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.
At age 83, Marine Corps veteran William Cox stands and walks with the help of a cane. But for one day in November, 2017, he stood for hours without it, wearing his old uniform. It was the last act of a promise he made in 1968 to his best buddy in Vietnam. That buddy, James Hollingsworth, was laid to rest that day.
Cox is a Vietnam War veteran and retired Master Sergeant. It was New Year’s Eve and he and retired First Sergeant Hollingsworth were fortified down in a bunker in the Marble Mountains, just south of Da Nang. From above them, the Viet Cong were raining explosives down on their position. Rockets, mortars, whatever the VC could find. As fiery death pelted their position, they made a promise to each other.
“Charlie was really putting on a fireworks show for us,” Cox told the Greenville News. “If we survived this attack, or survived Vietnam, we would contact each other every year on New Years.”
And they kept the pact they made in that bunker every year for 50 years. Cox, who lives in Piedmont, S.C., visited Hollingsworth at his Anderson County home just under 20 miles away. But it was another promise Cox made to Hollingsworth that was finally fulfilled one day in late November, 2017 — the retired Master Sergeant stood guard at his longtime friend’s funeral as he was laid to rest.
He then delivered his eulogy.
That was also a promise kept, but not one made in Vietnam. When Cox found out his buddy was terminally ill, he made a visit. That’s when Hollingsworth made the morbid request of his longtime friend. The two had known each other long before spending that explosive New Year’s Eve together in 1968. Their bond as Marines kept their friendship for the rest of their lives.
Hollingsworth, a helicopter mechanic, and Cox, an ordnance chief, served in a helicopter squadron together. At the end of each mission, Cox would deliver Hollingsworth a line he delivered one last time at the end of his best friend’s eulogy.
“Hollie, you keep ’em flying, and I’ll keep ’em firing.”
Olivia Nord doesn’t remember much from Marine Corps boot camp, or the car accident that killed her three friends, and almost killed her and her mother.
Her mom, Jennifer, doesn’t remember anything either. But as she looks at her daughter, says she knows one thing for sure.
“She’s my miracle. She’s my absolute miracle.”
The two were returning home Dec. 2, 2016, for Olivia’s first leave after she graduated from basic training at Parris Island, South Carolina.
“I don’t have any memory of that,” Jennifer says. “The last memory I have is waiting at the airport in South Carolina.”
“I don’t even remember basic training,” she adds. “I remember running and shooting. That’s it.”
Olivia’s boyfriend, Austin, joined the Marines six weeks ahead of her. His family — mother, Dawn; sister, Dylan; and Dylan’s 2-year-old son, Payton–met them at the Minneapolis Airport. As they drove onto the interstate, another driver having an epileptic seizure slammed head first into their car.
Olivia Nord is all smiles after graduating from Marine Corps basic training. Hours later, she would be in a coma from a head-on car crash.
Dawn, Dylan and Payton were killed.
“I was broke in half,” Jennifer says. “My pelvis was crushed. I have a moderate brain injury and a rod in my back, with four screws holding it together.”
First responders didn’t have much hope for Olivia. Paramedics first took her to Hennepin County Medical, a level-1 trauma center, before she was transferred to Walter Reed in Maryland, and finally, to the Minneapolis VA Health Care System, Jan. 12, 2019. She had a severe brain injury and was in a coma, along with a shattered femur, torn aorta and lacerated liver. She had a tracheotomy, and was kept alive with artificial respiration.
Coming out of the coma
The Minneapolis VA is one of five major polytrauma centers in the entire Department of Veterans Affairs. It offers an array of integrated services for those in inpatient, transition and outpatient care. Brain-injury runs the gamut from someone with a concussion or stroke, or in Olivia’s case, all the way to a coma — one of their most severe cases.
“She was in our ‘Emerging Consciousness’ program, but wasn’t very responsive,” said Christie Spevacek, a nurse who oversees some of the most acute polytrauma cases. “We had to wean her from the vent, and she was in a very minimal state. Wasn’t talking, wasn’t doing anything.
“You see that, and you say, ‘Let’s get to work.’
“In the next month or so, she started waking up, but she’d maybe have five minutes, and then would be down again,” Spevacek said. “We had to bring up her endurance.”
Olivia shares photos from that time. Tubes and wires run everywhere. In another, she hugs her mom with a vacant stare in her eyes.
“She was awake, but she wasn’t awake,” Jennifer said. “She wasn’t aware of what was happening and didn’t know she was hurt. We had to keep reminding her.”
At one point, Olivia woke up and it didn’t know where she was at.
Olivia Nord suffered a severe brain injury, torn aorta, lacerated liver and crushed femur. She was in a coma for more than a month.
“I didn’t know I was hurt or why I was there,” she said. “I didn’t know my one leg didn’t work. I started to get up and fell down. The nurse came in to get me.”
Doctors, nurses, and therapists continued working with her. They’d take her out of the room. The goal was to make her feel normal again. They painted her fingernails and gave her lipstick. She worked on walking, talking, remembering, and all those things taken for granted.
“It was amazing to see her flourish,” said Kristin Powell, a recreation therapist who worked with her on the acute side, and now as an outpatient. “We were able to take her on outings. She was able to take what she learned in physical therapy and use those skill and flourish in the community.”
Not every outcome is as good as Olivia’s, which makes the recovery even more remarkable,” Powell said. “You see them come in here at their worst, in acute care, with tubes going in and out, and that was Olivia. And look at her now.”
Olivia is training to ride the recumbent bike at the upcoming VA Summer Sports Clinic in San Diego. She works as a grocery cashier and has plans to go back to school for elementary education.
No one expected 18-year-old U.S. Marine Corps Private Olivia Nord to survive …
Patrick Hayes, the man who caused the crash, was not even supposed to be driving. He was sentenced April 9, 2019, to 100 months in prison. Olivia and her mom both gave victim statements at the sentencing.
“I feel like we are a flicker of a flame, and you caused three of those flickers to burn completely out,” Olivia sobbed in court.
The car crash is still a blank for mom and daughter.
“In one way, it’s a blessing,” Jennifer says. “But there is a part of us that wants to remember, just so we can grieve.”
“It’s just like they were here one moment, and now they’re gone,” Olivia adds.
She and her boyfriend are no longer together.
“We don’t talk,” Olivia says. “He was back home for his birthday and I sent him a ‘Happy birthday’ text.”
“We know it’s hard for him, too,” Jennifer says. “He lost his mom. He lost his family.”
Recovery beyond the Minneapolis VA
Today, in a lot of ways, Olivia is like any 21-year-old. She laughs, tells jokes and likes to cuss like… well, like a Marine.
Jennifer and Olivia help each other remember dates and even the right words that sometimes get lost or garbled.
“She’ll help me and I’ll help her,” Jennifer says. “The other day, I said, ‘I’m going out to vacuum the lawn.'”
“I said, ‘No, you’re going to mow the lawn,'” Olivia added.
Olivia uses a leg brace to walk, and also participates in Wounded Warrior events in the community. But sometimes it’s hard not to get angry.
Jennifer and Olivia Nord lost their three friends, and were both nearly killed in a head-on collision. Today, mom and daughter are thriving despite brain injuries.
“I’m still not the best,” she says. “I see how far I’ve come. My gosh, I’m out of the hospital. At some point, I don’t want any injuries. I can’t run. I can’t use my left arm. But I’m getting better. My thinking process is better. I’m always thinking.
“My friends think I’m crippled,” she adds. “I’m not crippled.”
Mom and daughter have tattoos that show their love for one another — and those they’ve lost.
Both sport a red fox tattoo on their ankles. Jennifer’s says, “Love you, bebè.” Olivia’s says, “Love you, mamá.” She also has another, larger tattoo on her waist. It’s an American flag shaped like the United States, a cross and three dog tags bearing three names Dawn, Dylan and Payton. She has another on her inside right arm — four different colored roses for family members, and a tiny cross on a chain that says, “Faith.”
“For me, the faith is not always what you believe in. It’s what you do to get better,” Olivia says. “I have faith in myself that I will get better.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Recently, I spoke with the Sergeant Major of the Army about COVID-19 and the challenges and opportunities we are facing right now as an Army and a Nation. He highlighted that now is the time to reassess our goals and set new ones.
One of your goals might be to read a book or two during this time. Goals are important and they are even more important now, as we all deal with the necessary restrictions to stop the spread.
We spoke again this week and he shared his reading list with me. He found that reading has helped him grow professionally and as a person. SMA Grinston also shared that reading helps him take a mental break from the day-to-day stressors of life. He even says that if he wasn’t a reader, he wouldn’t be the Sergeant Major of the Army.
You will notice that most of the books on this list aren’t about military battles or written by people in the Army for people in the Army. For the SMA, he likes to read about things outside the military to get new and fresh ideas. We both hope you find something on here that interests you.
1. Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard M. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein
This is a controversial book –which is one of the reasons I like it. I read it when I was the FORSCOM Sergeant Major and it’s about choice architecture and how small changes to our environment can make a big difference. For example, the authors discuss an elementary school that placed food in different locations in the cafeteria to “nudge” the kids to make healthier choices…and it worked.
Since reading this book, I look at how I can make small changes to the placement of things in my personal life or in the Army to make it better.
2. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Action by Simon Sinek
I read this book as a brigade or division sergeant major, and it reminded me that sometimes in the Army we jump to the end first. When we ask our soldiers to do something, we focus on the how or the what and forget to explain the why.
Our enlisted Soldiers are smart, and when you explain the why to them, it increases their commitment to the mission. Sometimes, there isn’t enough time to explain why we are doing something, especially in the middle of a firefight, but most of the time we can. And as leaders, this is where we need to start.
3. The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness by Jeff Olson and John David Mann
After I was nominated Sergeant Major of the Army, people asked me for the keys to my professional success. I struggled to answer this question until the commander of the Old Guard recommended this book. Slight Edge helped me define for others how to be successful in the Army and how I got to where I’m at today.
The authors of this book look at what happens when you do something that no one else is willing to do and continue to do it over a long period of time. I’ve been in the Army for 32 years and every morning I wake up and do physical fitness. I read books for self-development. Doing those small things over time, year after year, made a difference in the long run. It’s about developing the discipline and commitment over a long period of time to achieve your goals.
4. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
I think I was a Platoon Sergeant or Sergeant First Class when I read this book. Malcolm Gladwell discusses how it’s not only innate abilities that make people successful, other factors play a major role too –like timing.
One of the examples he uses in the book is Bill Gates. Growing up, Bill Gates had access to a computer early in his life which afforded him the opportunity to get 10,000 hours of practice with programming. Yes, he was born in the right place at the right time, but he also took advantage of the opportunity to make himself better.
This book has helped me focus on looking at the opportunities within assignments. I remember when I was nominated to be the brigade sergeant major of an infantry brigade. That job gave me the requisite skills and opened doors that led me down a path to where I am today. We all have the opportunity to be an outlier if we have the right mindset.
5. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck
Since reading Mindset, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t reference or think about it. She writes about two mindsets: Growth vs. Fixed. A growth mindset says that even though I’m not good at a certain skill, I can learn and get better over time. With a fixed mindset, we don’t even try because we think we can’t grow beyond our current skill set. This line of thinking becomes more dangerous the higher in rank and position that leaders go in the Army.
6. Becoming a Resonant Leader: Develop Your Emotional Intelligence, Renew Your Relationships, Sustain Your Effectiveness by Annie McKee
I read this one as a corps sergeant major and this is probably my all-time favorite leadership book. Have you ever worked for someone and knew they weren’t listening to anything you said? As leaders, our level of emotional intelligence has a major impact on the morale of our Soldiers. We have to listen to our people and be mindful and show empathy.
This book made me a better leader, sergeant major, and follower. I started paying more attention to my own mindfulness.
I read this one around the time I was a sergeant first class or first sergeant and it taught me about the importance of managing talent. Welch writes that the top 5% of any organization needs to be identified and properly managed. He also writes that there is a large population of strong performers that will never be the top 5%, but are also important to the organization. He discusses how to identify, manage, and motivate both groups.
8. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
This is the hardest book to read on this list. It took me a while to get through but I found it beneficial to understand the psychology of decision-making. I gained a much greater understanding and appreciation for how the mind works.
It’s difficult to read, but it helps us better understand how the mind works. If you like sociology and psychology books, this is a great starting place. The higher I go in position in the Army, the more I realize how important it is to understand human behavior. I have a greater appreciation now for how logic and emotion work together in the decision-making process and I know I’m a better leader and person for it.
I read this one when I was a staff sergeant. I remember my battalion commander making all the officers read it and I wanted to learn something alongside them.
This was another controversial book when it was written. Heinlein uses science fiction to talk about what it means to be a citizen; he addresses the need for corrective training and several other issues that we see playing out today. This book is a fun read and makes for a great discussion between leaders in a unit.
I read this one when I was a brigade sergeant major. It’s a thick one so if you decide to tackle it, it might take you awhile. I like Once an Eagle because it covers an entire career of an individual, his commitment to the Army, and the lessons he learns along the way. I found that when I read it, I put myself in the shoes of the main character and reflected on my own career.
During our interview, Grinston said he hopes you will want to read and take the opportunity now to start the habit of reading for professional development.
“I know life is difficult right now for a lot of people. But we will get through this.”
Wait times at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics have gone down significantly from recent years and are now shorter on average than those in private-sector health care, at least in big cities, according to a new study from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Critics of the study pointed out that main contributors to the JAMA report were current and former VA executives, including Dr. David Shulkin, who was fired as VA secretary in 2018 by President Donald Trump.
In a statement, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said the JAMA report published Jan. 18, 2019, showed that the VA “has made a concerted, transparent effort to improve access to care” since 2014, when wait-times scandals and doctored records led to the resignation of former VA Secretary and retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki.
“This study affirms that VA has made notable progress in improving access in primary care, and other key specialty care areas,” Wilkie said.
VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.
The cross-sectional JAMA study of wait-time data from VA facilities and private-sector hospitals focused on primary care, dermatology, cardiology and orthopedics in 15 major metropolitan areas.
The findings were that “there was no statistically significant difference between private sector and VA mean wait times in 2014” and, in 2017, “mean wait times were statistically significantly shorter for the VA,” the JAMA report said.
“In 2014 the average wait time in VA hospitals was 22.5 days, compared with 18.7 in the private sector,” the study said, but in 2017, “mean wait time at VA hospitals had gone down to 17.7 days, while rising to 29.8 for private practitioners.”
The study, titled “Comparison of Wait Times for New Patients Between the Private Sector and Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers,” relied on wait-time data provided by the VA and calculated private-sector data from a survey conducted by a physicians’ search firm, Merritt Hawkins, using the so-called “secret shopper” method in nearly 2,000 medical offices in metropolitan areas.
“For the secret shoppers method, the research associates at MH [Merritt Hawkins] called physicians’ offices asking to be told the first available time for a new-patient appointment,” the JAMA study said.
“This earliest availability was recorded as the wait time. However, the VA data record scheduled wait times, which may not reflect the earliest available appointment,” the study said.
The JAMA report also noted that rural areas and follow-on care were excluded from the analysis and said that “follow-up studies are critical to analyze access to the entirety of VA health care,” since nearly one-quarter of veterans live in rural areas.
The overall conclusion of the report was that “access to care within VA facilities appears to have improved between 2014 and 2017 and appears to have surpassed access in the private sector for 3 of the 4 specialties evaluated,” with the exception of orthopedics.
In 2014, the VA was rocked by wait-time scandals and allegations of manipulated data at the VA medical center in Phoenix, Arizona. “This incident damaged the VA’s credibility and created a public perception regarding the VA health care system’s inability to see patients in a timely manner,” the JAMA report said.
The VA has since worked to improve access and reduce wait times.
“There is evidence suggesting that these efforts have improved access to care, including reports that 22% of VA patients are now seen on the same day as the requested appointment,” the report said. However, “Despite, these efforts, the adequacy of access to VA care remains unclear.”
As a result of the 2014 scandals, the VA initiated the Choice program to expand private-care options for veterans. Last year, Congress passed and President Trump signed into law the VA Mission Act to consolidate and streamline the Choice program, which has been riddled with inefficiencies.
In June 2018, the Government Accountability Office issued a report stating that many veterans who opted for the Choice program to avoid wait times still faced delays that could stretch for months before seeing a doctor.
In response to the JAMA report, a posting on the Disabled American Veterans website came under the heading: “Veterans Affairs Spins ‘JAMA Study’ It Authored On VA Wait Times.”
In addition to Shulkin, the posting noted that another contributor to the JAMA study was Dr. Carolyn Clancy, the former acting head of the Veterans Health Administration. She was replaced in July by Dr. Richard Stone as acting head of the VHA and has now taken the position at the VA of deputy under secretary for discovery, education and affiliate networks.
Stone, the former deputy surgeon general of the Army, has yet to receive Senate confirmation. The VHA has not had a permanent head since Shulkin left the position in January 2017 to become VA secretary.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Three military spouses say they hope to change the world, through one act of kindness at a time.
To accomplish this, they aim to encourage more than one million acts of kindness in the military community through a viral movement called GivingTuesday Military Edition, set for Dec. 3, 2019.
“One million acts sounds like a lot,” admitted Maria Reed, an Army spouse and organizer for the event. “But, it just takes one act to inspire another, and if enough people are inspired — we can reach a million acts together.”
It was Reed’s optimistic thinking that initially helped her form a bond with two like-minded spouses: Samantha Gomolka, a National Guard spouse, and Jessica Manfre, a Coast Guard spouse.
Three military spouses, Maria Reed an Army spouse, Samantha Gomolka, a National Guard spouse, and Jessica Manfre, a Coast Guard spouse visit Los Angeles, Calif., Nov. 6, 2019, to promote their online movement called GivingTuesday Military Edition.
The three first met in May at the 2019 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year awards ceremony, held in Washington, D.C. All three won that night for their respective branches.
Following the ceremony, the three connected “easy and effortlessly,” Reed said, largely due to their shared goal to use their platform to bridge together the military community and help others.
At first, they didn’t know exactly how they would collaborate, they said. But, that changed soon after a plan was hatched to contact GivingTuesday, the parent organization of their group. Shortly after they made contact, GivingTuesday representatives agreed to partner up and the military edition was created.
“It’s inspiring to see military service members, veterans, and their families who already have committed so much to something bigger than themselves, lead the way to encourage one million acts of kindness,” said Asha Curran, GivingTuesday chief executive officer, in a news release.
The military edition kicked off in September 2019, and since it was announced they have received nation-wide attention. However, according to Reed — who is a military spouse of 16 years — the need to help others is just a part of being in the military community.
U.S. Army Spc. Janerah W. Glaze, 253rd Transportation Company, New Jersey Army National Guard, grills hamburgers during the Sgt. 1st Class Robert H. Yancey Sr. Stand Down at the National Guard Armory in Cherry Hill, N.J., Sept. 27, 2019.
(Photo by Mark Olsen)
Her husband, who is currently deployed, plans to responsibly participate from his undisclosed location overseas.
“Military families are called to serve, it’s in our DNA and [GivingTuesday] is a way that we can all serve and give back to the community,” Reed said.
No act of goodwill is too small, she added. “It doesn’t matter, kindness is kindness.”
Whether serving food to the homeless, volunteering at an animal shelter, buying coffee for a stranger, or simply holding a door open for someone — there are no shortage of options, she said.
In addition to individual acts, Reed said various schools, companies, and blood drives across the country have committed to join in the effort to meet their seven-digit goal.
But, the true measure of success, Manfre said, is simply to inspire others to be kind.
“If all we do is inspire just one person to be kind to someone else, that’s what matters,” she said.
The inaugural event will be documented online with #GivingTuesdayMilitary.
With more than 50 chapter ambassadors at the forefront of local efforts, and thousands of eager participants who are affiliated with more than 800 military installations worldwide, the trio agree their movement will grow every year.
Social media pages have been set up on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for the campaign, all with the handle @GivingTuesdayMilitary.
Air Force officials say they’re rolling out a number of initiatives to address the problem, but the training squadrons in charge of preparing pilots are still using some stop-gap measures to train the pilots they have.
Brig. Gen. Mike Koscheski, outgoing head of the Air Force’s Air Crew Crisis Task Force, told Air Force Magazine in July 2018 that his team, set up in 2017, now has a five-year plan and has made progress in revamping the pilot-training process.
The plan provides structure for implementation of the 69 initiatives proposed to address the shortage. The plan also intends to grow manning levels to 95% by fiscal year 2023.
“When I first started there was no timeline, just initiatives,” Koscheski said.
Capts. Wes Sloat, left, and Jared Barkemeger, 7th Airlift Squadron pilots, take off in a C-17 Globemaster III at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, July 27, 2017.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Keith James)
Koscheski, who is leaving his position to be director of plans, programs, and analysis for US Air Forces Europe and Africa, said the plan focuses on pilot retention, production, and requirements.
The retention element was “critically important” and the one in which the service has seen the most advancement, he said. It includes increased pay and bonuses, more flexibility in assignments, and the reduction of the administrative duties that many find onerous or distracting.
“Sometimes instead of trying to create more aircrew, if we create more support personnel or keep the aircrew we have healthy, we can get more production out of” fewer people, Koscheski told Air Force Magazine.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told Air Force Times in June that the service was getting ready to announce a plan to reinvigorate squadrons, ensuring they have strong leaders and high morale.
“That, to me, is the secret sauce. That’s what’s going to keep people in. It’s what’s kept me in,” Goldfein said, without describing the plan.
Goldfein has also said he wants to push production to 1,400 to 1,500 pilots a year. (Others say 1,600 a year are needed to fix the shortfall.) But the force already faces challenges growing production from 1,200 pilots a year to 1,400.
President Donald Trump and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, second right, with two US Air Force pilots at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, Sept. 15, 2017.
(US Air Force photo by Scott M. Ash)
Finding airmen who want to be pilots generally hasn’t been the issue, however. What the Air Force has struggled with is getting student pilots through the training pipeline — a process complicated by a bottleneck created by a lack of pilots available to serve as instructors.
In 2018, the training process was further delayed by a month-long safety stand down for the Air Force’s T-6 Texan training aircraft, due to unexplained physiological events that endangered pilots.
Koscheski said the stand down led the force to train about 200 fewer pilots than expected, though he and other Air Force officers have said that pause gave the service time to reevaluate the training.
A syllabus redesign was done “first and foremost … to create better pilots,” Koscheski said. “The side benefit is it now takes five to nine weeks less to get pilots through pilot training, so … we’re able to get more [students] through [the pipeline], but now it just increases production.”
Researchers from the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies have also called on the Air Force to increase its use of contractors, arguing in a report in early 2018 that “innovative uses of contractors in the training pipeline” were needed to ramp up pilot production without depriving front-line squadrons of fliers.
A 64th Aggressor pilot on the flight line after a Red Flag 17-4 exercise sortie on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Aug. 25, 2017.
(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kevin Tanenbaum)
The Air Force has already brought in contractors to fill the role of “red air,” in which US pilots pose as rival aircraft.
Koscheski told Air Force Magazine that the service was considering bringing in contractors to be instructors.
‘A leap into the unknown’
The lack of instructors has led some training squadrons to implement stop-gap measures and compensate in other ways in order to use their limited resources in the most efficient way.
The 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona found out in 2017 it would only get 13 of the 26 F-16 instructor pilots it requested. Rather than spread the pain, the wing commander sent 12 of the new instructors to the 54th Fighter Group at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, which will take over F-16 training as the 56th shifts to F-35 training operations.
Back at Luke, Air Force officers decided to shift their remaining resources to the squadron training on newer-model F-16s. That shift was a better use of resources and better for pilots, they told Aviation Week in early 2018, but it still was “a leap into the unknown.”
Other bases are making changes to the training itself to handle more pilots with the same number of instructors.
Pilots prepare a T-6 Texan II for a training flight at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma, June 13, 2018. The T-6 Texan II is the first aircraft Air Force Pilots learn to fly before moving on to more advanced aircraft.
(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Corey Pettis)
At Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma, Air Force officials are preparing for an increase of more than 100 student pilots in the next few years. By 2021, the base expects to have about 450 student pilots.
“We have an increased student load coming, and from 2017 to 2021 the forecast is a 34 percent increase in students,” Col. Darrell Judy, commander of the 71st Flying Training Wing, told The Oklahoman in July 2018.
But officials at Vance don’t expect to get more instructors for several years. Judy said the base would instead increase its use of simulators and change other parts of training in order to adjust to the increase.
“We believe we have found a way to trim off about six weeks from the current 54 weeks of training that students go through,” Judy said. “That will allow us a greater throughput [of students] with the amount of instructors we currently have now.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
How do you get 38,000-plus World War II veterans to Washington, D.C. to see the country’s memorial to their service? Fly them, of course. That’s roughly how many vets and caretakers are on the Honor Flight Network’s waiting list. But United Airlines, American Airlines, and most others aren’t just giving away free seats for veterans. That’s where Honor Flight comes in, but it can’t do it alone. Like any other non-profit, it needs to raise money.
Good thing Honor Flight has the NFL’s most dominant defender at their side. The Houston Texans’ JJ Watt is putting his legendary fundraising skills to work for the 348 World War II veterans who die every day.
On Veterans Day 2019, JJ Watt launched a new shoe line with Reebok, calling it “Valor 2.” The shoe is dedicated to the memory of his late grandfather, who fought in Korea, including at Pork Chop Hill. Most importantly, the proceeds that would normally go to Watt for his work on the shoe will instead go to the Honor Flight Network, along with an additional ,000 kicker from Reebok.
Watt is no stranger to lending his name and time to support great causes. He raised an incredible .6 million to help rebuild Houston after it was devastated by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Now he’s using his clout and his status to make another miraculous save. This time the beneficiary is the Honor Flight Network, a non-profit whose mission is to take war veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit the memorials dedicated to their respective wars giving priority to World War II vets.
As he mentions in the above video, the Valor shoe Watt produced with Reebok in 2018 was a massive success, benefitting the Navy SEAL Foundation. The shoe sold out three times and Reebok restocked it three times. This shoe, along with the same camouflage pattern, also features the Korean War stripe on the back along with his name tape and unit, right up to the division level. Watt’s younger brother TJ Watt, an outside linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers, wore the shoes during the Steelers’ Nov. 10 game against the Los Angeles Rams.
The JJ III, as it’s called on Reebok’s JJ Watt website, retails for 0 for men’s sizes and for boys. If you’re in the market for a new pair, pick up the JJ III and help a World War II or Korean War veteran see the monument to the work he or she did overseas.
There have been plenty of stories where people get stranded in the middle of nowhere and go to insane lengths to survive. Since the majority of the population doesn’t prepare for getting get stuck out in the elements, they typically don’t find themselves with extensive survival kits.
If you find yourself marooned in an area that doesn’t get good cell-phone service and you’re unable to contact a lifeline, things can start getting a little stressful. Luckily, most people can find the right material in their surroundings to at least start a fire, but may not know how to go about creating the one.
Well, we’re to teach you how to create the spark you’ll need without burning through tons of energy to achieve that warm fire. Introducing the bow-drill.
First, you need to gather a few things.
A small piece of flat wood that can fit inside the palm of your hand (the socket), a longer but thin piece of wood (the fire board), a wooden peg (spindle), a curved piece of wood, and a cord make up the bow-drill.
Fasten the ends of the cord to the tips of the curved piece of wood, then single-wrap the cord around the spindle. Place the tip of the spindle onto the fire board and start moving the bow-drill in a sawing motion while continuing to secure the spindle in your hand with the socket.
Note: all these materials need to be as dry as possible.
After easily rotating the spindle with the bow-drill, the wooden peg will create a noticeable notch in the fire board. Shortly after, friction will cause smoke to build. Once the smoke starts to billow, add some very dry tinder into the mix as well as plenty of oxygen. Once the tinder ignites, lightly blow on the flame and feed it with the additional dry brush.
Quickly feed the fire with more dry wood and secure the burning area with rocks to prepared unwanted spreading. The fire can also be seen from far away, so that will only aid in your rescue.
U.S. Marines with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force soldiers conducted military working dog detection training exercises at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Nov. 21, 2019.
JMSDF MWD handlers visit MCAS Iwakuni quarterly for training. The purpose of the training is to give them the opportunity to train their dogs with U.S. Marine Corps training aids, use different facilities on the air station and share knowledge between the two different services regarding MWDs.
“Training with the JMSDF is a great experience for everybody,” said U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Justin Weaver, operations officer of the Provost Marshal Office. “They learn from us and we learn from them.”
U.S. Marine Corps military working dog with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force soldier conduct military working dog detection training at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni, Nov. 20, 2019.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Triton Lai)
The PMO military working dogs train almost four hours every day depending on the specifics of the working dog. They train for real life scenarios, patrolling, odor detection, and to increase physical fitness.
“Our K-9 units perform very well,” said Weaver. “They are in charge of every kind of customs sweep that comes through for every event.”
Weaver said that in the future, there may be the opportunity for PMO Marines from MCAS Iwakuni to use JMSDF facilities for more bilateral exercises and to further build their relationship with JMSDF.
Military members have their own inside humor that is often dark and quite hilarious. Then there are the cliche jokes that troops hear all the time. Often interchangeable (substitute an Air Force guy for an Army guy and it’s the same) and heard by your crusty old staff NCO, these jokes aren’t going away anytime soon.
These are the jokes we’ve all heard a million times.
1. A sailor tells a joke to Marines
A sailor in a bar leans over to the guy next to him and asks, “hey, do you want to hear a Marine joke?” The guy responds, “well, before you tell that, you should know that I’m 6′ tall, 200 pounds, and I’m a Marine. The guy sitting next to me is 6′ 2″, weighs 250, and he’s also a Marine.”
“Now, you still wanna tell that joke?”
The sailor says, “Nah, I don’t want to have to explain it three times.”
2. The military pilot is the center of the universe
How many pilots does it take to change a light bulb?
Just one. He holds the bulb, and the world revolves around him.
3. The five most dangerous things in the Army (or Marines)- The most terrifying joke ever
A private saying “I learned this in boot camp…”
A sergeant saying “Just trust me sir…”
A second lieutenant saying “Based on my experience…”
A captain saying “I was just thinking…”
… and a warrant officer saying “Ok now watch this shit.”
4. The Sergeant Major who always uses military time…jokes on her?
A crusty old Sergeant Major found himself at a wedding when one of the bride’s guests approached him for conversation.
“Excuse me, Sergeant Major, but you seem to be a very serious man. Is something bothering you?”
“Negative, ma’am,” he said. “Just serious by nature.”
The young lady looked at his awards and decorations and said it looked like he had seen a lot of action.
“Yes, ma’am, a lot of action.”
The young lady, tiring of trying to start up a conversation, said, “you know, you should lighten up a little. Relax and enjoy yourself.”
The Sergeant Major just stared at her in his serious manner. Finally the young lady said, “you know, I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but when was the last time you had sex?”
“Well, there you are,” she responded. “No wonder you’re so serious. You really need to chill out and relax! I mean, no sex since 1955! Come with me.”
She took his hand and led him to a private room where she proceeded to relax him several times.
Afterwards, panting for breath, she leaned against his grizzled bare chest and said, “wow, you sure didn’t forget much since 1955.”
After glancing at his watch, the Sergeant Major said in his serious voice, “I hope not. It’s only 2130 now.”
5. The silent professionals
How do you know if there is a Navy SEAL at the bar? Don’t worry, he’ll tell you.
6. The urinal joke
A sailor and a Marine are both in the bathroom taking a piss. The sailor finishes up and washes his hands. The Marine gets done, and then immediately starts heading for the door. The sailor stops him and says, “in boot camp, they teach us to wash our hands after we take a leak.” The Marine replies, “in our boot camp, they teach us not to piss on our hands.”
Have any to add? Throw yours in the comments section!
Promotions are hard-fought and well-earned by the right troops. After proving themselves to their chain of command, an ambitious troop is rewarded by being placed into a higher rank that’s worthy of their effort. In general, there’s a timeline for promotions. When you’re among the junior enlisted ranks, you can expect to your hard work to be recognized (roughly) every six months and, at your third or fourth year, you’ll be considered for the move up to NCO.
Then, there are troops that get a leg up on their peers by getting that promotion early. With the utmost respect to the troops that have dutifully earned their promotion, I think it’s fair to say we all know some troops that get handed a leadership position for all the wrong reasons.
Just because someone can do their job well and scores high on their PT test doesn’t automatically mean they’ve got what it takes to lead troops into battle.
Any hindrance on the unit may prevent it from fulfilling its sole purpose: fighting and winning America’s wars.
(U.S. Air Force by Tech. Sgt. Christine Jones)
While most soldiers, including myself, can attest to the lackluster leadership abilities of some fast-tracked leaders, the RAND Corporation is finally backing it up with evidence in a recently released report titled, The Value of Experience in the Enlisted Force.
The report explores the relationship between a leader’s experience and junior soldiers’ attrition rate. The three key traits of an effective leader, as found through interviews, were:
leaders who care about their soldiers,
leaders who effectively train their soldiers,
leaders who are knowledgeable.
Soldiers under leaders who mastered all three of these were far more likely to reenlist in the Army. Soldiers who served under leaders who failed in two or more these categories were far more likely to leave after just one term. This is precisely where a lack of experience in leadership positions hamstrings the unit.
Being a leader is more then even book knowledge – it’s finding the balance in all traits of being a leader.
(U.S. Army photo by Timothy L. Hale)
There are two key types of experience that leaders need in spades: Interpersonal experience, which is knowing your soldiers and how they react to things, and technical experience, which can be learned in school and by simply leading. Both of these can only be achieved with time.
Soldiers who are tossed under leadership lacking in this invaluable experience are set up for failure. They’ll be unprepared to handle all the minor things that no one tells you about leading troops, like the insane amount of paperwork required or a complete lack of a personal life.
Most of these problems of inexperience are solved by gradually transitioning a troop into a leadership role. It’s best to start someone with command over one or two soldiers rather than immediately putting them in charge of the entire platoon.
Just be honest with yourself and your superiors. Everyone is affected by a single leader in the unit.
(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Alex Kilmon)
Now, this isn’t to say that fast-tracking promotions is inherently wrong. It’s more to say that the qualities many units use to identify troops for quick promotion are flawed. These should include leadership skills — not just outstanding PT scores or test results.
As for sergeants, staff sergeants, and sergeants first class, they should only bite off what they can chew. If it takes a trip to the NCO academy before they’re 100-percent confident in leading, then they should go. No one is being helped by shoehorning an unprepared NCO into a leadership position just to maintain the status quo.
The itch to pull up stakes, un-circle the wagons and head West…or East…or…ok you get it.
It’s time to move again. PCS.
It’s a familiar feeling to most military spouses. Birds have an innate sense when it’s time to migrate, and I think military families develop something like that. Every few years it’s time to fly.
It starts as a faint tingling on the back of your neck. Then you see dust bunnies frolicking on top of the refrigerator and decide to ignore them because you’re moving soon, so who cares? Those little freaks start to get it on everywhere — under the bed, the couch, that weird piece that was your grandfather’s that you feel compelled to keep, but have no real place for.
You say to yourself “Go on, spawn away, little humping dust bunnies. Soon a moving van will magically appear and nice men wearing low-slung pants will lift off your illicit hideaways and expose your obscene way of life…along with their butt-cracks.”
You download the assignment lists from the BUPERS website and fantasize about the possibilities. You prowl through Zillow, drooling over granite countertops and in-ground pools, and measure the distance to the nearest Target (i.e. bar). When your spouse walks in, you slap the laptop shut like a teenager caught in the act, knowing you’ll be chastised for getting your hopes up too early about one duty station or another.
You start challenging yourself to cook with nothing, but the ingredients in the pantry (coconut milk and chickpea casserole is surprisingly tasty — said no one ever). You stop going to the stock-up sales at the commissary. You secretly purge bags of old clothes and toys from your kids’ rooms while they’re at school and then fake concern over the missing items.
“What?? You can’t find that t-shirt with the torn sleeve and the kool-aid stain that you outgrew two summers ago? Oh no!! Wherever could it be?!” Parenthood Fakery should be an Oscar category…
It’s that time again for our family. We’ve been in China Lake, CA for nearly three years and are scheduled to PCS this summer. Our days wandering in the desert are supposed to be over. I came, I bloomed where I was planted, and now it’s time to go find a new adventure.
Actually, I shriveled up like a California raisin and could plant corn in the furrows that have developed on my forehead.
Regardless — it’s time to go.
Except it’s not.
We’ve been extended.
For an indeterminate amount of time.
What the hell am I supposed to do now?
I find myself more upset about this than I should be. It’s not that I don’t like China Lake. We’ve had a good tour here and I’ll have fond memories and lasting friendships.
(Photo by Arnel Hasanovic)
It’s that I feel like something is wrong. The routine is off.
Have I become addicted to moving? After nearly 20 years married to the Navy, it’s become part of my DNA.
Neither my husband nor I had ever moved until we left home for college. And once we started regularly relocating, I started to crave the fresh feeling that comes with it. The removal of baggage, so to speak. The cleaning out of cobwebs — mostly from beneath my furniture, but also from the corners of my mind. A wanderlust that says “this place was fine, but what’s around the next corner?”
One would think that I would have resisted such a nomadic life, having never experienced it as a child. But then again, perhaps if I had gotten to escape my surroundings as a kid I wouldn’t have pretended to be a popular cheerleader named Anastasia on my 8th grade trip to Washington DC. Even then I was desperate for reinvention…
And moving every few years gives me that fresh start. I find it very freeing. If I’m not satisfied with my surroundings, I know it’s only temporary. I don’t have the heavy burden of forever (well, I suppose in theory, marriage is forever, but a few more years of stumbling over boots left in the floor will probably take care of that…)
Now I find myself sitting here with the realization that not only am I not moving…but I don’t know when I will. And now I have to reinvent myself right where I am.
But forget about me having to stop obsessing over the future and concentrate on the present. There’s something way more concerning about staying put.
The only fate that is FAR WORSE than having to move.
Now I have to clean my damn house.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.