Veterans seldom live a life of regrets. We live well and we’ve made Uncle Sam proud. One of the few things that makes us wish we could do things differently, however, is a lack of photos from while we were still in.
This can happen for a variety of reasons. Maybe operations security prevented us from taking that awesome photo to use as our profile pic on Facebook. Or maybe we just didn’t have a camera handy to show our family exactly how we lived. Maybe we just didn’t like taking photos, but now we want the proof to back up our humble-brags.
Whatever the reason, those of us who are out still hold dear the handful of photos we took. If you’re still in, don’t make the same mistakes. Snap a few photos of these moments — if permitted, of course.
The boot AF photo
You don’t want to be pinned as the most boot guy in the unit because you borrowed two of your buddies’ M240-Bs just to take a picture of you rocking one in each arm. Everyone in the unit will call you a dumb*ss boot, but that same photo’s going to turn a lot of heads from civilians who don’t know any better.
The more outrageous the better. Who knows? Maybe the photo will help back up your “no sh*t, there I was” story that is 100%, totally not embellished.
Relaxing in the living conditions photo
Those who haven’t served will never really understand what you mean when you say that, for a while there, the only pillow you had to rest your head on at night was a pile of rocks under the Humvee. Nor can they really grasp that the only place you could handle your business was in porta-john/sauna for the duration of your deployment.
These photos will definitely come in handy when you’re trying to shoot down your civilian coworker that brags about how “hard” it was when they went camping for the weekend.
Depending on your unit, taking photos while you’re outside the wire is either a slap on the wrist or a UCMJ-worthy offense. If you’re smart about it, however, you can still manage to grab a photo of you doing what you tell everyone you did.
Because you run the risk of getting NJPed over a single photo, it’s not recommended that you take it when you’re in the heat of things. That’s stupid — get back to the fight. But a quick photo of you while you’re patrolling through a bazaar shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
You don’t need a photo of that random award ceremony where you almost passed out because you forgot that locking your knees was a bad thing, but you might want to look back on a photo of you being promoted or receiving an award. Those are proud moments you can hang on your wall years.
Even if it’s a minor award or your promotion from E-1 private to E-2 private, it’s worth remembering.
Dress uniform photos
You can tell a lot about a troop’s career just by looking at their ribbon rack. If you know what each ribbon means or how they’re typically earned, you know everything about that person. There’s no better way to showcase your entire military career in one moment than the final moment you don your dress uniform.
The ribbons and medals themselves might not mean a whole lot, but the stories behind them do.
No one wants to get the squad together and take an obviously staged photo, but that picture will end up being, by far, the most valuable.
The sad reality is that some day, not everyone in the unit will be around to share stories. Having that one photo of you all together, happy, will mean the world to you later on.
If you’re still in and you’ve taken a few of these or if you’re out and you have a couple good ones, tell us! We’d love to see them.
FORT GORDON, Ga. – Fort Gordon honored Black History Month with a command program Monday in Darling Hall. The program was hosted by Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center and broadcasted live on Facebook to help maximize attendance.
The theme for this year’s observance is “Honor, Remember, Inspire.”
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Phillip Brashear of the 80th Training Command, a U.S. Army Reserve unit based in Richmond, Virginia, served as the program’s guest speaker. Brashear is the third-born son of the late Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Carl Brashear, who is the subject of the well-renowned film “Men of Honor,” and whose role is played by actor Cuba Gooding Jr.
Phillip said he likes to share his father’s story in hopes of inspiring others to overcome all adversity.
Born in 1931 to a family of sharecroppers in Kentucky, Phillip said that his father faced many obstacles during his lifetime. But Carl refused to let them get in the way of setting out to accomplish what he believed God had intended for him.
With barely an eighth grade level education, Carl enlisted in the Navy in 1948 at age 17.
“Race, poverty, and illiteracy were three things that my father had to face before he finally joined the Navy to try to do better in his life … three things still affect every country today,” Phillip said.
But his obstacles were far from over. Even among the ranks, racism was rampant. Being a Black man during that time meant career paths in the military were very limited. But Carl set his sights on becoming a diver and succeeded in 1954, making him the first African American Navy diver.
About 12 years into his career, Phillip’s father was involved in a military operation off the coast of Spain where he was sent in to assist with bomb recovery. During the operation, Carl suffered an injury that later required his lower left leg be amputated. The injured diver could have decided that was the end of his military career, but he refused. Instead, he endured months of pain and rehabilitation, determined to prove to the Navy he could still perform his duties.
“At any point, my father could’ve said, ‘This is too much for one man to bear,’ but my father wasn’t built like that, and he wasn’t going to take ‘no’ for an answer,” Phillip said. “My father said, ‘You know what? What’s for me is for me, and what God told me I could accomplish, I can accomplish despite.’”
The following year, in 1967, Carl returned, making him the first amputee to return to active-duty after the loss of a leg.
“If the Navy saw any fault in his abilities, the Navy was going to retire him,” he said. “He struggled and he endured, and he stayed in shape so that he could do what he had to do.”
“He knew in his heart that he didn’t want to quit, and he knew he had faith and God on his side; he overcame,” Phillip said of his father. “We don’t have the right to quit. No matter how hard we think we’ve got it, there’s always somebody who’s got it worse. Always.”
Phillip showed photographs to the audience of his father during physical rehabilitation. The images illustrated some of the obstacles he faced including donning a 300-pound dive suit in harsh conditions, and climbing a metal staircase with weights over his head while wearing dress shoes. Had he slipped and fallen, Phillip believes the Navy would have discharged his father.
In doing so, Phillip said that his father proved “nobody can take your goals away from you.” It was one countless life lessons he carries with him and shares with others.
Carl continued his service as a re-certified Navy diver until 1979, when he retired. Although the senior Brashear received an honorable discharge, Phillip said that his father admitted to having an alcohol addiction and sought help prior to his discharge – yet another hurdle he was able to overcome.
“Obstacle in the way? Deal with it. Move it, knock it down, go around it, obliterate it,” Phillip said. “It’s not a sin to get knocked down. It’s a sin to stay down.”
The elder Brashear passed away in 2006, but his legacy lives on in the stories his family shares and in multiple physical forms throughout Kentucky, such as the Carl Brashear Memorial Bridge in Tonieville, Kentucky and a marble statue in the Kentucky State Capitol Rotunda.
Reflecting on what Phillip shared, Col. Carlene A. S Blanding, EAMC commander, said it occurred to her that people “have no reason to not succeed.”
“It’s about action, and I think CW5 Brashear has laid the path of his father’s story for all of us,” Blanding said. “We have great opportunities, and it is our responsibility to make sure we capitalize on those opportunities.”
More than 250 new Virginia Beach City Public School (VBCPS) secondary teachers (those who teach children between the ages of 11 and 18) and school counselors participated in scenario-based training at Tallwood High School in Virginia Beach, Aug. 22- 23, 2018, which afforded them a unique opportunity to learn about and experience firsthand some of the challenges military families face during a permanent change of station (PCS) move.
The training, titled “The PCS Challenge – Building Empathy for Transitioning Students,” engaged the participants by simulating a military PCS move in an effort to help them better understand the lives of military families and helped to generate empathy toward transitioning military-affiliated students. Local Hampton Roads installation school liaison officers (SLOs) provided intrinsic value and credibility to the training by ensuring the information presented was both timely and relevant with regard to military policies, culture and trends. Throughout the scenarios, the SLOs donned the hats of detailers, Fleet and Family representatives, and various school staff members to test the mettle of the participants. They also provided feedback and expertise in their respective areas to assist the participants when questions or issues came up.
Each participant was given a family assignment and an initial duty station to start. Some were given the role of the service member, others played the role of a spouse, a child, or multiple children if applicable. Of the family units that had multiple children, a least one of those children had special needs and were enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP), which is a mandatory enrollment program that works with other military and civilian agencies to provide comprehensive and coordinated community support, housing, educational, medical, and personnel services to families with special needs.
The training scenarios included military acronyms and jargon, emotional stages of the PCS cycle, a duty station wish list or “dream sheet,” receiving orders for the service member and/or connecting with the Fleet Family Support Center for the spouse, doing a pack out and deciding what items could be taken with the family to the new duty station based on rate/rank and the weight of household goods allotted, choosing specific housing to meet the needs of the family, and deregistering and registering a child/children in a new school. Like a real PCS move, each choice made along the way by the participants caused a potential impact on the service member, the family unit as a whole, and ultimately the child(ren).
Karen Phillips, a School Liaison Officer for Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek, plays the role of a detailer for simulated military service members during a scenario exercise as part of The PCS Challenge ” Building Empathy for Transitioning Students training that was offered by the Military Support Program for Virginia Beach Public Schools at Tallwood High School in Virginia Beach, Aug. 23, 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by David Todd)
One of the biggest obstacles military families face during a PCS move is not having enough time to prepare, especially when faced with the various items required by the school districts for student enrollment. The training scenarios amplified the stress levels by giving the participants a very short period of time to make major family life decisions.
“Because this training was interactive and simulated, each participant actually became a member of a military family,” explained Debbie Patch, the Regional School Liaison Officer who assisted VBCPS with the training. “Each participant was given characteristics with their new military family role and each participant played their role accordingly. The groups made ‘family’ decisions based on their unique situation. It is my hope that this training provided the participants with an experience that will give them a greater awareness of the unique challenges military students face as a result of their parent’s service to our country. I believe that once someone has experienced this training, there can be no doubt that all military children ‘serve too.'”
Although many of the participants did not have a background of working with military families, some were military spouses new to the area and were able to offer some hands-on experience to help their peers.
“Their life experiences make it real for the people in their group,” said Karen Phillips, the SLO for Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek who was one of four SLOs in attendance to assist VBCPS and the teachers during the training. “They are not just hearing from us [SLOs], they are hearing it from people with experience who are sitting right there at the table with them.”
Participants discuss their pack out and family housing selection during a scenario exercise as part of The PCS Challenge ” Building Empathy for Transitioning Students training that was offered by the Military Support Program for Virginia Beach Public Schools at Tallwood High School in Virginia Beach, Aug. 23, 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by David Todd)
The training was originally developed by Army SLOs that work for Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County, Virginia. The collaborative team of SLOs and VBCPS personnel were fortunate to see the training delivered to Northern Virginia school personnel last year and were eager to bring the PCS Challenge to Virginia Beach Schools.
“The ‘PCS Challenge’ was a collaboration that began between Virginia Beach City Public Schools, the Navy Regional Mid-Atlantic School Liaison Officer, and the VBCPS SLOs,” said Natalie Meiggs, the Coordinator of Military Support Programs for Virginia Beach City Public Schools. “An area of support for transitioning military students was identified through a needs assessment that was conducted from a Department of Defense Education Activity [DoDEA] grant called ‘Project GRIT.'”
The basic session of the PCS Challenge took approximately 80 hours to develop and the content in each session is tailored to meet the audience. The sessions range from one to two hours depending on the complexity of the scenarios and the number and type of participants in attendance. Overall, more than 300 hours have been devoted to developing and crafting the program.
Meiggs explained that approximately 25 percent of the school division’s student population is comprised of active duty, military-dependent youth, and noted that VBCPS is committed to providing support, resources and enrichment programs to enhance the educational experiences of those children and their families.
“Our military-connected students transition about every three years,” she explained “So they could possibly attend six to nine schools in their K-12 educational career.”
“The goal of the PCS Challenge training for teachers is to help them understand more about military life and build empathy about the moving process,” said Phillips. “After participating in this interactive session, teachers will better understand the challenges military families face when having to PCS and be inspired to assist in making the transition smoother for their students.”
Debbie Patch, the Regional School Liaison Officer, helps to hand out family assignment packages to participants during The PCS Challenge ” Building Empathy for Transitioning Students training offered by the Military Support Program for Virginia Beach Public Schools at Tallwood High School in Virginia Beach, Aug. 23, 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by David Todd)
VBCPS has further demonstrated their commitment to military families by collaborating with SLOs on various other projects, including “Art of Being a Military Child,” military volunteer opportunities and Navy birthday school outreach, the Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story oyster restoration project, and the 5th Grade STEM LAB Learning Day field trip at NAS Oceana, among others.
Meiggs said she always looks for new ways to improve the training and values the feedback she receives during each session, but emphasizes that military families should contact their respective SLOs prior to PCSing to help navigate the nuisances of school districts and ease the school enrollment process.
“I want to continuously learn from the participants each time the PCS Challenge is completed,” she said. “I am always learning how the training can be improved to increase understanding of the military culture and how I can improve my own practice of supporting our military families. The PCS Challenge is adapted to meet the needs of the audience each time it is delivered.”
Patch said the training is also beneficial for SLOs, who work directly with military families and schools across the Hampton Roads area during the school year, as well as during summer and winter breaks.
“The SLOs work daily with families who face real educational challenges as they move from state to state, and city to city,” she said. “Each state and city have different educational policies and procedures that must be navigated by military families. SLOs have been able to ensure that this training emphasizes to educators that military families’ frame of reference is the previous school’s policies and experiences. Enabling local teachers to understand this mindset helps them to better understand military families and how to support them.”
In addition to the recent training, VBCPS and SLOs have offered similar training to military family life counselors; as well as coordinators, directors, administrators, school counselors, teachers, and leadership teams throughout VBCPS since its inception. Similar training is scheduled to be offered to Chesapeake Public School’s elementary school counselors in September 2018, with secondary school counselors training scheduled later in the year.
The Navy announced updates to uniform policy, grooming standards, uniform item availability and mandatory possession dates for new uniform items in NAVADMIN 075/19, released March 25, 2019.
A command/unit logo shoulder patch is now an option for wear on the left shoulder pocket of the Navy Working Uniform (NWU) Type II and III in place of the Don’t Tread On Me shoulder patch.
Black leather and non-leather gloves can be worn with the black NWU parka fleece liner.
NWU Type III O-6 rank insignia will be available for purchase and optional wear in silver thread starting June 1, 2019, for easier visual recognition and distinction from the E-4 insignia.
Effective June 1, 2019, all enlisted sailors with 12 years of cumulative service in active or drilling reserve time in the Navy or Marine Corps may wear gold rating badges and gold service stripes on dress uniforms in lieu of red rating badges and stripes.
The gold rank insignia of a Boatswain Mate Chief Petty Officer.
Women have the option to wear smooth or synthetic leather flat shoes (flats) in service and service dress uniforms.
Nursing T-shirts may be worn with service uniforms, NWU Type I, II and III and flight suits.
The message provides clarification on the definition and manner of wear for ponytail hairstyles.
Effective immediately, sailors who are assigned to Joint/Unified Commands are authorized to wear the command’s identification badge only during the period of assignment.
Navy Exchange (NEXCOM) uniform stores will provide a free replacement collar if needed to improve the fit of the officer and chief petty officer (CPO) service dress white coat (choker) effective March 1, 2019.
The NAVADMIN announces the completion of the testing and evaluation of the improved female officer and CPO slacks and skirts.
It also provides the schedule for when the NEXCOM Customer Contact Center and Uniform Centers will have slacks and skirts, the Improved Safety Boot (I-Boot 4) and the optional physical training uniform available for purchase.
The dates for when sailors must possess new uniforms and uniform components are listed in the NAVADMIN.
Sailors can ask questions and provide feedback and recommendations on Navy uniforms via the “Ask the Chiefs” email, on the Navy Uniform Matters Office (UMO) website, through MyNavy Portal at https://www.mnp.navy.mil/. Select Professional Resources, U.S. Navy Uniforms and “Ask the Chiefs”. Sailors can also contact UMO via the Navy Uniform App that can be downloaded at the Navy App Locker https://www.applocker.navy.mil/ and the Apple iTunes and Google Play stores.
Read NAVADMIN 075/19 in its entirety for details and complete information on all of the announced uniform changes, updates and guidelines at www.npc.navy.mil.
That sweet, sweet DD-214 can’t come soon enough. You’ve served your country honorably for all those years and now, finally, it’s time to close that chapter of your life. You’ve either got some big plans for your life after service or you’re just planning on winging it. Whatever the case, you’re ready to hang that uniform up for good and move on, into the great unknown.
Not to sound like the exit briefing slideshows that they’ll make you endure, but we’ve got to warn you: You’ve probably got a few misconceptions about what civilian life has in store for you.
Don’t worry about telling everyone you were in the military. We know. We all know.
(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)
“I can just fall back into my old life”
Let’s get the most obvious — yet somewhat depressing — misconception out of the way first: You’ve changed. You’re not the same person that you were when you stepped on that bus to head out to Basic/Boot Camp. And to be entirely honest, you’ve probably grown better for it.
But at the same time, the world didn’t stop spinning while you were gone, and others have changed in your absence — for better or for worse. Your family and your old friends have adapted to you not being around for years. They’ve developed hobbies, relationships, and interests without you, so jumping back in might just feel… odd. Hell, even your old job has carried on in your absence.
It’s not going to be easy, so just ease your way back into civilian life. Accept that the world is different now.
And don’t forget your references. You know your boys back in the military will talk you up.
(Meme via Pop Smoke)
“My skills won’t translate to civilian life…”
Over the years, you’ve perfected the art of putting your mind to tasks and getting them done. By now, your work ethic is probably phenomenal and you’re highly mission oriented. That just so happens to be a skill that every employer wants — but it’s not the only skill they’ll want.
When building a resume, pick aspects of your service and let those shine, too. For example, being an infantry squad leader taught you personnel management skills. Being a medic gave you skills in property accountability and acquisitions. Stuff like that.
If you feel, in the bottom of your heart, that your passion lies in underwater basket-weaving, you be the best f*cking underwater basket-weaver this world has ever seen. Maybe don’t lock yourself into crippling debt to get there, though.
“I’ll be 100% student loan debt free”
One of the key selling points of military life was the GI Bill and the promise of a tuition-free college experience. Now, don’t get me wrong: If you play your cards right, this might be exactly what happens. But know the GI Bill won’t cover your expenses at just any school.
If your plan is to go through a technical school or a smaller college, outstanding. Carry on to the next misconception. If you’ve got your mind set on a specific career path, look into exactly how much assistance the GI Bill can offer you. Then, evaluate if it’s worth taking out a sizable loan to pursue your goals.
If there’s anyone who’s earned the right to chase after their dreams, it’s a veteran who’s given the world their all.
You don’t have to hide all of your military bearing. Just know when to turn it on and off.
(Meme by CONUS Battle Drills)
“Civilian coworkers are going to be garbage”
You’ve spent years knowing that an individual’s failure has consequences for the entire unit. Many civilians don’t have that same kind of all-for-one way of thinking. They’ll see working hard at this job as a stepping stone to something bigger and better down the road. You will encounter blue falcons in the civilian world — but they aren’t all bad.
Many civilians are genuinely good people who just aren’t as loud as we tend to be. Some people legitimately want to help everyone succeed.
Keep the a**holes at an arm’s length, but don’t shut out everyone and adopt some sort of “holier than thou” mentality because of your service. In short, don’t be a civilian blue falcon.
You’ll be the odd duck — but at least your stories are funnier.
(Meme via Shammers United)
“I’ll never find friends like I did in the military…”
The tiny ray of sunshine is that you won’t be alone in this world. Just as you’ll find some co-workers to be good, decent people, you’re sure to find good friends, too. Open up a bit and try to socialize.
And if worst comes to worst and all civilians annoy you, you can always find the nearest VFW or American Legion and hop in for a beer or two. Vets tend to befriend other vets fairly easily.
On October 19, the Navy EOD released its Strategic Plan 2020-2030, its blueprints for the next 10 years. Its leadership is looking to mold the military’s maritime EOD force into one that best supports the U.S., its allies, and partner nations to compete and win in an era of Great Power Competition (GPC).
The Navy EOD’s mission statement is to “eliminate explosive threats so the Fleet and Nation can fight and win — whenever, wherever, and however it chooses.”
This mission statement is to be achieved through:
• Developing the force to win against near-peer competitors and empowered non-state actors. • Expanding our advantage against competitors’ undersea threats. • Capitalizing on our unique ability to counter weapons of mass destruction. • Growing expertise in the exploitation of next-generation weapons systems. • Emboldening allies and partner nation’s capabilities.
In the Strategic Plan, the community of operators internalized 80 years of knowledge and sacrifice to honor the legacy of those who have come before and develop and prepare future generations of the Navy EOD community. With Navy EOD being in its ninth decade of service, it is looking beyond the horizon to chart its future course. Its aim is to remain the world’s premier combat force for eliminating explosive threats.
This is the force’s first major mission update since 1997. The plan was developed to meet the challenges of a changing national security environment and position Navy EOD to best serve its role within the NECF said Rear Adm. Joseph DiGuardo, commander of Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC).
“The Navy Expeditionary Combat Force (NECF) clears the explosive, security, and physical hazards emplaced by our adversaries; secures battlespace for the naval force; builds the critical infrastructure, domain awareness, and logistic capacity to rearm, resupply, and refuel the fleet; protects the critical assets the Navy and the nation need to achieve victory and reinforce blue-water lethality,” DiGuardo said.
NECF is comprised of Navy EOD, the Maritime Expeditionary Security Force, the Naval Construction Force, and diving and salvage units.
“As part of the NECF, our EOD forces play a pivotal role in clearing the explosive hazards in any environment to protect the fleet and Joint Force — from the simplest impediment to the most complex weapon of mass destruction—and build an understanding of our adversary capabilities by exploiting those hazards. Navy EOD is the key to our nation being undeterred by explosive threats,” DiGuardo added.
“The strategic plan ensures Navy EOD supports the NECF by eliminating explosive threats so the fleet, Navy, and nation can fight and win whenever, wherever and however it chooses,” Capt. Oscar Rojas, commodore of the Coronado-based EOD Group (EODGRU) said.
According to the plan, the force’s 1,800 members can also expect an increased emphasis on building their knowledge and capabilities in areas critical to success in a GPC environment. This will include Navy EOD enhancing its expeditionary undersea capabilities by tapping into the cyberspace. The force will pursue unmanned systems (UMS) to access adversary communication networks in order to disrupt, delay, or destroy weapons systems.
Moreover, the plan calls for Expeditionary Mine Countermeasures (ExMCM) companies to test these new systems and software. “The operators using emerging UMS technology are the closest to the challenges. Our strategic plan will empower them to provide us feedback from the tactical level during the capability development process to help accelerate solutions to the ever-evolving threats,” said Rojas.
The Navy EOD community has evolved through the years to face new and troubling threats as they have emerged: Magnetic influence mines in World War II serving as coastal defenses or strategic deterrents. Sea mines blocking the Wonsan Harbor from an amphibious landing during the Korean War. Land and sea mines dotting Vietnam, preventing full maneuverability of American forces. Iranian-emplaced limpet and sea mines targeting both naval and commercial ships in the Arabian Gulf. WMDs during the Cold War and into today.
And nowadays, with non-state actors like violent extremist organizations or lone wolves having easier access to information on how to create and employ improvised explosive devices or chemical and biological weapons Navy EOD’s job has only gotten harder.
“Our strategic plan was designed to guide us in creating a force that can deter adversaries and win in a complex security environment,” said Capt. Rick Hayes, commodore of EODGRU-2. “That is why we dedicated an objective to specifically focus on developing and caring for our Sailors. Our people are our most important asset — they are our weapons system.”
As Hayes said, all the objectives put forward in the 2030 plan are essential to delivering a lethal, resilient, and sustainable Navy EOD force that can be called upon during contingency and crisis operations.
“Realizing this vision will be impossible without the support of everyone in the Navy EOD community. By leveraging their creativity, discipline, and leadership, we will develop a force for 2030 that continues to protect the security and future of the American people,” Hayes added.
Sailors training for the Navy’s explosive ordnance disposal rating must complete the basic EOD diver course at Naval Dive and Salvage Training Center in Panama City, Florida. The Navy EOD training pipeline can take nearly a year to complete and is unique among all other branches for teaching dive capabilities. Navy EOD technicians regularly integrate with special operations forces by regularly working alongside Navy SEALs or Army Special Forces soldiers.
Days after winning the prestigious Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, the excitement had not left John Cruise’s voice.
“The biggest fish I caught before this tournament was an 849-pound giant Atlantic bluefin tuna,” said Cruise, a major in the Marines. “I’ve caught many bluefin in the 600- to 700-pound range over the years, but that marlin is a special breed. What a feat, I’ll leave it at that.”
Cruise, 47, is the captain of the Pelagic Hunter II, a 35-foot outboard. He and mates Riley Adkins and Kyle Kirkpatrick won with a 495.2-pound marlin that they battled for 5½ hours Friday. That catch was only two-tenths of a pound heavier than the second-place fish and earned Cruise’s boat more than $223,000 in winnings.
The Big Rock tournament began June 8 and concluded Saturday in Morehead City, North Carolina. It attracted more than 200 entrants, including Catch 23 — a yacht owned by Michael Jordan. The Hall of Fame basketball player’s crew brought in a 442.3-pound marlin early in the tournament.
The Pelagic Hunter II was one of the smaller boats in the field.
“We have boats up to 85, 90, 100 feet that fish the tournament that have crews of eight or 10 people,” said Crystal Hesmer, the tournament’s executive director. “For a 35-foot boat … to bring the winning fish to the dock is just heartwarming and wonderful.”
Cruise, a major stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, has run a charter-boat company for 12 years. He followed his father, who fought in the Vietnam War, and his uncle into the Marines and has served for 22 years.
Growing up in New Jersey, his love of fishing was sealed about the time he received his first rod when he was 5 years old.
“The buzz has been beyond belief,” Cruise said of winning Big Rock.
The Pelagic Hunter II competed against boats with far wealthier owners, larger crews and access to greater technology. Because of their sheer size, bigger vessels can handle unfavorable weather or ocean conditions better.
Still, despite being a first-time entrant who said he had not fished for marlin before the tournament, Cruise did not lower his crew’s expectations. He told Adkins and Kirkpatrick that he expected to win.
“I don’t play around, man,” he said.
Shortly after the winning marlin hit the lure, Cruise said it jumped between seven and 10 times. The big fish was on the surface, about 50 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean, when another boat almost ran over it. Just as the crew got the marlin close to the boat, it suddenly turned and went deep underneath the water.
The fish came up and went down a few times before the Pelagic Hunter II boated her.
“It was an exciting battle,” Cruise said.
Cruise said his crew lost a much larger fish earlier in the tournament when it snapped the line. They measured the marlin they brought to the docks and knew it did not meet the tournament’s 110-inch requirement to qualify.
They were unsure whether it would exceed the 400-pound minimum until the official weight was announced.
“She looked thick,” Cruise said. “She looked big, but we weren’t sure.
“We were just in shock, and we’re still on Cloud 9. We’re stunned, and we’re enjoying the moment.”
There are a number of potential vulnerabilities in NATO territory if the Cold War ever goes live, but three countries are especially scared of an attack to close the Suwalki Gap, a spot where NATO territory is only 60 miles wide with Belarus on one side, Russia’s Kaliningrad Enclave on the other, and relatively flat ground with little forest or natural defenses in the middle.
These sorts of geographic and political choke points aren’t new. Cold War weapons development was heavily influenced by the Fulda Gap, one of Soviet Russia’s most likely routes of advance if they invaded western Europe. And in World War II, France fell so quickly partially because it had counted on holding Germany at the Albert Canal and River Meuse in Belgium, but Germany had gotten Belgium to rescind its alliances with France before the invasion.
But the Suwalki Gap is a particularly vulnerable and important point. Kaliningrad is a Russian enclave that borders the Baltic Sea, and Belarus is a historic ally of Russia. Russia could easily muster troops in both areas for a mad dash across the line, and it could do so quickly and with little warning.
On paper, NATO would be required to respond, but NATO’s joint defense clause has only been invoked one time, and that was when America was attacked on September 11, 2001. That’s part of why deploying to Afghanistan usually results in a service member receiving a NATO medal. The whole alliance was party to the invasion because one member of the alliance had been attacked.
But that was NATO allies backing up their most powerful member while invading a relatively weak, authoritarian state. The Taliban had little air force or proper army assets, and it quickly fell. Getting NATO allies to muster in Poland for an attack into Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia would be much more challenging, especially since many countries would be interested in holding back at least some of their military forces to defend their own borders as the situation developed.
Poland might be especially reluctant. The gap shares its name with a Polish city and a Polish County, and Poland shares a much larger border with Kaliningrad and with Belarus. It might legitimately need its troops to hold the line against further Russian attacks.
Meanwhile, remember how Russia is under a lot of pressure to get back in line with that INF Treaty that bans missiles of certain ranges, especially ones that can carry nuclear warheads? Well, a lot of the Iskander and Iskander-M systems that are likely in violation of that treaty are kept in Kaliningrad, where they could threaten U.S. and NATO ships in the Baltic Sea and army formations approaching Suwalki from the south.
An Iskander launcher could likely cover the entire Suwalki Gap from any point in Kaliningrad. Multiple launchers could take turns shooting and then scooting before they could be hunted down. Meanwhile, Russia’s invasion force would be north of the gap, conquering the NATO countries and setting up defenses ahead of the NATO counterattack.
The Suwalki Gap is something Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges talked about when he was the commanding general of NATO, saying that an invasion of NATO countries wouldn’t make any sense to him, but then neither had the seizure of Crimea or the Russian deployment to Syria.
For comparison, while the Suwalki Gap is 60 miles long, the annexation of Crimea created an approximately 85-mile-long front between Russia and Ukraine, though NATO wasn’t obligated to take part in that fight and much of that border is covered in water, making a Ukrainian counterattack much more risky and challenging.
Of course, all of this only matters if Putin is ready to do something even crazier than kidnapping an Estonian intelligence officer, annexing Crimea, or invading Georgia or the Donbas. While all of those actions were baffling for international observers, the annexed territory, at least, did have populations sympathetic to Russian rule.
While Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania do have some Russian-speaking populations, the countries as a whole strongly support NATO membership and have even inked agreements to move more U.S. and other NATO troops into the countries or allow more forces to transit through them. So, Russia would likely find it challenging to actually hold the countries permanently.
U.S. Army Sgt. Dustin McGraw is stationed with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, the culmination of a life-long dream of being a paratrooper like the heroes of World War II movies that he watched as a child. But as he made his way up, he discovered a love of World War I that has led to him re-enacting battles in France.
His re-enactment group spends a lot of time at a park in Tennessee a few hours from Fort Campbell, allowing McGraw to indulge his passion while maintaining his active duty career. (That park is named for famed Doughboy and Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Alvin C. York, making it a pretty appropriate place to host re-enactments.)
And there is more crossover between the passion and the job than one might initially assume. While re-enactors, obviously, do not face the dangers and many of the hardships endured by soldiers in combat, they do work hard to portray their chosen period accurately. That means that they have to get uniforms, tactics, weapons, and other details right.
And it’s hard to steep yourself that deeply in military history without learning an appreciation for the discipline and perseverance that it takes to succeed in combat. As McGraw points out in the video, maintaining your cool in wool uniforms and metal helmets in the broiling sun isn’t always easy. And, practicing World War I tactics can still help reinforce an understanding of modern warfare. After all, machine guns and rifles haven’t changed all that much.
But that leads to another benefit for McGraw and other soldiers who choose to re-enact past periods of military history: They learn a deep appreciation of modern systems, from weapons to logistics to medicine to gear.
Where modern troops have GPS, Kevlar, lightweight automatic weapons, aid bags, and helicopters, World War I Doughboys had to make do with maps, cotton, rifles of wood and steel, field bandages, and horses. So, while it’s easy to complain when your helicopters are late to the LZ, most people would be more appreciative of the challenges if they spent their weekends trying to simulate logistics with horses.
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright just wanted to get airmen talking — to each other, friends, family — with the service’s one-day pause to break down unresolved feelings they may have buried deep inside.
Wright doesn’t expect commanders at each base to draft a plan of what they believe could prevent suicide, which has plagued the service’s ranks in recent months, with 78 airmen taking their own lives between Jan. 1 and July 31, 2019. But the top enlisted airman hopes the effort might help struggling airmen again feel a sense of purpose when they come into work, even if they carry baggage from their personal lives with them.
“While mental health is a part of it, I personally think a larger part of this solution is us just being good human beings,” he said during a recent interview. Military.com accompanied Wright and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein on a trip to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, last week.
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright speaks to Team Travis airmen.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. David W. Carbajal)
The Air Force in August 2019 ordered a one-day “tactical pause” that had commanders and airmen address a rise in suicides across the force. As of Aug. 1, 2019, the service had exceeded the number of suicides in all of 2018 by nearly 20 people.
Wright said suicide has become the leading cause of death in the Air Force despite airmen serving overseas in combat.
“If some initiatives [at bases] came out of that, then I think that’s great. But it really wasn’t designed to develop prevention initiatives,” he said Oct. 9, 2019.
“All of the airmen that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, connecting with and talking to who’ve thought about committing suicide, none of them — not one — pointed to a program or a process or mental health [initiative]. … They all pointed to the thing that kept them going, and that was another person,” Wright said, but added some have been in therapy programs to keep talking to someone they’re comfortable with.
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright listens to an Airman’s question.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. David W. Carbajal)
Wright said he’s heard feedback from airmen who’ve felt the most hopeless during deployments, unable to connect with someone from their unit or loved ones back home.
On those occasions, help came from a friend or teammate — sometimes even a stranger — asking the simplest questions like, “How are you? Is there anything I can do?” Wright said.
“That’s all it was — meaningful connections,” the chief said.
“It makes a big difference if you walk into a work center where you feel like, ‘Hey, I’m a valued member of his team, and my supervisor, my teammates, they care about the things that I’m going through’ versus, ‘Hey nobody cares,'” Wright said. “This is about making airmen feel valued.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
In case you didn’t know, the former Secretary of Defense, Chaos Actual, Gen. James Mattis (ret.) wrote an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal and it’s just ahead of his memoir covering how he learned leadership from his time as a young buck Lt to his time leading the Pentagon.
Of course, Mattis makes a very in-depth analysis into why America’s allies are vital and some insight into his resignation last December – but he also makes a case against the tribalistic political-sphere that seemed to envelope 2019. He’s always remained apolitical, despite sitting in the Trump cabinet. The petty squabbling and BS just distracts from the mission.
I know reading lists were sort of his thing – and it’d be kind of awkward for him to put his own book on his own reading list for people to buy and read. So just assume it’s on there since I don’t think he’s even updated it since he was last in the office.
Anyways, here are some memes to get your extended weekend started while I shamelessly give an unsponsored plug for the Patron Saint of Chaos’ new book.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent decision to withdraw from the Visiting Forces Agreement comes after repeated threats to pull out, but his decision to ditch the pact now could undermine the ability of the US and its partners to counter China’s ambitions in the region.
The VFA, signed in 1998, gives legal status to US troops in the Philippines. Duterte, a longtime critic of ties to the US, gave formal notice of withdrawal to the US this month, triggering a 180-day period before the exit is finalized.
Duterte believes the Philippines should be more militarily independent, a spokesman said, quoting the president as saying, “It’s about time we rely on ourselves.”
The decision is “chiefly the product of Duterte’s deep, decades-long anti-US sentiment,” Prashanth Parameswaran, a senior editor at The Diplomat and a Southeast Asian security analyst, said in an email to Business Insider.
Since taking office in 2016, Duterte has “found just about any excuse he can to make threats against the alliance, be it canceling exercises or separating from the United States,” Parameswaran added.
Duterte has spurned the US since he took office and bristled at US criticism of his human-rights record. Both the US and Duterte have high approval ratings among the Philippine public, however, while a large majority there have little or no confidence in China.
“It’s a competition. China’s competing,” Chad Sbragia, deputy assistant secretary of defense for China, said Thursday at a US-China Economic and Security Review Commission hearing on Capitol Hill.
“There’s very clear recognition that China is putting pressure and using every tool within its disposal to try to draw those countries” away from cooperation with the US, Sbragia said. “That’s a condition we’re taking head on. That’s very serious for us.”
“I don’t doubt China will relish the deterioration in the US-Philippine alliance,” Parameswaran said. “Beijing has long considered US alliances a relic of the Cold War and a manifestation of US efforts to contain its regional ambitions.”
The US and the Philippines, which the US ruled as a colony during the first half of the 20th century, have a decades-long diplomatic and military relationship.
That relationship and the benefit it offers the Philippine security establishment, as well as US popularity in the Philippines, are among the reasons why Manila may not follow through on withdrawal.
Philippine officials have also hinted that the notice of withdrawal is a starting point for negotiations over the VFA, which some have said are needed “to address matters of sovereignty.” Philippine politicians have also questioned Duterte’s authority to exit the agreement.
But the US shouldn’t assume that Duterte is bluffing or looking for leverage, said Gregory Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“He has been anti-American his entire adult life and has been consistently saying he wants to sever the alliance and bring the Philippines into a strategic alignment with China,” Poling said in an email.
“That said, six months is a long time in politics. If Duterte walks this back, it won’t be because a plan to renegotiate with Washington plays out,” Poling added, “it’ll be because of internal pressure, possibly in response to whatever natural disaster, Chinese act of aggression, or terrorist act in Mindanao happens between now and then.”
The VFA allows US troops to operate on Philippine territory, including US Navy crews and Marine Corps units.
Ending the agreement would jeopardize the roughly 300 joint exercises the two countries conduct every year, complicating everything from port calls to the Mutual Defense Treaty, which commits the US to the Philippines’ defense in case of an attack. It would also be harder for the US to provide aid in response to natural disasters.
“It’s basically [changing] the protocols of how you would work together if it actually goes through,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said this month.
Many naval activities will be unaffected because they can be carried out without entering Philippine territory, Poling said.
“But large-scale land and air exercises will be impossible, as they were from 1990-1999,” Poling added, referring to a period when Manila’s failure to renew a mutual basing agreement led to the withdrawal of US forces — including the closure of Naval Base Subic Bay, the largest US base in the Pacific.
Gen. Felimon Santos Jr., Philippine armed forces chief of staff, has said about half of all joint military engagements would be affected by the end the VFA, Poling noted.
Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has said joint exercises with the US would continue during the 180-day period, including the multinational Balikatan exercise that has taken place in the Philippines every spring for 35 years.
Santos Jr. has downplayed the effects of withdrawal, saying it will make the Philippines “self-reliant” and that Manila would expand bilateral exercises it has with other in the region, including Australia and Japan.
But there are legal and logistical limits on the military activities those countries can undertake with the Philippines, which has one of the weakest militaries in the Asia-Pacific.
The erosion of the US-Philippine military relationship raises the prospect of Beijing making moves like those it made in the South China Sea in the 1990s, when it occupied Mischief Reef — first with small wooden structures and then, a few months before the VFA went into force in 1999, with fort-like structures made of concrete.
In the years since, China has expanded and reinforced its presence in the South China Sea, building military structures on man-made islands there. Mischief Reef is now Beijing’s biggest outpost in the disputed waters.
“Beijing will work to make sure that a US loss is China’s gain” and build on inroads made with Duterte, Parameswaran said.
“These gains may include those that are not in the security realm, such as tightening economic ties or helping Duterte deliver on some of his domestic political goals,” Parameswaran added. “But they will nonetheless be consequential, because the broader objective is to move Duterte’s Philippines closer to China and away from the United States.”
At least 14,000 years ago in one of the most fascinating (and adorable) evolutionary events, dogs diverged from their wolven ancestors. The details of the domestication process are still hazy, but the results have changed our relationship with dogs completely. Working dogs even save lives.
While most of us view dogs as lovable family pets, they’re much more than that. Dogs have much of the same biological advantages as their evolutionary predecessors, including intelligence and a remarkably keen sense of smell. They’re also highly trainable, making them perfect candidates for jobs that are beyond human capabilities- including jobs in the military.
Military working dogs have been serving the US for over 100 years.
In the earliest years of our country’s history, dogs were out on the battlefield alongside their companions. Come World War II, the first formally trained military working dogs were deployed- over 10,000 of them. They’ve played a role in every war since, with some studies estimating that more than 10,000 human lives were saved by working dogs in Vietnam.
Not all breeds are suited to being military working dogs.
No offense, but a Shih-Tzu is better designed to be a pillow than a working dog. Many breeds have been used over the years, including Dobermans, Boxers, Rottweilers, and different types of terrier. In recent years, the staple breeds have leaned towards German Shepherds, Dutch Shepherds, and Belgian Malinois. Why? These breeds are fiercely loyal, loving, and obedient, with an insanely powerful bite. Perfect.
These special pups take on several essential, life-saving roles in the field. These are some of the most common.
Trained to work silently, patrol dogs search for snipers and alert troops of possible ambushes. Having them around is a powerful deterrent to enemies. Because they’re so good at what they do, soldiers are often more at ease in their presence.
Sentry dogs are most often used to detect approaching enemies at night. The Coast Guard has even used them to alert ships of enemy submarine activity.
Messenger working dogs are trained to carry messages from one handler to the other. At times, they carry sensitive information through enemy territory, so they must travel as quietly as possible.
Bomb dogs start training when they’re just a year and a half old, and they’re practically made for the job. Their noses have 300 million olfactory receptors compared to just six million in humans, and over a third of their brain is used to process smells. These finely-tuned sniffers learn to detect the presence of dozens of chemical ingredients. When they recognize an ingredient, they’re trained to sit- can’t have a puppy pawing at TNT, can we?
The most heartwarming of all military working dogs are the ones who literally save lives. Their incredible sense of smell enables them to find injured soldiers in locations a human would never be able to guess. Armed with protective gear and tiny cameras, the dogs scout the scene to lead their human partners to critically injured companions.
After the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, over 300 search and rescue dogs helped out at ground zero. They sniffed out several injured civilians buried under feet of rubble. Rescue workers were so impressed by one dog that they saved his DNA. A few years later, they made five little casualty dog clones!
These dogs aren’t tools of the trade. They’re partners.
Ask any military dog handler, and they’ll tell you that working dogs are more than military assets. They work alongside their human companions with every bit as much loyalty and brotherhood as any other service member, except on four legs and with a much better schnoz. Their comparatively short lifespans make their devotion even more poignant; they truly dedicate most of their lives to saving ours.
They may not be able to read or speak, but they live up to their unofficial pledge with their actions:
“My eyes are your eyes. To watch and protect you and yours. My ears are your ears. To hear and detect evil minds in the dark. My nose is your nose to scent the invader of your domain. And so you may live, my life is also yours.”