Newly-released memoir 'Once a Warrior' is a raw and compelling journey of purpose - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Newly-released memoir ‘Once a Warrior’ is a raw and compelling journey of purpose

Once a Warrior by Team Rubicon’s CEO Jake Wood is more than a memoir; it’s a deep look inside the heart and mind of a modern American combat veteran. It’s also an extraordinary story of courage, loss and finding a beacon of hope within purpose. 

Wood’s journey to putting on a uniform and serving his country began in the most unlikely of places: Mauthausen. He was only seven years old when he toured the concentration camp in Austria responsible for murdering untold numbers of Jewish people. Wood was horrified by the evil that took place but also awed by the photos of the American soldiers responsible for liberating the prisoners. He wanted to be them. Although his father hoped there would never be anything for him to liberate when he grew up, 9/11 changed everything. 

When the towers fell during the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 Wood was a freshman on a football scholarship at the University of Wisconsin. He felt a sense of guilt for choosing football over exploring West Point, knowing the country would be going to war. A few years later he watched the news as they announced the death of former NFL player turned soldier Pat Tillman. It shook him. Wood knew what he had to do. After he finished his last football game during his senior year, he announced he was going to the Marine Corps. 

Wood served four years as a Marine with two combat tours, one in Iraq and another in Afghanistan. His memoir will bring you in and out of his experiences at war and the life he tried to rebuild when he got home. Although he is best known now for being the CEO of Team Rubicon, the story of getting there wasn’t without hardship or loss. It was the culmination of so much that made him want to write his story. Ultimately, it was the birth of his first child that solidified his commitment to tell it. 

“My daughter was born two years ago and it made me want to try to put my life in perspective. That started a soul searching journey for me. Part of it was because I knew my daughter would ask me about my time at war. I felt like I owed her a better response,” Wood explained. He began writing some of the book over 10 years ago by chronicling the events of Iraq and Afghanistan. He shared that re-reading those words over a decade later not only caused a new reflection, but it forced him to come to terms with his experiences in combat. He was ready to put it all out there.  

As much as it was difficult for Wood to put his life in the pages of Once a Warrior, it was a relief at the same time. Ultimately, he hopes his story will inspire veterans to know their worth. “I think we have an entire generation of veterans who are hanging in the balance. Who they are going to become is whatever we tell them they are. If the broken veteran narrative prevails, we’ll have a generation of men and women lost to that. But if we reframe it and say, ‘You have so much more to give and you are stronger. America needs you, the battle isn’t over there it’s here,’” he explained. 

The chain of events that led to him finding purpose again was remarkable in that, had they happened any differently, the Team Rubicon and Jake Wood the world knows – wouldn’t exist. “The universe has this weird way of presenting us with these moments where decisions become really consequential,” he said. 

A year into building Team Rubicon, Clay Hunt – fellow Marine veteran and one of Wood’s closest friends – committed suicide. Although Hunt’s story has been told, Once a Warrior opens a curtain into the devastation and other myriad emotions Wood experienced in the days after. It’s a stark reminder of the cost of war that even having purpose couldn’t stop. “I just felt like people should hear his story. It’s played out 20 times a day in this country. I felt like if I could humanize that for people…when you hear Clay’s story, it makes it real,” he shared. Hunt wasn’t the only Marine that Wood lost. He wears the names and lives of four Marines on his wrist, a constant reminder for him to pay it forward because as he says, he survived and they didn’t. 

Too many people within the American public utter, ‘Thank you for your service,’ with a sense of rote memorization – a reaction when they don’t know what else to say. Wood wants them to take it deeper. “Most veterans want to share their stories, it’s a literal moral burden and by sharing it they are sharing the weight of those actions or experiences,” he said. “It’s important for the public to hear these stories, as democracy we send our sons and daughters off to war. It’s less than 1 percent of an all volunteer force and we owe it to them to understand what that actually means when we make the decision to use force overseas.” 

Once a Warrior pulls the reader in and out of the moments that changed the trajectory of Wood’s life and built the foundation of who he is today. It’s also a deep look into the raw reality of an American combat veteran’s life after war. The pages of this book offer a compelling account of courage and resiliency through devastating loss, but also…hope. Despite witnessing the horrors of war and disaster, Wood remains inherently hopeful for the future. When asked what he would say to those reading his story, he was direct. “My call to action for Americans would be… be worth fighting for. Live your life like you are worth fighting for.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Frosted Misery: A Navy SEAL in SERE school

SERE — short for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape — training is one of the more psychologically challenging training courses the U.S. military has to offer. It is not really that physically challenging, other than having to overcome the short duration of enforced hunger and the occasional slaps and stress/discomfort techniques employed against the students in the course. But for a young man or woman who has never been a prisoner of some type, it is mentally jarring. Uncomfortable, even. That is where the real challenge is presented.

I won’t go deep into SERE training here, just because it is a school that should remain cloaked in some mystery for it to be truly effective as a training program, other than to share a few of the memories that stand out for me, almost 20 years after I went through it.


To be clear, I went through a SERE program run by the U.S. Navy, in the American northeast, in January, with a handful of my fellow SEALs, some Navy pilots, and a few Marines. The other service branches ran their own programs at that time, I believe, and presently, I am not sure how the program is run across the services. I am sure, though, that the training continues in some form given its perpetual relevance to service members in danger of becoming prisoners of war.

Newly-released memoir ‘Once a Warrior’ is a raw and compelling journey of purpose

(U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Peter Reft)

The goal of SERE training is to prepare U.S. service members to survive, on the run from enemy forces and while evading capture, and to resist your captors should you find yourself a prisoner. It also touches on escaping from captivity, and aims to provide guidance on how to behave and organize if you find yourself in a prisoner situation with other Americans. Enough on that for this venue.

SERE is mostly a hazy memory for me now, in terms of the particulars, but certain scenes, events, sights, and smells, continue to bubble up every once in a while. They are lingering yet occasionally vivid impressions of a long-ago tribulation, I suppose.

Newly-released memoir ‘Once a Warrior’ is a raw and compelling journey of purpose

(Senior Airman Jonathan Snyder, U.S. Air Force)

The Snow and the Cold

My SERE training took place in the far northeast in January. It was damn cold, especially for a Florida boy who had spent the previous year-plus in sunny San Diego and Norfolk, Virginia.

In SERE, we spent a significant chunk of time in our survival and evasion phase stumbling around in the woods, in a couple of feet of snow, with nothing but the minimal amount of gear we were supplied to keep us warm. It was not ideal. It was an enforced “pack light, freeze at night” situation. Some shared sleeping bags to stay warm, while others built shelters in the snow. We all shivered a lot.

The memory of all that snow and the bleak, wintry landscape still pops into my head occasionally, in photograph form. While it was lovely, especially to look back on now, at the time it was frosted misery.

Newly-released memoir ‘Once a Warrior’ is a raw and compelling journey of purpose

(USAF Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

The Hunger

Okay, let’s be honest: Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training is not hard on the stomach. At no point in the training do they try to starve you, like they do in Ranger School, for example. In fact, in BUD/S, you can eat as much food in the chow hall as you can stuff down your gullet in the allotted meal time. And boy did I stuff myself, and yet I still lost 15 pounds during BUD/S training.

In SERE training, however, there is no food offered after a certain point, and you have to eat whatever you can forage. Let me tell you, there is not much edible out there in the hell-scape of a January New England forest. So we just didn’t eat for a few days, which made me very hungry. At the end, they advised us not to go out and stuff ourselves, since our stomachs would not handle it well. I failed to heed this advice, however, and paid the man for it. It was not pretty, but I doubt I will ever forget how good that (Italian) meal tasted my first night after SERE ended.

Newly-released memoir ‘Once a Warrior’ is a raw and compelling journey of purpose

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Amy M. Lovgren/ Released)

The Slap

So, there is some physical discomfort inflicted on SERE students, all of which is to make it as realistic as possible. Part of the physical discomfort comes by way of open-handed slaps to the face and head. These aren’t too terrible, especially if you are ready and braced for them and they thus don’t whip your head and neck around too violently. It is really no worse, and mostly less painful, than taking a punch while sparring in the ring. I was used to the slaps by a certain point in SERE training, and ready for the men who administered them each time they approached me.

Well, in a very effective curveball thrown at me by the instructors, the details of which I will not divulge here in case this little surprise is still employed, I found myself at one point face-to-face with a woman captor whom I did not expect to hit me in the face. Needless to say, when she did in fact smack my face, at lightning speed and with some real force behind it, my entire upper body, neck, and head swiveled nearly 180 degrees. It was the most effective slap I received in the entire course, in terms of the pain and shock it caused, and kudos to that woman for catching me unawares.

Well done, madame. To this day, I still remember the surprise and the pain of that slap.

Newly-released memoir ‘Once a Warrior’ is a raw and compelling journey of purpose

Senior Airmen Jonathan Harvey, a Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) Specialists with the 106th Rescue Wing, demonstrates how to contact friendly forces during survival training. (US Air National Guard Photos by Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy)

The Almost-Meal

As noted above, by a certain day in the survival and evasion phase of SERE training, I was pretty damn hungry and would’ve eaten just about anything I could get my hands on. At just that point in time, we were told to link up with a notional “foreign contact” in the woods who would supply us with some sustenance.

This was to simulate resistance fighters in enemy territory who might help an evading American service member. The three or four of us in our small group were so damn excited to see what we’d get, and I had visions of bread and cheese and jerky and all the food. Well, it turned out to be just one thermos of “borscht” (soup) for all of us to share. Fine, whatever, anything at that point.

Newly-released memoir ‘Once a Warrior’ is a raw and compelling journey of purpose

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Amy M. Lovgren/ Released)

What happened next is frozen in my mind forever: One of our guys walking back to us from the link-up with the foreign contact, the steaming thermos of borscht in his hand, his eyes full of victory, hunger, and satisfaction. He had that same look that Ben Stiller had in one of the “Meet the Parents” movies when he arrived in triumph with the formerly-lost (and fake) Jinx the cat. Total victory.

And yet, right at that moment, the clumsy bastard tripped in the snow, fell in slow motion to the ground, and spilled the steaming thermos of life-giving soup all over the snowy ground. He then looked up in total defeat, and seemed to say with his eyes, “murder me, I deserve it.” To this day, I am not sure he was not a plant all along, in a highly effective and sick scheme to demoralize us. Oh well, we’ll never know.

Newly-released memoir ‘Once a Warrior’ is a raw and compelling journey of purpose

The End

Through all of SERE school, I never really went to that mental place that some go to, in which they start to believe they really are a prisoner, and that they might never get out. Apparently that happens to some, and they kind of lose it. I just went back into BUD/S mental mode, where I tune everything else out, and focus on surviving to the end, telling myself that everything ends at some point.

Still, when the end was signalled — in an admittedly moving and patriotic display orchestrated by the instructor cadre — I experienced a flood of relief. Some made audible sighs and expressions of relief, and some even cried right there in front of everyone. I was mostly happy to have finished another required training course, and excited to get some sleep in a bed that night. Mostly, though, I remember being excited to stuff my belly with that ill-advised Italian meal.

Good times.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch Army sniper legend Ed Eaton on GunnyTime

R. Lee Ermey doesn’t need to be wearing a uniform for you to know that he’s a legend. His entire demeanor shouts Badass, from his squared shoulders to his commanding voice. There’s nothing about Gunny that’s not full-on epic.

As with all GunnyTime videos, this episode is one half fun and one half history lesson. Army sniper Ed Eaton talks with Gunny about the history of snipers in the Army, how the training has changed for the military and what kinds of weaponry today’s snipers are using.

BLUF – Gunny wants to remind us that there’s nothing better than being out on the range on a gorgeous day. He’s totally right – it doesn’t get much better than that … except when you get to talk shop with one of the most decorated Army snipers of all time.

Ed Eaton brought along his M 14 rifle and the M 21. During Vietnam, Eaton used the XM 21. It’s hard to believe, but the entire Army started out with just 55 XM 21 rifles at the beginning of the Vietnam War. What made the XM 21 stand out was in the details.

Not only was the stock coated with epoxy, but the rifle weighed about two pounds more, and the rifle featured camo. Reworking the trigger helped separate this rifle from others, too. As Gunny notes, that modification helps “take the drag out and lighten it up a little bit.”

Two scopes allowed for day and night missions to be completed.

Gunny and Eaton discussed the benefits of using the XM 21 versus the other version that the Army and Marine Corps used during the conflict. The weight difference aside, Eaton said he preferred to use the XM 21 because it was more accurate.

Eaton was one of the first 55 snipers to be trained in the Army with the 9th Infantry Division. In the early days of sniper training, soldiers had to be combat infantrymen for a specific amount of time. There was no active recruiting for snipers, making it all the more elusive of a position.

Gunny reminds us that today’s snipers are using the best weapons in the world and that their training is bar none, the best in the world. Modern era warfighting snipers are using M2010s. One major change is in the round size, which is now a .300 round.

As Gunny so eloquently puts it, that round can “really reach out and touch someone.” Well said, Gunny. Well said.  

MIGHTY CULTURE

Pararescuemen stay sharp while training off the coast of Italy

Two boats idled together in the Adriatic Sea just off the coast of Northern Italy, battered mercilessly by the waves as eight pairs of eyes searched the sky. The silence stretched for long moments, a hint of anticipation on the cool sea breeze before a radio crackled to life.

There would be three jumpers in five minutes, transmitted the radio. The information was passed between the occupants of both boats as they caught first sight of the approaching aircraft.

Members of the 57th Rescue Squadron participated in over-water parachute training. July 9, 2019, with a dozen pararescuemen aboard a C-130J Super Hercules from the 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, as eight more awaited their descent from below.


First out of the aircraft was a rigged alternate method zodiac, or RAMZ, an inflatable, motorized boat that the jumpers used once they made it to the water. As they worked on setting up their vehicle, the members in the support boats began pulling in the discarded parachutes to be repaired if necessary and reused in the future.

Newly-released memoir ‘Once a Warrior’ is a raw and compelling journey of purpose

Pararescueman assigned to the 57th Rescue Squadron parachutes into the ocean during over-water parachute training off the coast of Italy, July 9, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kelsey Tucker)

The 57th RQS participates in jump training at least once a quarter, over both land and sea, to keep their skills and knowledge sharp in case they are ever needed in an emergency. The training not only benefits the pararescuemen, but requires harmonization with the squadron’s support agencies and even other bases – in this case, the C-130 and its crew.

Newly-released memoir ‘Once a Warrior’ is a raw and compelling journey of purpose

Pararescuemen assigned to the 57th Rescue Squadron prepare a rigged alternate method zodiac vessel during over-water parachute training off the coast of Italy, July 9, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kelsey Tucker)

“Just for us to do this training, it requires so much coordination from our support shops,” said Capt. Jordan, a combat rescue officer with the 57th RQS. “Just on the water we have boat drivers, people pulling in chutes and medical personnel. We are super grateful to have an amazing combat mission support section.”

Jumping on land is far different than jumping into the ocean, and carries different challenges – not only for the jumpers themselves but also for the support personnel down below.

Newly-released memoir ‘Once a Warrior’ is a raw and compelling journey of purpose

Pararescuemen assigned to the 57th Rescue Squadron prepare a rigged alternate method zodiac during over-water parachute training off the coast of Italy, July 9, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kelsey Tucker)

“On land, all you really have to worry about is another aircraft coming into your airspace,” said Staff Sgt. Jared, a 57th RQS aircrew flight equipment technician and drop zone control officer. “On water, you have to worry about boats, airplanes and that you’re constantly moving. You have to go where the jumpers go, and then reset, come back to your position and get ready for the next jumpers.”

Through successful support and coordination, the 57th RQS was able to carry out the required training needed in order to remain proficient in their job, providing day or night personnel recovery operations in any condition, during peace or war.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marines celebrate vet-owned business’ launch of new, more delicious crayons

When news broke that “Someone finally made edible crayons for Marines,” Leathernecks likely read the announcement with confusion: When have crayons ever been anything other than edible and delicious?

The colorful sticks of wax have been a dietary staple for members of America’s 911 Force ever since the internet gods gave us all the gift that keeps on giving: a near-perfect meme riffing on the “stereotype” of how we Jarheads are the dumbest of all service members — so dumb that we eat crayons and paste with the same vacant zeal of that mouth-breathing, short-bus rider from kindergarten whose mom dropped him on his head. Mmmmmmmm, crayons.


Newly-released memoir ‘Once a Warrior’ is a raw and compelling journey of purpose

Praise be to the meme lords who bless us with their bounty.

Having served on active duty for more than 10 years, Marine Corps veteran Tashina Coronel knows a little something about eating crayons. The 35-year-old mother of three in Waco, Texas, recently developed a line of novelty confections targeted toward the massive market of crayon-eating Devil Dogs.

“You throw a crayon at a Marine, and they’re going to eat it,” said the former administrator. “Yes, crayons have always been edible, but mine taste better.”

Coronel said she’s been in the dessert-making business for seven years. After leaving active duty in 2014, she attended the San Diego Culinary Institute. She now owns and operates Okashi by Shina. The name, which pays tribute to Coronel’s Japanese heritage, translates to “Sweets by Shina.”

Newly-released memoir ‘Once a Warrior’ is a raw and compelling journey of purpose

Tashina Coronel on active duty. Photo courtesy of Tashina Coronel

Coronel’s packs of 10 Edible Crayons sell for on her website. She has received hundreds of orders and an overwhelmingly positive response since launching the colorfully named specialty chocolates.

“My website just went live two weeks ago, and it’s been surreal how many orders have come in,” she said. “I got 130 orders in two days.”

Each crayon is cleverly titled according to its corresponding color: Blood Of My Enemies, Glow Strap, Little Yellow Bird, Green Weenie, Blue Falcon, Hazing Incident, Zero-Dark Thirty, Tighty Whities, Silver Bullet, and Butter Bars.

Newly-released memoir ‘Once a Warrior’ is a raw and compelling journey of purpose

Okashi by Shina’s set of chocolate “Edible Crayons.” Photo courtesy of Tashina Coronel

Okashi by Shina also offers a Crayon Glue MRE Set that includes an edible glue bottle filled with marshmallow cream.

Coronel said she used several Facebook groups for Marines to focus group her idea before launching the product.

“I didn’t really know if people were going to take it personally,” she said. “I didn’t want people to be like, ‘Oh, she’s jumping on the bandwagon to insult us; she sold out.'”

After designing her product and developing names for the crayons, Coronel shared her concept in the Marine Facebook groups.

Newly-released memoir ‘Once a Warrior’ is a raw and compelling journey of purpose

“I loved the idea right away,” said Marisha Smith, a former Marine KC-130J crew chief who saw Coronel’s Facebook posts. “It’s an ongoing joke that we eat crayons, so we’ve just taken it and run with it. I plan to send some of the crayons to friends in November for the Marine Corps Birthday. I’m sure any Marine or service member in general would get a kick out of these. The fact they taste great too is just a plus.”

Coronel said before her website went live, most of her orders were coming from friends and family. Since getting some initial press coverage, fulfilling orders has become a full-time job.

“The majority of orders are actually coming from male Marines,” she said. “It means a lot that my brothers are looking out for and supporting me. With everything going on in the world right now, the coolest thing about this is I really enjoy being a morale booster and giving people a reason to laugh and have fun. I love being able to bring something to Marines that’s their own and share a little bit of our culture with others.”

Newly-released memoir ‘Once a Warrior’ is a raw and compelling journey of purpose

Prepping for quarantine like …

Coronel said her family and God are the main driving forces in her life. Her husband, who served as a Marine artilleryman, has stepped up to help fulfill orders and handle the increased demand.

“My family inspired me to start my own business, and my husband is really supportive,” she said.

Coronel said she hopes to open a brick-and-mortar location to expand her operations and eventually partner with military exchanges to sell her products on bases. She said she knows there are a lot of challenges ahead, but she’s ready to chase her dreams.

“As a Marine, I know if somebody calls us crazy, we’re just going to show them how crazy we are,” she said. “Nothing’s really an insult unless you call us soldier. Then it’s like, we’re fighting.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Airborne sergeant major is a Vietnamese refugee

Full of fear and anxiety, a 10-year-old Vietnamese boy sailed across the South China Sea for 10 days, in 1986, with the expectation that a better life awaited him across the ocean.

In his mind, the only way he could live a full and prosperous life was by coming to the United States.

“If it was not for America, I probably would be dead long ago,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Thinh Huynh, the senior enlisted advisor of 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. “If I didn’t escape, my life wouldn’t be like this.”


Born in a small village in Southern Vietnam, Huynh and his siblings lived most of their youth in poverty fighting for survival daily.

“We were so poor that we used to watch people eat,” he said. “We were barely eating. We would eat only two or three times a week.”

While recalling the struggles he faced growing up during post-Vietnam War conditions, the infantryman relates to images of children suffering from chronic malnutrition.

Newly-released memoir ‘Once a Warrior’ is a raw and compelling journey of purpose

Command Sgt. Maj. Thinh Huynh, the senior enlisted advisor of 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, prepares to conduct pre-jump training during Operation Devil Storm at Green Ramp, Fort Bragg, N.C., July 17, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Alleea Oliver)

“When I see those TV commercials where they show the kids that have bloated bellies, to me, that was how I grew up in Vietnam at that time,” he said.

Huynh believes the Vietnam War, along with other wars, determined the outcome of his family’s future. Before the war, they were rice farmers and after the war they were forced to share their harvest with the communists, he said.

“Not only that, but they took away our home,” he said.

It was then that his family decided to escape Vietnam in hopes of a better life. Packed like sardines in a tiny fishing boat, Huynh and his family sailed across the South China Sea.

“I looked at old slave-boat drawings and I would compare us to that,” he said. “We were all packed in tight with no space to spare.”

Being hungry, thirsty and tired for an extensive amount of time altered the other passengers’ character.

“When people think they are about to die, they will do just about anything to survive,” Huynh said. “This brought out some of the worse behavior from people that I ever witnessed.”

Huynh said he observed a lot of things that kids shouldn’t have seen. “I saw greed, fear and anger,” he said. “Some people were so greedy they would drink as much water as they could while the rest of us had about a shot glass per day.”

After ten days of sharing the small space with 86 others, they arrived at a refugee camp on Pulau Bidong Island. Huynh’s hope finally had became his reality.

Newly-released memoir ‘Once a Warrior’ is a raw and compelling journey of purpose

Command Sgt. Maj. Thinh Huynh, the senior enlisted advisor of 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, holds a static line while conducting pre-jump training during Operation Devil Storm at Green Ramp, Fort Bragg, N.C., July 17, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Alleea Oliver)

“One of the happiest days of my life was the day I escaped out of Vietnam,” he said. “I didn’t know if I was going to make it or not, but I was happy and very excited.”

Huynh and his family lived in the camp for nearly two years before coming to the United States, where he learned how to read and write, and studied America’s culture.

On Sept. 28, 1989, Huynh and his family moved from the refugee camp to a small town in Iowa.

Being interested in the military throughout grade school, he chose to focus his first American homework project on the U.S. Army.

At the age of 22, Huynh joined the U.S. Army in 1996, but waited to tell his loved ones because of his fear of disappointing his mother.

“When I joined the Army, I didn’t tell my parents until two days before I went to basic,” he said.

“My mom was really upset, because I was in college at the time. Nobody wanted their kid to escape out of Vietnam and go through all that just to join the military. “

In spite of their fears, he believed there wasn’t anything better than serving the country he now calls home.

“Ever since I was in the refugee camp, I wanted to be a U.S soldier,” he said. “Every day I would say, I need to be in the Army. So that’s what I did. I joined the Army. I don’t have any regrets.”

Twenty one years and six combat deployments later, the paratrooper says he’s gained resilience, honor and a profound love for the United States.

Although he has led many soldiers, Huynh never predicted he would become a command sergeant major within the 82nd Airborne Division.

“I never had the goal of being a command sergeant major,” he said. “My goals were to always take care of my soldiers. Now that I’m a command sergeant major of an Airborne Infantry battalion in the 82nd, I’m enjoying every minute of it. It is such an honor to be in a unit that is filled with so much history, pride, tradition and some of the best soldiers and leaders in the Army.”

According to his youngest sister, Thanh Huynh, he always possessed the qualities and had the desire to be a soldier.

“The characteristics that helped him become a command sergeant major are leadership, loyalty, initiative and courageousness,” she said. “Growing up, that’s all he ever wanted to be.”

At a young age, he demonstrated selfless service by putting Thanh first in every situation. “When we would come across a river while going fishing, he would always make sure I got across safely by finding anything that would float because I can’t swim,” she said.

Huynh believes his experiences in Vietnam developed his gratitude toward the freedoms he has as a U.S. citizen.

“I would never take America, or the freedom I have here, for granted,” he said. “I know what it’s like growing up without freedom [and] fearing for your life on a daily basis.”

Nearly 30 years ago, Huynh left Vietnam and found a place he could call home.

“I realized once I set foot in this country, that this was now my country,” he said. “I was born in
Vietnam, but I escaped. America is now my country.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Spouses create safe haven for survivors of sex trafficking

Founded and led by military families, The Safe House Project (SHP) is a nonprofit dedicated to empowering victims of human trafficking by providing them a place to call home.

The group is focused on the development of safe houses for survivors of sex trafficking. Its 2030 mission is to eradicate child sex trafficking in America by strengthening networks.


Human trafficking is a global issue that affects roughly 40.3 million people and roughly 300,000 American children each year. Less than 1% of those victims will be rescued. And, if they are lucky enough to be rescued, what happens to them?

Thinking big

“In 2018, there were less than 100 beds in special care homes [in the U.S.],” Brittany Dunn, a Navy spouse and co-founder of SHP, said.

Without a place to go, many victims are turned over to the foster care system, juvenile detentions or mental institutions, with some even electing to return to their captors.

According to the US Department of Justice, finding adequate and appropriate emergency, transitional, and long-term housing is often the biggest service-related challenge that [human trafficking] task forces face.

Dunn, along with SHP co-founders and fellow Navy spouses Kristi Wells and Vicki Tinnel, began researching ways they could fill the gap. Rather than start a small non-profit organization focused on helping their local community, they thought big.

SHP accelerates safe house development through providing education, resources, funding and government contacts to local nonprofits who seek to establish safe houses within their local communities. These individual safe houses provide specialized counseling and resources to help victims get out of the cycle of abuse. By adopting a business-like organizational structure, SHP partners do not have to work in isolation to solve a problem. They are part of a larger network and better able to solve big-picture problems.

“What most people see as a disadvantage, moving around constantly, we’ve been able to use that to our advantage,” Dunn said. “A majority of our volunteers across the U.S. are military families. That creates networks that most people do not have as a natural resource.”

Newly-released memoir ‘Once a Warrior’ is a raw and compelling journey of purpose

Many survivors find art therapy to be an important part of processingtheir past. Art allows them to express their pain, while also helping them find their wings.

Why is this so hard?

Like other national problems, sex trafficking issues are often complicated by the division of power between local, state and federal government. If a victim is rescued in a state that does not have an active safe house, SHP will attempt to have them transferred to a neighboring state that can provide the resources they need.

While this is the ideal model, according to Dunn, some CPS [Child Protective Services] don’t want to see their dollars flow out of state.

“That is where education and awareness come in,” she said.

Victim reintegration from a stable treatment environment back into the “real world” must be strategic. Without proper planning, victims could easily run into former “johns” and reenter the cycle of abuse. The reason safe houses are so essential is because victims have specialized needs and many shelters do not have the resources or government mandate to help them.

“There is a need domestically for improved victim services, trauma-informed support, better data on the prevalence and trends of human trafficking,” Congressman Richard Hudson, R-N.C., said at a Safe House Project’s Freedom Requires Action event held earlier this year. Hudson, a cosponsor of the 2019 Put Trafficking Victims First Act, hopes this legislation will “provide stakeholders — from law enforcement to prosecutors to service providers to government officials — with the guidance and information they need to better serve victims of trafficking.”

Newly-released memoir ‘Once a Warrior’ is a raw and compelling journey of purpose

Congressman Richard Hudson, R-N.C. was a guest speaker at the Safe House Project’s Freedom Requires Action event in January 2020 event held in the U.S. Capitol building. Hudson is also cosponsor of the 2019 Put Trafficking Victims First Act

The victims

The majority of trafficked children are not victims of a snatch and grab.

“We live under a perception that our kids are safer because they are in a first world country, but they aren’t. It is the harsh reality,” Dunn said. “It just looks different. Instead of having a red-light district in Thailand, you have kids being recruited on Fortnite or being approached peer-to-peer in schools.”

Every time a child is exposed to sexually-explicit content in conversations, on television or online, underage sex becomes normalized. For some, abusive acts do not feel like the crimes and victims do not feel like they are being victimized.

“Child sex trafficking is a difficult subject to talk about but raising awareness and talking about it is the first step in solving it,” Ria Story, Tedx speaker, author and survivor leader, said.

Newly-released memoir ‘Once a Warrior’ is a raw and compelling journey of purpose

Safe House Project and Coffee Beanery are teaming up to raise awareness in coffee shops across America. Advocates also marked their hands in red to support the #EndItMovement.

See something. Say something. Do something.

According to Dunn, “any epidemic has two sides to eradication. Prevention and treatment.” She encourages everyone to look for the problems that may lie under the surface.

In addition to providing safe houses, SHP has trained over 6,000 military personnel to recognize and report instances of sex trafficking and hope to more than double this number by the end of 2020. And for those who cannot attend an official training, SHP offers online tools (https://www.safehouseproject.org/sex-trafficking-statistics).

For more information or to donate to SHP, visit: https://www.safehouseproject.org/donate

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army colonel will launch into space on moon landing’s 50th anniversary

Fifty years after Neil Armstrong said, “One small leap for man, one giant leap for mankind,” during the historic Apollo 11 moon landing, one American soldier will take the next “giant leap” into space.

Col. Andrew Morgan, astronaut and Army emergency physician, is counting down to his launch for a nine-month mission aboard the International Space Station, July 20, 2019 — the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Morgan, a Special Forces battalion surgeon with more than 20 years of military service, is the first Army Medical Corps officer to be selected as an astronaut.


Along with his crewmates, Morgan is scheduled to arrive at the ISS six hours after blasting off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, where he will serve as a flight engineer for Expedition 60, 61, and 62.

“It is a tremendous honor to launch on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission,” Morgan said during an interview Monday from Star City, Russia. “The entire crew of Expedition 60 has been entrusted with being the torch bearers of the next generation of space exploration.”

Newly-released memoir ‘Once a Warrior’ is a raw and compelling journey of purpose

With St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow’s Red Square providing the backdrop, Expedition 60 crewmember Col. Andrew Morgan, NASA astronaut and Army emergency physician, poses June 28, 2019, as part of traditional pre-launch activities.

(Photo courtesy of Beth Weissinger)

He added there is no better way to commemorate the achievements of Apollo 11 than with a mission to space with an international crew.

It will be Morgan’s first space mission. His crew members include Alexander Skvortsov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and Luca Parmitano, an Italian astronaut from the European Space Agency.

Morgan and his crewmates will facilitate research on various projects, including mining minerals in the Solar System, looking into methods for engineering plants to grow better on Earth, and examining cells from Parkinson’s patients in zero gravity to better understand neurodegenerative diseases, according to a NASA press statement.

Morgan joined NASA as a member of the 2013 astronaut class, and was assigned his specific flight 18 months ago.

However, according to Morgan, he is a soldier first.

During the space mission, Morgan plans to pull from his military experience, where he is certified as a military flight surgeon and special operations diving medical officer.

Newly-released memoir ‘Once a Warrior’ is a raw and compelling journey of purpose

Army Astronaut Col. Drew Morgan, NASA Detachment, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, receives the oath of office during an underwater promotion ceremony in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory.

(NASA Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory photo)

“I am a sum of my experiences,” Morgan said. “The Army has been a critical part of my experiences since the very beginning.”

Where he is today is because of the Army, he added.

In 1996, while a cadet at West Point, Morgan, along with his team, earned the national collegiate title for competitive skydiving. His military career also includes time with the Army’s “Golden Knights” demonstration parachuting team.

Skydiving is a “core part” of who I am, Morgan said. He added the “calculated risk taking” and entrusting his life with team members parachuting laid the foundation he needed to become an astronaut.

Shortly after parachuting, he became the battalion surgeon for the 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), also known as the “Desert Eagles.”

After three years serving on flight status, combat dive, and airborne status with the Desert Eagles, he was selected for a strategic operations assignment in the Washington, D.C., area, according to his NASA biography.

Newly-released memoir ‘Once a Warrior’ is a raw and compelling journey of purpose

Col. Andrew Morgan.

(NASA)

“I’m a soldier, a physician, and an astronaut,” Morgan said. “I made the decision to be a soldier when I was 18, and I am very, very proud of that.”

There are a lot of similarities between military deployments and being an astronaut, he said, including time apart from his family.

Morgan’s family are no strangers to deployments. The astronaut has deployed multiple times with the Special Forces in direct combat support operations to Afghanistan, Africa, and Iraq.

Married for nearly 20 years and a father of four, Morgan said his family is ready for the upcoming mission.

They understand the makeup of the mission, he said, and “we are all in this together.”

“I want to make everybody proud,” Morgan added. “I want to accomplish my mission with a team that’s highly effective. If I can accomplish all of that and come home safely to my family, then mission accomplished.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Mrs. Missouri 2019 is an Army spouse

Chelsea George of Waynesville, or more recently known as Mrs. Missouri, is a fan of adventures.

Her husband, Capt. Tony George, currently serves at Fort Leonard Wood. He is the same way, she said, and with being part of a military family, she’s had quite the journey.

“My family, we’re currently on a quest to see all 50 states,” she said. “Every time we got orders somewhere, we were excited about the adventure.”

Her family first moved to the area for six months in 2013 during her husband’s Captains Career Course.

She said adjusting to the difference in regional lifestyle was difficult, but social connections made the transition easier.


“I think it’s really important to get plugged in with different groups, whether it’s volunteering or joining a club, because it can be kind of slow at first,” she said.

Out of her desire to integrate into the surrounding community, she was introduced to the Mrs. Missouri pageant, which she would win six years later after several back-to-back moves and returning to Fort Leonard Wood.

Chelsea George

www.youtube.com

“It was a really good way to meet friends when I moved to a different state,” she said. “That was what initially got me into it, but it (also) gave (me) a platform to speak about things that are important to (me).”

Her platform was a choice riddled with emotions from years past, she said. To Chelsea George, there are few more important causes than skin cancer prevention.

“Ten years ago this year, I had my uncle Jamie pass away from melanoma,” she said.

He was 42 years old.

“It was five months from the day he was diagnosed to the day he died,” she added. “He had a big part in raising me.”

Because of her single mother’s working hours and pursuing a doctorate, she said, she spent several nights a week at her uncle’s house.

“He was this big, huge 6-foot 7-inch police officer in an area that was kind of rough, a suburb of Dayton, Ohio, where I lived,” she said. “To me, (he) was my hero, and nothing could touch him. (He) couldn’t be defeated.”

“Then, to see this terrible disease take him so quickly, it’s definitely something that really molded me and changed me going into adulthood,” Chelsea George said.

She was 19 years old.

“The phrase ‘grief is a process’ is definitely not a lie,” she said. “For a long time, I really couldn’t even talk about it without being super emotional.”

George was previously a licensed cosmetologist, and even though she wasn’t vocal about her platform yet, she volunteered to assist cancer patients who wanted to “look good (and) feel better.”

“Women who have cancer (would) come in and get a makeover,” she said. “You (would) teach them how to deal with things like losing eyebrows, how to apply makeup to cover that, how to pick a wig that’s best for (them).”

Newly-released memoir ‘Once a Warrior’ is a raw and compelling journey of purpose

Chelsea George.

“It wasn’t melanoma-specific, because I knew I wanted to help (all) people with cancer, but I wasn’t ready to talk about my uncle Jamie and his story,” she added.

George would later graduate with a degree in exercise science and begin working at the Missouri University of Science and Technology Wellness Department. This education, coupled with a natural maturing in the grief process, she said, allowed her to open up about her hero.

“I finally got to the point where I could talk to people about it,” she said. “Working in the field of prevention specifically kind of led me to realize, ‘I can take what I know about prevention work and put it toward this thing that’s super important to me, and hopefully make the smallest bit of difference.'”

Bringing light to melanoma prevention and education carried her to the competition where she would ultimately be crowned Mrs. Missouri.

Even on stage, she said, it’s still a sensitive subject.

“I think there were 5 judges, and I cried with 4 of them,” she said. “Sometimes, it’s still hard to talk about, but it’s important to talk about. Knowing how important the message is, (even) if I stumble over my words, that’s okay, as long as the message gets out.”

The next year will prove to be a significant one for George as she advocates for her cause, celebrates her 10th wedding anniversary and competes for Mrs. United States in Las Vegas in August 2019.

“She worked so hard not only for the pageant but she’s worked on her education, getting her bachelor’s degree and working on her master’s degree, she’s holding down a full-time job and parenting two kids,” Tony George said. “I’m proud of her for all the work she’s done.”

The last Mrs. Missouri contestant to win the title of Mrs. United States was Aquillia Vang in 2012, a Waynesville resident at the time, and military spouse, whose husband, Maj. Neng Vang, was stationed at Fort Leonard Wood.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

First naval aviators graduate new USAF pilot training program

The first two student naval aviators graduated from the U.S. Air Force’s Pilot Training Next (PTN) program at Randolph Air Force Base (AFB) just outside of San Antonio, Aug. 29, 2019.

The PTN program is a course of instruction designed to train military pilots at a lower cost, in a shorter amount of time, and with a higher level of proficiency leveraging emerging technologies to create a dynamic training environment.

The PTN program individualizes training, adjusting to each student pilot’s strengths and weaknesses. It integrates virtual reality (VR), advanced biometrics, artificial intelligence (AI), and immersive training devices (ITD) with traditional methods of learning.


“The most appealing part of this program is we step away from the common denominator or one-size-fits-all training that has to be done on a certain timeline,” Det. 24 Commander U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Ryan Riley said. “With PTN we have been able to focus more on competencies and the focus of the individual student. We tailor the training to you, and that is a very different mindset shift and that is what I am most excited about.”

Newly-released memoir ‘Once a Warrior’ is a raw and compelling journey of purpose

A T-6A Texan II aircraft prepares to conduct a tough-and-go landing on Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st. Lt. Pawel Puczko)

Navy instructors selected Ensigns Charles Hills and Seth Murphy-Sweet for the PTN program in lieu of the standard Navy Primary Flight Training phase. This joint training effort is a step toward integrating emerging technologies into Navy’s flight training curriculum. Now Hill and Murphy-Sweet are ready to move forward to the advanced stage of flight training with the Navy’s Training Air Wing 2 at Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas.

“I think a big thing with this program was the ability to utilize the VR, get the experience and pacing down for each flight realtime,” Hill said. “This benefited all the students – being able to chair fly while being able to see the whole flight rather than to have to use your imagination. This helped in getting the motor skills while we were able test it out in VR and see how the exact input corresponds to a correct output.”

The relatively new program is being improved with each iteration and allows a more tailored approach to learning in comparison to traditional flight training from the instructor’s perspective. Instructors use a collaborative learning environment to evaluate and analyze students and subsequently make corrections and improvements.

Newly-released memoir ‘Once a Warrior’ is a raw and compelling journey of purpose

Ensign Charles Hill (left) and Ensign Seth Murphy-Sweet stand with their graduating Pilot Training Next (PTN) class on Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st. Lt. Pawel Puczko)

PTN First Assignment Instructor Pilot (FAIP) U.S. Air Force Capt. Jake Pothula shared his views on just how the program differs from the traditional syllabus.

“I went through traditional training,” he said. “The biggest difference with the PTN program is the fact that we aren’t tied to a very rigid, unforgiving syllabus, so students have the ability to choose their own training or have it be molded by instructor pilots who have the students’ individual best interest in mind. In traditional Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) you get more flying hours, but PTN students get a lot more simulator time. The students probably get three times as many hours in the sim than a traditional UPT student would. It’s something they could do at their own pace and choose what they want to do. I would say that these students have a very different set of skills. They excel at understanding their place in a larger mission and understanding what their aircraft is going to do especially in the cases of large field or large force exercises. I feel they definitely have a better grasp on more abstract concept such as mission management.”

Integrating new technologies such as ITDs allows students to gain experience using real-world scenarios. Students can not only fly the strict patterns and procedures they learn from their books, but also integrate air traffic control decondition as well as other aircraft.

“I think the unique and most exciting aspect with where PTN is going is the partnership with the Navy and Air Force,” Riley said. “With this partnership the Navy has loaned us eight T-6B Texan II aircraft. The manufacturer modified the avionics to what we call the T-6B plus, which has software specifically built for the PTN program mission.”

Newly-released memoir ‘Once a Warrior’ is a raw and compelling journey of purpose

Commander Air Force Recruiting Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt speaking at the Pilot Training Next (PTN) class graduation on Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st. Lt. Pawel Puczko)

Adding Navy instructors and students to the PTN program brings a unique perspective since training in the T-6B Texan II is new to the Air Force. VR simulators add a new and exciting element to the PTN program and draws parallels to the gaming industry, which could help attract new accessions.

Today the Navy’s Primary Flight Training phase uses simulators and VR trainer devices to augment the traditional curriculum, which allow students better familiarity with aircraft controls and their areas of operations. Technology within fleet aircraft and the aviation community at large is constantly advancing, and as we move forward simulators and ITDs will play an increasingly significant role in the way we train our military aviators.

CNATRA, headquartered in Corpus Christi, trains the world’s finest combat quality aviation professionals, delivering them at the right time, in the right numbers, and at the right cost to a naval force that is where it matters, when it matters.

This article originally appeared on United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These 5 ways to tell if your boss sucks apply to military leadership, too

We tend to see leadership as a glamorous and desirable career destination, but the crude reality is that most leaders have pretty dismal effects on their teams and organizations. Consider that 70% of employees are not engaged at work, but it’s their boss’ main task to engage and inspire them, helping them leave aside their selfish interests to work as a collective unit with others. Instead, managers are the number one reason why people quit jobs. As the old saying goes, people join companies but quit their bosses.

As I highlight in my latest book, passive job-seeking, self-employment, and entrepreneurship rates have been on the rise even in places where macroeconomic conditions are strong and there is no shortage of career opportunities for people. For instance, in the US, there are now 6 million job seekers for 7 million job openings, but people appear to be disenchanted with the idea of traditional employment, mostly because it may require putting up with a bad boss.


To be sure, there are many competent leaders out there, but academic estimates suggest that the baseline for incompetent leadership is at least 65% (note this figure is based on analyzing mostly public or large companies), and, even more shockingly, there appears to be a strong negative correlation between the money we spend or waste on leadership-development interventions and the confidence people have in their leaders.

Newly-released memoir ‘Once a Warrior’ is a raw and compelling journey of purpose

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is an international authority in psychological profiling.

(Flickr photo by Bret Simmons)

An obvious question this sad state of affairs evokes is how one can work if his or her boss is incompetent. Clearly, it is always tempting to blame our manager for our unfavorable work experiences, but it may also be the case that the problem is us rather than them, with recent research indicating that all aspects of job satisfaction are influenced as much by employees’ own personalities and values as by the actual (objective) working circumstances they are in.

The way we experience our boss is no exception. Here’s a quick five-point checklist to work out what your manager’s probable level of competence might be.

1. He or she is generally liked, or at least well-regarded, by his or her direct reports

This would be consistent with the mainstream scientific view that upward feedback (feedback from those who work for the manager) is the best single measure of a manager’s performance. Conversely, how managers are seen by their own managers is mostly a measure of politics, likability, or managing “up.” If the answer is no, the probability that your boss is incompetent increases dramatically.

2. His or her team tends to achieve strong results compared with similar/competing teams (internally and externally)

Note this may happen even if the answer to question one is no, though generally speaking, both points are positively intertwined: People perform better when they like their bosses, and they like their bosses more when they perform better. Thus, if the answer is no, then your boss is probably not that competent.

3. He or she frequently provides you with constructive and critical developmental feedback to improve your performance

And does he or she do it for others in your team, too? If the answer is no, then chances are your boss is less than competent, as one of the fundamental tasks of any manager is to improve their team members’ performance by providing accurate and helpful feedback on their potential and performance.

Newly-released memoir ‘Once a Warrior’ is a raw and compelling journey of purpose

A Ranger Assessment Course instructor (right), informs the class leader that he needs to improve his leadership skills at the Nevada Test and Training Range.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Thomas Spangler)

4. He or she knows you well and has an accurate picture of your potential, including your strengths and weaknesses

No bosses can do their jobs well unless they are fully aware of what their team members can and can’t do, which is a necessary precondition to assigning each employee to tasks and roles in which their skills and personality are best deployed. After all, talent is by and large personality in the right place. If you think your boss doesn’t know you, then he or she is less likely to be competent.

5. He or she seems truly coachable and continues to improve to the point of getting better on the job all the time

Just like your employability depends on your own ability (and willingness) to continue to develop key career skills and learn things that broaden your career potential, your boss should also be finding ways to get better. This means not just displaying the necessary humility and curiosity to learn — including from his or her own employees and customers — but also finding ways to keep their dark side or undesirable tendencies in check. In short, does your boss show self-awareness and the drive to get better, irrespective of whether that actually advances his or her own career? If the answer is no, then your boss has limited potential.

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is an international authority in psychological profiling, talent management, leadership development, and people analytics. He is the chief talent scientist at Manpower Group, cofounder of Deeper Signals and Metaprofiling, and professor of business psychology at both University College London and Columbia University. He has previously held academic positions at New York University and the London School of Economics and lectured at Harvard Business School, Stanford Business School, London Business School, Johns Hopkins, IMD, and INSEAD. He was also the CEO at Hogan Assessment Systems. Tomas has published nine books and over 130 scientific papers (h index 58), making him one of the most prolific social scientists of his generation.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 reasons Fort Polk is paradise on earth or… pick your own expletive

Deep in the swamp – or what feels like the swamp at least –  lies a training ground whose memories haunt your dreams forever. What pops up when your headlamp goes off? Why does the ground look like it’s moving? It’s all in here… it’s all Fort Polk. 

The itsy-bitsy swarm of spiders 

It’s night and you are patrolling through the Vietnam-like jungles of Fort Polk in search of the elusive “G Man.” The humidity is so thick you could cut it with a knife and as you scan the ground with your headlamp, tiny flashes of light shimmer back at you from the grass, bushes, and trees that surround you. No those aren’t water droplets and you didn’t suddenly walk into a diamond mine. 

They are spider eyes and there are hundreds of them across every inch of ground within “The Box.” In Louisiana, there exist such species of spiders, like the massive Banana Spider who live to haunt you forever. According to local wildlife guides, they’re likely hiding or in webs between trees which wouldn’t affect you unless you’re doing such things like digging foxholes, fighting positions, or traipsing through the wilderness in the dark. All things which in fact, you will be doing in the box while training there. Good thing you packed a flame thrower just for this instance.

It’s raining it’s pouring it’s always *bleeping* raining 

The first few days after arriving at Fort Polk for training usually involve unpacking Conexes, unloading vehicles at the rail yard and attending training classes. The weather during this period is likely sunny and warm, giving a false sense of hope that perhaps it’s not so bad here after all. Then at the precise moment, your unit enters the box, the monsoon hits. 

With an average yearly rainfall around 60 inches, it’s nearly double the national average. Your hooch is in mortal danger of becoming swept away (with your body in it) when the puddle quickly becomes a raging river. 

Beware of the “swamp ass” 

You wake up- you’re sweating. You go to sleep-sweating. You stand still and you’re sweating. Not only is it embarrassing, but it’s stinky. This particular form of “booty-dew” is nearly impossible to solve since it’s likely you only rucked in with a few extra shirts or socks, which are likely still wet from last night’s flash flood that swept through the camp. 

Gators, mosquitos, and horses- oh my! 

Fort Polk is home to a host of species we’re all terrified of. Ever parachuted into a cloud of fog to see nothing, but hear the pounding of hooves coming straight for you? Welcome to Fort Polk. Wondering what that fast-moving cloud is that covered the sliver of sunshine? It’s mosquitos. They’re so bad down here that slapping yourself in the face is not only “normal” but it’s a tactical strategy. You’re not crazy, they are. Another fun fact about this paradise you ask? Louisiana has one of the highest populations of alligators in the U.S. 

So when that nearby flood pond looks like the salvation from “swamp ass” you’ve been looking for, think again. If you’re lucky enough to avoid the real-life jaws of death, perhaps you should check your ankles after the LT’s suggestion to save time. Leeches are just another of God’s greatest creations awaiting your arrival to Fort Polk. 

Finally, the Conex is packed, the vehicles loaded and you’re on the march out. You’ve survived. There’s something special waiting for you…next year’s rotation back to this paradise. 

MIGHTY CULTURE

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Numerous respondents reported dissatisfaction with the professionalism of the movers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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