When Christine Hassing looked at the suicide statistics of U.S. military veterans, she was drawn to learn more about the experiences of veterans suffering from PTSD and military sexual trauma (MST). Through her research, Hassing learned the remarkable impact service dogs played in veterans’ journeys towards healing and recovery from the deepest emotional wounds.
The Michigan-based author and inspirational speaker was working on her master’s degree when she met a veteran and his service dog.
After listening to their story, she knew that she wanted to spotlight the struggles of fellow veterans like him who are healing from trauma with the support of their furry friend. From sensing a nightmare and waking a veteran before terror takes hold, to placing a comforting paw on someone’s shoulder to ward off a panic attack, these dogs provide immeasurable support day and night.
Wanting to share their perspective, she collaborated with twenty-three veterans and compiled their unique stories in her recently published book, “Hope Has A Cold Nose.”
“When my path intersected with the first veteran and his service dog that you can meet in ‘Hope Has a Cold Nose,’ I asked if I could write his life story for a class assignment,” Hassing told We Are The Mighty. “Our class had been given the challenge to do something creative that was outside our comfort zone. As a volunteer life story writer for a local hospice, writing life stories was not new to me. Writing a life story for someone who was not knowingly dying was.”
Statistics show that 22 U.S. military veterans commit suicide per day.
“In writing this veteran’s life story, I learned not only how effective canines are as a healing modality for PTSD, [but that] twenty-two lives a day have lost hope,” Hassing shared. “I was inspired to be a voice for the twenty-three co-authors of ‘Hope Has A Cold Nose’ who desired to inspire hope for 22 lives a day with a goal of reducing the suicide rate to zero.”
Each chapter shares the story of a different human-canine pair as they explore their life changing relationship. The compelling testimonies from each and every storyteller in the book reminds readers of the importance of compassion and community during the recovery process for veterans.
“It’s important to increase awareness about the healing impact that service dogs have on those journeying with PTSD and the power of listening that helps people heal,” she shared. “To foster hope for anyone who struggles with pain, trauma, sorrow, or despair and to foster compassion and community. This year may become one in which many will mark 2020 as a traumatic year. The co-authors in Hope Has a Cold Nose understand grief, sorrow, fear, isolation, anxiety, depression, and loss of hope. These stories can foster empathy and understanding in addition to inspiring hope.”
For Hassing, working to share these individual veteran stories stretches far beyond publishing a book.
“It is my hope that the readers will learn about the effectiveness of service dogs as a healing modality for those who struggle with PTSD,” Hassing said. “That increased understanding will foster the ability to listen to others experiencing pain, trauma, sorrow, or despair with the same kind of unconditional acceptance as those with fur do and that if the reader is undergoing significant pain, trauma, sorrow, or despair, may they find compassion and understanding for their own story. May they find hope.”
Having a cough has never been more nerve wracking than during the current pandemic. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be a cough. Needing to go to the doctor for any reason can send a quick thought of panic, due to current protocols. Needing something as simple as a prescription refill suddenly got complicated.
But fear not, military families! There is an easier way. Thanks to ongoing efforts to increase the logistics of telemedicine and over-the-phone appointments, Tricare beneficiaries can video chat with their doctors to receive a quick fix to many questions or prescription needs.
This includes video calls, but will not include phone calls or texts.
If you or a family member is in need of a non-urgent appointment, you can call your normal doctor’s number and ask what their options are for telehealth appointments.
If you or a family member has an upcoming appointment scheduled, you’re likely to be contacted about rescheduling or moving the appointment to your phone. Services covered include:
Mental health services (individual psychotherapy, psychiatric diagnosis interviews/exams, and medication management)
In addition, from March 31 through May 31, Tricare has announced they will also cover telehealth services for “applied behavior analysis (ABA) parent or caregiver guidance services under the Autism Care Demonstration.”
Don’t skimp on important healthcare appointments just because you can’t be seen in person. These distancing appointments allow Tricare patients to get the care they need, without risking germs. Additional distancing measures have been put into place on military bases, such as drive-through pharmacies, or in-vehicle triage.
Talk to your healthcare team to see if telehealth is available at your base.
The Iowa Military Veterans Band boasts a roster of 100 veterans who have served in almost every conflict from WWII to the GWOT. These musician veterans represent every branch of the military – even the Coasties!
And the crowd went wild!
The Iowa Military Veterans Band got together to perform at the dedication of a WWII monument back in 1996. That just made sense, since the majority of the veterans at that time served in WWII. Others served in Korea and Vietnam in both combat and combat support units. But the crowd responded so well to their performance that these talented musicians decided to stay together and permanently form a band. They’re still going strong 20 years later!
Music has been a part of military history since, well, forever. Back in the day, regiments used to perform on the field to convey orders and keep the grunts motivated. Then militaries got wise and formed official bands that traveled with their units to keep up the espirit de corps. In fact, that’s where marching bands as we know them came from! These days, there are plenty of examples of great military bands. Some have even gained fame from shows like America’s Got Talent.
It’s not likely the Iowa Veterans Band is going to perform for AGT anytime soon, but maybe they should think about it?
Service is part of their blood
Here’s what makes this band so special. It’s the only one of its kind in the entire country. True to their military roots, the Iowa Military Veterans band is officially a nonprofit organization. They’re all about giving back, helping their community, and improving the lives of veterans. They help support other VSOs in the Iowa veteran community. All concerts are free and most of the admin expenses are paid for by veterans themselves.
They keep going thanks to generous donations from Iowa businesses and individuals. Not once have they used tax dollars for support.
An orchestra of veterans
Of course, these accomplished musicians in the Iowa Military Veterans Band play a variety of instruments. This includes the usual you’d expect in a band like trumpets and clarinets. But there are also some harp and euphonium musicians, too! As a matter of fact, the band even has a vocalist. With that in mind, most of the band’s set lists are performances of songs by great American composers. These include the big names like Karl King, Meredith Wilson, John Philip Sousa, Irving Berlin and George M. Cohan.
In a normal year, the band plays between six and seven concerts from early May to Veteran’s Day in November. All members volunteer their time for rehearsals and shows to share their love of music with the people of Iowa.
While Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was testifying about Libra cryptocurrency before the House Financial Services Committee on Oct. 23, 2019, some viewers were focused on policy — but some were focused on his hair.
One person on Twitter pointed out that the short haircut might have something to do with Zuckerberg’s fascination with first century BCE Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar.
In a 2018 New Yorker profile, Zuckerberg revealed his admiration for the emperor — he and his wife even went to Rome for their honeymoon. He told the New Yorker, “My wife was making fun of me, saying she thought there were three people on the honeymoon: me, her, and Augustus. All the photos were different sculptures of Augustus.”
Zuckerberg and his wife even named one of their daughters August, reportedly after Caesar.
All of that admiration may be why Zuckerberg’s hairdo closely resembles “The Caesar” haircut (though the style is actually named after Emperor Julius Caesar, below).
Facebook did not respond to Business Insider’s request for comment on where Zuckerberg drew inspiration for his ‘do, so while we don’t know for sure, it’s possible the Caesars’ iconic cuts were the source.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
1. Well, at least you don’t have to get him/her a gift right away.
I’m sorry, what? I will more than likely still get my spouse a gift and squirrel it away until they get home, but also why is that the one thing you think I am thinking about the most? Our gift to each other will be a phone call or a quick Skype call. That is better than any other gift either one of us could get each other.
2. Well, you signed up for this, why are you surprised?
I may shank the next person that says that. Just saying. I fell in love with a human not their occupation. Their occupation is a small part of who they are and we adjust to the situation. We are simply making it each day at a time.
3. Wait, the military won’t send him/her home for the holidays?!
You realize that the military does not care what day of the week it is let alone a holiday. Stop with the silliness. The service members are on a deployment, field exercise, staff duty, etc. they cannot come home.
4. Why are you staying here? Why aren’t you just moving home?
Well, I have a whole life and network system I have established at the base that I can’t just abandon. Yes, I miss my family and will come home to visit them, but it isn’t possible for me to move home while my spouse is away.
5. He’s only in overseas why don’t you just go visit him/her?
Are you planning on paying for the ticket or…? We are living on a budget and don’t have the luxury of always going to visit each other. The idea is great but not practical. Also, do you know what a war zone is?
Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. displays some holiday spirit as he speaks to the soldiers of 1st Armored Division in Germany.
(US Army photo)
6. At least you don’t have kids, it would be so much worse.
Thank you? It is still hard to be apart from my spouse even though we don’t have kids. Can someone just hand me a bottle of wine the next time someone tries to comfort me with that.
7. Well at least the kids are young, they won’t remember.
The kids will still miss their parent. The kids will still ask where they are first thing in the morning. Looking around the house, seeing if their dad/mom will surprise them or waiting patiently by the phone to hear their voice. No it won’t be easy no matter the age of our kids, but we make it work.
8. Isn’t it nice to have your own space? I love when my husband isn’t home.
Well, I much prefer when he is home, but that is just me. We have spent enough time apart I am ready to be together again. Sure a nice weekend apart spent with family or my girlfriends is nice, but after a few months I am more than ready for him/her to be home.
Lancer Brigade soldier makes it home for the holidays.
(US Army photo)
9. Ask when is he coming home and immediately respond with, “Well, that isn’t too far away.”
One day is too far away. Yes, my countdown app has helped me stay focused and able to remember we are one day closer, but somedays (most days) it is far too many days away. Minutes feel like days, days feel like weeks, weeks feel like months, and so forth. It is a long and frustrating experience I would not wish on my worst enemy.
10. Why are you visiting his side of the family? He’s not even home.
They are still family. No matter if my spouse is home or not I am going to see my in-laws at holidays. They are as special to me as my own family and I want to see them. It is silly to think that just because my spouse isn’t home I would not go see that side of the family.
11. Aren’t you scared he’s going to get lonely being so far away?
Well, yes he may get lonely, but so will I. Yes, we will have struggles, but we also have each other. We also have our phones, Skype, Facebook messenger, various apps that will get us through the time apart. We also have our friends that will help us deal with the frustrations that come with time spent apart.
Soldiers gather together during a Christmas service at Combat Outpost Shur Andam, Afghanistan.
(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Joshua Edwards)
12. Well, one year my spouse had to go out of town for an extended weekend so I completely understand what you are going through.
Seriously, if anyone comes to me with this this holiday season you better be handing me a bottle of chardonnay with that comment. Yes, some couples go through time apart from their loved one, but no one understands the separation like other military significant others. It is a different, it is an everyday struggle, a daunting task that only can be dealt with by fellow military spouses that understand the hardships that will happen and that are happening.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
This week, We Are The Mighty’s President Mark Harper sat down with the Suit Soldier podcast to talk about his time in service with the U.S. Air Force’s Combat Camera, and how that prepared him to lead a global company. From photographing the front lines to running a business that tells engaging stories about the military, Harper’s path wasn’t quite as unconventional as other transition stories. That doesn’t mean it was easy.
In this episode, Harper shares some of his tactical tips for transitioning, helpful recommendations for resumes as well as other practical guidance for the service member getting ready to leave active duty. But more than that, Harper tells his story. How his dad’s time in the Army instilled a deep calling to serve, how he captured poignant portrayals of life on the front lines through the lens of a camera, and why he moved to L.A. without a job to pursue his dream.
The Suit Soldier podcast is created by Chris Coker, a Business Architect and Career Coach who talks with today’s top veterans to get their story on transitioning from the military so you can understand the path from military service to business success. Discover the traits you already have within yourself that you can deploy into your career and business to achieve your own definition of success.
We brought you the best COVID-19 memes on the internet… and just when we thought we couldn’t make any more memes, or laugh at them for that matter, we realized the absurdity of trying to homeschool and work and exist and teach and cook and Zoom and do it all for the foreseeable future.
May the odds be ever in your favor, homeschooling parents. We’re sending you all our virtual vibes. And drink of choice.
1. I dunno
Fake it ’til you make it, bud.
2. All the options
Sometimes there are no good options.
3. Scribble scrabble
Wear masks. But maybe not outside at recess. But maybe at recess. But not if you’re eating at your desk. But what if you’re eating at recess?
4. Hold your breath
You’ll probably only lose your voice though if the kids stay home.
5. Poor Billy Madison
Nah, just put on Hamilton.
6. Screen time
To be fair, Netflix has some great educational programs. I mean how else would you teach business practices other than letting your kids watch Narcos?
7. Schedules are important
7:00: Kids console crying parents.
No really, everything is fine!
9. 90s kids
To be fair, Zack Morris practically babysat us.
Hilarious but DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!
At least this kid has on pants.
12. Wishes for fishes
Pour all your money into the fountains, people.
Make sure your kids have a red stapler…
We’ll never forget 2020. As much as we’d like to.
Be careful what you make fun of!
There’s that growth mindset…
Nothing to see here.
Where’s Jenny when you need her?
Homeschooling parents: Really putting the “win” in wine.
It’s been a long five months. No judgement here, Marge.
21. Tiger King
We wanted to love it. We really did.
But to be fair… who does?
Well at least your kids will learn something about science as they watch you age…
Whether you’re sending your kids back in person in full PPE or prepping for virtual learning, we’re wishing all of your kids (and all of our teachers!) a great school year… and fast internet, well-lit makeshift classrooms and lots of patience. Here’s to you, parents and educators!
Fighting holes have been used as effective defensive positions for decades, stymieing the enemy’s deadly offensive movements. Some branches of service refer to these dug-in positions as “foxholes,” but both terms refer to the exact same thing.
How a fighting hole is constructed depends greatly on the amount of time a troop intends to spend occupying a position. If a troop intends on staying in the fight from a single position for a prolonged period of time, it might be outfitted with entertainment options to stave off the boredom that comes from long hours of waiting. In this case, it’s not uncommon to find things left behind by a previous occupant for the next troop to enjoy.
But, when a fighting hole is constructed and is only going to be occupied for a short period, the troops within need to get clever with killing time. So, if living in a fighting hole is in your near future, learn from the troops before you.
Here’s few ways troops have killed time while dug-in on the front lines.
Although there’s always someone monitoring the comm gear to relay important messages as they come through, military radios can also be pretty entertaining if you listen closely enough. Communications between various units sometimes plays out like a military soap opera.
Troops request various items, get denied those items, and, if you’re lucky, they’ll hold down the “push to talk” button on the handset as they talk sh*t after being rejected.
We call these epic fails “hot mics.”
Smoke cigarettes until the sun goes down
In Afghanistan, Pine cigarettes run about a id=”listicle-2581849130″ per pack. Ground troops bring a little cash with them to the front line, so they’ll often buy smokes off the locals. When there’s nothing else to do, they’ll chain smoke ’em for entertainment. The only problem is, once the sun goes down, smoking a cigarette is a violation of force protection.
No one wants to bring danger to their brothers just to get a nicotine fix.
Think about the sh*t you’re going to do when you get home
While you’re stationed in a desolate area with virtually nothing to look at but a handful of villagers doing their laundry, troops’ minds start to wander, thinking about what they’ll do once they get home. Whether it’s going surfing, registering for school, or just going out to drink a cold beer, plenty of ideas drift through a troop’s mind as they man their defensive position.
Build narratives of imaginary firefights
When troops are positioned in fighting holes, there’s a strong chance they’ll take incoming fire — it’s less a matter of ‘if’ and more a matter of ‘when.’ So, they stay close to their rifles and predict where a threat may come from. They develop a narrative in their head of what actions they might take in order to fight off the bad guys — and maybe score a cool kill shot in the process.
Screw watching Hollywood movies, grunts create their own fiction while they’ve got nothing but time on their hands.
In case you missed it, a 59-year old OEF veteran is reenlisting after a nearly ten year break in service. It took about a year to get the waivers and to cut the red tape, but Army regulations still require him to go through Basic Training all over again in June. I mean, that is what it is, but his military record kinda shows even more of how pointless that is…
His story begins when he enlisted in the Marines in ’78, got out and became a cop, reenlisted during Desert Storm as an infantryman, stayed in long enough to go to Afghanistan as PSYOPs, got out again to become SWAT, and now he’s looking to do it all over again.
I’m just saying – I know that the drill sergeants probably give him the appropriate amount of guff that’s required in Basic and understand that his knowledge of previous conflicts can be instrumental to teaching the younger troops. But imagine being that young, dumb trainee who thinks they’ve got jokes for the “old dude in his platoon” only to learn that he’s been kicking in door before their parents were born.
If only to be a fly on that wall… Anyways, here’s some memes.
I’m sure you’ve had a conversation with someone and asked, “Where are you from?” and the response was “Everywhere. I’m a military brat.”
At one time this response made me feel bad for them. I felt they didn’t have a real home or real friends because they never stayed put long enough. That was just my ignorance before I joined the military world.
Now I see all the amazing opportunities and environments that military children are exposed to.
Here’s 10 practical and healthy things we can teach our kids so that this lifestyle can benefit them in the long run!
1. Be open to friendships
Some kids have no problem making friends. And the other ones may need a bit of a push from us (parents). This is an excellent trait that will help your child throughout life, whether they are going to college, starting a new job, or relocating. You can grow this skill by simply teaching them conversations starters.
(115th Fighter Wing photo by MSgt Paul Gorman)
2. Try NEW foods
Keeping your palate flexible is the equivalent of keeping an open mind. Try a new restaurant once a month as a family, or let your child pick a new fruit or veggie when you go to the grocery store. I’ve experienced some of the best meals while traveling and eating outside of my comfort zone.
3. Learn a second language
What do you call someone who speaks one language? AMERICAN. It’s funny because for most of us, it’s true. Benefits our children can have from learning a second language can include a sharper mind, better job opportunities, and expanded connection to other cultures.
I grew up in Florida so it’s second nature to wear a light sweater with my clothes that I can peel off when the day warms. This valuable lesson will help your kids not to dress in thick sweaters for the day and then the weather goes from 55 to 80 within a few hours. It does that in certain places you know…
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin Smelley)
5. Embrace other cultures
More than learning about other cultures, our kids get to experience them. Teach them to enjoy the differences. They might even want to start incorporating some into everyday life.
Everyone needs a private place to SAY IT ALL! Journaling is not only an excellent way of expression and getting your thoughts out, but it’s also a nice thing to look back on and reflect on how certain moments felt. The good, the bad, and the funny.
7. Take a piece of life to remember from wherever you go
There’s an interesting idea called a travel corner. It’s a spot that has photos of different places you’ve traveled and items/souvenirs gathered along the way. Not gift shop souvenirs, but shells, feathers, stones, and branches.
(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Aimee Fujikawa, 29th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)
8. Don’t forget your friends
When your kids find a good friend who becomes a bestie, find ways for them to stay in touch. You can FaceTime every now and then. You can also have them create gifts for their friend’s birthday. How cool is it if they become pen pals and write each other letters? It’s quite possible that they may cross paths again.
9. Home is what you make it
It can be difficult to feel at home when every few years you’re packing up and moving again. This is an opportunity to teach your child how to create happiness. What types of things do they like? They can get creative with making their space reflect their personality and if this changes with every move, that’s fine. Let them take the lead on what type of vibe they want to surround them.
10. Find the “takeaway” in every experience
Teach kids to adapt to their situation rather its an unwanted duty station, or new school. Find the good because ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING!
If you’re a “military brat” what’s a practical lesson you learned growing up?
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
The top row from left is Alfonso, David, Enrique, Ezequiel and Ismael. The bottom row from left is Israel, Marcos, Richard and Rudy.
National Hispanic Heritage Month honors those who have positively influenced and enriched the U.S. and society.
For the Fuentes family, that means celebrating the nine brothers who served in the military. Brothers Alfonso, David, Enrique, Ezequiel, Ismael, Marcos, Richard and Rudy all served in the Marine Corps, while Israel served in the Air Force.
Hailing from Corpus Christi, Texas, the Fuentes parents had 16 children: nine sons and seven daughters. The parents worried about the children but supported their decisions to enlist.
David was the first to enlist, joining the Marine Corps in 1957. According to his siblings, other students teased David in high school, calling him a “mama’s boy.” When one of David’s cousins—a Marine—came home on leave, he talked to David, who convinced him to join. That started a tradition that followed through all nine of the brothers.
Each of the brothers had different reasons for serving.
“My plans were to quit school and join the Marines to get away from home,” Ismael said. “A friend of mine told me he would do the same. We went to the Marine recruiting office one weekend and were told we were the two highest ranking officers in Navy Junior ROTC, graduate with honors and we will place you both in our 120-day delayed buddy program. We both graduated June 2, 1968, and were in San Diego June 3.”
Another brother said his reason was to possibly spare his children from going to war.
“I volunteered to go to Vietnam,” Richard said. “My thoughts for volunteering is that when I would have a family, I could tell my kids that I already went to war so they wouldn’t have to.”
Echoing that sentiment, another brother said he served to possibly spare his brothers from going to war.
“I did three years in Navy Junior ROTC because I always knew that I wanted to enlist in the Marine Corps and in case it came down that I had to go to war, then maybe my three younger brothers would be spared,” Rudy said. “That was the reason I enlisted, to protect my three younger brothers.”
The youngest brother said he felt compelled to follow his brothers’ examples.
“Being one of the youngest of nine brothers, I did not want to be the one to break tradition, so I enlisted in the Marine Corps and followed in my brothers’ footsteps,” Enrique said.
About the brothers
Alfonso served in the Marine Corps from 1973-1979 as an infantry rifleman. He served at a Reserve unit in his hometown of Corpus Christi. He also deployed to Rome for training.
David didn’t get teased again after he came home on leave in his Marine Corps uniform. He worked on helicopter engines, assigned to the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro in California. David served from 1957 to 1960. He passed away June 15, 2011.
Enrique served in the Marine Corps from June 1975-June 1979. Following training at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, he served on embassy duty in both Naples, Italy, and Sicily from 1976-1978. He finished his time in the Marine Corps at Camp Pendleton.
Ezequiel enlisted in the Marine Corps July 1, 1965, serving as an aircraft firefighter. He served in Yuma, Arizona, and Iwakuni, Japan. He honorably discharged from the Marine Corps June 30, 1969.
Ismael served in the Marine Corps from June 1968 to June 1972. He served at MCB Camp Pendleton as a cook. After dislocating his shoulder, he transferred to the correctional services company.
Israel enlisted in the Air Force in 1966, serving as a weapons mechanic on A-37s and a crew chief on B-58 bombers. He served at Bien Hoa Air Base from 1968-1969 during the Tet Offensive. He discharged in 1970.
Marcos joined the Marine Corps under the delayed entry program Nov. 10, 1976—the service’s 201st birthday. He served from June 1977 to August 1982, serving at a motor pool unit in MCB Camp Pendleton and a Reservist with the 23rd Marine Regiment.
Richard served in the Marine Corps from 1966-1970. He served with Marine Helicopter Squadron 463 in Vietnam from July 1968 to December 1969. He served in Danang and Quang Tri as a CH-53 Sea Stallion door gunner and as a maintainer on helicopter engines.
Rudy served from January 1972 to February 1977 as military police, transport driver and weapons instructor. He volunteered five times to go to Vietnam, getting denied all five times. He assisted during the 1975 evacuation of Saigon.
Ned Stark was an honorable man, a protector of the realm— a king for the people, and a man who was wholly dedicated to the balance of power in leadership. How fitting then, that the mysterious man who wrote biting columns on the Air Force’s leadership development, chose the pen name “Col. Ned Stark.”
The columns went viral from their inception and have been regularly stirring the pot for a year. The columns have been applauded for their straight candid talk about the flaws in how the Air Force makes leadership decisions. Nobody knew the mastermind, the “true” Col. Ned Stark, behind these columns…Until now.
Col. Jason Lamb, director of intelligence, analysis, and innovation at Air Education and Training Command, previously known as Col. Ned Stark
(Ben Murray-Air Force Times)
“Col. Ned Stark” wrote under a pseudonym to protect his career from being targeted by the same leaders that he criticizes. It’s ironic that he also understands that he must write these covertly, lest his career be threatened by the same kind of power abuse that he sheds light on, “The power that comes with rank and command is inherently corrupting, and we must guard against those who fall prey […] We owe it to our airmen to ensure that they are better off with their leadership than without.”
But, within the last week, the infamous Col. Ned Stark has come forward and revealed himself as Col. Jason Lamb. Lamb is the director of intelligence, analysis, and innovation at Air Education and Training Command. He stands behind his columns purpose and hopes to continue and engage in the difficult (but arguably very necessary) conversations that the Air Force needs to be having more transparently.
Lamb graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1995. His father was a Marine Corps non-commissioned officer who served in the Korean War, and Lamb attributes his Ned Stark-esque streak of directness to his father.
Lamb first revealed his identity on the “War on Rocks” podcast last Monday. Lamb’s identity reveal was in large part due to the fact that, as Lamb said in an interview with Air Force Times, he thinks he has said all that he can under Col. Ned Stark, and can now engage in the conversation publicly.
Lamb argues in his columns that the Air Force is fixated on “risk avoidance” and that the hierarchical chain of upward mobility reflects that. He is also frustrated with the lack of frankness with which the Air Force system operates.
Lamb, second from left, speaks to attendees at the grand opening of the command’s “Fire Pit” workshop March 5, 2019, at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas
(Sean M. Worrell)
However, Lamb did not make criticisms without offering solutions. Lamb offered these two options as his ideas for the “next steps” the Air Force should make:
Create a new evaluation form for commanders that includes a section with command climate survey results against both similar units and Air Force averages.
Implement peer and subordinate evaluation sections that score leadership traits and characteristics on a quantitative scale, to include trustworthiness, approachability, propensity to empower, empathy, decisiveness, fairness, professionalism, and risk tolerance.
His sense of problem-solving and no-BS approach are some of the many reasons his columns caught fire in the military zeitgeist last year.
Lamb set up an anonymous “Eddard Stark” Gmail alongside his the beginning of his columns, and stated that, “Good gravy, a lot of people wrote in.”
Alongside that “good gravy” of writers, he drew the attention of Gen. Goldfein who, at last summer’s Corona meeting, made Lamb’s initial article required reading for top Air Force leaders. Goldfein was vocal in his support of Lamb’s column, and even extended a digital olive branch “Ned, I can assure you, your head is safe,” he wrote.
Although Lamb knows these changes will have to be made over a wide span of time, he still lobbies for “big changes” in how the Air Force can alter its risk-averse structure. Lamb, of course, seeks a wiser, more polished generation of leaders to come.
And, with the apparent parallels between Ned Stark and Col. Jason Lamb, grows the prospect of birthing a brighter generation of leadership for Westeros the U.S. seems even more plausible.
As 2020 came to an end, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston reached out on Instagram for help improving leadership and morale going forward.
“Seeing a lot of pages on here that don’t seem to think we are talking to or actually caring about our Soldiers. Here are the core tenets of This Is My Squad – have been since Spring 2019. These are what we’re asking JR Leaders to do. I’m open to the feedback on what we’re missing … you can be part of the solution.”
The post attracted hundreds of comments, many of them from popular military meme pages.
“When we look at how soldiers get information, I have to meet them where they are,” Grinston told Coffee or Die Magazine through email. “The internet flattens communication in a way we’ve never seen before. Official communication channels are still important, but social media offers another venue to hear what is important to Soldiers.”
Responses to Grinston’s experiment ranged from positive and productive to comical and cynical.
“The issues in the Army today aren’t from the squad level,” a retired senior NCO wrote in one comment. “Hold Bn and Brigade level leaders accountable. That will inspire and empower squads and teams. Not a slide on just being a good dude.”
The wildly popular meme page tiktokbootz wrote, “Why is tiktok making not included here.”
“Next time,” Grinston responded.
As the conversation continued through the weekend and spilled over into follow-up posts, several topics stood out in the comments: destigmatizing behavioral health, improving leadership and morale, and suicide prevention.
“This weekend, I took a big gamble and called the milMeme community to the carpet,” Grinston wrote in a follow-up post Jan. 2. “What they brought was possibly one of the best command climate surveys you’ll get all year. If you’re in charge of Soldiers, you owe it to yourself to take a look through the comments and apply it to your formation.”
One commenter said the “alarming rate of suicides” at his unit were being “swept under the rug.”
“Leaders that actually care, can’t fix the issues,” he wrote. “They have their hands tied or are blocked out by caustic leadership […] that only care about the mission. The OP tempo is so constant and without pause that soldiers in the formation turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism. Any of your Junior NCO’s or E6’s that attempt to call it out openly are blacklisted and their progression halted. It’s what continues to force your good leaders out. They realize they cannot fix the formation […] That is why they turn here. There is, across Instagram, a fantastic source of leadership that comes here to vent. These men and women are who we need to stay in.”
The soldier behind the Hunter Seven Foundation Instagram page told Coffee or Die Magazine that the Army has a serious suicide problem that requires Grinston and Army leaders to “take command from the front and lead by example.” He said the conversations happening on Instagram are often more valuable than traditional surveys and communications about improving command climate and leadership.
“In the annual January briefings, we’ll hear all about ‘safety this and that’ and ‘say no to drugs’ and suicide awareness,” he said. “And then a month later during workup, your command turns a blind eye to your drinking problem and serious steroid use and doesn’t want to hear about your divorce and two kids and nightmares. And if the command does hear about it, they’ll yank you from your team. So yeah, this is extremely valuable.”
One commenter suggested implementing a system by which leaders could be rated by their subordinates and that input be included in performance reports.
“The Army likes to talk about servant leadership, but when it’s time for leaders to get their grade, the very people who they are in charge of don’t have any input,” Patrolbasehero wrote. “I think it would help the culture of leaders continually looking up without realizing what (their Soldiers) they are standing on.”
Another post said soldiers should be able to seek behavioral health services and not be vilified for it.
“You shouldn’t have to suffer in silence until you break,” it said. “Leadership HAS to be better.”
In one follow-up post promoting the value of behavioral health services, Grinston posted, “Things can’t change until the stigma does. When you’re ready to talk, reach out. It’s a very small step, but the link in the bio will get you to a counselor for free. If you’re a leader and you think this makes your people weaker, go ahead and DM me.”
The Hunter Seven Foundation page commented, “THATS WHAT IM TALKING ABOUT SMA! Creating change, curving the stigma from the top down.”
“I think this type of engagement is valuable because there’s no repercussions because it’s anonymous,” the soldier behind Hunter Seven’s page said. “No one wants to be the guy known for calling bullshit. Sadly, the command climate frowns upon that. So if literal meme pages need to bog down the sergeant major of the Army’s account to get a response, I mean, strength in numbers. I know a lot of the guys behind these meme pages that have been interacting with the SMA, and they are solid men — operators who have really been there and done that. Most are senior NCOs or E-6 or E-7. Our NCO backbone is jammed between a rock and a wall.”
Grinston said he prefers to go out and talk to soldiers in person, but between the COVID-19 environment and time constraints, social media gives him more ways to listen and interact.
“I think the volume of messages we received showed that people were willing to share,” Grinston said. “There were a number of valid concerns they’d like addressed, and we’re working to address actionable items and identify where leadership may be able to provide support.”
The follow-up post Grinston shared Jan. 2 was a screen grab of a comment from an active-duty senior NCO:
“WE NEED SUPPORT AND EMPOWERMENT […] I am charging all SGMs out there to truly dig into their formations and reengage back to their commanders to FIGHT for the very best of what the soldiers and people deserve. Be a voice for those at the bottom, FIGHT for them until you’re blue in the face and have ALL your 1SGs standing behind you to take up the filibuster.”
Grinston expressed his full support for the comment. “Our Soldiers are speaking,” he wrote. “LEADERS, the ball is in our court.”
He told Coffee or Die the overwhelming response he received on Instagram shows that social media is a valuable space to engage with soldiers and that leaders should be present on digital platforms.
“Soldiers want to see their leaders advocating and fighting for them,” he said. “And those first sergeants and command sergeants major have to be able to give NCOs time and space to operate and then have their backs when they take an action. I hope that being present and engaging people to hear from them will go a long way to show that Army leaders do care and are working to address legitimate concerns. I’m listening and taking action where I can, and leaders at every level, from team leader to the Sergeant Major of the Army owe that to our Soldiers.”