demonstrate results, have applicability Army-wide and avoid duplication or unintended consequences.


“Not every good idea, even if it’s a great idea, may hit the mark,” said Joe Ezell, a Management and Program Analyst at the Army’s G-1 SHARP, Ready and Resilient (SR2) Directorate. “Sometimes people don’t quite understand the second and third order effects associated with their good idea … and the execution of that idea might not quite evolve into what they are looking for.”

Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves

(U.S. Army photo)

Previously, the Army may have implemented ideas sent by local installations, but without thorough analysis or resourcing, those initiatives fell by the wayside. The new technical guide, developed jointly by SR2 and the Army Public Health Center (APHC), requires that proposed initiatives undergo a five-step screening process to assess effectiveness and Army-wide applicability.

Army program managers, Army leaders or anyone with a great idea to improve soldier, civilian, and family member personal readiness and resilience can begin the process of fielding it by reaching out to their Commander’s Readiness and Resilient Integrator (CR2I).

This first step in the process provides the individual leader or organization proposing an idea with the backing of a work group that will help them gather effectiveness data, walk them through the other steps in the process and, if the idea has merit, put together the proposal package for submission to the local installation commander. The initiative will then undergo review at several echelons before it is potentially forwarded to the Army G-1 level.

Although the process may seem cumbersome, it is not intended to inhibit innovation, instead it is meant to refine it, said David Collins, Evaluations Branch Chief at SR2.

Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves

(U.S. Army photo by Davide Dalla Massara)

“As with any good ideas, it has to be well thought out,” Collins said. “It forces people to think about outcomes. Oftentimes we just think about execution, we never really think about the impact.”

The end result will be that the best ideas will rise to the top and get pushed through up to the highest levels for evaluation and possible implementation Army-wide, Collins said. Other ideas may work better at the local or regional level, and commanders can still count on the IEP process to validate those initiatives.

The proposal package the CR2I puts together is intended to show the quantifiable impact an idea has, and gather objective evidence that will reinforce the value of the idea so that when a new program is presented to senior Army leaders, they will be able to make evidence-based decisions. The IEP will “save time, energy and effort across the board,” Ezell said.

Grassroots efforts have traditionally driven innovation in the ranks, so if you are ready to submit your idea, download the technical guide and reach out to your local CR2I now.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The interesting backstories to each of Gen. Jim Mattis’ nicknames

There has never been a United States Secretary of Defense that has been so universally beloved. Retired Gen. Jim Mattis was confirmed last year by a landslide vote of 98 in favor and 1 opposed, despite being on a waiver to circumvent the seven-years-since-retirement requirement to be appointed Secretary of Defense.


Long before he rose to the highest position in the Armed Forces, second only to the President, he earned several monikers, each from a different aspect of his ability to lead.

4. “Mad Dog” Mattis

For the record: He is not a fan of the name, “Mad Dog” Mattis. So, you probably don’t want to go saying it to a man that has admitted that the max effective range on his knife hand is hundreds of miles. It dates back to a 2004 Los Angeles Times article saying that U.S. troops in Fallujah called him “Mad Dog” behind his back and that it was “high praise” in Marine culture.

The “Mad Dog” label stuck following a series of intimidating quotes, such as, “be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet” and “a good soldier follows orders, but a true warrior wears his enemy’s skin like a poncho.” At Gen. Mattis’s confirmation hearing, former Maine Senator and the Secretary of Defense from 1997 to 2001, William Cohen, joked that it’s a misnomer and the nickname “Braveheart” would have been much more accurate.

 

Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Zachary Dyer

 

3. “Warrior Monk”

The most accurate of his nicknames has to be “The Warrior Monk.” Another beautiful Mattisism is, “the most important six inches on the battlefield is between your ears.”

Gen. Mattis is well known for his intelligence, extensive book collection, and giving his troops required reading lists that range from cultural studies to Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. For his complete reading list, broken down by rank and region of deployment, click here.

 

Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves
One has to wonder about his take on fictional war novels, like Dune, Starship Troopers, and Ender’s Game. (DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

2. “CHAOS”

His preferred nickname is the call sign he used as a Colonel, “Chaos.” He joked at a conference that he’d like to tell people that it was for some dignified reason, but it’s not.

When he was a regimental commander at Twentynine Palms, he was leaving the S-3 office and noticed the words “CHAOS” written on the whiteboard. He asked someone what it meant and got, “Oh, you don’t need to know about that…” which, of course, only piqued his interest more. Finally, they broke it to him that it meant, “Colonel Has An Outstanding Solution.” It was a joke at his expense that he took in stride, so he wore it as a badge of honor.

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If anything, Gen. Mattis knows how to take a joke in stride. (Image via Instagram)

 

1. “Patron Saint of Chaos”

Secretary of Defense Mattis’ legendary status among the troops has earned him the title, “Saint Mattis of Quantico. Patron Saint of Chaos.”

The meme has spread far and wide from Terminal Lance to t-shirts to the sidebar of the USMC subreddit to even being posted by the MARSOC official Facebook page.

 

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(Image via OAF Nation)

So, if you’ll join us in a quick reading,

Hail Mattis, full of hate. Our troops stand with thee. Blessed art though among enlisted. And blessed is the fruit of thy knife hand. Holy Mattis, father of War. Pray for us heathen, Now and at the hour of combat. Amen.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 cringeworthy military slang terms (that we should actually retire)

Anyone who knows what Marines call the jerry can tube adapter knows there are a lot of inappropriate nicknames in the military. American troops come up with a simple shorthand for just about everything. Think about it: is it easier to ask for the jerry can tube adaptor or its three-syllable nickname? Time is of the essence in the military. U.S. troops have to move and speak with purpose – and some of that talk isn’t for the faint of heart.


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“Donkey D*ck”

This is the nickname of the aforementioned jerry can tube adapter, basically, the spout for a gas can. In everyday usage, however, this moniker would actually be used to describe anything with a phallic shaper longer than six inches. That’s just how it is.

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Then-Seaman Apprentice Luis Fonseca, who was probably never called this again after saving his Marines at the 2003 battle of Nasiriyah.

“Pecker Checker”

This is the nickname given to the Navy’s Hospital Corpsmen, all of which are assigned to be the medic (for lack of a better term) to a group of United States Marines. Also known as “Doc” or “Devil Doc” (if the corpsman is deserving of the title), the term refers to the propensity of Marines on liberty to “send their junior enlisted troop into unarmed combat without his chem gear,” and thus has to be checked for a venereal disease.

In reality, the doc is much more likely to administer a drip bag for alcohol-related dehydration than a daily STD check, but the nickname sticks.

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“Kickin Chicken”

An American troop who is said do be doing the “Kickin’ Chicken” is a victim of a chemical weapon attack. There are certain chemical agents used in warfare that will cause the human body to spasm and kick, maybe even flail around before death. Seeing a battle buddy doing the “Kickin’ Chicken” is a sure sign of a chemical attack and means your buddy needs you to use the autoinjectors he’s hopefully packing in his MOPP gear.

Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves

Pictured: How you should actually think of Military Spouses.

“Dependa”

This is a terrible blanket nickname given to military spouses, even when undeserved. The full word is dependapotamus, from the word hippopotamus and refers to the physical appearance of the spouse. If there’s any animosity toward military spouses, it’s usually based in some kind of urban legend, such as a spouse pulling their husband or wife’s rank with other troops or the perception that milspouses are just in their marriage for the benefits.

While some individual examples of this behavior might be found anecdotally, actual research shows military families – spouses in particular – are undeserving of this nickname. Military spouses have a huge network and do their best to make sure new milspouses are taught their own customs and courtesies from the get-go.

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Train wreck coming.

“In Country”

This seems like a pretty innocuous expression and in the modern era, it really is. Most people won’t even know it’s short for “Indian Country,” and is referencing a U.S. troop’s arrival in the original theater of combat: the American Frontier, also known as hostile territory, according to historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. The most recent use of the full term was actually said to the American media in a press briefing during Operation Desert Storm, when Brig. Gen. Richard Neal actually said the term “Indian Country,” referring to Kuwait. The term was apparently shortened during the Vietnam era, according to research from American anthropologist Stephen Sillman.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why experts think Kim Jong Un never actually attended an elite military academy

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is not only the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he is the Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), the fourth-largest military in the world.

North Korea’s military is part of its foundation; Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un’s grandfather and the founder of the so-called “Hermit Kingdom,” used his own military service — as a guerilla fighting against the Japanese occupation of Korea — to burnish his cult of personality, according to Washington Post reporter Anna Fifield’s book, “The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un.”

Military service is baked into the North Korean constitution; “National defense is the supreme duty and honor of citizens,” it says, and military service is generally compulsory. Kim has never served in the North Korean military but reportedly graduated near the top of his class at a prestigious military academy, a claim that experts and a former North Korean military member found highly suspect.


North Korea spends approximately 25% of its GDP on its military, including its nuclear program, spending .5 billion each year on its forces between 2004 and 2014. It boasts 1.1 million troops, about 5% of its population, according to CFR.

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(KCNA)

According to North Korean propaganda, the 35-year-old Kim Jong Un prepared to lead this massive force by attending Kim Il Sung Military University in Pyongyang; experts said it was more likely that he had received some instruction from military trainers associated with this university.

Some propaganda accounts cited by Fifield say Kim, who reportedly started at the academy when he was 18, was such a natural at military strategy that he was soon training his instructors.

Kim’s ‘elite’ alma mater

Kim Il Sung Military University is a “military institution for educating elite military officers,” according to Bruce W. Bennett, senior defense analyst at The RAND Corporation. It was established in 1952, according to North Korea Leadership Watch, and is one of several military training schools.

“The students of this university are middle level officers such as majors and lieutenant colonels,” Bennett said, equating the university to institutions like the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

“It is the university that is a gateway to becoming a senior officer in the Korean People’s Army (KPA). Most of North Korean military generals studied in this university when they were mid-career,” Bennett told INSIDER via email.

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An image of Pyongyang, with Kim Il Sung Military University outlined.

(North Korea Leadership Watch/Google Images)

Fifield’s book, and official North Korean propaganda, report that Kim studied here alongside his older brother, Kim Jong Chol.

“It was their mother’s idea to send them to the military academy, a way to bolster her sons’ claim to succession,” Fifield writes. Kim Jong Un and Kim Jong Chol are the children of Kim Jong Il and Ko Yong Hui, to whom he was not officially married. Kim Jong Il installed Ko Yong Hui and her sons in a home in his compound, ensuring they were well cared for.

Kim Jong Un reportedly entered the university in 2002, after his early education in Switzerland, and began studying “juche-oriented military leadership,” Fifield writes, referring to the North Korean concept of juche, or self-reliance. Juche is essential to the North Korean identity, although the country was economically dependent on the Soviet Union until its collapse. China is now its most important economic relationship.

“I would expect that most of the training at Kim Il Sung Military University would be on military operations, military history, and political indoctrination,” Bennett told INSIDER via email.

“But a big part of the curriculum is likely also competition between the personnel to see how they deal with each other physically and mentally, which leads to forming bonds of friendship critical as officers are promoted.”

‘A natural at military strategy’

While Kim Jong Un never served in the KPA, North Korea Leadership Watch (NKLW) contends that it’s likely some students are able to enter Kim Il Sung Military University without any prior service, straight out of high school.

NKLW describes Kim Il Sung Military University as modeled on Soviet military academies; while there might be classes on North Korean military history, the structure and academics of Kim Il Sung Military University find their closest analogs in the Soviet system.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Command of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) in an unknown location in North Korea in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency.

(KCNA)

According to North Korean official state media, Fifield writes, Kim Jong Un was “such a natural at military strategy that he was instructing the instructors rather than learning from them.”

He graduated on Dec. 24, 2006, Fifield writes, “with honors,” after writing a final dissertation on “A Simulation for the Improvement of Accuracy in the Operational Map by the Global Positioning System (GPS).”

But a former member of the North Korean military who now lives in the US and is familiar with the Kim family said it was unlikely that Kim Jong Un actually attended Kim Il Sung Military University, at least not in the traditional sense.

“According to North Korean propaganda, Kim Jong Un attended Kim Il Sung Military University, but I couldn’t find any of his classmates or Army mates. If he really attended that university, somebody should know that he attended,” the former military member said.

“If Kim Jong Un actually attended that college, he has pictures, he has a record, and he has friends. But [none] of the North Korean elite could find his picture and his friends. I think it’s a kind of propaganda,” the former military member said, noting that the North Korean propaganda department would have exploited any evidence of Kim Jong Un having attended the university to build up his cult of personality.

Rather than actually physically attending classes, there were “probably private instructors visiting his house to give him a lecture,” the former military member said.

“Kim Il Sung Military University is a more closed university, the students are military officers, not civilians, so they can keep the secret that Kim Jong Un didn’t actually attend.”

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(KCNA)

Kim would have been unique in attending the military school named for his grandfather; “I don’t think most of the Kim family become military officers — they avoid becoming military officers,” the former military member said.

“They have a good life […] they don’t need to go [in] the military to risk their lives.”

In order to qualify for a school like Kim Il Sung Military University, potential recruits must have, “superior service records, excellent physical condition and trusted political reliability” and have “a flawless family background, be popular among fellow soldiers, and receive the approval of their commanding and political officers,” according to Joseph Bermudez’s book “Shield of the Great Leader: The Armed Forces of North Korea.”

NKLW contends that Kim probably had private tutoring for at least a few years, and that he was likely a very good student, exhausting teachers with his questions. The academics on military operations are thought to be rigorous, even if it’s unlikely Kim also participated in the physical and professional competitions that other students must face.

In whatever capacity he studied with the university’s instructors, it influenced his relationship with the North Korean military today, in particular the aggressive missile testing North Korea undertook under the third Kim leader.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is when to fly the flag at half-staff

It’s probably common knowledge that when Old Glory is flying at half-staff (or half-mast), it indicates a period of mourning, but unless it’s Memorial Day or a president has just died, people might not know why the flag is at half-staff. Who gets to declare a period of mourning? How long does the period last?

Fear not, dear patriot. I will answer all these questions and more.

On March 1, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered a presidential proclamation codifying the display of the flag of the United States at half-staff. Here are the basics you need to know:


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The American flag is flown at half-staff above the White House Sunday, Dec. 1, 2018, in memory of 41st President George H. W. Bush.

(Official White House Photo by Keegan Barber)

Death of the President: 30 Days

The flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff on all buildings, grounds, and naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions for the period indicated upon the death of the President or a former President for thirty days from the day of death.

The flag shall also be flown at half-staff for such period at all United States embassies, legations, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.

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Death of the VP, Chief Justice, retired Chief Justice, or Speaker of the House: 10 days

But for an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, a member of the Cabinet, a former Vice President, the President pro tempore of the Senate, the Majority Leader of the Senate, the Minority Leader of the Senate, the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, or the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, the flag will fly at half-staff from the day of death until interment.

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Honoring the seven astronauts who lost their lives aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2003, the American flag was flown at half-staff over the White House Monday, Feb. 3. President George W. Bush has directed the government to fly the flag at half-staff through Wednesday, Feb. 5.

(White House photo by Paul Morse)

Other deaths “as appropriate”

For example, the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff on all buildings, grounds, and naval vessels of the Federal Government in the metropolitan area of the District of Columbia on the day of death and on the following day upon the death of a United States Senator, Representative, Territorial Delegate, or the Resident Commissioner from the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and it shall also be flown at half-staff on all buildings, grounds, and naval vessels of the Federal Government in the State, Congressional District, Territory, or Commonwealth of such Senator, Representative, Delegate, or Commissioner, respectively, from the day of death until interment.

In the event of the death of other officials, former officials, or foreign dignitaries, the flag of the United States shall be displayed at half-staff in accordance with such orders or instructions as may be issued by or at the direction of the President, or in accordance with recognized customs or practices not inconsistent with law.

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Visitors on the USS Arizona Memorial as the flag flies at half-staff.

On Memorial Day and other notable dates

According to the VA, on Memorial Day the flag should be flown at half-staff from sunrise until noon only, then raised briskly to the top of the staff until sunset, in honor of our nation’s fallen heroes.

There are other notable dates throughout the year that are honored with the half-staff display, such as September 11th (Patriot Day), December 7th in honor of the attacks at Pearl Harbor, or October 7th in honor of fallen firefighters.

The president is also authorized to order the flag to half-staff in response to tragedies, such as mass shootings or the Challenger tragedy.

Anyone who wishes to can receive notifications for when to fly their flag at half-staff, including nation-wide or state-wide alerts.

Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves

“Good-Faith Misunderstandings”

There have been times when officials have been confused about their authority with regards to “ordering” the American flag to half-staff. The National Flag Foundation gives the example of the late Attorney General Janet Reno ordering the flag to half-staff on all U.S. Department of Justice buildings after the deaths of several DEA agents. Though it was a well-intentioned gesture, legally Attorney General Reno did not have the authority to give such an order.

“NFF points out these ‘good-faith misunderstandings’ not to criticize or embarrass anyone, but rather to head off a growing trivialization of this memorial salute, and to preserve the dignity and significance of flying the U.S. flag at half-staff. To any readers who may think that NFF is insensitive for raising these breaches of etiquette, please be assured that our motives are pure. We grieve these human loses deeply; however, we believe proper respect for our flag must be maintained – no matter the circumstances. We owe that respect to our living, our dead, and our flag.”

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“When Salvador Dalí died, it took months to get all the flagpoles sufficiently melted.”

(Image by xkcd)

Etiquette

One final note: proper etiquette dictates that the flag must not just be raised to half-staff. “The flag should be briskly run up to the top of the staff before being lowered slowly to the half-staff position.”

Forever in peace may she wave.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How do first-, second-, and third-wave coffee movements relate to conflict coffee?

In 2015, a cup of coffee in New York City averaged $1.70; in 2019, that price jumped to $1.97. Besides inflation, coffee has undergone quite the transformation since its first wash of national popularity in the 1960s — known as the first-wave coffee movement.

As much as our favorite drink has transformed, the efforts made to source and sell coffee have also drastically transformed, eventually bumping into its fair share of problems. While it currently boasts one of the biggest markets globally, the method in which coffee is sourced often skirts the questions about morality. Conflict along the coffee belt has been a recurring issue within the past few years, but that wasn’t always the case. In order to understand the extent of coffee conflict, we must first understand the waves of coffee and how they have changed the shape of the market.


Back in the 1960s, Maxwell House and Folgers earned their place in our pantries as a morning beverage readily available for the American masses. These two companies, in combination with other “gourmet” brands, represented the face of the first wave of coffee, in which coffee was treated as a daily commodity rather than a specialty trade. These were the days of no-nonsense, pre-ground beans and a good, old-fashioned percolator drip. The grounds weren’t single-roast, imported beans that capitalized on flavor through specialized processing — and the brands weren’t interested in marketing themselves as such. Likewise, consumers weren’t invested in where their grounds were being sourced from.

Folgers Coffee Commercial 1 1960’s

www.youtube.com

The second wave gets a little more complex, but experts commonly refer to it as the “Starbucks” wave, and for good reason. Whereas the first wave seemed to be exclusive to the domestic realm, the second featured a heavy focus on intense mobilization of cafe culture, as well as the specialty beverages and passionate baristas that came along with it.

With the introduction of predominantly West Coast coffee chains, brands like Starbucks, Peet’s Coffee, and Tim Hortons used espresso-based specialty beverages to lure in crowds. Ironically, the emphasis wasn’t on the coffee but the supplementary elements of the drink, as well as the cafe’s ambiance. It’s here that companies began publishing roasts and origins, which created an awareness of sourcing without a heavy emphasis on it.

Aptly nicknamed the “hipster boom,” the third wave of coffee carved its place into existence as the movement that mobilized coffee on its own terms. No longer about the syrup or milky beverages, cafes like Blue Bottle and La Colombe shifted their focus to the beans, roast, flavor profile, and origin of the individual cup of coffee. The hallmark of this wave remains the manner in which coffee is regarded. Like wine or cheese, the third wave considers coffee an artisanal good that requires knowhow to hone in on the drinker’s preferences.

How to Make Coffee With A Chemex

www.youtube.com

Rather than percolators or espresso barges, the third-wave movement revitalized manual methods like pour over and French press, controlling every aspect of the brewing process to best manifest each roast’s specific characteristics. And while this seems like an ideal scenario for coffee lovers, the third wave struggles to balance its morality with its dedication to sophistication and flavor. Of all the waves, the third is correlated with the most paltry, having been sourced primarily by strife-ridden communities.

The first and second waves vaguely alluded to the origin of their beans. They were predominantly Colombian or Arabica beans with a selection that grew to include Indonesian and Vietnamese coffee. The origins of these beans weren’t obscure, but they were never highlighted the way they are now.

The third wave doesn’t share its predecessors’ inclination for simplicity — on the contrary, it places a heavy emphasis on exoticism. This makes sense considering that coffee is now treated as an artisanal good, and as with any business, the forces of supply and demand are at work. Quality plays an important role, however, it’s less about overall flavor than it is about rarity. “Rarity” in this context is defined as how difficult something is to source rather than how obscure it is. Inevitably, the rarest beans remain engrossed in the throes of conflict. In 2016, Blue Bottle paid 3 a pound for coffee imported from a war-plagued Yemen.

The process of roasting a batch of high-quality, single-origin coffee beans in a large industrial roaster; the toasted beans are in the cooling cycle.

Before we can delve into the main connection between the third wave and coffee conflict, it’s important we understand exactly how those bags of beans end up on the shelves of our local cafes. Whereas first-wave coffee was sourced privately by equitable firms and sold wholesale to companies like Maxwell House and Folgers, the third wave engages coffee sourcing with intense vigor. With consumers willing to pay higher prices, the more direct their relationship with their coffee can be. The third wave actively removes the middleman and encourages cafes to source the coffee themselves, providing associates with a direct relationship with the farmers.

To the naked eye, this seems beneficial for both parties. Cafes get their specialty products, and farmers facing dismal conditions sell their beans for what seems like a pretty penny. But the latter isn’t necessarily true. With bigger companies entering the fray, the division of money can get staggered, leaving farmers with fractions of what their crop is worth. For farmers growing what’s deemed as a differentiated or specialized crop, money will be consistent. For farmers growing a common bean, it’s trickier. Despite the coffee industry being valued at billion, growers across the globe are struggling to rally the proper funds to cover the cost of production.

As farmers struggle to maintain a profit and, in turn, make a living off their trade, the future of coffee remains volatile. This is especially problematic when you account for the conditions of most of these farmers. Residents of Sudan have been facing a deeply violent civil war, Yemeni farmers have been dealing with crippling government oppression, and farmers in the Republic of Congo stand to lose their lives while active explosives litter their farmland. The latter is hardly an isolated incident — Colombia, Burma, Ethiopia, and Vietnam all feature obscured remnants of war, literally making coffee-growing the riskiest enterprise in the country. But there is an upside.

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Pour-over coffee brewing and a deeper understanding of each roast’s origin is a hallmark of the third-wave coffee movement.

(Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company.)

The third wave is comprised of a hyper-aware generation of consumers that take pride in knowing how their coffee is processed and where their coffee is coming from. As such, the global approach to sourcing coffee has offered cafe patrons an easy way to engage with the origin of their beans. This usually splits the consumers into two groups: those who consider buying conflict coffee a great atrocity, and those who see their purchase as a positive impact on an ailing community. Neither are right. This hyper-awareness of farming conditions is slowly growing into what will become the fourth wave of coffee.

The fourth wave builds upon the principles of its predecessor — they share their affinity for manually processed coffee as well as quality beans and roasts. The major difference remains the issue of sustainability. Consumers swimming in this wave not only pride themselves on the awareness of the conditions of farmers but also the climate impact of sourcing particular roasts. While it doesn’t solve the moral complication of buying from the conflict community, it puts farmers’ narratives front and center, allowing consumers to make educated purchases.

As consumers of the market, it’s easy to look past the method that brings us these goods. The onus is on both the company and the consumer to be responsible and make responsible decisions for how we source our coffee.

Trojan Footprint: Embedded with Special Forces in Europe

www.youtube.com

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

popular

Celebrate your Fourth of July with these easy drinks and recipes

This is the time of year to celebrate our country’s independence and our loved ones that fight for our freedom every single day. Whether this will be your first Fourth of July party that you will be throwing or the 40th, below are some tips and tricks to have an awesome and relaxing Fourth of July party.

Keep it simple! No one will complain about a backyard barbeque. Below will be a mix of appetizers, sides, and drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic).


Below are five crowd favorite appetizers and sides to accompany your hot dogs and burgers:

1. A simple and light salad for any crowd

  • 6 cups romaine lettuce
  • 2 cups mixed greens
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 whole cut avocado
  • 1 cup Parmesan
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes halved
  • ¼ red onion thinly sliced
  • 2 chicken breast, baked and cut into 1/4in. pieces
  • 8 oz. Caesar dressing
  • Mix all together with dressing and serve.
Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves
(Photo by Maddi Bazzocco)

 

2. Bacon Green Beans

  • 1 lb. green beans halved
  • 2 cups cooked bacon cut into ¼ in. cubes
  • 3 cloves garlic diced
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • ½ yellow onion thinly sliced

Place butter into a saucepan with the onion and garlic. Let brown and add green beans and cooked bacon. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

3. Pasta Salad

This is one of my favorites things to make. It takes about 30 minutes in total to make and I can make it the night before any barbeque and it tastes great the next day.

  • Two boxes tri-color Rotini pasta
  • Cook the pasta all the way through. Drain. Add olive oil to the drained pasta so it does not stick together.
  • Chop one green and red bell pepper into ¼in. cubes
  • Chop one half red onion
  • Chop 7 oz dry salami into ¼in. cubes
  • 8 oz. sliced black olives
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan
  • 2 cup quartered tomatoes
  • 8 oz. mozzarella cheese ¼in. cubes
  • Mix all together with 8 oz. light Italian dressing. Serve.

4. Macaroni and Cheese.

I am in love with macaroni and cheese, the cheesier the better in my opinion. To be honest the better the cheeses the more expensive. So this could be the most expensive of the sides, but it is soooo worth it. Also when purchasing the cheese DO NOT purchase already shredded cheese. Just buy a block and shred it.

  • 1 lb. Cavatappi noodles
  • ½ cup butter
  • ½ cup flour
  • 4 cup whole milk
  • 6 cup cheese of your choice.
  • ½ tbsp. salt
  • ½ tbsp. black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. oregano
  • ½ cup panko bread crumbs

Boil pasta in salted water until cooked. Drain and pour in 1 tbsp. olive oil to keep the noodles from sticking. While the pasta is cooking melt butter in a saucepan and sprinkle in flour and whisk. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, add in salt and pepper. Slowly pour milk whisking until smooth and thickened. Remove from heat. Place noodles into a greased casserole dish. Over the top of the noodles sprinkle the shredded cheese. Pour the thickened cream sauce over the cheese and noodles. Melt the 2 tbsp. butter, oregano and panko bread crumbs together. Cook until golden brown. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the macaroni and cheese. Bake in preheated oven 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves
(Photo by Kimberly Mears)

 

5. 7-Layer Dip

So I will admit this is not my favorite of all appetizers, but it was always a huge hit at any family function. In a casserole dish:

  • Layer refried beans
  • Layer sour cream
  • Layer Guacamole
  • Layer salsa
  • A layer of Mexican shredded cheese mixTomatoes cut in half and sliced olives for the top layer. If you are feeling extra festive you can arrange the tomatoes to be in rows and olives in the upper left corner to replicate our flag.

Of course, some chips and dip are always a crowd pleaser, this could be a great item to ask guests to bring (along with any alcohol) to help keep the cost reasonable.

Since I am a California girl I do have to suggest trying some tri-tip for your barbeque. If you have never heard of tri-tip it’s incredibly normal, it’s mainly a California barbeque meat. Baking or grilling tri-tip with a basic marinade will be a big crowd pleaser for any party. It takes about 30-45 minutes to cook and can be found at almost any base. A simple dry rub of salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and red pepper flakes is my hands down favorite when I am rushed for time.

Top 4 alcoholic drinks (besides beer):

1. Red, white and blue jelly shots

  • 1 berry blue Jell-O packet
  • 6 oz. vodka
  • 1 plain gelatin packet
  • 3 oz. sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 ½ oz. raspberry vodka
  • 1 strawberry Jell-O packet
  • 6 oz. vodka
  • Boiling water
  • Cooking Spray
  • Heat six oz. water to boiling, pour in a bowl with blue Jell-O and whisk until dissolved. Stir in blueberry vodka. Pour into a casserole dish (8×8, 9×9, or 13×9). Refrigerate until solid.
  • Repeat previous steps, but with plain gelatin, condensed milk and raspberry vodka. Pour over the solid first layer and place it back in the fridge.
  • Repeat one last time with the strawberry Jell-O and plain vodka. Pour over solid white layer and place back in the fridge until solid. When Jell-O is completely set, run a knife around the edges of the Jell-O and turn over onto a large sheet pan sprayed with cooking spray. If the Jell-O is not separating you can place the bottom of the pan under hot water to help separate from the pan. From the sheet pan, you can either cut the Jell-O into any shapes. Serve.
Navy helps teachers understand the pain of military moves
(Photo by Stephanie McCabe)

 

2. Red, White, and Blue Sangria

  • 1 bottle white wine
  • 1 ½ can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed.
  • ½ cup vodka
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • 2 granny apples (if feeling extra festive cut apples into thin slices and cut slices with a star-shaped cookie cutter)
  • ½ cup raspberries
  • ½ cup blueberries
  • Pour all ingredients into a 3qt. pitcher and stir. Let sit in the fridge for at least 4 hrs. Serve over ice. Add a few pieces of fruit in each glass.

3. Star Spangled Sparkler

  • 2 cups watermelon stars
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 bottle chilled dry white wine
  • 1 litter chilled Sprite
  • Pour all ingredients into a 3 qt. pitcher and stir. Let sit in the fridge for at least an hour. Serve with a few pieces of fruit in each glass.

4. Spiked Arnold Palmer

  • 4 cups of water
  • 10 black tea bags –
  • 1 oz. mint leaves
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 1 can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
  • 1 cup bourbon
  • Bring 4 cups water to a boil. Remove from heat and add tea bags and mint. Let steep for 5 minutes. Remove tea bags and mints. Stir in sugar until melted. Pour the tea into drink dispenser and stir in cold water, thawed lemonade concentrate and bourbon.
  • Serve over ice.

Top 3 non-alcoholic drinks (besides soda):

1. Patriotic Punch

  • Fill the cup halfway with ice
  • Filled 1/3 cup with cranberry juice
  • Fill 1/3 cup with Sobe Pina Colada
  • Fill remainder of the cup with blue Gatorade
  • (Always fill the bottom of the cup with the beverage that has the highest sugar content)
  • Serve.

 

2. Classic Arnold Palmer

  • 4 cups of water
  • 10 black tea bags –
  • 1 oz. mint leaves
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 1 can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
  • Bring 4 cups water to a boil. Remove from heat and add tea bags and mint. Let steep for 5 minutes. Remove tea bags and mints. Stir in sugar until melted. Pour the tea into drink dispenser and stir in cold water and thawed lemonade concentrate. Serve over ice.

3. Sonic’s Cherry Limeade – Ingredients per drink

  • Maraschino Cherries
  • 2 tbsp syrup
  • 2 cherries per drink
  • 1 can Sprite
  • Lime wedges cut in ½
  • 1 per drink
  • Serve over ice.

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

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