Welcome banner from the 2009 rally (Sturgis Motorcycle Rally)
Since its founding in 1938, the Sturgis Motorcycle has been held every year with the exception of the three year period between 1939 and 1941; the rally did not take place due to gas rationing in support of the war effort overseas. However, the rally returned in 1942 and has been held every year since.
Here are 5 reasons why Sturgis is nothing short of extraordinary.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 is no exception to Sturgis’ longstanding run. On June 16, the mayor of Sturgis announced that the city council had decided to move forward with the 80th Sturgis motorcycle rally. During a Facebook broadcast, he outlined that the rally will include, “modifications that provide for the health and safety of our visitors, and our residents and our town.” Ten days/nights of riding, food and music will take place in Sturgis, South Dakota from August 7-16.
A ride during the 2019 rally (Sturgis Motorcycle Rally)
Historically, attendance at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally has averaged around 500,000 people. Official attendance peaked in 2015 at 739,000 for the rally’s 75th anniversary. Billed as the largest motorcycle rally in the world, people come from all across the country to be a part of Sturgis’ famed rally. Many riders make it a family event, towing their motorcycles behind a camper and riding the last few miles into town. Others transport their rides via shipping companies and arrive by plane. In 2005, when the official attendance was 525,250 people, the rally’s director estimated that fewer than half the attendees actually rode there, a testament to just how many people came from far and wide to experience Sturgis.
Rally Headquarters features vendors, rally registration, and city info booths (Sturgis Motorcycle Rally)
With so many people descending on the small town every year, the city of Sturgis capitalizes on the rally which makes up 95 percent of its annual revenue. In 2011, the city earned nearly 0,000 from the sale of event guides and sponsorships alone. On average, the rally brings in over 0 million to the state of South Dakota annually. While the Lakota Indian tribe has protested the large amount of alcohol distributed at the rally so close to the sacred Bear Butte religious site, they have also acknowledged the importance of the revenue that the rally brings into the region and the tribes.
(Sturgis Motorcycle Rally)
The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is not just a bunch of bikers standing by their bikes in parking lots. Rather, the rally originally focused on motorcycle races and stunts. In 1961, the rally introduced the Hill Climb and Motocross races. Other forms of motorcycle entertainment included intentional board wall crashes and ramp jumps. Over the years, the rally was extended in length from a three day event to its current 10 day length. Entertainment and attractions also expanded to include vendors and live music. The first concert at the Sturgis Rally featured the legendary Jerry Lee Lewis. Other big names have followed like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Def Leppard, Montgomery Gentry, Cheap Trick, Tom Petty, Aerosmith, Bob Dylan, Ozzy Osbourne and Willie Nelson. This year, notable bands scheduled to perform include 38 Special, Quiet Riot and Night Ranger.
Panels of the memorial (Sturgis Motorcycle Rally)
5. Veteran recognition
Regularly attended by veterans, especially Vietnam Vets, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally takes great pride in recognizing the sacrifices made by the men and women of the armed forces. In 2019, the Sturgis Rally held a Military Appreciation Day presented by the VFW. Activities included a reception to honor a local veteran, entertainment and a flyover by a B-1 Lancer bomber. For 2020, the Sturgis Rally will feature the Remembering Our Fallen photographic war memorial. Highlighting service members killed during the War on Terror, Remembering Our Fallen is designed to travel and includes both military and personal photos.
Public speaking is the name of the game for activists and politicians, but few speak with such power that the message of their words echoes for generations. The words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his iconic ‘I Have a Dream’ speech were some of the most influential and inspiring words ever spoken. While the black and white photos in textbooks make it seem like ancient history, the speech was given on August 28th, 1963 — a mere 57 years ago.
Just this month on the anniversary of the March on Washington, MLK’s granddaughter gave a moving speech of her very own…and she’s not even a teenager yet! The history books don’t always tell the full story, so keep reading for some of the most interesting facts you never knew about Dr. King’s most famous speech.
1. MLK’s speech almost left out his “dream”
His “Dream” speech wasn’t a new concept. He used it frequently in previous speeches, so his advisor, Rv. Wyatt Tee Walker, suggested he leave it out, calling it “hackneyed and trite.” The new speech was supposed to be called “Normalcy Never Again,” but when King got up on stage as the final speaker of the day, the audience had other plans. Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson yelled out of the crowd, “Tell ’em about the dream, Martin.” Going against his advisor’s suggestion, King paused and said, “I still have a dream.” It was a bold move, but even his advisor later admitted it was the right one.
2. King didn’t write the speech alone
While some of his speech was improvised, he had help with the first draft. It was originally written by Stanley Levison and Clarence Jones, with plenty more heads coming together to create the final version.
3. The March was originally planned to leave out female speakers
Despite the innumerable women who contributed to the Civil Rights Movement, none were included in the original speaking schedule. Anna Arnold Hedgeman, the only woman who was on the national planning committee at the time, pushed for acknowledgment of their achievements. A “Tribute to Negro Women Fighters for Freedom” was added to the docket, but it was only after additional pressure that a woman was invited to lead it.
Daisy Bates, president of the Arkansas NAACP, took the stage, saying, “We will walk until we are free, until we can walk to any school and take our children to any school in the United States. And we will sit-in and we will kneel-in and we will lie-in if necessary until every Negro in America can vote. This we pledge to the women of America.”
Josephine Baker, a famous American entertainer, also spoke, telling the crowd, “You know I have always taken the rocky path. I never took the easy one, but as I get older, and as I knew I had the power and the strength, I took that rocky path, and I tried to smooth it out a little. I wanted to make it easier for you. I want you to have a chance at what I had. But I do not want you to have to run away to get it.”
4. The March was organized by an openly gay man
Ever heard of Bayard Rustin? Most people haven’t, but he was an important figure in the Civil Rights Movement. He strongly encouraged King to avoid violence, fundraised for the Montgomery bus boycott, and organized the March on Washington in only two months. Despite his dedication, he remained behind the scenes for a reason. He was worried that his sexual orientation would be used as an attempt to discredit the civil rights movement, so he worked virtually unseen. President Obama recognized his work posthumously, however, awarding him The Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.
5. Hollywood stars attended the March to draw attention
Harry Belafonte already planned to attend the March himself when he reached out to other stars to encourage their participation. He asked Hollywood studio managers to give the actors the day off so they could attend, which they did. Many A-listers attended, including Sidney Poitier, Marlon Brando, Sammy Davis Jr, Lena Horne and Burt Lancaster. The celebrity presence had two purposes; to boost media coverage, and to ease concerns about violence. The participation of so many high-profile celebrities toned down the widespread anxiety and increased support from President John F. Kennedy.
6. Wiretapping was a real concern
Speeches and marches don’t plan themselves, and the planning continues right up until the event starts. The day before King gave his most famous speech, he got together with his advisors to discuss the final version. They were worried that King’s hotel suite at the Willard Hotel wasn’t secure enough and could easily be wiretapped, however, so they met in the lobby instead, to discuss the speech.
7. Dr. King’s bodyguard was a college basketball player
George Raveling was in the audience when event organizers asked if he would step on stage to act as King’s bodyguard. As he was standing next to King, he asked if he could keep the paper copy of the speech. Raveling, now a retired basketball coach, still owns the original, typewritten speech.
8. The media didn’t care about the speeches
Today, King’s speech is celebrated and studied as one of the best speeches in all of history. Right after it happened, however, many reporters overlooked the speech almost entirely. Instead of covering the speeches given, newspapers (including Dr. King’s) focused on the size and scope of the March itself. The speech wasn’t given much attention during King’s lifetime, resurfacing in the public eye years later.
9. ‘I Have a Dream’ was rated a better speech than JFK’s ‘Ask not what you can do’ speech
In 1999, a panel of over 130 scholars rated Dr. King’s speech as the best of the 20th century. Even Kennedy himself knew what a pivotal speech it was, commending King by saying, either “He’s damned good” or “That guy is really good,” depending on who you hear it from.
Either way, we can all agree the speech was awe-inspiring and revolutionary. You can read or listen to the full speech here!
These generals may be legends — or seen as awesome commanders — but did they really live up to all their hype?
Under closer examination, there might be some instances where the shine isn’t so bright. We’re about to shatter some long-held prejudices, so buckle up your seatbelt and hang on for the ride.
1. Douglas MacArthur
MacArthur had his shining moments, but he had his share of miscalculations during his career as well.
“Good Doug” was the guy who pulls off the Inchon invasion or who sees Leyte as the place to return to the Philippines. “Bad Doug” is the guy who, according to U.S. Army’s official World War II history on the fall of the Philippines, failed to take immediate action, and saw them get caught on the ground.
Chicago Bears fans in the 2000s would always wonder which Rex Grossman would show up – “Good Rex” could carry the team, while “Bad Rex” could blow the game. It could be argued that Gen. Douglas MacArthur was much the same.
2. William F. Halsey
Let’s lay it out here: Adm. William F. “Bull” Halsey was probably the only naval leader who could have won the Guadalcanal campaign, and for the first year and a half of World War II, he was well in his element. America needed someone who could help the country rebound from the infamous surprise attack at Pearl Harbor and who could inspire his men to go above and beyond.
While having a number of great moments – like stealing the uniform of the CO of the Army of the Potomac and making off with a huge haul of intelligence – Confederate Gen. Jeb Stuart also was responsible for a big blunder prior to the Battle of Gettysburg.
Lee’s official report on the Gettysburg campaign indicates that “the absence of the cavalry” made it “impossible to ascertain” Union intentions. An excellent dramatization of that is in the 1993 film “Gettysburg,” where Lee rants about possibly facing “the entire Federal army” while chewing out Harry Heth for getting into the fight.
4. Robert E. Lee
Was Lee a great general? Well, he did beat a large number of his opposite numbers in the East. McClellan, Burnside, and Hooker among them. But like Jeb Stuart, Lee forgot the bigger picture. As Edward H. Bonekemper, author of “How Robert E. Lee Lost the Civil War,” noted at the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable, ”
The Union, not the Confederacy, had the burden of winning the war, and the South, outnumbered about four-to-one in white men of fighting age, had a severe manpower shortage.” The simple fact was that the South needed to preserve its manpower. Lee failed to do so, and many believed, often wasted it.
Ordering Pickett’s Charge was a classic example of wasting manpower. Antietam was another – and it was worse because the victory there allowed Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. Nice going, Bobby.
5. George S. Patton
Yeah, another legend who may be over-hyped.
But Patton, for all his virtues, had some serious faults as well. The slapping incident was but the least of those.
NASA astronaut Col. Tyler N. “Nick” Hague waits to be lowered into the pool containing a mockup of the International Space Station at the Johnson Space Flight Center’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory for Extravehicular Activity training in Houston, Tex., Apr. 27, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)
(Editor’s note: The following is a reposting of an Airman magazine story and an episode of BLUE, which aired in 2017 on AFTV, about Air Force astronauts assigned to NASA. Additional information from NASA is added to mark the culmination of a nearly decade-long goal to once again launch American astronauts from U.S. soil via NASA’s Commercial Crew Program with SpaceX and Boeing. On Wednesday, May 27, 2020, Air Force Col. Robert Behnken and retired Marine Col. Douglas Hurley are scheduled to pilot the inaugural, manned mission of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.)
A new era of human spaceflight is set to begin as American astronauts once again launch on an American rocket from American soil to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will fly on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, scheduled to lift off on a Falcon 9 rocket at 4:33 p.m. EDT May 27, from Launch Complex 39A in Florida, for an extended stay at the space station for the Demo-2 mission.
As the final flight test for SpaceX, this mission will validate the company’s crew transportation system, including the launch pad, rocket, spacecraft, and operational capabilities. This also will be the first time NASA astronauts will test the spacecraft systems in orbit.
Behnken and Hurley were among the first astronauts to begin working and training on SpaceX’s next-generation human space vehicle and were selected for their extensive test pilot and flight experience, including several missions on the space shuttle.
Behnken will be the joint operations commander for the mission, responsible for activities such as rendezvous, docking and undocking, as well as Demo-2 activities while the spacecraft is docked to the space station. He was selected as a NASA astronaut in 2000 and has completed two space shuttle flights.
It is a career in space that had its beginnings in the Air Force ROTC program at Washington University in St. Louis.
“The Air Force felt strongly that I should get a physics degree, and so I did that. But I was interested in engineering, and I did a mechanical engineering degree as well,” Behnken said in a 2017 interview with Airman magazine.
“It was a time, in 1992, that the Air Force was not bringing everybody immediately on active duty… I had a pretty long wait, so I applied for graduate school and an educational delay, and the Air Force looked kindly on that. I got that opportunity and picked up a National Science Foundation fellowship in the process, so I had a way to pay for school; the Air Force let me take advantage of that until I had earned my PhD at Caltech.”
Behnken’s first assignment was as a mechanical engineer at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, working on new development programs at the Air Force Research Laboratory. It was there that his commanders, both test pilot school graduates, suggested he plot a similar career course.
“The lieutenant colonel and the colonel said, ‘Hey, you should think about test pilot school,'” Behnken said. “I applied and was accepted, and ended up out at Edwards Air Force Base (California) doing some flight tests on an F-22 when it was very early in its development process before being selected as an astronaut and moving to Houston.”
Behnken flew two Space Shuttle missions; STS-123, in March 2008, and STS-130, in February 2010. He performed three spacewalks during each mission.
His training for the Crew Dragon mission has been unique among recent astronauts.
“Training for these missions is really wrapped into the development process. We’re learning the vehicles as they’re designed and built, and then that will be part of our training material,” Behnken said.
“All of us are Air Force and Navy test pilot school graduates and we’re really participating in a development process so that we can then kind of bring our space flight experience to the designs as they come to the table. If there’s something that needs to be changed, we give them that feedback, and then they figure out what the cost impact is and decide how well they can incorporate our feedback into their design.”
Lifting off from Launch Pad 39A atop a specially instrumented Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon will accelerate its two passengers to approximately 17,000 mph and put it on an intercept course with the International Space Station.
Once in orbit, the crew and SpaceX mission control will verify the spacecraft is performing as intended by testing the environmental control system, the displays and control system and the maneuvering thrusters, among other things. In about 24 hours, Crew Dragon will be in position to rendezvous and dock with the space station. The spacecraft is designed to do this autonomously but astronauts aboard the spacecraft and the station will be diligently monitoring approach and docking and can take control of the spacecraft if necessary.
After successfully docking, Behnken and Hurley will be welcomed aboard the station and will become members of the Expedition 63 crew. They will perform tests on Crew Dragon in addition to conducting research and other tasks with the space station crew.
Although the Crew Dragon being used for this flight test can stay in orbit about 110 days, the specific mission duration will be determined once on station based on the readiness of the next commercial crew launch. The operational Crew Dragon spacecraft will be capable of staying in orbit for at least 210 days as a NASA requirement.
Upon conclusion of the mission, Crew Dragon will autonomously undock with the two astronauts on board, depart the space station and re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Upon splashdown just off Florida’s Atlantic Coast, the crew will be picked up at sea by SpaceX’s Go Navigator recovery vessel and return to Cape Canaveral.
The Demo-2 mission will be the final major step before NASA’s Commercial Crew Program certifies Crew Dragon for operational, long-duration missions to the space station. This certification and regular operation of Crew Dragon will enable NASA to continue the important research and technology investigations taking place onboard the station, which benefits people on Earth and lays the groundwork for future exploration of the Moon and Mars starting with the agency’s Artemis program, which will land the first woman and the next man on the lunar surface in 2024.
“It’s a pretty exciting job. As a test pilot, the thing that we all hope is that we might get a chance to test a new airplane. We’re getting to test a new spacecraft. We’ll be the first people to fly on this vehicle, so we’re really the space test pilots for a brand-new spaceship, which is pretty cool,” Behnken said.
(Editor’s Note: Originally posted July 24, 2017, this article concentrated on the training of Air Force Col. Tyler Nicklaus “Nick” Hague, as he was the next of the Air Force astronauts scheduled to fly to the International Space Station. His first launch was on Soyuz MS-10, which aborted shortly after take-off on October 11, 2018. His second launch, on March 14, 2019, was successful, taking him and his fellow Soyuz MS-12 crew members to join ISS Expedition 59/60. He would spend just more than 202 days in space and completed nearly 20 hours of extravehicular activities, or space walks, before returning to Earth in October of 2019.)
On the rare instances when Col. Tyler N. “Nick” Hague returns from a day at the office and walks through the door of his own home, the oldest of his two boys occasionally asks, “Daddy, were you in space today?”
Not such a childish question when you consider the actual distance and travel time when Hague finally rides into space aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket in September of 2018.
It will only take him about 12 minutes to arrive in low-Earth orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, only 249 miles above the planet’s surface. In comparison, Hague traveled two miles farther when he was just a boy of 12; a total of 251 miles from his home in Hoxie, Kansas, to Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he first laid eyes on the place where his journey into space would actually begin – the United States Air Force Academy.
“Growing up in western Kansas, staring up at the sky at night, seeing all those stars, I’ve always wanted to do something involved with space,” said Hague. “I couldn’t find a better program in terms of being able to study astronautical engineering with building actual satellites and doing all that hands on work at an undergraduate level. That just didn’t exist anywhere else at that time and so that was the place I wanted to go.”
He graduated from the academy and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1998 and began a 20-year journey that would bring him to the International Space Station to begin a six-month mission as flight engineer on ISS Expedition 57/58.
During this journey, Hague earned a masters degree in engineering from MIT, worked on advanced spacecraft technologies at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, flight tested at Edwards AFB, California, completed a five-month deployment to Iraq to conduct experimental airborne reconnaissance in 2004, returned to the Air Force Academy to teach astronautics, became an advisor for the U.S. Senate on national defense and foreign policy, served as a congressional appropriations liaison for United States Central Command at the Pentagon and finally as deputy division chief for research and development at the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization before being selected for astronaut training in 2013.
“I applied the first time (to the astronaut training program) in 2003, so it took 10 years and three applications in order to finally get selected,” said Hague. “Twenty years ago could I look at what was going to lie before me and map all of that out that would connect that point to this point? There are all these different opportunities that I would have never been able to line up on my own, but the service in the Air Force has made it possible.”
When he finally received his crew assignment, Hague quickly learned that being an astronaut still means racking up a lot of miles on earth.
In this calendar year of mission training, Hague has logged five flights from Houston to Star City, Russia, where he has spent 33 weeks training on the Russian ISS modules – which make up half of the station – and the Soyuz launch vehicle.
When combined with flights to the European Space Agency training facility in Colon, Germany, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Tsukuba Space Center north of Tokyo for eight more weeks of training on those agency’s modules this year, Hague is closing on 100,000 miles of travel within the Earth’s atmosphere to prepare for the relatively short commute to ISS.
Much of Hague’s time in Star City is spent training for that 12-minute trip aboard Soyuz into space and the corresponding return trip six months later. A training emphasis that fellow Air Force astronaut Col. Michael Hopkins explains exists for a very good reason.
“The majority of your training will be associated with the ride up and the ride home. We have a two-year training flow and as much as a year of your time during that two years will be spent over in Russia and your time in Russia the majority of that time is being spent on the Soyuz vehicle,” said Hopkins, who has already spent six months aboard ISS in 2013-2014. “But just like airplanes, the critical phase of flight is take off and landing. That’s when if anything goes wrong, when you don’t have that much time to deal with it. Aboard the ISS you usually have days if not weeks to assess and correct a problem.”
The overseas travel has two-week breaks when Hague returns to Houston for training on the US systems and for extravehicular activity (EVA), or spacewalks, and an opportunity to sleep in his own bed for a change. This fierce training and travel tempo is one of the drawbacks for astronauts, as well as their spouses and children.
NASA astronaut Robert Behnken, STS-130 mission specialist, takes a break in the mission’s second session of extravehicular activity (EVA) for construction and maintenance on the International Space Station in February of 2010 to allow air scrubbers to remove CO2 that had built up in his space suit. During the five-hour, 54-minute spacewalk, Behnken and astronaut Nicholas Patrick connected two ammonia coolant loops, installed thermal covers around the ammonia hoses, outfitted the Earth-facing port on the Tranquility node for the relocation of its Cupola, and installed handrails and a vent valve on the new module. (Photo/NASA)
“I spend six weeks in Star City, and then come back for a couple weeks, and then I’ll go back for six weeks,” said Hague. “There is a stress on the family, and they miss out on the things that I could be doing with them at home, and on the weekends. I’m TDY a lot, but my family’s making the same kinds of sacrifices that I see service families making day in and day out. I think that, that’s something that everybody that wears a uniform can appreciate.”
However, NASA has embarked on a new collaborative mission with commercial partners SpaceX and Boeing to provide an alternative to Soyuz for manned trips to and from the ISS. Cooperation in the development of new low-orbit launch vehicles by these commercial companies based in the United States will provide the Air Force with more orbital lift options and will also bring astronauts closer to home for training and for longer periods of time.
“It’s important for us to be able to return launch to Florida. You know, from a crew perspective, I can tell you that it makes it a whole lot easier on the crew, because you stop having to send people (to Star City, Russia) for six weeks at a shot over, and over, and over again and reduce the strain on the families,” said Hague.
“It’s also important from a redundancy perspective. Right now it’s Soyuz only, so if something happened with the Soyuz, now we’re looking for a way to get astronauts up there. It’ll provide us that flexibility to continue to fly Soyuz, and fly out of Florida and for the Russians to do the same.”
Once again the Air Force is a lynchpin in the development of a barrier breaking technology as astronaut Col. Robert Behnken is one of four test pilots for the commercial spacecraft and Hopkins is part of the team developing communications, displays and procedures for the new launch vehicles.
“Currently, my major focus is on one of those commercial crewed vehicles. It’s the Boeing CST-100 Starliner. I’m working as one of the CAPCOMs for that program; the communicator who would be talking to the astronauts in the vehicle as they’re going uphill and docking to the station,” said Hopkins. “There’s a lot of new material that we have to learn and figure out what the launch day is going to look like and what docking is going to look like and what the landing is going to look like.”
After one unmanned test of both the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, two-astronaut crews will fly subsequent tests before operational flights will begin taking six astronauts per flight to the ISS. Astronauts, such as Behnken, will not only flight-test the vehicles, but they are deeply involved in the design and development phase of the vehicles that is currently underway.
“The training for these missions is really wrapped into the development process. So we’re learning the vehicles as they’re designed and built, ” said Behnken, veteran of two of the Space Shuttle missions that built the ISS and the only active-duty member of the test crews. “(The test crews are) Air Force and Navy test pilot school graduates, and we’re really participating in a development process so that we can bring our space flight experience to the designs as they come to the table… that should wrap up around mid-2018 for both vehicles, and hopefully if the schedules hold, that’s when we’ll fly in space.”
These astronauts are the most recent in a continuing legacy of Air Force support of NASA and space exploration since the space program’s inception.
A total of eighty-five Air Force astronauts have traveled into space, from three of the first NASA astronauts, the Mercury Seven, Lt. Col. Gus Grissom, Col. Gordon Cooper and Major Deke Slayton, to two of the crew of Apollo 11, the first humans to set foot on the Moon, Col. Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Maj. Gen. Michael Collins to Col. Jack Fischer, flight engineer for ISS Expedition 51/52, currently traveling at over 17,000 miles per hour (5 miles per second) for 25,000 miles on each of his 15.5 orbits per day aboard ISS.
Still more, like Hague, are in training for upcoming flights, and numerous Air Force personnel support both manned and unmanned NASA missions.
“The Air Force is supporting the mission on a daily basis,” said Hague. “It’s flight docs assigned here, search and rescue crews that are helping bring us home, we’ve got the range support for launching cargo and soon we’re going to be launching Americans back out of Florida. There’s also guys that are looking at all the radar coming back down from space trying to track space debris and they help us prevent things from flying into the Space Station, so they’re protecting us on a daily basis.”
Of course, participation in the civilian space program reaps great benefits for the Air Force from supporting space exploration and research. “The Air Force gets access to space, and so from an expense standpoint, NASA’s already paid for that, now all you have to do is develop your experiment, and then we can get it onboard,” said Hopkins. “Then you get the astronaut’s time. We don’t go and charge the Air Force for the time of the astronaut on board that’s executing their experiment. You’re getting access to a microgravity laboratory, right? It’s a very unique laboratory, in fact the only one in existence.”
The Soyuz TMA-04M rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Tuesday, May 15, 2012 carrying Expedition 31 Soyuz Commander Gennady Padalka, NASA Flight Engineer Joseph Acaba and Flight Engineer Sergei Revin to the International Space Station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
The partnership between the Air Force and NASA is a collaborative research relationship that fills gaps in each other’s research and facilities.
According to Dr. Morley Stone, chief technology officer of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, the Air Force benefits from NASA’s experience with human performance in microgravity environments, as NASA benefits from the Air Force’s research in the macrogravity realm of high sustained G-forces.
Both are participating in research on hypersonics, autonomous systems, artificial intelligence and materials that can survive extreme environments.
“I would say certainly NASA is up near the top, as probably our most important federal partnership,” said Stone.
Life aboard the ISS is tightly scheduled to accommodate the necessary daily planning conference with ground controllers, two hours of exercise necessary to maintain the astronauts’ bodies in a microgravity environment, performing EVA for scheduled station maintenance or repairs and conducting the experiments sent to ISS by researchers on the ground, military and civilian.
However, on occasion, there are small gaps where astronauts can indulge the kid inside that still looks upon the cosmos in wonder. Behnken had such an opportunity on his second STS mission to install components on the ISS. During an EVA to install the cupola observation window for Earth observation and photography, Behnken and a crewmate exerted themselves to the point that exhaled carbon dioxide was building up inside their suits faster than the air scrubbers could eliminate it.
“My partner and I had both worked harder than the suit could keep up with, and we got the chance to take about a 15-minute break,” said Behnken.
“They told us to “Attach yourself to the space station, and sit there, and look around. And don’t breathe too hard, because we’re trying to catch up with the scrubbing that’s on the suit.
“When you’re outside on a spacewalk, you get a panorama view that just can’t be captured with any of the windows … You get to see sunrises, and sunset, and that angular view of the atmosphere with thunderstorms lightning themselves up,” said Behnken.
“It’s of the whole majesty of the Earth, which is just awesome.”
Not many remember the Australians’ commitment to aiding the United States in Vietnam, but the Aussies were there, and they sent their best. Australia’s best troops included their very own Special Air Service, special operators in the mold of Britain’s SAS, formidable fighters capable of bringing the enemy’s method of irregular warfare right back home to Hanoi.
The Aussies weren’t content with the M-16, for a number of reasons, so they opted instead to do a little frontier mechanical work on their weapons. The end product became known as “The Bitch.”
When you want to use an M-16 but your standards are higher.
When the M-16 first took over for the M-1 Garand as a standard-issue infantry weapon, the result was less than stellar. It jammed. A lot. Frustrated troops began leaving their M-16s at home and using AK-47s captured from the enemy instead. The Aussies preferred a weapon that worked. Even after the weapon was updated to fix its issues, the Australians still opted for a different solution. They liked how handy the M-16 could be, but they wanted the stopping power of a 7.62 round.
But the barrel of the S1A2 self-loading rifle was so heavy… what to do?
“Cor, mate… I ‘ave an idea…”
The Australian special operators lopped that heavy barrel and its tripod off at the end of the gas block. Then, the MacGuyvers from Down Under fashioned special flash suppressors for the new muzzle for those who wanted it. For those who didn’t, they just left the weapon without any kind of suppression at all. The new, shorter barrel was louder and produced a much bigger bang for the buck.
They wanted the Communists to know who was pulling the triggers and raining death on their Ho Chi Minh Trail parade. If that weren’t enough, sometimes the operators would put a pistol grip on the end so they could control the weapons in fully automatic settings. Others preferred a grenade launcher attachment.
A sandy white beach. Swaying palm trees. Cocktails made from coconut juice.
As frigid air and snowstorms whip across most of the U.S., service members may dream of trading their current duty station for an exotic Pacific paradise.
But they might want to think again, according to Bob Cunningham, a former Air Force radar operator whose first duty station was a tiny, oblong blister of land in the South China Sea. He knows it as North Danger Island.
For six months in 1956, Cunningham lived on a remote knob approximately 2,000 feet long and 850 feet wide in the Spratly Islands group located midway between the Philippine Islands and Vietnam. His home was a canvas tent and he manned radio and radar equipment for a secret Air Force project mapping the earth.
The mission was an aerial electronic geodetic survey. Specially equipped aircraft flew grid patterns and triangulated electromagnetic pulses sent between temporary ground stations hundreds of miles apart. The data, computed into highly accurate coordinates, would eventually provide targeting information for intercontinental ballistic missile development.
It was a ‘million dollar experience’ that he wouldn’t give two cents to repeat, Cunningham jokes today.
Not that it wasn’t an adventure, he admits.
Cunningham’s four-man team and all its equipment was helicoptered to the island from the deck of a Landing Ship, Tank (LST), along with the drinking water, fuel and rations the men would need to survive. Resupply occurred every 4-6 weeks by helicopter, supplemented by occasional parachute drops. A radio relay team of six Airmen had already established itself on the island and shared the same copse of trees.
“I was 22 years old. I was the kid on the island so it was a real experience,” Cunningham remembers. “I didn’t have a lot of sophistication psychologically, and that was a real psychological test for human beings, to be going like that.”
He was an Airman 2nd Class, a two-striper, with just over a year of service in the Air Force and some college education. His sergeants had seen combat during World War II and were wise to what the isolated team would endure. Their ingenuity, humor and direct leadership kept young Cunningham and the others on the island from mentally cracking.
To keep a low profile, the Airmen were ordered to stow their uniforms and wear civilian shorts and sneakers, sandals and cowboy hats instead.
The men also kept their pistols and M-1 Garand rifles ready, knowing that pirates and other possible threats roamed the waters surrounding them.
“The Chinese nationalists came by with a gun boat. A big, long vessel. Military. Chinese Navy,” Cunningham said. “And they had this big three-inch cannon on the front on a turret, and they swung that baby in toward our island, and they had some machine gun turrets, and pretty soon we saw boats come over the edge and some officers got on that and they came in to see who we were and what we were doing.”
The Airmen placed palm fronds along the beach to spell out U-S-A-F. The gunboat crew was satisfied and the standoff ended.
On another occasion, Okinawan fishermen came ashore to trade their fish for drinking water.
“They saw our 50-foot antenna that we put up for our radar set, our pulse radio, and so they were curious,” Cunningham said. “They came onboard and they were quite friendly.”
But visitors were the exception. Day after day, interaction was limited to within the tiny community of Airmen.
A feud between two staff sergeants took a bad turn when one threatened to kill the other.
Cunningham’s technical sergeant knew he had to step in and confront the enraged man. But first he warned Cunningham and the other radar operator that the situation could explode and that they might have to use their weapons.
“He said, ‘I’m calling him in here, I’m going to present this to him, our concern,'” Cunningham recalled. “‘If he gets up and breaks like I’ve seen a guy do it, he’ll run right over to the ground power tent where those guys live and he’ll just start shooting people.'”
Fortunately, there was no violence and the conflict was resolved.
“We had to stay up around the clock for a day or so to see what would happen in case we had to call for an SA-16 (amphibious flying boat) to come out with Air Police and come in and capture this guy, and we’re going to have to tie him up to a palm tree or something,” Cunningham said. “We didn’t know what was going to go on.”
The veteran sergeants kept up morale in other ways.
They improved the camp with funny signs, hand-made furniture and a wind-driven water pump. They cooked sea turtles for the men. And they improvised a way to make alcohol from coconut juice and cake mix.
Cunningham remembers the technical sergeant busy at his distillery ‘making moonshine.’ When the sergeant was asked why he was wearing his pistol, he replied that revenuers might come through and he couldn’t be interrupted.
That sense of humor was “what you really needed on a place like that to keep from cracking up,” Cunningham said.
For recreation, Cunningham would walk around the island and photograph the thousands of birds it attracted. He also tried diving off the reef once and became terrified by the absolute darkness.
“I opened up my eyes and it scared the bejeepers out of me,” he said. “It was total black. I couldn’t see anything. I got so danged scared, I came up and I got off and I got back to that reef and I never went back again.”
In the final month, he and the sergeant were the only humans left on the island. Two members of his team were evacuated. The radio relay team was relocated, taking their noisy generator with them. For the two men remaining, the silence at night was now ‘spooky’ – a lone coconut dropping from a tree was enough to send them scrambling for their weapons.
Cunningham’s experience on the reef forever changed how he relates to other people.
“I have an expression,” he said. “‘This guy sounds like a North Danger kind of guy,’ meaning somebody compatible, smart, you can get along with him, he’s got a good temper. Or this guy, I would not want to be with him on North Danger.”
Eligible veterans can submit a 1040X Amended U.S. Individual Tax Return for their reimbursement of taxes paid on their disability severance payment.
Army Lt. Col. David Dulaney, executive director for the Armed Forces Tax Council, said the Defense Department has identified more than 130,000 veterans who may be eligible for the refund.
According to the DoD’s press release:
“The deadline to file for the refund is one year from the date of the Defense Department notice, or three years after the due date for filing the original return for the year the disability severance payment was made, or two years after the tax was paid for the year the disability severance payment was made, according to the IRS.”
The IRS will accept a simplified method of filing for the refund, in which veterans claim a standard refund based on the year they received their disability severance payment. The standard refund amounts are as follows:
Tax years 1991 – 2005: id=”listicle-2587881382″,7590
Tax years 2006 – 2010: ,400
Tax years 2011 – 2016: ,200
The disability severance payment is not subject to federal income tax when a veteran meets the following criteria:
“The veteran has a combat-related injury or illness as determined by his or her military service at separation that resulted directly from armed conflict; took place while the member was engaged in extra-hazardous service; took place under conditions simulating war, including training exercises such as maneuvers; or was caused by an instrumentality of war.”
“The veteran is receiving disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs or has received notification from VA approving such compensation.”
Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act of 2016
The Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act of 2016 is the solution to eligible veterans being wrongly taxed on their severance payment. The bill asked the Department of Defense to examine disability severance payments that occurred after Jan. 17, 1991, that were included as taxable income.
Even if a veteran did not receive a letter from the Defense Department, they may still be eligible for a refund. Veterans who may be eligible can visit the IRS website and search “combat injured veterans” for further information.
Estates or surviving spouses can file a claim on behalf of a veteran who is now deceased.
This article originally appeared on G.I. Jobs. Follow @GIJobsMagazine on Twitter.
Having been married to someone in the military for almost a decade at this point, there are two things I learned quickly that will almost always be true. The first is that no matter what, there will always be at least one MRE somewhere in your house. The second, is that you will have to move. You will move a lot, you will move often, and there is a high likelihood you will have to move somewhere unfamiliar. While PCS and other forms of military travel are put on temporary hold right now, it can still be helpful to think of ways to make some of the more stressful, and sometimes more time consuming aspects, work for you.
Any move, military or otherwise, comes with obvious stressors and things to consider. From prospective jobs, future school districts, housing, and arguably the most stressful: trying to convince your friends to help pack the moving truck. While there are options in the military to have your things professionally packed and moved, my husband and I have always taken the more hands-on approach. Albeit more tedious, it has kind of become tradition for us. It gives us one last chance to say goodbye to friends we’ve made, pay them in pizza and beer and convince them that we really didn’t mean to pack some of those boxes so heavy.
I’ve gotten a lot of great advice from people over the years about the best way to adjust to a new duty station. It’s easier when you have built in ice breakers like school aged kids or more social hobbies, but overall, everyone learns to adjust in their own way. Something else that seemingly less significant or explored is the actual act of getting from point A to point B.
Even during the anxiety and uncertainty of our very first move, my favorite part of a PCS has always been hitting the road and making conscious efforts to plan our route in a memorable way. Our duty stations have been all over the country, so we’ve been able to cover some significant ground in a relatively short amount of time. There’s something about taking what is typically deemed more utilitarian and turning it into its own experience that really seems to feed the soul.
When I think about some of my favorite memories with my husband and kids, I think about our PCS roadtrips. Our oldest son visited the Grand Canyon and traveled through 23 states before his first birthday. We spent an entire day driving around Albuquerque, NM visiting filming locations from Breaking Bad, which admittedly was more of a personal bucket list item, but my husband had control of the radio that day, so we found a happy compromise.
Our youngest son travelled from Oregon to Louisiana before he was even born (nothing goes better with being seven months pregnant than driving 7 hours a day for a week straight). Both of our boys have managed to get really close to crossing off all 50 states since they’ve been our roadies. We’ve made our way through the good, the bad and the ugly of truck stops, hotels and roadside attractions–few things compare to some of those alien museums in Roswell, which really have the potential to encompass all three traits seamlessly.
We take the time before our move to look at a map and see what’s out there. Sure, there are days where it really is about getting up early and putting in those long hours to get some mileage under our belt, but we always try to counter that with something fun. Sometimes it can feel like “making the best out of a bad situation” if the move comes at an inopportune time, or there are outside factors at play.
One of the realities of being a military family is having a lot of things decided for you. That can seem like a daunting thing, and I would be lying if I said there weren’t times where it was really hard for us in one way or another.
At the end of the day it’s about looking for those silver linings in the inevitable. Taking stock in the situation and being able to make it into something you can look back on and appreciate having been in that place at that time. So many things in life are done with the outcome in mind, not the process. Military members and military families will undoubtedly spend a lot of time going from point A to point B, it comes with the territory. What that does however, is offer up the opportunity for adventure. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but sometimes it’s worth taking a detour.
Kathleen Bourque’s life with her fiancée Marine 1st Lt. Conor McDowell, was cut tragically short following a vehicle rollover accident that killed McDowell. Now, Bourque is channeling her grief into awareness about military vehicle rollovers.
In May 2019, Bourque’s fiancée was killed in a military training accident, days after being promoted, and just three months before their planned September wedding. Her life with her intended was cut tragically short after the accident that happened at Camp Pendleton.
McDowell and his crew set out on a route reconnaissance exercise with an order to recon Canyon Road at Camp Pendleton in preparation for a division-sized movement. Then McDowell made the decision to move the LAV off-road and drive it into tall vegetation, which isn’t unusual for cover and concealment. Light armored recon Marines are routinely taught that roads are dangerous and should be avoided to eliminate dust signatures.
The LAV that McDowell and his crew were operating crept slowly into six-foot-tall vegetation, which obstructed the driver’s vision. A corporal stood up and yelled for the driver to halt, but it was too late. The Marines inside never saw the ditch. The LAV plummeted down a 15-foot washout and rolled upside down. A command investigation obtained by the Marine Corps Times detailed that McDowell used his last moments alive to alert his crew that the vehicle was about to roll, actions that might’ve spared others more serious injury. Several of McDowell’s crew were injured.
The couple met in 2018 after connecting on a dating app, Hinge. McDowell had just graduated from the Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course in Virginia and was headed to Camp Pendleton for his next assignment. But before heading out west, McDowell took an 800-mile detour and went to visit Bourque in her North Carolina home. They spent just four days together before making the decision that Bourque would move with McDowell to California. Friends and family balked at the choice, but the couple was steadfast that it was the right thing to do.
The couple settled into life as much as they could. As a military girlfriend, Bourque had limited access to on-base resources. She couldn’t shop at the commissary, access fitness facilities, go to the MCX or check out books in the library. In the military, you’re either married or you’re single – there is no in-between. So when McDowell died, Bourque found herself and her status in limbo. She had to fight with McDowell’s chain of command to have her dead fiancé’s things shipped back across the country because she wasn’t listed as the next of kin on McDowell’s paperwork. At his funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, Bourque was told to “stand back” because she wasn’t considered, in the eyes of the military, “immediate family.”
Now she’s banded together with six other military fiancés who have lost their partners to military accidents, and she’s lobbying for change. As a group, they fight for their relationships to be considered valid in the eyes of the military. Because none of the Wild Gang was married, they don’t receive any Gold Star benefits and are largely forgotten by the larger military community.
Bourque thinks the accident should never have happened and has been reaching out to lawmakers on Capitol Hill to act on military vehicle rollover accidents. McDowell was one of four marines who died in a military vehicle rollover during training exercises in 2019. His death represents a slight uptick in non-combat-related tactical vehicle deaths for the Marine Corps. However, data from the Naval Safety Center shows that Marine tactical vehicle mishaps are at a ten-year low.
That disconnect is part of what Bourque is fighting for. Recognition as a military widow and the fact that some vehicle deaths might go unreported keeps her fighting for McDowell’s memory. She maintains that widows, no matter their official marriage status, should be treated unequivocally with the same level of respect across all branches of the military.
U.S. prosecutors have filed a lawsuit to seize the gasoline aboard four tankers that Iran is currently shipping to Venezuela, the latest attempt to increase pressure on the two sanctioned anti-American allies.
The civil-forfeiture complaint filed in the District of Columbia federal court late on July 1 claims the sale was arranged by an Iranian businessman with ties to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization.
Since September 2018, the IRGC’s elite Quds Force has moved oil through a sanctioned shipping network involving dozens of ship managers, vessels, and facilitators, according to the lawsuit.
“The profits from these activities support the IRGC’s full range of nefarious activities, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, support for terrorism, and a variety of human rights abuses, at home and abroad,” the prosecutors alleged.
Iran’s mission to the United Nations said that any attempt by the United States to prevent Iranian lawful trading with any country of its choosing would be an act of “piracy.”
The four tankers named in the complaint — the Bella, Bering, Pandi, and Luna — are carrying 1.1 million barrels of gasoline, the U.S. prosecutors said.
The Justice Department said on July 2 that U.S. District Judge James Boasberg issued a warrant to seize all the gasoline on the vessels, “based on a probable cause showing of forfeitability.”
The United States has been pressing for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s ouster with a campaign of diplomatic and punitive measures, including sanctions on its energy sector.
The South American country is suffering from a gasoline shortage amid a ravaging economic crisis.
Tensions have been on the rise between Tehran and Washington since 2018, when the United States withdrew from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and reimposed crippling sanctions that have battered the Iranian economy.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced that he will be resigning from his role in February. His letter of resignation was released by the Pentagon just minutes after President Trump said on Twitter that Mattis was retiring.
For the President’s tweet and Secretary Mattis’ full resignation letter, please read below:
(Department of Defense photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)
Dear Mr. President:
I have been privileged to serve as our country’s 26th Secretary of Defense which has allowed me to serve alongside our men and women of the Department in defense of our citizens and our ideals.
I am proud of the process that has been made over the past two years on some of the key goals articulated in our National Defense Strategy: putting the Department on a more sound budgetary footing, improving readiness and lethality in our forces, and reforming the Department’s business practices for greater performance. Our troops continue to provide the capabilities needed to prevail in conflict and sustain strong U.S. global influence.
One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliance and partnerships. While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies. Like you, I have said from the beginning that the armed forces of the United States should not be the policeman of the world. Instead, we must use all tools of American woes to prove for the common defense, including proving effective leadership to our alliances. NATO’s 29 democracies demonstrated that strength in their commitment to fighting alongside us following the 9-11 attack on America. The Defeat-ISIS coalition of 74 nations is further proof.
Similarly, I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours: It is clear that China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model — gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions — to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies. That is why we must use all the tools of American power to provide for the common defense.
My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues. We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity, and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.
Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my positions. The end date for my tenure is February 28, 2019, a date that should allow sufficient time for a successor to be nominated and confirmed as well as to make sure the Department’s interests are properly articulated and protected at upcoming events to include Congressional posture hearings and the NATO Defense Ministerial meeting in February. Further, that a full transition to a new Secretary of Defense occurs well in advance of the transition of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in September in order to ensure stability within the Department.
I pledge my full effort to a smooth transition that ensure the needs and interests of the 2.15 million Service Members and 732.079 DoD civilians receive undistracted attention of the Department at all times so that they can fulfill their critical, round-the-clock missions to protect the American people.I very much appreciate this opportunity to serve the nation and our men and women in uniform. Signed, James N. Mattis
The 48th Fighter Wing held an inter-fighter squadron “Turkey Shoot,” at RAF Lakenheath, England, on Sept. 26, 2019.
The Turkey Shoot is an operational competition that tests the preparation and performance of fighter pilots, intelligence professionals, aircraft maintainers, and air battle managers.
“The event takes the newest flight leads, instructors and wingmen from each squadron, puts them together into one four-ship formation to represent that squadron, and then hands them a demanding tactical problem to solve,” said Capt. Sam Wozniak, 492nd Fighter Squadron weapons system operator flight lead.
The competition is executed as a Defensive Counter Air mission. Competition planners, known as “White Forces,” set the parameters for each fighter squadron’s “blue air” team.
“The White Forces provided the special instructions, rules of the competition, and a point system matrix,” Wozniak said. “For example, successful target defense equated 20 points and achieving missile kills equated 5 points and the team with the most points at the end wins.”
The scenario pitted four blue air F-15s against 14 “red air” F-15s to defend specified targets.
In preparation, blue players had to determine the desired combat air patrol locations, distance triggers to advancing enemy forces, and inter-flight contacts for each formation to optimize mission success.
An F-15C Eagle from the 493rd Fighter Squadron prepares for takeoff in support of an inter-fighter squadron “Turkey Shoot” competition at RAF Lakenheath, England, Sept. 26, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhonda Smith)
“From the mass brief, each formation splits off for flight-specific briefs to discuss the execution plan and expectations/responsibilities for each flight member during the fight,” Wozniak said.
In this iteration of the Turkey Shoot, the squadrons had the opportunity to incorporate interoperability tactics to enhance the effectiveness of their pre-coordinated strategy.
An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 492nd Fighter Squadron kicks off the Turkey Shoot competition at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, Sept. 26, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhonda Smith)
An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 494th Fighter Squadron, takes flight in support of an inter-fighter squadron “Turkey Shoot” competition at RAF Lakenheath, England, Sept. 26, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhonda Smith)
An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 494th Fighter Squadron, launches in support of an inter-fighter squadron “Turkey Shoot” competition at RAF Lakenheath, England, Sept. 26, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhonda Smith)
“Broadly speaking, fighter pilots and fighter weapons systems officers need three things to survive and thrive … readiness, competition, and camaraderie,” said Col. Jason Camilletti, 48th Operations Group commander.
“Turkey shoots advance our wing’s readiness by stressing our newest flight leads and wingmen in a very challenging high-end scenario, and the adrenaline rush of competing to win is the closest thing we can do short of actual combat,” Camilletti said.
An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 494th Fighter Squadron, launches in support of an inter-fighter squadron “Turkey Shoot” competition at RAF Lakenheath, England, Sept. 26, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhonda Smith)
As US Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa’s premier combat wing, complex exercises such as this ensure the 48th Fighter Wing remains ready to defend sovereign skies and deter any aggressor.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
More than 250 new Virginia Beach City Public School (VBCPS) secondary teachers (those who teach children between the ages of 11 and 18) and school counselors participated in scenario-based training at Tallwood High School in Virginia Beach, Aug. 22- 23, 2018, which afforded them a unique opportunity to learn about and experience firsthand some of the challenges military families face during a permanent change of station (PCS) move.
The training, titled “The PCS Challenge – Building Empathy for Transitioning Students,” engaged the participants by simulating a military PCS move in an effort to help them better understand the lives of military families and helped to generate empathy toward transitioning military-affiliated students. Local Hampton Roads installation school liaison officers (SLOs) provided intrinsic value and credibility to the training by ensuring the information presented was both timely and relevant with regard to military policies, culture and trends. Throughout the scenarios, the SLOs donned the hats of detailers, Fleet and Family representatives, and various school staff members to test the mettle of the participants. They also provided feedback and expertise in their respective areas to assist the participants when questions or issues came up.
Each participant was given a family assignment and an initial duty station to start. Some were given the role of the service member, others played the role of a spouse, a child, or multiple children if applicable. Of the family units that had multiple children, a least one of those children had special needs and were enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP), which is a mandatory enrollment program that works with other military and civilian agencies to provide comprehensive and coordinated community support, housing, educational, medical, and personnel services to families with special needs.
The training scenarios included military acronyms and jargon, emotional stages of the PCS cycle, a duty station wish list or “dream sheet,” receiving orders for the service member and/or connecting with the Fleet Family Support Center for the spouse, doing a pack out and deciding what items could be taken with the family to the new duty station based on rate/rank and the weight of household goods allotted, choosing specific housing to meet the needs of the family, and deregistering and registering a child/children in a new school. Like a real PCS move, each choice made along the way by the participants caused a potential impact on the service member, the family unit as a whole, and ultimately the child(ren).
Karen Phillips, a School Liaison Officer for Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek, plays the role of a detailer for simulated military service members during a scenario exercise as part of The PCS Challenge ” Building Empathy for Transitioning Students training that was offered by the Military Support Program for Virginia Beach Public Schools at Tallwood High School in Virginia Beach, Aug. 23, 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by David Todd)
One of the biggest obstacles military families face during a PCS move is not having enough time to prepare, especially when faced with the various items required by the school districts for student enrollment. The training scenarios amplified the stress levels by giving the participants a very short period of time to make major family life decisions.
“Because this training was interactive and simulated, each participant actually became a member of a military family,” explained Debbie Patch, the Regional School Liaison Officer who assisted VBCPS with the training. “Each participant was given characteristics with their new military family role and each participant played their role accordingly. The groups made ‘family’ decisions based on their unique situation. It is my hope that this training provided the participants with an experience that will give them a greater awareness of the unique challenges military students face as a result of their parent’s service to our country. I believe that once someone has experienced this training, there can be no doubt that all military children ‘serve too.'”
Although many of the participants did not have a background of working with military families, some were military spouses new to the area and were able to offer some hands-on experience to help their peers.
“Their life experiences make it real for the people in their group,” said Karen Phillips, the SLO for Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek who was one of four SLOs in attendance to assist VBCPS and the teachers during the training. “They are not just hearing from us [SLOs], they are hearing it from people with experience who are sitting right there at the table with them.”
Participants discuss their pack out and family housing selection during a scenario exercise as part of The PCS Challenge ” Building Empathy for Transitioning Students training that was offered by the Military Support Program for Virginia Beach Public Schools at Tallwood High School in Virginia Beach, Aug. 23, 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by David Todd)
The training was originally developed by Army SLOs that work for Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County, Virginia. The collaborative team of SLOs and VBCPS personnel were fortunate to see the training delivered to Northern Virginia school personnel last year and were eager to bring the PCS Challenge to Virginia Beach Schools.
“The ‘PCS Challenge’ was a collaboration that began between Virginia Beach City Public Schools, the Navy Regional Mid-Atlantic School Liaison Officer, and the VBCPS SLOs,” said Natalie Meiggs, the Coordinator of Military Support Programs for Virginia Beach City Public Schools. “An area of support for transitioning military students was identified through a needs assessment that was conducted from a Department of Defense Education Activity [DoDEA] grant called ‘Project GRIT.'”
The basic session of the PCS Challenge took approximately 80 hours to develop and the content in each session is tailored to meet the audience. The sessions range from one to two hours depending on the complexity of the scenarios and the number and type of participants in attendance. Overall, more than 300 hours have been devoted to developing and crafting the program.
Meiggs explained that approximately 25 percent of the school division’s student population is comprised of active duty, military-dependent youth, and noted that VBCPS is committed to providing support, resources and enrichment programs to enhance the educational experiences of those children and their families.
“Our military-connected students transition about every three years,” she explained “So they could possibly attend six to nine schools in their K-12 educational career.”
“The goal of the PCS Challenge training for teachers is to help them understand more about military life and build empathy about the moving process,” said Phillips. “After participating in this interactive session, teachers will better understand the challenges military families face when having to PCS and be inspired to assist in making the transition smoother for their students.”
Debbie Patch, the Regional School Liaison Officer, helps to hand out family assignment packages to participants during The PCS Challenge ” Building Empathy for Transitioning Students training offered by the Military Support Program for Virginia Beach Public Schools at Tallwood High School in Virginia Beach, Aug. 23, 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by David Todd)
VBCPS has further demonstrated their commitment to military families by collaborating with SLOs on various other projects, including “Art of Being a Military Child,” military volunteer opportunities and Navy birthday school outreach, the Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story oyster restoration project, and the 5th Grade STEM LAB Learning Day field trip at NAS Oceana, among others.
Meiggs said she always looks for new ways to improve the training and values the feedback she receives during each session, but emphasizes that military families should contact their respective SLOs prior to PCSing to help navigate the nuisances of school districts and ease the school enrollment process.
“I want to continuously learn from the participants each time the PCS Challenge is completed,” she said. “I am always learning how the training can be improved to increase understanding of the military culture and how I can improve my own practice of supporting our military families. The PCS Challenge is adapted to meet the needs of the audience each time it is delivered.”
Patch said the training is also beneficial for SLOs, who work directly with military families and schools across the Hampton Roads area during the school year, as well as during summer and winter breaks.
“The SLOs work daily with families who face real educational challenges as they move from state to state, and city to city,” she said. “Each state and city have different educational policies and procedures that must be navigated by military families. SLOs have been able to ensure that this training emphasizes to educators that military families’ frame of reference is the previous school’s policies and experiences. Enabling local teachers to understand this mindset helps them to better understand military families and how to support them.”
In addition to the recent training, VBCPS and SLOs have offered similar training to military family life counselors; as well as coordinators, directors, administrators, school counselors, teachers, and leadership teams throughout VBCPS since its inception. Similar training is scheduled to be offered to Chesapeake Public School’s elementary school counselors in September 2018, with secondary school counselors training scheduled later in the year.