Anyone with a passing interest in the military, politics, or current events has probably heard by now that there’s a U.S. Space Force on the way, just as soon as Congress can shell out eight billion dollars for the effort. But lack of actual funds didn’t stop Vice President Mike Pence from making the announcement about the Space Force. Love him or hate him, you have to admit that once the President decides to do something, the Trump Administration moves quickly to do it.
The White House is already building a Space Force culture. It’s starting with a logo for the new branch and it wants a handful of special Americans to help choose the new look.
There were few reports that a political action committee related to President Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign sent out an email blast just hours after VP Pence’s announcement. The email blast from the Trump Make America Great Again Committee featured six images that looked more like NASA mission patches than military branch logos.
The email itself was signed by Brad Parscale, Campaign Manager for Donald J. Trump for President, 2020. It encouraged recipients to prepare to “buy a whole line of gear” related to the Space Force and the logo they were asked to pick. One of the logos was a direct rip of the current NASA logo, while another implied that Mars would be the eventual goal of the new Space Force.
These logo possibilities may or may not have anything to actually do with the real Space Force. But the email blast was apparently sent to members of the news media, including ABC’s Justin Fishel and CNN’s Jake Tapper, and did imply that President Trump personally wanted input on the Space Force logo.
But only Trump’s campaign donors can officially vote for a logo via the email sent directly from the Trump Make America Great Again Committee.
Meanwhile, in a less official capacity, Bloomberg asked eight leading industry designers to design Space Force logos for the military, and what they came up with was decidedly different, blending traditional military patches, corporate logos, nostalgia for pop culture, and even President Trump himself.
As Black History Month draws to a close, so does the mystery of U.S. Army Air Forces Capt. Lawrence E. Dickson, a Tuskegee Airman declared missing in action after his plane crashed in Europe in December 1944.
Dickson’s remains were identified in November 2018 using the latest DNA tests, making him the first to be identified out of more than two-dozen Tuskegee Airmen declared MIA during World War II.
Brig. Gen. Twanda E. Young, deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army’s Human Resources Command, recognized Dickson’s service Feb. 24, 2019, during a ceremony at the Fountain Baptist Church here.
Marla L. Andrews (center), daughter of U.S. Army Air Forces Capt. Lawrence E. Dickson, receives her father’s medals from Brig. Gen. Twanda E. Young, deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army’s Human Resources Command.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Morris)
“I stand before you deeply honored and humbled to represent the United States Army, as well as all African-American service members across all military services and those who have long served before me, to commemorate and acknowledge the honorable service rendered by Capt. Lawrence E. Dickson in service to a grateful nation,” Young said.
“Capt. Lawrence Dickson shaped my future, which affords me the distinct honor of being one of a few African-American female general officers serving in the United States Army,” she added.
Marla L. Andrews (left), daughter of U.S. Army Air Forces Capt. Lawrence E. Dickson, delivers remarks during a Feb. 24, 2019 ceremony held at Fountain Baptist Church in Summit, N.J., to recognize her father’s military service.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Morris)
During the ceremony, Young presented Dickson’s Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, Air Medal, American Campaign Medal, Europe-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, and Honorable Service Lapel Button to Marla L. Andrews, Dickson’s daughter.
“I feel happy that we’re able to do this this morning here with you, because the things that are most important to us are better shared,” said Andrews, who as two years old when her father died.
“These medals represent a part of our history, along with the Tuskegee Airmen’s perseverance and determination, coupled with the courage and legacy of Capt. Lawrence Dickson,” Young said. “The country called, and Capt. Dickson answered.”
Brig. Gen. Twanda E. Young, deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army’s Human Resources Command, delivers remarks during a Feb. 24, 2019 ceremony held at Fountain Baptist Church in Summit, N.J., to recognize U.S. Army Air Forces Capt. Lawrence E. Dickson’s military service.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Morris)
In December 1944, Dickson was a pilot with the 100th Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group, in the European Theater, according to a Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency news release. On Dec. 23, 1944, Dickson departed Ramitelli Air Base, Italy, on an aerial reconnaissance mission toward Praha, Czechoslovakia.
During his return, Dickson’s P-51D aircraft suffered engine failure and was seen to crash along the borders of Italy and Austria. Dickson’s remains were not recovered and he was subsequently declared missing in action.
Marla L. Andrews (right), daughter of U.S. Army Air Forces Capt. Lawrence E. Dickson, receives her father’s medals from Brig. Gen. Twanda E. Young, deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army’s Human Resources Command.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Morris)
Seventy-three years later, an excavation of a crash site was conducted and recovered remains were sent to the DPAA laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. To identify Dickson’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used DNA analysis as well as anthropological analysis, and circumstantial and material evidence.
“The men and women who have given their lives in service to this nation are indisputably heroes,” Young said.
Dickson is scheduled to be buried March 22, 2019, in Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, D.C.
We all know military kids have grit. They are resilient. Gone are the days when the moniker of brat was the norm. These kids kick butt. But clearly, they didn’t get to be this awesome on their own. Along with genetics, military parents pass down life skills and civilian parents should take notice.
Not only that, military parents start at a disadvantage. We don’t have the luxury of choosing where we live, how much time we spend together as a family or if making friends at our new duty station will be easy or a string of awkward interactions or being repeatedly ghosted.
However, the byproduct of this lack of choice are parent life hacks that redefine parenting, military style:
1. The art of the cannonball
When you have to jump into friendships, school, new surroundings, etc. – ad nauseum – there is no room for hesitation. You must just take a leap, no matter the water temperature or the distance to the splash. Military parents model what it is to roll with life when plans that were already written in Jell-O change again when new orders are cut.
Military kids are often the new faces on the playground asking, “Wanna play?” As they get older it gets harder, but they still try. They never stop trying. They jump in because they know they’ll have to start the process all over in two to three years.
2. Let it go and embrace the suck
When you grow up without being able to control the world around you, your “normal” changes. Military kids know that “normal” is not a thing. This life lesson is one that all kids – and adults – need to learn. Of course, letting go of control is in no one’s comfort zone. It is ongoing — a choice to make the best of each crappy situation. Because as military kids and parents know, the crap will be closely followed by amazing – new favorite restaurants, friends and places to explore.
Sure, sometimes new is not better, and you find yourself stationed in rural Fallon, Nevada instead of sunny San Diego, California. But just as a cardboard box can be magically transformed into Star Wars X-wing fighter, rocks are actually buried treasure and white walls are blank canvases when presented with a permanent marker – hard is just an opportunity to invent a new perspective.
3. Herd parenting for the win
Because military spouses morph into solo parents during deployments, they are often forced to (begrudgingly) rely upon others. The kindness of strangers at grocery stores, parents who invite kids over for playdates and judgement-free friends who come over, bottle of wine in hand – these things save lives. They also help kids learn that asking for help is okay. Not only is it okay, it is usually more fun. There are also other adults to yell at your kids, so you don’t have to be the bad guy 24/7. Parenting takes a village, but for military families their lifestyle makes a village.
4. Yes sir/ma’am!
For those who are not from the south, calling someone ma’am or sir is risky. Using these pronouns could be considered an insult if addressed to someone of an insufficient age, and could be wise to avoid.
But the thing about the military is it sends people from all regions of the U.S., mixes them together and orders them to be polite. Respect is part of the culture, even if it is just surface level and mandatory. Military kids can certainly be wild, but they know the consequence of answering a question with “yea” instead of “yes ma’am” outweighs the use of extra syllables.
5. It is not about them
Well, a lot of it is about them. Older kids have the youthful wisdom to connect news stories about war to what their parents do. Their ears perk up when they hear someone mention the military. They have become so a part of this process that they know when it is NOT about them, but about a greater, larger purpose. Without being told, military kids know that a happy life is not always an easy life. They know what it is to sacrifice and the honor that comes through service. This value placed on service leads many to follow in their parent’s footsteps by joining the military themselves.
Life hacks aside, we know that despite their resilience, military kids have to grow up fast. Many have anxiety, struggle at school as a result of frequent PCS moves and act out when mom/dad is deployed. They have to say goodbye to parents as if it were the last time and worse yet, sometimes it is. Their lives are harder than most and we as parents do our best with what we have.
But sometimes, if we are lucky enough to stumble into solid friendships, awesome duty stations and model optimism more often than not, our kids will rebound from this lifestyle with character birthed from chaos.
Have you ever wondered why there’s so much hype surrounding CrossFit? Well, it seems veterans are benefiting from the intense workouts in more ways than one.
Take Air Force Veteran Rachel Escolas for example. She tried out CrossFit for the first time while on deployment in Kandahar in October of 2012. After deployment, she had a burning passion for the sport and eventually became certified as a trainer in 2014 while founding her own CrossFit gym, CBUS Lifting Co.
CrossFit benefits the veteran community in several ways.
Air Force veteran Rachel Escolas powers through the workout of the day at her gym, CBUS Lifting Co.
It’s no secret that as soon as military personnel are shipped off to boot camp or basic training, fitness becomes heavily incorporated into their lifestyle. Physical activity becomes second nature, and is essential to keeping in the best shape for performing day-to-day duties.
With its dynamic arrangements of barbell work, Olympic lifts, strength training, and more, CrossFit can kick anyone’s a** into shape. CrossFit requires discipline and dedication, qualities that already run deep among every branch of the military. The trainers are like drill sergeants that don’t cuss. They don’t let anyone slack and they keep an eye on proper form, correcting when necessary.
There’s nothing like sharing the pain of a workout with others.
Do you remember waking up at 3:00 or 4:00 am to run in formation, in the cold, heat, sleet, or snow? Who would have thought that veterans would grow to miss that nonsense? Behind any grueling physical fitness routine is camaraderie that stems from accomplishing goals collectively, as a team.
When veterans get out of the military, there’s often a gravitation toward working out in a team environment, like the one CrossFit provides. There’s a sense of community that’s built into a CrossFit gym that’s unlike any other. Regular gyms are fine places for lifting and letting off steam, but fostering more than surface-level acquaintances there is a rarity.
Navy veteran and CrossFit trainer Isabel Beutick states, “Crossfit, for me, has kept me in tight circles. I loved the camaraderie I had in the Navy, and that’s the same feeling I get when doing CrossFit. That tight-knit community.”
Certified CrossFit Trainer and Navy veteran Isabel Beutick, demonstrates how to achieve proper form in an overhead squat.
Although there have been major medical advancements throughout the years, an increasing number of veterans come back with combat-related injuries, both physical and mental. It has become evident that, for many, pills are not the solution. Alternative means of healing are helping mend bodies and minds.
CrossFit is not just an outlet for mental stress, there are many attentive trainers out there invested in providing workable modifications to compensate for physical injuries. With the right trainer, there’s nothing stopping a veteran from completing a CrossFit workout, no matter the ailment.
Above, Army Veteran Juan Puentes says, “CrossFit is hard sh*t. It reminds me of all the challenging sh*t I did in the military.”
Although CrossFit promotes a team mentality, there’s also an element of competition. To put it lightly, veterans are extremely competitive. Daily workouts are timed and everyone knows who comes in first and last. Now, we’re not saying we should focus on this entirely, but it kindles the fire in veterans to keep pushing.
Throughout your CrossFit experience, trainers keep track of daily goals on a whiteboard or online. This data helps the competitive veteran see their progress and the progress of others and gets them ready to compete in national tournaments.
The ‘Murph,’ dedicated to Navy Seal Michael P. Murphy, is only one of many WOD’s created to honor fallen warriors.
Hero WODs (workouts of the day) honor fallen service members and provide a way to bridge the civilian-military divide. Most veterans find it complicated to connect with civilian friends, family, and co-workers because they’ve experienced things that are, frankly, hard to explain.
What’s unique about CrossFit’s Hero WODs is that everyone is aware that the workout honors a fallen service member. People truly give it their all on these particular workout days. These workouts create a bond between civilians and veterans that’s truly fascinating to witness.
So, check out five things we wished we knew before joining the Navy.
5. All the additional duties
In some smaller naval commands, there typically aren’t enough Masters-at-Arms (the Navy’s military police) to guard all the bases’ gates. What’s even worse, there sometimes isn’t enough room in the budget to pay civilians to defend those iron fences either.
So, what does the Navy do to fill those roles? They turn to the junior enlisted personnel who aren’t even trained to guard a box of coloring books.
The Navy created A.S.F. — or Auxiliary Security Force — made from various Navy rates, like cooks and mechanics, to stand guard duty.
4. The rank of ‘seaman’ sounds worse when it’s yours
Some rates in the Navy aren’t even called seamen when they get to the rank of E-3 — so that’s a plus. Corpsman who are E-3s are referred to as Hospitalman while Seabees are called constructionmen, so we luck out.
Other ranks don’t have that privilege. It can be embarrassing saying, “Seaman Smith, reporting for duty.”
Catch our drift?
3. You can graduate boot camp as an E-3
Some young adults score so high on their ASVAB that when they pick an academically challenging rate, they’re automatically promoted in boot camp.
There are others ways to get promoted, like earning college credit before enlisting or recruiting other people, which most people don’t know.
Seaman Richard Cassube (left) assists Seaman Jeremy Cryer (right) with the proper measurements of the ribbons on his dress uniform in preparation for their upcoming graduation. (U.S. Navy Photo by Susan Krawczyk)
2. All the different bases you can be stationed at
Many people don’t know that the Navy integrates with the other branches. In fact, it’s not uncommon for a sailor to serve in an office building on an Air Force base. So, not only can you serve on a ship or a Naval base, but you can be stationed on an Army, Air Force, or Marine Base, too.
In 1940, William P. Bonelli, 19, had no desire to join the military. The nation was not yet at war, but Bonelli, who followed the war news in Europe and Asia, said he knew deep inside that war was coming, and probably soon.
Rather than wait for the war to start and get a draft notice, Bonelli decided to enlist in the Army to select a job he thought he’d like: aviation.
Although he wanted to be a fighter pilot, Bonelli said that instead, the Army Air Corps made him an aviation mechanic.
William P. Bonelli visits airmen at the Pentagon, Dec. 18, 2019.
(Photo by Wayne Clark, Air Force)
After basic training, he was assigned to Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, where he arrived by boat in September 1940.
On Dec. 6, 1941, Bonelli and a buddy went to a recreational camping area on the west side of Oahu. That evening, he recalled seeing a black vehicle parked on the beach with four Japanese men inside. The vehicle had two long whip antennas mounted to the rear bumper. Bonelli said he thought it odd at the time. Later, he added, he felt certain that they were there to guide enemy planes to targets.
An undated photo of William P. Bonelli in Hawaii with his girlfriend.
(Courtesy of William P. Bonelli)
Early Sunday morning, Dec. 7, Bonelli and his buddy drove back to the base. After passing Wheeler Army Airfield, which is next to Honolulu, they saw three small, single-engine aircraft flying very low.
“I had never seen these aircraft before, so I said, jokingly to my friend, ‘Those aren’t our aircraft. I wonder whose they are? You know, we might be at war,'” he remembered.
A few minutes later as they were approaching Hickam, the bombing started. Since they were on an elevation, Bonelli said, they could see the planes bombing the military bases as well as Ford Island, where Navy ships were in flames, exploding and sinking.
Bonelli and his buddy went to the supply room at Hickam to get rifles and ammunition.
“I got in line,” he said. “The line was slow-moving because the supply sergeant wanted rank, name and serial number. All the time, we were being strafed with concentrated bursts.
“Several men were hit but there were no fatalities,” he continued. The sergeant dispensed with signing and said, ‘Come and get ’em.'”
An undated photo of William P. Bonelli in Hawaii.
(Courtesy of William P. Bonelli)
By 8:30 a.m., Bonelli had acquired a rifle, two belts of bullets and a handgun with several clips. He distinctly remembered firing at four Japanese Zero aircraft with his rifle and pistol, but there was no indication of a hit.
Bodies were everywhere, and a bulldozer was digging a trench close to the base hospital for the burial of body parts, he said.
All of the hangars with aircraft inside were bombed, while the empty ones weren’t, he said. “There is no doubt in my mind that the Japanese pilots had radio contact from the ground,” he added.
In 1942, Bonelli’s squadron was relocated to Nadi, Fiji. There, he worked on B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers as a qualified engineer, crew chief and gunner.
In 1943, Bonelli resubmitted his papers for flight school and was accepted, traveling back to the United States for training in Hobbs, New Mexico.
He got orders to Foggia, Italy, in 1944 and became a squadron lead pilot in the 77rd Bomb Squadron, 463rd Bomb Group. They flew the B-17s.
Bonelli led his squadron in 30 sorties over Austria, Italy, Germany, Hungary and Czechoslovakia until April 1945, just before the war ended.
An undated photo of William P. Bonelli in Italy.
(Courtesy of William P. Bonelli)
The second sortie over Pilsen, Czechoslovakia, on Oct. 23, 1944, was the one he recalled as being the worst, with much of the cockpit blown apart and the rest of the aircraft shot up badly.
For the next few days, Bonelli said, he felt shaken. The Germans on the ground were very proficient with the 88 mm anti-aircraft weapons, and they could easily pick off the U.S. bombers flying at 30,000 feet, he said.
Normally, the squadrons would fly in a straight line for the bombing runs. Bonelli said he devised a strategy to deviate about 400 feet from the straight-line trajectory on the next sortie, Nov. 4 over Regensburg, Germany.
The tactic worked, he said, and the squadron sustained lighter damage. So he used that tactic on subsequent missions, and he said many lives of his squadron were undoubtedly saved because of it.
An undated photo of William P. Bonelli in Italy with his flight crew. Back row, left to right: Army Staff Sgt. Harry Murray, later killed in action; Army Staff Sgt. Freeman Quinn; Army Staff Sgt. James Oakley; Army Staff Sgt. Karl Main; Army Tech. Sgt. John Raney; and, Army Tech. Sgt. Howard Morreau. Front row, left to right: Army 1st Lt. Charles Cranford, navigator; 1st Lt. Steve Conway, co-pilot; Capt. Fred Anderson, bombardier; and Bonelli, the pilot.
(Courtesy of William P. Bonelli)
When the war ended, Bonelli had a change of heart and decided to stay in the Army Air Corps, which became the Air Force in 1947. He said he developed a love for flying and aviation mechanic work. He stayed in and retired after having served 20 years.
He also realized his dream to become a fighter pilot, flying the F-84F Thunderstreak, a fighter-bomber, which, he said, was capable of carrying a small nuclear weapon.
After retiring, Bonelli got a career with the Federal Aviation Administration, working in a variety of aviation specialties.
Looking back over his military and civilian careers, he said he was blessed with doing jobs he loves, although there were, of course, some moments of anxiety when bullets were flying.
He offered that a stint or career in the military can be a rewarding experience for ambitious young people.
This post was sponsored by Kensington Books. The author’s comments below on the novels are his own.
Some call it locked in a house in a time of plague – I say magnificent time to try out a new book! Books offer us an escape from the tedium of quarantine life, and nothing is more escapist than stories of derring-do and bravery in the face of long odds. To transport you to a different time and place, we have two new offerings from Kensington Books which I am sure will fit the bill.
The first book is Ungentlemanly Warfare by Howard Linskey. Howard is a British writer who has written several popular crime and mystery novels and has since branched out to write meticulously researched historical thrillers set during World War II. Ungentlemanly Warfare is not part of a series – though given the events it could easily turn into one – but nevertheless tells an interesting self-contained tale.
This book is set in the middle days of World War II and the Nazis are seeking to perfect their newest Jet fighter, the Me163 Komet. The weapon promises to extract a heavy toll upon the Allies if the enemy can perfect the craft. To stop the Nazis from improving upon this lethal machine, they need to assassinate the lead scientist on the project. Enter Special Operations Executive agents Harry Walsh and Emma Stirling. They are tasked to team up with a Jedburgh team of American and Free French operatives and kill the target before he can submit his improved design.
Though the book starts off with an action sequence, it is more of a slow burn as the team prepares for its mission and then builds rapport on the ground with the French contingent. This approach lends a sense of verisimilitude to the story – these operatives are behind enemy lines in the most precarious of circumstances and they would be not trying to draw attention to themselves. It is far from boring though as the book is rife with danger, close-calls, and even a bit of romantic tension. Linskey creates a good sense of uncertainty that the mission can be completed which makes the book all the more riveting.
The second book is Sandblast: A Task Force Epsilon Thriller by newcomer, Al Pessin. Pessin is a veteran foreign and Washington DC correspondent who puts his knowledge and insights to good use in crafting his debut ‘day after tomorrow’ novel. Frankly, it was one of the most engaging espionage thrillers I have read in years because of its unconventional and unique leads.
The story happens in the aftermath of a successful attack on the Secretary of Defense by international Jihadists residing in Afghanistan and a daring covert action to even the score. The story is essentially two tales – the first is about a DIA agent handler named Bridge Davenport who channeling Jessica Chastain’s character from Zero Dark Thirty comes up with an unorthodox mission to target the terrorists in Afghanistan. Her story follows the national politics of espionage and response at the highest levels as she navigates personal and professional challenges.
But the more interesting of the two tales surrounds her operative – an Afghan American service member who goes under deep cover to join the Taliban to get close to the leaders of the terrorist cell. Pessin wisely devotes the majority of the book to Faraz Abadallah’s struggle with maintaining his own identity and objectivity as he is forced to make increasingly difficult moral decisions. The story goes deep into Faraz’s psychological well being as he is indoctrinated into the Taliban and the story is heavy with Koranic verse and complex currents which make the story all the more compelling.
Ultimately, Pessin’s book serves as an introductory book to a new series centered on Task Force Epsilon with several unresolved plot threads which set the stage for future adventures involving Davenport and hopefully Abdallah.
Marines are a tribe of warriors, plain and simple. When it comes to warfare, there are very few enemies (if any) that Marines couldn’t match up against. No matter the situation, no matter the circumstance, we give the enemy an absolute run for their money and make them remember why we have the reputation we do. Extra-terrestrial invaders are not exempt from this rule.
Marines don’t care where their enemies come from — whether it’s another continent or another galaxy, these hands are rated “E” for everyone. In fact, some might say we’re pioneers of equality when it comes to kicking asses.
Here’s why Marines would destroy an extra-terrestrial invasion:
1. We make do with less
The Marine Corps budget must be the smallest of all the armed forces. At least, that’s how it seems when you consider how broken everything we use is. Still, we care not. If you pick a fight with us, we’ll use sticks and stones if we must — and don’t even ask what happens when we mount bayonets…
If you think things like plasma weapons and shields will stop Marines from reaping alien souls — you don’t know Marines.
2. We’re experts at unconventional warfare
Do you think Marines like setting ambushes and using explosives to cripple an enemy just before we dump an entire ammunition store into them? If you answered with an enthusiastic “yes,” you’re correct (We would have also accepted “f*ck yeah!”). We love ambushing and we’re great at it.
We’ll make those alien scumbags regret ever coming into orbit.
3. We exhibit savagery on the battlefield
Marines have made a history of striking fear into the hearts of enemies on the battlefield. It doesn’t matter if we’re outnumbered or surrounded — we’ll just shoot our way out of it. Cloud of mustard gas? Pfft, slap that gas mask on and mount your bayonet ’cause we’re storming the trenches.
Even if the aliens defeat humanity overall — they’ll be talking about how scary it was to face off against a battalion of Marines for millennia to come.
4. We’re expert marksmen
Every Marine is trained to be an expert marksman. Even our worst shooters are still substantially better than the average soldier Joe with a gun. Our skill with rifles would sure pay off in a war against alien invaders as their tech might force us to avoid close-quarters engagement.
But our skill with weaponry doesn’t end at the stock of a rifle. If they force us into CQC, we’ll give them a run for their money there, too.
5. We are resilient
No matter what, Marines will not stop fighting. If we’re given a task or a mission, we’ll see it through to the very end. Even if we’re beaten at first, we won’t give up on the mission — or each other. Conquest-driven aliens may have forced other species to their knees, but they won’t find any quit in Marines.
Master Fitness Training instructors work tirelessly to coach soldiers from across the Army in developing new ways to prepare them for combat, while in the process, helping increase readiness and lowering profiles up to 40%, says the fitness school NCOIC.
Wanting to better understand the effectiveness of the fitness program, Master Sgt. Joseph Komes, U.S. Army Physical Fitness School noncommissioned officer in charge, used a roster based on thousands of soldiers, all previously certified at the school, and sent a questionnaire to understand the school’s effectiveness.
Shortly after, the responses started pouring in.
“What I started seeing was that trainers were increasing their unit readiness,” he said. “The way I measured unit readiness was only by PT scores and profile rates, because, I’m just one guy in an office trying to figure out if what we’re doing is working.”
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael J. MacLeod)
Komes also determined individual units, armed with certified fitness trainers, decreased their profile rates by close to 40%. However, Komes added, “I don’t know if those individuals were on a two-week profile and they just ended up falling off during the training program or what.”
That said, the responses were useful and answered his question. In addition, it gave fitness instructors at the school a better understanding of how worthwhile their program is, and with the Army Combat Fitness Test in its second phase of implementation, the timing couldn’t be better, he said.
Scheduled to be the test of record in October 2020, the ACFT is the Army’s largest physical fitness overhaul in nearly four decades. Like physical readiness training, something the instructors are experts in, the ACFT is part of a larger “reset” to build a more combat-ready force.
To meet the demands of the six-event ACFT, instructors from the school have already certified thousands of soldiers from around the Army to develop physical programs to bring back to their units. In addition, the selected soldiers are trained on a variety of skills vital to the ACFT, including how to set up the testing field, as well as supervising and grading the test.
According to Komes, in the past, physical training programs “lost touch” with combat readiness. Regarding PT, soldiers were forced to “run four days out of the week and ruck on the fifth,” which led to injuries and an overall decrease in a soldier’s lethality.
Georgia Army National Guard Soldiers conduct a sunrise run during annual training at Fort Stewart, Ga., Jan. 11, 2017.
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. William Carraway)
He added, “That’s just the way PT was always done, and it’s our job is to help soldiers sit down and strategically assess their mission, and prevent injuries from happening. [They should think] Okay, I have a training event nine weeks from now — where we’re going to enter a building and clear room — how do we physically, and safely prepare for this?”
That’s where the master fitness trainer comes in, he said.
“These days, we have better knowledge to increase overall unit performance during a deployment,” he said. “[Master Fitness Training instructors] are doing their best to implement that [knowledge] and shape the future for the Army.”
When fitness instructors certify trainers, they’re thinking of each individual soldier and the unique needs required to be successful — even at that basic level, he said.
“We’re looking at them as individuals and not just as just a big mass,” Komes said. “I think with the ACFT around the corner, it seems like that’s the mindset that’s important, because every person has their own requirements.”
Komes added, it’s vital for trainers to know their soldiers and know what they need to be successful on the ACFT.
“Our trainers understand that we have to physically prepare individuals to complete the Army’s mission,” he added. “It’s very humbling for us to give soldiers, from all three components of the Army, the tools to succeed because the folks who leave here go back to those individual soldiers.”
“Everyone is different,” he said. “Some soldiers could be attached to National Guard units, and implementing a PT program once a month is challenging, or they could be military police and work odd shifts.”
Being able to “crack the code and see the challenges from different perspectives” is a daily task the trainers and instructors grapple with, he said, adding, that “having a fitness trainer all the way down to the platoon level” would be ideal. However, the trainers who leave the fitness school only reach the company level, for active duty.
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Danny Gonzalez, Recruiting and Retention Command, New Jersey Army National Guard, carries two 40-pound kettlebells during the Army Combat Fitness Test
(New Jersey National Guard photo by Mark C. Olsen)
“We already know each individual is different, but each individual platoon is different, too,” he said. “Each platoon is training for a different goal.”
That’s also where certified master fitness trainers come in, he added. “Certified trainers are able to go to their units with a wealth of knowledge, and look at essential task list and identify the most daunting task and develop a physical fitness program based on those tasks to increase the overall performance.”
When Komes first arrived at the fitness school in 2012, the ACFT wasn’t a thought on anyone’s mind. Today, it seems to be everyone’s first thought, he said.
This change leaves the instructors with a large responsibility on their backs — to ensure the force is ready. But, it’s a responsibility they carry with pride, he said.
“When we conduct MFT training, we ensure each certified trainer has a plan for their unit,” he said, adding thousands of certified trainers are among the force already.
“They’re out there, they’re already in units, and hopefully commanders understand what they bring to the fight,” Komes said.
For soldiers uneasy with the ACFT, Komes recommends they reach out to their local master fitness trainer, or identify who it is through their chain of command.
The Master Fitness Training Course is broken into two phases — a self-paced, 60-hour online phase and a two-week, 76-hour in-residence phase. The curriculum covers everything from exercise science, PT program design, leadership, physical fitness assessment and unit physical readiness programs, aligned with current Army doctrine and regulations.
After graduating from the course, soldiers are equipped to advise units on physical readiness issues and monitor unit and individual physical readiness programs.
Soldiers are about to get their hands on the Army’s new Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTVs), and the first unit will start receiving the trucks as 2019 begins.
These deliveries keep the program right on schedule, following an Army Systems Acquisition Review Council decision in December 2018 to move forward with fielding JLTVs to the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. The unit, located at Fort Stewart, Ga., will start receiving its own JLTVs in January 2019, and should be fully equipped with about 500 new JLTVs by the end of March 2019.
“The JLTV program exemplifies the benefit of strong ties between the warfighter and acquisition communities,” said Dr. Bruce Jette, the assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology. “With continuous feedback from the user, our program office is able to reach the right balance of technological advancements that will provide vastly improved capability, survivability, networking power, and maneuverability.”
The new trucks represent a significant modernization success for the Army and Marine Corps, with the program on track to replace many venerable High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV).
“I simply could not be prouder of the team that is bringing JLTV to reality,” Jette continued. “Our single focus is giving soldiers better capabilities, and our team of soldiers, Marines, and civilians worked tirelessly to deliver an affordable, generational leap ahead in light tactical vehicles.”
Joint Light Tactical Vehicles demonstrate their extreme off-road capability at the U.S. Marine Corps Transportation Demonstration Support Area at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.
(U.S. Army photo by Mr. David Vergun)
The JLTV family of vehicles is designed to restore payload and performance that were traded from light tactical vehicles to add protection in recent conflict. JLTVs will give soldiers, Marines, and their commanders more options in a protected mobility solution that is also the first vehicle purpose-built for modern battlefield networks.
“We are very excited to get these trucks into the hands of our soldiers,” said Col. Mike Adams, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team commander. “It’s an honor to be chosen as the first unit to receive such an improved capability, and I look forward to getting it into our formations.”
The JLTV program remains on schedule and on budget as it wraps up its low rate initial production phase, yet the program office’s work is far from over. As warfighter needs change, the team will continue to explore ways to refine the design and the capability it offers.
More deliveries are slated across each service in 2019. Ultimately, the Army anticipates purchasing 49,099 vehicles across its Active, Reserve, and National Guard components, and the Marine Corps more than 9,000.
The JLTV will be fielded in two variants and four mission package configurations: General Purpose, Close Combat Weapons Carrier, Heavy Guns Carrier, and a Utility vehicle.
In April 1990, the FBI was called to Teddy Roosevelt’s house. No one would dare steal from TR while he was alive, but since he had been dead for 70-plus years and his house was long ago turned into a museum, the thief was able to rob the place and make off with an important piece of Americana: Teddy Roosevelt’s piece. They stole the pistol he used at the Battle of San Juan Hill.
To this day, no one knows who took it, and only the FBI knows who turned it in, but now it’s back where it belongs. Its history is America’s history, and the history of Teddy Roosevelt’s sidearm matches the legacy of the man who wielded it. It started with a sinking ship.
In 1898, the USS Maine exploded in Havana harbor, a port owned by Spain at the time. Since anti-Spanish sentiment and pro-Cuban Independence was at a fever pitch among Americans at the time, the incident was blamed on a Spanish mine. Even an official Navy inquiry supported the mine theory. With more than 250 American sailors dead, the United States had to respond, and they did so by declaring war on Spain.
Teddy Roosevelt was the Assistant Secretary of the Navy at the time. Incensed by the Spanish provocation, it wasn’t enough for TR to just dispatch American warships to distant Spanish colonies. The man felt he had to go kill some Spaniards personally – and he did. He helped raise the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry and deployed to Spain with an insane, ragtag group of cowboys, journalists, and athletes, the likes of which the world will never see again.
Roosevelt earned a Medal of Honor for leading what was supposed to be an overmatched support column on a daring charge up the hill that totally routed the defending Spanish, and he did it wielding a Colt Model 1892 Army and Navy double-action, six-shot revolver, one special to Roosevelt for many reasons.
The weapon is valued at over $250,000 and has an inscription above the grips: “From the sunken battle ship Maine” and “July 1st, 1898. San Juan. Carried and used by Col. Theodore Roosevelt.”
The April 1990 theft was actually the second time the pistol had been taken from Sagamore Hill. The first time was in 1936 when it was removed from the case, but the thief panicked and threw the weapon into the woods nearby. Roosevelt’s sidearm and 1st Volunteers uniform are considered the most priceless artifacts on display at the museum.
It’s not that I have anything against the good-natured jokes of April Fool’s Day, it’s just that I don’t believe anything for an entire day. Sure, you have your ridiculous ads from companies, like the McPickle burger from McDonald’s, but then there’s the ones that sound plausible until you stop and think about it for more than a second.
Tom Brady saying he’s going to retire? The dude still has four more fingers to go. Lockheed Martin saying they now have the technology to smell Space? That’s not how Space works. The Army announces that it’ll take the well-being of the troops into consideration and allow them to wear protective masks, under AR 670-1, in areas of with hazardous air quality? Good one.
At least there was a solid selection of memes to choose from this week! Enjoy!
(In all seriousness, the protective mask one is real — and it’s about freakin’ time.)
(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)
(Meme via Broken and Unreadable)
(Meme via I Am An American Soldier)
(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)
(Meme via Valhalla Wear)
(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)
It took me longer than I’m willing to admit to get that the left side was port and right was starboard.
And the only way I still remember it is because ‘left’ has four letters, and so does ‘port.’ Don’t judge me.
(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)
(Meme via 1st Civ Division)
(Meme via Private News Network)
(Screengrab via The Salty Soldier, Credit to Reddit user u/patientbearr)
To shed light on the epidemic of veteran suicide, BraveHearts — the nation’s leading equine rehabilitation program for veterans — started its first of three Trail to Zero rides Sept. 7, 2019 in northern Virginia.
The 20-mile ride in each city commemorates the number of veterans lives lost on average each day. The ride educates people on equine-assisted services benefits and healing effects.
Army veteran Tim Detert was one of the Trail to Zero riders. Detert served from 2005-2010 with the 82nd Airborne, deploying to Iraq twice for 18-month and 13-month tours. Following his service, Detert said he started suffering from depression and anxiety, turning to alcohol and opiates. Four friends ended their lives. After a suicidal spell, a friend recommended equine therapy to him.
“It’s completely turned around my life,” said Detert, who has been sober two years. “It’s given me a lot of hope and joy. I was so depressed and down before I came to this program. I was just looking for something and I hadn’t found it until I started working with the horses.”
Army Veteran Mitchell Hedlund, one of the Trail to Zero riders, served in Afghanistan in 2011-2012 and now uses equine therapy.
The BraveHearts president and chief operating officer said she’s seen veterans greatly improve their well being through equine therapy.
“I can’t even tell you now how many times I’ve heard veterans tell me personally that they wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the horses,” said Meggan Hill-McQueeney. “They find peace with the horses, they find hope with the horses, and they find purpose with the horses. Alternative therapies like equine therapies are tremendous opportunities.”
Currently, 64 VA medical centers across the country participate in therapeutic riding programs. These programs use equine assisted therapeutic activities recreationally to promote healing and rehabilitation of veterans for a variety of physical disabilities and medical conditions, said Recreation Therapy Service National Program Director Dave Otto. These include traumatic brain injury/polytrauma, blind rehabilitation, other physical impairments, post-traumatic stress disorders and other mental health disorders.
Children on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall talk to a BraveHearts rider Sept. 7, 2019, during the Trail to Zero ride.
Additionally, VA awards adaptive sports grants annually for organizations and groups that provide adaptive sports opportunities for veterans with disabilities, Otto said. These grant recipients also partner with VA facilities within their region to coordinate such adaptive sports opportunities for Veterans. During fiscal year 2018, VA awarded nearly id=”listicle-2640279831″ million to 12 grant recipients providing equine assisted therapy to Veterans with mental health issues. VA will award up to id=”listicle-2640279831″.5 million of these grants in fiscal year 2019.
BraveHearts is the largest Professional Association for Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) program in the country and serves veterans at no cost to veterans. The program offers equine services to provide emotional, cognitive, social and physical benefits. Veterans at BraveHearts have reported increased self-esteem, self-worth, trust for others, community integration, and decreased depression, anxiety, post traumatic disorder symptoms and self-inflicting thoughts.
In addition to the Sept. 7, 2019 ride, Trail to Zero plans rides for Sept. 14, 2019, in New York City and Sept. 28, 2019, in Chicago.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.