Guess what? In just a few short weeks, you’ll have officially survived 2020. Congratulations! No, really. Congrats. Give yourself a pat on the back, or maybe a bear hug, because just making it through this year in (mostly) one piece is something to be proud of.
When 2020 commenced, I was fired up. I had big plans. Within months, my plans looked like they had been shoved through a wood chipper. Planning anything at all felt impossible. Who knew what grenade 2020 would throw next? Stuck in my house, I felt incredibly alone. Yet, I wasn’t. There were millions of others in the same boat.
Now, it’s been a full year since the COVID-19 pandemic, and we’re all still in the middle of the ocean. Whether you’re adapting to working from home, figuring out distance learning, or struggling with unemployment, 2020 has probably found a way to make your life harder.
Some of us are in sturdier boats than others, but at the end of the day we’re all just trying to stay afloat. And that’s okay.
Feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or just plain depressed is all too common this year. If you’re worried it’s just you, take a look at these sobering statistics. In June, 40% of U.S. adults said they were struggling with mental health or substance use, while 18.1% are coping with an anxiety disorder.
Mental health in children has worsened as well; 9.7% of U.S. children have been diagnosed with severe major depression. Among those between the ages of 10 and 34, suicide is the second leading cause of death. Not cancer, not heart disease. Suicide. Veterans are also vulnerable; since 2008, the average number of veteran suicides hasn’t dropped below 17 a day.
These ugly numbers send a powerful message: Self-care isn’t selfish. It’s an essential service.
If you’re one of the millions of people who struggled to stay positive this year, this message is for you. Feeling burnt out isn’t a sign of weakness, and when you are burnt out, it’s OKAY to take a break.
This holiday season, don’t worry about what other people want. Focus about what you and your family need.
Seriously. Be kind to yourself. If you put on more holiday pounds than usual, give yourself a break. It’s okay. If you don’t have it in you to plan your annual family photoshoot and send out cards, forget about it. Gather everyone on the couch, hold up your TP and hand sanitizer, and say cheese. If you don’t have time to meticulously wrap presents, shove em’ in a gift bag with some tissue paper. Done. Don’t grind yourself into the ground.
Expectations from family members can also take a toll.
Hosting a Christmas party is now a topic of controversy, and families are divided. Some feel it’s irresponsible. Others feel it’s non-negotiable. The solution? Again, do what’s best for you. The people who love you should respect your choice, and if they don’t, they’re not worth your time anyway. This is a live and let live kind of year.
Self-care comes in many shapes and forms. Do what makes you feel good, whether it’s going for a long walk, taking up a new hobby, or panic baking. If you want to dance like no one is watching, go for it. Literally, no one is watching.
Click here for more ideas on self-care during this crazy and complicated year, and be patient with yourself and those around you.
If you or someone you know is experiencing signs or symptoms of depression or anxiety, don’t tough it out.
At last, it’s the holidays and whether you’re already exhausted, excited, or both, heaven knows we all need a good laugh. After all, a laugh a day keeps the hectic holiday stress (at least some of it) away; think advent calendar for jokes. Here are the 25 days of holiday memes.
Huh. What could it be?
It’s definitely a dog.
Calm down, Darth.
Some people take their decorations a little too seriously.
Michael emerges from his cave.
Ah, the majestic creature awakens just in time.
It’s not safe out there. There’s merriment afoot.
Baby, it’s Covid outside
Very good reasoning you two; Tis’ the Covid season, as well.
Can I get you anything?
Classic Griswald Hospitality
When your relatives argue on Christmas
Sorry, bro. I didn’t pick ’em.
It’s like coal, but better.
Look at what the dog did!
Wait a sec. We don’t have a dog…
A Very Snoop Dog Christmas
The version your kids haven’t read.
Christmas decorating level: Advanced
Santa would be pleased.
Grinch Parenting 101
Santa? Yes, hi. No need to bring presents this year. I would like some silence instead.
How to establish dominance
You’ll never forget me if you find tiny sparkles all over your house for the next year.
14. Admitting your defeat
That’s enough LEDs and electricity usage to cover half the block.
15. Add a dinosaur
No, no, I didn’t screw up the gingerbread house. The kids needed to learn about paleontology.
16. When one goes out, they all go out
Their commitment is annoying, but on point.
17. One snowflake falls
A timeless Christmas classic.
18. He sees you when you’re sleeping
And by the looks of it, that’s not all he sees.
19. What happened to all the cookies?
Fine, it was him. But can you blame him?
20. Every mom on Christmas morning.
Pretend to be shocked. Moms deserve a win this year.
21. Front of the tree vs. back of the tree
Only the wall is going to see it anyway.
Guilty. Distribute the ornaments *evenly*, or suffer the consequences.
23. Ye Shall Return Home
Ah yes..ye old turn off, wait 30 seconds and turn back on again.
It feels like anything you get in your mailbox nowadays are bills, grocery store ads (wow, $3 raspberries. Thanks, Albertsons), and reminders from your dentist (I know I’m late for my cleaning Dr. Cruz, please stop guilting me). But a very special American hero received a whole lot more than that in his mailbox…
Sue Morse and Duane Sherman (96)
(Kevin Sullivan/The Orange County Register via AP)
Duane Sherman, a World War II veteran from California, recently had quite a big birthday surprise. His daughter, Sue Morse, posted on social media asking for letters to be sent to him for his 96th birthday. She expected maybe a hundred or so cards–but after her social media post went viral, they received over 50,000 hand mailed cards for Duane.
(Kevin Sullivan/The Orange County Register via AP)
Duane Sherman enlisted in the Navy following the attack on Pearl Harbor. He saw combat aboard the U.S.S. Lamson. He was struck by shrapnel from kamikaze pilots aboard the Lamson on December 7th, 1944–exactly 3 years after the Pearl Harbor attacks. The outpouring of support for the WWII veteran came from all walks of life: elementary school kids, prison inmates, Ohio State, and even the Pittsburgh Steelers. Letters were sent from all 50 states, and 10 different countries. The popular forum website “Reddit” reposted the request for letters–and it took the site by storm. Hundreds of thousands of users commented and shared the request, sending in their own handwritten love to the American vet.
Because Duane is legally blind, Sue has taken to reading the cards aloud to him. She’s read over a thousand letters and, according to Fox News, has enlisted the help of friends to complete the task.
In a world wrought with bad news, it’s refreshing to see such a massive gentle act of kindness affect so many people. Perhaps he will get 50,001 on his 97th birthday.
It’s a tiny act that means much more than people seem to realize. On Fridays, civilians back home wear an article of red clothing — a shirt, a tie, anything — as a reminder to all to Remember Everyone Deployed. These Fridays became known as R.E.D. Friday.
Today, you’ll see this tradition honored by most AAFES workers, military family members, and supporters of the troops, but it actually got its start about a dozen years ago. Let’s talk about how this patriotic way of showing your support for the troops that are in harm’s way got started and why it’s an important movement.
For once, we’re lucky that forwards from grandma don’t get filtered directly into spam…
There are actually two competing origin stories of this unofficial trend. The first says it all began in 2005 with a specific email that recipients were supposed to forward to others.
That email had a very polite snippet in it for a good cause:
If every one of our members shares this with other acquaintances, fellow workers, friends, and neighbors, I guarantee that it will not be long before the USA will be covered in RED — and make our troops know there are many people thinking of their well-being. You will feel better all day Friday when you wear RED!
Now, there’s no telling if this chain email tactic is really what got people wearing red on Fridays, but if it was, it has to be one of the only times that people actually read one of those chain emails.
The tradition may not entirely be an American concept, but the sentiment is the same. Our brothers to the North still have troops in harm’s way, too.
(Air Force photo by Justin Connaher)
In March, 2006, another more-tangible movement began in Canada that implored subscribers to wear red to support the troops who are deployed. Now, there’s no telling if this movement got its start from the previously-mentioned email chain, but they do credit it as being an “American initiative.”
Military spouses Lisa Miller and Karen Boier organized an event and rallied many of their fellow Canadians to show up wearing red. While the “RED” is the color that fits the acronym, it also happens to work perfectly with the Canadian flag.
These events gathered steam and grew continuously until, eventually, its reach extended all the way up to the Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. On Sept 23rd, 2006, Harper led a rally of thousands in a show of solidarity for the Canadian soldiers deployed to Afghanistan as part of the Global War on Terrorism.
RED Fridays seem to wax and wane in terms of popularity among civilians, but the core of the movement is important: to Remember Everyone Deployed. The Global War on Terrorism is now officially older than troops eligible to enlist and serve in that same war — it’s important to remember that we’ve still got men and women out there fighting for us.
It’s not hard to show your support for the troops: Simply pick something red from your wardrobe and be ready to wear it on Friday, volunteer your time organizing care packages for troops who still need essential items, or write a deployed troop. I know from personal experience that every letter I received was a boost to morale that I happily honored with a reply. Simple gestures go a long way.
Once a Warrior by Team Rubicon’s CEO Jake Wood is more than a memoir; it’s a deep look inside the heart and mind of a modern American combat veteran. It’s also an extraordinary story of courage, loss and finding a beacon of hope within purpose.
Wood’s journey to putting on a uniform and serving his country began in the most unlikely of places: Mauthausen. He was only seven years old when he toured the concentration camp in Austria responsible for murdering untold numbers of Jewish people. Wood was horrified by the evil that took place but also awed by the photos of the American soldiers responsible for liberating the prisoners. He wanted to be them. Although his father hoped there would never be anything for him to liberate when he grew up, 9/11 changed everything.
When the towers fell during the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 Wood was a freshman on a football scholarship at the University of Wisconsin. He felt a sense of guilt for choosing football over exploring West Point, knowing the country would be going to war. A few years later he watched the news as they announced the death of former NFL player turned soldier Pat Tillman. It shook him. Wood knew what he had to do. After he finished his last football game during his senior year, he announced he was going to the Marine Corps.
Wood served four years as a Marine with two combat tours, one in Iraq and another in Afghanistan. His memoir will bring you in and out of his experiences at war and the life he tried to rebuild when he got home. Although he is best known now for being the CEO of Team Rubicon, the story of getting there wasn’t without hardship or loss. It was the culmination of so much that made him want to write his story. Ultimately, it was the birth of his first child that solidified his commitment to tell it.
“My daughter was born two years ago and it made me want to try to put my life in perspective. That started a soul searching journey for me. Part of it was because I knew my daughter would ask me about my time at war. I felt like I owed her a better response,” Wood explained. He began writing some of the book over 10 years ago by chronicling the events of Iraq and Afghanistan. He shared that re-reading those words over a decade later not only caused a new reflection, but it forced him to come to terms with his experiences in combat. He was ready to put it all out there.
As much as it was difficult for Wood to put his life in the pages of Once a Warrior, it was a relief at the same time. Ultimately, he hopes his story will inspire veterans to know their worth. “I think we have an entire generation of veterans who are hanging in the balance. Who they are going to become is whatever we tell them they are. If the broken veteran narrative prevails, we’ll have a generation of men and women lost to that. But if we reframe it and say, ‘You have so much more to give and you are stronger. America needs you, the battle isn’t over there it’s here,’” he explained.
The chain of events that led to him finding purpose again was remarkable in that, had they happened any differently, the Team Rubicon and Jake Wood the world knows – wouldn’t exist. “The universe has this weird way of presenting us with these moments where decisions become really consequential,” he said.
A year into building Team Rubicon, Clay Hunt – fellow Marine veteran and one of Wood’s closest friends – committed suicide. Although Hunt’s story has been told, Once a Warrior opens a curtain into the devastation and other myriad emotions Wood experienced in the days after. It’s a stark reminder of the cost of war that even having purpose couldn’t stop. “I just felt like people should hear his story. It’s played out 20 times a day in this country. I felt like if I could humanize that for people…when you hear Clay’s story, it makes it real,” he shared. Hunt wasn’t the only Marine that Wood lost. He wears the names and lives of four Marines on his wrist, a constant reminder for him to pay it forward because as he says, he survived and they didn’t.
Too many people within the American public utter, ‘Thank you for your service,’ with a sense of rote memorization – a reaction when they don’t know what else to say. Wood wants them to take it deeper. “Most veterans want to share their stories, it’s a literal moral burden and by sharing it they are sharing the weight of those actions or experiences,” he said. “It’s important for the public to hear these stories, as democracy we send our sons and daughters off to war. It’s less than 1 percent of an all volunteer force and we owe it to them to understand what that actually means when we make the decision to use force overseas.”
Once a Warrior pulls the reader in and out of the moments that changed the trajectory of Wood’s life and built the foundation of who he is today. It’s also a deep look into the raw reality of an American combat veteran’s life after war. The pages of this book offer a compelling account of courage and resiliency through devastating loss, but also…hope. Despite witnessing the horrors of war and disaster, Wood remains inherently hopeful for the future. When asked what he would say to those reading his story, he was direct. “My call to action for Americans would be… be worth fighting for. Live your life like you are worth fighting for.”
Cynthia Cline was deployed to the Middle East when she started doing research on getting out of the military.
“I was looking for some encouragement from women who had separated and what they were doing now,” she said.
That’s when she stumbled on a blog by a former airman who had transitioned out of the military to become a stay-at-home mom and eventually started writing — just the path Cline was considering for herself.
“I spent probably hours on her website reading her stuff,” she said. “It very much felt like here’s this person who’s a few years ahead of me.”
That’s exactly the kind of resource Amanda Huffman is trying to provide. A former captain in the Air Force who separated in 2013 after giving birth to her first son, Huffman started the blog Airman to Mom that helped Cline prepare for her own transition in June.
Huffman, 36, had a difficult transition out of the military. Prior to becoming a stay-at-home mom with a new baby, she’d spent six years as a civil engineer in the Air Force, which included a deployment to Afghanistan. While there, she worked on a provincial reconstruction team tasked with building bridges, wells, schools, and other projects to win over the hearts of the Afghan people.
She earned a Bronze Star, as well as the Air Force Combat Action Medal and Army Combat Action Badge for her service.
“I really struggled with my identity after I left the Air Force, and motherhood was not what I thought,” she said.
“At the time I really felt like he wasn’t sleeping through the night — failure. He wasn’t walking fast enough? Failure,” Huffman said. “I had this pressure on myself to force my son to do whatever the [baby] book said, and if he didn’t, then it was like I was a failure.”
Huffman, now a homeschool- and work-from-home mom of two boys and a military spouse, started blogging in 2014 as a way to process what she was experiencing.
“Writing was something where I wasn’t a failure because people read it and they responded and were like, ‘Oh this resonates,’” she said. “It was the start of finding myself, but it was more like something I couldn’t see as a big failure over my life.”
Though her blog had a nod to her military experience in its title, Huffman initially shied away from divulging too much of her military story.
“I was anti-veteran stuff, which is actually really common for veterans, especially female veterans,” she said. “The stereotype of the veteran community that I had in my mind was like the [Veterans of Foreign Wars], going to a bar with a bunch of old guys and having to be like, ‘Yeah, I am a veteran. I deployed.’ And so, I was like, ‘I already was in the military. I had to prove myself just because of my gender. I don’t want to have to go and be part of a community and have to prove myself.’”
Huffman said at the time, it made more sense to get involved in the Christian and mom blogging communities because she already knew she would be welcome for who she was.
“I didn’t have to prove like yes, I do deserve to stand here because I am a veteran. I think that was a lot of it,” she said.
But Kristen Smith, Huffman’s blogging mentor and a fellow military spouse, noticed Huffman wasn’t fully tapping into her story and encouraged her to step out of her comfort zone.
“She was trying to narrow in on this one piece of who she was, which was being a mom and how everything else shaded it” — but Huffman wasn’t just a mom who happened to be a veteran, Smith said.
Huffman took the advice and started writing more about her military experiences. Website traffic soon showed there was an audience for it.
She then published a downloadable resource, “Girl’s Guide to the Military,” on her website, which has drawn readers from all over the world, including women serving in foreign militaries, and is the inspiration for Huffman’s upcoming YouTube channel of the same name that she plans to launch in January.
Huffman also started asking readers to submit their own military stories, which she published in a series on her website that she later made into a book.
“I did an interview-style 31-day series on deployment, and what I was expecting was that it was going to be a bunch of men who deployed sharing like their war stories of being deployed, but instead it was mainly all women and it was a realization that I’m not the only woman veteran who has a story to tell,” she said. “I thought my story was pretty unique because I deployed with the Army — blah blah blah — but all these women had these amazing stories, and I had no idea what women were doing, and I was like, I don’t care about deployments anymore. I just want to hear women’s stories.”
In 2018, she planned to do another series focusing solely on women veterans’ stories, but with a cross-country permanent change of station move coming up for her husband, who is active-duty Air Force, Huffman’s friend suggested she look at turning the stories into a podcast instead of writing out the interviews.
So Huffman reached out to one of her fans and booked her first guest for the show: Cline.
Getting to know the ‘Women of the Military’
Huffman typically interviews one woman per episode, beginning by asking each guest why she joined the military and ending with any advice the guest would give to younger women who are thinking about joining.
The podcast has garnered 34,000 downloads, and guests have included women of all branches and ranks — from enlisted women who served four-year terms to four female generals and a former secretary of the Air Force. Some interviewees have shared stories of sexual assault or harassment in the military that they had never before told publicly.
While all stories are different, “they all resonate for different reasons,” Huffman said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a guy or a girl; the military pushes you. They break you down to build you back up, and so that part of that transition into who the military makes you and then that transition out and trying to find yourself as a civilian — there’s a lot of commonalities in that, just experience of changing you into someone and then trying to find your new path.”
The way Huffman talks about her own military experiences on the show is refreshing and somewhat uncommon among narratives of women veterans often heard in the media, said Smith, who has been following her mentee’s journey as Huffman has expanded her portfolio.
“She did some really cool shit, and she talks about her service in a way that I think we typically are accustomed to hearing men talk about it,” Smith said. “She tends not to talk about this really uncomfortable situation and the ways that being a woman sort of impacted [her]. She just talks about her service.”
Cline, who has since started a blog of her own, said Huffman’s work is “extremely encouraging” and helped prepare her for her transition out of the military and the potential struggle she might have in finding her new identity as a civilian, though it ultimately went smoothly.
“First, when you initially look at the idea of sharing women’s stories, it might not seem like a big deal for most people — and yet on the sheer fact that she shared her story and that’s what encouraged me to take the next step in my blogging world, I feel like that changed my life. Storytelling changes lives,” Cline said.
“People need to hear our stories,” Huffman said. “But also, we need to tell our stories, and when we tell our stories then another women veteran hears it and is like, ‘Oh, I’m not the only one.’”
With less than 100 days until the 2020 election, Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) has a core mission of serving America’s post 9/11 veterans. It is with this in mind that they launched The Vote Hub.
“We are absolutely bi-partisan, 100 percent. We got the idea for The Vote Hub from anecdotal things we were hearing from the community… The process is just so confusing,” Hannah Sinoway, Executive Vice President of Organization, Strategy and Engagement for IAVA explained. She shared experiences of moving and hitting roadblocks on even being able to register to vote as a veteran spouse herself. More challenges exist this year with COVID-19.
“This effort was really with one goal: to provide simple and easy access for veterans and civilians alike to be able to register to vote and/or to find polling information,” Sinoway said. “So, we built the tool on our website, which is completely free… we don’t even take anyone’s information.”
She explained that the new IAVA tool is for the people and not for any other reason. “We are excited to have people exercise their right to vote, use their voice and be heard,” Sinoway said.
Voting for military members and their families has long been a struggle, with certain studies finding that as much as 67 percent of their absentee votes haven’t been counted. One study in 2009 called it an obstacle course. “When we look at veterans, they fought for the rest of us along the way for pretty much all of our freedoms. To be able to have this tool available to them and their community, we felt was really important,” Sinoway said.
IAVA is a 501c3 nonprofit organization established in 2004. Founded by Army Iraq War Veteran Paul Rieckhoff, it was created to make a space for resources and community for the veterans of the post-9/11 era. They are headquartered in New York City and have a policy office in Washington, D.C., as well. They’ve grown and evolved to continue supporting veterans and ensuring they are honored.
Membership to IAVA is completely free to veterans. Their website states, “Members all paid their dues while serving our country. Our members are true heroes.” Their 2018 impact report indicates that they are currently connecting, empowering and uniting over 400,000 veterans and allies nationwide.
Sinoway herself is the longest tenured employee with IAVA and has been working for the company for almost seven years. “It’s honestly been the privilege of a lifetime,” she shared. She continued, “The social justice aspect of our work, I kind of have that in my blood. There are groups of people who don’t have a voice or a strong enough voice and we are that strength to bring them beside us — not to fight for them but fight with them. I think that’s been the best part for me.”
IAVA plans to continue the fight to ensure justice for America’s post 9/11 veterans as well as support all veterans with resources and initiatives. To learn more about IAVA and The Vote Hub click here.
Kadena Air Base, Japan (AFNS) — Providing the base and various other units on the island with cryogenic products – whether it be in a liquid or gaseous form – is the plant’s priority.
“We produce the liquid oxygen and the liquid nitrogen here for our organizations across the island to make sure they get the product they need to make the mission happen,” said Tech. Sgt. Mark Pannell, 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron assistant noncommissioned office in charge of cryogenic productions.
The production plant provides services for a range of reasons, whether it be for pilots or patients, the plant handles it all and can also be the difference in life or death in some instances.
“We manufacture liquid oxygen and liquid nitrogen for various organizations to use…Breathable oxygen at high altitudes for aircraft, liquid nitrogen to fill tires for the aircraft so they don’t explode if they hit the ground too hard and the hospital has various uses for oxygen and nitrogen as you could imagine…It’s important,” said Senior Airman Christopher Tallan, 18th LRS cryogenic production operator.
While other bases have to purchase their liquid oxygen and nitrogen from external providers, Kadena Air Base is able to support the mission directly as well as save money.
A beaker of liquid oxygen sits filled July 27, 2018, at Kadena Air Base, Japan.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jessica H. Smith)
“I don’t like to solely rely on other people because I know if we do it ourselves, it’s going to be done the right way and I think this is really valuable for the Air Force because we’re always looking for new and innovative ways to save money,” Pannell said. “We should really strive to be innovative and this is something I push down to my Airmen – to be innovative and think of new ways to do things.”
With innovation comes plenty of learning opportunities – and growing pains.
“It’s been challenging at times because everyone is learning a new plant,” Pannell explained. “We have to learn the ins and outs; everyone here is growing.”
Providing these services can prove to be rather complex. From separation of atmospheric air to expansion and cooling, the job is chemically impossible to do without machines.
The machine – production plant – typically runs one week at a time for 24 hours a day and enables the production of about 50 gallons an hour.
While the machine is doing its job, the rest of the team is ensuring it works properly.
“We have to do hourly checks to make sure nothing is malfunctioning,” Tallan said. “We’re responsible for knowing what’s supposed to be going on. With such a big plant and so many pipes, we have to make sure that nothing is in a pipe that shouldn’t be in it, and make sure things are at the right temperature in the pipes they’re supposed to be in.”
With such a unique and vital mission role, working at the only operational cryogenic production plant in the Air Force seems to be a great source of pride and inspiration for those in the career field.
Senior Airmen Michael Hall and Christopher Tallan, both 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron cryogenic production operators, prepare to fill a cart with liquid oxygen July 27, 2018, at Kadena Air Base, Japan.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jessica H. Smith)
“I love my job; I love coming to work. I work in a cryogenic facility – it’s insane,” Tallan laughed. “I always thought about the cryo guys and how badly I wanted to go for one day and see…It’s different when every single day you’re holding a sample of liquid oxygen and you can feel it boil inside the beaker…I love it.
Along with the job being cool – literally and figuratively – it also demonstrates the importance of smart investment and innovation with promises of bettering the success of the Air Force mission as a whole.
“I take it as a personal challenge to myself and my team to do our best and actually show higher leadership that this is a legitimate plant and it could benefit not just Pacific Air Force, but other areas – especially overseas,” Pannell said.
Featured image: Senior Airman Michael Hall, 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron cryogenic production operator, fill a cart with liquid oxygen July 27, 2018, at Kadena Air Base, Japan.
A 23-year-old California native received his first haircut in 15 years to enlist in the US Army.
US Army Pvt. Reynaldo Arroyo of Riverside donated 150 inches of hair to Locks of Love and enlisted in the Army as an infantryman on Aug. 15, 2019.
“I’m just really excited to be enlisting in the US Army,” Arroyo said in a Facebook video. “Hopefully, some lucky little girl’s going to get it.”
Locks of Love is a non-profit organization that donates hair to disadvantaged people with long-term medical conditions resulting in hair loss, such as cancer and severe burns.
Arroyo is scheduled to ship out to Ft. Benning, home of the Army’s infantry school, within the next two weeks, a US Army spokesperson told INSIDER.
US Army Recruit Pvt. Reynaldo Arroyo holds up his donation bag containing his hair.
But Arroyo will not be sporting his fresh haircut for long.
Upon arriving at Ft. Benning, he is expected to receive a buzz cut like all the other male recruits. After graduating and at his commander’s discretion, he may grow out his hair again, so long as it remains “neat and conservative,” according to Army regulations.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A few airmen walk into a room, positioning themselves between you and the exit. As the “new guy” in the squadron, you likely know exactly what’s about to happen. You have to outsmart or elude them to avoid getting bound up and immobilized by rolls of duct tape.
Welcome to the tradition of “rolling-up,” or “roll-ups,” a practice that is often viewed as a game or initiation ritual in the U.S. Air Force.
U.S. Air Force airmen from the 354th Fighter Wing, change the name on the flagship jet during the 354th Fighter Wing change of command ceremony July 6, 2018, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Isaac Johnson)
While there were no complaints or reports made by victims of the hazing, the investigation showed that “roll-ups” — or binding airmen’s hands and feet, and sometimes their entire bodies, with tape — was prevalent in those units, Nissen said in an email.
It “appear[s] to be a known hazing ritual within the Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) community,” she said.
A TACP airman familiar with the tradition who spoke with Military.com said it’s not all bad, though.
“It has not been the means of humiliating or harming someone; it’s [supposed to be] the opposite,” the airman said.
Speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press in an official capacity, he said he’s been in the community for eight years, but could not explain where the tradition came from or how long it has been in practice.
The TACP said he has been rolled up a few times, most often on his birthday by someone calling him into an office for what he thought was a formal meeting or ambushing him in a hallway. He said the point was to try to outwit his fellow airmen, much like a game. The consequence of losing: having his body bound with tape and immobilized, then carried off by airmen to be placed at locations around base for goofy photo ops before being set free.
“When I came into the community, it was just there,” he said, adding, “I’ve been in more than one unit and have had more than one birthday.”
In 2018, the Pentagon released a new policy — DoD Instruction 1020.03 Harassment Prevention And Response in the Armed Forces — aimed to deter misconduct and harassment among service members.
The policy reaffirmed that the Defense Department does not tolerate any kind of harassment by any service member, either in person or online.
Airmen from the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron jump out of a C-17 Globemaster III Oct. 21, 2014, during a training exercise at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Keoni Chavarria)
In line with the Defense Department, the Air Force has a zero-tolerance hazing policy.
“The Air Force does not condone hazing in any form,” spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said April 3, 2019. “We expect our airmen to adhere to our core values at all times and treat their fellow service members with the highest degree of dignity and respect.”
The TACP said he agrees with the Defense Department’s policy.
“Hazing is as much about what the particulars of the event were and the creation of a feeling of being hazed,” the TACP said.
It’s why “rolling-up” shouldn’t be standard across the Air Force, even if its original intention was meant to be playful, he said.
“It’s not something we need to continue because it’s not a professionalized practice,” he said. “We should go do … things that are productive and constructive that doesn’t potentially create the hazing issues.”
The TACP explained the concept behind the tradition.
When done right, the goal is never to pose a risk to a fellow airman who will work — and potentially fight — alongside you, he said.
“The intention of this is not to inflict pain,” he said. “Think of it like ‘capture the flag,’ or ‘Can you subdue a combative person without causing them harm?'”
In a sport like rugby, for example, “one minute [there’s contact] but, by the end of the game, you’re hanging out and you’re friends,” he said. “If you’re not laughing while you’re being rolled up, you’re doing it wrong.”
It has also been a way to vent pent-up energy for troops in a high-stress career field, the TACP said.
“When you take a whole group of very aggressive, Type-A people whose purpose is to go do violence unto others, the way you show affection, it gets shifted by the culture — we don’t necessarily go around and give each other hugs, although we do that too,” he said.
He added, “It’s both an outlet [to let] out steam … and for people to bond together” in what has become a “normalized way.”
“Rolling-up” hasn’t only been spotted in the Air Force. Videos and photos on social media that have quickly become memes have shown soldiers duct-taped to their cots, or bound with tape and left outside.
Some of those videos have shown the practice going too far, though, and not only within the special operations community. One source familiar with the tradition told Military.com it has been observed in other Air Force career fields, including nuclear operations and aircraft maintenance.
For example, airmen were shown in a 2005 YouTube video smearing chocolate syrup on a bound airman, then dusting him with powdered sugar before dousing him with a garbage pail of dirty water. The incident apparently happened at Kadena Air Base, Japan.
The airman who spoke with Military.com said roll-up events sometimes happen out of sheer boredom while troops are killing time. And it’s easy to cross a line and have things get out of control.
“It’s counterproductive to everything we do: It doesn’t make an airman want to stay in the Air Force, it doesn’t make airmen want to go do their job. It’s beyond the right and wrong of morality, and it’s just bad for the mission,” the TACP said.
He continued, “That’s the problem with the normalization of it. It becomes that [time] could be spent in a much more productive way.”
He suggested developing a new tradition that fosters bonding and supports readiness, rather than one with the earmarks of hazing.
“There needs to be a competitive spirit” for stress to be relieved, the TACP said. “So replace it with [something] that’s tied to a real-world mission.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
President Trump unveiled the Space Force logo today via social media and Star Trek fans everywhere are thinking the “coincidence” in appearance to the Starfleet Command logo is “highly illogical,” “clearly copied,” and our personal favorite: “a blatant f****** ripoff.” – The great people of Twitter
The other half of Twitter is furious at the accusation that the logo was copied, citing the 1982 design of the United States Air Force Space Command logo, and saying it’s just an update of that and to blame not Trump but Reagan and #journalism for not researching the history of the logos. Still others are saying it all started with NASA and Big Brother always wins.
So what came first: the chicken, the egg or the alien?
1. Starfleet Command
To be fair, Starfleet Command is credited as being founded between 2030-2040 and we all know if you’re not first, you’re last. But put the future aside and if we’re just talking about facts, this bad boy was created in the 1960s. According to startrek.com, “The delta insignia was first drawn in 1964 by costume designer William Ware Theiss with input from series creator Gene Roddenberry. The delta — or ‘Arrowhead’ as Bill Theiss called it — has evolved into a revered symbol and one that’s synonymous with Star Trek today.”
Star Trek does acknowledge on their site that they were inspired by the NASA logo (NASA was established in 1958): “In the Star Trek universe, the delta emblem is a direct descendant of the vector component of the old NASA (and later UESPA) logos in use during Earth’s space programs of the 20th and 21st Centuries. Those symbols were worn by some of the first space explorers and adorned uniforms and ships during humanity’s first steps into the final frontier.”
We’re not IP experts here, but this looks SUPER similar to Star Trek’s. Like almost the same. Sure they added a globe and changed some of the stars around a bit, but this feels a little bit like the Under Pressure vs. Ice Ice Baby debate.
Founded in 1982, the Air Force Space Command was a major command based out of Petersen Air Force Base, with a mission to provide resilient, defendable and affordable space capabilities for the Air Force, Joint Force and the Nation. Their vision: innovate, accelerate, dominate.
Kind of feeling like maybe the innovative piece didn’t extend to logo design. Too soon?
3. SPACE FORCE!
It’s hard for us to even say Space Force! without an exclamation point at the end, so we are disappointed that one wasn’t included in the logo. We do, however, appreciate the addition of the Roman numerals to make it look extra futuristic, with the acknowledgement that the average American’s understanding of Roman numerals only goes as high as the current year’s Super Bowl.
You be the judge: Star Trek, Space Force or not seeing it?
Every military branch, office, and unit has its own unique traditions. Military culture develops within us from the very beginning of our service. The plebes at the United State Military Academy are no different in that regard. Every class has a unique motto and crest while each cadet company has a unique mascot. But no matter what class or company, they all come together for the West Point Alma Mater.
West Point alum, Army officer, and filmmaker Austin Lachance is known among plebes and old grads alike for his skills in producing high-quality, West Point-centric films. In 2017, he produced a music video of the U.S. Military Academy’s glee club singing a rendition of the 1911-era West Point Alma Mater that will give you chills.
In 2018, Lachance remastered the piece in stunning 4K video in order to honor 1st Lt. Stephen C. Prasnicki, an Army football player from the West Point class of 2010 who was killed in action two years later.
Called “Sing Second,” the video references the tradition of the end of the annual Army-Navy Game, where each side sings the other’s alma mater. The losing team sings theirs first and the winning team sings second. But the rendition is more than an Army-Navy Game spirit video, like 2017’s “Lead From the Front” — it’s a tribute.
Lachance, now an Army officer on active duty, remastered the moving video to honor fellow West Pointer Stephen Chase Prasnicki, who was killed by an enemy improvised explosive device in Maidan Shahr, Wardak Province, Afghanistan, on Jun. 27, 2012.
Upon graduating from high school, Prasnicki was a highly-recruited prospect for college football. As a quarterback in a highly competitive area of Virginia high school football, he might have chosen to play at Virginia Tech under legendary coach Frank Beamer. He could have played in bowl games and for national championships. Instead, he chose West Point.
“Chase was a leader in every aspect of his life,” Prasnicki’s surviving spouse, Emily Gann, told CBS Sports. “People wanted to follow him onto the football field, and they wanted to follow him into battle.”
The former Army Black Knights backup quarterback and defensive safety was a platoon leader assigned to the 4th Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. He was only in Afghanistan for five days before sustaining his wounds.
Marines are known for their proficiency in fighting, but not many people know that they’ve developed their own hand-to-hand fighting system, called the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. MCMAP combines several different styles with close-quarters combat techniques and Marine Corps philosophies to create something new.
While many, varying opinions exist on the program, it’s important to understand one simple thing: it’s only as effective as its wielder. In short, if you weren’t any good at fighting before you learned MCMAP, you’re still not going to be much good after you earn that tan belt.
So, for all of you who have no idea what MCMAP is all about, here are the broad strokes:
A Martial Arts Instructor-Trainer demonstrates an arm bar.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece E. Lodder)
It’s comprised of several different fighting styles.
Seventeen styles, to be exact. That’s right, seventeen different fighting styles cultivated from around the world were pulled together to create MCMAP. It includes techniques borrowed from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Taekwondo, and Krav Maga to name a few. Keep in mind, however, specific techniques were pulled from each and then adapted to be applicable for Marines in combat.
A green belt with a tan Martial Arts Instructor tab.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dylan M. Bowyer)
There are five belt levels
Before you walk across the parade deck at MCRD, you will earn your entry-level, tan belt. The other belt levels are, in ascending order, gray, green, brown, and black. A black belt, as in other martial arts, has varying degrees — 6, in the case of MCMAP. While most of the belt levels can be the subject of mockery, we highly recommend you don’t mess with a black belt.
Sometimes you get a lecture, sometimes you run across base.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Melissa Wenger)
You learn about more than just fighting
MCMAP is also about studying warrior ethos and understanding that fighting is not just throwing a better punch than your opponent. To quote Marine Corps Order 1500.54A, which officially established the program in 2002,
“MCMAP is a synergy of mental, character, and physical disciplines with application across the full spectrum of violence.”
If you’re a grunt, you’ll likely be forced to ground-fight in rain.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)
Infantry Marines are generally required to earn a green belt
Or at least a gray belt. Typically, if a commander sees there’s open space in the training schedule and the armory is too busy to make you stand in line for 3 hours, you’ll be ordered to practice MCMAP. Most grunts earn their gray belt by the end of their first pre-deployment training cycle. Some are required to earn their green by the end of their second.
The red tab indicates an MAIT.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece E. Lodder)
There are different types of instructors
There are Martial Arts Instructors then there are Martial Arts Instructor-Trainers. The main difference is a standard MAI can train other Marines to “belt up,” while an MAIT can train a Marine, whose belt level is at least green, to become an instructor.
To become an MAI, you must attend the grueling and unforgiving Martial Arts Instructor Course. To become an MAIT, you must attend the even more painful, more advanced Martial Arts Instructor-Trainer Course. Either way, your soul will never be the same.