The holidays are great occasions to build family memories and connect with loved ones. The foods served often connect us to special memories from the past. But, did you know that people over 65, children, and pregnant women are at higher risk for food borne illness? To ensure that your holidays are merry, here are some tips to help prevent food borne illness from crashing your party:
Wash your hands prior to starting food preparation, making sure to wash all surfaces of the hands and nails for at least 20 seconds. Singing “Happy Birthday” is a good way to ensure you have washed long enough.
Rinse fresh produce under running water prior to prepping these items.
Use separate cutting boards for produce, meat, shellfish and eggs to prevent cross-contamination. Wash cutting boards in warm soapy water after prepping each food item.
(Photo by Caroline Attwood)
When baking with little kitchen helpers, teach children not to eat batter or dough with raw eggs.
Reused sponges and towels are a harbor for harmful bacteria. When you have multiple hands in the kitchen, paper towels can be safer.
Avoid leaving food out on the counter to defrost. The only safe ways to defrost foods are in the refrigerator, cold water, or the microwave. Food thawed in cold water or the microwave should be cooked immediately.
A thermometer is a great tool to make sure you fully cook hot items. Be careful not to place cooked meat on the same plate that previously held raw meat.
Avoid rinsing meat or poultry, as this can spread harmful bacteria.
Don’t stuff your bird! Instead, cook your stuffing separately. If you choose to stuff your bird, the stuffing must meet an internal temperature of 165°.
When sending family members home with leftovers, keep the following tips in mind:
Discard perishable food items that have been at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. Remember, you can’t tell if an item is bad by taste, smell, or appearance.
Use shallow containers to store leftovers to allow for quick cooling.
Reheat any leftovers to a minimum temperature of 165°.
For additional information check out the CDC’s information on food safety and this advice for holiday cooks. If you are interested in learning more about preparing healthy and safe holiday foods this season, contact your local VA to learn more about the Healthy Teaching Kitchen program, or to meet with a PACT dietitian to help adjust some of your family’s favorite recipes to meet your health goals.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
On Friday, August 24, the illustrious Chesty XIV retired from the Marine Corps after five years of service as a ceremonial animal. While Chesty XIV is an illustrious Marine veteran, some aren’t sure if he quite measures up to his namesake, Lt. Gen. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, a hero of World War II and Korea who led the 1st Marine Regiment during the breakout from the Chosin Reservoir.
So, which is the real “Chesty,” the true hero of the Marine Corps? We find out in five easy steps:
1. Body composition
Chesty Puller was famous for his stature and ramrod posture. A physically imposing man, he inspired the loyalty and rallied the spirits of thousands of Marines over his nearly four decades of service. He also had two feet.
Chesty XIV has four feet, approximately twice as many as Chesty Puller.
Chesty Puller received five Navy Crosses for heroics performed during things like leading national guardsman in Haiti and Nicaragua through devastating ambushes deep in the jungle and personally leading the naval artillery to rescue his Marines under fire during a Japanese ambush on Guadalcanal.
Chesty XIV, meanwhile, is a dog assigned to ceremonial duties who once wore a drill instructor’s hat.
3. Time in service
Chesty XIV served for five years. The general guideline for dog years is that one human year equals seven dog years, meaning the Chesty XIV would be credited with a joint-aching 35 years. That’s a long time to march with Marines in (modified) dress blues.
Meanwhile, Chesty Puller served for… let’s see… 37 years. Yeah, the human Chesty tried to deploy to World War I, but was assigned to training instead in 1918, then served in Haiti and Nicaragua, then the Pacific Theater of World War II, and, finally, Korea before retiring in 1955 as a two-star general.
4. Battle scars
Chesty XIV has a small black spot under his eye that the Wall Street Journal said looked, “…as if he stepped out of a bar fight while on shore leave.” It’s a cool look.
But, Lt. Gen. Chesty Puller had a Purple Heart and was so well known for standing in the heat of battle and rallying his troops that some Marines claimed his nickname of “Chesty” was in reference to his steel prosthetic chest, which was installed after Haitian rebels hacked away his old bony chest, but still failed to kill the man.
5. Ranks and demotions
Chesty the XIV rose from recruit to sergeant in just five short years, an impressive rise to be sure, but not unheard of. He managed to hold onto his rank despite being physically incapable of properly wearing the rank according to Marine Corps Order 1020.34H.
Chesty Puller, meanwhile, rose all the way to two-star general on active duty and three-star general after retirement. But, he only did this after rising from recruit to corporal to second lieutenant multiple times until finally entering the officer ranks to stay.
Sure, all the demotions for Puller were either due to downsizing or the removal of foreign ranks that he held while leading local national guard forces, but still. Only one of the Chestys was demoted.
Seriously, no one needs a final tally. Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller is deservedly a legend of the Marine Corps who trained and led Marines from World War I to Korea, became one of America’s most decorated heroes, and was a class act that nearly anyone could inspire to, despite the fact that they’d almost certainly fall short of his example.
But Chesty XIV did, and Chesty XV now does, represent the tenacious spirit of Puller himself and the Marine Corps as a whole. Hopefully, Chesty XIV will enjoy his well-deserved retirement, and Chesty XV will bring high morale to the young Americans under his charge.
Military service members are all familiar with chaplains, the qualified religious leaders who serve troops and their families, but they are somehow still shrouded in mystery.
If you ever get the chance to talk to one, especially someone with a few deployments under their belt, you’ll start to get an appreciation for what they offer to troops (also, the more I talk to chaplains, the more combat ghost stories I hear…but I’ll just sort through that on my own time…).
Here are seven fascinating facts about chaplains:
U.S. Army chaplain Capt. Thomas Watson, left, and Spc. Timothy Gilbert arrive at Hunter Army Air Field in Savannah, Ga., Jan. 17, 2010 after returning from a nearly year-long deployment in Iraq.
(DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Brian E. Christiansen, U.S. Air Force/Released)
1. Chaplains don’t fight in combat
Chaplains are in the military — but they do not fight in combat. Chaplains are non-combatants as defined by the Geneva Convention. Chaplains may not be deliberately or indiscriminately attacked and, unless their retention by the enemy is required to provide for the religious needs of prisoners of war, chaplains must not become POWs. And if they are captured, they must be repatriated at the earliest opportunity.
But that doesn’t mean chaplains have never seen combat…which leads us to…
U.S. Air Force Capt. Norman Jones, a chaplain with the 20th Fighter Wing, prays over a draped casket during a simulated ramp ceremony as part of Patriot Warrior 2014 at Fort McCoy, Wis., May 10, 2014.
(DoD photo by Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen, U.S. Air Force/Released)
2. Despite non-combatant status, many have been killed
419 American chaplains have died in the line of duty, including Confederate chaplains during the Civil War.
Father Emmeran Bliemel, a Catholic priest serving in the Confederate Army, became the first American chaplain to die on the field of battle. He was administering last rites to soldiers during the Battle of Jonesborough during the Civil War when he was killed in action by cannon fire.
In 2010, Army Chaplain Dale Goetz was killed in Afghanistan, becoming the first chaplain to die in combat since the Vietnam War.
3. Nine chaplains have been awarded the Medal of Honor
Nine chaplains have been awarded the Medal of Honor.
Four served during the Civil War, one served during World War II, one served during the Korean War, and three served during the Vietnam War.
U.S. Army Chaplain Maj. Carl Phillips, assigned to the U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden, leads worship with a hymn during the garrison’s Easter sunrise service, April 1, 2018, in Wiesbaden, Germany.
(U.S. Army photo by William B. King)
4. They represent 200+ denominations
Chaplains in the military represent more than 200 different denominations.
Denominations recognized by the Pentagon include many variations of the major religions of the world — including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam — but Chaplains provide care for people of all faiths.
U.S. Army Capt. Demetrius Walton, a chaplain with the 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, navigates a confidence course at Fort Dix, N.J., March 26, 2012.
(DoD photo by Sgt. Peter Berardi, U.S. Army/Released)
5. They hold rank, but not command
In the United States, service members have a constitutional right under the first amendment to engage in religious worship. While chaplains are commissioned officers and can obtain the rank of major general or rear admiral, they will never hold command.
Within the Nuremberg jail, Chaplains Henry Gerecke and Sixtus O’Connor created a 169-square-foot chapel and honored their duty to offer the nazis a chance to return from the darkness and into the light.
Chaplain Emil J. Kapaun moved from foxhole to foxhole under direct fire to provide aide and reassurance to soldiers fighting in the Battle of Unsan. He recovered wounded men and dragged them to safety or he dug trenches to shield them from enemy fire. He was captured and tortured by the Chinese, but even then he continued to resist and provide comfort to his fellow prisoners. He died in captivity on May 23, 1951.
It’s Monday, you’re staring down another week of work and need some convincing that there’s reason to feel anything but dread. Enter: the work joke. Having an arsenal of funny but clean, work-appropriate jokes at your disposal can be handy for lightening the mood and boosting morale when the stress of work (and childcare, and the pandemic, and and…) sets in. Work jokes are even handier in the era of Zoom, where social awkwardness reigns and a corny joke can take the edge off. Even, and especially, in a pandemic, creating brief, good moments in your day can help everyone’s mood. Here are some of the best.
1. A conference call is the best way to get a dozen people to say bye 300 times.
2. To err is human. To blame it on someone else shows management potential.
3. Why did the scarecrow get promoted? Because he was out standing in his field!
4. All I ask is a chance to prove that money can’t make me happy.4.
5. Why do I drink coffee? It always me to do stupid things faster and with more energy.
6. You know what they say about a clean desk. It’s a sure sign of a cluttered desk drawer.
7. Why did she quit her job at the helium factory? She refused to be talked to in that voice.
8. What did the employee do when the boss said to have a good day? Went home.
9. What does a mathematician say when something goes wrong? Figures!
10. What did one ocean say to the other? Nothing, they just waved.
11. The first five days after the weekend are the hardest.
12. I get plenty of exercise at work: jumping to conclusions, pushing my luck and dodging deadlines.
13. Q: Why did the can crusher quit his job?
A: Because it was soda pressing.
14. Whoever stole my copy of Microsoft Office, I will find you! You have my word!
15. I gave up my seat to a blind person on the bus. And that’s how I lost my job as a bus driver.
16. My teachers told me I’d never amount to much because I procrastinate so much. I told them, “Just you wait!”
17. Our computers went down at work today, so we had to do everything manually. It took me 20 minutes to shuffle the cards for Solitaire.
18. When I got to work this morning, my boss stormed up to me and said, “You missed work yesterday, didn’t you?” I said, “No, not particularly.”
19. Why does Snoop Dogg use an umbrella? Fo drizzle.
20. Why are chemists great at solving problems? Because they have all of the solutions!
21. Why did the developer go broke? Because he used up all his cache.
22. Have you heard about the guy who stole the calendar? He got 12 months!
23. Why don’t scientists trust atoms? They make up everything.
24. What does the world’s top dentist get? A little plaque.
Barbara Allen relives her husband’s murder, every day. “I don’t want to be out here doing this. This is not fun for me, it’s exhausting. It’s been fourteen years of it,” she shared.
On June 7, 2005 Lt. Louis Allen and Cpt. Phillip Esposito were on an Army base in Iraq winding down after a long day. Allen’s husband had just deployed to Iraq and kissed her and their four sons goodbye 10 days earlier. He was playing the board game, Risk, with the Captain. A few minutes after they started, a claymore mine was set off outside their window. Grenades exploded shortly after the mine went off. They were both rushed to the hospital immediately but died of internal injuries the following day.
While military investigators initially thought the enemy was an insurgent who had set off a rocket or mortar, the discovery of the hand placed mine led them to other suspects. Their subsequent investigation found that the enemy – was from within.
Photo courtesy of Barbara Allen
A staff sergeant within their company was soon charged with two counts of premeditated murder during the week both men were buried by their families. The widows of the men allegedly killed by the staff sergeant were flown to Kuwait a few months later for his Article 32 hearing. Nine witnesses testified and a general court martial for murder was recommended based on the evidence presented. In early 2006, after learning of the evidence against him, the staff sergeant accused offered up a guilty plea to avoid the death penalty.
It was rejected by the military.
Two years later on December 4, 2008, the accused staff sergeant was acquitted of both murders, despite a mountain of evidence that he had “fragged” the two officers. Allen wasn’t told until months later that he had entered a guilty plea and the accused staff sergeant was discharged from the Army. Honorably.
Many witnesses testified that the accused staff sergeant had pledged to “burn” and “frag” the captain. They also shared that he was seen smiling and laughing after their deaths. A supply sergeant even testified that she gave the accused ammunition, including a claymore mine. Despite all of that – it wasn’t enough to convince the jury.
Allen requested that the Senate Committee on Armed Services look into the case. They didn’t.
“If our trial had happened when social media was a thing, I think it would have gone completely differently. It fell through a gap and we can’t get it back. If we had the court of public opinion on our side, the country on our side, he’d get the Purple Heart,” said Allen.
Photo courtesy of Barbara Allen
Allen was devastated that, in her words, the accused got away with murder and her husband was forgotten afterward. Her husband’s death was declared non-hostile, meaning the military states that he wasn’t killed by the enemy. This meant he wasn’t a candidate for the Purple Heart. She described the whole experience as hell on earth.
“Anyone who willfully kills two soldiers in a combat zone has aided and abetted the enemy. Therefore, is the enemy,” Allen said. “Even the weapon used had the words ‘front to an enemy.’ Flabbergasted, Allen asked, “What else do you have to do to be considered an enemy?” Allen didn’t understand how Ft. Hood victims could get awarded Purple Hearts, but her husband, who was murdered in a combat zone, isn’t eligible.
Allen believes that the Army must decide that they either made a mistake and charged the wrong person and her husband was killed by an insurgent enemy or they let a guilty man go. She reported that “people tended to get fired” when they helped her. Allen said they’ve gone as far as having a Medal of Honor recipient deliver the casefile to President Trump to plead for her husband to receive the Purple Heart, without success.
When asked how her boys feel about all of this, she began to cry. “This is their father, their dad, who’s been missing for their entire lives,” she said. “In the eyes of history he doesn’t exist. His future was taken already; you can’t take his legacy. The message is that any member of the military is expendable. If you die in a way that is embarrassing, we [the military] will erase you. That isn’t the military that I believe in or that he believed in.”
Allen achieved a master’s in criminal justice years after her husband was killed. She reported studying 12 other capital cases like her husband’s. She believes that if the FBI’s protocol for workplace violence had been followed by the military with the accused, her husband wouldn’t have been killed. “They deserved to be protected; nobody was trained. They believed that the uniform was a barrier to reporting,” she said.
This ruling is more than just an award to Allen and her family, she shared. “If the military said that if you willfully injure or kill another service member in a combat zone, let’s just start there, you are an enemy. Teach them about the warning signs. I can testify to what happens when you don’t. It would change things,” said Allen.
Today, Allen says she has a glimmer of hope once again. Her murdered husband’s case file for a Purple Heart is currently sitting on a desk in the Pentagon, awaiting review and the stroke of a pen.
Marines and sailors from the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) participated in Exercise KAMANDAG 3 from Oct. 8 to Oct. 18, 2019, in the Philippines.
KAMANDAG 3 is a Philippine-led, bilateral exercise with participation from Japan.
KAMANDAG is an acronym for the Filipino phrase “Kaagapay Ng Mga Mandirigma Ng Dagat,” which translates to “Cooperation of Warriors of the Sea,” highlighting the partnership between the US and Philippine militaries.
Philippine marines operate an M102 105 mm howitzer gun line at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines during exercise KAMANDAG 3, Oct. 13, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Donald Holber)
A Philippine marine looks through the sights on a US Marine Corps M777 towed 155 mm howitzer at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines, during exercise KAMANDAG 3, Oct. 12, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Donald Holbert)
Philippine marines observe US Marines wit during a fire mission at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines as part of exercise KAMANDAG 3, Oct. 13, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Donald Holber)
“KAMANDAG 3 provided us a unique opportunity to integrate with the Philippine Marine Corps while conducting realistic, valuable training,” said Capt. Trevor Hall, the commanding officer of Alpha Battery, Battalion Landing Team 3/5, 11th MEU.
“Over the course of our nine days ashore, we participated in several subject matter expert exchanges and joint exercises, which increased our interoperability with the Philippine marines.”
US Marine Corps Sgt. Gabriel Alcantar, a howitzer section chief, opens the breech on a Philippine marine corps M102 105 mm howitzer during exercise KAMANDAG 3 at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines, Oct. 15, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Donald Holber)
US Marine Corps Cpl. Dominic Rosado, a light armored reconnaissance Marine, fires an M107 .50-caliber Special Applications Scoped Rifle during exercise KAMANDAG 3 at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base, Philippines, Oct. 14, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Adam Dublinske)
“The US Navy has a longstanding tradition of partnering with the Philippines and Japan,” said Capt. Kevin Lane, the commanding officer of the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS John P. Murtha (LPD 26).
“It truly is an honor to continue that tradition and to uphold our shared goals of peace, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.”
A US Marine Corps light armored vehicle fires its main gun during exercise KAMANDAG 3 at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines, Oct. 11, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Adam Dublinske)
US Marines bivouac at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines during exercise KAMANDAG 3, Oct. 16, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Donald Holbert)
The ARG/MEU departed their home port of San Diego for a regularly scheduled deployment on May 1, and entered the US 7th Fleet on September 22 after roughly two months deployed to Central Command’s area of operations.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Do you need an introduction to this? I mean, really? You all know what the Army is, and that all the ranks have their virtues and their vices. Lot’s of vices. That’s why it’s easy to hate all of them.
(Disclaimer: It’s all in fun. If you might be offended by a few jokes about your rank, please just close the page before you spit your coffee all over your screen and write letters to my editor.)
An Army private first class watches out the window for enemy targets, probably while imagining his next kill streak on Fortnite because, seriously, these guys can not focus.
(U.S. Army Spc. William Dickinson)
Privates and Privates Second Class
Basically the same rank. They’re either a “Pubic Patch Private” with no rank to Velcro on or a Mosquito-Wing Private with rank that’s barely worth Velcroing on. Either way, they almost certainly need their hands held to be able to differentiate their fourth point of contact and a hole in the ground.
Even if they’re just left sweeping a room, chances are they’ll end up with two STDs and a warrant for their arrest before you get a chance to check on them again.
Privates First Class
Finally, you can look away for three seconds without them getting into trouble. But they still probably have no initiative, unless it’s grabbing more fatty cakes from the chow line.
Fatty cakes that you have to run off of them mile after grueling mile. If they would just eat some lean chicken, instead, maybe you could finally do a little physical training in the gym or at the pull-up bars, for once. But nope. Time to run the carbs off the privates for the third time this week.
Specialists and Corporals
Just smart enough to know how to shirk their duties, too dumb to realize they should do them anyway. The specialists will spend days setting up elaborate networks to get out of hours worth of work.
And the corporals, ah the corporals. They’re eager enough to show a little initiative and get an extra stripe, but few of them can actually assert their authority without having to whine about military customs and courtesies. It takes more work for the others NCOs to back up the corporal than they would have to do if the corporal just became a specialist again.
“See how your shots are barely on the paper? That’s because you don’t know how to shoot.”
(U.S. Army Spc. Tynisha L. Daniel)
Finally, a rank that can get stuff done without hand-holding or tons of guidance. Too bad this is when they start diddling subordinates, racking up unpaid alimony, and dying of caffeine and nicotine overdoses.
Seriously, buck sergeants, if you don’t have a staff sergeant or platoon sergeant’s tolerance for stimulants, stick to the Fun Dips like the other children.
The E-6 ranks are filled with both hard-chargers and the laziest of the careerists, you can never tell if a staff sergeant is going to be capable or slowly counting down to retirement until you meet them in person and see whether they’re more likely to bust out some pull-ups on the nearest door sill or bust tape on the next PT test.
But at least they don’t have control of a whole platoon, yet.
Sergeants First Class
Out there in front of a whole platoon, the good ones will inspire heroics and, even better, diligence in all the soldiers they lead. The others will just provide their preferred customer discount numbers at strip clubs and the tobacco counter.
But hey, at least they take themselves too seriously and will lose their tempers at literally anything.
Master Sergeants and First Sergeants
Half of them need to retire, the other half basically already have. Counting time until they get to give the Army the old double deuce with the middle fingers on either hand, these E-8s are probably so crabby because you can’t spend this much of your life using communal Army toilets and not literally catch crabs.
The staff sergeants major are supposedly just there to make sure section OICs don’t forget to take their meds and actually run every once in a while. But they actually run the show in most staff sections and absolutely will not let you forget it. And command sergeants major act like they’re the second-in-command like no one knows what a deputy commanding officer or executive officer is.
And no matter what you’re complaining about, be sure they will let you know how much worse it was before you were born. Doesn’t even matter if they took part in the war they’re complaining about. Fifty-year-old sergeants major will tell you how much worse they had it in the Korean War than you do now.
Absolute subject matter expert. Will not tell you what you’re doing wrong until he gets a good laugh about it.
(U.S. Army Sgt. M. Austin Parker)
Warrant Officers 1
All the training in the world couldn’t prepare warrant officers to be true subject matter experts on every aspect of their domain, and luckily for warrant officers 1, they’re not burdened by all that much training. Seriously, hope these guys learned some stuff before they went warrant, ’cause otherwise, they’re less useful than a user’s manual and even harder to find.
Chief Warrant Officers 2-4
Finally, a little expertise, but mostly in how to disappear before formations. They’ll always have a coffee cup in their hand, but there’s still a 15 percent chance they will feign falling asleep while talking to you. They’ll actually fall asleep while briefing the commander.
Chief Warrant Officer 5
Literal unicorns, but they hide their horns and hoofs wherever it is that they hide the rest of themselves, probably an entire office building that fell off the books three years ago, and only they know about. They know literally everything about their job area but will only tell you anything under duress or after they’ve gotten a few laughs at your ignorance.
An Army captain crawls through the dirt, sleeves rolled like he’s ready to adorn a movie poster.
(U.S. Army Capt. Daniel Parker)
Second and First Lieutenants
These men and women are children. Please, do not let them use anything as dangerous as a microwave without supervision. They will ask questions that brand new recruits are supposed to know before basic training, and then make the subject matter expert stand at attention while answering.
Give a guy a chance at company command, and they will puff up like newly born demigods. They always have the most self-satisfied smiles on their face, which is ironic since chances are they haven’t satisfied anyone personally or professionally in years.
Will only communicate with non-majors under duress. Seriously, these folks either hate the Army for existing or else hate it for not promoting them sooner. Maybe that’s because they always get stuck in battalion XO and other staff positions. Must suck to spend eight years climbing from company XO just to be the XO one level up.
Also, when you see one, there’s a 90 percent chance they’ll be standing and watching something happen. Not speaking, not guiding, just watching. It’s creepy.
Army lieutenant colonels will absolutely watch the Army pee on you while swearing it’s rain.
(U.S. Army Claudia LaMantia)
Somehow, all lieutenant colonels are majors but, half of them got their optimism back, and the other half hate you because they’re still in the Army. Half will lie to you and tell you that everything’s peachy, the other half will tell you dark truths even if they don’t apply to you.
Believe so much in the mission that they will sacrifice their very lives to get it done, but they’d much prefer to sacrifice someone else’s. Yours might be alright. They will write a real nice letter to your family afterward, though. So that and your life insurance policy will pay off the house, at least.
Brigadier and Major Generals
This marks the transition from where senior officers are generally in charge of managing downwards and become mostly tasked with managing up to the other generals and politicians, and boy do they ever forget what sense they had. General Officer Bright Idea is a commonly understood term for the total nonsense that these folks come up with.
That’s not an endorsement of their ideas.
Generals are some of the most accomplished ground combatants in history. Also, they will absolutely send you into a sacrificial cult if they think it will advance their mission one iota.
(U.S. Army Sgt. Jonathan Fernandez)
Lieutenant Generals and Generals
Ugh, almost no one can tell these folks no anymore, and it shows. Their GOBIs are usually turned into multi-million dollar programs that require thousands of junior soldiers to jump through all sorts of hoops. Half the time, it turns out these ideas could’ve been shot down from the outset by a competent warrant officer or noncom.
They give real inspiring speeches, though, usually by emailing them out to everyone in their command, even though a solid half of the recipients are in forward bases with no internet access. Thanks, boss!
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.
Retiring from the armed forces can be a very stressful transition because there is no magic crystal ball that allows you to see into your future as a civilian. Veterans often have strong networks built over the course of their military service, but as useful as these networks are, they are also apt to keep you from branching out into something new, or taking time off to pursue uncharted possibilities. You don’t know what you don’t know, so it is easy to fall into a trap where income becomes the driving force behind career decisions rather than a deep introspective look into what you really want out of life. This leads to a pursuit of employment rather than fulfillment, and ends in a contract that forces you to trade more of your precious time for money. After giving so much to your country, and asking your family to sacrifice just as much or more, taking time to reconnect with them and yourself before a second career is worth your consideration. You might be pleasantly surprised where it will lead.
Consider the following in your calculus:
Military service didn’t leave much room for hobbies and passions. Do you have any languishing in the recesses of your life?
Military regulations and culture compelled you to identify yourself by an all-consuming job title, which in turn suppressed your identity as an individual. You were the Admiral, the Colonel, Skipper, Warrant, Chief, Senior, Top, OPSO, COS, the LPO, the First Sergeant. Do you really know who you are anymore without a job title to define you?
Time keeps ticking, but money comes and goes. Is time more valuable than money when you realize that you can bank one but not the other?
This last thought is the one that gave me the most pause. If you are shackled to a life dictated by consumerism and workism, your “one day” list becomes less and less achievable. This is paradoxical, because chances are you might be making a decent salary on top of your retirement income, but you don’t have time for you, your spouse, your kids, your dog, your forgotten hobbies, or your wild and crazy ambitions. Why? Because your new job might provide a comfortable existence and a title to impress your friends, but it doesn’t guarantee you will have time for anything on your bucket list. How many successful people have all the toys in the world but no time to use them? More than you think. In this article, I will argue that as a veteran, you have been given all the resources you need to thrive in a life of your choosing. To be clear, I am not suggesting that you become completely “checked out” and retreat from society never to work again. Instead, I am advocating for a period of time that prevents you from rushing headlong into a second career. This will give you some “maneuver space” to sort through the stress, the noise, and the pressure that is screaming at you to immediately get a job and keep slogging forward. That space might be a few months, or it might be a few years, but either way, it is time well-spent.
Try this little exercise. Mentally fast forward to the end of your life. You are looking back on your experiences wondering why you worked your whole life, yet missed out on so much living. Maybe you wanted to take a year and surf the south Pacific, or fish the great rivers in Alaska, or hike the Appalachian Trail, or follow the Tour de France, or start a business, or write a novel, or raise alpacas, or sell it all and buy a sailboat…but you didn’t, and now you are too old and tired to do anything but look back with sadness and regret. You realize there was always something standing in the way; there were always reasons why you couldn’t. So, instead of doing, you resigned yourself to watching others as you scrolled through your social media feeds and groused about your boss, staff meetings, the person who chews their food too loudly in their cubicle, the jerk who cut you off on your commute, and the endless mundane aspects of life in “The Matrix.”
As you contemplate those lost dreams, you might be asking yourself with a twinge of frustration, “Why didn’t I go for it? What was I afraid of? What was the worst thing that could have happened to me if I had unshackled myself from the ‘golden handcuffs,’ put down the electronic tether, and lived the life I always imagined?” You might be surprised to learn the worst thing that could have happened was nothing from which you could not have quickly recovered.
Now, rewind to the present. Ask yourself this question, “Have I ever allowed myself to fail?” If you made it all the way through a 20-year (or more) career, chances are the answer is a resounding no! So why do you think you will start failing now? I’ll let you in on a little secret…you won’t. You already know how to succeed. The sad truth, however, is that many of us never take a chance, because we focus on the reasons we shouldn’t…the fears…rather than the reasons we should…the inspiration.
Every military member goes through transition class on their way out of the service. You learn that it is possible to reinvent yourself, but it isn’t easy. You are instructed to make a list of your assets, your liabilities, and any gaps you have in your skill set, then cross-reference it against what you need to break into a sector outside of what you have been doing for the past twenty-plus years. You are told to be willing to move to an area where that sector has a presence, be patient, be willing to evangelize yourself, build a network in your new community, use your hard-earned benefits to get the education or certifications you need to fill in any gaps, and be willing to start at the bottom. If you do these things while exhibiting all the qualities that made you successful on active duty, you will succeed.
What if I told you that same blueprint for reinventing yourself professionally is just as useful for reinventing yourself personally, and going after those “one day” dreams before you blindly (or deliberately) trade one overlord for another. With a little bit of planning and foresight, you can do it, and if I haven’t made my position clear, I think you should. When else will you get a planned break in your professional life to do something crazy?
I started my transition playing by the rules. I spent hours…no, weeks…working on a resume. I went to career fairs. I interviewed for jobs. I received job offers. None of it felt right in my gut. I started terminal leave in June 2018 in a panic-stricken state, grasping for a lifeline. At my wife’s urging I had been exploring the idea of trade school using my GI Bill benefits, but I was afraid to commit. “It’s not what I am expected to do,” was my typical reason, which was ridiculous. I was afraid of the unknown and everything that came with it. That was the truth. I had reached the first portal of fear, and with my wife’s encouragement, I stepped through it.
Once again, I found myself grasping for the familiar and hiding from my fears. I applied for a government job overseas, knowing it wasn’t what I really wanted. A friend was recruiting me to come back to the staff I had left a year and a half earlier, but after I submitted my resume, there were knots in my stomach. “What am I doing,” I asked myself. “Is this what I really want?” I wasn’t ready for staff meetings and point papers again. I wasn’t ready for days when I went to work at dawn and came home after dinner just to get up and do it all over again while my life ticked away a second at a time.
My wife had a dream that we could sell it all and go sailing. I was adamantly opposed. “If there is one thing I learned at the marine trade and technology school,” I joked, “it is don’t buy a boat!” The truth of the matter is I was terrified of selling everything and buying a boat. There were too many voices in my head telling me it would be our ruination…MY ruination. I hid behind my biggest fear – money. We couldn’t afford it. End of story.
But, it wasn’t.
It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it. As I tell my children, there is a solution to every problem, we only need to outthink it. So we looked at the problem again and realized we could afford it. But, I still wasn’t ready to commit. I needed a push.
Fate intervened on my behalf. Much to my surprise, my resume never made it through the initial screening for the civil servant position, so I never got the job interview on the staff overseas. Despite my ego being bruised, I actually breathed a sigh of relief. I was a free man again. A few weeks later, after some long, introspective conversations with my wife, I agreed to the sailing adventure. Failure had somehow opened a pathway to an outcome I did not think possible. That was in March 2019. Four months later, we would be boat owners after an exhausting push to sell, donate, or repurpose just about everything we owned. Three months after that, we would be getting underway from Hampton, VA for a 1,600 nautical mile ocean passage to Antigua.
How did we go from “normal life” to “boat life” so quickly? We followed the same blueprint I received in the transition seminar. We laid out a plan, prioritized our resources, and focused everything we had on the achievement of our goal. I had already filled in the knowledge gaps by becoming a certified marine mechanic. Anyone who knows boats will tell you that 90% of boat ownership is boat maintenance, so I felt confident I could handle that responsibility with my new skills. I grew up sailing, so that wasn’t an issue, but living aboard a boat full-time was another story. We hired a couple who had twice circumnavigated with their kids as “cruising coaches.” We built a network by talking about our plans with people who could help and guide us. We made sure we were able to fund our dream by paying cash for a boat and living within the means of my retirement income. Using our new and growing network, we found a boat, brokered the deal, and moved aboard on July 31, 2019.
It was not an easy transition from land life to sea life. In fact, it was harder than anything we had ever done. Being a military family, we were used to relocating and starting over every couple years, so we put all that experience to good use. But, this time it was different. It was all on us to get it done. There were at least three distinct points when we wanted to quit. We didn’t, largely due to the encouragement and instruction we received from people who had walked the same path. The rewards for persevering are too many to list. Suffice it to say, I answer to no master. I have learned more about myself and my family in six months than I have in six years. I have swum with a whale in 19,000 feet of water halfway between Bermuda and the Leeward Islands. We have sailed our way through 50-knot squalls and come out the other side stronger and more resilient. I have made lifelong friendships with people I would never have met had I stayed in my “safe” bubble. I have gained valuable perspective by using this time away from the rat race to sort myself; to be a better husband, father, and friend.
A good counterargument to this conversation would go something like this – “My professional stock is highest immediately after I retire. It will be irresponsible for me not to take advantage of that transition point and start building my professional resume in the real world. Statistics support the fact that I most likely will change jobs several times as I find my niche, so it doesn’t matter what I do. The important thing is to get into the ring and make a name for myself.” So you get a job and a fancy-sounding title that you eagerly post on LinkedIn. You beef up your profile with a power photo that has you leaning into the camera with a smile that says, “I’m a go-getter!” You add a description underneath that says something like, “I’m a results-oriented leader with a proven track record of astonishing accomplishments, fiscal maturity, operational prowess, cunning initiative, etc, etc, etc.” It becomes your identity, and it is the right thing to do, isn’t it? I certainly thought it was. But for me, at least, it wasn’t. I am not getting any younger. Neither are you. The counterargument doesn’t hold up, in my opinion. You can always get a job and make money, but you can’t make more time. Another aspect of this counterargument is that your network will abandon you if you take time for yourself and your family. I also believe that this is invalid, and would go so far as to suggest that your network will respect you more for leading in this manner.
We as Americans have it all backwards. We work and work and work until we hit the “golden years,” then we retire with the idea that we are going to take off from our empty nest and explore the world. I have heard so many tragic stories about people who FINALLY get some time to do the things they have always wanted to do only to be sidelined by unexpected health crises that leave them debilitated or worse. Derek Thompson, a senior staff writer for The Atlantic wrote a compelling article in February 2019 titled, “Workism is Making Americans Miserable,” where he argues that work has become, unfortunately, the, “centerpiece of one’s identity and purpose.” It’s an excellent, thought-provoking read.
Work, pay taxes, then die.
As a retiring military member, you have the resources to do what you want – healthcare, education opportunities, steady income, and many more benefits to jumpstart your second life. You only need to face down your fears and embrace the possibilities that lay before you. I am not done working, but I guarantee whatever employment I pursue in the future will be far different than what I thought I had to shoehorn myself into when I first transitioned from service. We have had a lot of people tell us how amazing our life is…how lucky we are…how courageous we are to be out sailing with our kids full time. We don’t see ourselves as different or special. We are just us, living a life of our choosing. We realized in hindsight that fear had been holding us back, not resources. Once we made our decision, we were flabbergasted by how everything suddenly seemed to align behind us. It was all there to begin with, but we were blinded by our fears of the unknown, and therefore too afraid to take a chance.
Fear is paralyzing, and in the weeks surrounding my transition there were days when I didn’t want to get out of bed and face reality. In the middle of those dark moments, a very wise friend of mine asked me to stretch my hands out in front of myself palms up, then she had me clench my fists. She looked at me and said, “There won’t be room for anything new in your life if you are holding onto everything so tightly, afraid to let go. You have to open your hands and be willing to release – toxic relationships, needless possessions, clutter, the wrong career, convenience, the safe and easy path, money. But more importantly, you have to open your hands so what you really want has a place to land.”
I stood there for a moment clenching and unclenching my upturned hands. I am not a particularly spiritual person, but I was shocked at how profoundly her simple exercise struck a chord. “Money comes and money goes, and it should,” she concluded, “but even though we have had our backs to the wall a number of times, we always believed we would be fine because we kept our hands, figuratively of course, upturned and open.” She and her husband are better now than ever after launching their own business nearly twenty years ago. They had been let go from their previous jobs at the same time, when their kids were still young, and their stress levels already high. In that moment of darkness, they chose to open their own business and live life according to their own terms. It wasn’t easy, but looking back, they wouldn’t want it any other way.
In the final analysis, it’s not about how much you have, but what you do with it. Achieving your ambitions means making decisions, prioritizing and leveraging resources, and aligning efforts. Do you want to be linked in right away, or checked out to gain some perspective and clarity? The choice is yours, and it doesn’t matter how big your proverbial or actual boat is. It only matters that you believe in yourself and face down your fears. Trust me, someone always has a bigger boat. You can find dozens of YouTube channels where people are sailing the world on every manner of boat imaginable. I used to watch some of them and say, “Look at their boat. It’s so ugly, or small, or dilapidated.” My wife would answer, “Yeah, sure is…but they are doing it!” How true. Would you rather be sitting in a staff meeting wishing you were doing it, or actually doing it?
I’ll close with this final thought. Many, if not all of us, who are retiring from a career in the service lost shipmates, close friends, and comrades in training and combat. A few years ago, standing on a beach in Italy looking out into the Adriatic Sea, where a friend in Air Wing 17 had perished during a nighttime training flight off the USS George Washington (CVN-73) in 2002, I made a promise that if I somehow made it through my military career, I would not squander the opportunity to fulfill dreams and live an amazing life. I felt like I owed that to those who couldn’t. Life is short, and precious. Don’t let fear hold you back. Don’t let a false sense of obligation keep you from doing the things on your “one day” list. If you do, that list will go unfulfilled.
We keep a sign on our boat that reads, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” It is a constant reminder for us to keep pushing forward. You can, too.
Glenn Robbins is a retired Naval Officer cruising full-time on a 46-foot catamaran named FEARLESS with his wife Andi and their two children, Gavin and Alexis.
The Smoke Pit recently opened in Old Town Greenwood, Indiana, and invites its guests to come in, relax and revel in some downtime. Especially in the crazy chaos of our current conditions, what more could anyone ask for? There’s a faint smell of spicy tobacco that lingers in the air, and the atmosphere is warm and inviting. Exposed brick walls, original ceiling joists and a general hum in The Smoke Pit make it feel like you’re stepping back into time when you enter the 70-year old downtown building.
And that’s precisely what Marine veteran owner Reid Storvick wants to convey. After serving four years of active duty and four years of reserve duty, Storvick knew that one thing he wanted and needed in his civilian life was a sense of camaraderie – the kind that came from sitting around with a group of his fellow Marines. So he set out to recreate that experience as best he could.
In the corner of this cavernously welcoming spot is a sleek back humidor that offers dozens of varieties of cigars – everything from locally rolled boutique cigars to some of the world’s most exclusive and luxe brands.
Enjoy good conversation and a good cigar, and feel like you have some downtime away from whatever’s troubling you. That’s the goal of The Smoke Pit. Storvick has tried to create a welcoming environment where no one feels like a stranger, and everyone can feel comfortable enough to stay as long as they like. He hopes that the experience will be like nothing else they’ve ever experienced.
For Storvick and his fellow Marines, nothing sounded better on deployment than heading back from the desert than lighting up a cigar and processing the day. In his years abroad, Storvick learned to appreciate cigar culture in a way that surprised him. The ritual of it and the sharing of the experience between him and his fellow Marines led the veteran to want to replicate that experience back home.
Storvick deployed to Afghanistan, Guatemala, and to Honduras, and after returning home from each deployment, he continued to develop his appreciation for cigars, getting deeper and deeper into the hobby. One day, half-joking, he told his wife that he wanted to open a cigar lounge. A few weeks later, his wife presented Storvick with a typed detailed business plan, showing him that not only was it possible, but it might just be pretty darn successful, too.
In an interview with Marine Times, Storvick said it was that moment when he realized it was time to get himself in gear.
Soon, plans started coming together. Storvick and his wife Jessica talked about what they would offer their customers, how they’d set up the lounge, and everything they might need to make the dream into a reality. They knew right off that they wanted to set up shop in Greenwood.
Greenwood holds special significance for Storvick and his family, with both his grandfather and his father being pillars in the community. Once they got the location figured out, Storvick had to decide what kinds of products they would offer.
More than anything, he wanted a wide variety of choices from small boutique lines to more nationally recognized brands. Customers come into The Smoke Pit, select a cigar, and then enjoy it in one of the plush seating areas throughout the space.
Special filters have been installed to make sure the building never gets too smokey, too.
The next step in the evolution of The Smoke Pit is to add alcohol choices to the menu. Storvick has applied for a liquor license, which will help heighten the experience of sitting down to a quality cigar. Ultimately, Storvick’s goal is to help recreate the connections, friendships, and feeling of community he experienced during his deployments. He says when someone new walks into The Smoke Pit, they’re immediately a new friend.
After decades of sustained land operations, the Navy SEAL Teams are pivoting back to their underwater roots. The acquisition of the SEAL Delivery Vehicle Mark 11 has marked this strategic shift.
SEAL Delivery Vehicles are used to clandestinely transport SEAL operators closer to a target. Naval Special Warfare currently uses the venerable SDV Mark 8.
But the Mark 11 is an improvement to the old design. The new mini-submarine comes with better navigational abilities and increased payload capacity. The new vehicle also weighs 4,000 pounds more and is 12 inches longer, 6 inches taller, and 6 inches wider.
SDVs are wet submarines, meaning that water flows in the vehicle. The SEAL operators have to have underwater breathing apparatuses and wetsuits to survive. They are cumbersome and taxing on the operators, but they get the job done. Naval Special Warfare, however, is looking to add dry submarines to its fleet of midget subs – what you would think of a submarine — in the near future.
The new SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) Mark 11 during navigation training in the Pacific Ocean (US Navy).
Last October, the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) awarded Teledyne Brown Engineering a 8 million contract for the ten Mark 11s. The company has delivered five midget subs already, the last one in June. The remaining five are to be spaced out between Fiscal Year 2021 and 2022.
Currently, the Mark 11 is undergoing operational testing. Of particular importance is the landmark test of deploying and recovering a Mark 11 from a submarine.
Expediting the date of initial operational capability is the fact that both the Mark 8s and Mark 11s utilize the same Dry Dock Shelter (DDS) platform. DDS are attached to a submarine and carry the SDVs closer to the target.
A SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) is loaded aboard the Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Dallas (SSN 700). A Dry Deck Shelter (DDS) equipped submarine is attached to the submarine’s rear escape trunk to provide a dry environment for Navy Seals to prepare for special warfare exercises or operations. DDS is the primary supporting craft for the SDV (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Journalist Dave Fliesen).
The improved SDV capabilities of Naval Special Warfare are in response to the National Defense Strategy, which has marked the shift from counterinsurgency operations to near-peer warfare and categorized Russia and China as the biggest threats to U.S. national security. China, in particular, seems to be the main focus of that drive for a potent and well-maintained SDV capability.
“After decades of combat superiority across nearly all operating environments, our military now faces a world in which every domain is aggressively contested,” had said Rear Admiral Collin Green, the commanding officer of Naval Special Warfare in a discussion about the future of his force.
To begin with, there is China’s pugnacious and expansionist foreign policy in the South China Sea. The Chinese Navy, moreover, seems to be going through an arms race reminiscent of the Dreadnaught race between the United Kingdom and Germany that adumbrated the First World War. It can field more than 700 ships in the case of a conflict.
“We are adapting to the evolving strategic environment in order to remain the NSW force the nation expects – flexible, agile, networked, sustainable, and lethal. I am proud to lead this incredible force of highly skilled and creative problem solvers. Our strength lies in the diversity of thought, background, race, gender, and experience found throughout our force,” had added RADM Green.
Last year, Naval Special Warfare Command decided to reactivate SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 2 (SDVT-2) as the committed East Coast SDV unit after 11 years, further signaling its commitment to return its underwater special operations roots. SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 1 (SDVT-1) is responsible for the West Coast.
Here’s an interesting fact about the SDV Teams: Master Chief Kirby Horrell – the last Vietnam era Navy SEAL to retire from active duty after an astounding 47 years in uniform – went through the three-month-long SDV school at the age of 56 (he was promoted to Master Chief while in the course). Training dives in SDV school and the SDV Teams are no joke. Some last eight hours or even more.
“Man’s best friend” has been by our side for around 10,000 years. Throughout that time we have used dogs for hunting partners, scavengers, emotional support, transportation of beer, sheep herding, night watch, pulling sleds, rat extermination, and a perfect scapegoat with which to blame for our own silent but deadly farts.
Dogs have many uses within the military, too. They’ve received medals, and they have saved the lives of countless service members. You may just think German Shepherds have solely led the charge in canine use in the military, but—as this list will show—we have more furry friends out there on the battlefield than you might think.
(LCpl M. C. Nerl)
Ol’ Yeller ain’t just an icon on the screen, this classic American breed also fights side by side with American armed forces. They are mainly utilized in “Combat Tracker Teams” (CTT). Their heightened sense of smell helps discover wounded allied soldiers and detect enemy forces. However, more and more the emotional bond they forge with soldiers is being recognized. Labradors are now used in “Combat Stress Control Units” to control stress levels and give comfort to soldiers deployed in combat fields.
Bloodhounds are notorious for their keen sense of smell and tracking abilities. These abilities are utilized to the fullest in the military, where bloodhounds are used to sniff out enemy soldiers as well as narcotics and weapons stockpiles. Researchers estimate that their sense of smell is 1,000 times stronger than a human’s.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Rey Ramon)
Undoubtedly the cutest and least physically imposing dog on the list, the Yorkshire Terrier has many militant functions when it’s not crammed in some Valley Girl’s ,000 Birkin purse. Although the breed’s history is rooted in mice extermination in England, Yorkshire Terriers greatly assisted Allied forces in WWII. One specific Yorkshire, “Smoky” pulled critical wires through extremely narrow pipes, saving soldiers three days of digging.
Rottweilers aren’t just beloved by the infamous rapper “DMX”—they have been used in both police and military forces since WWI. They are smart, loyal, and have an incredibly strong bite. In World War I they were used to keep guard during the night and bark at any sign of enemy forces. They are also rumored to be used in intimidation and interrogation tactics.
Boxers performed many unique tasks during WWII. They had notes tied to their collars and were sent off to give messages as makeshift couriers. They were saddled with gear and used to carry packs for soldiers. Hell, during the Berlin airlift a boxer named “Vittles” was equipped with his own harness and parachute and dropped alongside Allied forces.
The Mastiff’s war history predates modern warfare as we know it today. In fact, mastiffs wartime usage predates the industrial revolution. The ancient Persians, Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans all used this dog in war. They weren’t out there sniffing for arrows and swords either– they were fitted with armor and spiked collars and trained to kill. Think the movie “300” meets “Turner and Hooch.”
No list of military dogs would be complete without the all-important German Shepherd. They have been heavily used throughout U.S. military history since the 1940s. In WWII they served exclusively as messenger dogs, in the Korean War they were used to lead injured soldiers off the battlefield and sniff out enemies, and in Vietnam, they were scout dogs. Currently, the Army alone has over 600 dog teams made up almost exclusively of German Shepherds. They continue to be a valuable member of our military and patriotic mascots for duty.
Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.
Master Sergeant Bill — and that was his real last name — had a trick back, so he claimed. It seemed to flare up just as we were on the cusp of an unpleasant mission. My gosh, it didn’t seem to trouble him much at all during “good deal” trips, no Sir. Whether or not it was a valid ailment, that we shall never know, but the timing of the affliction sure seemed suspect over the years.
Well sure, I understood as well as the next man, that with all of the non-stop training we did to satisfy our charter to deploy in just a few hours, to deploy to the four corners of the planet and be ready to sustain combat for several days… a brother just needed a break now and then to harness and hold a semblance of sanity — “to each his own,” I often rationalized.
“Woo, yeah brother… I can feel my back getting ready to go out again. Yes sirree I can feel it coming on.”
“$hit Bill, your back goes out more than a hooker on East Central… I don’t suppose your back is just feeling the freezing cold early on, is it?”
“What freezing cold?”
“Yeah, the freezing cold of our trip to Fairbanks Alaska for Arctic weather training.”
“Oh, yeah… well I guess that is coming up, isn’t it…”
“Oh, well yeah… I guess it is, Bill.”
(Arctic warfare training always promised deep snow and freezing temperatures)
There were a few brothers that had a perceived penchant for backing out of what we called “bad deal trips,” in favor of pursuing only the “good deal trips.” They were just slick like that. Again it was just a perception, but perception is the better part of reality in most cases.
Three of the guys earned the following monikers:
Samuel: Good deal Sam, bad deal — scram!
William: Good deal Will, bad deal — chill!
Martin: Good deal Marty, bad deal — departy!
Ah, but Sergeant Bill… now he just carried his maneuvers a smidge farther than the rest, and he didn’t deserve any finesse in his moniker:
Bill: Good deal Bill, bad deal — fake a back injury!
When I look back on some of our more gruesome training missions I am aware, ever so aware, that I do not recollect his presence there. There was the Arctic training in Alaska where we endured temperature plummets as low as -45 degree Fahrenheit while we made death marches on skis and snowshoes all night long.
No Sergeant Bill — threw his dang back out.
There was the trip to British Guyana 100 miles south of the infamous Jones Town where some 950 followers of Jim Jones’ “religion” committed suicide by poisonous Kool-aid in honor of their leader. Triple canopy jungles, All night movements again on foot and by tactical assault boats through snaking inland riverways in the sweltering heat.
No Sergeant Bill — threw his dad-blamed back out.
Hey but the desert mobility training trip where we planned extreme long range patrols… Bill was there! Oh, but his back got to acting up, and he stayed in the rear at the communications relay station — bless his lame heart. If that were not enough, then there was this thing that happened:
Long range tactical patrols meant movement all night long. Before the sun comes up, we stopped and set up camouflage nets. We then performed work priorities, set out guards, and tried to sleep in the frying pan desert as best we could.
(An Austrian Pinzgauer, the vehicle of choice for desert mobility movements)
We played the tactical game to the hilt because we knew there were Russian helicopters flying the desert looking for our Rally Over Day (ROD) locations at this particular state-side training venue. To be spotted was a compromise and we would have to pack up and run from them in daylight— a losing situation.
To the lonely sound of the buzzing of deer flies, punctuated by the omnipresent smacking noise of the swatting of deer flies, was the low rumble of men in fitful sleep. Very suddenly came the booming of the heavy rotor blades of a Russian Hind-D attack helicopter looming at some 75 feet of altitude… with spineless Bill leaning out of a cargo window pointing wildly to us on the ground.
(The very intimidating Russian attack helicopter Hind-D)
“I’m going to kill him pretty soon… I’m going to kill spineless Bill. I’m going to chop him up into pieces then burn each of the pieces to ashes. I’m going to collect up those ashes and tamp them down into the barrel of a 12-pound Napoleon cannon, and fire his ashes out of over a field full of cow sh!t; when the cows come to eat the grass I’m going to kill them too and then burn the grass… and I’m going to do it all on a piping-hot Summer’s day,” projected the oath a particularly agitated brother.
The moral of the story here could possibly be: whether your back injury is real or faked, and perception being the greater part of reality, your shenanigans will not write you a day pass from… THE UNIT CARTOONIST!