He’s shaking his belly like a bowl full of jelly, even in the craziness that is this year. Despite all we’ve gone through this year, Santa remains a common bright spot for the ages. Even though most kids are taking pictures from afar this year, the magic of Santa still remains bright.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t poke a little fun along the way. Check out these favorite Santa memes and let them perk up your holiday season.
He’s such a spotlight ranger
We appreciate you too, elves!!
So many people need this in their lives
Dictionaries (and Spell Check!) for all!
Doesn’t sound like a bad gig TBH
Plus free milk and cookies. Where do I put my application?
This is the CUTEST
This dog made our whole Christmas.
This low-key freak out is the best
We love this kid!
This reminder to take credit for the expensive stuff
Spread the Santa joy equally!
Busting out that ameteur acting each year
THAT IS BRAND NEW INFORMATION
Why is this normal and accepted?
Time for a lyric change IMO
Every adult’s dream
This age-old question that’s never been answered
Your guess is as good as ours.
Rosy cheeks and ashy hair might be in all of our futures, but let’s hope it’s with Santa over personal experiences. After all, Santa is a beloved tradition for all ages and beliefs.
What’s your favorite way to celebrate Santa each year? Tell us below.
When talking about the do’s and don’ts of taking on the Special Operations Assessment and Selection courses that the military has to offer, there are a ton of opinions out there, and I feel, a lot of misconceptions as well. This is particularly true when it comes to being the “Grey Man,” which is a common name people use to describe an operator who can blend seamlessly into their environment.
I’ve been asked about this countless times in emails. One of the more common questions I receive from prospective candidates is always about trying to blend in at Assessment and Selection — being the Grey Man. I spoke with someone just in the past few weeks about this very subject.
There is no shortage of people who will tell you being the Grey Man is important, some of them will be Special Operations Selection cadre members. So, respectively, I’ll disagree. Overall, unless you’re an intelligence professional trained at blending in and being invisible, I will stick with my original advice and say in the majority of instances, it isn’t a smart thing to do. I will explain why below, but first, my caveat:
Yes, there are times when you absolutely, positively need to be the guy people standing in front of you are going to look right past while giving their “attention” to someone else.
The first one is if you are in SERE School (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape). The last thing you want at SERE is to stand out in any way. Standing out to the guard force in the POW camp usually means you’re going to withstand some “corrective measures.”
Being the biggest member of the prisoners or the most senior guy in the SERE Class is not a good way to be the grey man. The SRO (Senior Ranking Officer) is always singled out for real or perceived rules infractions….you get the idea. Once you get through the Selection process and into the training pipeline, you’ll get to experience SERE up close and personal and all of your questions will be answered.
The second example of when it’s a good time to be a “grey man” is when you’re doing some kind of undercover intelligence work. Then you want to blend into your surroundings. If someone saw you walking down a busy street in an urban environment, you don’t want to raise an alarm among surveillance operatives watching for that type of operation.
This has a lot to do with demeanor, dress, mannerisms, and movement. Special Forces has a training program that teaches all of this and much more. But the course and the acronym associated with it will come after your training is complete and you move on to the operational units and get some experience under your belt.
So, we’re back to the 800-lb gorilla in the room, and the question is, “Why not be the grey man during Selection?” You will see blog posts from people, message boards, and social media posts all telling candidates “Be the grey man” or something remotely similar. I see it all the time. So why is it actually a bad idea?
As a former Selection cadre member, I’ll let you in on my perceptions: Trying to be the Grey Man just may put a huge bulls-eye on your forehead.
As I mentioned above, most people aren’t trained properly to be a grey man. And if it appears to the Selection cadre that you are trying to blend into the background, that isn’t a good thing. To the cadre members, it appears like you’re trying to “ghost” through events (as we called it during my time there). And if a guy is going to ghost during Selection, then he certainly will on a team.
Back in the day, when I had the night duty during a course, one of the other cadre members and I would wander around the candidates’ barracks at night with no berets, just being the “grey men” of the cadre. We wanted to hear the chatter of the class and see how well or not-so-well they were holding up.
These conversations would sometimes be quite telling, especially during team week. More than once, we heard candidates who passed their patrol (the criteria has since changed, thank you LTC Brian Decker) talk about coasting through the last few events to make it through the long-range movement. Bad idea.
Then there were the others, guys who passed their patrol and were volunteering to help out the next day’s guys who would be in the barrel and under the microscope. More than once we heard conversations similar to this:
“Hey bud, whatever happens, tomorrow, put me on lashings, I’m really good at that, and that’s one thing you won’t have to worry about.”
That’s the guy I want on my team. He’s not done yet, he’s looking out for his teammates. He’s going to get high marks on his peer reports.
Special Operations isn’t looking for cookie-cutter robots. We understand that everyone is different and there are certainly guys who are characters. You’ll undoubtedly have some in your class.
That’s why my advice is always, “be yourself.” When I was there, our cadre was made up of the most eclectic group of people that I’ve ever worked with. There was never a dull moment and every NCO, although vastly different, respected who each one of us was. And we all got along because we had the humility to understand that every person brings some unique element to the table.
If you’re a rah-rah type of guy, then be that guy. If you are a quiet, lead by example type of guy, that’s fine…be him. Don’t try to be something you’re not. Sometimes the characters of the class would lift everyone around him. All of the cadre members had those types of guys in their own classes, and they know how valuable they are to keeping up class morale, and for team-building.
My own class in the SFQC (Special Forces Qualification Course) had a tremendous NCO who we called “CPT Camouflage” during Land Nav. He would wear some outlandish get-up; PT Shorts hiked way too high, jungle boots, with a poncho pulled over his head like a cape with eye holes cut out. He’d run through the woodline offering the craziest encouragement to “lost Land Nav Students everywhere.” As dumb as it sounds, our class loved it. And after a day or so, the cadre would ask if “Captain Camouflage” had any words for the class after we’d return from the day’s or night’s navigation practice.
I recently recorded a podcast with Mike Sarraille, a Navy SEAL officer who has written a book on Special Operations leadership and how civilian companies should incorporate the lessons of Selection and Assessment into their hiring process.
Mike was a successful Marine NCO with Recon before becoming an officer. During BUDs training to become a SEAL, the other members of his class naturally gravitated toward Mike because of his experience, military bearing, and demeanor. That’s who he is. If he tried to blend into the background, the SEAL instructors would have seen right through that and he would have never passed or gone on to become the officer he was.
Of course, “be yourself” has to be tempered with a bit of common sense. Don’t be overly argumentative with the cadre… even if you know that you may be right when receiving a critique. That will have the exact opposite effect of your intentions. Don’t be a “Spotlight Ranger” either — those types never last long as they’ll get peered out quickly (failed by peer reviews). And please spare your war stories about leading an attack with the 18th Mess Kit Repair Unit in Iraq or someplace else. Nobody cares about that or is interested.
Remember you are always being evaluated and assessed. This is a time for the cadre to see if you have the core attributes that make Special Operations troops the best in the world. Selection is the time where you begin building the reputation that will follow throughout your Special Operations career. And as big as it has grown, it is still a small community. Selection is the first step in the process of showing you belong in the Regiment.
Trying to do so by blending in the background isn’t the way to do it. Be yourself, try to excel at everything, and remember, some of your fellow candidates may be better at some things than you are. That won’t change once you get to an operational unit.
”Do the best you can.” (Yes you’ll hear that again.)
Our men and women in blue are just like our men and women in green. They both hold very serious jobs that come with an often misunderstood lifestyle. The similarities don’t end there; police officers have pretty much the same sense of humor as troops, too.
Trust me, police officers don’t join the force with high aspirations of sitting on the side of the road to passively deter people from speeding. They definitely don’t get joy out of writing tickets for folks they catch going three miles per hour over the limit. No, most cops want to get out there and make a difference in their communities.
This sentiment is mirrored by the troops that enlist as infantrymen and end up spending most of their deployment sweeping sand off sandbags or scrubbing d*ck doodles off porta-john walls. Neither troops nor police officers sign up for monotony, but it finds a way in nonetheless.
So, how do cops deal with the daily grind? In the exact same way that troops do. They mess around with each other while between missions. The moments police officers spend sitting around with their partner, waiting for their next call, is often filled with comedy gold.
If you can’t laugh at yourself… am I right?
(Bath Township Police Department)
Showing their lighter sides to the community
Nobody hates bad cops more than the astronomical amount of good cops. Their entire livelihood depends on maintaining a mutual trust between themselves and the people they’ve sworn to protect. When one as*hole goes off the rails and does something stupid, it distorts their image in the eyes of the people. They can’t effectively serve and protect the people with a tarnished reputation.
Police officers can’t be everywhere at once. They rely on that mutual trust so the people can tell them when and where they’re needed most. So, officers will often bend over backwards to prove to the people that their trust isn’t misplaced. Good officers will often show their lighter side — even if that means playing sports with kids or letting themselves be the butt of a joke.
Dancing in traffic
Think of the most mind-numbing detail in the military. That’s the police equivalent of being the dude who stands in traffic just waving people on. So, instead of just pointing and waving at lanes of traffic, some cops will make it fun and dance along to the music in their head.
It sounds like that scene in The Other Guys, but when traffic cops are faced with the choice of either embracing the silliness of directing traffic or going insane, most pick the former.
Cops take National Doughnut Day very seriously.
Going all in on the doughnut jokes
Who doesn’t love doughnuts? That sweet, soft bread with a sugary glaze can be eaten whenever, wherever. It’s the perfect sweet treat to perk you up after a long day. Police officers, however, have been stuck with the stereotype of being doughnut-obsessed, like Officer Wiggum from The Simpsons.
Since it’s a lighthearted joke at their expense — that often leads to getting free boxes of doughnuts from local shops — they go all in. And can you blame them? If someone made a joke about troops drinking too much beer and it lead to people giving beer away, you know troops would have fun with it, too.
Cops really don’t like being the asshole in the situation unless they have to.
Having fun with “teaching moments”
If you ask nearly any police officer what their favorite cop movie is and why, nine times out of ten, it’s going to be Hot Fuzz — mostly because it nails the stupid amount of paperwork required by the job.
If a cop stops you for something minor, you might get lucky and get off with a warning. They’re probably not doing it out of the goodness in their hearts, though. It’s more likely because issuing that fine involves a lot of paperwork on their end. In some cases, it’s more effective to just tell you why speeding on streets where kids often play is a bad idea.
This is great on so many levels. The officers get less paperwork, the citizen doesn’t have to pay money for doing something stupid, and the cop gets to call you out for being an idiot.
Sheesh, can’t an officer just eat?
Trolling people on Waze
Waze is a real-time navigation app that allows users to report things like traffic jams, accidents, and even “hidden police.” The intent here is to let people who may be speeding know that there’s a cop nearby — ready to pull them over. Most of the times, however, the cop isn’t trying to hide. They’re just parked there, filling out paperwork or enjoying their lunch break.
Users are able to comment on any reports made — and cops get in on the action, too.
Participating in the Lip Sync challenge
The law enforcement community is not immune to social media trends. Right now, the lip sync challenge is the hot-ticket item and entire departments are uploading their videos to YouTube and Facebook for the world to see.
Typically, the videos feature macho officers pretending to sing along with some female pop singer. Sometimes you’ll see two cops singing show tunes to one another. Occasionally, you’ll get some officers who have a little too much fun with it…
And that’s just from dispatch. Chances are they’ve well-crafted a response to the same four jokes they always hear.
Messing with suspects
The biggest perk of being a police officer is that sweet, sweet moment of catching the bad guy. The world is made a little bit better, the paperwork is worth the result, and the officers can enjoy that brilliant moment where they can finally tell the perpetrator that they f*cked up.
Remember, cops spend their entire careers dealing with people who think they can out sh*ttalk them. Needless to say, they’ve got practice in throwing that shade right back.
Just because someone has their very own DD-214 in their hands doesn’t mean that they are now exempt from all of the same boot mistakes they once made when they were young privates. Chances are they’re not going to be walking around the local mall with their dog tags hanging out of their shirt anymore, but they’ll do nearly all of the same crap that got them mocked by their peers a few years prior.
The only differences between then and now is that they no longer have a squad leader around to say, “dude… what the sh*t are you doing?” and their college classmates must now thank them for their service for every little thing they do.
Some vets look on and cringe as others have their boot behaviors reinforced and dive head-first into checking every box on this list. We’re not saying every vet exhibits these behaviors — far from it — but we all know that guy…
Your college classmates, including the other veterans who aren’t as self-proclaimed “dysfunctional” as you, will thank you for not bringing it up every other sentence.
Mentioning to everyone that you’re a veteran
How can people thank you for your service if you don’t let them know that you served every ten seconds? It doesn’t matter what the situation is, your service needs to be brought into the conversation.
This kind of behavior is totally acceptable in, say, a foreign politics class at a university when the professor brings up somewhere the vet has been. That vet’s service can bring another perspective to the table. But it’s not really needed when the conversation is about the latest episode of some TV show…
The overly-moto tattoo you got when you were fresh out of training is enough.
Dressing way too moto
Some veterans hang up their serviceuniform and jump right into another one that, for some odd reason,still includes the boots they wore while serving.
If you spot anyone trying to look operator AF while wearing a backwards cap with a Velcro American flag on it, Oakley shades that were never authorized for wear in uniform, an unapologetically veteran t-shirt, khaki cargo pants, the aforementioned combat boots, and dip in their mouth,then you’ve got full rights to mock them for being a boot vet.
It just opens up the possibility for you to seem like you’ve stolen valor (when you haven’t), which is a topic for another article, entitled “why in the ever loving sh*t do people keep wanting to steal valor?”
Wearing uniforms when it’s not really appropriate
The moment most troops get off duty, they’ll get out of their uniform faster than Jim Carrey in Bruce Almighty. Being caught off-duty and in-uniform is basically letting every NCO know that you’re willing to pull CQ. Yet, for some odd reason, boot vets pull their uniform out of the toughbox in the garage just so they can wear it to the store.
There’s a good argument that could be made for veterans who’d like to walk their daughter down the aisle in their old service uniform, so moments like those get a pass, but you really shouldn’t wear it to anything politically related.
This is how you sound when your check for “up to and including your life” doesn’t save you 50 cents.
Making a scene if somewhere doesn’t offer a discount
There’s nothing wrong with grabbing a military or veteran discount when it’s offered. Hey, a dollar saved is a dollar earned, right? The polite response is usually to thank the person who gave you a deal and, especially at a restaurant, tip them what you would have otherwise paid. Returning kindness with kindness leaves a positive impression of the military community and maybe inspire places to take a financial loss to help vets.
If they don’t offer the discount, just joke “well, it was worth a shot” and move on. Don’t be that asshole who yells at some teenager for a policy they didn’t make because you had to pay for a burger instead of .50.
I have the vaguest feeling that this Marine is probably the dude who merges into the freeway at the last possible second, cuts off everyone in traffic, and then thinks everyone is honking at him because they “hate ‘Murica.”
Branch decals on everything
Everyone should have a bit of pride for the men and women that they served with. Putting an Eagle, Globe, and Anchor on the back of your truck is modest way to show everyone that you served in the Marines and flying a U.S. Army flag under Ol’ Glory is a great way to let your neighbors know you were a soldier.
Not everything you owns needs to be covered in military decals. There’s a certain point at which it stops being “just a little tacky” and hits full-blown obnoxious levels of bootness.
But if you overly elaborate your skills at a job interview and mention me as a reference. I, personally, will vouch for every bullsh*t lie if it means you get the job.
Talking up your skills at every possible moment
The military teaches troops how to do a lot of things well. From properly making the bed in the morning to playing beer pong in the barracks, vets picked up a few things here and there. If you’ve got the talent to back up you claims, by all means, boast away. But just because you PMCSed a Humvee a few times doesn’t make you the greatest mechanic in the world.
There comes a time in every Marine’s life when they must join the varsity team known as The Fleet. The first few weeks are an exciting time of formations, picking up cigarette buds, and hazing training. The fleet is a Machiavellian jungle of NJPs, promotions, and broken promises that will make you want to deploy at a moment’s notice.
A healthy dose of pessimism is key to survival in your first unit because you’re not in a movie; this is a war machine, and you’re an essential cog. You’re where the metal meets the meat. Keep that motivation, though, you’re going to need it.
Here’s what you should not do when you arrive at your first infantry unit.
The easiest way to annoy everyone around you is to make jokes using a drill instructor’s voice. Do not assume that it will inspire some sense of brotherhood because all Marines go to boot camp. Wrong. Everyone has their own stories, and they will let you know how much easier you had it. The more experienced Marines have been in some serious combat, and, by comparison, you’re just a baby.
No one likes a B.O.O.T. (barely out of training) Marine, and you’re just going to have to accept that. It’s part of the culture; it’s part of maturing into a warfighter, it’s what you signed up for. When you’re alone with your peers, it’s fine to talk about what you went through, but knowing your audience will save you an untold amount of stress in an already stressful work environment.
Marines are proud — it’s on the recruitment poster — that doesn’t mean you should exclusively buy Eagle, Globe, and Anchor t-shirts. Diversify your wardrobe because it’s one of the few things that will allow you to hold onto what some psychologists describe as a “personality.”
Everyone around you can potentiality be in combat with you, and it’s a lot easier to risk life and limb for someone you like. If the man to your left or your right is doing something wrong, fix them, but do not ever snitch. You will be ostracized, given the worst assignments, and when they’re done with your disloyal carcass, you’ll be pushing papers at headquarters. HQ will also know that you’re a stool pigeon and will continue to treat you accordingly. The stigma has been known to last for years, Marine. One of the Infantry’s cardinal rules is to re-calibrate a misguided Marine’s moral compass through intense physical training but do not ruin their career.
It’s called taking care of your own.
It’s free real estate
Do not get in trouble before your first deployment
Keep your nose just as clean as your inspection uniforms. Every three years, an enlisted Marine will receive a Good Conduct Medal to add to their stack. While it is not necessarily easy to obtain due to barracks parties or dares gone wrong, it is not so taxing that it’s insurmountable. Getting in trouble will hold you back from promotions in a highly competitive MOS. If you don’t want to call that window-licking-moron that came with you from the school of infantry corporal, do not get drunk and embarrass yourself.
The Marine Corps Institute is a self-learning platform that adds points to the Marine promotion system known as a cutting score. It offers courses that teach about combat procedures and tactical knowledge of weapon systems. Some are easier than others, and there’s no reason for a fresh Marine to not do them. It will set you apart from your peers in the eyes of the leadership, and it makes the platoon look better on paper.
Every quarter, battalion HQ evaluates the progress each line company is making towards promoting their Marines. A Marine working on his or her MCIs will be spared working parties by their seniors because it is in their best interest as well. Although junior Marines will not witness Staff NCOs and officers brag or trash talk about each other’s platoons, this is another point they can bring up in Command and Staff meetings stating that their platoon should have the honor of leading the assault in training and in combat.
Not too long ago at Thule Air Base, Greenland located in the Arctic, a change of command ceremony was taking place.
Outgoing 821st Air Base Group US Air Force Commander — Col. Mafwa Kuvibidila — passed the flag to her successor Col. Timothy J. Bos.
In her outgoing speech, Kuvibidila thanked everyone in the audience for supporting her during her command. This included members of the US Army Corps of Engineers, New York District.
These ceremonies happen every few years, but what’s been consistent at the base is the Army Corps’ presence. For over half a century, the Army Corps has performed construction for the base. Presently, it’s consolidating the base by 40% to save energy, tax-payer money and to sustain its readiness.
Kuvibidila, who managed the base for the past year, understands the importance of consolidation.
She said, “For Thule it’s a matter of looking at the best way to use the infrastructure currently on base, and what is needed to support it to maximize resources.”
Thule Air Base in Greenland.
(US Army Corps of Engineers)
Thule, Air Base Mission
Thule pronounced “Two Lee” is Latin for northernmost part of the inhabitable world. Thule Air Base is located in the northwestern corner of Greenland, in a coastal valley 700 miles north of the Arctic Circle and 950 miles south of the North Pole.
The base is the United States’ northern most military installation that has the responsibility of monitoring the skies for missiles in defense of the United States and its allies.
For over half a century, the base has been home to active-duty Air Force members who live and work in this remote Arctic environment to perform National security.
Throughout this time, the Army Corps under extreme weather conditions and less daylight hours, has helped the base fulfill its mission by constructing many structures including several dormitories, an aircraft runway and surrounding apron and taxiways, and a medical facility.
Now the Army Corps is helping once again, by consolidating and modernizing the base’s infrastructure.
In the early 1950s, the base’s main mission was to be an aircraft refueling stop. It was home to 10,000 personnel, US military troops, as well as a support staff comprised of Danish and Greenlandic national people.
During the Cold War Era, the base’s mission changed and it is now home to less personnel that are mainly performing early missile warnings and space surveillance for the United States.
The base has many buildings spread out over the entire base. Many of these buildings are still in use, but have become severely weatherworn and energy and fuel is being wasted to heat them. They are also a distance from the base’s central power plant that requires maintaining long pipes to transport heat to them.
Many of these old buildings are being demolished and new buildings are being constructed closer together to make them easier to reach and to save energy.
A contingency dorm that will provide living quarters for the over-flow of visitors at Thule Air Base, June 2019.
(US Army Corps of Engineers/JoAnne Castagna)
The US Military has been on a mission to save energy and costs. Because of this, the U.S. Air Force tapped into the expertise of the Army Corps to consolidate the base. “This includes demolishing old facilities and constructing new ones that will be situated or consolidated more centrally near the hub of the base where the airfield, hangars, dining facility, hospital and runway are located,” said Stella Marco, project manager, New York District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The Army Corps is performing this work in partnership with two Army Corps agencies that have expertise in performing construction in an Arctic environment — the Cold Regions Research Engineering Lab and the US Army Corps of Engineers Engineer Research Development Center.
Kuvibidila recalls the consolidation work that she witnessed during her command. “There were multiple projects being worked on during my time at Thule from a new dorm, to finalizing new consolidated facilities for vehicle maintenance and supplies, along with various power projects,” she said.
The main structures that are being constructed are dormitories for non-commissioned officers who are on temporary duty and contingency lodging for the overflow of visitors, scientists, re-fueling operation crews, contractors, maintenance operations specialists and temporary duty personnel.
Recently, the Army Corps completed the construction of three, multi-story high rise dormitories for non-commissioned officers. Currently, construction is ongoing on the upgrade and renovation of two additional dormitories and 636 existing dorm rooms.
Marco said that the older dorms were the “gang-latrine” types, where a person staying at Thule would be assigned an individual room that contained the amenities of a bed, television, desk and a closet, however, all showers and toilet areas were located down a hall, in one area, that would require the guest to walk down through a public hallway to use.
She said the new dorms were constructed more into suites or modular units and are more conducive to privacy and to providing proper rest, relaxation and personal well-being.
A module consists of two or four individual bedrooms that lead into a centralized living area along with a partially shared bathroom. Modules provide some degree of privacy for the officers. Additionally, each floor has a common kitchen and dining area for residents to gather in.
Also contingency lodging is also being renovated to provide living quarters for the over-flow of visitors.
This involves renovating some of the existing old fashioned, trailer-like living quarters named “flat-tops” currently occupied by Danish and Greenlandic support staff and contractors that work on the installation.
In addition to new living quarters being constructed and renovated, the aircraft runway was just reconstructed and repaved in asphalt as were the surrounding aprons and taxiways.
“The runway is the lifeline to Thule Air Base since the waterways are only passable by sealift from July to mid-September,” said Marco.
“By using lessons learned of Arctic construction, the latest knowledge of constructing in permanently frozen ground called permafrost, along with the latest construction and paving practices, has allowed the Army Corps to build the best new runway possible,” said Marco.
Thule Air Base from the top of a nearby mountain, June 2019.
(US Army Corps of Engineers/JoAnne Castagna)
Working on the runway was challenging due to the extreme weather conditions.
Paving the 10,000 foot long runway was performed in three phases — one each year — because the construction season was limited from June through mid-September. Half the runway was paved one year and the other half was paved a second year.
“Since only half the runway was available each year for pilots to use, they had to be able to land and stop their aircraft on 4,000 feet of paved area. During this time, mainly C-130 Aircraft were used because of its ability to stop in such a short span,” said Marco.
Another challenge was to lay the asphalt during the warmest temperatures possible. Asphalt cannot be paved in cold temperature because it will not adhere properly and will fail. To read more about constructing in the Arctic, please see the sidebar “Construction Challenges in the Arctic.”
Other facilities constructed to consolidate the base include a consolidated base supply and civil engineering facility to house the maintenance shops, including sheet metal, painting and carpentry, and a new vehicle maintenance equipment storage facility.
These new and renovated buildings are going to be heated with an upgraded heating system.
Thule’s central power plant provides the base’s electricity and heating. Over the last few years, the Army Corps has provided the plant new energy-efficient exhaust gas heat recovery boilers and engines.
With this new equipment, the Army Corps is creating a new steam distribution system that will provide heat to most of the base.
These new engines create substantial surplus heat. This excess heat is going to be turned into steam that will be piped — by new pipes — to other buildings on the base. When the steam reaches the other buildings, it will be converted into hot water to be used for heat.
All of this consolidation work is needed to maintain readiness on the base. Kuvibidila said it is more important than ever before to improve base readiness. She said, “The current primary focus of the base is to support space, science, and allied operations and being able to continue that support will be critical.”
A window view from one of the dormitories at Thule Air Force Base, June 2019. Mount Dundas is in the distance.
(US Army Corps of Engineers/JoAnne Castagna)
Side Bar: Construction challenges in the Arctic
Arctic construction can be challenging due to severe weather and limited daylight, which requires the use of unique building materials, techniques and fast-paced construction.
Most of northern Greenland is covered with permafrost, which is permanently frozen ground — ranging from 6 feet to 1,600 feet in depth.
This requires structures to be constructed with a special elevated Arctic foundation. If buildings are not constructed off of the ground, the heat from inside the building can melt the permafrost, making the ground unstable and causing buildings to sink.
Buildings are elevated 3 feet from the ground with the use of spread footings that go down about 10 feet deep and concrete columns that come up and support the floor system above the ground.
Construction takes place during the summer and autumn months when the temperature is a “balmy” 40 degrees Fahrenheit. In the winter, temperatures can be as low as minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
It is also during the summer and autumn months that there is sufficient daylight.
Because of Thule’s proximity to the North Pole, the region has 24 hours of sunlight from May through August and 24 hours of darkness from November through February.
The less cold temperatures make it possible to break up the iced shipping lanes. This allows cargo ships into port supplied with fuel and construction materials.
Building materials include concrete foundations, insulated steel and metal walls, roof panels and prefabricated parts so that the workers can perform construction rapidly.
When the winter season begins, workers begin interior construction. This work includes constructing mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection systems that are designed to withstand extreme frigid sub-zero temperatures.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
If you watch a movie and see troops lighting up a cigarette, you’ll probably notice that Zippo in their hand. Search-and-destroy missions in the Vietnam War were often referred to as “Zippo missions.” There’s simply no denying the fact that American troops have long had an intimate relationship with Zippos.
Troops are always searching for reliable gear as, oftentimes, the stuff we’re issued is absolute trash. That’s where Zippos come in. They’re reliable and compact, two criteria that “military-grade” items tend not to satisfy. But it’s not just that they work well — they’ve had a long history with troops.
Zippos during WWII were primarily used to light cigarettes. Vietnam, however, was another story.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
The American Zippo Manufacturing Company was founded in the 1930s, but when World War II started, the company ceased all production for consumer markets altogether and instead manufactured lighters exclusively for troops being sent to war. Millions of them were carried by troops and, no matter what, they knew they could rely on their trusty, metal lighter to spark their cigarette during a long day of ass-kicking.
Some units who performed these Zippo missions were referred to as “Zippo Squads.”
Zippos took on a different function during the Vietnam War. Aside from reliably lighting cigarettes, they were used to light flamethrower tanks when the built-in, electrical igniter didn’t work. They were also used as mirrors to shave, to heat up popcorn, and the list goes on.
In fact, Zippos became synonymous with Vietnam War operations as troops would raze villages with lighters on seek-and-destroy missions. But Zippos weren’t just for burning things down — they actually became a kind of cultural timepiece.
Some of the best pieces of military history.
(Photo by Joe Haupt)
In Vietnam, troops began engraving designs onto the sides of the hardy, metal lighters as a way to pass the time. By looking at those engravings, we’ve been able to glean some insight into the mindset of troops from the era. It might have been just an idle habit at the time, but such historical artifacts are invaluable for future generations.
The practice of engraving Zippos is one that carries over to modern-day service members. It may not be as popular as it once was, but troops all over still use the iconic lighter to spark up cigarettes or even burn frayed paracord.
Regardless, one thing is for sure — Zippos remain one of the most iconic pieces of unofficial military gear.
Ahh, organizational days. On paper, it sounds like a great time. Why not have everyone in the unit come together to relieve stress for an afternoon and enjoy some quality team-cohesion time? Here’s the problem: Troops very rarely ever have a good time at what is mockingly referred to as a “mandatory fun day.”
If you’re in a leadership position and you’re honestly expecting an organizational day to raise the morale of your troops, then you’re going to need to do a few things different. Don’t worry, we’re not about to suggest major changes or anything that could jeopardize the professionalism of your unit, but you should lighten up and actually try to make sure your troops enjoy themselves if an increase in morale is your intended goal. Makes sense, right?
You can have those family fun days. Let the FRG handle that and let the troops be troops.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jason Jimenez)
We’re not suggesting that families aren’t important to the troops — in fact, they’re the most important thing to the many troops who have their family stationed with them. But it’s a much different story for the troops that are stuck in the barracks. They’re not exactly lining up for the face-painting booth like the kiddies.
Plus, when there are children and spouses around, troops tend to be sanitized versions of who they really are. That’s not a bad thing by itself, but it’s also not the way to let off steam and raise morale. You need to give them a chance to be the loud, rowdy, drunk, offensive, and obnoxious war fighters that they truly are.
You may hear them talk about wanting to drink when they’re in the smoke pit, but you’re not really going to know how much they drink unless you’re with them.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
Listen to what the lower enlisted troops want
Within reason, obviously. You don’t have to take the company to the truck-stop strip club because Private Snuffy thought it’d be a great idea. But if they suggest something relatively safe, like going to a baseball game or chilling out at the installation’s bar, that may not be such a bad idea.
Nine times out of ten, if you ask the troops where they’d like to go, they’ll probably say the barracks. Perfect. Throw a party there. This also gives the command team a valuable insight into how the troops actually operate when they’re off-duty.
A squad that trains together, fights together, and parties together stays together.
(U.S. Army photo by 2nd Lt. Kyle Hensley)
Keep the day at the platoon or squad level
This is far more important than most company commanders realize. When you’re trying to build unit cohesion, it’s best to keep any morale-boosting efforts at the level at which troops operate. For nearly all lower enlisted, that means the platoon or squad level.
Platoon sergeants generally know their troops far better than the company commander. Plus, smaller numbers also mean that it’s far cheaper and much more easily managed should things get out of hand. Most importantly, having a smaller group size on fun days means that it’s far less likely that someone will just mope in the corner and be forgotten about.
Commanders should encourage smaller-group team building. It can only mean greater things when it comes to the unit as a whole.
I mean, unless they’re REALLY adverse to showing up to the Organizational Day.
(Photo via US Army WTF Moments)
Attendance is incentivized, not mandatory
When you force something down someone’s throat, they’re going to hate it. By now, you’ve probably heard infantry described with the phrase, “give them a brick of gold and they’ll complain that it’s too heavy.” Well, in this case, “mandatory fun” day are the gold, and no matter how glittery and gleaming it may be, you’re still forcing it on them.
Give troops a reason to want to go to your organizational day instead of threatening them with UCMJ action. Even if it’s something as stupid-simple as giving them the choice between attending the organizational day in civilian clothes and an early release or sweeping the motor pool until 1700, you’ll see a lot more volunteers.
Nearly every single lower enlisted troop will enjoy themselves at a barracks party over a mandatory Org Day. Why not just let them do it anyways, but with the supervision of NCOs?
(Screengrab via YouTube)
This is as simple as it gets. There’s no real need to go in-depth about why this one would work. Transfer some of the funds that would’ve gone toward a giant bouncy house and tap open a keg for the joes instead. They’ll appreciate that much more.
Top advisers at the Pentagon are presenting Defense Secretary Jim Mattis with an idea that could radically change the way in which the US Marine Corps operates, and it’s aimed at increasing the lethality of grunts.
Retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, chairman of the Pentagon’s Close Combat Lethality Task Force, has suggested that Marines should have to go through four years in a different career field and wait an enlistment before transitioning into the infantry.
The basic premise here is that it would make Marines more effective in combat because they’d have additional skill sets and bring more experience and maturity to bear. But this would break tradition with the youthful nature of the Marine Corps, in which people as young as 18 have long served in combat roles.
Mattis launched the task force Scales is leading earlier this year as part of a broader push to modernize the military’s ground combat units, Military Times reports .
As part of this effort, Scales — an Army field artillery officer who earned the Silver Star in Vietnam when his base was overrun — has been working to convince the Defense Department that soldiers in their mid to late 20s are more lethal. The retired general told Military Times this is, “the optimal age for a close-combat soldier.”
Lance Cpl. William Pearn, a machine gunner trainer for scout sniper school with 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, camouflages himself during exercise Forest Light 17-1 at Somagahara, Japan, March 10, 2017.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Isaac Ibarra)
But roughly 60 percent of the Marine Corps is under the age of 25, which means if Scales’ idea was implemented then there could be significant manpower issues, or the Corps would need to entice more Marines to stay in. Scales acknowledges this issue and said his recommendation could be “a bridge too far.”
Still, he is certain that troops around their mid- to late-20s are easily the most lethal, pointing to special forces as an example. The average age of an enlisted US special forces soldier is 29, according to CNN .
One potential solution is having the Marine Corps reserve a significant percentage of infantry spots for a second enlistment.
In other words, the Marine Corps could still have a high percentage of people under 25 in traditional rifle squads while also injecting older soldiers with broader skill sets into those roles. This could help the Marine Corps tackle many of the more complex challenges it faces on the modern battlefield, especially from a technical standpoint.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
As the holiday season begins to wind down, people are starting to reflect on their resolutions and goals for the new year. 2020 not only marks the beginning of a New Year, but the start of a new decade! Don’t let the hype get you in a frenzy. Here are 5 tips rocking your 2020 military spouse goals.
Listen! Rome wasn’t built in a day. Your enthusiasm to do it all is admirable, but DO NOT set yourself up for failure. Apply the SMART Goals method in your plans for 2020. You want to ensure your goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based. What does that mean? Don’t just set a goal to start a million-dollar business. Instead, set a goal to start an online virtual assistant business by Second Quarter 2020. First Quarter, you will have established your LLC, EIN, and business bank account. By the end of Second Quarter, your business will be operating with a goal of at least ten new clients. This example is more realistic and you can actually see if you are meeting your benchmarks for success.
You can write your goals in your planner, but why not get creative? Vision Board or Vision Mapping Parties are a great way to have fun while creating a visual representation of your goals. Vision Board parties are a fun and interactive way to celebrate the coming year. All you need is poster board, old magazines, scissors, glue, and other decorative items to make your board unique. Cut out pictures or words from magazines that represent what you want to accomplish for 2020. Kids can also create their own vision board. While enjoying snacks and drinks, reflect over the past year. Did you meet your 2019 goals? How can you do things differently? What worked for you? What didn’t work?
Goals can sometimes feel overwhelming, especially when looking at the end game. Try deconstructing your goal by working backwards. What are the steps needed to meet your overall goal or vision? How can you focus on smaller tasks to better track your progress? If you have a goal of saving ,000 for a family vacation, don’t let the number intimidate you. Break it down into more manageable parts. How much would you need to save each quarter, each month, each week? What does that look like? Does it mean you pack your lunch more during the week or downgrade to a lower cable package? Saving per week may be less scary than ,000 per year, but the outcome is the same.
This person can be your spouse, best friend, or anyone in your circle that is willing to hold you accountable. Sometimes it’s best to find someone who is also looking for the same type of accountability for themselves. This would be something similar to a Battle Buddy in the Army or Wingman in the Air Force. Your partner will help you stay focused, remind you to keep going, and be an overall support for you.
Don’t be so hard on yourself. The purpose of having clear goals and intentions is so you’re not stressed. If you don’t quite meet all of your goals, it’s okay. Celebrate your wins along the way for additional encouragement. This is where you can really lean on your accountability partner. You may have to adjust some things throughout the year. Take the lessons learned and implement that into your vision to improve your likelihood of success.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
We have all been there as boots. You just graduated boot camp. You are motivated, fit, look good in that uniform and are king/queen of the world. Everyone back home is looking at you like you are the bee’s knees, and you are ready for the next phase of your military career.
Next thing you know, you are being handed a broom and sweeping the rain off a parade deck or trying to finally locate those damn Humvee keys. You want to get more information on what your journey is like, but there is no recruiter to ask, the Lance Corporal Underground is giving you all types of scuttlebutt, and your NCO is more about giving you a hard time instead of telling you what is next.
Your spouse, parents and family are going through a similar journey. They just watched you complete training. You are now an elite warrior in their eyes (even if you will be doing admin work the next four years). They spoil you on your leave and stuff your face with all the food you can eat.
As they watch you leave for school and then your permanent duty station, they do what spouses and parents do. They worry, fret and turn to any news to learn about what your journey will be like. Yeah, you tell them that you are filing papers or doing maintenance on a 7-ton, but they turn on the news or log into Facebook and are convinced you are being sent to Iran or North Korea soon or are in dire danger at all times because that’s all they see in the media.
Well, thanks to Sandboxx, that will soon change. The company that gave us the app that changed the way you get letters at boot camp is working on building a new resource for everyone from salt dogs who are nearing their 20 to boots that blouse their jeans and military families.
But first, what is Sandboxx? If you went to boot camp recently, you probably remember them.
The Sandboxx app is one that a lot of people have used and part of one of the coolest morale boosters in the history of boot camp.
Sandboxx got its start when Marine veterans Sam Meek and Gen. Ray Smith teamed up with follow co-founder Padmanabhan Ramaswamy to offer a better way to keep in touch with your family when you were at recruit training.
The idea was simple. When you showed up at bootcamp, you filled out a card with your loved one’s information. A group of military spouses would then enter that information in a database, and your mom, dad, spouse, grandparents or girl back home would get your address so they can write to you.
They could then login to the Sandboxx app or on the website and then start sending letters right away. The letters are printed out, put into envelopes and sorted by platoon. Most letters are delivered the next day.
So now, instead of languishing on Parris Island wondering if your girl ran off with Jody for three weeks before you got a huge stack of letters at once, you can get letters daily and keep up to date with family and loved ones. Loved ones can also upload pictures (no, they can’t send alcohol or smokes).
You might pull the whole, ‘boot camp is getting soft now’ routine, but the military doesn’t care. Sandboxx letters were shown to dramatically improve morale and cut down on recruits quitting or dropping out of training. This was especially true among female recruits.
Sandboxx also helps family travel to graduations with an amazing travel vertical on their page. As soon as you know Johnny or Suzy will be walking across that parade deck, you can use their user-friendly travel page and get yourself to South Carolina to see them!
There is also a second app called iCorps. This is an easy to use, one-stop shop, resource for all things Marines. You can use PFT calculators, learn how your ribbons should be set up and get your Marine Corps history all in one spot without having to surf through Google and a myriad of MARADMINS.
What is next for Sandboxx?
We Are the Mighty talked to Alex Hollings, who will be heading up this effort by Sandboxx to educate and alleviate fears of military members and their families. Alex himself is a former Marine who served from 2006 to 2012. After getting out and going to school, Alex and his wife endured a big loss in their family. That spurred him to live for the moment and follow his dreams as a writer. After moving to Georgia and working for SOFREP and Popular Mechanics, Alex caught the eye of Sandboxx. He is now their editor and dedicated to providing educating and entertaining news to young service members and their families. When asked about Sandboxx News, he said, “We want to be the website for junior service members that are looking to advance in their career or just understand how what they’re doing plays a role in America’s broader defense apparatus. We want to be the place you can learn, and where you can send your mom or your boyfriend to help them understand what you’re doing and why it’s so important.”
Look, we all know nowadays the news we read is all doom and gloom and meant to scare us. We need to be frightened of viruses, cruise ships, Iranians, viruses on cruise ships, and Iranians sneaking viruses on cruise ships. Sandboxx is moving around that.
(Nicole Utt, Shane McCarthy, and Alex Hollings of Sandboxx News)
In this time of fake news, doom and gloom, and scare tactics, it is great that a company is taking the time to alleviate the fears a spouse and parents might have and guide young service members on their new adventure/career.
The author served as a Navy Corpsman with Marines in Sangin, Afghanistan.
The primary mission of a U.S. Marine infantry rifle squad is to locate, close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver or to repel the enemy’s assault by fire and close combat. This mission statement is branded into each infantryman’s brain and consistently put to practical use when the grunts are deployed to the front lines.
In the event a Marine infantry squad takes enemy contact, the squad leader will order the machine-gunners to relocate themselves to an area to return fire and win the battle for weapon superiority. The squad leader will also inform his fire team leaders of the situation and they’ll deploy their two riflemen and SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon) gunner to a strategic area — getting them into the fight.
Once they have a fix on the enemies’ position, they’ll call the mortar platoon to “bring the rain.”
At literally the flip of a switch, troops go from having a cold weapon system to knocking a fully automatic weapon, bringing death to the bad guys at the pull of a trigger.
This sounds super cool, right? Well, it kind of is when you’ve experienced the situation first hand. We understand that having a fully automatic machine gun gives troops a commanding advantage, but when you look at how ground pounders are trained to fire the weapon system, the rate of fire nearly mirrors that of an M4’s after a few bursts.
They can get trigger happy
For the most part, grunts love to take contact from the enemy when they are locked and loaded. When you’ve trained for months to take the fight to the enemy, nothing feels better than getting to fire your weapon at the bad guys. However, it’s not uncommon for machine-gunners to squeeze their triggers and fire off more than the recommended four to six rounds.
We’d also like to add that the feeling of sending accurate rounds down range is fun as f*ck! Unfortunately, infantrymen often lose their bearing and keep the trigger compressed and end up wasting ammo.
Negligent discharges can be worse
Most times, a negligent discharge means you accidentally fired one round from your rifle or pistol. For a troop carrying a fully automatic weapon, the negligent discharge can be much more violent and dangerous. Instead of firing off one round accidentally, you can fire two or three.
We understand that the M16 has both semi-automatic (one round at a time) and burst (three shots at a time) firing capabilities. But it’s more unlikely you’ll ND on the burst setting than the semi-automatic one.
Remember when we said troops can get trigger happy? Hopefully, you do, because we just mentioned it a few minutes ago. When grunts do get trigger happy, their weapons systems can overheat. To combat the overheating, troops must change out their barrel in order to stay in the fight.
Which takes precious firefight time that you won’t get back.
It can lower accuracy
Machine guns are very, very powerful weapons. They can kill the enemy positioned beyond the maximum effective range of an M4 and M16. Sounds awesome, right? Well, it is.
Unfortunately, since they are very powerful, when the mobile operator fires the weapon, the recoil will bring the rifle’s barrel up and off target. This mainly happens when the ground pounder gets trigger happy. In a firefight, mistakes need to be kept to a minimum or people can die.