Oh the joys of the holidays! The fresh pine in the air, peppermint flavored everything and attempting to figure out the schedule to see all the relatives in a short period of time.
Surviving the holidays is challenging enough as it as, but as a new mom, the holidays are even more stressful. Germs aside, there is so much to think about when it comes to your new little present this year. While this time is filled with cheer, family, and love it can also feel overwhelming very quickly. Hopefully these tips may put your mind at ease to create a more peaceful and enjoyable holiday season.
Establish boundaries as soon as the family starts discussing plans for holidays. If you and your spouse decide that you are going to spend Christmas day at your home, then DO NOT change your plans. Keep the holidays reasonably stress free for your family. It is a huge hassle to drive all over town to every family members’ house, have a full day with a happy baby, not to mention constantly getting in and out of the car seat.
Talk to both sets of grandparents and try to get them on the same page of where you all will see each other for the holidays. If any of you are like my spouse and I managing two sets of divorced parents, we have already laid down the law that we will not be spending our Christmas day driving between 5 homes. If leave time is not conducive to the holidays, then let your family know and throw out the invite for them to come visit your home. Don’t be afraid to be assertive to help create a more peaceful holiday experience for you and your family.
The biggest thing to remember during the holidays is to be a little SELFISH and not feel guilty about it. During the holiday season, everyone wants to be surrounded by family, but do not make decisions based on guilt. Make time for the family members that mean the most to you, and let your family know what your plans are, but don’t lose your sanity just to please everyone else. The happiness of your immediate family is what is most important, especially if you are on a super short leave period. If your spouse is not in town for the holidays, still run through your holidays plan with them so they feel included even when they are many miles away.
The stress of creating a magical first holiday year for your newborn could take over the enjoyment of the day, but soak in the moments with your little one while they are still little. Take many, many pictures, and be safe this holiday season.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
The military has a lot of official and unofficial awards for when tragedy strikes. Soldiers saved by their helmets often receive sections of the helmet after it is studied. Troops hit by enemy weapons get Purple Hearts. And aviators flying for the Army are awarded “Broken Wings” when they manage to avoid a crash or crash safely when tragedy strikes in mid-flight.
The Broken Wing Award dates back to March 1968, and it has been awarded to hundreds of air crewmembers and pilots for avoiding crashes or minimizing the damage resulting from them.
In 2016, Navy aviator Ms. Barbara Gordon became the first sailor to earn the award when she took part in a training flight with an Army pilot. They were practicing an exercise on just one engine in a UH-60L Black Hawk when that engine failed, and the helicopter began to fall at almost 12,000 feet per minute. In that emergency, the two pilots had to take turns taking certain actions to save it, but they managed to do so in the only five seconds they had to avoid a deadly crash.
The award is typically given for in-flight emergencies caused by mechanical failure or environmental factors, though the guidelines for it do say that enemy action isn’t a disqualifier. While receiving the award is considered an honor, it’s not something anyone hopes for.
Maj. Gen. Joel K. Tyler, commander of the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, presents the U.S. Army Broken Wing Award to Chief Warrant Officer 3 Sylvia Grandstaff.
(Collin Magonigal, RTC)
“I appreciate the award,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 James Hagerty while receiving the award for saving his helicopter after a cardboard box went through the engine. “I don’t think I want to earn another one though.”
The helicopter had suffered engine failure, and the pilots had to carefully tip the helicopter over a cliff and then use the speed and power from the fall to reach a safe landing spot and do a “roll-on landing” where they have no power left to flare and hover, so they touchdown and roll to a stop instead. So, a controlled crash off of a cliff. No one wants that.
And no pilot wants to face any of the situations that result in a Broken Wing Award nomination. Not the crash off the cliff, not the midair power failure that Gordon suffered, not the midair crash that Odum and Desjardins survived.
An aircrew member must, through outstanding airmanship, minimize or prevent aircraft damage or injury to personnel during an emergency situation. Aircrew member must have shown extraordinary skill while recovering an aircraft from an in-flight emergency situation. If more than one crewmember materially contributed to successful recovery from the emergency, each of those involved should be considered for nomination.
Each in-flight save by Army aviators represents lives saved and airframes preserved. Obviously, the lives are more important than the helicopters, and occasional plane (the Army has very few planes, so the award naturally goes predominantly to helicopter pilots), but each helicopter saved does represent millions of dollars saved by the Army.
It’s the award no one wants to earn, the Army doesn’t want to have to give out, but each time an aviator gets their broken wings, lives are saved, and aircraft stay in the fleet.
The grassy hill surrounding the arena is packed full of spectators and family members. The emcee calls out a dancer’s name; there’s movement in the crowd. The competitor makes it into the arena, throws out his hoops for his sequence.
Upon the dancer’s cue, the drum starts singing. Bells on his ankles sing in time with each beat of the drum and each step he makes.
He has five minutes to convey a story, using small hoops as his medium to paint each scene, as part of the 28th Annual Heard Museum World Championship Hoop Dance Contest held in Phoenix in 2018.
“The competition opens everyone’s eyes to the Native American culture,” said Timothy Clouser, the museum’s facilities director and a Navy veteran. “I find it very fascinating how each dancer puts their own artistic expression in their dance and story they are trying to convey. Not one dance is the same.”
Brian Hammill, an Army veteran of the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin and a previous World Hoop Dance champion, competed in Phoenix. He uses his dancing to help bridge the cultural gap between Native Americans and non-natives, sharing his culture everywhere he goes.
“As native people, we don’t give gifts of objects because an object goes away, but we give the gift of a song, or a dance,” Hammill said. “When you do that, if you give somebody a song, and you tell them, ‘Every time you sing this song, you tell the story,’ or ‘Every time you do this dance, you tell the story and you give it away,’ that dance will last forever. That’s how this hoop dance carries on; it’s given from one person to the next.”
Army veteran Brian Hammill of the Ho-Chunk Nation applies face paint before grand entry at the 28th Annual Heard Museum World Championship Hoop Dance Contest at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, Feb. 10, 2018.
(Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anita C. Newman)
The hoop dance is different than other Native American dances, such as powwow dancing. Powwows are inter-tribal celebrations of Native American culture. Tribal affiliation doesn’t matter, nor does what region someone is from. It doesn’t even matter if someone is native or non-native.
Powwow dancing consists of at least six categories. Men’s categories include the fancy dance, grass dance and traditional dance. Women’s categories are the fancy dance, jingle dress and traditional dance.
The hoop dance regalia is minimal compared to that of the powwow dances. Typically, a hoop dancer will wear a shirt, breechcloth, side drops, sheep skin, bells (or deer hooves) and moccasins. The colors and designs are specific to each person. The hoops are small and vary in size, typically depending on the height of the dancer. Sometimes they have designs on them, again, specific to each dancer.
“Traditionally, the hoops were made out of willow, depending on where the tribe was located,” Hammill said. “I make mine out of a very exotic wood called plastic.”
The hoop dance has different origin stories with a common thread that it originated in the Southwest. To some native nations, the hoop dance is a healing dance, Hammill said. A hoop would traditionally be passed over an afflicted person, then the dancer would break that hoop and never use it again.
“Basically, it was a way of taking away all that pain or sickness away,” Hammill said. “That’s not done in public. There is also a story of the children, the Taos Pueblo children. It is said that the children saw this ceremony taking place and began to emulate what they saw. Instead of telling the kids, ‘No, you can’t do this,’ the adults encouraged them. They began to sing songs for them. They took what was a prayer and made it something the kids could do. So, basically, the dance changed, it evolved.
“In the north, it tells of a warrior’s journey,” he continued. “As you see these hoops come together, they start to make formations. You’ll see the eagle, the butterfly, the warrior on the battlefield defending his family, the clouds in the sky.”
Each person, he explained, will see that dance in a different way, interpret the story differently. There are hundreds of hoop dance stories, but each one revolves around the sacred circle of life.
“The significance of the hoops is that it represents the circle of life. There’s no beginning and no ending,” Hammill said. “We are taught that each and every one of us — doesn’t matter who we are, where we come from, the color of our skin — we are all created equal in that sacred hoop.”
Another part of Hammill’s culture that he lives every day is the tradition of service.
“The way I was always taught is, as a native person, we are always here to serve the people,” he said.
U.S. Army veteran, Brian Hammill of the Ho-Chunk Nation, competes at the 28th Annual Heard Museum World Championship Hoop Dance Contest at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona on Feb. 10, 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anita C. Newman)
“We serve them by cooking and providing food for them. We teach them, or protect them. One of the greatest things I was always taught that we do, is we put ourselves in harm’s way to protect our families and our identity. It was something I’ve always wanted to do, I felt I needed to do.”
Hammill enlisted in the Army while still in high school. He went to basic training during the summer between his junior and senior years, and went on active duty after graduation.
“It’s just something that we do,” he said. “You’ll find that throughout the United States, there are a higher percentage of native veterans per capita than any other race.”
While he was stationed in South Korea, one of his first sergeants learned that he had danced while growing up, and asked Hammill to share his culture with everyone. He performed the men’s fancy dance for his fellow soldiers.
“A lot of these soldiers weren’t exposed to different cultures, so he had me do one of my first presentations there,” he said. “I called my dad in Wisconsin, and he shipped all of my dance regalia to me. I started doing presentations for the people I was stationed with, and in different areas throughout the Korean theater. That’s where I really got the passion to share the story, and I found out how important it is.”
Hammill was introduced to the hoop dance prior to his transition out of the military in 1994. Back then, he would travel about 120 miles from Fort Polk, Louisiana, to Livingston, Texas, where he performed and danced with the Alabama-Coushatta tribe.
“A good friend of mine, Gillman Abbey, basically gave me this hoop dance,” he said. “He told me the story. He told me every time I dance, to always make sure I share the story, and give the dance.”
He said the hoop dance helped him heal from his time in service. Still brand new to hoop dancing, Hammill actually competed in the World Hoop Dance Championship for the first time about six months after he got out of the military.
“I was 24, in the adult division,” he said. “I remember I was scared because this is a huge competition. Some of the dancers I’m still dancing with today pulled me aside, said to me, ‘Hey, you’re doing good. Let me show you some different moves. Let me help you.’ I’ll never forget that because that’s what really kept me coming back. Being here, feeling that hoop and how it affects people, it keeps me coming back. It took me a long time, about 15 years, until I won my first world title. I moved to the senior division and won four more. But it’s a family. It really is something we all have in common.”
2020 continues to be a curveball of a year. When it comes to planning for Thanksgiving, who knows what to expect.
Still, in keeping with the absolute insanity that has been this year, I thought I would keep it flowing through this holiday celebration. I almost considered going full out rouge and having a pool-party themed turkey day, or why not space dinosaurs while I am at it? In the end, I decided to keep the tradition of lovingly prepared food intact, while just switching things up a little bit.
With COVID-19 this year, gatherings may look different than normal. So, whether you are cooking for two or 20, I wanted to offer these up to you for a slightly less traditional, but nostalgic Thanksgiving nonetheless. Instead of turkey, a rosemary and pistachio crusted rack of lamb. For sides, a wintery squash, kale and pomegranate salad as well as pearl couscous with toasted almonds and middle eastern spices. I have even included the most adorable little pumpkin treats for dessert.
Non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner recipes
Pistachio Rosemary Crusted Rack of Lamb
3 lbs rack of lamb
2 tbsp olive oil
4-5 sprigs rosemary, stem removed
¾ cup shelled pistachios
1 tsp salt
1 small jar stone-ground Dijon
3 cloves garlic
Trim excess fat from lamb.
In a food processor, blend all other ingredients until smooth.
Generously slather all over the lamb and allow it to “marinate” for 45 minutes or more.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and place your lamb onto a sheet pan, preferably with an elevated rack.
Cook for 30-45 minutes, depending on desired doneness.
Allow the meat to rest for 8-10 minutes before serving.
Pearl Couscous with Toasted Almonds and Butternut Squash
4.4 oz pearl couscous (also known as Israeli couscous)
1 yellow onion, finely diced
5 cloves of garlic, finely diced
1 tbsp butter
2 cups of toasted almonds
2 cups diced butternut squash
½ cup mint leaves, chopped
½ cup cilantro leaves, chopped
¼ cup parsley leaves, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
3 lemons, juiced and zested
2 tsp salt
½ tbsp coriander
½ tbsp cumin
¼ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp turmeric
1 cup feta
Cook the onion and garlic until translucent and fragrant and set aside.
Roast the butternut squash in the oven for 30 minutes and set aside.
Cook couscous as described on the package until tender and set aside.
In a large bowl (large enough to hold all these ingredients once combined), whisk together olive oil, lemon zest and juice, all spices and chopped herb leaves. Add all other finished ingredients (cooked couscous, toasted almonds, roasted butternut squash, feta, cooked onions and garlic) and mix until well incorporated. Garnish with more herbs if desired.
Winter Kale Salad with Roasted Acorn Squash and Pomegranate
(There are no real specific measurements for this one, just a friendly suggestion of ingredients that go really well together.)
Kale, stem removed, torn into small pieces
1 pomegranate, arils removed
1 acorn squash (slice into 1 ½ inch thick rings, drizzled with honey and sprinkled with salt and cinnamon. Roast for 30 minutes at 350 degrees)
1 honey crisp apple, diced into ½ cubes
3/4ish cups pepitas (pumpkins seeds)
Favorite vinaigrette dressing (something apple cider vinegar-based would be great)
Start with your base of the kale, add the cooked acorn squash, diced apples, pomegranate arils, pepitas and feta. Dress when ready to serve.
The frosting recipe can be halved for this recipe, but feel free to make it all in case you want an excuse to make something else that needs frosting.
1 box vanilla bean cake mix
1 16-oz can pumpkin pie mix
1 ½ cups salted butter, room temperature
½ cup cream cheese, room temperature
4 ½ cups powdered sugar
3-4 tbsp heavy whipping cream
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
Cinnamon sticks for decoration
In a stand mixer, combine the cake mix and the pumpkin pie mix.
Generously spray a mini Bundt cake pan with cooking spray, and add the mixture into each tin spot.
Bake for 17 minutes at 350. Remove from tray, set aside and allow to cool. Once cooled, carefully take a bread knife and slice the excess cooked tops off. (You can keep these and make pumpkin whoopie pies with them.)
Make your frosting by combining the rest of the ingredients into a stand mixer and whip until fluffy and well incorporated. Transfer to a piping bag.
When you are ready to frost, put your frosting on one Bundt cake and then sandwich with another piece.
Pipe “leaves” on the top and stick a cinnamon stick down the middle.
No one wants to be a buzz kill. That’s the soft social put down we use to avoid an uncomfortable confrontation or even harder — a self-reflection about alcohol. A topic that has a longstanding relationship with the military community in both good ways and bad.
In InDependent’s bold new series “Wellness Unfiltered” they’re going there, into the harder to uncomfortable spaces military wellness typically shies away from in hopes to support the community and stand together to face tough topics.
Justine Evirs, a social entrepreneur, Navy veteran and Navy spouse is not what you would picture as the face of someone struggling with alcohol. In fact, that’s exactly the reason Evirs decided to step up. “There’s no representation here, not as a veteran, as a woman or minority,” she said candidly. “I’m not homeless. I am a mother, a recognized leader and for a long time didn’t see myself as having any issue until I became more familiar with the four stages of alcoholism,” Evirs said, who in the series breaks down the four stages through her own story and provides educational resources and facts.
On the other microphone is Kimberly Bacso of InDependent who explains the goal of the four-part series is to, “present a non-victimizing approach to give the community the tools we need to both destigmatize and recognize what this looks like.”
“Through this exposure we can now be there for each other, even in simple ways like providing attractive non-alcoholic options at gatherings,” Bacso said. InDependent’s approach to wellness as a wider, holistic standpoint really lends itself to tackling and supporting spouses in this space.
Not having a true picture of what healthy drinking looks like was one component of the larger issue for Evirs, who explained she spent years in stages one and two. “There are different stages and different types of alcoholics. With this conversation, my hope is that we can start asking ourselves why we’re drinking — is it to manage stress? And further, to look at our current drinking relationship from a longevity standpoint — will this be ok in five to 10 years?”
In case you’re curious, the lines between stages are not DUIs, arrests or an unmanageable life. The changes are subtle, and depending on the social company you keep, can go unrecognized or become “normalized” through a skewed perception.
Fear was definitely an inhibitor for Evirs, who admits she feared not only the stigma of this label for herself but the impact it may have on her husband’s career also. “Addiction leads to loneliness, something we already have enough of as military spouses,” Evirs said.
To make recognition worse, Evirs explains that the disease remains largely self-diagnosed. Fear, shame and an unhealthy media portrayal of healthy drinking patterns have shrouded this taboo topic for far too long.
What we love about the series is how it comes across as authentic and is hosted within the safe space of InDependent’s blog and Facebook community. “The series is embedded with links where anyone can find resources as well as the entire four-part conversation well after we’ve streamed them live,” Bacso said.
So, what’s the takeaway here no matter where you identify at any stage of the spectrum? Empowerment and the forward motion of the entire military community. “Even if this is not you, I’m willing to bet you know someone who has an unhealthy relationship with alcohol,” Evirs said.
Here’s to an informed and healthy future. In part two, Evirs explains how perspective has changed how she views the “bonding” that is associated with drinking. Are we really connecting over our talents and who we are as people, or is it the drinks?
We’re looking forward to connecting to a changing culture, no matter what is in your hands.
Marines assigned to Marine Wing Support Squadron 271, Marine Aircraft Group 14, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing fill sand bags during a field exercise aboard Marine Corps Auxiliary Landing Field Bogue, N.C., Nov. 30, 2016. MWSS-271 conducted a two-week field exercise that focused on maintaining the squadron’s expeditionary mindset and included an evaluation by the Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation system. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. N.W. Huertas/ Released)
Let’s face it; no one actually likes going to the field. Round-the-clock operations, sleeping on the ground, and spending way too much time with the people you work with can take its toll. Next time you prep for the field, be sure to consider bringing these items to make your field experience a little more bearable. Just be sure that they’re not contraband. Sergeant Major yelling at you is the opposite of what we’re trying to achieve here.
In most cases, a portable stove is an approved item to bring to the field. One of the most common stoves is the convenient Jetboil. Available in a variety of sizes and powered by easily-packed fuel canisters, Jetboil stoves can be used to boil water to warm MREs, cook instant ramen, make coffee, and even shave with (just be sure to boil more water and wash it out afterwards). Also, be careful operating it so that you don’t end up like Cpl. Ray Person after Rudy’s espresso machine went off like a 40 mike mike (if you know, you know).
They fold flat and can easily be stuffed in an assault pack (Rothco)
2. Folding stool
Look, laying in the prone for hours sucks, especially if the ground is cold, wet, and full of bugs. Some grunts and snake eaters live for that sort of thing, but for those of us that don’t, there’s the folding stool. When you come off the line and into the center of the patrol base for some chow, a stool to sit on is a simple luxury that can make all the difference. Plus, you won’t have to fight with your buddies over who gets to sit on the few remaining unopened MRE boxes. You didn’t hear it from me, but you might even consider popping a squat on your folding stool while pulling security. Just don’t get caught.
Maybe bring a spare pack for your buddies (Pampers)
3. Baby wipes
This one is almost a given, but you’d be surprised how often troops forget their baby wipes. If you do forget them, you’d better hope your buddies are willing to share theirs. Otherwise, it’s the MRE napkins for you. Aside from helping you answer nature’s call, baby wipes also provide the cooling relief of a “field shower”, which can be all you need to unwind after a day of patrols. If you’ll be wearing face camo during your time in the field, consider packing makeup wipes as well. They’re better suited for cutting through the thick and waxy face paint than regular baby wipes.
The Iceman knows the value of a can of Beefaroni (HBO)
4. Civilian food
Again, this one is almost a given. That said, packing lists can sometimes explicitly forbid bringing any type of food, so read yours carefully…or just hide your food well. Sunflower seeds can help relieve boredom when you’re static for hours on end, beef jerky can keep you going during those long foot patrols, and a can of Chef Boyardee (heated with your portable stove) might be the morale boost you need to make it through the final days of your op. Need a convenient way to carry your food while having it easily accessible? Consider adding a magazine dump pouch to your kit. Just don’t let First Sergeant catch you pulling gummy worms out of it.
The famous Gulf War Gameboy is completely original (Nintendo)
5. Nintendo Gameboy
Or really, whatever portable game system you want. I’ve seen everything from PSPs in sunglasses cases to a Switch stuffed in a Crown Royal bag. That said, an old-school Gameboy offers you an easily concealable platform, absurdly long battery life, and the chance to beat the Elite Four again. A Gameboy can also be quickly switched off and shoved into your pocket or an empty mag pouch if you see your squad leader coming towards your position.
By no means is this an all-encompassing list. Really, the best items to bring with you on a field exercise are the things that will make you happy, whether that be a book, a photograph, or fuzzy socks to sleep in. Again, and I can’t stress this enough, pay attention to your packing list…and your surroundings.
Sit across the table from Spc. Sergo Dzamashvili for just a few seconds and you’ll see a basic outline emerge fairly quickly. His manners and easy smile, the way he leans forward when he talks, and — not least of all, of course — his affection for Starbucks Doubleshot energy drinks make him the typical — almost archetypal — 30-year-old soldier; busy, eager, and always ready for the next task, the next challenge. But dig a little deeper and you will see, quite clearly, the details that color the world inside that simple sketch. To map the entire terrain, however, you’ll need to travel some 15,000 miles.
“I always wanted to be a soldier,” says Dzamashvili, sitting in the offices of the 21st Signal Brigade on a warm September morning. “When I was a kid that was always something I thought would be cool, being a soldier for the American Army.”
Those words, and indeed his affinity for the Army and America as a whole, are repeated so often and with such calm conviction that he could almost double as a motivational speaker; one specializing, perhaps, in writing simple daily mantras for busy professionals to read on their daily commutes. Instead, Dzamashvili is a board-certified medical doctor who enlisted in the Army just last year, in early 2018. It’s a commitment, he says, that doubles as a gift to the country that gave him opportunities he never would have had in his native Georgia — a tiny, still-emerging country located at the intersection of Western Asia and Eastern Europe.
U.S. Army Spc. Sergo Dzamashvili speaks with a coworker at his desk located in the offices of the 21st Signal Brigade.
(Photo by Mr. Ramin A. Khalili)
“Honestly,” says Dzamashvili, “the reason I wanted to become an American soldier is because America has given my family everything.”
The first 5,000 miles
“When I was born in Georgia,” says Dzamashvili, reaching back to the late 1980s, “it was still part of the U.S.S.R. This was just before the U.S.S.R. split up, and so there was instability and there was upheaval … there was an ongoing fight for power.”
It was that atmosphere of decline that Dzamashvili’s father, Konstantin, sought to flee when he reached out to a friend living in Chicago for help in the early 1990s. Political and cultural strife in the country of — at the time — barely more than four million people had led to the breakdown of living conditions and, in some cases, the basic application of law. And so Konstantin, a neurologist by trade, was hoping America could provide safety for his wife, son, and young twin daughters.
“My father was waiting in breadlines for hours just to feed the family,” says Dzamashvili. “So when he came here, it was for a better life.”
But that opportunity came with a catch. In order to pay for his family’s move to America, Konstantin had to travel to the U.S. alone first in order to save up enough money. He wound up bunking with that same buddy in Chicago for a year —eventually re-starting his medical career at 40-years old — before bringing the rest of the family to Illinois.
Says Dzamashvili of his father, “He was out there for a year, alone, while we were still in Georgia, until he had passed all his boards and started his residency program, which would then fund us coming over here.”
And so at age five, Sergo was finally in the place he wanted to be all along … for a little while, at least.
Return to Georgia
For Sergo, it all started with his grandfather — his father’s father. He was the catalyst, the inception point. He passed away when Konstantin was in his late teens and so Sergo never got a chance to meet him, but he did have pictures — volumes of mementos from Georgia.
“I would always hear stories about his bravery,” says Sergo, “about what kind of man he was. From early on, I was always intrigued — the way he was standing there in his [military] uniform with all these medals.”
Those pictures, coupled with Sergo’s newfound affinity for the United States, stuck with him during his formative years and carried through to his entrance into medical school — which he ultimately chose to attend at David Tvildiani Medical University back in Georgia.
U.S. Army Spc. Sergo Dzamashvili (foreground, right) conducts Army Warrior Tasks (AWT) drills during the 21st Signal Brigade Best Warrior Competition 2019.
(US Army photo by Sgt. Raul Pacheco)
The decision to both leave home (to leave again, in a manner of speaking) and reconnect with family roots was daunting to say the least, as Georgia had been rife with the same political instability from Dzamashvili’s youth up until pro-democratic forces rose to power in the mid-2000s. The tiny, burgeoning country was still — much like Sergo at the time — moving through its adolescent years.
There was contrasting comfort, however, in the medical training itself. Turns out Dzamashvili’s chosen university not only came highly recommended from family friends practicing medicine in Chicago, it was designed specifically to cater to regional students who wanted to ultimately enter U.S.-based medical professions. To that end, all university textbooks were written in English and, further, the overall cost of schooling was substantially less than a U.S.-based medical education — all perks unavailable to his father just a decade-or-so earlier. Ironically, Georgia would eventually, in 2014, become home to the U.S. Army Medical Research Directorate-Georgia, a subordinate command of the USAMRDC’s Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.
“Going back to Georgia really brought me that perspective,” says Dzamashvili. “There was a long time where my family wouldn’t go back, even though we had a chance to go back in the 90s.”
Just twelve years after touching down in America’s Heartland — and just a few years after becoming an American citizen — Sergo was back on a plane at age 17 for a new and different journey.
Homecoming, part II
When you ask him how Georgians speak — ask about the language they use, the way they talk, the casual slang terms they use, even — Dzamashvili is quick to make it clear that Georgia is a singular and unique entity; a hard-fought identity that he clearly still respects.
“Georgians have their own language,” he says quickly, almost as a sly-but-gentle rebuke to those who think the country may still be hindered by its turbulent past in any way. “They have their own alphabet, everything — and so I had to re-learn how to read and write, essentially, when I went back for school.”
Dzamashvili’s university stay would last for six years until his graduation in 2013; at which point he’d not only navigated the rigors of initial medical training, but had reached a poignant understanding of the country of his birth (“people there are very hospitable,” he says), gained a greater understanding of the government’s democratic efforts (“I see hope,” he says), and, with regards to cultural differences, had also determined that Georgia had substantial culinary shortcomings as compared to the U.S. (“I did miss burritos over there,” he says).
U.S. Army Spc. Sergo Dzamashvili assigned to HHC, 21st Signal Brigade, conducts M9 weapons qualification as part of the 21st Signal Brigade Best Warrior Competition 2019.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Raul Pacheco)
Touching back down in Illinois, Dzamashvili eventually passed his medical board examinations, shadowed professional doctors, and even performed clinical research at Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital. But when it came time for residency training, instead of waiting a year to attend either Loyola University of Chicago or the University of Illinois at Chicago, he opted for a different path: the U.S. Army.
“Screw waiting,” says Dzamashvili of his mindset at the time. “I’m going to join the Army. I was always told the fastest way to get into the Army was to just go and enlist anyways, so that didn’t bother me to go enlist for a couple of years as long as I got into the medical field.”
Desire, meet destiny
Now, after thirty years and medical training efforts on two different continents, Sergo Dzamashvili is both a medical doctor and a member of the U.S. Army; his first assignment is here at Fort Detrick. His unique qualifications have bred an understandable eagerness to move forward — a chomping at the bit, of sorts — as, indeed, he’s already started the process of entering the Army’s medical occupation; taking the steps required to become a physician. But if you think the man who’s waited nearly three decades to realize his dream is put off by a little time in the waiting room, then you don’t know Sergo.
“My ultimate goal is to practice medicine in the Army,” says Dzamashvili. “That’s what I want, to give back. I’d like to serve for at least eight years, to give back that entire time in service.”
Just how long it will take to reach that goal is yet to be seen, though it should come as no surprise that Dzamashvili has already attempted to plot the arc of his military medical career even before his training has been completed. Even now, serving as a Human Resources Specialist in the S-1 Office until his next assignment, he finds in each day’s shift what so many others would gladly welcome into their own lives: a sense of purpose, the feeling of belonging, and the satisfaction of a job that truly has meaning.
In the end — if these kinds of stories can have an end — the service career of Sergo Dzamashvili is, in reality, just beginning. It would be an exaggeration, perhaps, to say that Dzamashvili has already lived multiple lives; though it wouldn’t be such a stretch to say that’s the truth, either. In any capacity, his life’s work as currently constructed already stands as an impressive feat; a soldier coupling the desire to serve America with the talent required to make a lasting impact.
Not too bad for a typical 30-year-old.
Says Dzamashvili, “If there’s nothing else I do in my life, I can always say I was a soldier. That’s the way I look at it. If there’s nothing else that I accomplish, I will always know that I served my country.”
Summer is in full swing, so chances are you’ve already had a margarita or three. Yes, it’s a a great drink, if made well, but it’s become more than just a little ubiquitous. Come on, people. We can do better. In fact, tequila deserves some better company — at least from time to time. Contrary to popular belief, the agave spirit is extremely versatile. There are a wide variety of delicious bottlings to choose from and a number of excellent tequila cocktails to whip up. So, if you’re ready to extract yourself from the margarita rut, here are six tequila cocktails, and the bottles to make them.
A perennial favorite, the Paloma is a well balanced refreshing summer cocktail. While some recipes call for a sweet grapefruit soda, we prefer fresh squeezed juice. It’s just better. We also prefer to start with a crisp blanco tequila like Patrón Silver. If the Paloma is not already in your repertoire, make this one first.
2oz Patrón Blanco Tequila
2oz Freshly squeezed and strained grapefruit juice
1/2oz Freshly squeezed lime juice (juice from half a lime)
Dash of simple syrup
1-2oz club soda
Rim a highball glass with salt, fill with ice. Add tequila, juices and simple syrup. Top with club soda and stir. Garnish with a grapefruit wedge.
The firing squad is a fantastic cocktail to make in large batch for your next pool-side party. While the traditional recipe calls for grenadine, we like to substitute an organic cherry juice for a tarter drink. You can also add a little simple syrup to if you prefer. Casamigos Blanco makes a nice base for this cocktail thanks to its citrus and vanilla flavors
2 1/2 oz Casamigos Blanco Tequila
3/4oz Fresh lime juice (the juice from about 3/4 a lime)
1oz Cherry juice
4-6 dashes of bitters
Shake everything over ice and strain into a glass filled with more ice. Garnish with a lime.
The base of this recipe is quite similar to the mule, but the addition of the creme de cassis makes it a cocktail of a slightly different feather. The black currant flavored liquor pairs nicely with a minty, herbaceous, and earthy spirit like 7 Leguas Blanco.
2oz 7 Leguas Blanco Tequila
1/2oz Crème de cassis
1/2oz Freshly squeezed lime juice (juice from half a lime)
2-4oz Ginger Beer
Shake tequila, lime and crème de cassis over ice and pour over more ice. Garnish with a lime round on top.
6. Añejo Fashioned
Indeed this is a tequila version of an old fashioned (perhaps our favorite cocktail.) We recommend using a rich añejo like Casa Noble’s. It’s sweet, spicy and complex with notes that pair well with mole bitters and orange.
2 1/2oz Casa Noble Añejo Tequila
4 Good dashes of mole bitters
1- 2 dashes of simple syrup
Muddle orange peel and simple syrup in the bottom of an old fashioned glass, pour in a tequila and bitters. Add a large ice cube and stir gently.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Times are hard right now; we get it. Especially for a parent who works from home. Can I be honest with you for a moment? A little part of me was hurt when I got the call from my kids’ school saying that they’d be closed for the entire month due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
First, I was filled with feelings of hurt, then anger and confusion, followed by panic. After realizing that I’d have to provide breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for my kids for an indefinite amount of time, I panicked. Now I know why people were emptying out the grocery stores. It wasn’t because of fear of the virus. It was for fear of not having enough food to last the duration of this pandemic. Here are a few ways you can continue to work and keep your kids fed and occupied during the quarantine.
Lock the snack cabinet.
If your kids are anything like mine, if you don’t lock the snack cabinet, the snacks will diminish on day one. Limiting their junk food intake will be key to your family’s health and survival during the quarantine.
Create a meal plan.
It doesn’t have to be fancy five-course meals, but having some sort of meal plan will save you time and money. Check out My Living Logical for easy meal planning ideas.
Make pre-portioned snack packs.
Take an hour and build a few pre-portioned snack packs for the kids. It doesn’t have to be foods you’ve made from scratch. Just something you’ve put together that can be enjoyed individually throughout the week. Get a package of snack-sized bags or small portion containers. Divvy up fruits, cheeses, and crackers (or whatever you’d like); and write names and dates on them. Place them somewhere your children can get to them without asking for your assistance.
Make snacks easily accessible
Ever tried placing a hanging shoe rack in your pantry? It’ll not only save you time but space as well. You can also create a designated snack bin or drawer in your pantry or refrigerator.
Create a daily schedule/checklist for your kids
Chore charts and daily checklists are everything! Print this free Daily Checklist and get started. List everything from routine hygiene and schoolwork to daily fun activities.
Pinterest is a great resource for all types of fun interactive and solo activities for all ages.
Time block your work schedule
Create a schedule that will work for you and your family. If that means working a few hours at the break of dawn or after your children are sleeping, do it. Divide your work between active and non-active family hours. Side note: If you block out long breaks (half an hour or so), it will minimize the interruptions from your children while you work.
Schedule conference calls or videos during quiet time.
I know what you’re thinking; when are my kids ever quiet? If nap time is not a thing in your home, create a quiet activity like watching a movie, backyard play, journaling, or whatever else will keep your kids in a relatively quiet state.
Be realistic about your work goals
Unless you have a hard deadline you need to keep, give yourself some grace. Know that everything is not going to go as planned. Allow some flexibility in your day, you’re going to need it.
Be patient and positive
This situation is new and uncomfortable for everyone. All of our routines have gone out the window, making way for a new normal, at least for right now. Be patient with your children and your spouse. They may not understand the difficulties of being a work at home parent, especially when everyone’s home.
Lastly, take breaks during the day. Go hang out and do an activity with your children. Show them that you love them and care about their well being during this very foreign time. It’s hard for them too. Your attitude influences your children’s mood. Embrace the suck, it’ll be over before you know it.
Retired Air Force Colonel and NASA astronaut, Greg Johnson posted a nice, heartfelt video for the folks seeking tips about getting through this time of isolation – as he’s something of a subject matter expert from his time in space. He makes excellent points, such as have a routine, be mindful of others, and stay positive, but I’d like to throw my two cents in from what I learned in Afghanistan.
Tip one: Don’t skip out on meals. You can even hit up midnight chow if you’d like. Beach season is cancelled this year anyway.
Tip two: Take whatever breaks you feel you need. We all basically lived in the smoke pit (regardless if we were actual smokers or not) and still somehow managed to get things done. You can too. You also have the added advantage of turning your Zoom meeting off and not having to deal with your boss all day.
Tip three: Don’t feel guilty about binge watching tv or playing video games all day. A good chunk of most Post-9/11 troops’ off-duty time on deployment was spent in the MWR doing the exact same thing and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who’d say they didn’t earn it after a stressful day.
If my list somehow looks like encouragement to become a fat, lazy couch-potato… Go for it. What do I care? I’m not your NCO. Anyway, here are some memes.
(Meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)
(Meme via Not CID)
(Meme via Army as F*ck)
(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)
(Meme via Private News Network)
(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)
(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)
(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)
(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)
(Meme via Pop Smoke)
(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)
(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)
That’s why I like the film The Last Full Measure. It’s one of the only Air Force centered films that I can think of that doesn’t feature a single f*cking pilot.
No offense to pilots, but your films are always the same. “I’m a renegade despite being bound by the UCMJ and I’ll only learn the value of being a part of a team after my actions directly cause someone’s death. Now cue the flying montage!”
There are four types of officers troops will encounter, each with a mindset that corresponds with how they became an officer.
First, you’ve got your mustangs, who were previously enlisted and jumped over to the officer side. Typically, troops love mustangs because they draw from NCO experience and understand enlisted life. Then you’ve got your OCS and ROTC officers who came into the military after college. They’re harmless and can usually be bent to the will of the platoon sergeant.
And then there are the academy grads. Now, let me preface this by saying that, during my career in the Army, I had the honor of serving under some outstanding leaders who came out of West Point. Clearly, there are many fantastic academy graduate officers out there. But there are some academy grads that give the rest of them a bad name.
These unfortunate few are unaffectionately called “Ring Knockers” because they will never shy away from bragging about their time at the academy. And holy f*ck, are these smug a**holes a headache.
The best, least smug way for officers to brag is through challenge coins… By leaving them on their desk and never mentioning them to anyone.
They brag about irrelevant facts.
Graduating in the top percentile of your class is a pretty feather to stick in your cap. It makes for great introductory information and, well, that’s about it. Yeah, it might mean that you worked hard, but it’s not relevant to accomplishing the mission.
The military is, essentially, a never-ending pissing contest between the ranks. Who shoots better? Who can do more push-ups? Who did the most badass thing on deployment? All of those may not impress the nose-in-the-air lieutenant, but at least they’re part of being a war fighter.
We’re all very happy that you did well in the academy — now stop bringing it up.
When it comes to the extremely minor rules that get broken, don’t even lift a finger. The NCOs can (and will) handle it.
(Meme via U.S. Army WTF Moments)
They never budge from the rules.
The rules and regulations that govern life in the military are important. Any troop worth their weight in salt will follow them to a T.
But when one rule gets bent (for a valid reason) or a genuine mistake happens, there’s no need to crucify the offending party just to prove your point. Troops, in general, know they’re tiny cogs in the grander mechanism that is the military — and all of those rules are in place to help the cogs fit perfectly. If a troop knows they did wrong and the NCOs are reasonably certain that it was a one-time thing, it should be handled at the lowest possible level.
The ring-knocking lieutenant, however, will often punish just to prove a point.
It may sound like it’s a military thing to do, but punish everyone after initial entry and you’ll lose all good will you’ve ever earned from the troops.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
They will almost always micromanage and step on the NCOs’ toes.
There’s a reason why the NCO and officer worlds differ so much. They have entirely different responsibilities and entirely different means of accomplishing their goals. Take morning PT, for example. It is unquestionably the responsibility of the NCO to work the troops into shape — not the officers. Officers can join in, but it’s simply not their place to come up with the training schedule. If an officer does get involved, the process becomes unnecessarily messy and doesn’t always line up with the needs of the troops.
This annoyance becomes a serious complication when comes to disciplining the troops. Officers may have the final say, but there’s a reason they hear the recommendations of the NCO. It’s the NCO’s duty to know their subordinates like they know themselves. Disregarding their advice will likely create rifts in the ranks — and sure, it’ll remind everyone who’s in charge. Way to go.
Things can still get done and working parties will always be a thing. Just never bring them up haphazardly.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
They will always justify the means with the ends.
While it’s the NCO’s duty to monitor the well-being and growth of the troops, it’s the officer’s duty to keep an ever-watchful eye on the bigger picture. It’s fantastic when officers plan far ahead and set milestone goals for the NCO to achieve along the way. That is, at its core, how the officer/NCO relationship should work.
However, those milestones should always be realistic. Getting the troops to all qualify higher on their weapons qualifications? Great. Ensuring they all attend a field medical course as extra training? Totally possible. Finding little bullsh*t ways of acclimating the troops to the ever-present suck of the upcoming deployment? The NCOs got that covered.
There’s no need to add to it.
If the troops earned it, let them take a break.
(U.S. Army photo)
They forget the human element of the military.
As a high and mighty academy-graduated first lieutenant, it’s all too easy to forget that troops are not just pawns on a chessboard.
It might be hard to see from behind the challenge coin collection they always have on their desks, but troops are living, breathing human beings with their own thoughts and emotions. They should never be overlooked or tossed to the wayside for anyone’s personal quest for glory.
Again, in the defense of academy grads, being a ring knocker isn’t a lifetime sentence. Spending time with the troops and their NCO can make all the difference. It may take a while for officers to find their footing, but the ones who do will leave a lasting impression on their subordinates.
As Staff Sgt. Amanda Kelley made her way through mountainous terrain in the midst of a scorching Georgia summer in 2018, she admittedly struggled, carrying more than 50 pounds of gear during a patrol exercise.
Tired and physically drained, her body had withstood nearly a month of training in the Army’s most challenging training school. She had already suffered a fracture in her back in an earlier phase and suffered other physical ailments.
But then she looked to her left and right and saw her fellow Ranger School teammates, many of whom she outranked.
“I know that I have to keep going,” said Kelley, the first enlisted female graduate of the Army Ranger School at Fort Benning. “Because if I quit, or if I show any signs of weakness, they’re going to quit.”
In the middle of 21 grueling training days in northeast Georgia, Kelley knew if she could weather the mountain phase of the Army’s Ranger School, she and her teammates would reach a new pinnacle, a critical rite of passage for Ranger students. The electronic warfare specialist spent 21 days in the mountains which includes four days of mountaineering, five days of survival techniques training and a nine-day field training exercise. She had already been recycled in the school’s first phase and didn’t want to relive that experience.
Staff Sgt. Amanda F. Kelley marches in formation during her Ranger School graduation at Fort Benning, Ga., Aug. 31, 2018.
(Photo by Patrick A. Albright)
“It’s not about you at that moment,” Kelley said. “It’s about the people around you. You don’t realize in that moment how many people look up to you until you complete it. Everybody has those trying periods because those mountains are really rough.”
Her graduation from Ranger School paved the way for her current assignment as an electronic warfare specialist with the Third Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Since 2016, more than 1,200 female soldiers have entered combat career fields, including field artillery, armor and infantry.
Kelley said the Ranger training pushed her to meet the same standards as her male counterparts. She finished the 16-mile ruck march in under three hours.
“You literally go through the same thing,” Kelley said. “It’s not any different … You do the same thing that they do. That’s the greatest thing about Ranger School: there’s one set standard, across the board.”
Taking the easy road has never been how Kelley has lived her life. As a teenager she competed as a centerfielder on boy’s baseball teams. She also was on her high school’s track team. Growing up in the small rural community of Easley, South Carolina, she had few mentors as a teen.
“I just wanted to be somebody,” Kelley said. “And I also want to be someone that others can look up to. I didn’t have that growing up. We don’t all come from a silver spoon background; some of us have to fight for things.”
She joined the Army on a whim in 2011, considering joining the service only six months prior to enlisting. She admired the Army’s rigid discipline and high standards.
“Better opportunities,” was one reason Kelley said she joined the Army. “I wanted to get out of where I was.”
Kelley wanted to reach even higher. The 30-year-old wanted to one day become sergeant major of the Army and let her supervisors know that it wasn’t some pipe dream. After an Iraq deployment with the 1st Armored Division, Kelley’s battalion commander, Lt. Col. Mike Vandy, told her that attending Ranger School would help chart her path to success.
A family member places the Army Ranger tab on Staff Sgt. Amanda Kelley’s uniform.
(Photo by Patrick A. Albright)
“When I went to Ranger School, I didn’t go so I could be the first (enlisted female),” Kelley said. “I went so that I could be sergeant major of the Army. And I want to be competitive with my peers.”
After Kelley decided to apply for Ranger School, she spent five months physically preparing herself and studying while deployed. Her roommate in Iraq, former Staff Sgt. Mychal Loria, said Kelley would work 12-hour shifts, workout twice a day and still found time for study. At the same time, she helped mentor other soldiers.
“She just exemplified the perfect NCO; always there for her soldiers,” Loria said.
Kelley praised former Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey for helping create more opportunities for women in combat career fields. Since the first two female graduates — Capt. Kristen Griest and then-1st Lt. Shaye Haver — completed Ranger training in 2015, more than 30 female soldiers have earned their Ranger tab. Sgt. 1st Class Janina Simmons became the first African American woman to graduate from the course earlier this year.
Kelley said has begun preparation for a six-month deployment to an undisclosed location. The South Carolina native said she looks forward to using many of the skills she learned during her time training to be an Army Ranger.
The eight-year Army vet said the Third Special Forces group has fostered a welcome environment for unit members, offering a wealth of training opportunities to help advance her career, including electronics and intelligence courses.
Kelley offered some advice for soldiers who may be considering Ranger School or other certifications to advance their careers.
“Soldiers need to understand that sometimes things you had planned change,” she said. “So just be open-minded to new things and don’t be scared to go after things that seem impossible. Because nothing’s impossible if somebody’s done it before you.”
The popularity of podcasts is soaring exponentially. It is a radio renaissance. With over 500,000 podcasts on just the Apple store alone, it’s obvious that with rising popularity comes oversaturation. But have no fear—We Are The Mighty is here—to help clear the mist and show you the best podcasts for anyone with a military background. Whether you’re a veteran with a long morning commute, an on-base active serviceman with duty that could use some spicing up, or simply a prospective enlistee, at least one of these podcasts will be just right for you.
This podcast flat out kicks ass. The host, Jack Murphy (Army Ranger/Green Beret) talk with experts across every aspect of military life. He’s straight, to the point, no bulls**t. The podcast focuses on ways of cultivating mental and physical toughness with respect to special operations. With over 400 episodes already out, there is plenty to dive in and catch up on. This is the premier military podcast.
War College explores weapons, tech, and various military stories related to the instruments of war that soldiers need to be familiar with. One week they’ll talk about Navy pilots experiencing UFOs, and the next they’ll break down the Air Forces’ new “Frozen Chicken Gun.” Highly informative.
The Joe Rogan Experience
The Joe Rogan Podcast has become a cultural phenomenon. The premise for one of the most popular podcasts of all-time is simple: Joe Rogan sits across from a guest and has an intelligent back and forth conversation for about 3 hours. His guests range massively in scope: Elon Musk, UFC fighters, fellow comedians, scientists, psychologists, authors, and more. Joe Rogan’s centrist sweep highly appeals to people in the military sphere, and the topics covered on here would be interesting to anybody. It’s not just an internet meme, it’s a great listen.
American Military History Podcast
For all the military history buffs out there—look no further. This podcast goes deeper than the surface facts we usually associate with historical events. I found myself surprised to learn contextual facts about historical battles I thought I knew. The key aspect of this podcast that sets it apart from other military history podcasts is the context. It gives perspective and crafts interesting narratives out of that context.
Mind of the Warrior
In this podcast, Dr. Mike Simpson (former Special Forces Operator and highly regarded expert on both combat trauma and combat sports medicine), delves into the psychology of what it takes to be a modern day “warrior.” He talks with top-ranking policemen, to combat veterans, to MMA experts, and many more—all in pursuit of talking about combat and the common threads that loom warriors to the same fabric.
This Past Weekend with Theo Von
Every military service member needs some laughter in their life, too. Theo Von and his hilarious podcast “This Past Weekend” have just the right flavor for a military background listener. In case you don’t know, Theo Von is a rising comedic voice and one of the absolute funniest dudes in the country. His Louisiana drawl contrasts his bizarre shoehorning of the English language and, when combined with some downright brilliant joke writing, becomes a really easy recipe for some deep belly laughs on your commute. The only downside is you can’t see his glorious mullet through your headphones.
War on the Rocks
Ryan Evans swills some drinks and talks policy, life, and security on this well-produced podcast. The issues span from diplomacy to economic to domestic. Ryan has a really contagious charisma which makes for a lot of vehement nodding in agreement while listening. A must listen for anyone interested in geopolitics.
Bill Burr’s Monday Morning Podcast
And finally, we have the legendary Bill Burr, in one of the longest-running comedic podcasts out there. If you have served in the military, and you haven’t heard of Bill Burr, just listen to a single episode. All of your internal frustrations will be hilariously articulated right before your eyes as Bill Burr rants to himself (and a 1,000,000+ listeners) about issues small and large. His clear cut, no-nonsense approach is really sobering and refreshing. His east-coast Boston accent layers his precisely supported rants with an authentic edginess. Feels kinda like an audio shot of whisky on your way to work.