GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

UAP recently sat down with Gunnery Sergeant Joshua Negron, an active Marine Raider and veteran of the Marine Reconnaissance community.

Negron enlisted in the Marine Corps on December 4, 2000, and his personal decorations include the Bronze Star Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device, Joint Service Commendation Medal, U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and three Combat Action Ribbons.

Here is the exclusive interview.

What led you to join the Marine Corps and then later Recon and MARSOC?

Well, I have family members that have prior military service, but it all started with my grandfather who served and fought in WWII. Like most during that time he answered the call and joined the US Army who then deployed him to Africa. After the German forces were defeated, the Allied forces advanced, and my grandfather moved with his unit into Italy to continue fighting until their surrender in 1943. Not long afterwards, my grandfather met my grandmother in Italy. That’s how my whole story even became possible.

However, the biggest contributing factor to why I wanted to join the military is largely because of my father who joined the Marine Corps in ’57, fought in the Dominican Republic in ’65, and got out in ’68.   Shortly after, I believe, he served in the Army National Guard from ’70-’90. During that same timeframe he was a full-time police officer in California. My father was always extremely patriotic and loved serving his country. I admired my father so much growing up that I knew my calling in life would eventually guide me down a similar path.  All his police buddies had military backgrounds, predominantly from the Vietnam timeframe which resonated with me.  All this ultimately directed my path to a very early preparation to join the Marine Corps Infantry, with the ambition of pursuing a more specialized background.

But early on, I didn’t know if I was good enough to go Recon or Force Recon and MARSOC didn’t exist at the time. When you aspire for something like that, you know, sometimes the people who are in those fields almost look superhuman-like, and sometimes you wonder, “do I really have what it takes, go that route?”

My first unit I joined in the Marine Corps was LAR – a light armored mechanized infantry unit.  I learned some valuable things there and met some great Marines, but I also ran into some terrible Marines too. In my first platoon I had really bad leadership, which later on taught me a valuable lesson: Exactly how not to be like as a leader!

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor
Negron during a deployment.

And then right before I left LAR, I had excellent leadership. 1st Sergeant Loya who retired as a SgtMaj, was a big contributing factor to the reason why I got my opportunity to go over to Recon. He was a prior Force Recon Marine. The guy was built like a spark plug, and for somebody that was probably in his early 40’s, he could still practically outperform the large majority of the battalion in PT (physical training). Beyond all that, he genuinely loved the men that he led. His leadership style was more that of a father but also someone that was highly respected and that you did not want to disappoint or piss off.

He was very inspirational and helped motivate me to seek something further for myself in life – to seek out a higher challenge. So, I reset my sites back on Recon, and after making it I realized I had found my home.  Six great years and three deployments later in Recon I looked to the next progression for my career. MARSOC was already up and operating with an aggressive training cycle in preparation for the next big fight in Afghanistan.  A lot of my friends from Recon had already transferred over there.  It looked like the next best thing, a new challenge, and one I gladly accepted.

What, if anything, do you miss about being in the Recon community versus being in MARSOC at this point?

There was just an atmosphere in Recon that, for that time, I don’t think you can really replicate or replace.  There’s a real brotherhood there, and warfare bonded us closer together.  Ultimately, I just miss the camaraderie with the Recon guys. There was always just a healthy, competitive spirit that everybody had about them. You were always competing against your brother, but there wasn’t any sort of animosity. It was all in a loving way. For lack of better words, you always challenged each other, especially in training, and even in combat. Every platoon was trying to outdo the other ones but we all mutually supported one another.

Everyone worked hand-in-hand together. Our SOP’s (standard operating procedures) were practically the same, and we also worked together inside the house with (close quarters battle) tactics which was all dynamic. Even though our platoons were separated, our tactics were the same. When we operated in the house, we would often times mix teams together with other platoons just because combat could call for that very same thing.

You may have to take on a large structure or multiple structures to where one platoon isn’t enough to cover all the ground, so we would incorporate another platoon for additional support. And the more familiar you guys are with each other the better. There was just a unique, I guess, working spirit that everyone had together and really in a way embodied the term “gung-ho”, which translates to “working together in spirit” or as my father would say “working together in harmony”.  Recon Marines – and Marines in general – always look after their brothers, and you always looked after their best interests.

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor
Negron and his wife, Erika, at a birthday celebration for their wonderful little daughter.

Do you have a favorite moment from your time in uniform – something that you’re particularly proud of?

All of my deployments with Recon were great. I mean, some of the workups weren’t necessarily fun at times and the actual deployments definitely had their own suck factor, but my overall favorite experiences of being in the military were the two times that I deployed as a Recon team leader. My first team and combat deployment was great, but as a point man I didn’t grow.  I just did what I was told to do, as by design.  Being thrown into a leadership position really forced me to take a deeper look into myself. Having seen firsthand great and terrible leaders I wanted to ensure that I did not repeat past mistakes from others as I re-evaluated my AAR (after action report) of life experiences.  At that time, it was the next door for me to walk through, and for me, this one was very personal.

One of the greatest pieces of advice that I ever received was from a father figure of mine growing up named Dave Deluca, who was a Ranger that served as a 1st Lt. with the 82nd Airborne in Vietnam. Dave was a great friend of my fathers who I went to see just before I left on my first deployment.  He said three things to me: first, “never tell your men to do something that you have never done yourself or don’t have the balls to do yourself”, “if it scares you to do something as a leader, you should not send one of your men to do it for you, do it yourself and your second in command should be ready to take over should anything happen to you”, and the last was “don’t ever think at any time point in time during combat that you’re not going to make it, no matter how bad it gets, always believe that you’ll live no matter what, even if wounded, and always take care of your men and do whatever you need to survive, nothing more”.

One of the biggest things that I wanted to do as a leader other than the obvious was to ensure that I actually listened to and mentored my men.  Evaluating them was vital and something that I was intimately involved in.  Any opportunity that presented itself turned into a quick on the spot lesson.  At the same time, I encouraged them all to be free thinkers and to partake in mission planning.  Like any leader I believe that I’m tactically sound and proficient, but I’m not the smartest, nor can I think of everything.  So, I made it clear to my men that at any point in time If I ever made a mistake or need correction, by all means do so regardless of rank but please do it professionally. I’m not above reproach and if I’m making decisions in combat that can affect whether or not we make it back alive, then everyone needs to have trust in me and my ability if I’m truly going to lead.  If I’m messed up in anyway, or if there’s a better way to get the job done, I want to know.  Their voices were equally as important as my own, as there’s always a risk when you step outside the wire and the enemy always gets to vote.  In combat, life and death is weighted and measured by seconds and inches, and anything can get you killed – including doing nothing.  My team needed to know that I would always look after them no matter what and they could approach me at any time about anything.  I did not know how to put it into words at the time, but I was encouraging and strengthening trust within my team.

You have to sharpen both sides of the sword. On one side, you learn and improve yourself. On the other, you teach your guys so that they grow in the direction that they’re supposed to.

– GySgt Joshua Negron

Aside from war, I wanted my men to grow professionally and become great leaders themselves.  By the time I was a team leader with my second team, it wasn’t uncommon for a Recon Marine to be promoted to Sergeant within his first two years. It happened very quickly and was normal.  Afterwards though, it can take four to five years to get Staff Sergeant or more (laughs).  By this time, I had eight years in as a newly promoted Staff Sergeant. My main goal was to train my men to be better by the end of that deployment, as Sergeants with three and a half years in the Marine Corps, than I was as a Sergeant when I was at my seven-year mark.

This was possible because I was giving them information willingly and freely. I wasn’t withholding anything from them, but at the same time, I’m also not fire hosing them with information.  As simple as this is, it was not very common from what I previously saw in the infantry. What I saw were a lot of keepers of the badge. At the time when I was a junior Marine there wasn’t a whole lot of mentoring going on, and if there was, it was very little. It was only,” I’m going to give you just enough information to where you learn something, but I’m also going to purposely withhold information from you because I don’t want you to grow beyond and possibly outshine me.”

You have to sharpen both sides of the sword. On one side, you learn and improve yourself. On the other, you teach your guys so that they grow in the direction that they’re supposed to.  This rarely happens as everything in the military is performance driven. The byproduct of freely teaching and giving all information by default forces that leader to take a deeper look into themselves and identify what they’re deficient in and find ways to improve. Otherwise, if this step is missed as a leader who freely mentors their personnel without withholding, eventually their men and woman are going to grow past them – resulting in promotions above them.  If I’m going to keep up with them, I’ve got to continue to look deeper into myself and see what I can make better.

This is the way of giving back to the community.

A true leader doesn’t make more subordinates, they make more leaders.  They’re humble in nature and they take responsibility over things that aren’t even their fault in regard to those within their command. They’re stern when needed but also compassionate towards those they lead.  Members of any command are not just numbers to do your bidding as a leader, they are family – the lifeline and heartbeat of the community.  If this is lost, you lose trust, and if that’s lost, you have nothing as a leader.  You will use your men and woman as tools to build and promote yourself instead of using your position and instruments to further develop, and hone those that you are blessed to lead.  This is Esprit de Corps, this is Gung Ho!

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor
Negron with his incredible wife, Erika.

What special operations skillset came most naturally to you?

The things that came most naturally to me was shooting and really just being and operating in the bush – your basic infantry concepts and tactics. And really anything related to R&S (reconnaissance and surveillance) and SR (special reconnaissance).

I kind of had a knack for it even though I have a love-hate relationship with R&S because it always involved carrying a pack that was over 100 pounds, deuce gear that was like another 50 pounds, and then my weapon. I practically carried myself in body weight every single time we stepped out (laughs). I kind of hated that aspect of it, but I loved once we got on site and we started our reporting, started collecting information on our target site. I just love that aspect of it.

At the end of the day, you’ve got to treat your training like it’s real.  You never know when it will be.  Plus, during training you’re always competing against your counterparts that are inserting into the bush as well – oftentimes with you – but they’re just taking another piece of the objective. And so, you have that friendly competition going, but at the same time, you’re both performing exceptionally well and doing a great job on target site. So, you’re adhering to the Recon creed of honoring those who came before.

Which skillset took the most work to master in spite of not being very good at it initially?

Things that I wasn’t that great at? Well, I was never really that fast in the water and I’m still not that fast in the water.

Diving (school) sucked for me, especially going into it with an injured ankle, but it wasn’t anything that I couldn’t do. I just wasn’t fast in the water. Actually, one of my good buddies that I joined Recon with – he was a big dude at 6’4, 220-240lbs – he was slow on land but fast on the water, and I was slow in the water but fast on land. So, when we were getting thrashed in pre-BRC (Basic Reconnaissance Course), I was the one smiling on the runs because he was typically the last dude coming in. Then when we got to the pool, it reversed. I was like the last guy to finish while he was one of the first ones out.  He just sat on the pool side and laughed at me.

In a way, it motivated us to not quit. We both suffered in silence and suffered uniquely together, and that camaraderie bonded us. We both saw each other in some of our worst moments and our best moments as we fought to solidify our place within the Recon community.

Do you have a favorite place that you’ve visited?

Deployment-wise, I would have loved to have seen more of Australia, but unfortunately didn’t get to see too much during one quick stop in Darwin.

Dubai was cool and that area was really nice.

I really like anything with history, especially anything that has long history. So, when I went to Jordan, I got an opportunity to take a trip over to Petra. If you’ve ever seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, it’s the city that’s carved into the rock. That’s Petra. The movie only shows one spot actually, but there are multiple places like that and it’s a massive city that’s carved into other rocks all around. It’s got a bunch of what seemed to me like hundreds or possibly thousands of little homes in between some of those larger dedicated sites.

What is something unique about you that most people don’t know?

As most men involved with self-defense, I was inspired by Bruce Lee.

My favorite film he did was “Enter the Dragon”. That was definitely one of the best ones for me, but I really enjoyed more of his documentaries and reading books on him – he is just very inspirational.

He obviously had this amazing physical ability that dazzled the world, but people who had the opportunity to meet him were oftentimes more impressed by his spoken words.

He wasn’t just a martial artist; he was poet, a father, a husband, who lived and embodied a warrior spirit that is very uncommon.  At the end of it all Bruce did not embrace the illusion of fame, he wanted to be remembered as a real human being who was fully alive.  In his own words, “Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor
GySgt Joshua Negron. (Photo credit: Lloyd Wainscott)
MIGHTY CULTURE

Blue Star Families seeking minority representation in Military Family Lifestyle Survey

The Blue Star Families Military Family Lifestyle Survey is actively seeking more representation for persons of color. The survey is a vital tool utilized by government officials to determine the needs of the military community.

With the survey ending on October 16, 2020, Blue Star Families seeks more participation from Black, Hispanic and Asian members of the military community, who are often underrepresented in measures of family stability and wellbeing. More diverse data collection in this survey will allow for a more accurate representation of the realities facing military members, their families and our veterans.


In an article on their website, Dr. Jessica Strong explained the significance of the survey. ” Blue Star Families started with a survey because if they want to explain what military families are experiencing, the best thing to do is ask them,” she said. Strong is a U.S. Army spouse who works as the organization’s co-director of applied research.

The survey itself covers a broad range of subjects as it relates to military life. Hot topics include child care, spouse employment, the pandemic and education, among others. The survey lends a comprehensive picture of the reality of the military community so that decisions can be made on how to address issues that come up.

One of the other parts of the survey is aimed at understanding diversity in the military community. But without significant participation from persons of color within the military community, their unique needs may be overlooked and underrepresented.

The survey itself is completely voluntary and takes anywhere from 20-35 minutes, depending on how long you spend on each question. Conducted only once a year, survey results determine a whole host of programs and governmental responses to issues that need to be addressed.

Each year, more than one million people are impacted by Blue Star Families’ programs. Over million in value has been accessed in benefits by military families. With a four star charity rating, they’ve maintained their commitment to the military community. But one of the most important things that they do for the community lies in the Military Family Lifestyle Survey. It is imperative that everyone take the time to make their voice heard because it matters.

Their website hones in on the need to bridge the gap saying, “The goal of Blue Star Families’ research and policy work is to increase the awareness and understanding of military family life trends and the ramifications for both our Armed Forces and our American society.”

Since 2009, the organization has been dedicated to serving the military community through active engagement with the civilian and governmental sectors to ensure quality of life.

Through partnerships with the government, communities, nonprofits and the military community, Blue Star Families is already making a difference. But they need your help. Take the time to fill out the survey and make sure your voice and needs are heard, so that BSF can continue to serve you and your family.

To complete the 2020 Military Families Lifestyle Survey, click here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

That time the Louisiana National Guard celebrated ‘Saudi Gras’ in Desert Storm

Everyone who deploys during a holiday makes a special effort to feel as if they aren’t really missing it. No matter how short the war is, no one wants to miss one of those crucial days. Even if the entire buildup and fighting lasted just a few months, you still want that piece of home. The Louisiana National Guard was no different in the Gulf War. No way were they going to miss Mardi Gras.


So the celebration may not have been as raucous as it is on Bourbon Street. Nor was it a family affair as it is in other wards and and cities in Louisiana. Still, it was important to the men and women who deployed to Saudi Arabia during operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. Mardi Gras isn’t something to be casually missed, so the unit threw their own version: Saudi Gras.

In 1990, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded neighboring Kuwait, sparking off a huge U.S. military buildup in Saudi Arabia call Operation Desert Shield as a bulwark against further Iraqi aggression. It was part of a larger plan to go on the offensive and expel Iraq from Kuwait in an operation known as Desert Storm. The forces required to execute Desert Storm and secure Saudi Arabia took a while to arrive. From August 1990 to January 1991, American and Coalition troops began arriving in the Saudi Kingdom.

One of those units called to action was the Louisiana National Guard, who arrived in late January and early February. Their only problem was that Mardi Gras began on Feb. 12 that year.

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

(Louisiana National Guard)

Mardi Gras is a Christian tradition, a celebration that begins on the Feast of the Epiphany and runs through Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. While Mardi Gras may not be a big deal in the rest of the United States, for the French-descended people of Louisiana, it is. For them, it’s more than beads on Bourbon Street – it’s a time of celebration, good food, parades, and family. Some 8,000 miles away from the French Quarter, the members of Lousiana’s National Guard deployed to Saudi Arabia decided they wouldn’t let the holiday pass them by.

Saudi Arabia saw its first-ever Mardi Gras celebration, dubbed “Saudi Gras” by those who were a part of it.

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

(Louisiana National Guard)

The beer was non-alcoholic (by necessity and general order), the parade queen was a Lt. Col. who volunteered to dress in drag, and the Saudi Gras King, a member of the 926th Tactical Fighter Group and native of New Orleans, was given the title “King Scud.” Elsewhere, Louisianans formed ad-hoc krewes, those celebrating Mardi Gras with the pledge to form a group that hosts a party, builds parade floats, and attends social events all year long.

You can take the troops out of Louisiana, but you can’t take Louisiana out of the troops.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How this man went from being a refugee to a Marine will inspire you

Every day, young American men and women join the military to serve their country and see the world — and they do. U.S. troops have a global impact. For many kids and communities around the world, their introduction to America is via the troops stationed near their homes or moving in and out of embassies.

For one eight-old boy living in Liberia, West Africa, watching how U.S. Marines conducted themselves in his neighborhood made him want to flee to America and become a member of the “few and the proud.”

In 1994, 18-year-old George Jones left his home in West Africa with his family after surviving a brutal civil war. Upon their arrival, Jones took some college courses, but the school expenses began to weigh too heavy. Jones left school and decided he needed to do something great with his life, so he enlisted in the Marine Corps and shipped out to Parris Island in South Carolina.

Jones selected the infantryman MOS to help protect his brother who also enlisted as an “03” rifleman one week ahead of him.


GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor
Marine rifleman Cpl. George Jones takes a moment for a photo op while in the field.

While deployed on a ship with a Marine Expeditionary Unit, Jones was told by a well-respected Marine officer that he had what it took to get accepted to Officer Candidate School. This motivating information inspired Jones, and he applied for commissioning through the Broadened Opportunity for Officer Selection and Training (BOOST) program.

The prideful Marine stuck it out through all the hardship of OCS and met his goal of becoming a Marine officer.

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor
Capt. George Jones as he stands proud of being a Marine officer.

“If a young kid from Liberia came to the United States as a refugee, went through school, received a degree and had the privilege to lead sons and daughters as an officer, I think you can achieve anything.” — Marine Capt. George Jones proudly stated.

Capt. Jones now serves as an Operations Officer for the 3rd Marine Division and plans to retire from service in the next couple of years. This Marine is a great reminder that we can overcome some insane obstacles in order to reach our goals.

Check out the video below to hear this motivating story from the driven Marine himself.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 7 universally important things to know before any boot camp

Everyone who enters the US military these days will go through basic training. Although each branch of the military (including the Coast Guard) has a markedly different experience in their initial training days, there are things a young would-be troop can know and do to prepare themselves mentally and physically for whatever service they’re about to enter, regardless of gender.

Prepare to fear and then respect the campaign hat, pukes.


GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

Tech. Sgt. Edroy Robinson, 331st Training Squadron military training instructor, observes as new Air Force basic training arrivals prepare to get a haircut May 20, 2015, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Johnny Saldivar)

Show up with a neat appearance.

Your fellow trainees/recruits will appreciate this. You will appreciate this eventually. You probably know before going that part of basic military training means you will be stripped of your hair and your civilian clothes. You will be given the same haircut as everyone else and wear the same clothes as everyone else. But before that happens, there’s a lot of waiting.

When you get off the bus, you will be tired and maybe dirty from traveling all day. You will feel gross. None of that will matter, though. Your introduction to military service begins with a hurry up and wait that could take most of a day and into the next. You may not see a rack or shower for some time. If you prepared for this, you and those around you will be grateful.

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

New recruits with Lima Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, make their initial phone calls home at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, May 21, 2018.

(MCRD San Diego)

Dress conservatively.

This goes double for Marine Corps recruits. The goal is to not draw attention to yourself, to try to blend in. The whole time you were tired from getting to basic training, the drill instructors/drill sergeants/training instructors/recruit division commanders were watching you. The first thing they notice about you could stick with you for the entire time you’re in boot camp.

Consider a plain-colored tee shirt or other comfortable gear to wear to basic training.

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

Don’t take it personally.

The men and women in charge of shaping your civilian lump into a part of the world’s best combined-arms fighting force have been doing it for some time. They know exactly what it means to be a part of your entry in the U.S. Military. As a matter of fact, their basic training to teach your basic training was much, much more difficult than your basic training.

Training new recruits is one of the hardest jobs to get and keep in the U.S. military, and those who wear the Smokey Bear hat went through a lot to be there. No one cares more about making you a capable fighter than the person under that hat. If they’re giving you a hard time, there’s a reason for it.

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

A basic combat training soldier acting as a casualty is carried by members of his squad toward their command post after a simulated attack on their patrol July 20, 2016, during his BCT company’s final field training exercise at Fort Jackson, S.C.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Javier Amador)

Move like you mean it.

They’re awake before you are and they go to bed after you do. They put all their time and effort into molding you into the shapes of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines. The least you can do is act like it means something to you. If you aren’t “moving with a sense of urgency” by the end of the first week, you’re showing total disrespect to everyone around you who is.

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

(U.S. Navy)

Be in some kind of shape.

Compared to most of the other things you’ll do with your life – especially your military life – basic training is rather easy. But it will be a whole lot more difficult for you if you were so out of shape in your civilian life that you may not hack it as a U.S. troop. But your window for getting in shape doesn’t have to be limited to the eight to twelve weeks you’ll spend in basic military training. If you can show up halfway there, you’ll be doing yourself a real favor.

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

An Air Force Basic Military Training dining facility.

(U.S. Air Force)

Learn how to address others.

Every branch has different rules for this in basic training, but it’s one of those little things that can show your instructors some respect while opening doors for you – literally. You will have to learn how to refer to your instructors, how to refer to yourself, and how to speak to those in your chain of command. You will have to do this for almost everything from answering questions to eating to going to the bathroom.

Life is so much easier when you know how to respond in these situations.

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

It gets better.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Do not ever think of giving up.

When you arrive, there will likely be a quick flash where you wonder just what the hell you’ve gotten yourself into. A quick situational awareness check will tell you that there are hundreds of others around you, doing the same thing, probably having the same idea. Everyone else will push past the defeatism and embrace the situation – and you will not be happy until you do the same.

For most people who go through the military, finishing basic training is one of the most satisfying achievements of their lives. For the people that quit, it becomes their biggest regret. The choice is simple.

MIGHTY CULTURE

You’re Not Imagining It. Moving Really Does Make You Hemorrhage Money

Utility deposits, eating in restaurants because your kitchen is in boxes, having to buy everyone in the family a winter coat because you moved from Florida to Colorado in February (just me?) — military families know that whether you do a full HHG or a full DITY move, or something in between, moving can be expensive. But until now we didn’t know quite how expensive.

The Military Family Advisory Network just released survey data that shows that every PCS move can set a military family back by an average of about $5,000. That’s money they’ll never be reimbursed for and will never recover. Considering that military families move, on average, every two to three years, it sheds some light on one reason why it’s so hard for military families to save money and build wealth. Eighty-four percent of active duty respondents to the survey said they had moved within the past two years.

Included in that $5,000 figure are things that families have to pay to move themselves and the cost of loss and damage to items over and above the reimbursements they receive through the claims process. This PCS season the added chaos of COVID-19 promises to only make moving more hectic and more expensive.


“We’re struggling because of it. You have to spend your money for the expenses, THEN get reimbursed afterwards. We’re skipping my birthday and Thanksgiving … maybe Christmas because it’s not wise to spend any unnecessary money at this time,” said the spouse of an active duty airman in Hawaii.

Respondents reported that, on average, their unreimbursed, out-of-pocket expenses during a move were almost ,000 and that their average financial loss over and above claims for lost and damaged items during the move was almost ,000. And, 68% of respondents said that their possessions—furniture, keepsakes, and other items—were damaged during the move, and some of those items could not be replaced.

“Movers lost one leg of a table and reimbursement tried to just pay us the value of that leg, which is silly. It rendered the table unusable,” said the spouse of an Army active duty member in Washington.

Numerous respondents reported dissatisfaction with the professionalism of the movers.

“They know they can take and break whatever they want, and nothing is really done about it. They will also mark damage that actually isn’t there on the paperwork so they can avoid claims for when they do damage things. They dropped our daughter’s dresser out of the truck and just laughed about it,” said the spouse of an active duty soldier in Texas.

The moving costs data is part of MFAN’s larger 2019 Military Family Support Programming Survey, presented by Cerner Government Services. The full survey report will be released Tuesday, June 23 at 3 p.m. during a one-hour interactive release event.

Earlier this month, senior Department of Defense officials said the PCS-freeze put in place because of the pandemic is beginning to lift and that 30 to 40% of military personnel moves are already happening. Officials said that as regions of the country get labeled “green,” meaning that service members and their families can move to and from that region, more service members will be allowed to move. In order to be “green”, the region must have decreasing trends in COVID-19 diagnoses and symptoms, and local authorities must have eased stay-at-home and shelter-in-place restrictions.

Once a region is determined to be “green,” the Service Secretary, Combatant Commander or the DoD Chief Management Officer (CMO) will make a determination if the installations within that region have met additional criteria that include:

  • Local travel restrictions have been removed
  • The upcoming school year is expected to start on time and sufficient childcare is available
  • Moving companies are available to safely move individuals from the community they’re leaving and to the one they’re going to
  • Local services, such as water, sewer, electricity, are safely available

For many military families, moving is both a blessing and a curse. Living in a new place can be exciting and fun, but uprooting your whole life and starting over somewhere can be overwhelming. Add all the extra costs in, and it’s no wonder that orders to move are often met with dread. Moving is one of the most stressful and expensive experiences in military life, even without the confusion caused by the pandemic. And this year promises to be crazier and costlier than ever.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Navy SEAL wants to inspire kids to reach their full potential

Marc Lonergan-Hertel grew up in Massachusetts with the dream of becoming a Navy SEAL — a dream he made into a reality. But he had a long way to go before achieving such a feat. He decided he needed to toughen up first, so he joined the Marine Corps, where he eventually found himself in Force Recon.

His military career took him through some of the toughest training the military has to offer. And he wrote about it in his memoir, Sierra Two: A SEAL’s Odyssey in War and Peace.

But Lonergan-Hertel didn’t stop there. He continued a life of adventure and service after leaving the military and today, he wants to call attention to real-world heroes he met along the way. He wants his transformative journey to help inspire others — namely, our nation’s youth — so they can maximize their full potential and achieve their dreams.

He calls himself a Protector.


GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor
Lonergan-Hertel’s Book is available on Amazon.

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

Lonergan-Hertel and 1st Force Recon.

(Courtesy of Marc Lonergan-Hertel)

Those who fight monsters inevitably change,” Lonergan-Hertel says, explaining what he means by the title “Protector.” It’s from a popular saying about post-traumatic stress, written by an unknown author. The quote goes on to note that if you stay in the fighting long enough, you will eventually become the monster. The former Navy SEAL wants to keep Protectors from getting that far.

“There is a cost to being a protector. Love is the only way to heal the wounds [that change you]. Remember this: As a protector, you run toward the things that others run away from. You go out to fight what you fear. You stand between others and the monsters on the other side of the wall.”

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

Lonergan-Hertel in his world-record paraglider flight, 70 South Antarctica.

(Courtesy of Marc Lonergan-Hertel)

You can read about his adventures fighting monsters in his book, Sierra Two. After his time in Force Recon, he left the military and worked as a Emergency Medical Technician in Los Angeles as well as a hunting guide in Colorado. Eventually, he decided to explore the Army and join the Special Forces. Shortly after joining the California National Guard, he was able to wear a maroon beret in support of 19 Special Forces Group and prepared to try out for Delta Section. He didn’t make Delta, but it did prepare him a selection packet he could submit to the Navy. He graduated from BUD/S in 1996 and joined SEAL Team Four. He left the military in 2000, but didn’t leave behind the adventurer’s life.

“My platoon chief recommended me for an around-the-world expedition through the Cousteau Society,” Lonergan-Hertel says. “I ended up getting the position as a team member and expedition leader and scout for NatGeo and Discovery Channel programs to Antarctica the Amazon jungle, where I had experience as a SEAL.”

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

Lonergan-Hertel and his NatGeo Team. Lonergan-Hertel is center, in the cowboy hat.

(Courtesy of Marc Lonergan-Hertel)

During his military career and post-military adventuring, he began to question what he valued most in life. He began to look for his true purpose. As his journey sharpened his self-awareness, he was soon transformed into a new person. He became a Protector – and wanted to be the best Protector he could be. His life took him to rescue hurricane victims, assess the environment in Antarctica while diving under the ice shelves, hike up the Amazon River Basin alone and encounter endangered tribes along the way — he even lost his best friend to pirates along the same river.

“I wrote my book because I realized how much our life journey sharpens our awareness of what really matters in life,” Lonergan-Hertel says. “Real life experiences transform us as human beings and gives us an understanding of risk and sacrifice.”

He even has a line of survival gear, that includes a heat reflective thermal field blanket sleep system, called First Line Survival. Lonergan-Hertel calls it “base camp in a bag” and all the proceeds from First Line Survival benefit his Protectors tour.

But the longtime adventurer is more than just an author. He’s crossing the country with fellow Protectors to tell their stories in stage presentations, meant for school-age children but meaningful to parents as well. He wants children to grow up with the confidence to realize their abilities and potential, to see a personal path toward a positive future, and realize they have the power to do this within themselves at all times.

“I understand very clearly that the gift of life can be away very quickly,” Lonergan-Hertel says. “The best thing I can leave behind is to inspire others to have confidence in themselves and to help others who have a more difficult journey in life.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 tips for training your dog from a Marine who trained dogs to sniff out bombs

As a Military Working Dog handler in the US Marine Corps, I got to work with some of the best trained dogs in the world.

These dogs can sniff out bombs that have been buried underground, sniff out drugs that are hidden in ceiling tiles, take down a man three times their size, and track a person long after they’re gone to find criminal suspects or lost kids.

As a handler paired up with an explosive detection dog, my job was to train him, maintain his skills, keep him healthy, make sure he got exercise, and make sure he was healthy. After graduating from dog handling school, I was paired with my first dog, Kuko.

As a new handler with an experienced dog, I had to get up to his level before we could be an effective team. Once I got there, I could start teaching him new things to take our team to the next level.

While you may not be training your dog to find bombs buried in mud or drugs hidden in a car bumper, there are some keys to training dogs that will apply no matter what skills you are trying to teach.


GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

Airman 1st Class John Fountain, a military working dog handler, with MWD Deny on the Obedience Obstacle course at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, April 24, 2019.

(Air Force photo by Airman Jesse Jenny)

1. You have to build a relationship.

The first thing you do upon meeting your new MWD is begin to build rapport. If you take home a brand-new puppy, you begin training by establishing a relationship with the dog. With so many dogs in a unit’s kennel, handlers take turns dropping food pans for the dogs twice a day.

However, when a handler partners with a new dog, it’s a good idea to let that handler drop their dog’s food for a few days to establish a good bond. The dog begins to associate the handler with good things.

This was particularly important with our, shall we say, “crankier” dogs. While our dogs weren’t trained to be mean, they aren’t the friendliest dogs either. They have a serious job to do, and they are serious dogs.

I’ve seen handlers get bit by their own dogs more than a few times. Two of the best dog teams in my first unit had scars from their dogs. Training too hard, too fast with a dog that doesn’t trust you yet can lead to frustration on both sides and usually doesn’t lead to good results.

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

US Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Eliot Fiaschi takes a moment to brush his partner Meky’s teeth during a break while on duty at the Djibouti Pier, April 23, 2009.

(Photo by Tech Sgt. Dawn Price)

2. Groom your dog every day.

Grooming your dog helps build the relationship, keeps the dog clean and healthy, and lets you check them over from the tip of their nose to the tip of their tail for any problems. With hair covering most of them, dogs can have serious issues developing that you can’t see until you brush them.

If your dog is running around in wooded areas, check in their ears, their paws, and in between their paw pads for ticks. Even with preventative medication, ticks can bite dogs and infect them with multiple diseases that can be devastating or deadly. Even a small cut on the paw can turn into something bigger if not treated properly, and dogs that don’t feel good aren’t good students.

One of our dogs contracted a tick-borne disease that nearly killed him. While we never found the tick, the dog tested positive for Babesia. He only survived because his handler had noted that he seemed more and more lethargic over the course of about three days.

Because she was watching him closely, she noticed when his gums and tongue went pale, indicating a serious problem. He was rushed to the vet, where aggressive treatment saved his life. His recovery was long and difficult and led to his retirement, but the vets and vet techs care about the dogs and will save them if possible.

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

Airman 1st Class John Fountain, a military working dog handler, with MWD Deny on the Obedience Obstacle course at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, April 24, 2019.

(Air Force photo by Airman Jesse Jenny)

3. Consistency is key.

During this rapport-building time, start laying the foundations for the training that you want to do with your dog.

Don’t let them get away with things that you won’t accept later. Reward good behavior with praise, attention, play, or treats. Once training begins, consistency is going to be key to getting good results.

If you are training the dog to sit, set the dog up to succeed by training in the same area every time. Keep your voice the same. Don’t change the way you say the command. Don’t give the command unless you are prepared to reward.

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

A military working dog team completes a detection training scenario in Southwest Asia, Jan. 10, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tyler Woodward)

4. Training takes time.

You can’t rush dog training. Some dogs pick things up faster than others. MWDs are trained for four to seven months in basic skills before they are officially called an MWD. If your dog isn’t grasping basic tasks, you can’t move on to the more advanced. Basic obedience, (the sit, down, and stay) is the foundation of all further training.

Take your time to master the basics, and refresh them from time to time. MWDs are professionals with years of experience, and they get obedience refresher training almost every day. It’s much easier to maintain proficiency than it is to fix a problem that you have let slide for too long.

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

US Air Force Staff Sgt. Brandon Stone, a military working dog handler, braces for impact as military working dog, Cola, attempts to detain him during a K-9 demonstration exercise, Aug. 17, 2017.

(US Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Bradly A. Schneider)

5. Dogs have bad days too.

Say you’ve been training your dog for weeks. He’s performing well, and then one day he just refuses to work for you. He won’t sit. He seems bored, antsy, tired, or just lazy.

Don’t get mad, and don’t continue to correct the dog if it isn’t working. Dogs have their bad days too. Sometimes they just don’t want to work. If you try to force it, you will become frustrated and angry, which hardly ever leads to good results. Recognize that there might be a medical issue at play. Sick dogs aren’t usually enthusiastic students.

During an evaluation at my last base, a dog wouldn’t stay in the sit. The handler couldn’t get the dog to stay after multiple corrections. The evaluator took a close look and saw that the dog was positioned on an ant hill and had fire ants biting his legs. Continuing to correct the dog in that situation would be ineffective and would harm the good rapport between dog and handler.

Recognize that your dog is a living, breathing creature that has feelings and emotions.

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

US Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Victor Longoria shares a playful moment with his partner, Timmy, after a training session, April 16, 2009.

(Photo by Tech Sgt. Dawn Price)

6. Dogs need to have fun.

Recognizing that dogs are living, breathing creatures, they need to have fun. If the dog only ever sees you for training, you are missing a big part of the relationship.

Take your dog out and let him run, play with toys, lay in the sun, take a break, and just be a dog. It will make for a happy dog that wants to please you by doing the right thing when training. In a strong dog team, the dog’s desire to please the handler provides as much motivation as the toy or the treat.

My first dog was not especially affectionate, and I wouldn’t say that he ever loved me in the way that a pet loves its owner. He had handlers before me, and he would have more after me, but we still had a strong bond, which made us an effective team.

I took him out, let him play, tossed a ball for him, let him lay in the sun, and took him for long walks with no commands. He knew when it was time to work and when it was time to play, and he trusted that if he did what I asked and made me happy, good things would come to him.

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

Staff Sgt. Cody Nickell, a military working dog handler, works with Topa to get him accustomed to being in a Huey helicopter, at Yokota Air Base, Japan, July 26, 2018.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)

7. Not every dog is going to be able to learn every task.

Between buying carefully selected dogs from Europe and breeding their own at Lackland Air Force Base, the military goes through a lot of dogs. Not every dog makes it as an MWD. They fail out for a variety of reasons, from health issues to behavioral issues. Some dogs just aren’t cut out for the type of work that MWDs do.

We had a dog that didn’t want to bite people. She was sent after a decoy wearing the bite sleeve, and she faked a leg injury instead of chasing him down. The vet determined that nothing was wrong with her, she just didn’t want to bite.

If your dog just isn’t getting it, it might be the dog.

While you probably (hopefully) aren’t training your dog to bite people, you might find that your dog won’t sit, won’t drop the ball, or won’t stay for longer than a second. Keep in mind that some breeds of dogs are known for their willingness to learn, and others are not.

Don’t adopt a working dog breed and keep it inside all day without exercise. That’s how houses get destroyed. Do your research and adopt a dog that is going to fit in with your lifestyle and not a dog that you saw in a movie and you think looks cool.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Evan Williams puts the American spirit into American spirits

This post was sponsored by Evan Williams.

There’re few things in the United States that are as American as Kentucky Straight Bourbon. How American is it? In 1964, the United States Congress actually declared Bourbon to be a “distinctive product of the US,” therefore protecting its name and production methods from foreign knockoffs.

There are also few things as American as helping each other out in times of crisis. And right now, as we all know, these are incredibly challenging times. Thankfully, folks all across the United States are working hard to help each other out.

You’ll find this same American spirit in companies like Evan Williams. During a global pandemic, Evan Williams is introducing their veteran-focused American-Made Heroes Foundation. This new foundation is designed to support nonprofits who work with the veteran community, helping the brave Americans who have served our country — especially the ones who may be further struggling due to this ongoing health crisis.
GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

Evan Williams has grown into one of the biggest Bourbon brands in the world, known for its smooth taste and value. They’ve shown the world that you don’t have to pay outrageous prices or deal with obnoxious gimmicks to enjoy a great Bourbon. And as they’ve grown, they’ve made a great effort to give back — the American-Made Heroes Foundation is Evan Williams’ way of giving back to those who served.

With the COVID-19 outbreak, a lot of things in life have been put on hold. A lot of nonprofits that support veterans and their families have had to cease operations while figuring out their next steps. Now, more than ever, these nonprofits need support, and Evan Williams is committed to providing that support. The American-Made Heroes Foundation Fund provides grants of up to ,000 to support nonprofit community organizations in the United States that provide services to US military veterans and are impacted by COVID-19.

If you work for a 501c3 nonprofit that supports veteran causes, apply for funds here.

Each year, they also honor six inspiring veterans who have dedicated their lives to serving our country and its citizens. After choosing veterans to honor, Evan Williams features these Heroes and their exceptional stories of honor, bravery, and service to their community on a special edition bottle.

This year, they honored six amazing Americans and donated to the charity of choice of each veteran. Here’s a small sampling of the selected heroes. We encourage you to go check out the other stories, which are just as inspiring:

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

Eduardo “Eddie” Ramirez

Eduardo “Eddie” Ramirez hails from San Francisco, California, where he studied electrical engineering and worked at NASA’s Research Center. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1981 when he was 21: kicking off a decorated 22-year career that would take him to Japan, Germany, Italy, and Spain. Along the way, he served in the Persian Gulf War, earned five advanced degrees, and had two children-both born overseas.

There are so many different opportunities the military has to offer,” says Eddie, who took full advantage of the training and education programs that taught him persistence, determination and attention to detail. He worked as an aerospace ground equipment mechanic, a radio communications maintainer, and a professional military education instructor, before retiring as Flight Chief of the Airmen Leadership School in 2003. But his record of service continued.

Leveraging his master’s degree in Public Administration, Eddie went to work for the Department of Labor, before moving on to the Department of Veterans Affairs (V.A.). As an Administrative Officer for Mental Health, he spent nearly a decade advocating for veterans and strategizing ways to improve the V.A.’s processes. “I’ve always had a sense of ownership and giving back to my fellow veterans,” Eddie says. His friends describe him as a “big guy with a big heart.”

After 35 years of federal employment, Eddie returned to the Bay Area to pay it forward. He is the founder and CEO of OneVet OneVoice: a non-profit organization that assists some of California’s 1.8 million veterans with healthcare, education, housing, and job opportunities. He also established the American Legion Cesar E. Chavez Post #505, the San Francisco Veterans Film Festival, and the Veterans Town Hall Collaborative.

Eddie has chosen OneVet OneVoice as his charity for this year, and you can learn more about their mission at https://onevetonevoice.org/
GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

Jonathan Hiltz

Missionary. Marine. Advocate. There are many ways for a person to serve, and Jonathan Hiltz has done them all. Jon grew up helping the poor in Mexico, then enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps after the events of 9/11. He deployed to Fallujah with the 8th Marine Regiment as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, where he spent a year working as a Nuclear Biological Chemical Defense Specialist.

The Marines was kind of countercultural to what I did [before],” Jon explains. As a missionary, “I was serving people, helping people-and then I went to war.” In reality though, the military was just a different kind of service. He did a bit of everything: weapons detection, interior guard, convoy security-even distributing ballots to Iraqis to help facilitate their first elections.

Upon completion of service, Jon chose to exit the Marines and return to his missionary roots. He enrolled in St. Louis Christian College and began volunteering to help the homeless. “It was just a progression,” Jon says of his work. “What are the needs? I’m going to start checking off the boxes.” He is the founder of the Arise Veteran Foundation in St. Louis, Missouri; and Love Goes: a non-profit working to alleviate poverty in Southern Illinois.

Today, Jon lives with his wife, Amber, and three children in Marion, Illinois, where he also works as a Peer Support Specialist at the VA Medical Center. There, he helps other veterans cope with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse. “I use my story a lot to help other people,” he says, referring to his own struggles with PTSD. “I’ve been in combat, too. You can still do better. You can have a good career. You just need help sometimes.

To learn more about Love Goes, where Jon has chosen to donate, check out their website: lovegoes.org

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

Mary Tobin

Mary Tobin grew up watching her mother do everything in her power to help those in need-even when her own family didn’t have much. She left Atlanta, Georgia, at age 17 to join the United States Military Academy at West Point. It was in her third year of training that 9/11 drastically altered the trajectory of her career. She deployed to Iraq six months after graduating: the only woman and black officer in her unit.

Everything I ever learned about leadership, I learned in that first deployment,” Mary says, which also earned her the Combat Action Badge. She completed a second deployment to Iraq with the Combat Aviation Brigade, before becoming a senior leader of a military intelligence unit in South Korea. It wasn’t long after that the injuries she sustained in Iraq caught up with her: putting an end to her 10-year career. For the first time, Mary was a soldier without a mission.

Driven by the commitment she made at West Point-to fulfill a lifetime of selfless service to the nation-Mary began working with volunteer organizations that supported veterans, women of color, and the homeless; including USA Cares and Community Solutions. “I had to feel like I was having a positive impact on someone or something,” she explains. “I served with some pretty amazing people. I want to live a life worthy of those who gave their lives for our freedom.

Mary has chosen The Mission Continues as her charity, where she currently serves as the executive director. The Mission Continues: is a national nonprofit that empowers veterans to become leaders in their communities and supports neighborhood transformation efforts. “I am a product of what happens when you no longer call me broken and you tell me I’m strong,” she says. “There are millions of ‘little Marys’ out there who need THIS Mary to remind them that they can be whatever they desire. It’s the least I can do.

To learn more about The Mission Continues, visit https://missioncontinues.org/.

In addition to giving grants to these veterans’ nonprofits of choice, Evan Williams has also given over 0,000 to 501c3 organizations that serve veterans and the greater military community over the last five years. And while that is generous by any means, they aren’t done yet.

Visit American-MadeHeroes.com to learn more about the Foundation.

Thank you, Evan Williams for not just throwing up a patriotic image on your bottle. Thanks for honoring veterans by putting them right next to your brand and giving to those organizations that serve those who served.

This post was sponsored by Evan Williams.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veteran family uses the great outdoors to heal

Luke and Amy Bushatz knew they needed a big change or they weren’t going to make it. So, they packed up their life, two boys and headed west. Their next stop? Alaska.


“In 2015 we realized that to really seek mental health help and recover from this super challenging deployment that Luke went on in 2009 and 2010, where he sustained a mild traumatic brain injury, PTSD and we lost over 20 soldiers…. To do that, we had to get out of the active duty Army,” Amy explained.

While deployed in Afghanistan as an Army Ranger, Luke’s vehicle was destroyed by an improvised explosive device.

He was the only survivor.

They also knew they needed to move somewhere that would allow healing and give Luke the outside space he craved and desperately needed. “We knew when we spent time as a family camping, he felt a relief from all of those things. It was like watching someone take off a backpack… it was really a powerful transformation,” Amy said. On a whim, she suggested Alaska.

Luke researched and found a graduate program in Alaska that fit his goals. With her job at Military.com, where she is now the Executive Editor, Amy knew she could work anywhere. After selling some of their belongings and letting the Army move the rest, they filled their station wagon and hit the road. They planted their feet on Alaskan ground in June of 2016.

Although Luke eagerly dove in seamlessly, Amy shared that it took her some time to adapt. Realizing that Alaska wasn’t going to change, she knew she needed to adjust her own mindset. A competitive person by nature, she utilized that fire to challenge herself to spend time outside.

It changed her life.

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

(Courtesy of the Bushatz family)

When Amy realized she’d spent 20 consecutive minutes outside for over 1,000 days and it was changing her life, she felt called to share that commitment to the fresh air with others. She started a podcast, blog and co-founded the company Humans Outside, where she challenges everyone to spend 20 minutes outside a day, no matter the weather. She also snaps a picture each day of her outside time on Instagram to inspire others.

Luke also believes that being outside can have a deep positive impact. “Nature can be an escape or you can use it as a tool to refocus and reenergize so that you can then do the hard work of therapy, working on your relationship with others and yourself to be a complete person,” he explained. Luke stressed that going outside won’t solve your problems but can help put you in the headspace to tackle them effectively.

“Getting into the mountains helps him take that breath so that he can have the brain space to sort through stuff,” Amy said. She continued, “For someone who is dealing with a brain injury… Your injury does not look like an injury because you look perfectly healthy. Going outside is one of the major tools that helps us.”

“When you make a big decision to change the focus of your life, the whole paradigm of how you view your life changes. It was really back in 2015 that we made that decision and I was a mess. The decision was to either refocus my life or lose everything,” Luke shared. He continued, “That’s the thing with the outdoors, it helps me retool myself and my relationships.”

In 2017 he went to an event hosted by Remedy Alpine and it was there he found even more peace.

Remedy Alpine is a nonprofit organization that is owned and operated by veterans. Their purpose is to share their deep passion for the outdoors with their veteran community and help them navigate the healing experience that spending time outdoors can bring.

“One of my passions is going outside and taking veterans to the backcountry. I had started a master’s program with the intent of starting my own program. It just happened that God put me, Eric and Dave together. Instead of competing, we said, ‘Hey let’s do this together!” to make this specific program [Remedy Alpine] even bigger and better,” Luke shared.

Dave Joslin and Eric Collier met through the Wounded Warrior Project. They realized that they both had a deep passion for the serving veterans and also for finding healing in the solitude of the backcountry. It was there that Remedy Alpine came to life. They brought Luke on as a co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer in 2017.

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

(Courtesy of the Bushatz family)

“There is a big difference between solitude and isolation. Isolation is not good for your mental health and does not have good outcomes. Going to the backcountry, on the other hand, increases solitude which is linked to healing. But solitude doesn’t have to be done by yourself,” Amy explained.

Psychology Today says that solitude can in fact improve things like concentration and productivity while rebooting your brain and giving you the opportunity for self-discovery.

“You can find that solitude and find that good healing in the outdoors while overcoming physical challenges in a way that you can’t find at home trapped on your couch,” Amy said. She understands the difficulty of certain seasons impacting motivation, however. January in Alaska comes to mind for her, with its freezing temperatures and minimal daylight. But they still go outside and it makes all the difference in the world in their wellness.

Both Luke and Amy have simple advice on using the outdoors to create deep healing: Just try it. They did and they’ve never looked back.

To learn more about Humans Outside and how you can challenge yourself to spend more time outdoors, click here. Want to know more about Remedy Alpine and how they are helping veterans in Alaska? Check out their website.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is the only female Harrier pilot in the Corps

When people meet Capt. Kelsey Casey, they don’t initially think the petite, young woman with an energetic personality is a pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps, but once she starts talking, her charisma becomes apparent, and it’s understandable why she’s the only female AV-8B Harrier pilot in the Marine Corps.

Her dream of flying started at space camp at a young age. To her delight, she was picked to be the simulated pilot and climbed into a small, fake cockpit built to simulate a spaceship taking off.


“Coming out of the final mission, we walked down a hall and all along the walls were these giant posters with every single astronaut team that had been to space,” Casey’s voice changed as she remembered, her eyes searching for the memory. “There were women in some of the later ones. I looked up at that and thought, ‘if they can do it, maybe I can too.’ That’s where it started.”

Casey attended the U.S. Naval Academy following high school. She planned to major in aerospace engineering and Chinese, but learned she would have to attend a year longer than planned, putting her at the bottom of the list to be a pilot. This eliminated her goal of becoming a pilot via the academy route. To fulfill her dream, Casey had only one option — leave the academy.

Casey found herself trekking across the country with everything she owned, trying to navigate her way through a snowstorm. She was alone, scared and her dreams seemed unattainable.

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

Capt. Kelsey Casey.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeanette Mullinax)

It was her insatiable tenacity and refined grit which led her through the years that followed.

“I’m driving across the country, calling my mom for directions while she also signs me up for courses at a community college in California,” Casey said. “All I could think was ‘wow, my family is going to disown me, I just left this amazing school with a full-ride scholarship, what am I going to do?’ It was a scary thing to go through as a 19-year-old, but it made me better.”

The way Casey saw it, she had only two options: give up or complete her degree and fly. She chose the latter, and like all Marines, attacked the obstacles in front of her to accomplish her mission.

“She was always a little fireball and tireless,” said Nyna Armstrong, Casey’s mother. “She never grows any moss, she’s always moving and is always going in whatever direction she wants despite what challenges she might [face].”

After leaving the academy, Casey made her way to the Bay Area to attend San Francisco State University. During her senior year at SFSU, Casey found herself longing to return to the Naval Academy to fulfill her dream. Again she applied to the academy but was denied. At this point in her life, she was accustomed to adversity and was experienced at overcoming it.

Refusing to give up, she sought out information and spoke to mentors, who encouraged her to pursue a career as a military officer. As a result of her unwillingness to quit, she found a way to accomplish her dream. After she earned a Bachelor of the Arts degree in political science at SFSU, Casey left for Marine Corps Officer Candidate School.

“My daughters and I never look to have special treatment because we are women,” said Armstrong. “The fact she is the only female is a testament to her skill and her drive and her work ethic.”

Though her experience with the Marine Corps has been mostly positive, there have been interesting moments for Casey.

While sitting at breakfast with her Marines, a nice older gentlemen with a veteran hat approached them, Casey explained. They all were in flight suits and wearing the same patches when the gentleman asked their table if they were all pilots. He seemed surprised to see Casey and specifically asked her if they let her fly. She laughed and informed him that not only was she a pilot, but she was also the one in charge.

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

Capt. Kelsey Casey.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeanette Mullinax)

Interactions like these are somewhat common and highlight a misconception of gender roles in the military; situations such as this motivate Casey to keep proving them wrong.

“As you move, you just keep on making that shift until you finally look around and realize you’ve made it,” she said. “But I don’t feel like I’ve really made it until I’m at an event somewhere and someone comes up to me, and they say ‘I want my daughter or my son to be like you, you are a fantastic role model.'”

Casey believes that the most important lesson is to keep moving forward — an ethos she learned from her uncle, who told her “they can’t kill you, and they can’t stop time.” This advice has helped her overcome many obstacles.

“It’s okay if it doesn’t work out the first time, and you make horrible mistakes because the next thing you know, I ended up getting internships, worked at the state department as an intern, and I worked in a congressman’s office,” said Casey. “I also moved to Colorado to be raft guide for a while before going to The Basic School because I could and then I still ended up going to TBS, commissioning as an officer and becoming a pilot.”

Casey has come a long way since being that wide-eyed little girl with aspirations of flying.

“I don’t think I’m better than anybody else ever,” she said. “I’m very good at failing but I don’t give up after I fail. Just don’t give up. It might take way longer than you thought, it might be really, really hard but anything that’s worth it is going to be hard but it will be worth it.”

Despite a difficult start, Casey succeeded and continued to excel. She completed her training and earned her wings of gold.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The winter bucket list for military families

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


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

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor
GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

(Photo by Bob Ricca)

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor
Giphy
GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

(Photo by Santi Vedrí)

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

(Photo by Lana Abie)

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

(Photo by Josh Felise)

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor
Giphy
GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

(Photo by Marc Ruaix)

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

(Photo by Steve Wiesner)

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

(Photo by Jay Wennington)

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor
Giphy
GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

(Photo by Jake Dela Concepcion)

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

(Photo by Michał Parzuchowski)

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor
Giphy
GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

(Photo by Daniel Bowman)

15. Go on a winter scavenger hunt.

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

Humor

11 memes that will make you want to join the Navy

Technically, there are five branches of service to choose from if you’re thinking about joining the military (including the Coast Guard). There’s a high level of rivalry among branches that can spark a lot of friendly sh*t talking. As veterans, we still love to take cheap shots at one another — but it’s always in good fun.

We’ve said it time-and-time again that the military has a dark sense of humor and we flex those comedic muscles at the other branches as often as possible. Since the U.S. Navy is hands-down the most dominant force to ever patrol the high seas, sailors do things that no other branch can do: kick ass while floating in the middle of nowhere.

The Army and the Air Force can’t compete with the Navy since they have no ships. The Marines can’t conduct business without the Navy navigating them around the world. Lastly, The Coast Guard is a bunch of land-hugging puddle jumpers.

Since we managed to sh*t talk to everyone (in good fun), it’s time to nail each of them, once again, through memes making you reconsider why you didn’t join the Navy instead.


GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor
GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor
GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor
GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor
GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

No matter how badass and powerful you might think you are, remember, the U.S. Navy is way freakin’ bigger… and they’re coming for you.

Also read: 9 examples of the military’s dark humor

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor
GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor

Navymemes.com

GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor
GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor
GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor
GySgt Joshua Negron: Carrying on the legacy of a true warrior, leader, and mentor