We all start the new year with the best intentions. Ideally, we carry those warm and fuzzies from the holiday festivities well into the early months of the year to come. We’ve just seen our loved ones, cracked open a gift or two, and have heard enough Christmas carols to keep our spirits high.
If you’ve been using the same New Year’s resolution for years and have yet to find success, then it’s probably time for some change. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered: Below is a list for the four “Fs” that should play a leading role in your new year.
A strong mind is an absolute must!
A popular resolution is to make this year (any year, really) the year you really turn it all around. This is the year you ditch the dad bod in exchange for one that would make Marvel come calling. This year is the year, right?
Now, we’re not saying the odds are against you, but it’s probably a good idea to set a more personalized goal than, “I want to lose 50 pounds.” Instead of only focusing on the weight, look to other signs of improved fitness. Consider mental and emotional fitness, too.
If you’re not taking care of your heart and mind, chances are you won’t follow through on the body.
(US Army photo by C. Todd Lopez)
There’s on old saying that says a veterans leaves service with at least 2 of these 4 things: an ex-spouse, bad joints, bad credit, and a DD214.
Yeah, it’s a joke, but there’s always a nugget of truth in jokes. We all leave with a DD214 and many of us leave with a divorce under our belts. Sadly, far too many of us also leave with horrible credit as a result of poor transitioning skills or preparation.
Committing to getting your finances together is one of the best things you can and should do for yourself and your future in the coming year. Credit is just as, if not more, important than cashflow in many circumstances, so righting that ship really should be a priority.
You can’t go wrong getting your pockets together.
Don’t forget what really matters.
(Jackie Hampton Photography)
This year, commit to being present for your family. Now, this isn’t to criticize how present you are or aren’t already (I probably don’t know you, so…) but we could all be closer. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being closer to your loved ones.
Not a thing.
Take a long and hard look in the mirror this new year.
It’s time to plan out some things. Take a real, deep, and introspective inventory of yourself. Determine what you want and where you want to go… then determine how you’ll get there.
If you come into the new year without a longterm plan, but end it with something concrete, you’re in good shape.
Some of our nation’s greatest treasures aren’t places, they are people. Leo LaCasse survived three crash landings and evaded 4,000 enemy troops during World War II. He now lives at a VA Community Living Center in Salem, Virginia. Here is his story:
Born on July 4, 1920, Leo LaCasse was one of five children–all of whom were born on birthdays of former presidents. At the age of 15, he joined the New Hampshire National Guard, and later the Army Air Corps, where he was assigned to a recruiting command. The private was soon promoted to corporal, then sergeant, as he traveled New England recruiting pilots from colleges and universities.
One day, Leo learned that he was accepted to flight school. It was a reward from his commanding officer who had submitted the application on his behalf. Despite never having gone to college, the Army sent Leo to college under an accelerated learning program, and when he graduated, he became a B-17 bomber captain.
Soon, flying planes “felt like home” to Leo.
“Some of them [planes] were cramped, but it didn’t make any difference to me because I was the pilot. When you’re packed in an aircraft and don’t have the room to move your body in the cockpit, any airplane you fly after that is good.”
In June 1943, Leo was assigned to the 8th Air Force, Bomb Group 548th in Suffolk, England, where he served under General Curtis Lemay.
Leo LaCasse flew 35 missions over Germany and other occupied countries, and survived three crash landings. During World War II, Leo evaded 4,000 enemy troops over 4 months.
One of Leo’s crashes landed in France, which was then occupied by Germany. He instructed his crew to head for the front lines, to surrender and tell whoever interrogated them that he was headed for Berlin. Instead, Leo left for Luxembourg to meet up with the French Resistance, where he crossed the Pyrenees Mountains, and made his way to Portugal.
In all, he spent four months avoiding Nazi capture. When the war was over, he was sent to Berlin for debriefing. That’s where he met and befriended a German general who recognized Leo’s name and revealed there had been 4,000 German troops looking for him following the crash landing in France.
Captain Leo LaCasse in front of his B-17 Bomber.
Leo retired from the military as a Brigadier General. For his service he has received numerous medals including the Silver Star Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, Legion of Merit Air Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Combat Medal, Joint Services Commendation Medal, World War II Victory Medal, European and Middle East Campaign Medal, Army Air Force Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, and the American Defense Medal.
On June 5, 2016, Leo received the Legion of Honor Medal, France’s highest honor.
Leo now resides at Salem VA Medical Center’s Community Living Center located in Salem, Virginia.
On July 4, 2019, Leo will celebrate his 99th birthday.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Sparta Science is movement diagnostic software which is used to reduce injury risk and increase readiness. Although originally created with athletes in mind, the military is now on their list of clients.
Dr. Phil Wagner is the founder and CEO of Sparta Science. His personal experiences with injury and inadequate support led him to creating the company. “This whole thing really started because I played high school and college football and I kept getting injured, finally being told I couldn’t play anymore. I moved to New Zealand to play rugby and the same thing happened. I finally said this is ridiculous…so I went to medical school,” Wagner said.
After graduating with his medical degree with a focus in biomechanics, Wagner dove into how science could target injury reduction and assess risk for possible future injuries. “I said let’s build this tech company that could gather data on how people move to better address rehab, performance and pain in general,” he said. Wagner continued, “Our mission is people’s movement as a vital sign. That’s where the company and the product came out of and it’s where we see ourselves fitting into, particularly in the military with the injuries we are seeing.”
This country relies on all of its soldiers, airmen, sailors, marines and coast guardsmen to be mission ready at all times.
But they aren’t.
Non-combat related musculoskeletal injuries account for a high percentage of why service members are undeployable, according to a study published in the Oxford Academic. In 2018, it was revealed that around 13-14% of the total force wasn’t deployable.
Although these injuries are negatively impacting mission readiness, they are also leading to lifelong complications. Musculoskeletal injuries are leading the cause of long-term disability for service members.
The impacts of no longer being able to serve due to injuries or suffering after retirement from the service are far reaching. “Mental health, movement and pain is so connected,” Wagner shared. He started working with the military after getting a call from Navy special forces asking if they could use it for their team.
“They had massive improvements the first year they did it, then they rolled it out to the other teams. I think for us, sports were our roots but our biggest growth and revenue comes from the government. It’s really satisfying because there’s so much more of a service and sacrifice approach that exists,” Wagner explained.
Statistics on nondeployable military personal with Major General Malcolm Frost
Major General Malcom Frost (Ret) served in the United States Army for 31 years. From 2017-2019 he led the Army’s Holistic and Fitness Revolution while he was the Commanding General of Initial Training for the Army. He was also responsible for developing the Army’s new fitness test, which launched in late 2020.
“Physical fitness and readiness drive everything…We are ground soldiers who must be on terrain in combat, therefore physical fitness is a huge part of what we do,” Frost said. He continued, “I would argue that we have neglected, in many ways, the most important weapon system in the United States Army and that is the soldier.”
Frost explained that by ignoring science, having outdated fitness training facilities, lack of professional support and long waits for medical care following injury – service members are suffering. “We have really injured and hurt a lot of our soldiers,” he said. He continued, “We were spending 500 million dollars a year just in musculoskeletal injuries alone for United States Army soldiers.”
Sparta Science approached Frost not long after he retired. “They said, ‘Hey, we would like to talk to you and understand the holistic fitness system better and show you what we [Sparta Science] can do,'” he said. So, Frost took a trip to California to visit their facility.
He was amazed at what he saw.
“Knowing how that could fit in, especially in the objective measurements side of the military, I thought it was the perfect match. So, I have been in the background helping them facilitate and move into the military channels to get Sparta on the map with leaders… I look at myself as the bridge,” Frost explained. He continued, “For me it’s exciting. I only get involved with organizations that I want to get involved with. They have to have a mission that I can get behind and where I can provide value. Sparta meets all of those in spades.”
Currently, you can find Sparta Science being used within the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.
So how does Sparta Science work exactly? According to their website, the person has to go through The Sparta Scan™ on their “force palate” machine. It will assess stability, balance and movement. Data is compiled and an individualized Movement Signature™ created. Sparta software then compares the results to the database to identify risk and pinpoint strengths. Then the system creates an individualized training plan to reduce injury risk and improve physical performance.
On July 21, 2020, the United States House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act for 2021. It includes provisions to create a commission to study the “force plate” technology and how it can increase the health and readiness of America’s military. That report will be due back to congress in September of 2021 to evaluate possibly implementing Sparta Science technology throughout all of the Department of Defense.
“Looking five years from now, I want to see the line graph [of injuries] going down on a global level,” Wagner shared. Frost agreed, “Sparta Science is a readiness multiplier”.
Sparta Science appears to have a deep commitment to bringing this technology to every branch of service to reduce injury and increase mission readiness. With the recent passage of the NDAA and their continuing education efforts, they are well on their way.
After five days, over 70 tested events and hundreds of evaluated standards, the U.S. Army named its top drill sergeant in a ceremony hosted by the Center for Initial Military Training, or CIMT, the lead in the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, or TRADOC, for all initial entry training.
Staff Sgt. Earnest J. Knight II, representing Fort Jackson, S.C. and the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy, is the 2019 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year.
Staff Sgt Benhur Rodriguez, representing Fort Sill, Okla. and the Fires Center of Excellence, was named runner up to the 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year and also received an award for the highest physical fitness score during the competition. In the event the primary selectee is unable to perform his duties, Rodriguez will assume the role.
By design, the competition is one of the most physically demanding and mentally tough challenges any soldier may face in a competition. The Army level event tests and highlights the professionalism and readiness of the U.S. Army by testing the drill sergeants that are responsible for training the total force.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Earnest J. Knight II, Drill Sergeant Academy, with camouflage face paint at a Camp Bullis shooting range. Knight is the 2019 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year.
(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)
The annual event was conducted at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston and Camp Bullis, Texas for the first time since the Drill Sergeant of the Year was established 50 years ago.
Not only did the Health Readiness Center of Excellence, based at Fort Sam Houston, have a candidate in the competition, but the support of their staff and soldiers, along with CIMT planners, were crucial to the success of the event.
Sgt. 1st Class Kyle Specht, HRCoE’s Senior Drill Sergeant and Sgt. 1st Class Gabriel Hulse were the CoE’s lead planners for the event. They were both honored with an Army Commendation Medal presentation during Aug. 22, 2019’s ceremony. Six other HRCoE soldiers were also recognized for their significant contributions to the planning and execution of the competition.
U.S. Army Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Edward Mitchell, CIMT Command Sergeant Major (right), presents U.S. Army Sgt. Earnest Knight II, Drill Sergeant Academy with the Drill Sergeant of the Year award.
(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)
Specht, who was recently selected for promotion to Master Sgt. and was himself a Drill Sergeant of the Year competitor in 2018, discussed how HRCoE was honored to conduct the 50th Anniversary of the Drill Sergeant of the Year Competition on behalf of CIMT and TRADOC as the newest CoE within the Combined Arms Center and TRADOC.
“Every Drill Sergeant competitor gave 100% and it was inspiring to see their individual resolve and how each rose to the challenge and represented their respective CoEs and the noncommissioned officer corps as a whole,” said Specht. “Command Sergeant Major Mitchell and his staff outlined the expected standards of excellence and vison and allowed us, the mission command, to take ownership and host this historic event.”
U.S. Army Sgt. Earnest Knight II, Drill Sergeant Academy, firing an M9 at the mystery event.
(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)
The 2017 Drill Sergeant of the Year, Sgt. 1st Class Chad Hickey and the 2017 Platoon Sergeant of the Year, Staff Sgt. Bryan Ivery, as the CIMT representatives, conducted two site visits, multiple initial planning reviews, and were on site over a week prior to the event validating test components. Specht continued, “The success of the event is really a demonstration of what cohesive teams can accomplish with 61 dedicated support noncommissioned officers, CIMT and our staff.”
The 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year competition was rigorous, highly structured and covered a broad base of subject areas at a relentless pace. The noncommissioned officers were evaluated in marksmanship, unknown distance road marches, individual warrior tasks, collective battle drill tasks, modern Army combatives, written exams, drill and ceremony, leadership, oral boards, and much more for the honor of being recognized as the top drill sergeant in the Army. The competitors, who truly had to be prepared for anything also took the Army Physical Fitness Test that is the current test of record and the new Army Combat Fitness Test that becomes the Army’s physical test of record in October 2020.
U.S. Army Sgt. Earnest Knight II, Drill Sergeant Academy on a ruck march.
(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)
Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Edward Mitchell, CIMT Command Sergeant Major, said each event is designed to stress the candidates and push their limits physically and mentally to determine if the drill sergeant’s performance, abilities or professionalism become degraded.
Mitchell believes the competition is an extreme example of what all drill sergeants face in their daily tasks of training the Army’s newest recruits. He said that though many things in the Army have changed since he was a Drill sergeant from 1995 to 1998, “the soldierization process has not changed in the last 50 years. Drill sergeants are still tasked with turning ordinary citizens into soldiers.”
U.S. Army TRADOC hosts the 2019 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year (DSOY) Competition
(Photo by Sean Worrell)
On the first day of competition, Mitchell described the logic of putting these “soldier makers” to such an extreme test to determine the best of the best. “The drill sergeant that we select will be the number one drill sergeant in the Army as well as the TRADOC enterprise,” said Mitchell. “Sometimes you are going to be tired from what you do [as a drill sergeant], but we need that individual to still be able to be in front of soldiers and be able to be professional, no matter the conditions.” He explained how drill sergeants across the Army epitomize that type of endurance and professionalism each day.
Knight’s road to victory story makes for a good example. He said, “I started my quest to become the Drill Sergeant of the Year in 2017 when I was assigned to Fort Leonard Wood. I made it to the 2nd quarter Maneuver Support Center of Excellence Competition that year and lost.” Hickey, who helped plan this year’s competition eventually became the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, or MSCoE’s winner that year and subsequently the 2017 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Benhur Rodriguez, Fires Center of Excellence (right), with Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Edward Mitchell, CIMT Command Sergeant Major, receiving the award for the highest physical fitness score during the competition.
(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)
When he was transferred to Fort Jackson last year, Knight was, once again, encouraged to pursue the top drill sergeant prize through a competition at the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy; he won the Fort Jackson competition earlier this year to allow him to compete and win this week.
“I really appreciate moments like that,” Knight recalled, speaking of his original loss at the MSCoE. “As drill sergeants we are expected to be subject matter experts so we can tend to think we know everything. Having a humbling experience like competing against other highly qualified people who just out performed you, leaves you two options: better yourself or just accept that someone got the better of you.”
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Benhur Rodriguez, Fires Center of Excellence, going through the low crawl obstacle at Camp Bullis.
(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)
The 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year Competition began with 12 of the most proficient, determined and rugged drill sergeants in the Army representing Basic Combat Training, One-Station Unit Training, and Advanced Individual Training. There was one reservist, the rest were active duty noncommissioned officers. They had all won division level competitions at their home stations to earn the right to compete at the Army level.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Benhur Rodriguez, Fires Center of Excellence, runner up at the 2019 Army Drill Sergeant of the Year Competition, instructs Soldiers on the correct method of conducting a drill and ceremony maneuvers.
(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)
Officially, the competition lasts four days with most evaluated events conducted in a field environment at Camp Bullis beginning on Monday, Aug. 19, 2019. The last field event was completed by six o’clock in the morning on Day Four. In actuality, tested events began on Sunday with “Day Zero” elements that included height and weight measurements, written tests and an oral board held at Fort Sam Houston. Board questions, from seven command sergeants major, led by this year’s board president, Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Michael Gragg, U.S. Army Medical Command Sergeant Major, were exhaustive on a variety of military and U.S. government related questions.
All of the remaining 10 competitors that outlasted the rigors of the week were honored during the recognition ceremony at Fort Sam Houston mere hours after they completed their last event at Camp Bullis: a 12 mile road march.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jeffrey C. Lullen, Health Readiness Center of Excellence, firing an M9 at the mystery event. In this lane while firing from the standing, kneeling, and prone positions the competitors first fired the M4 rifle then transitioned to the M4 pistol.
(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)
When Knight was asked how he thought he was able to win over so many other highly qualified candidates, he said it came down to who was able to be more resilient, the most well-rounded, and maybe even who wanted it the most. Knight said he spent any small windows of free time during the competition studying and refreshing his memory on a wide range of subjects.
Knight explained, “Some [competitors] would take the opportunity to eat, some would take naps or got on their phones. I just spent a lot of time studying during the downtime to make sure I stayed in the zone; I didn’t want to open the door to distractions or self-doubt.” Though the competitors weren’t aware of what would be required of them at any given time, he said that many of the notes he studied ended up being on test events so that made him even more energized to put his time to good use.
U.S. Army Sgt. Michael B. Yarrington, 108th Training Command, on the reverse climb obstacle during the first day of competition.
(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)
“I kept the junior soldiers, the trainees, in mind at all times,” said Knight. Soldiers in training are often in situations where they don’t exactly know what is going to happen next. “They don’t have the privilege or luxury of just taking a nap or picking up their phone when they want to.” He explained that soldiers are always told to study during any break in training, “During downtime a drill sergeant will always tell a trainee, ‘pull out your smart book’ so I just felt like this was a great opportunity to bring myself back to the basics.”
Knight pointed out that this strategy for success is not a technique he invented for this competition, it is in the Drill Sergeant Creed: “I will lead by example, never requiring a soldier to attempt any task I would not do myself.”
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. John K. Cauthon, Maneuver Center of Excellence drill instructor, Ft. Benning, Ga., cools himself down after the M4 stress shoot event.
(Photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)
As the 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year, Knight will be reassigned to CIMT and TRADOC; he will report to Fort Eustis, Va. in 60 days. Knight, a 25 Victor, Combat Documentation Production Specialist, “Combat Camera” by trade is used to telling the Army story through photos. For 12 months, his tenure as the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year, he will serve as a sort of ambassador, called upon to be the example of the resilient, professional, and highly proficient drill sergeant that he just proved himself to be.
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class William Hale (left), Foxtrot Company 232nd Medical Battalion range safety officer, Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, hands out ammunition for the M4 stress shoot event.
(Photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)
List of 2019 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year Nominees in alphabetical order:
Staff Sgt. Mychael R. Begaye, Army Training Center, Fort Jackson, S.C.
Staff Sgt. John K. Cauthon, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning, Ga.
Sgt. 1st Class Frank D. Dunbar III, Combined Arms Support Command, Fort Lee, Va.
Staff Sgt. Ariel D. Hughes, Army Aviation Center of Excellence (USAACE), Fort Rucker, Ala.
Staff Sgt. Lillian C. Jones, Cyber Center of Excellence, Fort Gordon, Ga.
Staff Sgt. Earnest J. Knight II, Drill Sergeant Academy, Fort Jackson, S.C.
Staff Sgt. Jeffrey C. Lullen, Health Readiness Center of Excellence, Fort Sam Houston, Texas
Staff Sgt. Matthew T. Martinez, Intelligence Center of Excellence, Fort Huachuca, Ariz.
Staff Sgt. Matthew A. Mubarak, Defense Language Institute, Monterey, Calif.
Staff Sgt. Benhur Rodriguez, Fires Center of Excellence, Fort Sill, Okla.
Sgt. 1st Class Marianne E. Russell, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
Sgt. Michael B. Yarrington, 108th Training Command, Charlotte, N.C.
Twitter’s “head of editorial” in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa also serves as a part-time officer for the British Army’s information unit in the UK, a new report revealed.
Middle East Eye, which was first to report the news, shared a screenshot of Gordon MacMillan’s LinkedIn page in which he listed his dual roles. His role in the army has since been removed from his page.
A source familiar with the matter told The Financial Times that MacMillan spends a few days a year acting as a consultant to Britain’s information warfare unit, the 77th Brigade.
The 77th Brigade was created in 2015 with the intention of using psychological operations and social media platforms such as Twitter or Facebook to help fight wars “in the information age.” It is made up of reservists and regular troops.
It writes online: “Our aim is to challenge the difficulties of modern warfare using non-lethal engagement and legitimate non-military levers as a means to adapt behaviours of the opposing forces and adversaries.
“77th Brigade is an agent of change; through targeted Information Activity and Outreach we contribute to the success of military objectives in support of Commanders, whilst reducing the cost in casualties and resources.”
MacMillan’s LinkedIn page has since been edited to remove his secondary role.
Neither MacMillan nor the UK Ministry of Defense (MOD) immediately responded to Business Insider’s request for comment when contacted.
In a statement shared with The Financial Times, a spokesperson for the MOD said: “We employ specialist reserve personnel from a variety of civilian occupations in order to utilize the skills and experience of senior professionals.
“There is no relationship or agreement between 77th Brigade and Twitter, other than using it as a social media platform.”
A spokesperson for Twitter told Business Insider that “Twitter is an open, neutral, and independent service.
“We do not allow our data services to be used for surveillance purposes or in any other manner inconsistent with people’s expectation of privacy. Employees who pursue external volunteer opportunities are encouraged to do so in line with company policy.”
In most cases, reservists would need to provide their employer’s details to their commanding officer. However, according to the UK government guidelines, they do have the right to not to tell their employer they are a reservist if there’s a good reason for it. For example, if it would put them at a disadvantage if their employer knew.
Twitter confirmed, however, that MacMillan’s dual role was reviewed by its compliance teams and is not currently in violation of its policies.
MacMillan joined Twitter in 2013 after working at various media companies. He previously trained at Sandhurst, the British military academy before studying journalism and then media studies at Cardiff and Bournemouth universities.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Being promoted comes with a lot of responsibilities. Having power over those below you, vested in you by your rank, is one of those challenges that never seems to get easier, even with time.
That being said, being picked up for promotion can also elevate you into an entirely new level of slacking off — if that’s your thing. Of course, skipping out on everything makes you a sh*tbag leader who will be the subject of much behind-the-back trash talking. That being said, there are ways of doing the things expected of a leader while deflecting the burden of minor inconveniences.
These are guidelines born from observations, but, as always, know you can only get away with that your rank can afford.
“Don’t worry, Private Snuffy. We’ll get you back up there… in a bit…”
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Hannah Tarkelly)
You’re not slowing down, you’re “motivating the slow runners”
It happens every time during a higher-echelon run. Private Snuffy got too drunk the night before and, despite many warnings, cannot keep up with the mindbogglingly fast pace that the commander set. Instead of embarrassing yourself in front of everyone, you, as a leader, can slow down a bit to go “motivate” Private Snuffy in the back. Let’s not mention that running a bit at their pace is helping you catch your breathe.
The same could also be said for calling cadence. Think about it. After everyone turns on auto-pilot to run, they’ll fall in sync with the cadence. If you decide to take initiative and call a few cadences yourself, you can slow down your voice and everyone will instinctively slow down with you.
“It’s been a long day, let’s grab a bite to eat. My treat.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Thomas Karol)
You’re not swinging by the PX for snacks, you’re “escorting the new guy around the installation”
First impressions mean a lot. The very first kindness shown to someone will forever leave them with a positive impression of you. NCOs are often the first ones tasked with sponsoring the new person added to the unit. You’ll have to show them around, take them where they need to go, and, basically, work at their pace for a while.
You can also show them the cozier spots that they’d find eventually, like the food court at the PX or where the cheapest place to get liquor around post is — because that’s just how helpful you are.
“You don’t have your MOPP boots, Private Snuffy? You get a pass this time.”
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Liane Hatch)
You’re not skipping out on having your own stuff checked, you’re “busy checking others”
Not everyone is perfect at all times. Take packing list inspections, for instance. You know that those MOPP boots are bullsh*t and you probably won’t even bother taking them out of the plastic bag, but the first sergeant put them on there anyways.
Instead of having your ass chewed out for not following the packing list to the letter, you can instead not mention your own list and assist with helping the other NCOs square away the Joes.
“Oh? This will take how long? That’s not a problem.”
(U.S. Army photos by Staff Sgt. Felicia Jagdatt)
You’re not missing formation, you’re “handling business”
Ever see a Chief Warrant Officer 5 make it to a standard weekend safety brief? Even if you’re certain that they’ve got to be on the roster, you’ll never see them. That’s because they’re busy… Or so we’re told.
You could instead give a heads up to one of your peers that you won’t be making it to the BS formation beforehand by convincing them that you’re going to be “super busy” at battalion. Battalion S-1 shops are notoriously packed, so no one will bat an eye if you “just happen” to make it in time for the 100% accountability formation.
“Yep. That’s a thing. Check.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Lt Col Max Despain)
You’re not avoiding working parties, you’re “supervising”
Even subordinates will catch on if you pull this one off lazily. Everyone is trying to lift the heavy junk out of the connex and, if you’re sitting there with your thumb up your ass, expect to get called out for your laziness if, when questioned, you simply say, “I’m making sure you’re doing the work.”
Instead, employ the oldest trick in the book and the greatest open secret in the military: Hold a clipboard and check things off. Occasionally, help lift the heavy stuff and earn a bit of admiration. It’ll look like you’re going out of your way to help. In actuality, you’re just skipping the majority of the manual labor.
“It’s good to be the king commander.”
(Department of Defense photo by Chuck Cannon)
You’re not just missing an entire day, you’re doing “Commander business”
No names, obviously, but once I saw a Lt. Colonel walk out of his office with a set of golf clubs. The staff duty NCO jokingly said, “busy day, sir?” The Lt. Colonel replied with, “ehh, the brigade commander wanted to see us. I don’t even know how to use these damn things” and proceeded to go play golf for the day. At face value, the full-bird colonel just went out for a day of golfing with his battalion commanders and no one dared to say anything about it.
Once you’re at a certain rank, the whole “check down, not up” policy will protect your ass — even as you blatantly just take a day off.
Ahh, organizational days. On paper, it sounds like a great time. Why not have everyone in the unit come together to relieve stress for an afternoon and enjoy some quality team-cohesion time? Here’s the problem: Troops very rarely ever have a good time at what is mockingly referred to as a “mandatory fun day.”
If you’re in a leadership position and you’re honestly expecting an organizational day to raise the morale of your troops, then you’re going to need to do a few things different. Don’t worry, we’re not about to suggest major changes or anything that could jeopardize the professionalism of your unit, but you should lighten up and actually try to make sure your troops enjoy themselves if an increase in morale is your intended goal. Makes sense, right?
You can have those family fun days. Let the FRG handle that and let the troops be troops.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jason Jimenez)
We’re not suggesting that families aren’t important to the troops — in fact, they’re the most important thing to the many troops who have their family stationed with them. But it’s a much different story for the troops that are stuck in the barracks. They’re not exactly lining up for the face-painting booth like the kiddies.
Plus, when there are children and spouses around, troops tend to be sanitized versions of who they really are. That’s not a bad thing by itself, but it’s also not the way to let off steam and raise morale. You need to give them a chance to be the loud, rowdy, drunk, offensive, and obnoxious war fighters that they truly are.
You may hear them talk about wanting to drink when they’re in the smoke pit, but you’re not really going to know how much they drink unless you’re with them.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
Listen to what the lower enlisted troops want
Within reason, obviously. You don’t have to take the company to the truck-stop strip club because Private Snuffy thought it’d be a great idea. But if they suggest something relatively safe, like going to a baseball game or chilling out at the installation’s bar, that may not be such a bad idea.
Nine times out of ten, if you ask the troops where they’d like to go, they’ll probably say the barracks. Perfect. Throw a party there. This also gives the command team a valuable insight into how the troops actually operate when they’re off-duty.
A squad that trains together, fights together, and parties together stays together.
(U.S. Army photo by 2nd Lt. Kyle Hensley)
Keep the day at the platoon or squad level
This is far more important than most company commanders realize. When you’re trying to build unit cohesion, it’s best to keep any morale-boosting efforts at the level at which troops operate. For nearly all lower enlisted, that means the platoon or squad level.
Platoon sergeants generally know their troops far better than the company commander. Plus, smaller numbers also mean that it’s far cheaper and much more easily managed should things get out of hand. Most importantly, having a smaller group size on fun days means that it’s far less likely that someone will just mope in the corner and be forgotten about.
Commanders should encourage smaller-group team building. It can only mean greater things when it comes to the unit as a whole.
I mean, unless they’re REALLY adverse to showing up to the Organizational Day.
(Photo via US Army WTF Moments)
Attendance is incentivized, not mandatory
When you force something down someone’s throat, they’re going to hate it. By now, you’ve probably heard infantry described with the phrase, “give them a brick of gold and they’ll complain that it’s too heavy.” Well, in this case, “mandatory fun” day are the gold, and no matter how glittery and gleaming it may be, you’re still forcing it on them.
Give troops a reason to want to go to your organizational day instead of threatening them with UCMJ action. Even if it’s something as stupid-simple as giving them the choice between attending the organizational day in civilian clothes and an early release or sweeping the motor pool until 1700, you’ll see a lot more volunteers.
Nearly every single lower enlisted troop will enjoy themselves at a barracks party over a mandatory Org Day. Why not just let them do it anyways, but with the supervision of NCOs?
(Screengrab via YouTube)
This is as simple as it gets. There’s no real need to go in-depth about why this one would work. Transfer some of the funds that would’ve gone toward a giant bouncy house and tap open a keg for the joes instead. They’ll appreciate that much more.
I love American Christmas traditions as much as the next guy, but stockings, honey-baked hams and pictures with Santa aren’t the only traditions out there. Countries around the globe have fun, festive and occasionally creepy traditions of their own. Keep reading for some of the most unique ways of celebrating Christmas on almost every continent. We didn’t find any traditions in Antarctica, but maybe the penguins just like to keep their parties on the DL.
In the US, it’s hard to imagine a sunny, tropical Christmas, but that’s the norm for Australians. There, Christmas takes place in summer. Instead of celebrating around a fire, Kiwis usually share casual barbecues with friends and family. The New Zealand version of a Christmas tree is called the Pohutukawa, which turns bright red in December. Don’t worry, they still sing carols, but they’re sung in both English and Maori!
Several countries, Austria included, have a more sinister undertone to their holiday festivities. In addition to St. Nicholas coming to visit, a demon named Krampus joins the party. The children still get treats from St. Nick, and the looming threat of Krampus bringing a nasty gift on Christmas morning keeps them on their best behavior. bad children worry what Krampus might bring on Christmas morning.
Oatmeal fans should fly to Finland for Christmas. There, families often eat rice porridge sprinkled with cinnamon and butter. An almond is hidden in one of the puddings, and who ever discovers it is declared the winner. Parents have eased up in recent years, putting almonds in everyone’s porridge to avoid a fight.
In Holland, Santa maintains a more traditional, saintly appearance. There, he’s known as Sinterklaas, donning a long white beard, red cape, and red miter. Instead of a stocking, kids put a shoe out by the chimney for Sinterklaas to fill with gingerbread and other treats.
Holland’s more questionable traditions have caused controversy in recent years. Instead of elves, Santa has helpers called Zwarte Piet, drawn from traditional folklore. It doesn’t sound strange until you know what it stands for; Zwarte Piet translates to Black Pete. For decades, Sinterklaas has been joined by helpers in curly, black wigs with their faces painted black. Though some still believe it’s harmless, protests have brought the tradition’s racist ties to light. Hopefully, more respectful traditions will take its place.
Here, lots of people celebrate the 12 days of Christmas. In Iceland, there are 13. On the nights leading up to Christmas, 13 “Yule Lads” visit the homes of little children. Good children wake up to discover candy in their shoops. Those who misbehave discover rotten potatoes instead! I think I’d rather have coal.
Irish traditions are simple and sweet. They leave a red candle on the windowsill to symbolize warmth and welcoming over the chilly winter. Their traditional Christmas meal is similar to ours, with vegetables, cranberries and potatoes, but instead of turkey or ham, they have roast goose.
Here, witches are scary. In Italy, witches bring gifts! Well one of them does, anyway. An old witch named La Befana sweeps the floors of dirty homes and brings gifts instead of St. Nicholas. It’s believed that the tradition was a reinvention of an ancient Roman goddess named Strenia, who gave out gifts for the New Year.
In Japan, Christmas isn’t such a big thing. Only about 1% of the population is Christian, so the trees and carols never really caught on. Instead, they celebrate the season with…fried…chicken? It started in 1974, when KFC started a marketing campaign called “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” or “Kentucky for Christmas!” It took off like wildfire, and nearly 50 years later, Japanese families are still putting in their order for fried chicken early to make sure they don’t miss out.
On an island in the French Caribbean called Martinique, Christmas time centers around community. Their biggest tradition is called la ribote. During Advent and on New Year’s Day, the people of Martinique deliver holiday delicacies to their friends and neighbors, offering up regional treats like pork stew, yams, and boudin créole, aka blood sausage. Often, groups gather to sing their favorite carols into the wee hours of the morning, embellishing them with lyrics of their own.
In Mexico, Christian tradition is strong. The festivities begin in early December with a march called Las Posadas, representing the long walk of Mary and Joseph. Then, members of the church collaborate to put on nativity plays retelling the story of Christmas. Mexico is also famous for its love of poinsettias, which light up homes and shops with their bright, red blooms every year.
The Philippines is definitely extra when it comes to Christmas displays. Their tradition of Ligligan Parul, the Giant Lantern Festival, is hosted every Christmas in San Fernando. Giant is no exaggeration. Each parol is made of not hundreds, but thousands, of colorful lights. People travel from across the country to see it, naming the city “the Christmas Capital of the Philippines.” As you can see, the parols are more like works of art than ordinary decorations!
Poland is another traditionally Christian country, so many of their people’s Christmas customs are religious. Families typically share a religious wafer, or oplatek, on Christmas Eve, each one by one breaking off a piece. Dinner doesn’t start until the first star shines out. If you could take a peek into a Polish dining room on Christmas Eve, you might notice an empty place set at the table. The empty chair is there for a reason; to welcome any unexpected guests to share their meal. How kind!
Consoada is a Portuguese tradition that takes place on Christmas Eve. The traditional dinner honors friends and family who have passed away, inviting them to share in the feast symbolically. An empty chair is left to host any wandering souls, or alminhas a penar, who stop by to visit, and any extra food is left on the table for the night in case one of the spirits gets hungry. Ghosts need midnight snacks, too, you know?
In the US, spiderweb decorations are firmly a Halloween thing. I doubt even Tim Burton decorates his trees with spider webs. In Ukraine, however, it’s totally normal. The tradition started with an old fairy tale. As the story goes, a family couldn’t afford Christmas decorations, so some friendly spiders decorated the tree for them. Luckily, Ukrainian families don’t ask real spiders to take care of the decorating. Instead, they use webs made out of paper, glass, or metal. It’s much more sparkly than spooky.
In Wales, it’s not Christmas without a horse. Mari Lwyd, or “Gray Mare,” is an age old tradition there. It starts out with a life-sized horse skull decoration or a person in a horse costume. People join the macabre horse to walk door-to-door, singing carols and dancing. Most likely, the tradition has pagan roots from before Christianity was brought to Wales. Sometimes, the singing turns into a battle of wit between the merrimakers and whoever opens the door.
Space Force quietly released its motto back in July without much frill or fanfare.
Semper Supra means Always Above, and it’s one of those mottos with a neat origin story (more on that later!), but it feels like it’s not exactly perfect for the newest branch of our military. Maybe it could have been worse? We’re not entirely sure.
Space Force also finally issued its logo to help with brand awareness and hopefully encourage the American public to take the newest military branch seriously.
The branch even unveiled a flag, so it’s pretty clear that Space Force isn’t going anywhere. Let’s unpack the motto, the logo and the flag because there’s a lot to understand about these branding efforts.
Semper Supra is supposed to represent the branch’s role in establishing, maintaining and preserving US interests and freedom operations in space.
The logo was designed by the same agency who works on Air Force branding and like with all military insignia, the details are important. The delta symbol was first used in 1961 and was selected to honor the Air Force and Space command’s heritage. But contrary to what we’re all thinking, the Space Force logo is apparently not an homage to Star Trek.
The colors black and silver represent the environmental boundaries between Earth and space. The delta’s outer border is silver and signifies protection against all adversaries and threats in the space domain. The black portion on the inside signifies the vast darkness of deep space. Inside the delta are two spires that represent the action of a rocket launching in the atmosphere. In the center of the delta is a visual representation of Polaris, the North Star. This symbolizes how the core values guide the Space Force mission. Finally, there are four beveled elements inside the delta representing the other four branches of the military.
Apparently, the logo creators didn’t think it was worthwhile to include the Coast Guard in their nod to the other military branches. Dang. Sorry, Coast Guard.
So let’s get back to Semper Supra. Space Force Chief Gen. Jay Raymond recently tweeted, “We are building a new Service to secure the space domain – the ultimate high ground. Our strategic imperative is to ensure that our space capabilities [and] the advantages they provide the nation [and] our Joint and Coalition partners are always there.”
It might just be us, but that statement sounds an awful lot like a reference to Obi-Wan Kenobi’s “high ground” comment to Anakin in “Revenge of the Sith.”
“It’s over, Anakin. I have the high ground,” Kenobi says.
Kenobi just said it with fewer words.
So who had the final say in the Space Force motto? Airman First Class Daniel Sanchez, 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs broadcast journalist, that’s who. The junior Airman enlisted in the Air Force when he was 33 after unsuccessfully trying to find his footing in the civilian world. While preparing to go to basic training, Sanchez would listen to service songs, which is where he said he got the earliest ideas of the Space Force motto. It was while listening to the Coast Guard’s service song, Semper Paratus, that inspiration struck. Then Sanchez started thinking about the Marine Corps motto – Semper Fidelis – and the unofficial Navy motto – Semper Fortis. The translation, Always Faithful and Always Courageous, struck a chord.
Then, while training to become an Air Force broadcast journalist at Fort Meade, Sanchez and some of his colleagues started greeting one another with the motto he created – Semper Supra. Sanchez says that he liked the alliterative sound of the motto.
Six months after joining the Air Force, the Space Force became an official branch of the military. Sanchez shared his idea for the motto with his leadership command, who encouraged him to make a formal proposal.
Chief Gen. Raymond spoke with Sanchez and told him that the motto was a perfect fit.
Sanchez says the entire selection process still feels unreal. He hopes to eventually transfer to the Space Force and complete OCS. Always above, Airman First Class Sanchez.
There’s a certain relationship between students and teachers. After you’ve been teaching someone for long enough, they’ll feel like family to you. While that usually means stepping up for them when they’re being pulled, Professor Charlotta Turner at Sweden’s Lund University went the extra mile when one of her doctoral students was being held up by ISIS fighters in Northern Iraq.
She hired a band of mercenaries to save her student and his family and bring them home. Meanwhile, my college professors had to be pestered into posting my grades for the semester.
This was the factory where Jumaah and his family had to hide.
(Photo by Firas Jumaah)
It was in August 2014 when Professor Turner, a kindly professor of analytical chemistry at one of Sweden’s most prestigious universities, received a text message saying that her student, Firas Jumaah, had to save his wife in Iraq. Jumaah’s family had gone back for a wedding when ISIS attacked the city of Sinjar.
The terrorists were massacring and enslaving the Yazidi people, the religious minority of which Jumaah and his wife belonged. So he hopped on the first flight back to Iraq and rescued his family, however, they were forced to hide in an old abandoned bleach factory to avoid further persecution.
He sent a message saying that if he wasn’t home within a week, to assume that the worst had happened, and to remove him from his doctoral program. Turner knew what needed to happen.
She said in an interview with the Lund University Magazine : “Those who can, do. Those who cannot, hire mercenaries to get Jumaah the hell out of there.” She continued “What was happening was completely unacceptable. I got so angry that IS was pushing itself into our world, exposing my doctoral student and his family to this, and disrupting the research.”
She went to the Dean at the Faculty of Science who was puzzled but ultimately signed off on her request. Next, she went to the University’s security director, Per-Johan Gustafson, who coincidentally was also moonlighting as the CEO of a private security company. Gustafson rallied his men, and they were sent out to Northern Iraq – all while ISIS was closing in on Jumaah.
Within days, the Swedish mercenaries had made it to the bleach factory. They were armed and ready. They supplied Jumaah, his wife and two kids, each with bullet-proof vests and helmets. They met little resistance but were forced to take the long route to safety to avoid ISIS checkpoints along the way.
They successfully made it to the Erbil Airport and were soon on their way back to Sweden to be reunited with his professor. Firas Jumaah has since been given permanent resident status in Sweden and started his own pharmaceutical company. Turner still works at Lund University.
A documentary was recently made to show the world the kindness of this exceptional chemistry professor.
One of the most overlooked monuments at the National Mall, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial is located in West Potomac Park between the Tidal Basin along the Cherry Tree Walk and the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. The memorial dedicated to America’s 32nd president is about halfway between the Lincoln Memorial and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.
President Roosevelt led the nation during both the Great Depression and WWII during his four terms as president. The sprawling memorial is designed to guide visitors through a walk back through each of those terms. There are more than seven acres of space to explore the FDR Memorial. Each feature at the site is designed to help a visitor understand more about this dynamic president and how he directly impacted modern-day America.
The memorial was dedicated on May 2, 1997, by President Bill Clinton.
There are sculptures at the memorial inspired by photographs of DRF seated alongside his dog Fala. There are also scenes from the Great Depression, ranging from bread lines to people gathered at a radio to listen to FDR’s Fireside Chats. A bronze statue of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt standing in front of the United Nations emblem honors her dedication to the UN and global causes. FDR’s memorial is the only one at the national mall which depicts a First Lady.
Capstone Achievement for Designer
The memorial was designed and developed by Lawrence Halprin. He called this his crowning achievement because of the difficulty in creating the monument and because of Halprin’s fond memories of listening to Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats.
Halprin won a design competition to create the memorial back in 1974, but Congress didn’t appropriate funds for more than 20 years. The final design features Halprin’s work and ideas and several other prominent architects and designers, including Leonard Baskin, Robert Graham, Thomas Hardy, George Segal, and Neil Eastern.
Running water is an important metaphor that’s carried throughout the memorial. Each of the four rooms contains a waterfall, and as visitors move from one place to the next, the waterfalls become larger and more complex. This is meant to reflect the complexity of the presidency.
The five main water features all represent something specific.
The single large drop of water represents the economy’s crash, which led the country to the Great Depression.
Stair-stepped water features are meant to pay homage to the Tennessee Valley Authority dam-building project, which was the first of its kind in the country.
There are also several chaotic waterfalls at sharp angles, all that signify WWII.
To commemorate President Roosevelt’s death, there’s a still water pool.
The array of combining waterfalls is intended to be a retrospective of Roosevelt’s presidency.
The memorial is designed to give people options on how they experience it, allowing them to reverse directions, experience different sites, smells, and sounds, pause and reflect, and even be alone. All of these options are meant to indicate some of what Roosevelt did as president.
Steeped in Controversy
Because of Roosevelt’s disability, the memorial designers wanted to create an experience that would be accessible to all. The memorial includes an area written in braille for people who are blind, and the wide pathways are accessible for those who use wheelchairs.
However, disability advocates say that the braille is incorrectly spaced and positioned at eight feet, too high for anyone to actually read.
One of the statues of FDR also stirred controversy. Initial designs planned to showcase FDR in his wheelchair, but the final design depicts the president in his chair with a cloak obscuring the wheelchair. This is often how he maneuvered throughout his day, even though his reliance on a wheelchair wasn’t widely publicized during his lifetime. Historians and disability rights activities wanted the wheelchair to be shown since they believe it depicts his source of strength. Finally, the sculptor decided to add casters to the back of the chair to create a symbolic wheelchair. However, the casters are only visible behind the statue.
In 2001, an additional statue was placed at the memorial entrance that shows FDR seated in a wheelchair.
This is actually the second memorial
In a conversation with friend and Supreme Court Associate Justice Felix Frankfurter in 1941, Roosevelt said if he were ever to have a monument erected in his honor, it should go in front of the National Archives and be no later than his desk. Roosevelt said he wanted the memorial to be simple, without any ornamentation.
In 1965, a 3-foot tall, 7-foot long, and 4-foot wide white marble block was dedicated to Roosevelt. This memorial was placed near the southeast corner of Ninth Street NW and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. The simple stone reads, “In Memory of Franklin Delano Roosevelt,” just like the president wanted.
The Army is investigating a TikTok video in which an unidentified 18th Airborne Corps soldier at Fort Bragg drinks from an Ocean Spray bottle while lip-syncing Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” during a static line jump. The video in question was inspired by the viral TikTok video by Nathan Apodaca which caught the attention of Ocean Spray CEO Tom Hayes and earned Apodaca a new truck.
However, while the unidentified paratrooper has found himself in hot water due to the addition of juice and “Dreams” to his jump, another soldier has made her dreams come true under the canopy of a parachute.
Vivian C. “Mille” Bailey was born in Washington, D.C. in 1918. In 1942, she commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Women’s Auxiliary Corps at Fort Des Moines, Iowa. During WWII, she commanded a WAC detachment and earned several awards throughout her career. Bailey was honorably discharged in 1946 as a 1st Lt. She continued her service in the government working for the Veterans and Social Security Administrations. At the height of her career, Bailey served as a division director responsible for roughly 1,100 employees. She is also a long-time community activist, having served 23 years on the Howard County General Hospital Board of Trustees in Columbia, Maryland.
Though Bailey retired in 1975, she has stayed active as a volunteer and adventure seeker. In fact, at the age of 102, she checked off the most extreme item on her bucket list: to make a parachute jump. Bailey was inspired by President George H. W. Bush who celebrated his 75th, 80th, 85th, and 90th birthdays with parachute jumps. With the help of Skydive Baltimore, Bailey made her dream come true.
On October 18, 2020, Bailey took on her latest adventure which she called, “The thrill of a lifetime.” Bailey had wanted to make the jump for 10 years. “At one point when we were tumbling in the air, I felt like I was by myself. I thought, ‘Where did the paratrooper go?’”
On top of her service in WWII, long career of public work and volunteering, and successful jump, Bailey has received honors from President Trump and the late Rep. Elijah Cummings, had a police award named after her—the Vivian Millie Bailey Making a Difference Award, and now has a park in Howard County named for her as well. “So there are a lot of things that I can look back on,” Bailey said. “I am thoroughly happy and feel blessed that I’ve been able to do whatever I’ve been able to do.”
Rodney Smith is gearing up for a trip to Alaska. He’s already been to all of the lower 48 U.S. states. He’s on a mission to provide free lawn care to the elderly, the disabled, single mothers, and veterans. He’s the founder of a nonprofit for youth which is aimed at community development.
He’s showing everyone in America his dedication to service, and he’s doing it the way he knows best: mowing lawns.
He is the founder of Raising Men Lawn Care Service, a way for young people to give back to their community while learning the ins and outs of the lawn-care industry. Smith doesn’t limit his services to mowing, just like any other lawn-care service. Raking leaves and shoveling snow are just a couple of the services he and his cadre of volunteers offer.
As he travels the United States, he takes requests, even going so far to post his phone number on Twitter. He mows lawns in the dark, just to get one more in for that day. He’ll even do what he calls a “mow by,” completing a lawn-care service for someone in need, even when they aren’t home.
Of course, it’s better if they’re home. Then the family can meet the incredible individual who enjoys giving back and mowing lawns so much he’ll go to disaster sites, like storm-stricken Virginia.
Smith started mowing lawns for free in 2015 after driving by an elderly man struggling to mow his lawn. He stopped his car, got out, and finished the lawn for the man.
“A small act of kindness grew into all this,” he says. “You never know what someone is going through and you touch them a certain way.”
After that act of kindness, he founded his nonprofit in his hometown of Huntsville, Ala. while he was working on a degree in computer science. He used to mow lawns in between classes, a challenge for his studies but one he took with zeal. Then, he challenged others to something similar. He wanted kids to mow 50 lawns after posting a photo of them accepting the 50-Yard Challenge.
“I show kids the importance of giving back to their community,” Smith says. He now boasts hundreds of volunteer lawn care experts through Raising Men. “At first they didn’t like it… but they see the smiles and it shows them a different side of life.“
They didn’t know it when the accepted the challenge, but Smith would present the kids with a new lawn mower upon completing their 50th yard.
He challenged himself again with the task of mowing “50 Yards in 50 States.” In 2017, he drove to all lower 48 states and flew to Alaska and Hawaii. In May, 2018, he started doing it all again, visiting 20 states within three weeks. He’s not just mowing one lawn in each state, either. He often mows up to four per day as he travels. And when he comes across those in need, he stops to hear their story and help out.
And now he finds himself with a different challenge.
In 2017, Smith traveled to all the major urban areas in Tennessee and Alabama, dressed as Santa Claus to deliver gifts to the area’s homeless population. For 2018, the big-hearted lawn mower said he wanted to go even bigger. On Nov. 26, 2018, he began another nationwide tour, to visit each state and meet with at least two people or groups who are homeless and deliver gifts that will make them happy.
He wants to deliver true Christmas cheer. Not content to give and take a photo before moving on, he wants to sit with them, talk, find out how they became homeless, and try to understand what the season means for them.
Rodney Smith covered the lower 48 states in just 22 days. As of Dec. 18, 2018, he was on his way to Alaska to continue his mission.
“Every day is tough when you’re homeless, but it’s terribly difficult this time of year – both physically and mentally,” Smith said. “If I can help make even a few people more comfortable and happy, I want to do it. It may sound crazy, but I believe if we all helped just one person where we live, the results would be astonishing.“