Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

America’s military and police working dogs’ needs are fully supported and funded by the government, until they retire. The costs of their care after years of dedicated service can be high. This is where Project K9 Hero jumps in.


According to their website, their vision is to ensure quality of life for America’s retired Military Working Dogs and Police K9 Heroes by providing the needed assistance for their medical, food and end-of-duty services. These dogs have worked and trained their entire career. Many will retire with serious medical issues that can be costly and may also suffer from anxiety or PTSD. Project K9 Hero has made it their mission to ensure these heroes receive everything they need to enjoy their retirement years.

MWD and Police K9s that have what are deemed “special needs” are considered first by the board of directors of Project K9 Hero for financial assistance. Many also have to demonstrate that their care is a financial burden on their owners. They accept dogs into their program that have served within all branches of the military or law enforcement.

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

(Project K9 Hero)

Project K9 Hero is a national 501c3 nonprofit organization that relies on the generous donations of the public and corporate sponsorships to continue their vital work to support these heroes. Currently there are no public funds to support these K9s. Some go on hundreds of deployments and missions, serving this country faithfully for years on end. But once that service ends, their support lies in the hands of nonprofits and those that adopt them.

Project K9 Hero has been heavily involved in working on legislation to support K9s for years. The K9 Hero Act will allocate million in federal grants to be awarded to nonprofits for the medical bills of retired military working dogs and police K9s. But Project K9 needs the public’s help to get the bill moving forward. It was introduced into Congress in November of 2019 but has not been brought forward for a vote yet. The public can help support and move this legislation by asking their representatives and senators to support this bill.

On Project K9 Hero’s website, founder Jason Johnsons stated, “For me it’s a legacy as the Founder of Project K-9 Hero. I want to make sure that the work is being carried on for generations to come. It’s time our government take into consideration that if we’re going to use them and treat them like heroes when they’re on duty and during their service that we’re going to treat them the same way in retirement.”
Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

(Project K9 Hero)

The needs of America’s K9 heroes go beyond medical and financial, though. They also need safe and secure retirement homes as well. Project K9 is currently fundraising to build a rehabilitation and rehoming facility in Tennessee which will allow them to further their mission. According to their website, it will be a 6,340 square foot facility that will have kennels, a play zone, a veterinary clinic and grooming facility. It will also become their corporate headquarters.

Around 90 percent of MWD and police K9s are adopted to their handlers, who usually get the opportunity to adopt first. While the public tends to be quick to adopt MWD and K9 puppies that don’t make the cut for the program, the older dogs aren’t adopted quite as quickly. This facility will aim to support these heroes by providing an enriching, safe and healthy environment for those in need of an immediate home. The public can donate to support this facility or purchase items in their REDD (remember every dog deployed) collection, which will support the opening of this facility.

Project K9 Hero wants to make sure that the loyal service MWD and Police K9s provided to this country is never forgotten. Their statement on their website says it all: Protecting Those Who Protected Us. To learn more about this nonprofit and how you can support their mission of taking care of our K9 heroes, click here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is the US military’s only search-and-rescue dog

In 2010, airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard deployed to Port-au-Prince, the capital and most populous city of Haiti, in response to a magnitude 7 earthquake that impacted millions.

“With the destroyed airfields, it was difficult for many government organizations to land aircraft and provide assistance,” said Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, a pararescueman with the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron.

The airmen were able to get on the ground and assist in clearing the airfield thanks to their special capabilities, but they soon faced more complications.

“Local sources were telling people that there was a schoolhouse that had collapsed with about 40 children inside,” Parsons said.


“A team of special tactics airmen went over and started looking through the rubble, just carrying these rocks off, looking for these missing kids. A few days into the search, (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) was finally able to land. They brought a dog to the pile and were able to clear it in about 20 minutes. There was nobody in that pile.”

“It had been a couple days of wasted labor that could’ve been used to help save other lives,” Parsons continued.

“It was at that time that we kind of realized the importance and the capability that dogs can bring to search and rescue. Every environment presents different difficulties, but it’s all restricted by our human limitations. Our current practice is: Hoping that we see or hear somebody.”

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

Callie, a search and rescue K-9 for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, during an exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 17, 2019.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

In response to scenarios like the Haitian earthquake, Parsons spearheaded a new approach, developing the squadron’s Search and Rescue K-9 program. The effort, launched in 2018, is designed to increase the capabilities of disaster response teams in locating and recovering personnel through the use of specially trained canines.

After several months of preparation, the unit acquired its newest member, Callie, a 26-month-old Dutch shepherd, making her the first search-and-rescue dog in the Department of Defense.

She has now earned multiple qualifications to accommodate the specific skillset of the 123rd STS, including helicopter exfiltration and infiltration, mountain rescue (rappelling plus ice, snow and alpine maneuvers), static line and freefall parachute insertion.

“Callie is trained in live-find,” Parsons said. “She goes into wilderness, collapsed-structure or disaster situations. She’s trained to detect living people, find them, and alert me when she’s located them. We react accordingly, mark the spot and begin the extraction of those people.

“The unique function that we can provide by developing Callie is that we can get her to places that nobody else can get to,” Parsons added. “That’s the biggest benefit that we really saw value in. In the situation like the earthquake in Haiti, we can get her in there, and those days in difference could be the difference in somebody’s life.”

Before Callie’s introduction to the unit, the method of search and rescue in urban settings involved probing and digging with drills and cameras. According to Parsons, this slow and sometimes unreliable method only added tools, weight and difficulty to the process.

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, land at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 17, 2019

(US Air National Guard photo Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, during an exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 17, 2019.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

Tech. Sgt. Rudy Parsons, 123rd Special Tactics pararescueman, and his search-and-rescue dog, Callie, ride a UH-60 Black Hawk as part of Callie’s familiarization training at the Boone National Guard Center, Frankfort, Kentucky, Nov.29, 2018.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, complete a parachute insertion into Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, during an exercise, July 16, 2019

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

Tech. Sgt. Rudy Parsons, 123rd Special Tactics pararescueman, and his search-and-rescue dog, Callie, ride a UH-60 Black Hawk as part of Callie’s familiarization training at the Boone National Guard Center, Frankfort, Kentucky, Nov. 29, 2018.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, during an exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 15, 2019.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, during an exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 17, 2019.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

Callie, a search-and-rescue K-9 for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, alerts Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, her handler, after locating a simulated casualty during an exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 17, 2019.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

Tech Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, rappel down a cliffside at Louisville, Kentucky, as part of Callie’s familiarization training, Dec. 7, 2018.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, during an exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 17, 2019.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, during an exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 17, 2019.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

Callie, a search-and-rescue K-9 for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, rides a UH-60 Black Hawk aircraft as part of her familiarization training at the Boone National Guard Center, Frankfort, Kentucky, Nov. 29, 2018.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

The 123rd SAR K-9 program was funded by the Air National Guard innovation program, meant to enable Airmen to make positive, meaningful change and drive a culture shift toward innovation.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This could be the origin of the ‘lucky cigarette’

Smoking cigarettes has been a popular pastime among troops since the very first line formed at the armory. Everybody, both civilian and service member alike, has their reason for smoking, but one thing is consistent between the two crowds — flipping one cigarette upside down and saving it for last.

This last cigarette is referred to as the “lucky cigarette” and it’s considered bad luck to smoke it before the others in the pack. People all over the internet have speculated at the origin of this superstition, but it’s very likely that it all started with troops in WWII — and the Lucky Strike brand cigarettes they used to get in their rations.

So, if you’ve ever wondered why your veteran friend saves a single, specific cig for last, here are the best explanations we’ve found:


Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

(U.S. Marine Corps)

World War II

In WWII, troops would get Lucky Strike cigarettes in their rations and each cigarette was stamped with the brand’s logo. It’s believed that those fighting either in Europe or the Pacific would flip every cigarette in the pack except for one. That way, when a troop sparked one, they’d burn the stamp first (this was before the days of filtered cigarettes).

That way, if a troop had to drop the cigarette for any reason, the enemy couldn’t quickly determine the country of origin — any identifying mark was quickly turned to ash. The last cigarette was the only exception — and if you survived long enough to smoke it, you were considered lucky.

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

U.S. Marine Corps LVTP-5 amphibious tractors transport 3rd Marine Division troops in Vietnam, 1966.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Vietnam

Some swear that this tradition comes from the Vietnam War.

By this point, filtered cigarettes were becoming the norm, so you could only smoke ’em one way. Still, the tradition remained largely intact. Instead of flipping every cigarette on end, troops would invert a single one and, just as before, if you lived long enough to smoke it, you were a lucky joe.

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

Hopefully you can quit when you get out.

(U.S. Army)

In either case, having a “lucky cigarette” in your pack has since become a universal superstition.

Whether you’re in the military or not, flipping that one cigarette is considered good luck, even when your life isn’t in immediate danger.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of January 11th

Now that the military life is thoroughly back into full swing after the new year lull, I’m going to make a wild guess and assume that a large portion of the grunts are now going to go out into the field “to make up for lost time.” Have fun with that.

To a certain extent, I understand summer field problems. Go out and train for what you’ll do on a deployment. And I get that there are certain parts of RC-North, Afghanistan, that get cold as balls, so acclimatizing makes sense. But winter field exercises back stateside just teaches troops one crucial thing: never second guess the packing list.

You’ll be doing the exact same as thing you’ll do during every other field exercise, but if you, for some reason, forget gloves… Well, you’re f*cked.

For the rest of you POGs who’re still lounging around the training room on your cell phones, have some memes!


Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

(Meme via PT Belt Nation)

Five bucks says that Adam Driver still has a poncho liner on his couch. 

Very Related: 5 Marine things Kylo Ren would do if he was a Lance Corporal

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

(Meme via Private News Network)

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

(Meme via On The Minute Memes)

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs
Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marine veteran combats PTSD symptoms by serving others

Following World War I, many troops were rapidly diagnosed with “shell shock.” World War II brought the new label of “combat stress reaction.” Today, it’s known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD – which is diagnosed when negative symptoms arise after experiencing a traumatic event. Marine veteran John Welch doesn’t shy away from sharing his own diagnosis of PTSD caused by combat. In fact, he thinks it’s vital that it is talked about, because that’s the only way veterans will begin to heal.


Welch followed his father and brothers into the Marines. He always knew he’d become one himself because it was ingrained into him his whole life. Although he doesn’t regret a moment of his service to this country, he’s uncomfortable with talking about it. For a long time, being a Marine was all that he had and it wasn’t enough.

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

He knows the dark and deeply-rooted impacts of PTSD intimately because he lived in that space for a long time after leaving the Marine Corps. Welch said that he slowly came back to life after receiving his service dog, Onyx, four years ago. “She took me out of the darkness and brought me back into the world,” he shared. Once Welch was on his own path of healing, he wanted to find ways to help other veterans make it there too.

He started with reclaimed wood.

Welch feels like he was probably always artistic, but that by working through his trauma by using things like art, he flourished. Since then, he has spent years building and creating custom wooden American flags for veterans. He doesn’t charge for them or take requests but instead waits to be led to the person who needs one the most. At this point, he has made hundreds.

“Yeah, I have PTSD. But there is a way out. That way out is to do for others,” Welch said candidly. He believes serving others saved him. Welch uses his flag art to work through his own trauma and give back, but he is also a peer liaison volunteer at his local VA. There, he works closely with other veterans suffering from the debilitating effects of PTSD. He was feeling content. But there was more waiting for him.

While shopping at his local Christmas tree store, he ran into a friend. After talking a while, he suggested that Welch join Team Rubicon, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that serves communities by mobilizing veterans to continue their service and leverages their skills and experience to help people prepare, respond and recover from disaster and humanitarian crisis. The friend wouldn’t give him details and instead pushed him to look it up. After he learned TR’s mission, he realized it was a way he could continue to further his service, and joined immediately, spending almost his first year deployed on Team Rubicon operations.

“Team Rubicon gave me the ability to serve others,” Welch said. “I lost that sense of service when I left the military. When I joined Team Rubicon, it gave me that back.” Welch has now been a volunteer with Team Rubicon since 2018 and has gone on several deployments with them. Currently, he’s entering his tenth straight week serving in the COVID-19 response team for New York.

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

There’s nowhere he’d rather be than beside his fellow “Greyshirt” teammates helping people in need. “Team Rubicon has been instrumental in getting me better,” he shared. When the newest Team Rubicon volunteers didn’t receive their coveted grey shirts in time, Welch jumped in immediately and handcrafted wood plaques for them to welcome them to the team.

Welch shared that at one time he was deemed “broken.” He discovered that by serving others, he was made whole again. “When you look back at your life, you should ask, ‘Did I make a difference in the world?'” he said. Although he knows most people cannot give the amount of time that he does to service, he hopes that those who hear his story see the importance of giving back.

While Welch quite literally spends almost his entire day in service of some kind, he’s never been happier. It saved him. He’s hoping it’ll save others too.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how ants wage war

The fog of war and its consumption of life is not unique to the hands of man. Various animal species engage in war or war like hunting patterns; Ants vs termites, bees vs hornets, some prime apes and more. Out of all of Earth’s creatures, no other can compare to humans like the ant. To ensure the continuation of the colony the end justifies the means. Ants stab each other, use chemical weapons, and even enslave other colonies. This is how ants wage war.

Army Ants build borders

The North American Army Ant (Eciton burchellii), will establish an area of operation. The scouts conduct a search, it often leads to colonies discovering each other. As a result, there is a border dispute, and each side will send out a lone ant to stand off in a competition of height that represents the strength of each other’s colonies. The shorter ant will back down and the colony will surrender some of its territory.  If the victorious colony believes it can win all the territory through war, they will launch an all-out invasion. They will use sheer numbers to overwhelm the enemy without the use of scouts. This is total war, no mercy. Men, women, children are all fair game in the name of expansion.

Societies with population explosions, that extend into the millions, are prone to large-scale, intense, tactical warfare. It’s a nature of battle only possible among communities with plenty of excess labor force.

Mark Mofeett, ecologist

Ants are an invasive species by nature. No matter how hard humans try to exterminate them they grown more powerful by the day. Based in every country, every clime and place, like a Marine Corps but with a Napoleonic complex.

Big-headed ants (Pheidole megacephala) are an invasive species from Southern Africa and they use chemical warfare and deception to destroy their North American counter parts. For instance, Big-headed ants engaged in battle they will spray the enemy with pheromones that overpowers the pheromones of the enemy ants. The survivors of the battle will return to their colony and will be misidentified as foreign troops. All survivors are killed by their own brothers in arms.

If you think about the worst invasive species, ants frequently show up on those lists, and big-headed ants are among the most problematic.

Andrew Suarez, University of Illinois entomology professor and animal biology department head

Andew Saurez discovered that the diet given to Big-Headed ant species during larval development will dictate what job they have in the colony. Different foods will cause the ant’s hormone levels to change and that is what decides if they will be equipped with huge incisors and a big head or become a worker, nurse, etc.

Slave-maker Ants (Chalepoxenus) are another notorious species of ant that infiltrate host colonies disguising itself in pheromones, kill the queen and all the adults, then force the newborn ants to care for and defend the slavers and their young.

Among the approximately 15,000 known ant species, slave-making has been recorded in only 50. – Susanne Foitzik of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz

Experts Czechowski and Godzinska enslaved ants also participate in rebellions.

  • Firstly, Acts of physical aggression directed by slaves to slave-makers
  • Secondly, Attempts of slaves to reproduce within a slave-maker colony
  • Thirdly, Sabotage activities of slaves leading to weakening of the slave-maker colony and population
  • Finally, Slave emancipation partial or complete self-liberation of slaves from slave-maker colonies

It is eerily similar in the way ants wage war and humans. We humans are an invasive species fighting for resources and the expansion of borders. Using deception and chemical warfare to confuse and kill the enemy and, in a way, create false flag operations that make each other kill their own. This is a testament to how humans do not have a monopoly on war.

It is a common sentiment that animals are innocent and incapable of battle. Yet, new discoveries in the animal kingdom contradict popular opinion with facts that warfare is a natural means to an end.

To revolt, to rebel against oppressors, to live free or die trying – liberty is as important to ants as it is as to humans. A cause worth going to war for.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Motivated by their lives: Honoring the fallen this Memorial Day

Memorial Day brings visions of outdoor family barbeques, filled beaches and the unofficial kickoff to summertime. But it’s so much more than that. It’s the one day a year we set aside to honor those who willingly died to defend our freedoms in service to this nation.

Families of the fallen don’t expect America to approach this day with sadness, however. They truly welcome the celebration of all things red, white and blue. But they hope that while the country enjoys the day, those enjoying the festivities remember the why behind it. It’s because of their loved one’s sacrifice that we can celebrate it at all.
Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

Krista Simpson Anderson knows all about the loss and also joy that comes with Memorial Day. Her husband, Staff Sergeant Michael Simpson, was a Green Beret. He was so proud to serve and be a part of the 1st Special Forces Group where he was lovingly nicknamed “The Unquiet Professional.” On April 27, 2013, on his 20th day of deployment in Afghanistan, nearly a decade to the day from his enlistment in the Army, Simpson sustained critical injuries from an improvised explosive device. He fought to stay alive, saying, “Wife, kids, I love,” while being evacuated to the hospital.

His medical team did everything they could to keep him alive; bringing him back each time he coded. Simpson underwent multiple surgeries as they battled to treat his severe injuries. He was medevaced to Germany four days after the blast and his wife and family arrived on May 1, 2013 and he was declared deceased not long after they arrived. He then gave all his viable organs, serving others until his heart stopped beating.

He was only 30 years old.

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

On the original day set aside as Memorial Day, May 30, 2013, Mike’s family said their final goodbye at Arlington National Cemetery. It was in that moment that Krista and a close friend decided to create a nonprofit organization to give back to all of those who had supported the family through their loss.

They called it The Unquiet Professional.

Since its inception, The Unquiet Professional has evolved from a fundraiser to an organization that provides resources and education to those actively serving, veterans, surviving families and Gold Star families. They also do a memorial run, every Memorial Day. The purpose is to spend that mile remembering the lives of the fallen. This year they are honoring Simpson as always but also SFC James Grissom, SSG Timothy McGill, SFC Liam Nevins and Sgt. Joshua Strickland, all who lost their lives within months of each other in 2013 defending their country.

But they were more than just soldiers.

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

Simpson was a deeply faithful man with an amazing sense of humor who loved his family. Grissom’s family shared that he had such a kind spirit and was always finding ways to help others. McGill’s sister Megan shared that he never told her he was a Green Beret because he was so humble and such a “gentle giant.” Nevins was known for his dimples, blue eyes and his love of pranks. Strickland was remembered by his family for living life passionately and always laughing.

It is the hope of all families of the fallen that the world will remember them this Memorial Day.

“Memorial Day is my favorite holiday of the year. We honor Mike every day, but everyone honors him on Memorial Day. How could you not love that? I want people to celebrate, have barbecues and make fancy cocktails. Celebrate your freedom; that’s what he died for,” shared Anderson.

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

You can join in on TUP’s virtual memorial run here. Share pictures on social media during your memorial mile and use the hashtags #MotivatedByTheirLives and #TupMile. For those able to participate in a longer run, Project 33 Memorial Foundation is also hosting a virtual 10k to honor MSG Nicholas Sheperty who was killed during military freefall operations on April 17, 2019. All proceeds raised from their run will go to a memorial stone in his honor.

This Memorial Day, run for the fallen. Enjoy the day to live as they would want us to, but don’t forget to pause and remember.

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs


MIGHTY CULTURE

5 tips for leading during COVID-19, from the Sergeant Major of the Army

Across the military, service members and their families are working through the new normal brought about by COVID-19. Everyone is dealing with a fair amount of stress and we understand how important great leadership is right now. So, we reached out to the Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston (socially distanced, of course) to get his advice for leaders while we work through this pandemic.

He opened up his green notebook and provided the following insights.


Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Grinston, senior enlisted leader for Army Forces Command, presents the FORSCOM Eagle Award during a ceremony Jan. 9, 2019.

Department of Defense

1. Lead differently

Leadership matters right now. This isn’t harder than what is required of leaders in combat, but it is a very difficult time. In combat, you can physically bring everyone together. Now, how do you lead during this time of uncertainty? How do you get the information out? How do you make sure they stay the course? How do you make sure your soldiers are following orders –- which in some cases may be to stay at home and keep everyone healthy?

Everyone agrees that face-to-face leadership is the best and leaders can tell a lot about someone’s emotional condition by looking them in the eyes. We still have to do it. Don’t fall in the trap of relying on text messages to communicate. I recommend leaders develop a communications PACE plan. Make video chats your primary means of communication. If that isn’t available, make a phone call so you can hear their voice. Finally, leaders can use text and email to keep the lines of communication open.

Remember, these are difficult times and leadership is what is going to make the difference for the people in your formation.

2. Get innovative

There are so many opportunities right now for leaders to get innovative with how they maintain readiness and keep their soldiers motivated.

For example, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, a battalion conducted an individual 6-mile foot march competition. Everyone used either cell phone apps or GPS watches to track their progress and then posted their times online. The winner with the fastest time received an Army Achievement Medal.

Another unit in Poland conducted EIB training, but included hand-washing and social distancing enforcement during the event.

At the Department of Army level, we are looking for ways to maintain readiness. We started running the Basic Army Leader Course via distance learning. I expect the same of our leaders down at the unit level — look for innovative ways to accomplish the mission.

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston visited the U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston Jan. 15.

Department of Defense

3. Stay ready

We all have a responsibility to maintain our fitness and stay focused on personal readiness during this period.

We also have a responsibility and a great opportunity to focus on the operational readiness rate of our equipment so that when we come back to train, our vehicles and weapons are ready to go. Leaders can take advantage of this pause in training to bring mechanics and crews in to bring equipment up to 10/20 standard.

4. Stay informed

Besides company-level leadership keeping soldiers and their families informed, there are also plenty of opportunities to stay up-to-date on the latest news by Department of the Army and Garrison Commands.

I know that unit-level leaders are doing weekly virtual town halls, most garrisons are doing them several times a week and we have done a few at the Army level. Don’t rely on hearsay to get your information; tune-in and stay informed with facts.

5. Set goals

Treat this period like a deployment. We not only want to survive it, we also want to thrive in it. A great way to do this is to set personal and professional goals.

Gyms are closed and many of the conditions we had pre-coronavirus have changed. So, we need to reassess our goals. While we can’t go to gyms, there are workouts we can do in our living rooms to stay fit. Look for opportunities; there might be online courses or credentialing classes that you can take advantage of to achieve professional goals.

I recommend everyone try to figure out some kind of routine to work toward your goals. Don’t wake up everyday and muddle through it — keep moving forward.

A Proud SMA

At the end of our interview, SMA Grinston shared how proud he was of our Army’s efforts to #KilltheVirus; from researching a vaccine to preventative measures and treatment efforts. He also applauded the efforts of our National Guard and Reserve forces who are bearing a large burden of the response efforts across the country.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The British version of JRTC is in Kenya

The U.S. Army Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana, is consistently rated by soldiers as a place that you don’t want to go. Hot temperatures, high humidity and a geographically isolated location make it so that soldiers posted there can’t wait to PCS and soldiers training there can’t wait to leave.


Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

(US Army)

It must be said, though, that JRTC does offer world-class training for warfighters from the riflemen on the frontline to the commanders maneuvering them from their TOCs. JRTC also allows international partners to come and train with U.S. forces to foster partnerships and future interoperability. British soldiers are a common sight in the backwoods of central Louisiana, however, they generally come as a single company. For their own large-scale training, the Brits go to Kenya.

The British Army Training Unit Kenya is a permanent training support unit based mainly in Nanyuki, roughly 200 km north of the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. Consisting of about 100 permanent staff and a short-tour cohort of an additional 280 personnel, BATUK provides demanding and realistic training exercises for units preparing to deploy.

The UK Ministry of Defence maintains a Defence Cooperation Agreement with the Kenyan government that allows up to six British infantry battalions of 10,000-12,000 personnel to carry out four-week long exercises in Kenya every year. The training takes place at Archer’s Post Training Area in Samburu County and Dol Dol Training Area in Laikipia County. BATUK also currently maintains two barracks in Nairobi that serve as a rear area base and depot.

Similar to JRTC, British soldiers stationed in Nairobi serve as OCTs and OPFOR for the units that rotate in for training. BATUK even provides domestic housing so that soldiers can bring their families during their posting.

The local environment is arid and can be difficult to navigate, making it an excellent training ground for units preparing to deploy to combat zones. To optimize training, small towns have been constructed to facilitate MOUT training and hundreds of locals are hired to serve as role players.

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

(UK Ministry of Defence)

In Kenya, British forces train using both the Tactical Engagement Simulation system (British MILES gear) and live fire. As a result, like at JRTC, soldiers have to be on the lookout for native wildlife that wanders into the training area. However, whereas JRTC hosts animals like turkeys and deer, soldiers training at Archer’s Point or Dol Dol have the occasional elephant or giraffe sighting.

In return for the use of Kenyan land, three squadrons from the Corps of Royal Engineers are assigned to BATUK and carry out civil engineering projects throughout Kenya, while two medical companies provide primary healthcare assistance to the civilian community. Britain also offers training opportunities in the UK to the Kenya Defence Forces and supports its fight against Al Shabaab with British deployments to Somalia.

With a renewal of the defence agreement in September 2015, British troops will continue to conduct valuable training in Kenya through BATUK.


MIGHTY CULTURE

Extreme weather could cause a massive surge in the price of beer

Rising global temperatures affect not only our safety but what we eat and drink as well.

In recent years, scientists have uncovered a link between climate change and our consumption of popular items like wine and coffee. Now, a coming study from the University of East Anglia has found a link between extreme weather and how much beer we drink.

Instead of attempting to predict future events, the researchers asked themselves a question: What would happen to the beer industry tomorrow if it experienced the most severe form of drought or heat anticipated by scientists in the coming years?


According to the researchers, whose findings will appear in Nature Plants, these extreme weather conditions could spur a 16% decline in global beer consumption. That’s equivalent to 29 billion liters, or the amount of beer consumed annually in the US.

The issue is one of supply, not demand. In the event of a modern climate-related disaster, farmers could have trouble producing barley — the main ingredient in beer.

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

(Flickr photo by Daniel Taylor)

That’s bad news for the global beer market, which is predicted to reach 0 billion by 2022. It’s also bad news for consumers, who could see beer prices double worldwide.

The effects would be particularly acute in China, the world’s biggest beer consumer. If extreme heat or drought were to strike tomorrow, the nation could see its consumption decline by about 10%, or more than 12 billion cans of beer. By contrast, the US could see its consumption decline by up to 20%, or nearly 10 billion cans of beer.

The study predicts the largest price increases in affluent, beer-loving countries like Ireland, whose six-packs could cost an extra each.

In addition to these economic effects, a global beer shortage may have social and political consequences. According to one of the study’s authors, Dabo Guan, climate change could trigger a new kind of prohibition in which beer becomes a luxury good that’s no longer available to the working class.

“We’re not writing this piece to encourage people to drink more today than they would tomorrow,” Guan said. “What we’re saying is that … if people still want to have a pint of beer while they watch football, we have to do something about climate change.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why a ‘senior lance corporal’ is absolutely a thing

Lance corporal is the most common rank in the Marine Corps. It’s the upper-most junior-enlisted Marine; the last step before becoming an NCO. It’s at this rank that you truly learn the responsibilities that come with being an NCO — and it’s when you start to shoulder those responsibilities. But Marines can be lance corporals straight out of boot camp. But how can someone with no experience possibly be ready to lead others Marines? This is why we created an unofficial rank — “senior lance corporal.”

Lifers everywhere will tell you that there’s no such thing. They’ll say something along the lines of, “being a senior was a high school thing and it ought to remain there.” But the truth is that there are very valid reasons for the distinctive title.

No matter your reason for stating otherwise, one thing’s for sure: senior lance corporals exist. This is why.


Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

This Lance Corporal still has a lot to learn.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Catie Massey)

The “junior” lance corporal

The “junior” lance corporal is the guy who picked up rank during boot camp because they were an Eagle Scout or some sh*t. Regardless, they didn’t earn real Marine Corps experience while waiting for that rank. Hell, the only experience they have in the Marine Corps is with marching — which is important, sure, but there’s a lot more to being a Marine than marching.

There are exceptions, of course. You could have spent time in the service prior to deciding that whatever branch you were in was a group of weaklings compared to the Marines. In that case, you do have experience, but this is pretty rare. The majority of “junior” lance corporals haven’t led Marines yet — not really, anyway — nor have they been to any leadership courses.

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

They spent a lot of time doing things by the book, which isn’t typically how things go in a real unit.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

They spent their time learning the basics which, if we’re being honest, are great building blocks, but your unit’s standard operating procedure may render a lot of what you learned basically useless.

Anyone who’s reached NCO before their first term and has led Marines knows that you can’t trust a junior lance corporal to clean their room the right way on their first attempt. How could that lance corporal possibly be the same as the one who went through leadership and/or advanced schools and has a deployment under their belt? Hint: It’s not.

Enter the “senior” lance corporal.

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

These guys have been around a minute.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

The “senior” lance corporal

When a junior Marine gets to their unit, even if they’re a lance corporal, this is the guy they refer to as “lance corporal.” The junior will quickly come to understand that, while they may hold the same rank, they are not the same. The difference, in fact, is rather large.

A senior lance corporal has been on a deployment. Regardless of whether that deployment was into combat or not, that lance corporal has real leadership experience. They went to a foreign country and they were responsible for leading Marines to success. Then, before you got to the unit, they went to leadership schools. These Marines have a lot more experience than a greenhorn fresh out of boot camp.

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

So ask yourself, are you treating your Marines a certain way based on experience — or rank?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo Cpl. Aaron Patterson)

Realistically, there are plenty of senior lance corporals that don’t give a f*ck anymore. But for every one of those, there are ten who strive to be good Marines and great leaders. To diminish their hard work and reduce them to the same level as some fresh boot does nothing but destroy their spirit.

The fact is, a “senior” lance corporal could be a squad leader — a job that is meant to be held by a sergeant, but is more commonly held by a corporal. You could not take a “junior” lance corporal and say the same. The difference is clear.

MIGHTY CULTURE

11 valuable tax tips and benefits for military families

The holidays are over, and we are now in the year 2020. It’s a good time to start working on our 2019 taxes, because April 15 will be here before we know it. Taxes are overwhelming and complex, but there are numerous tax benefits for military families, so it is important to understand the basics.


Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

Income

Servicemembers receive different types of pay and allowances. It is important to know which are considered as income and which are not. For servicemembers, income typically includes basic pay, special pay, bonus pay, and incentive pay.

Exclusions

Items normally excluded from income include combat pay, living allowances, moving allowances, travel allowances, and family allowances, such as family separation pay.

Combat pay exclusions are a substantial benefit to servicemembers and spouses. Combat pay is that compensation for active military service for any month while serving in a designated combat zone. This may also include a reenlistment bonus if the voluntary reenlistment occurs in a month while the servicemember is serving in the combat zone. Note that for commissioned officers, there is a limit to the amount of combat pay you may exclude.

The most common living allowances are Basic Allowance for Housing and Basic Allowance for Subsistence. Moving allowances are those reasonable, unreimbursed expenses beyond what the military pays for a permanent change of station.

Sale of Homes

Servicemembers and spouses often decide to purchase homes when moving to new duty stations. Often, we then turnaround and sell the homes a few years later before moving again.

What happens if you make a profit from the sale of this home? If you are fortunate enough to profit, you may qualify to exclude up to 0,000 of the gain from your income, or up to 0,000 if you file a joint return with your spouse. This is referred to as the Sale of Primary Home Capital Gain exclusion. Normally, this exclusion requires that you owned the home for at least two years and lived in it for at least two of the last five years. There is an exception, however, for servicemembers. If you were required to move as the result of a permanent change of station before meeting these requirements, you still may qualify for a reduced exclusion.

Claim for Tax Forgiveness

If a servicemember dies while on active duty, there are circumstances where the taxes owed will be forgiven by the IRS. Contact your closest Legal Assistance Office immediately for assistance using the website provided later in the article.

Extensions

If April 15 is quickly approaching and you are running out of time, remember, there are several different extension requests that military families may make. If the servicemember is in a combat zone, an automatic extension covers the time period the servicemember is in the combat zone plus 180 days after the last day in the combat zone.

Avoid Tax Scams

In November 2019, I wrote an article on common scams during the holidays. Unfortunately, scams are not limited to the holidays. There are numerous tax scams that have stolen personal information and millions of dollars. Scammers use the mail, telephone and email to initiate contact. Please remember that the IRS never initiates contact by email, text messages or on social media pages to request personal or financial information. The IRS initiates most contact through the regular U. S. Postal Service mail. Finally, the IRS never uses threats or bullying to demand payments.

If you have any questions, contact the IRS with a telephone number you find on its website (www.irs.gov) and verify what you received is legitimate before doing anything. To protect yourself, only use an IRS telephone number from its website. Do not use a telephone number you received that you suspect may be part of a tax scam from an email, text message or social media page.

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

Signing Tax Returns

Normally, both the servicemember and spouse must sign jointly filed tax returns. If one spouse will be absent during tax season, it is advisable to have an IRS special power of attorney, IRS Form 2848 (Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative). You may access this form on the IRS website.

Military Tax Centers

Annually, many Legal Assistance Offices worldwide help servicemembers and spouses file their federal and state income tax returns starting in early February. Last year, for example, Army Legal Assistance personnel and volunteers prepared and filed over one hundred thousand Federal and over sixty-four thousand State income tax returns saving servicemembers and their families more than million in tax preparation and filing fees.

If you don’t live near a military installation, visit the Department of Defense Military One Source website at https://www.militaryonesource.mil for additional information on accessing free online tax assistance.

Legal Assistance Offices

If you have specific tax questions or receive correspondence from the IRS, contact the closest legal assistance office to schedule an appointment. Use the Armed Forces Legal Assistance website (https://legalassistance.law.af.mil) that I provided in the October 2019 blog to locate your nearest legal assistance office. The quicker you address your issues, the better likelihood that you will successfully resolve them.

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

Valuable Tax Tip for 2020

Finally, here is a valuable tip for next year’s taxes. Does it seem like every year you are scrambling to find tax documents and receipts from throughout the tax year? Relieve this stress by getting a folder and writing “Tax Year 2020” on the front of it. Keep it in an easy-to-find place, and every time you receive a document or receipt that may impact your taxes place it in the folder. That way, at the end of this year, you will have most of the supporting documents you need already together.

Future Blogs

Be on the lookout for future blogs that will continue to discuss specific legal issues often encountered by servicemembers and military spouses. As always, this blog series will help to protect your family and you!

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marines volunteer as crossing guards for school children

U.S. Marines hit the streets in the local community [Chatan, Okinawa, Japan] to assist as crossing guards for Chatan Elementary School July 18, 2019.

Three Marines on camp guard duty volunteered their morning to serve as crossing guards near the elementary school in support of the recent safety campaign.

“Today I’m pretty much just helping the little kids cross the street to go to school,” said Lance Cpl. Timothy Silva, with Combat Logistics Battalion-4, 3rd Marine Logistics Group.

Silva is currently serving camp duty on Camp Foster, Okinawa for the next twenty days.


“The reason I am at this spot particularly is because there is a hill to my right, and what I was told was that, the cars, they just come speeding up here and can’t really see the kids when they are crossing, so I’m just here making sure that the kids that do come here, cross safely .”
— Lance Cpl. Timothy Silva, with Combat Logistics Battalion-4, 3rd Marine Logistics Group
Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Samuel Brusseau)

The elementary school personnel and Marine volunteers made an effective team working together to ensure student safety.

“I volunteered myself for this duty, it is fun,” Silva also stated standing on a street corner helping children attend their second to last day of the school year.

School will resume in September 2019.

Project K9 Hero serves America’s retired military and police working dogs

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Samuel Brusseau)

Silva went on to say that this duty has given him the best look into Okinawan culture.

“You get to see all the little kids, the local kids, you say hello to them and see how they interact with each other in the morning when they are tired and on their way to school.”

Marine volunteers participate in activities island-wide to enhance the relationship with the local community.

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information