Enlisted people always talk about their officers. Every officer is constantly scrutinized by their subordinates — from how they talk to how they present themselves to how well they lead. This is, generally, a good thing but, sometimes, it can go bad. Many enlisted feel as though there’s a huge disconnect between themselves and the officers residing somewhere up the chain of command. But there is an important buffer between them: the non-commissioned officer, or NCO.
The NCO is the go-between for the two groups, especially non-rates (E-3 and below). If we take the name by its literal meaning, then every E-4 and above is, technically, an NCO because the President of the United States has not commissioned them.
To be ‘commissioned’ means the officer received his status from the President himself. To even be a candidate for officership, you must have at least a bachelor’s degree — unless you’ve received a battlefield commission, which is rare (this exception has only been used a handful of times).
Why is there such an emphasis on education? Officers handle a lot of advanced roles and “bigger picture” planning, among other things. This makes a foundation in education extremely important.
Enlisted, conversely, can join the military straight from high school using a diploma or a GED. Being commissioned as an officer gives young, new lieutenants a degree of status over a young, new airmen, privates, or seamen — but not the NCO. NCOs have years of service and have developed a focused, on-the-job expertise in their field. More than that, however, they know their people, the junior ranks who will be doing the bulk of the tactical work on the ground. In truth, a good NCO is an invaluable asset to any an officer.
Once upon a time, having a bachelor’s degree created a concrete distinction between enlisted and officers. Now, however, times have changed and many people come to the military with post-secondary education. This leads some enlisted to believe the commissioned-enlisted divide is a sham — or, in extreme cases, enlisted use this as an argument against authority. Regardless of how many degrees are among the ranks, higher education is an essential element to becoming an officer in any branch — it just won’t earn you any automatic respect from enlisted, so don’t lean on it.
When it comes to command, officers command other commissioned officers of lesser rank. The NCO cannot command a commissioned officer unless that officer is under the care of the NCO for training, such as at The Basic School of the U.S. Marines Corps.
While some NCOs question whether an officer corps is necessary, there has always been a divide between enlisted and officers, and there will always be. The reason for this is simple: there may be a time where an officer has to send one of his men into the jaws of death. They can’t be shy about doing it when the situation calls.
But trust is important. NCOs grow as leaders, both in age and time in service. They learn tactical control of the battlefield, and they know when an officer looks at the enlisted as a way to climb the political ladder, or worse: as cannon fodder.
The officers outrank the NCOs: They make more money and they get more fringe benefits. But the NCO is the true backbone of the military, carrying out the officer’s orders in the most efficient way possible. The two need each other and that’s what makes a military operation so effective.
Just because someone has their very own DD-214 in their hands doesn’t mean that they are now exempt from all of the same boot mistakes they once made when they were young privates. Chances are they’re not going to be walking around the local mall with their dog tags hanging out of their shirt anymore, but they’ll do nearly all of the same crap that got them mocked by their peers a few years prior.
The only differences between then and now is that they no longer have a squad leader around to say, “dude… what the sh*t are you doing?” and their college classmates must now thank them for their service for every little thing they do.
Some vets look on and cringe as others have their boot behaviors reinforced and dive head-first into checking every box on this list. We’re not saying every vet exhibits these behaviors — far from it — but we all know that guy…
Your college classmates, including the other veterans who aren’t as self-proclaimed “dysfunctional” as you, will thank you for not bringing it up every other sentence.
Mentioning to everyone that you’re a veteran
How can people thank you for your service if you don’t let them know that you served every ten seconds? It doesn’t matter what the situation is, your service needs to be brought into the conversation.
This kind of behavior is totally acceptable in, say, a foreign politics class at a university when the professor brings up somewhere the vet has been. That vet’s service can bring another perspective to the table. But it’s not really needed when the conversation is about the latest episode of some TV show…
The overly-moto tattoo you got when you were fresh out of training is enough.
Dressing way too moto
Some veterans hang up their serviceuniform and jump right into another one that, for some odd reason,still includes the boots they wore while serving.
If you spot anyone trying to look operator AF while wearing a backwards cap with a Velcro American flag on it, Oakley shades that were never authorized for wear in uniform, an unapologetically veteran t-shirt, khaki cargo pants, the aforementioned combat boots, and dip in their mouth,then you’ve got full rights to mock them for being a boot vet.
It just opens up the possibility for you to seem like you’ve stolen valor (when you haven’t), which is a topic for another article, entitled “why in the ever loving sh*t do people keep wanting to steal valor?”
Wearing uniforms when it’s not really appropriate
The moment most troops get off duty, they’ll get out of their uniform faster than Jim Carrey in Bruce Almighty. Being caught off-duty and in-uniform is basically letting every NCO know that you’re willing to pull CQ. Yet, for some odd reason, boot vets pull their uniform out of the toughbox in the garage just so they can wear it to the store.
There’s a good argument that could be made for veterans who’d like to walk their daughter down the aisle in their old service uniform, so moments like those get a pass, but you really shouldn’t wear it to anything politically related.
This is how you sound when your check for “up to and including your life” doesn’t save you 50 cents.
Making a scene if somewhere doesn’t offer a discount
There’s nothing wrong with grabbing a military or veteran discount when it’s offered. Hey, a dollar saved is a dollar earned, right? The polite response is usually to thank the person who gave you a deal and, especially at a restaurant, tip them what you would have otherwise paid. Returning kindness with kindness leaves a positive impression of the military community and maybe inspire places to take a financial loss to help vets.
If they don’t offer the discount, just joke “well, it was worth a shot” and move on. Don’t be that asshole who yells at some teenager for a policy they didn’t make because you had to pay for a burger instead of .50.
I have the vaguest feeling that this Marine is probably the dude who merges into the freeway at the last possible second, cuts off everyone in traffic, and then thinks everyone is honking at him because they “hate ‘Murica.”
Branch decals on everything
Everyone should have a bit of pride for the men and women that they served with. Putting an Eagle, Globe, and Anchor on the back of your truck is modest way to show everyone that you served in the Marines and flying a U.S. Army flag under Ol’ Glory is a great way to let your neighbors know you were a soldier.
Not everything you owns needs to be covered in military decals. There’s a certain point at which it stops being “just a little tacky” and hits full-blown obnoxious levels of bootness.
But if you overly elaborate your skills at a job interview and mention me as a reference. I, personally, will vouch for every bullsh*t lie if it means you get the job.
Talking up your skills at every possible moment
The military teaches troops how to do a lot of things well. From properly making the bed in the morning to playing beer pong in the barracks, vets picked up a few things here and there. If you’ve got the talent to back up you claims, by all means, boast away. But just because you PMCSed a Humvee a few times doesn’t make you the greatest mechanic in the world.
We all know Stone Cold Steve Austin from his years when he was the face of World Wrestling Entertainment. “The Texas Rattlesnake” was one of the toughest, most badass wrestlers who left an indelible mark in the ring — both on TV and on the silver screen. Recently, we got to see Stone Cold sit down with some gentlemen who exhibited an entirely different type of toughness and heroism. By partnering up with Wargaming, the company responsible for the hit game World of Tanks, Austin recently sat down to interview three World War II tankers about their experiences. Their stories are powerful, harrowing, and heartbreaking.
The second veteran interviewed is Clarence Smoyer.
Clarence Smoyer served in the 32nd Armored Regiment of the 3rd Armored Division. Hailing from Pennsylvania, Smoyer served as a gunner during World War II. On D-Day, he landed on Omaha Beach. He recounted that, by the time he landed on the beach, things were already under control — but that control didn’t extend far inland. Moving forward, he rapidly found himself in the thick of it.
Smoyer would load his tank’s gun fast and often get blistered up badly as a result. He recalls that once, he went to medical to get the blisters treated and, on the way back, heard a mortar coming in. He ran and took cover just as it exploded nearby. A piece of shrapnel ripped his nose up, but Smoyer didn’t want to go back to medical because, “I was afraid I’d get hit by another mortar,” so he soldiered on.
Austin asks Smoyer if his tank ever got hit. Smoyer tells us that his tank got hit with an armor piercing shell and it took a chunk out of the tank. If it had been six inches over, it would have gone through his telescopic sight and he would have died. It’s a harrowing thought.
(Photo Courtesy of Clarence Smoyer)
In one of the most heart-wrenching accounts of losing a buddy, Smoyer relates a story about losing his tank commander who was also his best friend. When one of the open-top vehicles was hit, his friend ran toward them to assist — despite Smoyer’s warnings. “He always ran to help someone if they were in need.” Just before he reached the vehicle, he was killed instantly by two mortar shells as Smoyer watched in horror.
Smoyer’s stories are so powerful, in fact, that they’re the subject of a New York Times bestselling book, Spearhead, which is a great read if you’re looking for all the gritty details.
Austin asks Smoyer to recount the first time he took on a German tank. Smoyer tracked down a tank, but it backed off behind a building. Smoyer shot through the building and hit a pillar which caused the building to collapse. Smoyer learned later the building collapsed on the tank and put it out of actions. Years later, on his return to Europe, he met one of the occupants of the German tank after they fished him out from under the building’s rubble. “I hesitated, I didn’t know how he was going to feel about me. After all I dropped a building on him.” The meeting went well, and they shook hands. Smoyer told him, “The war is over now, we can be friends.”
To continue the Tank action, be sure to check out World of Tanks on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One today. Through the World of Tanks Tanker Rewards program, Wargaming offers tons of benefits and exclusive rewards both in-game and in person for all registered players. Be a part of our current WWE season and get endless opportunities to claim WWE and Tanker rewards. To learn more about the program, click here.
After 1000 days, and barriers including dust storms, thunderstorms, and the isolated location, US Air Force airmen at Air Base 201 in Agadez, Niger have completed the largest troop labor project in history. Air Base 201’s 6000 foot runway will give the Air Force a constant intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance presence in a increasingly active region for extremist activities.
Shaw Air Force Base is known by those stationed there as Separates Husbands And Wives. Between the Red Flags at Nellis, the endless human centipede of exercises, and a deployment, my husband Mike was gone over half of our days during that assignment. It was there I learned what it meant to be alone even while in a marriage, but I dealt with it by finding pockets of positivity. Deployments are tough, but if you look, you can find some gold nuggets in that steaming pile of anxiety poo.
He doesn’t need to know that his pitted out Yuengling shirts are getting boxed up with collegiate football hats of schools he didn’t attend in order to make room for my legion of maxi dresses. The flannels, however, can stay.
(Photo by Sarah Pastrana)
2. Suddenly, the toilet paper roll lasts longer.
Turns out if your partner spends as much time on the toilet as a small construction crew fed on chicken fried steaks and protein shakes, the t.p. budget shrinks when he leaves. That newfound cash can be spent on regular pedicures, or a reasonably priced used Lexus.
3. You can take up the whole bed.
I call my favorite position, Drunken Starfish.
4. Retail therapy is fine!
His income is tax-free, and now I need a new credit card because the strip on my old one is wearing out.
Photo by USFS Region 5
5. Less frequent leg shaving.
That is, until your nephew feels your shin and asks, “Why does Aunt Rachel’s leg feel like a pine tree?” Twerp.
6. No bras in the house.
The bra hits the floor before the alarm goes off. I could set a world record for how fast I can unclasp my underwire and pull it out through the bottom of my shirt.
7. I can sleep better through the night without a 200 lb. land manatee flopping around next to me.
Not to mention the pillowcases are significantly less sweaty.
8. No sound of velcro in the morning.
9. Cereal for breakfast. Cereal for lunch. Cereal for dinner.
Honorable mention goes to chips and salsa.
10. Let me introduce you to “The D Card.”
Don’t get me wrong, I was worried every day for his safety, and wished time would speed up for him to come home, but the ultimate reward for enduring a deployment is getting to play the “D Card.” Fewer phrases pack a punch harder than these four words: My husband is deployed.
11. Priority vacation days at work.
When everybody is trying to take off for the holidays at the same time – wham! – I play the D Card and skip to the front of the line. No way am I missing Mom’s orange fluff at Christmas to decorate a tree by myself.
12. People put you on a pedestal just for being present and fully dressed.
Trust me, it doesn’t always happen.
13. Sometimes patriotic strangers pay for your drink.
One man tried to pick up my tab without me seeing. Little did he know I drink enough scotch to ration a ship full of sailors across the Americas, so he kindly paid for half. God bless you, citizen.
14. It shuts down unwanted attention from men.
I remember being asked, “How come your man’s not out with you tonight?” (First off– ew.) When I dropped the D Card, it abruptly came to a halt. There’s no comeback. Then I did the Hammer Dance to the tune of “U Can’t Touch This” and got myself some jalapeño poppers.
15. You get a hall pass for mood swings.
WHICH I DON’T F*CKING HAVE!
16. You can zone out at work hassle free.
All I have to do is pull up an article about F-16s, maximize the screen and then stare out into space. My boss thinks I’m anguished about my deployed husband, when really I’m thinking about Downton Abbey, or why white queso tastes better than yellow queso. But truthfully most times I’m anguished about my deployed husband.
17. Nice people send you nice cards.
One of the best things, truly, is finding out how big your friends’ hearts are. People send you cards and care packages, and a few more ambitious friends fly out to visit. I was touched to find out I had a group of friends who started a secret thread to coordinate when they could visit me so it was spread out over the deployment.
Is it indecent to use his time in combat to make my pain a little less difficult? I don’t think so. Deployments are dark times. It’s something those of us have earned through tears and sleepless nights when something goes bump outside the bedroom window. I remember driving over to my friend’s house one night because her neighbor wouldn’t stop being a creep, knowing her husband was away. We stayed up on her back patio with shotguns across our laps until we ended up making margaritas and playing Yahtzee until 3 in the morning.
If you’re the one left behind, it can feel like half of your puzzle is missing its pieces. For me, a gold-medal overthinker, I questioned who I was as my own person and why I couldn’t seem to handle life, which made me feel even worse about myself. I refused to feel helpless, but there it was. We had built a life for two, and I was forced to fly it solo. So no, I do not feel bad about playing the D Card.
But the biggest high of having a deployed husband is when you lock eyes across the hangar at 2 a.m. after seven months. Your heart pounds as you watch that tan flight suit cut through the crowd of hundreds, and you finally get your kiss, bristly though it may be.
Social isolation and feelings of loneliness are associated with suicidal thoughts. Consequently, the more people feel disconnected from their friends, peers and colleagues, the more isolated they become.
One antidote for social isolation is social connectedness. That is, people coming together and interacting. But there’s been little research on suicide prevention programs that target social connectedness.
Dr. Jason Chen of the VA Portland Health Care System is leading a study to establish a stronger sense of social connectedness for Veterans at high risk of suicide. He’s doing this by increasing their participation in community activities.
Chen and his team have been identifying the community engagement needs and preferences of Veterans who have been hospitalized and evaluated for psychiatric conditions. Specifically, the team interviewed participants within a week of their discharge from an inpatient psychiatric unit. They discovered Veterans analyzed for psychiatric conditions, such as PTSD, are at much greater risk than other cohorts of taking their own lives within three months after leaving the hospital.
Social connection could decrease suicidal thoughts
“When working with Veterans, I noticed that many didn’t have social connections,” Chen says. “We know that feeling connected to others can be a form of protection against suicide. So I thought to myself, if the Veterans I work with don’t have many connections, perhaps we could help them create new connections through community activities. My hope is that by helping Veterans increase their engagement in community activities, they’ll feel a stronger sense of social connection that will, in turn, decrease their level of suicidal thoughts.
“The first part of our study was to learn more from Veterans about what gets in the way of connecting. For example, we interviewed 30 Veterans to learn about their past experiences connecting to the community and their thoughts about what would get in the way in the future. Our Veteran sample varied in age from their 20s through their 70s. The average age was 48. We wanted to understand a broad range of experiences across different eras of conflict and generations.”
Suicide prevention is VA’s top clinical priority
Eventually, Chen and his colleagues plan to create clinical toolkits for VA and community figures. The toolkits will focus on increasing social connectedness for Veterans in this vulnerable population.
VA considers suicide prevention its top clinical priority. The most updated analysis of Veteran suicide rates, issued in 2016, notes Veterans accounted for 18% of all deaths from suicide among U.S. adults. This compares with 22% in 2010.
Chen and his team have identified patterns of Veterans’ needs and preferences for social connectedness.
“Veterans appear to be interested in a broad range of activities,” he says. “However, they noted having difficulty knowing how to access these activities and how to make new social connections. Within our sample, Veterans have discussed needing more hands-on support for engaging in community activities. They generally value and believe these activities are important for their wellness and recovery. But they could use extra support for navigating logistics and interactions with new people. We plan for this support to come from a Veteran peer support specialist. That is a Veteran who has undergone his or her own mental health recovery and is now helping support other Veterans with their experiences.”
Working with communities
Researchers are partnering with communities to provide a broad range of activities tailored to the interests of Veterans who are at high risk for suicide. These activities include engaging with Veterans or non-Veterans in the Chinese martial art tai chi or outdoor activities, such as fly fishing or playing music.
“We do not have good evidence that any one type of activity is more protective than another,” Chen says. “They’re worthwhile as long as folks develop a sense of belonging and feel like they’re giving back to others.”
When Private First Class Ethan T. Ford first thought about joining the military, he immediately had his hopes set on being a combat photographer.
“Joining the military has given me a lot of options and I’ve done a lot of things I would have never had the option to do before. I wouldn’t have traveled to Korea, cover historical events, or be in a movie,” Ford said.
As a 25V Combat documentation/production specialist, Ford is his unit’s official videographer, tasked with shooting and editing footage and capturing every moment of garrison operations.
Like all soldiers, Army photographers get trained on basic combat skills and learn how to operate weapons, expertly engage in hand-to-hand combat and administer basic first-aid.
Army photographer Private First Class Ethan Ford practices photography techniques while on assignment in Seoul, South Korea.
(Photo by Private First Class Ethan T. Ford)
But being an Army photographer requires dedication and resilience. When the rest of the unit goes home or finishes the mission, the Army photographers get to work to upload their photos and videos and create products for the historical record.
When his friends in Oregon ask him what it’s like to be in the Army, he says he gives them the honest truth.
“Being in the Army is not hard, at times it can be mentally draining, but anyone who is physically capable can do it.”
This is not a typical assignment, according to his supervisor, Staff. Sgt. Pedro Santos, noncommissioned officer in charge of the Yongsan Visual Information Support Center.
His team is made up of creative types who strive on challenges.
Army photographers have to be able to quickly react to any situation in any environment. You have to make sure you’re ready and that your equipment is in good shape and your batteries are charged.
Dancers perform traditional acts during a community relations event at US Army Garrison Yongsan in Seoul, Korea.
(Photo by Private First Class Ethan T. Ford)
Between assignments, the soldiers are back in the office learning new skills, teaching each other new tips and critiquing each other.
Other parts of the job include handshake photos and designing PowerPoint slides, which isn’t the most inspiring for the truly passionate photographers like Ford, but meeting expectations is important.
One of the advantages to enlisting as a combat photographer, according to Santos, is that the experience and education you gain is unmatched.
“When it comes to someone who is passionate about something and they want to pursue that in the military as well I sometimes you get lucky and you get someone like Ford who is passionate about it,” Santos said.
Army photographer Private First Class Ethan T. Ford reflects on his various assignments while stationed in Seoul, South Korea.
(US Army photo)
Santos encourages his team to speak to the customer, usually a senior leader like a first sergeant or commander and find out what their goals are, what type of video or photography they would like and then you have to be creative and find out what kind of angles you are going to take the shot from and how you are going to prepare for it.
Some assignments can take up to one month of preparation and rehearsal.
“One thing you can’t really reach combat photographers is post editing, from my experience, you can take an amazing photo and be done with it, but when someone takes the time to perfect their work, it is impressive and it shows,” Santos said.
“You are in a great area, one of the biggest cities in the world. There is inspiration everywhere.”
Army photographer Private First Class Ethan T. Ford captures a nature scene near his hometown of McMinnville, Oregon.
(Photo by Private First Class Ethan T. Ford)
On weekends, Ford goes out on his own on the weekend and practices different techniques and works on improving his craft. His favorite style of photography is capturing candid moments and doing street photography.
One of the highlights of his tour in South Korea was a special assignment in October 2018 when Ford witnessed history in the making and was the only photographer allowed in a meeting between North Koreans and South Koreans in the blue building at the Joint Security Area. The event was one of the first steps in a negotiation that is expected to result in officially ending the war between the two countries.
Outside of photography, Ford is a movie buff. He loves war movies and his favorite movies include Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, andHacksaw Ridge to name a few.
A river photographed near McMinnville, Oregon, the hometown of Army photographer Private First Class Ethan T. Ford.
(Photo by Private First Class Ethan T. Ford)
Early 2019, Ford got to skip his normal routine of morning physical training, chow and VISC photography duties and was granted a two-day pass to play a movie extra in a Korean War film set in 1950 with actors Megan Fox and George Eads.
“Playing a movie extra was a lot like being in the military,” Ford said, “It was a hurry up and wait situation. It took several hours to drive there and several more to get dressed.”
One of the best parts of the experience was getting one-on-one acting advice and mentorship from actor George Eads, who plays MacGyver on TV.
Although the Department of Defense does not keep track of the numbers of service members who appear in television and film projects, there are many opportunities to play extras in movies because It is it is incredibly difficult for civilian actors to realistically portray the discipline of the U.S. warfighter without having served, according to Brian Chung, a military advisor to big Korean production studios in Seoul and in Los Angeles.
Private First Class Ethan T. Ford cast as an officer in a movie shot in Seoul, South Korea.
(US Army photo)
In fact, 90 percent of DOD-supported projects, including documentaries and reality television programs are unscripted, according to Master Sgt. Adora Gonzalez, a U.S. Army Film and TV Entertainment Liaison in Los Angeles.
“All service members have been trained since basic training to stand, walk and talk a certain way on duty,” Chung said.
Chung is a former U.S. Army Captain and was previously stationed in Yongsan as a military police company commander.
He understands how challenging it can be for soldiers stationed in Korea to be working long hours while displaced into a new culture, which is why he reached out to leaders at United States Forces Korea to get approval for the soldiers to be part of the movie.
(Photo by Private First Class Ethan T. Ford)
“It was personally satisfying as a U.S. Army veteran of Korean decent, to honor the warriors of the Korean War with authentic portrayals that could only have been achieved by their successors serving on the same peninsula that they sacrificed so much to protect. Seeing the look of excitement on the young troops’ faces as they hustled around set from wardrobe, to the make up chair, to an authentic 1950’s set was an amazing icing on the cake,” Chung said.
The movie will be released around the same time that his tour ends in June 2019, when he will report to duty at his new assignment at Fort Meade, Maryland.
“I’m going to miss going out and eating in Itaewon, especially the fried chicken and ramen,” Ford said. “It’s some of the best food I’ve ever had in my life. You won’t find anything like it in the U.S.”
After his time in the Army, Ford plans on taking more advanced courses and going back to Oregon and becoming a professional photographer.
“The Army is what you make of it. You can make it be miserable or make it be the best time of your life,” Ford said.
When Christine Hassing looked at the suicide statistics of U.S. military veterans, she was drawn to learn more about the experiences of veterans suffering from PTSD and military sexual trauma (MST). Through her research, Hassing learned the remarkable impact service dogs played in veterans’ journeys towards healing and recovery from the deepest emotional wounds.
The Michigan-based author and inspirational speaker was working on her master’s degree when she met a veteran and his service dog.
After listening to their story, she knew that she wanted to spotlight the struggles of fellow veterans like him who are healing from trauma with the support of their furry friend. From sensing a nightmare and waking a veteran before terror takes hold, to placing a comforting paw on someone’s shoulder to ward off a panic attack, these dogs provide immeasurable support day and night.
Wanting to share their perspective, she collaborated with twenty-three veterans and compiled their unique stories in her recently published book, “Hope Has A Cold Nose.”
“When my path intersected with the first veteran and his service dog that you can meet in ‘Hope Has a Cold Nose,’ I asked if I could write his life story for a class assignment,” Hassing told We Are The Mighty. “Our class had been given the challenge to do something creative that was outside our comfort zone. As a volunteer life story writer for a local hospice, writing life stories was not new to me. Writing a life story for someone who was not knowingly dying was.”
Statistics show that 22 U.S. military veterans commit suicide per day.
“In writing this veteran’s life story, I learned not only how effective canines are as a healing modality for PTSD, [but that] twenty-two lives a day have lost hope,” Hassing shared. “I was inspired to be a voice for the twenty-three co-authors of ‘Hope Has A Cold Nose’ who desired to inspire hope for 22 lives a day with a goal of reducing the suicide rate to zero.”
Each chapter shares the story of a different human-canine pair as they explore their life changing relationship. The compelling testimonies from each and every storyteller in the book reminds readers of the importance of compassion and community during the recovery process for veterans.
“It’s important to increase awareness about the healing impact that service dogs have on those journeying with PTSD and the power of listening that helps people heal,” she shared. “To foster hope for anyone who struggles with pain, trauma, sorrow, or despair and to foster compassion and community. This year may become one in which many will mark 2020 as a traumatic year. The co-authors in Hope Has a Cold Nose understand grief, sorrow, fear, isolation, anxiety, depression, and loss of hope. These stories can foster empathy and understanding in addition to inspiring hope.”
For Hassing, working to share these individual veteran stories stretches far beyond publishing a book.
“It is my hope that the readers will learn about the effectiveness of service dogs as a healing modality for those who struggle with PTSD,” Hassing said. “That increased understanding will foster the ability to listen to others experiencing pain, trauma, sorrow, or despair with the same kind of unconditional acceptance as those with fur do and that if the reader is undergoing significant pain, trauma, sorrow, or despair, may they find compassion and understanding for their own story. May they find hope.”
Before D-Day, on June 5, 1944, some 90 teams of two to four men parachuted into Nazi-occupied France. They were members of the Office of Strategic Services, the predecessors of both the CIA and the modern-day Army Special Forces. These OSS teams were called “Jedburgh” teams and were highly skilled in European languages, parachuting, amphibious operations, skiing, mountain climbing, radio operations, Morse code, small arms, navigation, hand-to-hand combat, explosives, and espionage. They would need all of it.
The OSS teams’ job was to link up with resistance fighters in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands to coordinate Allied airdrops, conduct sabotage operations, and roll out the red carpet for the Allied advance into Germany. D-Day was to be the “Jeds'” trial by fire.
The Jedburghs preparing to jump before D-Day.
Fast forward to 75 years later: Europe is no longer a fortress and the OSS has since evolved into both the CIA and the US Army’s Special Forces. To honor that tradition, a team of Army Special Forces veterans, including SOF legend and 2017 Bull Simons Award Winner CSM Rick Lamb, are planning to recreate the Jedburghs’ famous nighttime jumps into Europe in June 2019 and those veterans just happen to be members of the ODA that rode into Afghanistan on horseback in the days following the 9/11 attacks — they are Team American Freedom.
If the name “American Freedom” sounds familiar, it’s because they’re also the founders of American Freedom Distillery, a Florida-based premium spirits brand, makers of Horse Soldier Bourbon and Rekker Rum. And it’s not only the Special Forces veterans jumping from the lead aircraft on June 5th, they’re in good company. Joining them in the jump will be retired Army Ranger Bill Dunham, who lost a leg in Panama in 1989, the Gold Star mother of another Army Ranger and some of her late son’s fellow Rangers, and a 97-year-old World War II veteran.
The American Freedom Distillery Team
“This group will represent every major known and unknown conflict for the past 30 years – every group who inserted early and fought with little recognition,” says American Freedom co-founder and Special Forces vet Scott Neill. “This is the last big World War II anniversary (other than VJ Day) that World War II vets and these generation will share. The very special part is that we will also share this with our families. Our wives who took care of the home front and our kids who watched daddy go away again and again. It’s a way to show our family why we did it.”
For the entire summer of 2019, France and England will be celebrating the D-Day landings and the start of the liberation of Europe. The D-Day airdrop is just the beginning, other events will include parades, military encampments, and showcases featuring World War II uniforms.
Good work if you can get it.
The team is set to stage out of Cherbourg, France and tour some of the areas where the most intense fighting occurred. On June 5th, they will jump out of a C-47 Skytrain, just like their forebears did 75 years ago, and hit the dropzone at around 11a.m. They won’t be coming empty-handed. They will also be dropping a barrel of their Horse Soldier Bourbon to support the festivities on the ground as 200 more jumpers hit the drop zone throughout the day.
(Image courtesy of Scott Neil, American Freedom Distillery)
If you want to support Team American Freedom as they remember the brave men who landed behind enemy lines a full day before the Allied invasion of Europe, you can help by contributing to their GoFundMe page. You will be enabling generations of special operators, CIA veterans, and Gold Star Families, many of who have lead insertions into modern day areas of operations attend this historic event.
An important yet discreet part of the inauguration of a new president is the transfer of command and control authority over the US nuclear arsenal, but there is the possibility President Donald Trump will not attend President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, which could complicate matters.
So what happens to the “nuclear football” that accompanies the president if Trump doesn’t show? How does it get to Biden?
“That’s a good question,” Hans Kristensen, a nuclear-weapons expert at the Federation of American Scientists, told Insider. “It is an unprecedented situation.”
The president has the sole authority to conduct a nuclear strike, and wherever he goes, he is accompanied by a military aide carrying a briefcase called the “president’s emergency satchel,” more commonly known as the nuclear football.
Every president since John F. Kennedy has been accompanied by the aide carrying the hefty briefcase, which gives the commander in chief the ability to command US nuclear forces while away from physical command and control centers.
The briefcase does not contain a button that can instantly unleash hundreds of nuclear warheads deployed on intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and strategic bombers. Instead, the briefcase contains communication tools, codes, and options for nuclear war.
Separate from the football, presidents carry a card, sometimes called the “biscuit,” on their person containing authentication codes. In a nuclear conflict, the president would use the codes in coordination with the tools in the briefcase to identify himself to the military and order a nuclear strike.
Incoming presidents are typically briefed on their nuclear responsibilities before taking the oath of office. Then, during the inauguration, the codes they received that morning or the day before become active, and control of the football is quietly and seamlessly passed to the new president.
Trump described that moment as “sobering” and “very scary,” telling ABC News in 2017 that “when they explain what it represents and the kind of destruction that you’re talking about, it is a very sobering moment.”
The transfer of the nuclear football is supposed to occur at noon as the new president is sworn in. The military aide who has been carrying the briefcase hands it off to the newly designated military aide, former Vice President Dick Cheney said in a past Discovery documentary. This traditionally happens off to the side and is not a part of the show.
If Trump is not at the inauguration, then the transfer process will be different. Still, the transfer will need to be instantaneous, said retired Air Force Lt. Col. Buzz Patterson, who carried the football for former President Bill Clinton.
“That’s the way it has to be,” he told Insider. “For the process to work, you have to have this clear handing off of responsibilities.” He said that how that happens would be up to the Pentagon, which serves the office of the commander in chief, not the man.
A Pentagon spokesperson told Insider the Department of Defense had a plan for the transfer on Inauguration Day but declined to provide any further details.
“We war game this stuff, and we practice it ad nauseam for years and years,” Patterson said. “There are systems in place to make sure that happens instantaneously. There won’t be any kind of question about who has it, who is in charge at that point in time.”
“We don’t take this stuff lightly,” he added. “There won’t be any kind of hiccup. It’ll just go down without anybody even noticing, which is what is supposed to happen.”
Kristensen, the nuclear-weapons expert at the Federation of American Scientists, speculated that the plan could resemble plans in place for situations in which a president is suddenly killed or incapacitated, situations in which nuclear command and control authority and all accompanying equipment have to be immediately transferred to the vice president or another designated survivor.
Schwartz, known for his research on the nuclear football, said there was more than one football. In fact, he explained, there are at least three of them — for the president, vice president, and a designated survivor.
He said that if another nuclear football had not already been prepared, one likely would be before the inauguration. There would be a military aide ready then to begin following Biden as soon as he is sworn in. And, at that time, Trump’s nuclear command and control authority would expire.
“Hopefully President Trump will be there and it will be just a handoff, which is what it’s been for decades,” Patterson said, adding that if he didn’t, “it’s not that big of a deal” because the military will make sure that the transfer occurs as needed.
If you know one thing about U.S. Army veteran Clint Romesha, it’s that he earned the Medal of Honor for his actions in Afghanistan in 2009 during the Battle of Kamdesh. If you know another, it’s that he wrote a book, “Red Platoon,” about that battle. What most people don’t know — or at least what’s not obvious to the casual observer — is that Romesha doesn’t particularly like the spotlight that being a Medal of Honor recipient has put him in.
“I’ve always been a very quiet personality,” Romesha said during a recent phone interview with Coffee or Die. “I like to have one-on-one conversations with people and not be the center of attention in the middle of a crowd. It’s just not my personality. So that was very much a shock, something I’m still trying to get used to.”
Romesha grew up in a small town in Northern California, and his family has a history of military service. His grandfather served in World War II, his father in Vietnam, and two of his older brothers joined the service when they turned 18. “It wasn’t one of those ‘to be a Romesha, you had to do it,’ but it was just always encouraged,” he said.
(Photo courtesy of U.S. Army)
In 1999, Romesha enlisted in the Army, expecting to “just do three years, check the box, get the GI bill, grow up a little bit, come back home, have some silly stories of being too drunk in Germany and escaping the polizei or something like that.” He wasn’t going to make a career out of it — nor did he think his service would define his future.
The first sign that things wouldn’t be as cut and dry as he expected was the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Romesha was doing maneuvers in Germany when his unit was called into formation in the early afternoon and briefed on the situation. No one had been watching television or knew what was happening.
“We got there and formed up, and our colonel came out,” Romesha recalled. “He gave us a little pep talk like, ‘Hey, they flew planes into the towers there in New York, and everything from this day forward is going to change.'”
Romesha deployed four times during his nearly 12-year career as an armor crewman and cavalry scout. His final deployment was to Afghanistan in 2009, which would be his second sign that his military service would have a bigger impact on his life than he planned. That deployment is where he would earn the highest U.S. military award for valor. However, when asked about the most significant part of his military service, he doesn’t mention the Battle of Kamdesh — he talks about leadership.
Romesha with his unit.
(Photo courtesy of Clint Romesha.)
“It was always pursuing that mentality to just be a good leader,” Romesha said, “to have those young kids look up to you just like when I was a brand-new private coming in, looking up to guys like Sergeant [Joseph] Garyantes, those NCOs. I was like, ‘Man, if I could be half the man those guys were, I’d be a fairly decent leader.’ And that really was the significance of staying in and really building my career throughout 10 years leading into Afghanistan.”
That leadership mentality is also part of what made it difficult for Romesha to accept that he was being awarded the Medal of Honor.
“I’ll be honest — part of it was embarrassment,” he said of his initial feelings about the award. “The fact that you sit there, and you’re about to get nationally recognized for ultimately what’s a really shitty day. And part of that embarrassment came from — I know I did a decent job that day, but we also lost eight guys. They never get to come home anymore. They never get to spend time with their families. They never get to have any more birthdays or Christmases or Thanksgivings. I’m still here. That just weighs on you — why am I getting all this attention when I got to come home and those guys didn’t?
“So, initially, it was, like I said, just a deep down sense of embarrassment because as a leader, as good as you think you are or you feel you are,” he continued, trailing off. “They say I saved a lot of guys that day, which I don’t doubt I did. But I feel as a leader, you almost feel like a failure any time you lose anybody, no matter how hard you try and how good the plan was.”
Romesha wrote about his experiences in ‘Red Platoon’.
(Photo courtesy of Clint Romesha/Facebook.)
When he got the call about the award, Romesha had been out of the Army for almost two years and was working in the oil fields in North Dakota. He managed a smooth transition from military to civilian life by keeping in touch with his Army buddies and throwing himself into a demanding job.
“I think a lot of things are about timing,” he said. “And the [oil] boom [in North Dakota] was going on, and I fell into a job where I worked 42 days straight before my first day off. We were working 12- to 16-hour days, and I never had that low time of, ‘Oh, man. I’ve just left my entire known adult life behind and all those guys behind.’ I just rolled right into work that gave me a sense of purpose, a direction, and kept me super busy enough not to get caught in that reflection.”
Romesha also took advantage of his 76-mile commutes to and from work to call his battle buddies and catch up.
“Even though I didn’t get to see them every day […] I got to talk to at least one of them,” Romesha said. “And still having that connection was just powerful — to still feel part of that group, even though we were hundreds if not thousands of miles apart.”
He was told his life would change after receiving the Medal of Honor, but he wasn’t sure exactly what that meant. Romesha worked through his unease and natural quietness by continuing to shift the focus away from himself and onto the men who lost their lives during the battle.
(Photo courtesy of Clint Romesha.)
“For me, Oct. 3, 2009, was just a date that I knew when I talked to my buddies I was there with, and we’d reminisce about it. But the rest of the world never really knew about October 3 until Feb. 12, 2013, the day I received the medal. And then almost overnight, on a national level, everybody knew what happened that day. And now you’re sharing that day with everybody,” Romesha said.
“And because sitting there talking to the guys and talking to the Gold Star families, it was also an opportunity to make sure, ‘Look, if I’m getting this attention, well, I can use it for good. I can make sure those guys — Gallegos, Scusa, Kirk, Mace, Hardt, Martin, Griffin, Thomson — those guys will never be forgotten. I can talk about them again. And even though they’re not here, they’re going to always be with us. And that’s what really got me over the embarrassment.”
Romesha applied that same reasoning when he decided to write “Red Platoon.” He didn’t want it to be the Clint Romesha story. So he talked to his platoonmates and the Gold Star families, making sure that they were on board to share their stories, too. For two years, he travelled the country, reconnecting with and interviewing those he served with.
(Photo courtesy of Clint Romesha.)
“A lot of these guys hadn’t even talked about that day before with anybody,” Romesha said. “And it was capturing their perspective, and it was, at first, a very scary thing — how is this going to be received? I don’t even know what to expect from going out and doing this — and how are these guys going to react? At the end of the process, though, it was almost therapeutic.”
“Red Platoon” was optioned for a film the year it was released in 2016; however, there hasn’t been any significant momentum on that project. While he’s waiting for that call, Romesha currently spends his time “totally underemployed or overemployed, depending” on the day, with speaking engagements.
“I don’t want to be a career speaker my entire life, but it’s what pays the bills and gives me the flexibility right now to do a lot with veteran outreach and nonprofits,” he said. “Someday I’m going to have to grow up and figure out what my new occupational life’s going to be — but for right now, that’s what’s filling that spot.”
Whatever that next step is for Romesha, he credits the Army for instilling in him the work ethic and value system to get there. From a “check the box” enlistment to Medal of Honor recipient, Romesha has stepped outside of his comfort zone to be a voice not only for the soldiers he lost in Afghanistan, but for the veteran community as a whole.
“We can never forget about our service,” he said. “We can’t let it control us or dictate the rest of our lives, but we can never forget what we’ve been through and what we’ve experienced. It’s all about that follow-on mission and what we can do next and what we can accomplish going forward.”
Embedded With Special Forces in Afghanistan | Part 2
Military members have their own inside humor that is often dark and quite hilarious. Then there are the cliche jokes that troops hear all the time. Often interchangeable (substitute an Air Force guy for an Army guy and it’s the same) and heard by your crusty old staff NCO, these jokes aren’t going away anytime soon.
These are the jokes we’ve all heard a million times.
1. A sailor tells a joke to Marines
A sailor in a bar leans over to the guy next to him and asks, “hey, do you want to hear a Marine joke?” The guy responds, “well, before you tell that, you should know that I’m 6′ tall, 200 pounds, and I’m a Marine. The guy sitting next to me is 6′ 2″, weighs 250, and he’s also a Marine.”
“Now, you still wanna tell that joke?”
The sailor says, “Nah, I don’t want to have to explain it three times.”
2. The military pilot is the center of the universe
How many pilots does it take to change a light bulb?
Just one. He holds the bulb, and the world revolves around him.
3. The five most dangerous things in the Army (or Marines)- The most terrifying joke ever
A private saying “I learned this in boot camp…”
A sergeant saying “Just trust me sir…”
A second lieutenant saying “Based on my experience…”
A captain saying “I was just thinking…”
… and a warrant officer saying “Ok now watch this shit.”
4. The Sergeant Major who always uses military time…jokes on her?
A crusty old Sergeant Major found himself at a wedding when one of the bride’s guests approached him for conversation.
“Excuse me, Sergeant Major, but you seem to be a very serious man. Is something bothering you?”
“Negative, ma’am,” he said. “Just serious by nature.”
The young lady looked at his awards and decorations and said it looked like he had seen a lot of action.
“Yes, ma’am, a lot of action.”
The young lady, tiring of trying to start up a conversation, said, “you know, you should lighten up a little. Relax and enjoy yourself.”
The Sergeant Major just stared at her in his serious manner. Finally the young lady said, “you know, I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but when was the last time you had sex?”
“Well, there you are,” she responded. “No wonder you’re so serious. You really need to chill out and relax! I mean, no sex since 1955! Come with me.”
She took his hand and led him to a private room where she proceeded to relax him several times.
Afterwards, panting for breath, she leaned against his grizzled bare chest and said, “wow, you sure didn’t forget much since 1955.”
After glancing at his watch, the Sergeant Major said in his serious voice, “I hope not. It’s only 2130 now.”
5. The silent professionals
How do you know if there is a Navy SEAL at the bar? Don’t worry, he’ll tell you.
6. The urinal joke
A sailor and a Marine are both in the bathroom taking a piss. The sailor finishes up and washes his hands. The Marine gets done, and then immediately starts heading for the door. The sailor stops him and says, “in boot camp, they teach us to wash our hands after we take a leak.” The Marine replies, “in our boot camp, they teach us not to piss on our hands.”
Have any to add? Throw yours in the comments section!
The summer road trip is an iconic American institution.
Whether a cross-country tour with the family, a trip to the beach with friends, or the long haul home from college when the second semester ends, American motorists log millions of collective miles on those summer road trips. A US Department of Transportation study found that the average recreational summer road trip sees an average of a 314-mile drive one-way on such trips, or more than 600 miles in total. Many trips, of course, measure well into the thousands of miles.
Road trips can be enjoyable and relatively inexpensive compared with air travel, but they can do a number on the car, truck, or SUV logging all those miles. To keep your vehicle in its best possible shape, you need to complete a number of car care tasks after the long drive is over, and these go beyond the routine maintenance you offer a commuter vehicle.
Here are the steps to take to service a car after a long summer road trip.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexandra Singer)
1. Clean the car thoroughly, inside and out
After days on the road, deep cleaning your car is a necessary and timely step. As Mike Schultz, Senior Vice President of Research Development with Turtle Wax explains: “Not only are smashed bugs unsightly on your ride, but some also contain acidic substances, which can bite into the paint. Simply trying to scrape of stuck-on bugs can damage paint, too.”
He recommends using a dedicated car cleaning product to lift away the smashed insects. You should also remove floor mats and thoroughly clean the car’s carpets and upholstery and then let it air out for hours to prevent mold growth.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nathanael Callon)
2. Check the tire treads
Long drives can wear down tires past their point of full efficacy and safety, so check the treads once you get home.
As Fred Thomas, Vice President and General Manager for Goodyear Retail explains: “Proper tire depth is an easy way to help maximize safety and performance. There are several ways to check tread depth, including the ‘penny test.’ Simply insert a penny into your tire’s tread groove with Lincoln’s head upside down, facing you. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, it’s time to replace your tires.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)
3. Add a fuel stabilizer to the tank
After a long road trip, it’s likely you won’t use your car as heavily for a period of time, especially if you live in a city and store the vehicle elsewhere.
Adding a fuel stabilizer to the gas tank can help fuel remain fresh and prevent corrosion. If your car is likely to go unused for more than a month following your long drive (or any time) you should use a fuel stabilizer.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nathanael Callon)
4. Top off the fluids
Beth Gibson, Experiential Travel Expert with Avis Car Rental says: “Fluids are like blood for your car, and after a long trip they’ll be depleted. To keep levels where they should be and ensure your car is in drivable condition for the next time you use it, replenish windshield wiper fluid, and transmission fluid,” and so on.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)
5. Get an oil change
Even if your car isn’t due for an oil change for another few months or few hundred miles, it’s a good idea to get an oil change after a long trip.
The extended journey will have put more strain than usual on the motor, especially if your vehicle was towing a trailer or was more heavily laden than normal what with luggage and passengers.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)
6. Replace the wiper blades
Auto experts recommend you get fresh wiper blades twice a year anyway, but the likely heavy use your windshield wipers saw during a long road trip may necessitate earlier replacement.
Wiper blades usually cost less than and you can install them yourself or have a shop do it, which will likely only charge you for 15 minutes of labor.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)
7. Run a diagnostics check-up
You can buy a top quality OBD-II scanner that lets you assess all sorts of systems within your car for less than , and using such a scanner might detect an issue before it becomes a big problem, saving you an even costlier repair.
After a long drive, these scanners can check everything from filter quality to engine health, and it can explain what’s behind that annoying check engine light.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)
8. Test your brakes
Jenni Newman, editor-in-chief, Cars.com, says: “You gave your car a work out on that long road trip – now it’s time to pay extra attention to how it’s driving now that you’re back on local roads with slower speed limits. Is there a squeal happening when you hit the brakes or a weird sound coming from the wheel? Give your ride a test drive so that you know what work needs to be done when you take it in for maintenance.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.