Mike Slagh is on a mission to help military members and veteran discover their full potential. Slagh is the founder of Shift.org, a career advancement company designed to help veterans and members of the U.S. military acquire the skills they need to advance and thrive in today’s information economy.
Leaving military service can be daunting. Finding a meaningful career makes the transition to civilian life so much easier. While each branch of the military makes a considerable effort to prepare troops for that jump, it can still be a difficult time.
Slagh knows this; he went through a difficult transition period of his own. When he left the Navy in 2016 after six years of service, he wanted to find a career in tech. The possibilities in the industry seemed endless and Slaugh was excited to find one that fit his skills. The problem for a talented veteran like Slagh was that he couldn’t get his foot in the door.
A career as a naval officer wasn’t the only qualification under Slagh’s belt. He also had a Master’s degree in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy school and utilized his entrepreneurial experience to co-found TroopSwap.
Now imagine how difficult it could be for other separating veterans. Every year, 250,000 service members leave the U.S. military looking to get their foot in the door somewhere. Some 80 percent of that quarter million people leave the military without a job.
Slagh set out to change all that and Shift.org was born.
Shift.org offers fellowship opportunities, career accelerators and direct hire potential to any military member, past or present, no matter where they are in their career path. Whether they’re just starting their transition, have been out for a while or are looking for a new career, Shift offers training and resources to prepare for it.
By 2018, Shift was working within the Department of Defense to help service members get fellowships at major tech companies while still in the military. This gives them valuable work experience and an expanded resume before their first day of civilian life.
The fellowships send service members and soon-to-be separated veterans on an immersive, 8-week program with tech companies and venture capital firms. There, they gain experience working on the company’s real-world projects using the latest technologies in the field.
Shift’s career accelerators offer participants the opportunity to learn from industry experts, through four weeks of intense networking and interviewing development.
Programs like these are changing the way veterans transition and helping address many of the systemic issues that persist within the veteran community — it’s exactly what Slagh hoped to find.
Real-world training courses are an important aspect of developing talent in the tech industry.
The Microsoft Software and Systems Academy (MSSA) is the tech giant’s answer to helping veterans get into technical careers like those that Slagh sought out when he left the military. MSSA trains veterans to gain the critical skills needed for America’s digital economy.
Like Shift.org, MSSA supports veterans through career training and retraining, soft skills support and hiring opportunities. Since MSSA’s inception in 2013, more than 600 companies have hired MSSA graduates and 96 percent of those graduates are either still employed or have gone on to higher education.
While it’s true veterans can pursue a traditional four-year degree in technical study areas, training with companies like Microsoft provides real-world experiences within the kind of companies they want to work in, while learning the exact skills necessary to get their foot in that door.
Microsoft and Slagh agree that once a veteran has their foot in the door, the sky’s the limit.
Veterans are exactly the kind of talent the tech industry needs on a daily basis. They can bring more than just the technical skills necessary to do the job, they also bring soft skills needed to be productive, force-multiplying employees. Service members uniquely understand the importance of diversity in the workforce and how to create high performing teams.
Service members are natural leaders and capable of being an effective member of a bigger team. They understand the importance of teamwork and are trained to quickly assess, analyze and fix a situation with the resources at hand – all incredibly applicable to the tech industry.
“I had no idea how the skills learned in the military translated to something of value in my next career,” Slagh said. “That’s when I realized that many veterans thrive in high-growth, ambiguous environments and there was serious potential to unlock.”
Each branch of the United States Armed Forces has their own elite troop, proficient in using a sniper rifle — and the Coast Guard is no different. Surprised? You’re not alone. One of the only times troops sing their praises is when they “come out of nowhere” and beat most branches’ snipers in competition, year after year.
Sure, it’s always hilarious to poke fun at our tiniest brother branch for being puddle pirates, but when it comes down to it, mission after mission, the Coast Guard has continuously proven themselves as cut from the same cloth. Okay, maybe just the MSRT guys — but still.
Everyone wants to mock the coasties until they realize what the coasties actually do…
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Daniel Lavinder)
The Coast Guard equivalent to special operations is the Maritime Security Response Team, or MSRT. They’re the front line troops shouldering the burden of the War on Drugs. And they’re not just busting college frat boys who’re smoking a bit of weed on their daddy’s yacht either. These guys are constantly going toe-to-toe with some of the deadliest cartels in the world. These are the guys that are bringing billion-dollar criminal enterprises to their knees.
When the Coast Guard goes out to stomp narcoterrorists, they send the MSRT to interdict them. Among them are the often-forgotten snipers.
Snipers across the Department of Defense focus their training on several factors, depending on the role they play. A Marine recon sniper, for example, must train in camouflaging themselves and moving without being seen — often through miles of difficult terrain for weeks at a time. Coast Guard snipers don’t worry about because that’s not in their area of operations — there’s no hiding on the open ocean.
There’s very little technological assistance — that’s all skill from the sniper.
(U.S. Coast Guard)
Instead, they focus their entire training on balancing the perfect shot — often from a helicopter or vessel, compensating for the ebb and flow of the waves, into another speeding vessel. It is an art form that they’ve definitely mastered.
Another key difference between Department of Defense snipers and the coasties is that they’re rarely aiming for individual enemies. They are armed with a Robar RC-50 anti-material rifle and their goal is to disable the engines of speeding boats. They need to capture and imprison the drug traffickers, after all.
When the engine is disabled, the interdiction team boards, and the enemy fights back, well, the rifle is meant to disintegrate reinforced steel. Even criminals aren’t dumb enough to keep fighting when they see what it can do to a comparatively squishy human being.
Last year, the snipers of the Coast Guard’s HITRON (Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron), successfully made their 500th interdiction (or drug bust) since their founding in 1998. Check out the video below that celebrates hitting this milestone.
Marines are a tribe of warriors, plain and simple. When it comes to warfare, there are very few enemies (if any) that Marines couldn’t match up against. No matter the situation, no matter the circumstance, we give the enemy an absolute run for their money and make them remember why we have the reputation we do. Extra-terrestrial invaders are not exempt from this rule.
Marines don’t care where their enemies come from — whether it’s another continent or another galaxy, these hands are rated “E” for everyone. In fact, some might say we’re pioneers of equality when it comes to kicking asses.
Here’s why Marines would destroy an extra-terrestrial invasion:
1. We make do with less
The Marine Corps budget must be the smallest of all the armed forces. At least, that’s how it seems when you consider how broken everything we use is. Still, we care not. If you pick a fight with us, we’ll use sticks and stones if we must — and don’t even ask what happens when we mount bayonets…
If you think things like plasma weapons and shields will stop Marines from reaping alien souls — you don’t know Marines.
2. We’re experts at unconventional warfare
Do you think Marines like setting ambushes and using explosives to cripple an enemy just before we dump an entire ammunition store into them? If you answered with an enthusiastic “yes,” you’re correct (We would have also accepted “f*ck yeah!”). We love ambushing and we’re great at it.
We’ll make those alien scumbags regret ever coming into orbit.
3. We exhibit savagery on the battlefield
Marines have made a history of striking fear into the hearts of enemies on the battlefield. It doesn’t matter if we’re outnumbered or surrounded — we’ll just shoot our way out of it. Cloud of mustard gas? Pfft, slap that gas mask on and mount your bayonet ’cause we’re storming the trenches.
Even if the aliens defeat humanity overall — they’ll be talking about how scary it was to face off against a battalion of Marines for millennia to come.
4. We’re expert marksmen
Every Marine is trained to be an expert marksman. Even our worst shooters are still substantially better than the average soldier Joe with a gun. Our skill with rifles would sure pay off in a war against alien invaders as their tech might force us to avoid close-quarters engagement.
But our skill with weaponry doesn’t end at the stock of a rifle. If they force us into CQC, we’ll give them a run for their money there, too.
5. We are resilient
No matter what, Marines will not stop fighting. If we’re given a task or a mission, we’ll see it through to the very end. Even if we’re beaten at first, we won’t give up on the mission — or each other. Conquest-driven aliens may have forced other species to their knees, but they won’t find any quit in Marines.
The Army is investigating a TikTok video in which an unidentified 18th Airborne Corps soldier at Fort Bragg drinks from an Ocean Spray bottle while lip-syncing Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” during a static line jump. The video in question was inspired by the viral TikTok video by Nathan Apodaca which caught the attention of Ocean Spray CEO Tom Hayes and earned Apodaca a new truck.
However, while the unidentified paratrooper has found himself in hot water due to the addition of juice and “Dreams” to his jump, another soldier has made her dreams come true under the canopy of a parachute.
Vivian C. “Mille” Bailey was born in Washington, D.C. in 1918. In 1942, she commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Women’s Auxiliary Corps at Fort Des Moines, Iowa. During WWII, she commanded a WAC detachment and earned several awards throughout her career. Bailey was honorably discharged in 1946 as a 1st Lt. She continued her service in the government working for the Veterans and Social Security Administrations. At the height of her career, Bailey served as a division director responsible for roughly 1,100 employees. She is also a long-time community activist, having served 23 years on the Howard County General Hospital Board of Trustees in Columbia, Maryland.
Though Bailey retired in 1975, she has stayed active as a volunteer and adventure seeker. In fact, at the age of 102, she checked off the most extreme item on her bucket list: to make a parachute jump. Bailey was inspired by President George H. W. Bush who celebrated his 75th, 80th, 85th, and 90th birthdays with parachute jumps. With the help of Skydive Baltimore, Bailey made her dream come true.
On October 18, 2020, Bailey took on her latest adventure which she called, “The thrill of a lifetime.” Bailey had wanted to make the jump for 10 years. “At one point when we were tumbling in the air, I felt like I was by myself. I thought, ‘Where did the paratrooper go?’”
On top of her service in WWII, long career of public work and volunteering, and successful jump, Bailey has received honors from President Trump and the late Rep. Elijah Cummings, had a police award named after her—the Vivian Millie Bailey Making a Difference Award, and now has a park in Howard County named for her as well. “So there are a lot of things that I can look back on,” Bailey said. “I am thoroughly happy and feel blessed that I’ve been able to do whatever I’ve been able to do.”
Now is not the time to be nervous. What if I don’t qualify? I’ll never see corporal. Okay, okay, okay… remember what you were taught. 300-yard line equals the tip of the post, or is it tip of the chevron? What if none of my shots hit the…
“Shooters you may commence firing when your TAAARRGETS appear.”
These thoughts can be all too familiar for some Marines during their annual rifle requalification. Marines can experience a lot of pressure when qualifying on the range, because every Marine’s primary job is to be a rifleman, regardless of their occupational field. As such, it is important that every Marine has the confidence to fire under the most adverse of conditions. If a Marine is not confident in their shooting abilities, then qualifying can be difficult without proper instruction from a subject matter expert.
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Austin Meise, small arms repairer/technician, Headquarters and Support Battalion (HS Bn), Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, mentioned that his first time shooting was when he was in recruit training. He asked a lot of questions and used a rifle data book that was given to all of the recruits by their primary marksmanship instructors.
MCB Camp Pendleton’s Marksmanship Training Unit is dedicated to furthering the building blocks learned in recruit training, and further the training continuum approach to maintain proficient combat marksmen. During grass week, Marines practice without live firing, the four marksmanship shooting positions: sitting, kneeling, standing, and prone.
“If you properly apply the fundamentals, you will shoot black all the time,” said Meise, in regard to targets commonly fired upon at ranges. “Before the Marine Corps, I never shot a weapon, but with the guidance I received from the instructors, I now consistently fire expert on the range.”
Lance Cpl. Eric Janasiak, a rifleman with Lima Company, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit.
(US Marine Corps photo)
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Garald John, combat marksmanship trainer, HS Bn, MCB Camp Pendleton, explains that the worst thing for CMTs, PMIs and combat marksmanship coaches is having one of their Marine’s fail on the range for annual training.
“One of the most commonly asked questions is, ‘how do I get a more stability in the standing position?'” said John. “The guidance I give them is: to rest their forward tricep on their chest as much as possible to get more stability, but mainly I express to just take their time to apply the fundamentals.”
With the CMT by their sides, Marines also practice the maneuvers needed to accomplish a proper ammunition speed reload as well as opportunities to use the computer based, indoor simulated marksmanship trainers to run-through drills they will perform during their firing week.
“For the Marines that come to our MTU, I would say one-on-one coaching time is what helps most,” explained John. “The first time we run everyone through the ISMT, and we assess that they are struggling, we’ll ask if they’d like to stay back for extra practice giving that Marine the chance for further one-on-one training. We give them recommendations on how to be more stable or improve breathing techniques. Whatever we see they need help in the most, we try to assist as much as possible.”
Cpl. Berkeley Lewis, a rifleman with 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, fires his M4 carbine during training at the SR-7 range at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jeff Drew)
Once the live firing commences, Marines are accompanied by their CMCs. While a Marine’s effort is individual, CMCs are there to provide guidance, and answer questions.
“During firing week, people tend to let their ego get in the way,” said Meise. “When Marines see a bad shot, expecting more or better results, they begin to worry. Worrying causes them to forget the fundamentals! They’re focusing on the shot, but not the form.”
John said that during grass week, the coaches and the CMTs always get Marines to a point where the instructors and coaches are confident enough to say every Marine has the potential to qualify for annual rifle training.
“When I see Marines achieve more than what they thought they could, it really makes me look forward to what I may see in the future of my Marine Corps,” said John. “I know it is because coaches try to uplift the shooters and the shooters try to uplift each other increasing everyone’s confidence and overall mindset.”
Deep breath. Fundamentals: stable shooting position, slow steady squeeze, natural respiratory pause, expect the recoil…
“Shooters you may commence firing when your TAAARRGETS appear”
The most advanced version of the F-15 ever built took to the skies in St. Louis, MO, on April 14, 2020, and highlighted just how impressive its capabilities are. In the 90 minute flight, the F-15QA (QA stands for Qatar Advanced) showcased its speed, maneuverability and, in general, just how badass of a force this new jet will be.
What’s a “Viking takeoff”? Watch as the Qatar Emiri Air Force #F15 demonstrates the maneuver during its first flight.pic.twitter.com/wLHEuvH0Lt
With the F-15QA’s unmatched speed and maneuverability, Chief Test Pilot Matt Giese was able to showcase the capabilities by performing a vertical “Viking” takeoff and by pulling nine Gs during the test in various maneuvers. The maiden flight highlighted just how advanced this aircraft is. Avionics, radar and other systems all performed as designed and the flight was deemed a success.
“This successful first flight is an important step in providing the QEAF an aircraft with best-in-class range and payload,” said Prat Kumar, Boeing vice president and F-15 program manager in a press release issued by Boeing. “The advanced F-15QA not only offers game changing capabilities but is also built using advanced manufacturing processes which make the jet more efficient to manufacture. In the field, the F-15 costs half the cost per flight hour of similar fighter aircraft and delivers far more payload at far greater ranges. That’s success for the warfighter.”
Image via Boeing
The F-15QA was developed for the Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF). The Department of Defense awarded Boeing a .2 billion contract in 2017 to manufacture 36 F-15 fighter jets for the QEAF with delivery date being 2021. To put it mildly: the QEAF is stoked.
“We are very proud of this accomplishment and looking forward with great excitement to the continued successes of this program,” Col. Ahmed Al Mansoori, commander, QEAF F-15 Wing said in a press release. “This successful first flight is an important milestone that brings our squadrons one step closer to flying this incredible aircraft over the skies of Qatar.”
In addition to being able to perform seamless Viking takeoffs, Boeing shared the other impressive features of the advanced aircraft. According to Boeing, the F-15QA brings to its operators next-generation technologies such as fly-by-wire flight controls, digital cockpit; modernized sensors, radar, and electronic warfare capabilities; and the world’s fastest mission computer. Increases in reliability, sustainability and maintainability allow defense operators to affordably remain ahead of current and evolving threats.
[VIDEO]: Qatar Emiri Air Force F-15QA will get large area display cockpit with touch screen made by Elbit Systemspic.twitter.com/6kUzF0VHby
Don’t worry, this fun and excitement isn’t only for Qatar. Boeing is preparing to build a “domestic variant” of the F-15QA, the F-15EX, as approved in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. According to Boeing, in January, the Air Force announced their intention to award a sole-source contract to Boeing for eight of the F-15EX, with future plans for as many as 144.
The F15EX. Image via Boeing
Boeing considers the F-15EX the cost-effective, ready solution. According to their website:
In support of the National Defense Strategy, the United States Air Force must purchase an additional 24 combat aircraft per year. F-15EX is the only way to rapidly and affordably meet the Air Force’s critical requirements.
Boeing’s F-15EX is the most cost-effective, ready, advanced solution to meet U.S. Air Force capacity requirements and add capability to the fleet. Driven by Boeing’s active production line, the next-generation jet enables pilots and mechanics to transition in a matter of days as opposed to years while delivering unmatched total life cycle costs.
The F-15EX leverages B+ in technology investments over the past decade to bring the U.S. Air Force the world’s most modern variant of the undefeated F-15. Complementing other aircraft, the F-15EX enhances the air combat capabilities of the fleet to ensure the U.S. remains ahead of current and emerging threats. With next-generation technologies to provide unrivaled capabilities in a broad spectrum of environments, Boeing’s F-15EX delivers more payload, capacity and range than any fighter in its class.
If you received an email advertising a new vaccine for the coronavirus, would you open it? If a doctor called you requesting payment to treat your family member for COVID-19, would you share your information?
While the world is focused on the coronavirus (COVID-19), criminals are taking advantage of the situation.
“We are seeing coronavirus-related phishing attacks and we are seeing them at USAA,” warns Michael Stewart, assistant vice president of information security at USAA. “We are seeing emails advertising alleged coronavirus-related benefits and others from a healthcare perspective.”
Other potential scams include fraudsters pretending to be members of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or World Health Organization to obtain personal information or selling fake coronavirus test kits and vaccines that do not exist.
“Fraudsters like to take advantage of these situations,” explains Stewart. “They will leverage the coronavirus and urgency around it to get people to click on things or give up information that they might not otherwise disclose.”
Some additional scams during this pandemic period to be aware of include:
Charity scams: Stay alert of scammers contacting you to donate to fake charities. Research the organization you desire to sponsor to ensure your information is protected.
Product or services scams: Items like hand sanitizers, disinfectants and household cleaning supplies are often offered by scammers who will keep your money. Scammers also offer cures, coronavirus test kits and vaccines that do not exist. Services can range from house cleaning to doctor visits.
Employment scams: Scammers create job ads to lure unemployed consumers to fake jobs. The scammers will wire money or send a fake check to you, asking to send a portion back or use the funds to purchase goods, which are directed back to the scammer
Tips to protect your information include:
Secure your accounts: use multifactor authentication everywhere, especially with banks, phone and email providers. This extra layer of security helps keep you safe.
Stay vigilant: scammers will contact you by phone, email or text offering products, services or humanitarian opportunities. They often pose as credible companies “phishing” for login or personal information Pause to confirm it’s a credible company before proceeding.
Monitor your accounts: stay close to your personal bank accounts, report suspicious behavior and respond to alerts.
Use trusted Wi-Fi networks: as more people transition to work from home, ensuring your Wi-Fi network is password protected is critical to safeguard your information.
Surrounded by thousands of racers, Lt. Col. Frederick Moss stood out at the Army Ten Miler.
“I always get the question, ‘Why is this dummy running with this binder? He must be some staff guy that is all about his work.’ You know?” Moss joked, while discussing the annual race.
Indeed, Moss is a staff officer. He works for senior leaders at the U.S. Army Reserve Command headquarters on Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Yet, the binder is not his work.
It’s his duty.
Inside, the pages hold the names of 58,000 American military members who died serving in Vietnam.
Lt. Col. Frederick Moss, a senior staff officer for the U.S. Army Reserve Headquarters at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, stares into the camera for a portrait at the North Carolina Veterans Park in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Sept. 27, 2019.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)
He carries the white binder on all the military-oriented races. The Marine Corps Marathon. The Army Marathon. The Navy Nautical. Some of these races won’t allow backpacks for security purposes, such as the Army Ten Miler, so he hand-carried the book 10 miles through the streets of Washington, D.C.
“It’s an act of remembrance. It’s an act of appreciation for them and what they’ve done,” Moss said.
He recalled printing the names at home years ago. He walked away from his computer thinking the job would be finished when he returned. Instead, the printer was still spitting out papers.
Lt. Col. Frederick Moss, a senior staff officer for the U.S. Army Reserve Headquarters at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, runs nearby the North Carolina Veterans Park in Fayetteville during a film production Sept. 27, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Javier Orona)
“Wow, wait a minute. Now this can’t be right. It’s still going,” he said. “It went from 100 to 1,000 to 2,000. And that’s just the letter ‘A’ … 2,000 husbands, wives, uncles, brothers, cousins. They paid the ultimate sacrifice. And that’s really when this thing kind of hit me. This is really big. That’s a lot of people here.”
He originally printed the book to remember his father, Terry Leon Williams, after he died in 2012. Williams had survived Vietnam, but he rarely talked about the war.
“He was a Marine’s Marine. He’s a man’s man. I learned a lot from him, and I owe a lot to him,” said Moss.
Lt. Col. Frederick Moss, a senior staff officer for the U.S. Army Reserve Headquarters at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, looks through the names of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall with his son, Brandon, while visiting Washington, D.C., Oct. 12, 2019.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Felix Fimbres)
Williams deployed twice, but in spite of his love for the uniform, the Marine didn’t wear it as he returned home from an unpopular war. He faced a country that offered protest, not praise.
“There’s still Vietnam veterans out there who feel some type of way about how they were received when they came back into this country,” Moss said.
That’s a vast difference from how the nation welcomed Moss in 2006. He had deployed to Iraq as a military police officer. When his airplane full of soldiers landed in Atlanta, firetrucks greeted them on the runway by spraying the plane with water.
Lt. Col. Frederick Moss, a senior staff officer for the U.S. Army Reserve Headquarters at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, visits the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall with his son, Brandon, and wife, Cherie, in Washington, D.C., Oct. 12, 2019.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Felix Fimbres)
“We got off the plane … and everybody was hugging and kissing us. It was crazy. Holy smoke! It was hundreds, thousands of soldiers walking through the airport … I thought to myself: my dad and his comrades didn’t get that. It wasn’t America’s finest hour. So, that’s why I chose in my small way to show appreciation, for him and them, for their service to this nation,” Moss said.
The binder is for his father, but also for his uncle, Henry, who returned from Vietnam, yet wasn’t really home.
“He didn’t make it. He came back, but he wasn’t the same. You know, the hidden scars of combat. He ended up committing suicide,” said Moss.
Moss’ father was soft-spoken. He spared few words and rarely squandered those words on comforting his children. During his teenage years, their relationship was horrible, Moss said. A strict father and a rebellious son often at odds, he described.
Lt. Col. Frederick Moss, a senior staff officer for the U.S. Army Reserve Headquarters at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, visits the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall with his family in Washington, D.C., Oct. 12, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Javier Orona)
“If you fell, he wasn’t going to hug you. He was going to tell you, ‘Get up. Dust yourself off. Fight on,'” he said.
He was more interested in teaching his son to defend himself than to show him affection.
“Sometimes, I feel like I’m running from him still,” Moss said, laughing.
His running days began in high school when he joined cross country track. Running calls him out of bed in the morning. He wakes up in the darkest hours and slips out of the house unnoticed. His wife, Cherie, jokingly calls it his “mistress” because she wakes up to an empty bed.
But Moss communes with God during those runs. He prays and listens to gospel music. Time and worry vanish. He might look at his watch at any moment and realize 20 miles have gone by. Just don’t let him sit through a meeting afterward, because he might fall asleep, he jokes.
He has run so many military races that he keeps his medallions in a bag. There’s no room to display them in the house.
Yet, after high school, his running stopped for a while. His first military experience took him off the track and tossed him toward the water.
Lt. Col. Frederick Moss, a senior staff officer for the U.S. Army Reserve Headquarters at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, pages through a binder he printed holding the names from the Vietnam Memorial Wall during a film production day at his home in Spring Lake, North Carolina, Sept. 27, 2019.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)
“I joined the Navy, and I gained, like, 260 pounds,” he said, exaggerating the weight, with a laugh. He reached 260 pounds, but that’s not how much he had gained.
As he spoke, he pulls out a framed photo of himself in a white Navy uniform. A rounder version of himself looks into the camera, with a mustache hovering above his lips.
“This was pre-Army. I was like the ice cream man, right here. So I lost my love for running at the time because in the Navy, it’s all about systems and ships. Not a lot of room to maneuver to run on the ship,” he said.
He deployed twice with the Navy, to Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Later, Moss joined the Army as a staff sergeant. It was a rude awakening because, suddenly, he was in charge of soldiers without any prior experience in managing people.
“The Navy’s a little bit different. It’s not about people … it was about systems. I was an engineer in the Navy. A boiler technician. You need steam to make the ship go. To turn the turbines. To get power. To drink water. But you flip it, and you go to the Army, and the Army is all about people,” he said.
Lt. Col. Frederick Moss, a senior staff officer for the U.S. Army Reserve Headquarters at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, takes a selfie with Lt. Gen. Charles Luckey, commanding general of the U.S. Army Reserve, while showing him a binder representing the fallen veterans of the Vietnam War during the Army Ten Miler in Washington, D.C., Oct. 13, 2019.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Felix Fimbres)
Those times in the military made him appreciate his father in ways he never could as a son.
When Moss commissioned as a lieutenant in the Army, his family surrounded him in celebration. He remembers sitting at a large round table with his father and relatives.
“I’ve got something to say,” Williams spoke, stopping the conversation around them.
Moss’ father pointed around the table to those who had served in the military. Four branches were represented there: Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps.
“My son was enlisted Navy,” Williams said. “But my son did something different. I never thought my son would be a commissioned officer.”
A pause. A quiet befell the table as the family waited to see what might happen next. Williams stood and saluted his son. Moss stood and returned the salute. He could sense people holding their breath. The two men dropped their salutes and sat back down.
Lt. Col. Frederick Moss, a senior staff officer for the U.S. Army Reserve Headquarters at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, runs from his home in Spring Lake during a film production day, Sept. 27, 2019.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)
Then, just before the conversation could resume, or an applause might follow, Williams spoke again.
“Now, you’re a lieutenant. You’re officially a punk. Nobody likes lieutenants!”
The table broke in laugher, cheering, and the family returned to their celebration. But a moment had caught during the exchange. A shifting in balance – a new respect – occurred as the older saluted the younger. His father had changed.
Serving in the Army had helped Moss see that change, because service was about sacrifice and legacy. Not individual fame, but a legacy carried by the collective. He saw the military as a family who passed traditions from generation to generation.
“That legacy just keeps going on and on. A legacy of war fighters. People who paid the ultimate sacrifice, and you don’t ever want that legacy to be lost. So, one of the things I do, is I carry this book. That book, to me, signifies that you never, ever forget what other people have done for this nation to make sure that we continue to be free,” said Moss.
The Army Ten Miler reminds Moss of that legacy and of his love for people. He calls it a family reunion, where year after year he hugs brothers and sisters in arms who return to D.C. for the run. It’s a small nuisance that backpacks aren’t allowed, but it’s also an honor for Moss to carry his father’s generation of veterans in his hands.
Lt. Col. Frederick Moss, a senior staff officer for the U.S. Army Reserve Headquarters at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, visits the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall with his son, Brandon, in Washington, D.C., Oct. 12, 2019.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Felix Fimbres)
“Sometimes the book is a little cumbersome, but it doesn’t bother me. Because it’s 58,000-plus fallen comrades in that book. What I’m doing for this short period of time is nowhere near the price they had to pay for us,” he said.
He reflects on those names through Washington, D.C., as he runs. He envisions their stories. He mourns with their families. He considers the children who never saw their fathers or mothers come home. Yet, he is grateful for one name who is not in his book. Not on the wall. Not on any official memorial except for the etching of his memories.
How many military branches make you surrender your passport, catalog everything you brought to the recruitment center and give you a new identity, all before you sign your enlistment contract?
That’s the French Foreign Legion and that’s exactly how it works… at least according to a Reddit user with the handle FFLGuy, who did an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit in 2011. On other responses on Reddit he mentions serving as “a former légionnaire in the Légion étrangère,” as the French saying goes.
For anyone unaware, the French Foreign Legion is a highly-trained, highly capable fighting force fighting for France – but is open to anyone from any nation. What makes serving in the unit unique is that after three years, members can apply for French citizenship. They are also immediately eligible for citizenship if wounded in combat, a provision known as “Français par le sang versé” – or “French by spilled blood.”
Also unique to the Legion is being able to serve under an assumed identity and then retain that identity after serving. While the Legion used to force everyone to use a pseudonym, these days, enlistees have a choice of identities, real or assumed.
For the first week of your enlistment, you sign contracts and wait to find out if Interpol has any outstanding warrants for you. Once selected, you go right to training in Aubagne, in the Cote-d’Azur region of Southern France. You are stripped of everything, as the Legion now provides you with everything you need.
You are now wearing a blue Legion track suit and are working all day long. Cleaning, painting and cooking are the primary preoccupations, but members are taken away for physical and psychological testing. Also, the hazing begins. While that may not fly in America, this is the Legion, and there’s a 80 percent attrition rate. When would-be Legionnaires give up, it’s called “going civil.”
After two weeks of this “rouge” (red) period, you’re whisked away by train to Castelnaudary, where trainees spend the bulk of their basic training time. In total, the training is four months. Three of it will be spent here. It is from here you transition from engagé volontaire (voluntary enlistee), to actual légionnaire. The groups are split up into four groups of 25-45 would-be légionnaires.
Castelnaudary is where the foreign légionnaires learn French, work out, train, ruck, learn to use weapons and basically all the rudimentary things infantrymen do while in the infantry.Once at Castelnaudary, getting out of the Legion is very difficult. They will find a way to make you stay, the author writes: “Trust me when I tell you that it isn’t a wise choice.”
“Hazing at this point is constant,” the author wrote. “There will be many nights without sleep, and many meals missed. You are never alone and are constantly watched for even the tiniest mistakes. The consequences for mistakes are severe and painful; physically, psychologically or both. The environment is initially set up to ensure failure. You are broken down individually – both mentally and physically – slowly being built back up with larger and larger successes as a group.”
Hazing includes food and sleep deprivation, physical abuse and the like. As the author writes, “If you made it through Castelnaudary without being hit at least once, you weren’t there. “
Ten percent of the group who make it to Castelnaudary will go civil before they earn the coveted Kepi Blanc. It’s when your ceremony for earning the Kepi Blanc is when you officially are a Légionnaire. But the training is not complete. For three more months, you go through basic infantry training.
Those that quit or are not chosen to continue their training are given back their possessions, passports, a small amount of money for every day spent working, and a train ticket to the city in which they entered the Legion. They also have to resume their old identity.
With their old identity in hand, they must return to their country of origin.
The beginning of December is a wonderful time in the military. We all get to watch those from the southern states lose their minds as they watch a little dusting of snow settle on the pavement, nobody’s sure if it’s time to switch over to winter PT uniforms, and troops express extreme pride in their respective branches with the Army-Navy Game on the horizon.
All the while, everyone starts mentally clocking out because block leave is quickly approaching and no one wants to do sh*t until then. It’s a sweet, sweet waiting game.
So, here’re some memes to enjoy as you’re sitting around the training room, just waiting to finally take your happy ass home.
The Blue Star Families Military Family Lifestyle Survey is actively seeking more representation for persons of color. The survey is a vital tool utilized by government officials to determine the needs of the military community.
With the survey ending on October 16, 2020, Blue Star Families seeks more participation from Black, Hispanic and Asian members of the military community, who are often underrepresented in measures of family stability and wellbeing. More diverse data collection in this survey will allow for a more accurate representation of the realities facing military members, their families and our veterans.
In an article on their website, Dr. Jessica Strong explained the significance of the survey. ” Blue Star Families started with a survey because if they want to explain what military families are experiencing, the best thing to do is ask them,” she said. Strong is a U.S. Army spouse who works as the organization’s co-director of applied research.
The survey itself covers a broad range of subjects as it relates to military life. Hot topics include child care, spouse employment, the pandemic and education, among others. The survey lends a comprehensive picture of the reality of the military community so that decisions can be made on how to address issues that come up.
One of the other parts of the survey is aimed at understanding diversity in the military community. But without significant participation from persons of color within the military community, their unique needs may be overlooked and underrepresented.
The survey itself is completely voluntary and takes anywhere from 20-35 minutes, depending on how long you spend on each question. Conducted only once a year, survey results determine a whole host of programs and governmental responses to issues that need to be addressed.
Each year, more than one million people are impacted by Blue Star Families’ programs. Over million in value has been accessed in benefits by military families. With a four star charity rating, they’ve maintained their commitment to the military community. But one of the most important things that they do for the community lies in the Military Family Lifestyle Survey. It is imperative that everyone take the time to make their voice heard because it matters.
Their website hones in on the need to bridge the gap saying, “The goal of Blue Star Families’ research and policy work is to increase the awareness and understanding of military family life trends and the ramifications for both our Armed Forces and our American society.”
Since 2009, the organization has been dedicated to serving the military community through active engagement with the civilian and governmental sectors to ensure quality of life.
Through partnerships with the government, communities, nonprofits and the military community, Blue Star Families is already making a difference. But they need your help. Take the time to fill out the survey and make sure your voice and needs are heard, so that BSF can continue to serve you and your family.
To complete the 2020 Military Families Lifestyle Survey, click here.
It is my staunch belief that warriors are born and not created. In the case of either you can trace back through your past to your first ever action that made you realize — though not likely back then at the time — that you were destined to take the warrior’s or the leader’s path through life.
I came up through Army infantry at 19 years old gravely afraid of heights, a condition that kept me from becoming a paratrooper, the gateway training to the elite forces. After two years in the infantry, I was ready to jump even without a parachute if that was what it took to get me out of that horror show.
I made it into the Green Berets only to be met with great disappointment, as in those years between wars I felt we were more of an in-case-of-war-break-glass unit with peacetime ambition and an equally disappointing budget. The thought of going to war with my Green Beret A-Team scared me to the extent that I ran arms-flailing to the Delta Force, where I immediately faded into anonymity by a sea of raw talent and sheer badassery. I was home.
But even after arriving at the unit, which requires one of the toughest selections on the planet, I came to realize that the essence of my warrior spirit had been with me all along. I can finally go back to the very early days of my own basic army training and identify an event that has stayed with me for so many years. Finally, I think I understand what it meant and why the simple memory has remained close to my heart for so many decades.
Search as I have for hints of warrior potential during my coming of military status in basic training, I’m put finally in mind of a trivial incident that remains to impress me still today. I have thought of it often in attempts to make sense of it. Since it is mine, I shall own the interpretation.
It was during my own Infantry Basic Training in Sand Hill Georgia, where my platoon and I were waiting in the pine woods for a couple of hours between training events. At times like those, there was nothing to do but notice and complain about how hot it was, and it was plenty hot.
We boys huddled under the shade of an awning in our steel helmets. In that year I learned that shade was indeed only a state of mind, and had little physical impact on the Georgia swelter; where a boundary blocked the direct sun’s rays, the humidity served to usher the heat around obstacles, presenting it to who would cower. “We” huddle and bitched and complained and moaned, making it all the worse. I quickly grew annoyed with the negative attitude of the group to the extent that I, but for slight, sniped at them verbally.
The “group” — my group: the hayseed from under the Bible Belt who spoke maybe just a little too fondly of his female cousin, the guy who came in for college; he already had one semester and constantly wanted everyone to know that by saying things like: “Yeah, but that doesn’t detract from or minimize the context of what I’m saying,” the fellow who was given the choice by a judge of either the Army or jail, the black man whose dad and grandad were both in the Army before him, the white dude who felt a patriotic debt to the country but really had no clue what that meant, the Chicano who wanted something different out of life… anything other than what he was living at the time.
And then there was — OMG! — that Asian fellow who during a group debate on race and equality announced to the group: “If there is a man here who can sh*t with his pants on, let him stand now and show it!” As God as my witness, he did say that. I resigned to the notion that he was trying for something along the lines of “We all put on our trousers one leg at a time.”
I suffered too from the heat, but the urge to bellow seemed so futile, only adding to the misery. Knowing no better, I decided to remove myself from the crowd, so I stood and stepped some fifty feet away in direct view of the blazing sun. There I squatted in the muddy sand and hung my head and thought:
“The heat is bad, but it’s better than being in the shade with the pity patrol. Bad means there is a worse; there is even a worse than this… somewhere. This too is bearable. All things, no matter the intensity, are always bearable. Here, I’m setting an example for all my platoon — see me here, guys? It’s not so bad!”
Indeed remarks wafted over:
“What the hell’s the idiot doing?”
“He can’t last out there like that.”
“Someone needs to go get him; he’s delirious, he is.”
“Yeah, holy crap, man!”
You see, now no longer were they absconded in their own misery; they were submersed in mine. I had taken their suffering away, even if for this brief bout of minutes. “I complained because I had no shoes, and then I saw a man who had no feet.” Bad begets worse, and even worse is tolerable.
I think by wanting to be alone I had only drawn attention to myself… but it was done, and now I would give them a show. This is how we deal with the pain. This is how we stand up and take it… how we shake it off and defy it! This is how a much grander force within us makes a thing like the Georgia swelter such an insignificant trifle — “pour it on, Blythe! Fire your weapon!”
From the nose of my drooped head, beads of sweat were queued up and falling in serial. I decided that I would count off 100 of them before I went back to the shade. When 100 beads had fallen, I decided that I would let yet another 100 fall before I relented… then another 100, followed by another then another concatenation of 100.
After 500 had fallen, I stood and removed my helmet. I shook my face wildly, like a dog shakes off pool water upon exit. I wiped my face with my sleeves as I trudged back to the shade and the group. I remarked as I squatted back down:
“Yep… it’s a real scorcher out there today, brothers.”
And there was nothing but silence and a man who reached out his canteen my way, which I graciously declined.
Sometimes we imagine the Earth was gifted with us, to just be us, our mystical, magical, wonderful selves. Other times we might wonder if the planet might get along just swimmingly without us. Ask ten people if they “march to the beat of a different drum,” and you will get ten affirmative answers every time. Now watch when the different drumsticks start their cadence how many stand, step out, and march… and keep marching until 500 beads of their sweat have rolled from their nose and hit the ground.
As I have searched and debated over the years to answer the question are warriors born or made, I often think back to the quote from Heraclitus nearly 2,000 years ago,
“Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn’t even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.” (Heraclitus c. 535 – c. 475 BCE)
But as hard as it is to sing, when it is done right, it is one of the most rousing pieces of music one can hear. Whether the singer goes the traditional route or decides to add a little bit of flourish, the song can get you right in the feels.
Here are some of the more memorable renditions of the national anthem.
You can argue she has one of the top five Super Bowl halftime shows ever. (That catch is legendary)
But in 2016, Lady Gaga put her talented voice to work and delivered a rousing version of the anthem. What followed was a clinic to young singers on how to add personal flair to the song while still not taking attention away from the song itself.
Ok, I know… this version didn’t take place at a sports event. In fact, it was probably the farthest from a sporting event that it could be. In the days after 9/11, with flights in and around the States shut down, many Americans found themselves stranded overseas during one of the darkest moments in American history.
In London, many found themselves wandering around and milling about tourist spots.
The Queen, breaking royal tradition, allowed the Star-Spangled Banner to be played during the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.
Make all the Royal Family jokes you want, but this was one of the classiest moves of all.
After the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, Bostonians and the rest of the country rallied together in unity. One of the best examples of this was the first Bruins game after the bombing. After a touching tribute to the victims, Rene Rancourt, the Bruins long-time singer, started singing the anthem.
Two lines in, he did what most singers don’t do…. He stopped.
Realizing the crowd was taking over out of emotion, Rancourt let them run with it.
There are times when we truly come together as Americans, and this was one of them.
At Super Bowl XXV, America and her Allies were ten days into the air assault portion of the Gulf War. The biggest military engagement since Vietnam, Americans were rightfully worried for the aviators flying sorties over Iraq and the troops who were preparing for the inevitable ground assault to liberate Kuwait.
In fact, ABC didn’t even air the halftime show, instead cutting to an ABC News Special Report with Peter Jennings.
This was also a unique time. With the combination of media attention because of the war, the recent fall of communism in Eastern Europe, and the growth of global television, this Super Bowl was one of the first broadcast around the world, reaching over 750 million people.
Enter Whitney Houston.
Wearing a simple tracksuit and backed by the Florida Orchestra, Houston started off strong and only got stronger. Known for her powerful vocals, she gave us one of the most tremendous renditions of our anthem our country has seen to this day. The nation went crazy for it, to the point it was released as a single and got to #20 in the Billboard Top 100. (Houston donated the proceeds to charity).
This is the benchmark singers are measured against when taking on the Star Spangled Banner.
The national anthem is definitely not easy to sing, but when it’s done right, there’s nothing better.