Units experimenting with pilot programs to address suicide - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Units experimenting with pilot programs to address suicide

Seventy-seven National Guard members have died of suicide this year as of October, the month that the second annual Department of Defense Suicide Report was released. 

According to the report, 498 total service members died of suicide, including 89 National Guard members, in 2019. Since 2014, the rates of suicide have increased among active-duty members but have stayed consistent for the reserves and National Guard, the report revealed. In 2019, the suicide rate in the National Guard was 20.3 per 100,000, down from 30.8 per 100,000 two years ago, said Maj. Gen. Dawne Deskins, deputy director of the Air National Guard.  

Nearly 450,000 people comprise the National Guard this year.  

“I personally am uncomfortable talking about rates, because these are our people,’’ Deskins said. “These are our members of the National Guard, and the National Guard is a family. So when we lose someone, we’ve lost a coworker. We’ve lost a family member. We’ve lost a friend.’’  

Army Sgt. Rebecca Landry and Spc. Asia Jones highlight the importance of suicide prevention and awareness at Camp Taji, Iraq, June 5, 2019.
Army Sgt. Rebecca Landry and Spc. Asia Jones highlight the importance of suicide prevention and awareness at Camp Taji, Iraq, June 5, 2019. The National Guard has launched or participated in suicide prevention initiatives throughout 2019 amid a recent Department of Defense report that underscores the significant challenges the Guard faces in suicide prevention. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Roger Jackson)

The Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress at the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, Maryland, is assessing how the coronavirus has affected the New York National Guard, U.S. Public Health Service Capt. Matt Kleiman said.  

“The time to do that is right now,’’ Kleiman said. “You can’t wait until it’s over. All of the things that our population deals with in this COVID environment that we’re in, we believe has an impact, but we want to see exactly what that impact is.’’ 

Kleiman is the director of the National Guard Warrior Resilience and Fitness division, which was formed last summer to develop programs that view health holistically. The number of its so-called pilot programs doubled from 11 to 22 this year and addresses mental-health issues through a variety of approaches. 

For example, the New Mexico National Guard is screening for suicide risk factors, including early childhood trauma, when men and women enter their unit. In South Carolina, “one-stop shops’’ for health and wellness have been instituted, while the Utah National Guard has developed a mobile app to aid in crisis intervention. The Vermont National Guard is testing a device that potentially could treat traumatic brain injuries and PTSD through magnetic e-resonance therapy. 

“What we’re hoping to do is establish a two- to three-year cycle for these pilots to test and then expand the ones [to other states] that seem to be promising,’’ Kleiman said.  

“A big part of our strategy has been putting directors of psychological health at our wings and our states, so these are full-time resources that — most of them are clinical social workers or psychologists — and they work with a command. They also work within that unit to disseminate information, make referrals when there is an event that occurs, whether it’s a suicide or a sexual assault or some adverse action.’’  

The National Guard has seen a 14% increase, year over year, in members accessing mobile vet-center support during weekends at the end of the 2019 fiscal year, stats from the National Guard Bureau showed. Other vet centers have seen a 44% spike in new members accessing their services. More than 3,600 National Guard members have been referred to vet centers this fiscal year, bureau data showed.  

At least 700 civilian providers have been trained in specific treatment protocols for working with National Guard personnel, the bureau said. 

“Anything that we do that makes behavioral health more about the natural rhythm, just something that’s very natural to do, is certainly something that we want to encourage,’’ Deskins said. 

And if that happens, one life — hopefully more — can be saved.  

“I’m pretty confident that if we keep doing it like we’re doing it, … over time, we would see a positive impact,’’ Kleiman said. 

This article originally appeared on Reserve + National Guard Magazine. Follow @ReserveGuardMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 ways troops kill time while in a fighting hole

Fighting holes have been used as effective defensive positions for decades, stymieing the enemy’s deadly offensive movements. Some branches of service refer to these dug-in positions as “foxholes,” but both terms refer to the exact same thing.

How a fighting hole is constructed depends greatly on the amount of time a troop intends to spend occupying a position. If a troop intends on staying in the fight from a single position for a prolonged period of time, it might be outfitted with entertainment options to stave off the boredom that comes from long hours of waiting. In this case, it’s not uncommon to find things left behind by a previous occupant for the next troop to enjoy.

But, when a fighting hole is constructed and is only going to be occupied for a short period, the troops within need to get clever with killing time. So, if living in a fighting hole is in your near future, learn from the troops before you.

Here’s few ways troops have killed time while dug-in on the front lines.


Also Read: 5 of the best ways to get drinkable water while in the field

Then-Lt. Micheal “Spicy” Dorsey with a smile on his face while in the COC at OP Taylor, Sangin, Afghanistan, 2011.

(U.S. Navy photo by HM3 (FMF) Tim Kirkpatrick)

Continuously listen in on the radio

Although there’s always someone monitoring the comm gear to relay important messages as they come through, military radios can also be pretty entertaining if you listen closely enough. Communications between various units sometimes plays out like a military soap opera.

Troops request various items, get denied those items, and, if you’re lucky, they’ll hold down the “push to talk” button on the handset as they talk sh*t after being rejected.

We call these epic fails “hot mics.”

Smoke cigarettes until the sun goes down

In Afghanistan, Pine cigarettes run about a id=”listicle-2581849130″ per pack. Ground troops bring a little cash with them to the front line, so they’ll often buy smokes off the locals. When there’s nothing else to do, they’ll chain smoke ’em for entertainment. The only problem is, once the sun goes down, smoking a cigarette is a violation of force protection.

No one wants to bring danger to their brothers just to get a nicotine fix.

HM3 (FMF) Tim Kirkpatrick thinks about the beautiful Southern California warm weather while freezing his ass off in Sangin, Afghanistan, 2011.

(U.S. Marine photo by Lt. Micheal “Spicy” Dorsey)

Think about the sh*t you’re going to do when you get home

While you’re stationed in a desolate area with virtually nothing to look at but a handful of villagers doing their laundry, troops’ minds start to wander, thinking about what they’ll do once they get home. Whether it’s going surfing, registering for school, or just going out to drink a cold beer, plenty of ideas drift through a troop’s mind as they man their defensive position.

Pvt. Codi Hoffman waits in a fighting position that he and a few fellow Soldiers built during a battalion-wide field training exercise.

(Photo by Sgt. Christopher M. Gaylord)

Build narratives of imaginary firefights

When troops are positioned in fighting holes, there’s a strong chance they’ll take incoming fire — it’s less a matter of ‘if’ and more a matter of ‘when.’ So, they stay close to their rifles and predict where a threat may come from. They develop a narrative in their head of what actions they might take in order to fight off the bad guys — and maybe score a cool kill shot in the process.

Screw watching Hollywood movies, grunts create their own fiction while they’ve got nothing but time on their hands.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s how US Space Force will be built

Lawmakers have signed off on a plan to give President Donald Trump his much-anticipated U.S. Space Force. But the plan would prevent the military’s new sixth branch from making new hires in the beginning, limiting redundancy and bureaucratic bloat, according to the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2020.

Congress has moved forward with a proposal made last year to place the Space Force under the Department of the Air Force, and budgeted $72.4 million for stand-up costs, according to the legislation.


But the newly established service will be required to use existing personnel, specifically from Air Force Space Command, to jump-start the initiative, said Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic International Studies, a think tank in Washington, D.C.

A command post controller for the 618th Air and Space Operations Center.

(U.S. Air Force photo photo by Capt. Justin Brockhoff)

“What it forces the Air Force to do is actually transfer all of [its] people,” he said in an interview Tuesday, adding that the provision is a significant step to leverage those in space positions already at AFSPC in Colorado Springs, Colorado. “That will be the nucleus of the Space Force.”

Key lawmakers have said they intend to keep the Space Force small and will monitor its creation and the hiring of any additional mission-essential personnel down the line.

“The biggest concern is maximizing efficiency, minimize the amount of money spent. We don’t need to create a whole bunch of more positions,” chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., told reporters Saturday during the Reagan National Defense Forum.

In a CSIS study conducted last year, Harrison championed redistribution of personnel to save taxpayer dollars.

“All of those billets just need to move and become the Space Force headquarters,” he said. “It’s actually a pretty smart move that [Congress] made to prevent bureaucratic growth.”

The House is expected to vote on the bill, unveiled Monday, Dec. 11, 2019, with the Senate to follow later this month.

During its first year, the Space Force will establish a headquarters and plan for the future with the branch’s core functions in mind: “protect the interests of the United States in space; deter aggression in, from, and to space; and conduct space operations,” according to the bill.

The International Space Station.

(NASA)

Under the measure, the president may appoint a general to become the “Chief of Space Operations,” reporting to the secretary of the Air Force and sitting as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He or she may serve in that capacity no more than four years, but could be extended to eight years in a time of war or during a national emergency, the bill states.

As lawmakers and the Pentagon debated the new position over the past few months, it had different names, including chief of staff, commandant and commander, Harrison said.

“They instead chose this fourth name and went with something kind of like the Navy. Instead of chief of naval operations, the chief of the Space Force will be the chief of space operations,” he said. “If anything, they’re kind of signaling that maybe [this] will be more of a Navy-like … structure for the Space Force than an Air Force structure.”

To get started the first year, the U.S. Space Command commander may also serve as the new Chief of Space Operations, according to the bill. Currently, Gen. John “Jay” Raymond leads U.S. Space Command, as well as Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado.

The new chief, along with the Air Force secretary, must brief lawmakers every 60 days until at least March 31, 2023, on the status of the new branch’s implementation, the bill states.

An Atlas V rocket launches March 12, 2015, from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

(United Launch Alliance)

The legislation also creates a Senate-confirmed assistant secretary of the Air Force for Space Acquisition and Integration to oversee the purchase of space equipment.

In May, senators nixed one of the Pentagon’s proposals to create a civilian position — the under secretary of the Air Force for space — who would work alongside a top general. Lawmakers said an additional civilian authority in the chain of command would create bureaucratic roadblocks.

“The House and the Senate and the White House all got some things they wanted, having to compromise on everything,” Harrison said. “They struck up a middle-of-the-road compromise.”

Despite the Pentagon’s rush to stand up the service after Trump called for the branch in 2018 to deter malign actors in space, some view the Space Force as a catalyst to violate treaties or international agreements.

“At best, a space force is a distraction from what is necessary to ensure space security in the face of rapid technological and geopolitical changes,” Laura Grego, a physicist and senior scientist in the Global Security Program for the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a statement Tuesday. “At worst, it would prompt a space arms race that would threaten U.S. military and civilian satellites, not protect them.

“Diplomacy, not bureaucratic reorganization, is urgently needed.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These submariners did a photoshoot with their nuke sub

There are some people lucky enough to swim with dolphins — and then there are even luckier people who get to swim next to a nuclear submarine in the open ocean.

That’s exactly what the crew of the USS Olympia recently did.

After partaking in the world’s largest naval warfare exercise called Rim of the Pacific, or RIMPAC, where they helped sink the USS Racine with a Harpoon anti-ship cruise missile, the submariners aboard the Olympia got a chance to cool off in the ocean next to their sub.


The stunning photos were first noticed by The War Zone’s Tyler Rogoway.

Check them out below.

(USS Olympia Facebook)

(USS Olympia Facebook)

(USS Olympia Facebook)

(USS Olympia Facebook)

(USS Olympia Facebook)

(USS Olympia Facebook)

(USS Olympia Facebook)

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Massive cats have invaded these photos. You’re welcome

Man, military photographers take some great photos sometimes. Sand tables, missile launches, rifle ranges. So many great images of American might and military readiness. But they’re always missing something, and the Twitter user Military Giant Cats has figured it out.


Icelandpic.twitter.com/A9KVSCoM7x

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Yeah, the pics were always missing giant cats. Giant, giant cats that welcome Marines home from long ruck marches. Or, maybe the Marines are marching there to attack the cat? Look, the context isn’t clear, but you would definitely buy a ticket if that was a movie, right?

BMD-2pic.twitter.com/zPFrfX9W0A

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Come on, you would follow this cat into battle. You would face the galloping hordes, a hundred bad guys with swords, and send those goons to their lords, if this cat was leading the charge. And he’s so intense about it.

#DSEIpic.twitter.com/gG3JBfFZHZ

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Not all cats take their duties so seriously. Some are plenty patriotic but don’t feel the need to pursue the enemy all the time. They take a little time to relax, to consider their past achievements. And more than likely, to bat around a few of the tiny humans walking around his armor.

HMS Astute (S119)pic.twitter.com/luQway607e

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This cat is willing to brave the perils of the deep for your freedom. He will do battle with the Nautilus, he will spend weeks submerged. And if duty calls, he will claw his way through entire Russian fleets and survive on nothing but kelp to secure the seas for democracy.

BGM-109 Tomahawkpic.twitter.com/CMOU9gNxt3

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These cats are willing to do whatever it takes. When they attacked Syria, they launched Tomahawk Cruise Missiles and didn’t bat a single one out of the sky before it hit regime forces.

T-64BM Bulatpic.twitter.com/3EJGMZoe4r

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And look at how happy they make the troops! Whether they’re chasing giant balls of yarn or drifting tanks during military exercises, the cats know how to put on a show.

SEPECAT Jaguarpic.twitter.com/h7uW37oIaX

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But this one is a horrible pilot.

To see more of these awesome creations, check out the Twitter stream here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Holiday coffee cocktail: The Skrewy Espresso Martini

The holidays are rolling in fast. The time for gift giving, massive meals, and too many parties and get-togethers. The perfect drink to keep you going while still catching a nice buzz is the Espresso Martini.

The Espresso Martini as we know it was created in 1983 by Dick Bradsell at the SOHO Brasserie in London. The cocktail was originally called the Vodka Espresso and consisted of a generous shot of vodka, two types of coffee liqueur — his choices being Kahlua and Tia Maria — and a shot of espresso. But as the 1980s came into full swing, Bradsell rebranded the Vodka Espresso as the trendier Espresso Martini, and the rest is history.


But we’re going to turn that cocktail on its head by throwing out the vodka and coffee liqueur entirely. If we have to deal with our extended family, we’re going straight to whiskey. So we’ve opted to use Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey and an Irish cream liqueur — our preference is Five Farms, but any Irish cream will do. The result is a nutty and sweet cocktail with a tinge of smotky bitterness from the espresso.

(Recipe by Tim Becker/Coffee or Die. Photo by Lacey Whitehouse/Coffee or Die. Graphic by Erik Campbell/Coffee or Die.)

11 Questions & A Cup of Coffee: Fox News Correspondent Katie Pavlich

www.youtube.com

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet the combat cameraman who used MRE coffee grounds to produce beautiful paintings while deployed

While deployed to East Africa as a member of the 4th Combat Camera Squadron, US Air Force Staff Sgt. Corban Lundborg sought to create a unique illustration series inspired by his time in the region. Looking around the combat camera office, he found an old box of Meals, Ready to Eat. He mined the MREs for their instant coffee packets and used the supplies in the pack to mix up his “paint.”

“Coffee works pretty similar to watercolor,” Lundborg said. “It uses a value system to get different tones, so you just saturate the water more or less to achieve the tones you want.”


Air Force Staff Sgt. Corban Lundborg works on MRE-coffee paintings in 2019 outside his combat camera unit’s headquarters in East Africa. Photo courtesy of Corban Lundborg

Lundborg said he started experimenting with how the coffee took to paper and ink, and after some time, he came up with a series of works inspired by his environment and experiences in East Africa.

Most of the paintings are scenes or equipment Lundborg used or traveled in. He painted some of the aircraft that flew him to and from different locations and missions and gifted the works to members of the aviation units. Among his subjects were a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, a lion, a Nikon film camera, a skull, and a calligraphed “Merry Christmas” card.

Lundborg painted this “Merry Christmas” card in December 2018 and sent a photograph of the piece home to his mom and dad in Minneapolis. He later gave the original away in a raffle at an art party at Amp Rehearsal in Hollywood. Photo courtesy of Corban Lundborg

The sepia tones of the paintings and their ragged, burnt edges tell a story of the conflict and the creative necessity from which they were born. Central to the works is Lundborg’s impulse to create and the austere conditions that inspired him to experiment with a new medium.

“For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been drawing on stuff and making art,” said the Minneapolis native. “I think just about every day of the week, I’m doing something creative. I try not to go a day without doing some kind of art.”

Lundborg gifted this painting of an HH-60 Pave Hawk to the aviation squadron that supported operations during his East Africa deployment. Photo courtesy of Corban Lundborg

Lundborg said his parents were supportive of his artistic inclinations and creative adventures. He started out as a graffiti artist back in Minneapolis.

“I was kind of an angsty teen and was always looking to get into trouble,” he said. “I kind of ran with a bad group of friends and got into some legal trouble for vandalism and other minor crimes. The military provided the means I was looking for to get out of the city.”

Lundborg surrounded by his work at Amp Rehearsal in Hollywood, where he was commissioned to paint works throughout the building. Photo courtesy of Corban Lundborg

As a young airman working in supply and logistics, Lundborg was assigned to Osan Air Base in South Korea. He found his way into a tattoo apprenticeship and picked up another means of artistic expression.

“When I got to Korea and got the apprenticeship, the Korean artists took me in and showed me what art life was all about,” he said. “I started doing tattoos for other service members in the dorms overseas. These days, I mostly just kind of tattoo myself.”

Lundborg works on a Bob Marley mural at Amp Rehearsal in November 2019. Photo courtesy of Corban Lundborg

After a year in Korea, he was sent to Aviano Air Base in Italy, where he spent his days “counting aircraft screws, doing inventories, snowboarding in the Alps every weekend, and hitting all the major cities in Europe.”

After four years in an active-duty job he didn’t care for, Lundborg transferred to the Air Force Reserves and went home to Minneapolis, where he attended the Minneapolis College of Art and Design for a year before dropping out.

A lion and a Nikon film camera were among Lundborg’s subjects. Photo courtesy of Corban Lundborg

“In college I discovered I don’t really like art theory and history,” he said. “I just like making art, and I still consider myself mostly self-taught.”

When a slot for a photographer opened up on his reserve base, Lundborg jumped at the chance to retrain into a new specialty. After six months of on-the-job training, the Air Force sent Lundborg to the Basic Photojournalist Course at the Defense Information School at Fort Meade, Maryland, in 2015.

Lundborg exits a C-130 during his deployment to East Africa in January 2019. Photo courtesy of Corban Lundborg

He was later assigned to the 4th Combat Camera Squadron and deployed to East Africa in 2018 for eight months.

“I took a few brushes with me, but I had to get everything else from the accessory packets in the MREs,” he said of his time in Africa. “I used the plastic spoon to mix the coffee and hold some grounds, and I used matches to burn the edges of the paper and TP to clean the brushes.”

Lundborg self-produced a video of himself working on the MRE-coffee paintings.

CALM Collective | MRE

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He said he picked up a cheap set of watercolors and taught himself to paint with the medium while living in South Africa a few years before his deployment to the continent.

He tends to pick up new mediums with relative ease and excels in whatever creative endeavors he pursues. He earned recognition as Air Force Reserve Photographer of the Year three years in a row, and was selected as Air Force Photographer of the year in 2018.

Acrylic and spray paint are his favorite media, and he often uses them together interchangeably.

A prolific creator, Lundborg is looking ahead to a bright future of doing what he loves. He plans to expand his work in cinema and film production.

“Ideally, I would like to produce, direct, and shoot films,” he said. “But painting is something I will do until the day I die.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Green Beret Foundation announces historic accreditation by Veterans Affairs

The Green Beret Foundation is the premiere benevolent organization dedicated to the Special Forces soldiers and their families. The organization is now poised to do even more thanks to its newly announced Veterans Services Organization accreditation by the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

The Green Beret Foundation’s accreditation by Veterans Affairs is an accomplishment that GBF is extremely proud of. At this time, it is the only special operations charity to hold the distinction. The organization recognizes the deep impact and importance the accreditation offers and leadership states that they look forward to being able to greatly expand their ability to serve. 

“The overall health and wellness of a Green Beret and their family is our priority, and this accreditation is a testament to our expertise and level of support as the premier benevolent organization in the Special Forces community,” Brent Cooper, Executive Director of GBF shared. 

While the GBF has been supporting its Special Forces soldiers with their needs from the VA for some time, its hands were tied with how much help they could give in many areas. With the new accreditation, the GBF can now walk alongside its soldiers throughout the entirety of the VA claims process, which is known to be cumbersome and difficult to navigate even with support.

John Armezzani is the Veterans Services Director for the claims process with the VA. In a statement posted to the GBF website, Armezzani shared that, “This process, which may range from initiating claims to carrying them through VA and Board of Veterans Appeals hearings when necessary, will greatly enhance the capability of the GBF and its Next Ridgeline program to provide unique assistance throughout the life of our Special Forces veterans.”

One deeply impactful way the Green Beret Foundation’s accreditation will help is by being able to more fully support its soldiers as they leave the military. “This [accreditation] allows the GBF to expand it’s Transition Assistance Program from providing general informational briefings on benefits to filing the benefits claims for those separating service members,” Armezzani explained. 

Not only will the organization be doing more to ensure its Special Forces soldiers receive the support they may need as they get out, but it will be able to be there throughout issues of hardship too. “GBF now has the ability to provide benefits assistance to Green Berets with life events such as change of career or in the event of a catastrophic health event. This includes dependents too,” Armezzani stated. 

As the Special Forces soldiers from the Vietnam War era continue to age, their needs will most likely increase. The VSO accreditation will allow the GBF to step in and support these honored veterans by being their voices in the benefits claims process. “Inherent in this accreditation is the ability to provide benefits assistance to our legacy holders from the Vietnam era as they enter into the twilight of their lives,” Armezzani said.

Perhaps one of the most impactful parts of the announcement is the ability for the GBF to now represent its Special Forces Soldiers in the appeal process. “We will be able to represent Green Berets in appellate actions before the Board of Veterans Appeals when they disagree with a VA decision,” Armezzani said. No longer will they have to fight appeals without support, the GBF will be right there with them and will fight to ensure they are heard.

The ultimate goal of this newly-expanded program is to be able to install a representative at each location where a Special Forces Group is located. This will all be made possible through the generosity of donors and future fundraising efforts. 

The Green Beret Foundation remains committed to ensuring that every single Special Forces soldier is not only honored for their service to this nation but also cared for the way they deserve. Although the VA VSO accreditation is an impressive and important feat to have achieved, GBF is ready to do even more. 

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Air Force takes the responsibility of managing future talent seriously

Lt. Gen. Brian T. Kelly is the deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, the Pentagon, Arlington, Virginia. He serves as the senior Air Force officer responsible for comprehensive plans and policies covering all life cycles of military and civilian personnel management, which includes military and civilian end strength management, education and training, compensation, resource allocation and the worldwide U.S. Air Force services program.


During an interview with Airman Magazine, Kelly discussed his mission and the Air Force’s responsibilities of managing talent, identifying toxic leadership and the role of emotional intelligence in readiness and lethality.

Managing the Future Talent: Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly

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Airman Magazine: As the AF/A1 (manpower and personnel), what are your priorities for 2020?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: There are lots of things going on, but there are three big priorities. Number one, it’s exciting times and we’ve got to help and make sure we have a successful stand up of the United States Space Force and our resource allocation team will have a big role to help and make sure we get that on track.

Number two for us, we’ve got to ensure that we continue to make sure the right number of the right types and the right skill sets of Airman exists in our Air Force. So, the size and shape of the force has to be what it needs to be in order for us to meet our requirements in the National Defense Strategy.

Number three for us is we want to continue to transform and work on our talent management system so we can make sure we’re attracting, recruiting, developing and retaining the Airmen we need to do what the country needs to do. So those will be our three big priorities for 2020

Airman Magazine: Can you talk about the Air Force’s philosophy on managing talent and why it’s important?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: First and foremost, we’ve got to recognize that we’ve got some incredible talent in the United States Air Force and in our Space Force that we are standing up as well. But, it’s an all-volunteer force and so the talent management system we have has to be able to recognize that we’ve got to have a system that is attractive for people to be in. It also has to be agile to meet our requirements as requirements and threats change. It’s got to know what’s going on with those requirements that are out there. The talent management system has to understand – what does the talent market look like? What does the market for talent in the United States look like? And if you have an all-volunteer force, how do you become an attractive employer? How do you make sure that you are an employer of choice? If people have a way to choose between going to work for Google or coming to work for the United States Air Force or United States Space Force? The talent management system has a role to play in that and so that’s what we’re trying to do.

The Ground-Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance System is responsible for tracking thousands of objects in space. The telescopes fall under the 21st Space Wing and is positioned at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. Here, 216 photos captured over a 90 minute period are layered over one another, making the star trails come to life.

(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Tech. Sgt. David Salanitri)

Airman Magazine: Have there been any changes to your talent management philosophy, and what drove those changes?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I’d say a talent management system always has to evolve as requirements change, as threats change, as the talent market pool of eligible people changes and as skill sets change. And then there’s technology. You know, when I first came into the Air Force in 1989, the technology then was not what it is in 2020, right? And so, whether it’s artificial intelligence, machine learning, all these different things have changed the way we look at our talent management system. It’s also changed how we communicate with our Airman and how we’re able to get information out and how we’re able to get feedback. All these things have led to and sort of influence the changes in the talent management system from when I first came in to where we are now.

I would say to you the system today is driving to be more agile than it was before. It was a one size fits all discussion before, but now it’s trying to be more agile and it’s certainly more collaborative. I hope the system is becoming more transparent so that all of our Airmen understand what’s going on and that they have a say in what happens to them in the talent management system and they have an insight to what happens.

Airman Magazine: What has changed throughout your career pertaining to talent management and your leadership development?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: We (Air Force leadership) always talk about situational leadership and being able to adjust your leadership styles and that has to continually happen. We’ve seen the advent of different leadership styles needed for the population of the all-volunteer force we have today and one of the key things I think we need to touch on is our leaders need to have the right balance of emotional intelligence to be successful. So, what does that mean? I would start by saying, emotional intelligence is first and foremost the skill set to know yourself, to understand your own behaviors and to control your own emotions so that you then can have good interpersonal relationships and be able to lead others. And that’s the important part for us and I think we’ve become more cognizant and we’re trying to understand and teach that in ways that will make our leaders more effective.

As we move into the modern discussions of the national defense strategy, we’re in wars of cognition and wars of thinking, wars of understanding and wars of information and so we have to be able to develop and lead our skills in that same direction.

Capt. Taiwan Veney, cyber warfare operations officer, watches members of the 175th Cyberspace Operations Group, from left, Capt. Adelia McClain, Staff Sgt. Wendell Myler, Senior Airman Paul Pearson and Staff Sgt. Thacious Freeman, analyze log files and provide a cyber threat update utilizing a Kibana visualization on the large data wall in the Hunter’s Den at Warfield Air National Guard Base, Middle River, Md., June 3, 2017.

(U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

Airman Magazine: You’ve previously said “We must be responsive to the Air Force’s needs, must be agile with our talent, focused on rewarding Airmen on performance and be transparent on how the system works.” What’s the plan to meet those attributes for a talent management system?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I think those four attributes are where we’re trying to drive and trying to make sure our talent management system is so let me cover those a little bit and I’ll tell you how our strategy fits against that.

So, first and foremost the talent management system has to deliver and has to be responsive to the requirements of the organization. I mentioned for 2020 one of our priorities is to have the right size and shape of the force and that’s what it’s about, whatever the Air Force requires us to be, whatever the Space Force will require, the talent management system has to be responsive and it has to be agile for responding to new technologies, new threats, but it’s also going to be agile for individual Airman.

We are a military organization, but we have to understand agility and we want performance to shine. We want people’s performance to be the deciding factor in our meritocracy, if you will, for when we decide who gets promoted, who gets what key jobs.

Those Airmen who distinguish themselves by performance, that performance needs to be driven forward and incentivized and rewarded.

Lastly, I think it’s important to make sure with the communication within our force that we are transparent, open in what we do and simple.

All the things that we’ve been doing on the officer side, enlisted side and civilian side are sort of wrapped around those areas.

I’ll give you some examples, on our enlisted side, we made a change in our senior noncommissioned officer’s promotion selection process where we no longer use testing as part of that process. We did that to drive and empower performance, where performance becomes the driving factor for us being able to select our senior noncommissioned officers and it’s no longer test taking or some other skill set that might have been augmenting that decision. Now, it’s performance based.

On the officer side, we recently went to new developmental categories for our line of the Air Force system, the same system that we had in place since 1947 and we made some changes. Those changes were to help us with development to become more agile, to drive our agility and drive our responsiveness.

We had to recognize not all officers need to develop in the same way. The way that we develop and the opportunities we have for our pilots are different than what we have for our space operators, were different than what we have for our cyber operators, our support personnel, like my career field and so we had to develop the agility if you will, to be able to develop in different ways so that we can maximize everybody’s potential, while at the same time driving ourselves to be more responsive to requirements.

We can help ourselves develop the right size, the right shape and the right skill sets we need to meet the requirements for the Air Force. So, all the things we’ve been doing are all really designed around those four attributes to build the talent management system that we need.

Airman Magazine: How does the AF identify leadership potential?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: There are lots of ways to identify potential throughout someone’s career to recognize different traits and characteristics. I think there’s testing factors. I think there’s observation factors. Certainly, there’s evaluation factors at some point in time you are observed in different time phases, different jobs. You look at how did they do? How did they respond? We try to identify those people who have the skill sets to be leaders.

One of the important things we’re working on is, can we get better in identifying who’s going to be a good leader? Is it just the born characteristic or can you actually teach it and develop it and go forward? We (Air Force) say you can teach leadership, develop it and be better at it. So, we’re working on how to identify it more accurately early. It’s not just to screen people out, because I think people often think you’re trying to identify who’s not a good leader, so that you can screen them out. There’s part of that, but it’s even more important to identify where people have some shortcomings in their leadership capabilities so that we can help them and give them an opportunity to develop into the leaders we need, because we need a lot of leaders in our Air Force.

Airman Magazine: Revolutionary changes to how officers are developed and selected for promotion have been made, like the creation of developmental categories and transitioning from Below the Zone to merit-based timing for promotions. How will this help with officer development and getting the right people in key leadership positions?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: Sometimes the Air Force had the tendency in the past to rush some of our folks through key developmental opportunities and not fully immerse them and give them a chance to learn all the competencies and all the experiences they needed. At the same time, when we did that, we added the below the zone piece that gave us a chance to incentivize performance. What we’ve transformed that to now is with merit-based promotion, I can still incentivize performance, I can give people a chance to let their performance shine and let their performance advance them among their peers, but at the same time, I make sure I balance that with the developmental time that’s needed to truly get the skill sets that we’re going to require.

Airman Magazine: Can enlisted personnel expect similar changes to their promotion system in the near future?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: We made some adjustments and changes to our enlisted system, even prior to the work and transformation that we’re doing the officer system. I think you’ll see similar things. When we talk about, what do we value as an Air Force and how we’re going to evaluate you, for the officer corps, we talk about now four things. We talk about how do you execute your mission? Whatever mission you are assigned to do. How do you lead people? Whether that’s an informal way where you’re actually a supervisor or a squadron commander or even informal as part of a squadron or group. How do you manage the resources you’ve been put in charge of? Whether they be dollars and equipment or even Airmen’s time? You know Airmen’s time is a resource. And then how do you improve whatever unit you’ve been put in charge of? Those four factors are probably pretty familiar to a lot of people. Those are the same four factors we use to evaluate units, that’s the unit effectiveness inspection, the UEI that our inspector general uses to evaluate. So we said, look, let’s line those up. Let’s have those four factors be the same way we evaluate performance in our officers. I think we’re going to see the enlisted system transition towards those same four factors. Let’s evaluate our airmen as a whole on those four factors. How do I execute my mission? How do I lead people? How do I manage resources? And what did I do to improve whatever unit I’m assigned to? So, I think you’ll see commonalities. I think they’ll also be some differences. It won’t be exactly the same system because we look for different things from our officer enlisted corps. I don’t think we want them to be exactly the same to accomplish the things that we need, but there’s going to be a lot of overlap and I think there is already a lot of overlap and you’ll see some more.

Air Force Basic Military Training trainees work to complete an obstacle during the Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training, a weeklong training simulation at Air Force Basic Military Training (AFBMT). The BEAST is where trainees get to put everything they’ve learned about combat skills into practice in a simulated environment.

(U.S. Air Force photo/Bennie J. Davis III)

Airman Magazine: Toxic has been this year’s buzzword. Do you think the Air Force has a toxic leader problem or is it something different that can be fixed?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I agree with you toxic gets used a lot and I’m not always sure everybody has a framework of what toxic leadership means, because the term gets used in a lot of different ways. Sometimes it’s really appropriate and other times I’m left wondering if people understand what they refer to as toxic.

The Air Force is working on developing a definition of toxic leadership, so we can all understand.

I would say in a working definition right now on toxic leadership for us is a series of adverse behaviors that have an adverse impact on the unit or individuals. So, it’s not a one time series of negative behaviors, but it’s a continuous series of negative behaviors, that an individual would manifest that has a negative impact on a unit or on individuals, that’s toxic leadership for us.

I think that exists in our force from time to time, and it’s sometimes it’s a result of individuals who don’t have all the leadership tool sets that they need to handle the situations that they’ve been put in.

We are working to identify early what people’s shortcomings might be and give them an insight to that. It’s not to not allow them to become commanders, although that will be part of the discussion, but if we identify them in the right ways, can we give people the ways to develop and overcome those shortcomings?

There’s a fantastic course down at the Air University called the Leadership Development Course or LDC, the course sprung out of Gen. Goldfein’s work in revitalizing squadrons. They’re working to teach emotional intelligence and to teach understanding of interpersonal relationships and understanding how to lead in a positive way and inspiring way without having to revert to any of those adverse behaviors that might be characterized or seen as toxic.

I’m excited about that work. I wish that was available when I was going to go be a squadron commander. I learned a lot of things from watching other people. And luckily, I had some really good role models, but I would have loved to have some of that training and insight, so I could have known more about myself to help myself and to lead my organization in a better way.

Airman Magazine: Can you explain how changes in the talent management system might combat toxic leadership? Do you believe these changes will benefit all officers, regardless of when they peak in their careers?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: It starts with developing people the right way. The talent management system is going to identify short shortcomings in and where you’re missing a skill set, and hopefully give people a chance to correct course going forward. If I’m evaluating you on how you execute the mission, how you lead people and I’m grading that in the in the environment that we’re talking about it will help combat toxic leadership traits.

We’re driving the talent management system to reward the right behaviors in terms of leading people so that those people who are leading people in an inspirational way, in a positive way, are going to be the right people that we reward and move forward.

As a military organization we have some tough things to do. We’re going to ask people to go in harm’s way and put themselves in harm’s way from time to time. Positive leadership doesn’t mean it’s easy; it’s demanding. There are high standards and there needs to be high standards. We need to be a high standard, high performing organization, but we can do it in a positive way so that the leadership we get out is inspiring and caring leadership and that’s what we’re looking for.

Airman Magazine: What is your definition of emotional intelligence and what role does it play in the development of our leaders and what role has it had in your career?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I think emotional intelligence is the ability first and foremost, to know yourself, your emotions and to control your emotions. So that you can use that understanding to have better interpersonal relationships and have a better understanding of others and your interaction with others.

When I first came into the Air Force, I don’t think I ever heard this terminology. I think it was there, we just didn’t know what it was. We used to talk about your ability to communicate effectively speaking, writing, leading, different things that we would focus on as leadership attributes. The idea of being able to understand yourself and understand others was always there. I just don’t know that we were as sophisticated and understood exactly what it meant. Labeling it as emotional intelligence and consciously understanding how to train it and how to get better at it and that’s where we’re going now, which is really exciting.

We have this great strength in our Air Force. We have people from all kinds of diverse backgrounds and ways of thinking. It’s difficult for you to lead diverse groups of people to be a high performing organization if you can’t understand and recognize where people are coming from or understanding yourself.

Air Force Basic Military Training trainees walk across a completed obstacle of bridge making during the Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training, a weeklong training simulation at Air Force Basic Military Training (AFBMT). The BEAST is where trainees get to put everything they’ve learned about combat skills into practice in a simulated deployed environment.

(U.S. Air Force photo/Bennie J. Davis III)

Airman Magazine: Air University is developing an augmented reality exercise helping young officers shape their ability to interact effectively in social situations and to recognize and manage their emotions. How could programs like this have helped you in your career?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I would have loved to have some of those programs and the idea of what they’re doing right now at the leadership development course at our air university is fantastic, because it’s a free training gym without any worries or any risk of failure.

You can train in a virtual training gym in what most of us learned from our actual experiences, whether it was purposeful or just un-purposeful trial and error. If I did something it didn’t work very well, if it didn’t feel so good, I learned and tried to do better. I modeled myself around the people I was lucky enough to observe and gain mentorship from. Now to have a place for us to try things, to fail and learn and learn about yourself in the process so that you have a much better opportunity to apply that in your interactions in a leadership role. Knowing what already works and doesn’t work for you, that’s a really powerful concept.

Airman Magazine: The Chief of Staff talks about the power of Failing Forward, not just with programs and ideas, but also with individuals. Can recall a specific time when you failed or took a calculated risk and failed which ultimately propelled you forward, either personally or in a specific mission?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: First, I failed a bunch of times. It wasn’t just once I failed, I failed quite often and I make mistakes a lot. I think all of us do. First and foremost, I think as an Airmen and leaders, we all have to recognize and understand that.

I can recall when I was a captain and I had a program I was in charge of, I was sort of a section chief of a program. And I had I had a three-star general stand in front of me, asking me questions. I was really excited about my program and I was really proud and convinced that everything I was saying was true. In the middle of me explaining, the general kept asking me questions and I felt like I could never get my answer out. So, I think I said, “Sir, if you’d let me finish, I’ll be able to tell you,” to which he turned and looked at me and said, “You don’t understand the questions I’m asking. You need to listen before you respond.” I felt like a big failure. It was a dressing down in front of everybody, but he was right. I was so sure that I knew what I was doing that I wasn’t listening. I was already thinking about my answer before he finished his questions.

It hurt for a couple of weeks, I had a little sore spot in my brain and my soul. But, you know, it made me understand that I needed to listen better and to know that I wasn’t going to be the only one with good ideas. It served me well as I went forward. I was lucky that particular general took it well and didn’t use it as a permanent failure experience for me.

Airman Magazine: What did that experience teach you or influence how guided other Airmen through failures?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: It made me double down on the idea that failure is not the end. You can recover from failure and that failure is probably a good thing periodically. If we never fail, we probably don’t push the envelope far enough forward to be better than what we can be.

That certainly influenced me to say, look, others around you are going to fail, how you respond to their failures and what you do with their failures is going to help shape them. So, I make sure they get the same opportunities I had to learn and grow. That’s really what became important for me out of that situation.

There’s been other times when I failed and that’s okay. I know we pushed the envelope and we got to where we needed to be and it didn’t quite work out, but we enjoyed the experience. It wasn’t very enjoyable for me when I had that first experience, but there have been other cases since then.

Airman Magazine: We have an intelligent force of high achievers who are afraid to fail and tend to try and solve problems on their own and believe failure can be a career killer. How do we move to a fail forward culture? Are the days of the one mistake Air Force behind us?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: I challenge that assertion. I don’t think we have a force of people who are afraid to fail or are risk averse. We are really blessed to have great talented Americans volunteer to come serve in our United States Air Force and in our Space Force. When we get them and they have that enthusiasm and they’re being innovative and they’re going forward and they’re failing, how we react to their failure will tell us whether they’re going to be risk averse or not.

If little mistakes are treated the same way as crimes or large mistakes, then I think you’re going to get a risk averse force. Periodically, we’ve probably had ourselves there. I don’t think we’re one mistake Air Force, I think we’re pretty mature in understanding that. But at the same token, I think we’re a force that says you have to learn from the mistakes you’ve made. Repeated failures or repeated mistakes for the same things isn’t something we can have. Because eventually, those repeated mistakes are going to translate to actual combat and an actual battlefield.

Airman Magazine: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Maj. Gen. Kelly: It’s an exciting time for the Air Force. This idea that we have to make the force as a whole raise our acumen if you will, on what does it mean to be an Airman? What does it mean to be in the United States Air Force or United States Space Force? How do we build better leaders? How do we build a more lethal force for what is going to be required in the future? It’s an exciting time for us. I believe there’s lots of good thinking going on, there’s some great innovation and it’s a time to make a difference, so I’m excited to be part of it.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 advantages “military brats” have in life

This post is sponsored by the UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center (VFWC).

The UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center is honored to continue to serve and support the military-connected community during COVID-19! For appointments call (310) 478-3711 x 42793 or email info@vfwc.ucla.edu

Childhood is complicated in its own right. You’re starting to glimpse the way the world works but it doesn’t really make sense. You try on different personalities to find the right fit like jeans at the department store. You’re pretty sure if you sit too close to the TV, you won’t go cross-eyed, despite what the adults say. There’s a winged fairy that slips in your room in the middle of the night to discreetly buy old teeth that have fallen out of your mouth.


Now let’s throw into the chaos a parent who is often absent because of their job, to uphold the values and safety of the nation. This parent or parents have been the reason your life’s uprooted every two to three years, and you’ve had to roll with it. It’s never been up to you, but somehow you’ve found pride in the path you are on.

Few know what it takes to be a “military brat,” and there are times it can feel more like a burden than a privilege. These children are collectors of experiences, good and bad, and richer for it. Military brats have a level or vocabulary and self-awareness beyond their age. How can I describe these kids who sacrifice precious time with their active duty parent, while enduring move after move? Resilient. Astute. Optimistic.

It’s no surprise that some of the most famous and successful people in our society are military brats… Kris Kristofferson, Jessica Alba, Bruce Willis and even… SHAQ?

From an outsider perspective, it may seem as though the life of the military brat is full of contradictions. I hate moving but I love having lived in different countries. I am proud of my parent but I’m frustrated when they work so much. Learning how to say goodbye gets easier, but not really. Yet despite all these challenges, there are certain advantages military children can take with them for life, long after their parents have separated from military service.

So, to shed a little light on the oft-misunderstood life of the so-called “military brat,” I did some interviewing of my own. Here are the advantages brats say they’ve gained that help them even after their parents have become veterans:

Language Skills

Being bilingual is not exclusive to military kids, but when I polled my friends’ children, the love of learning and speaking different languages was so strong that it deserves a place. They met new friends in other countries when kids at their new school would come over and ask about their English. They found excitement and acceptance in the phrase, “¡Hola! ¿Como te llamas?” As the kids got older, they had a harder time retaining a language not taught in American curriculum, like Italian, but they said when they visited the country, it came right back to them.

Flexibility 

Moving is tough. It’s a constant hustle of unpacking and repacking. It means making new friends and then saying goodbye. It also means playing baseball with the Alps as your outfield, and being personally invited to a gaucho’s (Argentinian cowboy) ranch to pet their goats and eat homemade empanadas. They understand the chance to travel comes with moving often, but there is a trace of exhaustion to hear them talk about it.

When I asked two sisters what their favorite thing is about being a military kid, one said, “Moving all over the world.” When I asked what their least favorite thing was, the other said, “Moving all the time.” It’s complicated.

Possessions are easy come, easy go. After all, the smaller amount of “stuff” you have, the less you have to pack up and move. One girl even said she likes to leave some things behind for her friends to remember her. Yet despite all the moves, you learn to be flexible. Life’s an adventure.

World Perspective

The world is a book, and those who don’t travel only read one page.” – St. Augustine

It’s a big sentiment, and these kids get it. Every single one said they get to see cool things no one else gets to see, or that they’ve probably been to more countries than most adults. While the moving is exhausting, the flip side is that it has afforded them some beautiful sights that sets them apart from non-military kids. Traveling gives you a whole other perspective on the world and this is a skill that brats can take with them in any profession.

Tech-Savvy

It’s easy to vilify the effects of social media, but we forget that for those who move around a lot it is a means to keep in touch. The sisters who lived in Argentina practice their Spanish by talking to their old friends on the phone. Through email and messaging on Instagram, this generation of military brats is able to continue friendships and gain perspectives of old acquaintances across the globe using the latest technology…even Snapchat. Impressive.

People Skills 

Like playing the piano, if you practice social skills you will get better at it. One teen said because he’s met so many people, social skills come easy to him now, and that includes speaking in public. He learned from his dad how to greet people, and attributes it with enthusiasm to being a military kid. Oh, and he was just given the Principal’s Award out of his entire class this year, by the way.

It can make a kid nervous at first — that’s understandable, but the overwhelming consensus is: “worth it.”

Department of Defense

Discipline

While this may not be the most fun advantage for military kids growing up there is definitely a sense of discipline that is learned from an early age. Whether it’s keeping your room “inspection ready” or just learning so say “sir or ma’am,” the values military children learn often translate into success in college, careers and even in their own families.

Sense of Service 

No, not all brats are going to follow their parents footsteps and join the military. While some do, most military children choose their own path in life but they never truly give up the sense of service. This can often translate into roles in their community or in some cases even elected offices. It’s this commitment to others that truly distinguishes brats from their peers.

Thanks!

A special thanks to the kids who let me pry into the wonders and difficulties of their unique lives. Garrison, Lily, Veronica, and to the countless other “military brats,” we all say thank you!

Now, please excuse me while I cry and watch videos on Youtube of parents coming home early from deployments to surprise their kids.

This post is sponsored by the UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center (VFWC). If you are in the Los Angeles area, you can request a free Lyft ride to take advantage of their benefits for veteran families.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marine makes miraculous recovery after brain injury

Olivia Nord doesn’t remember much from Marine Corps boot camp, or the car accident that killed her three friends, and almost killed her and her mother.

Her mom, Jennifer, doesn’t remember anything either. But as she looks at her daughter, says she knows one thing for sure.

“She’s my miracle. She’s my absolute miracle.”

The two were returning home Dec. 2, 2016, for Olivia’s first leave after she graduated from basic training at Parris Island, South Carolina.

“I don’t have any memory of that,” Jennifer says. “The last memory I have is waiting at the airport in South Carolina.”

“I don’t even remember basic training,” she adds. “I remember running and shooting. That’s it.”


Olivia’s boyfriend, Austin, joined the Marines six weeks ahead of her. His family — mother, Dawn; sister, Dylan; and Dylan’s 2-year-old son, Payton–met them at the Minneapolis Airport. As they drove onto the interstate, another driver having an epileptic seizure slammed head first into their car.

Olivia Nord is all smiles after graduating from Marine Corps basic training. Hours later, she would be in a coma from a head-on car crash.

Dawn, Dylan and Payton were killed.

“I was broke in half,” Jennifer says. “My pelvis was crushed. I have a moderate brain injury and a rod in my back, with four screws holding it together.”

First responders didn’t have much hope for Olivia. Paramedics first took her to Hennepin County Medical, a level-1 trauma center, before she was transferred to Walter Reed in Maryland, and finally, to the Minneapolis VA Health Care System, Jan. 12, 2019. She had a severe brain injury and was in a coma, along with a shattered femur, torn aorta and lacerated liver. She had a tracheotomy, and was kept alive with artificial respiration.

Coming out of the coma

The Minneapolis VA is one of five major polytrauma centers in the entire Department of Veterans Affairs. It offers an array of integrated services for those in inpatient, transition and outpatient care. Brain-injury runs the gamut from someone with a concussion or stroke, or in Olivia’s case, all the way to a coma — one of their most severe cases.

“She was in our ‘Emerging Consciousness’ program, but wasn’t very responsive,” said Christie Spevacek, a nurse who oversees some of the most acute polytrauma cases. “We had to wean her from the vent, and she was in a very minimal state. Wasn’t talking, wasn’t doing anything.

“You see that, and you say, ‘Let’s get to work.’

“In the next month or so, she started waking up, but she’d maybe have five minutes, and then would be down again,” Spevacek said. “We had to bring up her endurance.”

Olivia shares photos from that time. Tubes and wires run everywhere. In another, she hugs her mom with a vacant stare in her eyes.

“She was awake, but she wasn’t awake,” Jennifer said. “She wasn’t aware of what was happening and didn’t know she was hurt. We had to keep reminding her.”

At one point, Olivia woke up and it didn’t know where she was at.

Olivia Nord suffered a severe brain injury, torn aorta, lacerated liver and crushed femur. She was in a coma for more than a month.

“I didn’t know I was hurt or why I was there,” she said. “I didn’t know my one leg didn’t work. I started to get up and fell down. The nurse came in to get me.”

Doctors, nurses, and therapists continued working with her. They’d take her out of the room. The goal was to make her feel normal again. They painted her fingernails and gave her lipstick. She worked on walking, talking, remembering, and all those things taken for granted.

“It was amazing to see her flourish,” said Kristin Powell, a recreation therapist who worked with her on the acute side, and now as an outpatient. “We were able to take her on outings. She was able to take what she learned in physical therapy and use those skill and flourish in the community.”

Not every outcome is as good as Olivia’s, which makes the recovery even more remarkable,” Powell said. “You see them come in here at their worst, in acute care, with tubes going in and out, and that was Olivia. And look at her now.”

Olivia is training to ride the recumbent bike at the upcoming VA Summer Sports Clinic in San Diego. She works as a grocery cashier and has plans to go back to school for elementary education.


No one expected 18-year-old U.S. Marine Corps Private Olivia Nord to survive …

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Patrick Hayes, the man who caused the crash, was not even supposed to be driving. He was sentenced April 9, 2019, to 100 months in prison. Olivia and her mom both gave victim statements at the sentencing.

“I feel like we are a flicker of a flame, and you caused three of those flickers to burn completely out,” Olivia sobbed in court.

The car crash is still a blank for mom and daughter.

“In one way, it’s a blessing,” Jennifer says. “But there is a part of us that wants to remember, just so we can grieve.”

“It’s just like they were here one moment, and now they’re gone,” Olivia adds.

She and her boyfriend are no longer together.

“We don’t talk,” Olivia says. “He was back home for his birthday and I sent him a ‘Happy birthday’ text.”

“We know it’s hard for him, too,” Jennifer says. “He lost his mom. He lost his family.”

Recovery beyond the Minneapolis VA

Today, in a lot of ways, Olivia is like any 21-year-old. She laughs, tells jokes and likes to cuss like… well, like a Marine.

Jennifer and Olivia help each other remember dates and even the right words that sometimes get lost or garbled.

“She’ll help me and I’ll help her,” Jennifer says. “The other day, I said, ‘I’m going out to vacuum the lawn.'”

“I said, ‘No, you’re going to mow the lawn,'” Olivia added.

Olivia uses a leg brace to walk, and also participates in Wounded Warrior events in the community. But sometimes it’s hard not to get angry.

Jennifer and Olivia Nord lost their three friends, and were both nearly killed in a head-on collision. Today, mom and daughter are thriving despite brain injuries.

“I’m still not the best,” she says. “I see how far I’ve come. My gosh, I’m out of the hospital. At some point, I don’t want any injuries. I can’t run. I can’t use my left arm. But I’m getting better. My thinking process is better. I’m always thinking.

“My friends think I’m crippled,” she adds. “I’m not crippled.”

Mom and daughter have tattoos that show their love for one another — and those they’ve lost.

Both sport a red fox tattoo on their ankles. Jennifer’s says, “Love you, bebè.” Olivia’s says, “Love you, mamá.” She also has another, larger tattoo on her waist. It’s an American flag shaped like the United States, a cross and three dog tags bearing three names Dawn, Dylan and Payton. She has another on her inside right arm — four different colored roses for family members, and a tiny cross on a chain that says, “Faith.”

“For me, the faith is not always what you believe in. It’s what you do to get better,” Olivia says. “I have faith in myself that I will get better.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The ‘Snowflake’ recruiting ads in the UK are working like a charm

When it comes to advances in recruiting campaign marketing, the United Kingdom has retaken the crown. The innovative style that was once the backbone of the British Empire’s recruiting posters (which was subsequently adopted by the U.S. Army) experienced a resurgence in the past year, appealing to the finer qualities of the younger generation’s digital habits. It raised a lot of eyebrows, but it worked.

Applications to join the British Army have nearly doubled since the campaign began.


Every generation has its chosen medium. Some veterans may have been persuaded by the call to “Be All That You Can Be” via television ads. Others might have been swayed to join the Navy after watching a little movie called Top Gun.

At least one salty Marine out there was swayed with the promise of a muscle car. Enjoy that lease, Corporal.

On Jan. 3, 2019, the British Army launched a recruiting campaign that recalled the “Lord Kitchener Wants You” ads of the First World War. The 1914 poster featured the Empire’s Secretary of State for War, Horatio Herbert Kitchener, in a Field Marshal’s uniform, pointing to the viewer, calling on them to join the British Army to fight the Central Powers on the Continent.

Or wherever they were needed.

The ad was so successful and iconic it was later adopted in the United States, featuring J.M. Flagg’s Uncle Sam calling on Americans to do the same. Other countries also adopted the idea. And just over a century later, it’s back – and the passage of time hasn’t diluted its power one bit.

The original Kitchener poster along with its American and scary German imitations.

According to the Telegraph, the British Army has been struggling with retention and dwindling numbers. More people are leaving the service than joining. It stands to reason the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence is (probably) happy to report that the ads still pack a wallop. In a “resounding success” the first month, applications to join nearly doubled. In January 2019, applications rose to a five-year high, double from the same timeframe the previous year and almost twice from the previous month. The day the ads debuted, more people applied to join in a single day than any other day in the previous year. Hits to the Army’s website also doubled in January.

With monikers dubbing millennials and Gen-Zers “selfie addicts,” “binge gamers,” and “phone zombies,” the MoD called on the new generation of Britons to service. Surprisingly, the advertisements didn’t go straight to Instagram or Facebook, they went to billboards and other forms of outdoor advertising.

“The premise of the campaign is that this is the generation with the skills, the attitude, the drive to succeed; an army that’s not in the army yet,” Command Corporal Major, Warrant Officer Class One Steve Parker told the Telegraph. “People are the army, not in the army.”

The campaign uses these perceived weaknesses to highlight their useful, untapped potential in a series of video ads aired on television and on the internet that followed the release of the billboards.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Army Museum Support Center is the biggest treasure trove you never knew existed

Fort Belvoir, Virginia: The Army has a giant warehouse of war art that includes not just Hitler’s watercolors but also oil paintings by Norman Rockwell. 

It might seem like the Army would be the last likely patron of the arts, but the truth is over the last hundred years, the Army has rescued and confiscated a vast collection of art. The collection of captured and commissioned war art features 16,000 paintings, photos and sculptures, and all are sitting inside a climate-controlled football-field-sized museum at Fort Belvoir. 

Before being moved to the museum, this treasure trove of art was stashed inside a large warehouse. The collection features work by everyone, from enemy combatants to ordinary soldiers and even Hitler’s watercolors. The collection program initially started during WWI when the Army dispatched eight combat artists to roam the battlefields in Europe and record firsthand experiences of the average soldier. 

The combat artists’ renderings would later be used as part of propaganda efforts to drum up support for the war before being collected and filed away in the Army warehouse. Then, during WWII, the Army added to their growing museum with captured Nazi and Fascist propaganda so it might be preserved for future generations. These materials were deemed too controversial for the public at the time, but the Army knew that future historians might find them useful. 

Thousands of art pieces were returned to their rightful owners after the war, but the Army held onto anything that showed the Nazi leader or pictured a swastika. Other additions during WWII included historical pieces unrelated to war art that were initially stolen by the Nazis but then reclaimed and returned by the Monuments Men. The Monuments Men were a team of over 400 soldiers and civilians who worked to protect Europe’s cultural heritage, which might have otherwise been lost to the war. The Monuments Men have been the focus of several documentaries and movies, the most recent of which was in 2014 and detailed the challenging experience of discovering the world’s lost art. Thanks to the Monuments Men, some of the great art saves from WWII included the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, and the Altarpiece of Veit Stoss. 

Of course, the cache at Fort Belvoir isn’t the only reserve of art and historical artifacts that the Army owns. There are collections all across the country under the Library of Congress, Archies, Smithsonian and Park Service stewardship. Most of these collections are tightly sealed and unknown to the public to help balance the compromise between preservation and security. However, Fort Belvoir is an exception to the norm, as the Army has routinely allowed researchers and journalists to come in and take a look. 

Now that the Army has an official museum, the collection will be moved there, and access will be open to the public. Of course, that was before the pandemic put a wrench in those plans. The museum is located on 84 acres at Fort Belvoir, about thirty minutes south of Washington, D.C. The main building is approximately 185,000 square feet. It displays selections from the Army Art Collection and artifacts, documents, and images collected over the years. The American public has never seen most of these images, and the Army expects the museum will welcome at least 500,000 people every year. The National Museum of the United States Army is the capstone of the Army Museum Enterprise and offers visitors a comprehensive portrayal of Army history and traditions. In an ode to our nation’s veterans, the museum will be opening its doors on November 11, 2020. The opening ceremony will be limited to a small group of Army leaders, but the event will be live-streamed, so historians worldwide will be able to witness the historic moment. Free timed tickets are required for entry and available for request through the museum’s website