The 82nd Airborne Division is getting in the holiday spirit early this year with the annual ‘All American Presents from Paratroopers.’
“All American Presents from Paratroopers is an annual event the 82nd Airborne Division hosts in order to give back to the surrounding Fayetteville community with holiday gift donations while enhancing our Airborne capability and giving our paratroopers the opportunity to earn coveted foreign jump wings,” MSG Alex Burnett, PAO NCOIC of the 82nd Airborne, told We Are The Mighty.
The paratroopers who donated toys received a raffle ticket for a chance to earn foreign jump wings during the two-day airborne operation.
“Paratroopers from across Fort Bragg donated a present and were given a raffle ticket early Monday morning,” Burnett said. “Later in the day, the Division held a lottery and those with matching tickets were given a slot to jump on December 2nd and 3rd with a Chilean Jumpmaster.”
2020 marks the second year the division has hosted this event, which is open to any current paratrooper serving at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
“In years past, U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command hosted an event called Operation Toy Drop which was a similar event, but their last event was in 2018,” Burnett shared. “In the spirit of that tradition, last year the 82nd decided to create All American Presents from Paratroopers.”
This year, the event collected more than 1,500 toys, which will go to the Children’s Home Society of North Carolina, Fort Bragg USO, Armed Services YMCA, Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department and the Fayetteville Urban Ministry.
“I wanted to participate in Presents from Paratroopers, because it’s important to me that we give back to the local community and help those in need,” Staff Sgt. Alina Zamora, 82nd Airborne Division Paralegal said. “The fact that we can do that and earn a set of foreign jump wings makes the event even more special. I am glad I got to be a part of it.”
The 82nd Airborne Division is an airborne infantry division of the United States Army specializing in joint forcible entry operations and the primary fighting arm of the XVIII Airborne Corps. Since its initial members in 1917 came from all forty-eight states, the unit acquired the nickname “All American,” which is the basis for its famed “AA” shoulder patch.
“The All American Division is fortunate to be a part of the Fayetteville community and we are proud to be able to give back while providing our paratroopers the opportunity to jump and earn a set of foreign jump wings,” Burnett stated.
The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) pulls alongside the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Pecos (T-AO 197) during a replenishment-at-sea in June. Following an extended visit to Guam in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic, Theodore Roosevelt is underway conducting carrier qualifications during a deployment to the Indo-Pacific. Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kaylianna Genier. PHILIPPINE SEA (June 1, 2020) The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) pulls alongside the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Pecos (T-AO 197) during a replenishment-at-sea June 1, 2020. Following an extended visit to Guam in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic, Theodore Roosevelt is underway conducting carrier qualifications during a deployment to the Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kaylianna Genier)
When the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) returned to sea in late-May following a two-month long battle against the novel coronavirus, the aircraft carrier was ground zero for a new normal for Navy ships at sea.
In the early months of the global pandemic, the Roosevelt had become itself a COVID-19 “hotspot.” The virus ultimately cost one Roosevelt crewmember his life and infected 1,150 sailors. As the ship resumed its mission with a scaled-back crew, facemasks, frequent handwashing, enhanced cleaning measures, reduced mess deck seating, one-way corridors and other protocols to mitigate COVID-19 had become the norm within the fleet.
“We can protect our force, we can deploy our Navy, and we will do both,” Vice Adm. Phillip Sawyer, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Operations, Plans and Strategy, told reporters on an April 15 call. “Face-coverings, hand-washing, ship-disinfecting are now part of our daily routine throughout the Navy.”
Michael Rubin, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, argues the pandemic has served as a wake-up call for the Navy.
“The Navy trains for all sorts of contingencies but if operating during a global pandemic was one, it was so far down the list as to be irrelevant,” Rubin said. “Politicians thought we were past this age and flag officers and civilian planners were no different.”
Navy Seaman Kyle Pavek stands lookout watch aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) during a replenishment-at-sea with the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Pecos (T-AO 197). Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Julian Davis.
Less than a month after the first sailor aboard the Roosevelt tested positive for the coronavirus, the Navy issued updated guidance aimed at maintaining ongoing fleet operations and defeating “this unseen enemy.” The Navy’s “Pre-Deployment Guidance” and a “COVID-19 Recovery Framework” outline shipboard changes that will be experienced by sailors:
Mandatory medical screenings for existing medical conditions that place personnel at higher risk for COVID-19 complications.
Daily personal screening questionnaires and temperature checks.
Testing and isolation of anyone with flu-like symptoms.
14-to-21-day restriction of movement (ROM) period for potentially asymptomatic people to present symptoms.
14-day ROM period before external crew, ship riders (contractors, technical representatives) and direct support personnel can embark during an underway.
Enforcement of personal hygiene practices and, whenever possible, physical distancing.
Ongoing screening for potential COVID-19 symptoms.
Maximum personal protective equipment (PPE) use.
Separate and segregate cleaning teams from critical watchstanders.
Minimize contact with delivery personnel.
Additional guidance outlines specific steps to be taken to clean a ship or facility following a COVID-19 outbreak, using three categories of requirements depending on the degree to which the space is operationally significant and the level of access required.
“These measures allow fleet leadership the ability to monitor the health of the force in a controlled and secure environment so they are ready to accomplish assigned missions and support to the goal of preventing the spread of the COVID virus to U.S. forces, allies, partners and the community. These frameworks cover testing for personnel as well,” Cmdr. Patrick L. Evans, Public Affairs Officer for Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, said in an email response. He noted commanders have the authority to issue more specific guidance to units within their areas of responsibility.
“In addition, our ships are enforcing social distancing, minimizing group gatherings, wearing PPE and cleaning extensively,” he added. “Quarterdeck watchstanders are screening anyone who walks on board and referring sailors with symptoms to medical evaluation.”
Navy Quartermaster 3rd Class Patrick Souvannaleut, left, and Quartermaster 3rd Class Elizabeth Weil, right, stand spotter lookout during a replenishment-at-sea as the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt approaches the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Pecos (T-AO 197). Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Zachary Wheeler.
Navy officials have acknowledged “day-to-day actions must assume COVID is present” because asymptomatic personnel are likely to be aboard all ships. That point was driven home in mid-May when 14 Roosevelt sailors who previously contracted the virus tested positive a second time after returning to the ship following a mandatory quarantine period and two negative COVID-19 tests.
Retired Navy Capt. Albert Shimkus, a registered nurse and certified nurse anesthetist who previously commanded the hospital ship USNS Comfort, maintains sailors must take individual responsibility for following COVID-19 prevention protocols and “recognizing you could potentially be a carrier that could affect and infect your shipmates.”
As the Navy adjusts to the operational realities the pandemic presents, Shimkus, whose views are his own and do not represent the U.S. Naval War College, U.S. Navy or Department of Defense, stresses the Navy’s core values must ring true.
“Given the nature of what this crisis is ‘Honor, Courage and Commitment’ speak volumes about how we will treat ourselves and each other and about doing the ethically and morally correct thing,” said Shimkus, Associate Professor, National Security Affairs, Naval War College. “That’s all related to a command environment that is healthy and a command environment that is willing to do what’s right for the members of their command.”
Shimkus is confident Navy leaders at sea and ashore will rise to the challenge.
“Good leadership in the context of this crisis is being transparent to their crew and members of their organizations,” he explained. “Telling the truth and being able to be understood by your crew, opening up questions and answering them to the best of your ability is part of good leadership and commitment to doing the right thing.”
Most people hate meetings –especially with large groups.
Sure, meetings are a great opportunity to get business done in the military, but many of the meetings I have attended and personally ran were squandered opportunities. I hate thinking about the hours of productivity lost sitting in meetings. Sometimes this was because of how they were structured; at other times, the people who called the meeting had no idea what they wanted to get out of it in the first place.
In my experience, most meetings fail because many of the participants don’t come to the meeting prepared, fail to read the room and end up sucking the productivity out of the room before any real work can get done. Yes. I’m pointing fingers, but one of them is pointing toward a mirror.
For me, meetings have been trial and error experiences, and it took me about 16 years before I came to the realization that I’ve been part of the problem. Below are three lessons I’ve learned over the years:
1. Don’t shoot from the hip and have your top lines ready.
I’ve gone to way too many meetings unprepared, not sure of what I wanted to contribute prior to walking into the room. I don’t recommend ever bringing a script, but definitely figure out your topline message ahead of time. Your topline message is the idea that you want the boss or other people in the room to take with them when they walk away from the table. Once you figure this out, write down 3-4 key points that support your message and talk through them.
Even if you have your topline ready and your supporting points in hand, step back and ask, “So what?” If we identify a threat, what are we doing about it? If we identify a risk, how are we mitigating it? By asking, “so what” we not only ensure what we’re communicating is relevant to the listener, and not wasting our time or theirs, but we also ensure that we’re not presenting problems without solutions to our leaders.
2. Don’t go too deep.
I might know 1000 details on the topic I’m briefing in a meeting, but you have to ask yourself: Is it helpful? Maybe not. Therefore, it helps to know what is “above the line” or “below the line” in communication. Above the line is all the information the leader needs to know to make a decision or form a judgment about a topic. Below the line are all the details that aren’t necessary. These two characterizations change as you rise in the organization.
What’s above the line for a battalion commander is (hopefully) different than what’s above the line for a division commander. I’ve lost the attention of many leaders by mixing the two and going into too much detail in meetings, wasting minutes and confusing my messages.
I can’t tell you how many times I failed to pay attention and either covered an issue that was already addressed or tried to push through with my prepared briefing even though I knew time was running out (because the major talking ahead of me wasn’t prepared and went into excruciating detail on his topic).
Nothing will take the energy out of a meeting faster than when someone fails to read the room. Even when I’ve sat there with my notecards and top lines ready to go, I’ve learned that I need to continue to edit based on the atmospherics in the room. Is the boss fidgeting in his chair? Did someone bring up a topic that dampened the mood of everyone else, therefore your good idea will fall on deaf ears? These are a few areas that we need to read when in meetings and adjust accordingly. Maybe my three-minute briefing can be shortened to one minute for the sake of everyone’s sanity.
One last thing. Don’t ever walk away from a meeting without understanding the due-outs and the next steps on the topics discussed. If you do, then the meeting was a waste. If there’s time at the end or before everyone leaves, do a quick check and make sure you heard and understood your obligations.
Meetings don’t have to be wasted time. We all have a responsibility to play a part. We need to come prepared, maybe even rehearse, so we aren’t reading a piece of paper. We need to understand what’s important to the people in the room and not show off our brilliance on a topic. And finally, we need to actually pay attention, read the room and adjust our contribution to the meeting as needed. I will probably never utter the words, “I can’t wait for this meeting,” but at least I can play my part not to make it a wasted opportunity.
There have been plenty of stories where people get stranded in the middle of nowhere and go to insane lengths to survive. Since the majority of the population doesn’t prepare for getting get stuck out in the elements, they typically don’t find themselves with extensive survival kits.
If you find yourself marooned in an area that doesn’t get good cell-phone service and you’re unable to contact a lifeline, things can start getting a little stressful. Luckily, most people can find the right material in their surroundings to at least start a fire, but may not know how to go about creating the one.
Well, we’re to teach you how to create the spark you’ll need without burning through tons of energy to achieve that warm fire. Introducing the bow-drill.
First, you need to gather a few things.
A small piece of flat wood that can fit inside the palm of your hand (the socket), a longer but thin piece of wood (the fire board), a wooden peg (spindle), a curved piece of wood, and a cord make up the bow-drill.
Fasten the ends of the cord to the tips of the curved piece of wood, then single-wrap the cord around the spindle. Place the tip of the spindle onto the fire board and start moving the bow-drill in a sawing motion while continuing to secure the spindle in your hand with the socket.
Note: all these materials need to be as dry as possible.
After easily rotating the spindle with the bow-drill, the wooden peg will create a noticeable notch in the fire board. Shortly after, friction will cause smoke to build. Once the smoke starts to billow, add some very dry tinder into the mix as well as plenty of oxygen. Once the tinder ignites, lightly blow on the flame and feed it with the additional dry brush.
Quickly feed the fire with more dry wood and secure the burning area with rocks to prepared unwanted spreading. The fire can also be seen from far away, so that will only aid in your rescue.
As the holiday season begins to wind down, people are starting to reflect on their resolutions and goals for the new year. 2020 not only marks the beginning of a New Year, but the start of a new decade! Don’t let the hype get you in a frenzy. Here are 5 tips rocking your 2020 military spouse goals.
Listen! Rome wasn’t built in a day. Your enthusiasm to do it all is admirable, but DO NOT set yourself up for failure. Apply the SMART Goals method in your plans for 2020. You want to ensure your goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based. What does that mean? Don’t just set a goal to start a million-dollar business. Instead, set a goal to start an online virtual assistant business by Second Quarter 2020. First Quarter, you will have established your LLC, EIN, and business bank account. By the end of Second Quarter, your business will be operating with a goal of at least ten new clients. This example is more realistic and you can actually see if you are meeting your benchmarks for success.
You can write your goals in your planner, but why not get creative? Vision Board or Vision Mapping Parties are a great way to have fun while creating a visual representation of your goals. Vision Board parties are a fun and interactive way to celebrate the coming year. All you need is poster board, old magazines, scissors, glue, and other decorative items to make your board unique. Cut out pictures or words from magazines that represent what you want to accomplish for 2020. Kids can also create their own vision board. While enjoying snacks and drinks, reflect over the past year. Did you meet your 2019 goals? How can you do things differently? What worked for you? What didn’t work?
Goals can sometimes feel overwhelming, especially when looking at the end game. Try deconstructing your goal by working backwards. What are the steps needed to meet your overall goal or vision? How can you focus on smaller tasks to better track your progress? If you have a goal of saving ,000 for a family vacation, don’t let the number intimidate you. Break it down into more manageable parts. How much would you need to save each quarter, each month, each week? What does that look like? Does it mean you pack your lunch more during the week or downgrade to a lower cable package? Saving per week may be less scary than ,000 per year, but the outcome is the same.
This person can be your spouse, best friend, or anyone in your circle that is willing to hold you accountable. Sometimes it’s best to find someone who is also looking for the same type of accountability for themselves. This would be something similar to a Battle Buddy in the Army or Wingman in the Air Force. Your partner will help you stay focused, remind you to keep going, and be an overall support for you.
Don’t be so hard on yourself. The purpose of having clear goals and intentions is so you’re not stressed. If you don’t quite meet all of your goals, it’s okay. Celebrate your wins along the way for additional encouragement. This is where you can really lean on your accountability partner. You may have to adjust some things throughout the year. Take the lessons learned and implement that into your vision to improve your likelihood of success.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
The Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle is back on the ground after completing its latest record-breaking unmanned mission in space.
The experimental, clandestine space plane landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Oct. 27, 2019, after more than two years in orbit, the service said in a release. This was the X-37B’s fifth space mission. Its last orbit ended in May 2017 after 718 days in space.
“The safe return of this spacecraft, after breaking its own endurance record, is the result of the innovative partnership between government and industry,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said in a statement. “The sky is no longer the limit for the Air Force and, if Congress approves, the U.S. Space Force.”
This was the second time the X-37B landed has landed at the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility. It took off for its fifth mission on Sept. 7, 2017.
While its pay loads and most of its activities are classified, the Air Force said at the time that the mission would carry “the Air Force Research Laboratory Advanced Structurally Embedded Thermal Spreader (ASETS-II) payload to test experimental electronics and oscillating heat pipe technologies in the long-duration space environment.”
The Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle Mission 5 successfully landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility Oct. 27, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
The space plane “conducted on-orbit experiments for 780 days during its mission, recently breaking its own record by being in orbit for more than two years,” the release said. That brings the total number of days spent on-orbit for the X-37B to 2,865, officials said.
The last two missions have pushed the boundaries for a test vehicle, originally designed to spend up to 270 days circling the Earth.
What the X-37B does is literally a matter of rocket science. According to the service, the X-37B is exploring the practicalities and risks of “reusable space vehicle technologies” while also experimenting with space technology.
Under the purview of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, the test vehicle can autonomously reenter the atmosphere and eventually land horizontally on a flight line.
“This program continues to push the envelope as the world’s only reusable space vehicle,” said Randy Walden, director of the Rapid Capabilities Office.
“With a successful landing today, the X-37B completed its longest flight to date and successfully completed all mission objectives. This mission successfully hosted Air Force Research Laboratory experiments, among others, as well as providing a ride for small satellites,” Walden said Sunday.
In July 2019, the service’s former top civilian gave a glimpse into the space plane’s mission.
Air Force X-37B spaceplane successfully returns to earth after 780-day mission
Speaking about space awareness and deterrence at the Aspen Security Forum, Heather Wilson described the vehicle as a “small version of the [NASA space] shuttle.”
It “can do an orbit that looks like an egg and, when it’s close to the Earth, it’s close enough to the atmosphere to turn where it is,” she said at the time.
“Which means our adversaries don’t know — and that happens on the far side of the Earth from our adversaries — where it’s going to come up next. And we know that that drives them nuts. And I’m really glad about that,” she added.
Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer and astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told Military.com that Wilson’s comments on its movement may shed light on “a previously secret orbit-related capability,” and explained that the aircraft’s movement likely throws an adversary off, even if just for a short time.
“The dip into the atmosphere causes a change in the timing of when it next comes overhead. So [trackers’] predictions are off, and [they] have to search for it all over again,” McDowell said at the time.
The Air Force is preparing to launch the sixth X-37B mission from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, in 2020.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Luck has quite a diverse meaning within the military community. It’s sarcastically used to laugh at impossible situations, it can take years to ponder why it was on your side that day or is just used to define coveted situations or duty stations a few of us fall into. With Saint Patrick’s Day fast approaching, we’re looking at some of the luckiest duty stations worldwide through the many different definitions of the word.
Lucky to be a part of such a prestigious assignment
U.S. Army Garrison Benelux-Brussels-Schinnen is one post where you’ll feel you have a finger on the pulse of the world. That’s because NATO headquarters, located less than ten minutes away, is there. Special status cards, ID’s and privileges may apply to service members and their families depending upon the assignment. With Brussels being the administrative center for the European Union, it can be an exhilarating and fast-paced atmosphere.
The city boasts 14th-century architecture, and the opportunity to rub elbows with top business and government figures of today. As such a unique experience both culturally, and as an assignment within the military, lucky is exactly the feeling you’ll have if stationed here.
Lucky to experience such a remote location
U.S. Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll‘s location requires several zooms in if you’re searching on Google Maps. Home to the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, turquoise waters, and coral reefs for miles. With its ultra remote location, the cultural history of The Marshall Islands is something you’ll remember experiencing forever.
Ancient skills like “wave piloting” have been studied by anthropologists for some time now and are stories or skills families can see firsthand. Remote island life happiness hinges on acclimation. It’s important to remember you won’t be marooned forever and begin to embrace as much sailing, snorkeling or scuba diving as humanly possible between shifts.
Lucky to stand on such historic ground
Hawaii tops many duty station lists for its beautiful location, but an assignment to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam is much more than a vacation. It’s the chance to stand at the center of one of history’s most iconic moments in time.
With the Pearl Harbor National Memorial essentially in your back yard, it’s time to take that deep dive into the pages of history. Those assigned here should feel lucky to inherit the legacy of this location and do their best to carry on the stories of those forever immortalized in her waters.
Lucky to live in a vacation destination
The Naval Air Station Pensacola is located along the pristine shorelines of the Florida panhandle, a year-round tourist destination. What caught our eye was the opportunity to not just live in a beach town but living oceanfront is made possible via affordable condo living. Who needs a gym membership when your daily swim can be in the Gulf of Mexico?
Another appealing feature of an assignment here is the potential to dive into the military landlord market. Rental opportunities are expanded to include vacation renters in addition to the military crowd.
Lucky to have a “home base” to experience Asia from
Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni is located on the main island of Japan, near the Yamaguchi Prefecture. If you’d have trouble pinpointing that on a map, you’re not alone. Cities like Hiroshima, Tokyo, Shanghai, and Seoul are all major metros within the geographic area. Flying from the United States to Asia is not cheap, making travel either costly, lengthy (to get it all done in one trip) or both. Being stationed halfway across the world has a major travel perk. What used to be a 12-hour plane ride is now two. Becoming conversationally fluent in the many Asian languages is also much easier while you’re completely immersed within it. We’re confident you’ll feel lucky to have such a unique and culturally rich experience in your life.
Full of fear and anxiety, a 10-year-old Vietnamese boy sailed across the South China Sea for 10 days, in 1986, with the expectation that a better life awaited him across the ocean.
In his mind, the only way he could live a full and prosperous life was by coming to the United States.
“If it was not for America, I probably would be dead long ago,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Thinh Huynh, the senior enlisted advisor of 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. “If I didn’t escape, my life wouldn’t be like this.”
Born in a small village in Southern Vietnam, Huynh and his siblings lived most of their youth in poverty fighting for survival daily.
“We were so poor that we used to watch people eat,” he said. “We were barely eating. We would eat only two or three times a week.”
While recalling the struggles he faced growing up during post-Vietnam War conditions, the infantryman relates to images of children suffering from chronic malnutrition.
Command Sgt. Maj. Thinh Huynh, the senior enlisted advisor of 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, prepares to conduct pre-jump training during Operation Devil Storm at Green Ramp, Fort Bragg, N.C., July 17, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Alleea Oliver)
“When I see those TV commercials where they show the kids that have bloated bellies, to me, that was how I grew up in Vietnam at that time,” he said.
Huynh believes the Vietnam War, along with other wars, determined the outcome of his family’s future. Before the war, they were rice farmers and after the war they were forced to share their harvest with the communists, he said.
“Not only that, but they took away our home,” he said.
It was then that his family decided to escape Vietnam in hopes of a better life. Packed like sardines in a tiny fishing boat, Huynh and his family sailed across the South China Sea.
“I looked at old slave-boat drawings and I would compare us to that,” he said. “We were all packed in tight with no space to spare.”
Being hungry, thirsty and tired for an extensive amount of time altered the other passengers’ character.
“When people think they are about to die, they will do just about anything to survive,” Huynh said. “This brought out some of the worse behavior from people that I ever witnessed.”
Huynh said he observed a lot of things that kids shouldn’t have seen. “I saw greed, fear and anger,” he said. “Some people were so greedy they would drink as much water as they could while the rest of us had about a shot glass per day.”
After ten days of sharing the small space with 86 others, they arrived at a refugee camp on Pulau Bidong Island. Huynh’s hope finally had became his reality.
Command Sgt. Maj. Thinh Huynh, the senior enlisted advisor of 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, holds a static line while conducting pre-jump training during Operation Devil Storm at Green Ramp, Fort Bragg, N.C., July 17, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Alleea Oliver)
“One of the happiest days of my life was the day I escaped out of Vietnam,” he said. “I didn’t know if I was going to make it or not, but I was happy and very excited.”
Huynh and his family lived in the camp for nearly two years before coming to the United States, where he learned how to read and write, and studied America’s culture.
On Sept. 28, 1989, Huynh and his family moved from the refugee camp to a small town in Iowa.
Being interested in the military throughout grade school, he chose to focus his first American homework project on the U.S. Army.
At the age of 22, Huynh joined the U.S. Army in 1996, but waited to tell his loved ones because of his fear of disappointing his mother.
“When I joined the Army, I didn’t tell my parents until two days before I went to basic,” he said.
“My mom was really upset, because I was in college at the time. Nobody wanted their kid to escape out of Vietnam and go through all that just to join the military. “
In spite of their fears, he believed there wasn’t anything better than serving the country he now calls home.
“Ever since I was in the refugee camp, I wanted to be a U.S soldier,” he said. “Every day I would say, I need to be in the Army. So that’s what I did. I joined the Army. I don’t have any regrets.”
Twenty one years and six combat deployments later, the paratrooper says he’s gained resilience, honor and a profound love for the United States.
Although he has led many soldiers, Huynh never predicted he would become a command sergeant major within the 82nd Airborne Division.
“I never had the goal of being a command sergeant major,” he said. “My goals were to always take care of my soldiers. Now that I’m a command sergeant major of an Airborne Infantry battalion in the 82nd, I’m enjoying every minute of it. It is such an honor to be in a unit that is filled with so much history, pride, tradition and some of the best soldiers and leaders in the Army.”
According to his youngest sister, Thanh Huynh, he always possessed the qualities and had the desire to be a soldier.
“The characteristics that helped him become a command sergeant major are leadership, loyalty, initiative and courageousness,” she said. “Growing up, that’s all he ever wanted to be.”
At a young age, he demonstrated selfless service by putting Thanh first in every situation. “When we would come across a river while going fishing, he would always make sure I got across safely by finding anything that would float because I can’t swim,” she said.
Huynh believes his experiences in Vietnam developed his gratitude toward the freedoms he has as a U.S. citizen.
“I would never take America, or the freedom I have here, for granted,” he said. “I know what it’s like growing up without freedom [and] fearing for your life on a daily basis.”
Nearly 30 years ago, Huynh left Vietnam and found a place he could call home.
“I realized once I set foot in this country, that this was now my country,” he said. “I was born in Vietnam, but I escaped. America is now my country.”
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in conjunction with analysis from the Delphi Behavioral Health Group, showed that military service members drink more than any other profession — much to the surprise of absolutely nobody.
A tale as old as time…
It’s no secret that heavy drinking is a staple of military culture in the U.S. In fact, it’s so significant that military consumption of alcohol can seem like something out of an Onion article — like the time Iceland ran out of beer to serve troops.
The CDC study has confirmed just how severe it is, especially when ranked against literally any other profession.
The study covered over 27,000 people from 25 separate industries, focusing on their drinking frequency from 2013 to 2017. It discovered that the average person has at least one drink on about 91 days of the year.
(Photo by Sgt. Rebekka Heite)
However, military members lead all other professions with a whopping 130 days of drinking per year. That’s a drink a day for more than one third of the year.
The next closest profession was miners at 112 days, followed by construction workers at 106 days. Unsurprisingly, manual labor jobs round out the majority of the heaviest drinking jobs.
Okay, so that’s the rate of knocking off for a beer after work — but what about binge drinking?
(Photo from US Army)
The Department of Defense, using data from 2015 and 2016, discovered that about 30% of military members reported binge drinking in the month preceding the survey. Marines, specifically, reported doing so at an astronomic rate of 42.6%.
Veterans’ rate of binge drinking has reportedly risen from 14% in 2013 to about 16% in 2017.
This is alarming, as the initial study has also determined that drinking in the U.S. is trending downward. This has not been the case for service members: the number of days that military members drink has risen steadily since 2014.
Researchers attribute PTSD as one of the major factors causing veterans and active duty personnel to drink. Another reason for the surge could be a systemic culture that has allowed casual binge drinking as a rite of passage, or simply a way to pass time in isolated areas.
Whatever the reasoning, one thing is clear, drinking culture in the military is not going away without some major changes.
The title of “influencer” is almost cringe-worthy these days. From entitled social media personalities who complain when they have to pay full price at a restaurant, to the viral hot takes from people who are pandering to their audience, there’s definitely plenty of “cringe” to go around.
But what about the veteran social media personalities who are out making a positive difference, or at least making your day a little brighter? You know, the ones who aren’t thriving on division or ego, but rather on their own talent to entertain and inspire.
This Veterans Day, We Are The Mighty is highlighting the top five veteran influencers that we think you should really be paying attention to. From modest followings to millions of followers, these are the service members who turned their trigger fingers into Twitter fingers … who went from dropping bombs to dropping dope memes … who went from … sorry, I’ll stop. Just make sure you check them out!
Justin Lascek | @justin.lascek
Recently severely wounded. Green Beret Medic.
Justin is a relative newcomer to the social media scene, but with just a single photo, he inspired millions of people and established himself as someone worth following.
On Sept. 6, 2019, he posted a photo to Instagram from his hospital bed. Wearing his green beret, a pair of sunglasses, and an epic beard, he flexed for the camera while almost completely naked, covered in fresh scars, and missing his lower legs. The caption read:
“Six months ago, give or take a day, my life was changed. Chaos. Pain. Survival. Scared. I’m going to die. Tell her I love her. Wish I had been better. Everyone do your job. In 2018 I wanted to die. I figured my luck would run out after the close calls on the first trip. And it did. But brothers and sisters, known and unknown, kept me here.
And I’m alive. And since the blast, I have never wanted to die. I was strapped into the Skedco during a hellish movement for the boys. The sun was in our faces. I gripped their hand and knew I didn’t want to die.
And I’m alive. It can be surreal when the reality hits. But my soul isn’t in turmoil. There was so much uncertainty last year, but now it’s clear without wavering or uncertainty.
Because I’m alive. Cheating death and myself gives an understanding of how special life is. Not just for me, but everyone. Especially you, the one who hurts, the one who thinks death will end the pain. I see you. Stay with us a little longer.
And be alive.”
It’s hard to read that and not be inspired, and we have a hunch that his 39,000 followers on Instagram agree with us. The post ripped through timelines and news feeds like a lightning bolt, and he has continued to publish even more motivational posts since then. He might still be recovering from his wounds, but this Special Forces medic continues to be ‘Doc’ by inspiring the masses.
Astin Muse | @amuse31 & @ArmyAmuse
Former Drill Sergeant. Current Army Recruiter. Entertainer.
If Astin Muse weren’t still in uniform, she’d probably be a star on Saturday Night Live. This U.S. Army drill sergeant turned recruiter has made herself military-famous with hilarious sketch comedy that she films herself and posts on the internet. The sketches range from sarcastic observations about life as an NCO, to hilarious reenactments of basic training buffoonery.
The military hasn’t always made it easy for her to pursue laughs though. Muse has had to go to battle with military leadership trying to shut her down, citing obscure military regulations as a way to clamp down on her social media profiles. Fortunately, she’s been able to continue the comedy with a few compromises that really hasn’t affected the quality of her sketches. With 128,000 followers on Facebook and 29,000 followers on Instagram, there are plenty of people who appreciate her brand of comedy either way.
The best part? She frequently offers actual career advice to her active duty followers who need an objective outside opinion. Afterall, she’s a non-commissioned officer in the greatest Army in the world first, comedian second!
Jack Mandaville | @JackMandaville
Writer. Entertainer. Vietnam veteran. Best friends with Scott Stapp. Single mom. Compulsive liar.
We seriously don’t understand how Jack Mandaville isn’t an A-list comedian celebrity yet. With only 33,000 followers on Instagram, this former Marine and Iraq war veteran is a once-in-a-generation talent that, so far, the veteran community has been able to keep to ourselves.
He started off as one of the founding writers behind the infamous DuffelBlog satire website, before going on to work at RangerUp where he and fellow funnyman Pat Baker cooked up hilarious internet videos on the regular. After stealing the show as one of the supporting cast in the feature film “Range 15”, Jack has gone on to produce near-daily internet marketing videos for companies like StrikeForce Energy, Black Ops Grooming, and Black Rifle Coffee Company by day, and headline Vet TV’s “Checkpoint Charlie” series by night.
If you like to laugh, if you appreciate brutally honest humor that takes no prisoners, or you’re just entertained by a man that clearly has no shame, then Jack Mandaville is a must-follow.
Jennifer Marshall | @Jenn13Jenn13
Private Investigator @deepsourceinvestigations. Host @thecw. Max’s Mom in Stranger Things 2. Actress. Patriot. Veteran. Volunteer for Pinups for Vets.
With acting credits on hits like Stranger Things, Hawaii Five-O, and NCIS, Navy veteran Jennifer Marshall is a serious talent making her way through Hollywood. But there’s more to the sailor-turned-actor than meets the eye: She volunteers for non-profit Pin-Ups for Vets, and before that, she spent time teaching in East Africa. As if that wasn’t enough, she’s also a private investigator for Deep Source Investigations in California.
With 12,000 followers on Instagram, Marshall offers a peek behind the curtains of the many productions she has worked on, while simultaneously advocating for a variety of veterans issues that often go unresolved, or even worse — unnoticed. And if you like what she has to say on Instagram, then you’ll love her as a host on The CW’s “Mysteries Decoded”!
Vincent “Rocco” Vargas | @vincent.rocco.vargas
Army Ranger. Drill Sergeant. Border Patrol Officer. Actor on FX’s The Mayans. Author. Entrepreneur.
You may know him as Ranger Vargas if you served alongside him during his time at 2nd Ranger Battalion, or even Drill Sergeant Vargas if you had the pleasure of going through Basic Training with him at the helm. But most reading this probably know him as “Rocco” from his Article 15 Clothing days making satirical military comedy videos alongside Mat Best and Jarred Taylor.
But these days, he’s known for his role as “Gilly” on FX’s Sons of Anarchy spin-off Mayans M.C. Vargas did the near-impossible when he landed that role, as many Youtube sensations never quite make the jump into a traditional acting career. The show is in its third season, and promises to be just the start in what will likely be a long acting career for the combat veteran-turned-thespian.
If you’re one of his 146,000 followers on Instagram, then you also know that he keeps himself busy on and off the set. He’s published multiple books, hosts the Vinny Roc podcast, and founded Throwbacks Barber Company — now open and cutting hair in Utah. This is one veteran on the go, and is definitely worth keeping up with on social media!
World War II veteran Recil Troxtel turns 93 years old on April 17, 2019. He stares longingly out the window for much of the day, excited for the mail to arrive. When it finally does, he hops up in the hopes that there might be a personal letter or two, just for him.
With his birthday coming up, all he really wants is more mail. His fellow veterans and members of the military community are sure to step up and drop their friend Recil a line – right?
“He sits here in his chair looking out the window every day,” his daughter, Liz Anderson told KSWO, an Oklahoma ABC affiliate. “When the mail is here, he’s like the mail is here, we better go get the mail.”
Unfortunately, there’s not often anything in there for Recil. Now, the soon-to-be 93-year-old Oklahoma man is undergoing cancer treatment. His days of watching for the mail may be short, so maybe we shouldn’t wait for April 17th to roll around. Maybe we should send out greetings, letters, and good wishes to Recil right away. Send them to:
Recil Troxtel 2684 North Highway 81 Marlow, Oklahoma 73055
“I don’t get mail anymore,” Recil said. That’s about to change, buddy.
“It’s exciting when he gets it because he will sit there and hold it,” his daughter said. “Sometimes he won’t open it for an hour or two. Other times, he has a knife in his pocket, and he rips that knife out and rips that letter open to see what it is.“
His family tells KSWO that he didn’t always enjoy the mail, but he’s at an age now where receiving something doesn’t mean he’s getting a bill. It’s more likely a personal message.
In thinking about who to select as the Navy’s next generation of senior leadership, the Nation should be fully engaged, particularly with the increasing potential of war at sea against a peer competitor. The Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), Admiral John M. Richardson, who wrote an article for Proceedings Magazine in June 2016 entitled, “Read, Write, Fight,” understands this. So too does Admiral Scott H. Swift, former Commander, Pacific Fleet, who suggested a way to better prepare for a fight in his March 2018 Proceedings piece, “Fleet Problems Offer Opportunities.” Given the possibility of high-end warfare facing the nation now for the first time since the end of the Cold War, picking the right leaders will be key. The question is: Is the right leadership being picked today? Is there a different, better way to consider who will lead the Navy in war?
Since 1974, every Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) has come to the office with the following credentials: command of a carrier strike group (CSG); command of a fleet, and; an operational, four-star command, either Pacific Fleet (PACFLT), Atlantic Fleet/U.S. Fleet Forces Command (LANTFLT/FFC) or Naval Forces, Europe (NAVEUR). The one exception to this formula is that submariners do not command CSGs: Instead, they command submarine groups at the one-star level.
In the last 44 years, there have been only three anomalies: Admiral Jeremy M. Boorda, the 25th CNO never commanded a fleet. Then, in 1996, Admiral Jay L. Johnson, the Vice Chief of Naval Operations (VCNO) who had been scheduled to command Naval Forces, Europe, instead became the 26th CNO when Admiral Boorda took his own life. The current CNO, Admiral Richardson, is the third anomaly in that he has neither commanded a fleet nor had an operational four-star command.
Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Richardson.
Not surprisingly, there are considered reasons in this successive, operational flag, command rule: First, the Navy exists to support the operational element of the fleet – the so-called, “pointy end of the stick.” It is believed that the leader of an organization whose mission is to “conduct prompt and sustained combat operations at sea,” should be a person who is closely acquainted with firing shots in anger, from ensign to four stars. Second, perhaps of even greater import, the CNO sits in the “tank,” with the other Joint Chiefs. It is imperative that he or she knows the score out in the various combatant commands, and this requires genuine joint expertise attained at a high level. This sort of experience comes in places such as the forward fleets, and especially to those who command PACFLT, NAVEUR, or FFC.
This is not to say that the formula works perfectly. By the turn of the century, Surface Warfare Officers dominated a majority of significant leadership positions in the Navy, and held the office of the CNO, without pause, between 2000 and 2011. It was also this generation of leaders which presided over the diminution of the entire surface community. Still, this may all say more about either the struggle against increasing budget restrictions or a misplaced spirit of selflessness on the part of these CNOs than it does about a faulty selection approach. Nor is this to say that those who were anomalous did not perform admirably as CNO. That is for others to decide, in time.
Either way, the questions are these: How does an officer arrive at the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations in the first place? What are the implications which arise when there are sustained and dramatic perturbations at the flag-level? And finally, what does (or should) the future hold in preparing the Navy to face a new era of potential conflict at sea?
A process defined
Sustained superior performance is essential, but beyond that, a careful choreography occurs in every community beginning at first command if not before. Selection to flag is seldom, if ever, accidental or unanticipated. This management becomes even more meticulous once flag officers are selected. At that point, there is a determination made as to who will be groomed for the three and four-star levels, and who will serve in other, still important flag positions. To effectively regulate this complex daisy-chain, a detailed, long-term, name-to-job interaction occurs between all of the warfare communities and the Navy’s (and ultimately government’s) top leadership.
There are really only a few, key, operational flag positions available, and they are earmarked for those bound for the top. This is important as the timing and positioning associated with getting the right officers through those wickets is not a matter of chance. Here is one example: In the surface community, presume that eight officers make flag each year. Of these eight, only four will go on to command a CSG. Of those four, only two will deploy. These deployers are those who have been selected for upward movement, and this is easily observed in a historical review of those who rose higher. Likewise, while there are any number of important three-star commands, they are in not all equal regarding carrying an officer to the office of the CNO.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG 80) left,the guided missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) transit the Atlantic Ocean.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Barnes)
Moreover, it is necessary to mention the one outlier in this job pecking order; Chief of Naval Personnel (CNP). A remarkable number of four-star admirals, some of whom achieved senior operational command, have passed through the CNP’s office, including Admirals Leon A. Edney, Ronald J. Zlatoper, John C. Harvey, Mark E. Ferguson III, and former CNOs Jeremy Boorda and James D. Watkins. Evidently, excelling in this position imparts a unique cachet, though it is neither joint nor operational.
The point here is that delicate timing and positioning are required to marshal those deemed to be most deserving to the top. Though off and on-ramps may be built into the process to allow for surprises and opportunities, the whole process is quite fragile. In recent years, this fragility has been demonstrated through two events; The “Fat Leonard” scandal, and the aftermath of the two warship collisions in Seventh Fleet.
Gutting the operational side in the Pacific
As every sailor knows, there are two sides to any chain-of-command – operational and administrative. The administrative side of the equation is responsible for the manning, training and equipping of units provided to the operational side of the chain. The operational side employs these “all-up rounds” in carrying out the nation’s business at sea.
Following the collisions in Seventh Fleet in the summer of 2017, justice was meted out on behalf of the Navy, through the agency of a Consolidated Disposition Authority (CDA), Admiral James F. Caldwell Jr, Chief of Naval Reactors, appointed by the CNO, Admiral Richardson. Ultimately in this effort, the entire operational chain-of-command in the Pacific, from the ships’ officers of the deck, to CIC watch officers, to the command master chiefs, to the executive officers, to the commanding officers, and then up through their destroyer squadron commander, task force commander, fleet commander and all the way to the Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, was implicated and then either actually or effectively fired. It was a scorched earth approach never before seen in the Navy, and it appeared to be aimed at not only justice but at sending a message to the American people.
Though the punishment handed out to Commander, Naval Surface Forces (CNSF), Vice Admiral Thomas Rowden may seem to have been appropriate, particularly in view of the fact that he was the responsible administrative agent charged to provide fully ready ships to the operational commanders, the fact is that he was only a small part of the responsible administrative chain-of-command. Actually, CNSF relied on a universe of other administrative commands to carry out its mission effectively. For example, the Chief of Naval Personnel (CNP) was responsible for providing schools and personnel (both of which were in demonstrated to be in short supply), and the Office of the CNO was responsible for the provision of funding. U.S. Fleet Forces Command was the “parent” command of CNSF, just as Pacific Fleet was the parent of Seventh Fleet. So, while it may have been desirable, for whatever reason, to create a firewall between the operational commands and those administrative commands responsible for providing the necessary wherewithal to the fleet, it also meant that significant responsibility was evaded by nearly half the chain-of-command, top-to-bottom.
The long reach of Fat Leonard
A crisis was created when Admiral Scott H. Swift, then Commander, Pacific Fleet, was implicated in the Seventh Fleet collisions. Admiral Swift had long been expected to become the next Commander, Indo-Pacific Command, and his removal from the field meant that the Navy was in danger of losing control of its most historic and treasured combatant command to the Air Force. The solution hit upon was to send Admiral Phil Davidson, Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces, to command the U.S. Pacific Command. Not only was Admiral Davidson one of the few viable candidates with sufficient credential and seniority, but he was arriving fresh from completion of the Comprehensive Review (CR) of the collisions, and was unsullied by that disaster. Though that may have been good news regarding saving Pacific Command for the Navy, Admiral Davidson’s last and only tour in the Pacific was a single one as a commander, serving as a staff officer at Pacific Fleet headquarters. Whether a conscious part of the decision or not, his lack of Pacific-experience meant that he was beyond the potential taint of Fat Leonard.
Admiral Phil Davidson.
Numerically speaking, only a few flag officers have been caught in the Fat Leonard scandal. Nevertheless, there have been many more who were frozen in place while the investigation continued. This “freezing” caused some of these officers to miss their planned wickets, resulting in an extraordinary upset in the carefully mapped-out flag progression. As for the collision aftermath, it is impossible to know the exact impacts of those events on the “daisy-chain.” Certainly, the loss of ADM Swift and the shifting of ADM Davidson are significant.
Regardless, all of this begs the question of who may be the next CNO? Watchers had long considered Admiral Davidson to be a leading candidate for the position, and his shift to INDO/PACOM has stirred debate regarding who might be a viable relief for Admiral Richardson.
Based on the historical template, the next CNO likely will be one of the following:
Commander, U.S Pacific Fleet: Admiral John G. Aquilino
Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces: Admiral Christopher W. Grady
Commander, U.S Naval Forces, Europe: Admiral James G. Foggo III
Vice Chief of Naval Operations: Admiral William F. Moran
Each of these officers has all of the historical credentials of operational command and joint experience at the highest level, with the exception of Admiral Moran. However, Admiral Moran merits inclusion in that he would not be the first former Chief of Naval Personnel to become the CNO, though he has not had either fleet nor four-star operational command. Moreover, the current CNO, Admiral Richardson likewise arrived at the job with credentials other than the classic operational command/joint ones which have been common. In other words, a new template may have been set.
Reset the grid for war
If the Nation is moving from a “Profound Peace” into a period of “Great-Power Competition,” then every effort must be bent to ensure that America is fully preparing to meet what may well be an existential challenge. If, as suggested by Captain Dale Rielage, in his May, 2018, USNI General Prize-winning essay, “How We Lost the Great Pacific War,” the United States were to be defeated in a conflict with China – a conflict which would most certainly be primarily a fight at sea – the United States would, for the first time since World War II lose primary control of the sea lines of communication, in the vital Pacific. China would assume dominance of at least Asia and become a prime hegemon all the way to the Arabian Gulf.
In thinking about who the Nation selects for our Navy’s senior leader, it is understood that he or she must be fully and unselfishly engaged in preparing the Fleet for war at sea against peer competitors. What are the characteristics and experiences of peace-time Navy leaders (beyond the aforementioned operational positions)? Are these characteristics the same as those which might be sought leading into a major conflict? History suggests that they are different. One needs only consider the last, great war-at-sea. Many of the Navy’s leaders at the start of World War II were cast aside in favor of those who could bring fire to the enemy. For many of those officers, including Admirals Earnest King, Chester Nimitz, and William Halsey, it is fair to say that they might never have arrived at flag rank based were they measured against today’s standards. To win that war no one cared who was charming or polished or politically astute or properly connected. The question had nothing to do with who had attained a “zero-defects” record. It had everything to do with who could and would defeat the enemy.
More recently, there have been other “reaches” undertaken to identify the right person for the job. In 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower reached deep to select Admiral Arleigh Burke as the 15th CNO. At the time of his appointment, Burke was still a rear admiral (two-star). He was promoted two grades and over the heads of many flags of far greater seniority. In 1970, President Richard M. Nixon selected Admiral Elmo Zumwalt as the 19th CNO for very specific reasons and aims, despite his lack of “traditional” credentials.
Today, more than ever, modern war is a “come-as-you-are” affair. There will be no slow, years-long buildup allowed. Economies and modern weapon systems suggest that a real fight will ramp up to criticality almost immediately and that wide-spread, cannot-be-quickly-replaced/repaired damage will be done to the fleets in a matter of months, if not weeks. In other words, what the Navy has, regarding leadership and wherewithal, on day one, is the best that it may have throughout the conflict. The point is this: The right leadership needs to be found and selected, now.
Prove your readiness
Cast a wide net, and seek leaders who are determined to resist the self-interested pressures of outside agencies, prioritizing lethality in the Navy above whatever else may be prized. Who in today’s ranks is best equipped to lead the Navy in waging a high-end war?
An answer may lie in Admiral Swift’s March 2018 piece, “Fleet Problems Offer Opportunities.” Deeper opportunities may be offered to the Navy in this Fleet Problem concept. If, as he suggests in his piece, the new Fleet Problem is designed to do more than check a box, before the deployment of carrier strike groups…if Pacific Fleet is determined to truly test leadership in simulations which approach the real world…if officers will be challenged to do more than just go through the motions…if failure is an option, is this not a chance to really put officers, at a variety of levels, to the real test?
Ships from Carrier Strike Group 8 in the Atlantic Ocean.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Julia A. Casper)
And this test need not only apply to strike group commanders, and their respective warfare commanders. A variety of officers, all at different places in their careers, can be tested in this crucible. Is there any reason that an upward-bound submariner could not take command of the Maritime Operations Center (MOC) for the duration of the game? Stand up an exercise Joint Forces Maritime Component Commander (JFMCC). Stand up an exercise Joint Forces Command. Is there any reason for an officer under consideration for fleet command could not play fleet commander during the game?
Admiral Swift offers a key point in all of this: “We have to guard against the natural byproduct of this training reality, which is an aversion to the risk of failure that is associated with learning at the leading edge of knowledge. We had to convey to the operational leaders that failure during the Fleet Problem was not just tolerated but expected. Without pushing our operational art to the point of failure, learning would be subdued and subtle, not stark and compelling. High-velocity learning happens at the leading edge of knowledge, not at its core, and certainly not at its trailing edge.”
Learning yes, but also testing. Officers at every level can be regularly assigned to the game, and throughout their careers, to test whether they possess skills beyond administrative? The Navy needs lions for leadership in war. The Navy also needs able administrators. Certainly, there are officers in the ranks who are both.
The Navy regularly pulls officers out of their employment to serve in a wide variety of boards. Is there any reason to think that this proposal would not be infinitely more valuable to the service, both in developing the entire officer corps for real, war-time thinking at the operational and strategic level? Let officers merit their promotion beyond unit-level by demonstrating the skill necessary to fully grasp that which is imperative in fighting a war…and that which is chaff.
The next CNO has, in all likelihood already been selected. The process of selection and vetting in long and complex and it is unrealistic to think that ADM Richardson approaches the end of his tenure without a relief already having been selected. The question is, and should be, this: Is the next CNO equipped to lead in war-time?
After five days, over 70 tested events and hundreds of evaluated standards, the U.S. Army named its top drill sergeant in a ceremony hosted by the Center for Initial Military Training, or CIMT, the lead in the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, or TRADOC, for all initial entry training.
Staff Sgt. Earnest J. Knight II, representing Fort Jackson, S.C. and the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy, is the 2019 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year.
Staff Sgt Benhur Rodriguez, representing Fort Sill, Okla. and the Fires Center of Excellence, was named runner up to the 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year and also received an award for the highest physical fitness score during the competition. In the event the primary selectee is unable to perform his duties, Rodriguez will assume the role.
By design, the competition is one of the most physically demanding and mentally tough challenges any soldier may face in a competition. The Army level event tests and highlights the professionalism and readiness of the U.S. Army by testing the drill sergeants that are responsible for training the total force.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Earnest J. Knight II, Drill Sergeant Academy, with camouflage face paint at a Camp Bullis shooting range. Knight is the 2019 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year.
(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)
The annual event was conducted at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston and Camp Bullis, Texas for the first time since the Drill Sergeant of the Year was established 50 years ago.
Not only did the Health Readiness Center of Excellence, based at Fort Sam Houston, have a candidate in the competition, but the support of their staff and soldiers, along with CIMT planners, were crucial to the success of the event.
Sgt. 1st Class Kyle Specht, HRCoE’s Senior Drill Sergeant and Sgt. 1st Class Gabriel Hulse were the CoE’s lead planners for the event. They were both honored with an Army Commendation Medal presentation during Aug. 22, 2019’s ceremony. Six other HRCoE soldiers were also recognized for their significant contributions to the planning and execution of the competition.
U.S. Army Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Edward Mitchell, CIMT Command Sergeant Major (right), presents U.S. Army Sgt. Earnest Knight II, Drill Sergeant Academy with the Drill Sergeant of the Year award.
(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)
Specht, who was recently selected for promotion to Master Sgt. and was himself a Drill Sergeant of the Year competitor in 2018, discussed how HRCoE was honored to conduct the 50th Anniversary of the Drill Sergeant of the Year Competition on behalf of CIMT and TRADOC as the newest CoE within the Combined Arms Center and TRADOC.
“Every Drill Sergeant competitor gave 100% and it was inspiring to see their individual resolve and how each rose to the challenge and represented their respective CoEs and the noncommissioned officer corps as a whole,” said Specht. “Command Sergeant Major Mitchell and his staff outlined the expected standards of excellence and vison and allowed us, the mission command, to take ownership and host this historic event.”
U.S. Army Sgt. Earnest Knight II, Drill Sergeant Academy, firing an M9 at the mystery event.
(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)
The 2017 Drill Sergeant of the Year, Sgt. 1st Class Chad Hickey and the 2017 Platoon Sergeant of the Year, Staff Sgt. Bryan Ivery, as the CIMT representatives, conducted two site visits, multiple initial planning reviews, and were on site over a week prior to the event validating test components. Specht continued, “The success of the event is really a demonstration of what cohesive teams can accomplish with 61 dedicated support noncommissioned officers, CIMT and our staff.”
The 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year competition was rigorous, highly structured and covered a broad base of subject areas at a relentless pace. The noncommissioned officers were evaluated in marksmanship, unknown distance road marches, individual warrior tasks, collective battle drill tasks, modern Army combatives, written exams, drill and ceremony, leadership, oral boards, and much more for the honor of being recognized as the top drill sergeant in the Army. The competitors, who truly had to be prepared for anything also took the Army Physical Fitness Test that is the current test of record and the new Army Combat Fitness Test that becomes the Army’s physical test of record in October 2020.
U.S. Army Sgt. Earnest Knight II, Drill Sergeant Academy on a ruck march.
(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)
Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Edward Mitchell, CIMT Command Sergeant Major, said each event is designed to stress the candidates and push their limits physically and mentally to determine if the drill sergeant’s performance, abilities or professionalism become degraded.
Mitchell believes the competition is an extreme example of what all drill sergeants face in their daily tasks of training the Army’s newest recruits. He said that though many things in the Army have changed since he was a Drill sergeant from 1995 to 1998, “the soldierization process has not changed in the last 50 years. Drill sergeants are still tasked with turning ordinary citizens into soldiers.”
U.S. Army TRADOC hosts the 2019 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year (DSOY) Competition
(Photo by Sean Worrell)
On the first day of competition, Mitchell described the logic of putting these “soldier makers” to such an extreme test to determine the best of the best. “The drill sergeant that we select will be the number one drill sergeant in the Army as well as the TRADOC enterprise,” said Mitchell. “Sometimes you are going to be tired from what you do [as a drill sergeant], but we need that individual to still be able to be in front of soldiers and be able to be professional, no matter the conditions.” He explained how drill sergeants across the Army epitomize that type of endurance and professionalism each day.
Knight’s road to victory story makes for a good example. He said, “I started my quest to become the Drill Sergeant of the Year in 2017 when I was assigned to Fort Leonard Wood. I made it to the 2nd quarter Maneuver Support Center of Excellence Competition that year and lost.” Hickey, who helped plan this year’s competition eventually became the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, or MSCoE’s winner that year and subsequently the 2017 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Benhur Rodriguez, Fires Center of Excellence (right), with Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Edward Mitchell, CIMT Command Sergeant Major, receiving the award for the highest physical fitness score during the competition.
(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)
When he was transferred to Fort Jackson last year, Knight was, once again, encouraged to pursue the top drill sergeant prize through a competition at the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy; he won the Fort Jackson competition earlier this year to allow him to compete and win this week.
“I really appreciate moments like that,” Knight recalled, speaking of his original loss at the MSCoE. “As drill sergeants we are expected to be subject matter experts so we can tend to think we know everything. Having a humbling experience like competing against other highly qualified people who just out performed you, leaves you two options: better yourself or just accept that someone got the better of you.”
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Benhur Rodriguez, Fires Center of Excellence, going through the low crawl obstacle at Camp Bullis.
(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)
The 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year Competition began with 12 of the most proficient, determined and rugged drill sergeants in the Army representing Basic Combat Training, One-Station Unit Training, and Advanced Individual Training. There was one reservist, the rest were active duty noncommissioned officers. They had all won division level competitions at their home stations to earn the right to compete at the Army level.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Benhur Rodriguez, Fires Center of Excellence, runner up at the 2019 Army Drill Sergeant of the Year Competition, instructs Soldiers on the correct method of conducting a drill and ceremony maneuvers.
(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)
Officially, the competition lasts four days with most evaluated events conducted in a field environment at Camp Bullis beginning on Monday, Aug. 19, 2019. The last field event was completed by six o’clock in the morning on Day Four. In actuality, tested events began on Sunday with “Day Zero” elements that included height and weight measurements, written tests and an oral board held at Fort Sam Houston. Board questions, from seven command sergeants major, led by this year’s board president, Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Michael Gragg, U.S. Army Medical Command Sergeant Major, were exhaustive on a variety of military and U.S. government related questions.
All of the remaining 10 competitors that outlasted the rigors of the week were honored during the recognition ceremony at Fort Sam Houston mere hours after they completed their last event at Camp Bullis: a 12 mile road march.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jeffrey C. Lullen, Health Readiness Center of Excellence, firing an M9 at the mystery event. In this lane while firing from the standing, kneeling, and prone positions the competitors first fired the M4 rifle then transitioned to the M4 pistol.
(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)
When Knight was asked how he thought he was able to win over so many other highly qualified candidates, he said it came down to who was able to be more resilient, the most well-rounded, and maybe even who wanted it the most. Knight said he spent any small windows of free time during the competition studying and refreshing his memory on a wide range of subjects.
Knight explained, “Some [competitors] would take the opportunity to eat, some would take naps or got on their phones. I just spent a lot of time studying during the downtime to make sure I stayed in the zone; I didn’t want to open the door to distractions or self-doubt.” Though the competitors weren’t aware of what would be required of them at any given time, he said that many of the notes he studied ended up being on test events so that made him even more energized to put his time to good use.
U.S. Army Sgt. Michael B. Yarrington, 108th Training Command, on the reverse climb obstacle during the first day of competition.
(Photo by Jose E. Rodriguez)
“I kept the junior soldiers, the trainees, in mind at all times,” said Knight. Soldiers in training are often in situations where they don’t exactly know what is going to happen next. “They don’t have the privilege or luxury of just taking a nap or picking up their phone when they want to.” He explained that soldiers are always told to study during any break in training, “During downtime a drill sergeant will always tell a trainee, ‘pull out your smart book’ so I just felt like this was a great opportunity to bring myself back to the basics.”
Knight pointed out that this strategy for success is not a technique he invented for this competition, it is in the Drill Sergeant Creed: “I will lead by example, never requiring a soldier to attempt any task I would not do myself.”
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. John K. Cauthon, Maneuver Center of Excellence drill instructor, Ft. Benning, Ga., cools himself down after the M4 stress shoot event.
(Photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)
As the 2019 Drill Sergeant of the Year, Knight will be reassigned to CIMT and TRADOC; he will report to Fort Eustis, Va. in 60 days. Knight, a 25 Victor, Combat Documentation Production Specialist, “Combat Camera” by trade is used to telling the Army story through photos. For 12 months, his tenure as the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year, he will serve as a sort of ambassador, called upon to be the example of the resilient, professional, and highly proficient drill sergeant that he just proved himself to be.
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class William Hale (left), Foxtrot Company 232nd Medical Battalion range safety officer, Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, hands out ammunition for the M4 stress shoot event.
(Photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)
List of 2019 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year Nominees in alphabetical order:
Staff Sgt. Mychael R. Begaye, Army Training Center, Fort Jackson, S.C.
Staff Sgt. John K. Cauthon, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning, Ga.
Sgt. 1st Class Frank D. Dunbar III, Combined Arms Support Command, Fort Lee, Va.
Staff Sgt. Ariel D. Hughes, Army Aviation Center of Excellence (USAACE), Fort Rucker, Ala.
Staff Sgt. Lillian C. Jones, Cyber Center of Excellence, Fort Gordon, Ga.
Staff Sgt. Earnest J. Knight II, Drill Sergeant Academy, Fort Jackson, S.C.
Staff Sgt. Jeffrey C. Lullen, Health Readiness Center of Excellence, Fort Sam Houston, Texas
Staff Sgt. Matthew T. Martinez, Intelligence Center of Excellence, Fort Huachuca, Ariz.
Staff Sgt. Matthew A. Mubarak, Defense Language Institute, Monterey, Calif.
Staff Sgt. Benhur Rodriguez, Fires Center of Excellence, Fort Sill, Okla.
Sgt. 1st Class Marianne E. Russell, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
Sgt. Michael B. Yarrington, 108th Training Command, Charlotte, N.C.