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.
Crowds of spectators recently had a rare opportunity to see America’s advanced stealth fighter in action at the Chicago Air and Water Show, where the F-35 Heritage Flight Team put on an impressive show.
The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, a fifth-generation stealth fighter developed by Lockheed Martin, is the most expensive weapons system ever built, but its superior capabilities supposedly make up for its soaring costs.
The supersonic, multi-mission fighter, according to the developer, features unmatched electronic warfare, air-to-surface, air-to-air, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), and stealth capabilities designed to enhance the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. The F-35 program has, however, faced many setbacks.
During the recent airshow in Chicago, Airman 1st Class Alexander Cook captured several stunning photos of Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson, F-35 Heritage Flight Team pilot and commander, performing aerial maneuvers in an F-35A. The pictures were posted online by the 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office.
Check them out below…
Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson, F-35 Heritage Flight Team pilot and commander, performs a high speed pass in an F-35A Lightning II over Lake Michigan.
After the horrific terror attacks at the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics ended in the death of 11 hostages, nations of the world began creating their own versions what we, in the United States, call Special Weapons and Tactics teams, or SWAT teams. Just under a year later, France established their very own elite tactical police unit called the Groupe d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale, or GIGN.
Their counter-terrorism efforts are well regarded when they operate within their homeland, but not many know that they’re also a component of the French Armed Forces, which means they’re one part elite police officers and one part special operations soldier.
They’ve quickly become the most experienced and successful counter-terrorist organization in the world, tallying up over 1,800 publicly known missions with a near-flawless track record. And each time the Gendarmerie step up against a threat, they’ll always bring a trusty six-shooter revolver as their sidearm.
If it looks stupid, but works, it ain’t stupid.
(Groupe d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale)
While the GIGN does employ a wide variety of firearms for any given mission, including the MP5 submachine gun, the Fabarm SDASS Tactical shotgun, the Hécate II sniper rifle, and, recently, the BREN 2 rifle, their sidearm of choice is almost always the Manurhin MR73 double-action revolver. It should be noted that some have been known to carry Glock 17s, but that’s more the exception than the rule.
When the testing which sidearm to field, the MR73 made the cut after the teams were able to each shoot over 150 rounds of .38 Special with their sample weapons. They didn’t need to see any other firearms — the MR73 was the first and only sidearm they wanted to test.
Each MR73 is made to be used in marksmanship competitions. Each has an adjustable trigger weight in both double-action and single-action modes so it can be made to perfectly fit its wielder.
Even when the officer is given a choice of firearms, they’ll still almost always take the revolver. Because nothing beats a classic.
(Groupe d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale)
But while the MR73 revolver is a solid, practical choice, it’s just as much a status symbol. Commissioner Robert Broussard also saw what the revolver meant to the lawmen of America. It was the weapon of choice used by police to take down both Wild West outlaws and prohibition-era gangsters. A weapon like that earned its place among his police.
Historical status aside, the Manurhin MR73 is one the last remaining high-quality French firearms. The truth is, there simply aren’t many French firearm manufacturers that strive to achieve ultimate quality. Having a highly-customizable, expertly-crafted, .38 Special-firing symbol of both France industry and Wild West lawman? It’s the perfect match for the GIGN.
Erin Kirk-Cuomo dreamed of being a combat photographer. She interviewed with multiple companies and publications within the civilian world, but none of them were willing to hire a female photographer for that position.
So, she decided to join the military.
She chose to go into the United States Marine Corps. When she opened the doors to the Armed Forces recruitment office in 2004, she was ready to raise her right hand and do just that. But Kirk-Cuomo was told she couldn’t be a combat photographer, because she was female.
At that point, females were not allowed to serve in combat positions. But Kirk-Cuomo knew that the job she wanted wasn’t considered an active combat position, even though she’d be in the thick of things. She knew the recruiter was wrong and told him so. Kirk-Cuomo then demanded that he call a supervisor, which he begrudgingly did. That recruiter later came back and apologized for telling her she couldn’t be a combat photographer. He then asked if she could pass a physical fitness test.
The Marine Corps has the longest boot camp out of all of the armed forces and arguably the toughest to graduate from. In 2004 when she wanted to join, only 6% of enlisted Marines were female. Kirk-Cuomo did part of the physical fitness test right then and there in front of that recruiter.
She shipped out to boot camp on Parris Island two weeks later.
Kirk-Cuomo made it through the still gender-segregated 13 weeks to become a Marine. She vividly remembers that if the female or male platoons came anywhere near each other, the drill instructors would make the males do an about face, away from the females. She recalls a time that the drill instructor yelled at the male recruits, “Don’t you look at those dirty females!”
This wouldn’t be the last time she’d hear those words.
Despite the hardships, she graduated boot camp as a high shooter. Kirk-Cuomo had the highest rifle score, beating out all of the other platoons that graduated boot camp with her. She left for combat training following boot camp and then went on to school to learn how to be a combat photographer. She left as the number one distinguished honor graduate.
Kirk-Cuomo was now a part of combat camera, or COMCAM. “There really weren’t a whole lot of us [females] at the time. Most of the women that were in COMCAM were lithographers or graphics people,” she said.
Kirk-Cuomo reported to her new duty station shortly thereafter – Camp Pendleton, located in San Diego, Calif. A couple of years later, she began deploying. From 2006-2008 she was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, where she was the only female in her unit. She was also the only combat photographer for the Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF).
Kirk-Cuomo shared that being in the field was a dream come true. She credited a male warrant officer for going against the norm. In a time where leadership was hesitant to send female combat photographers anywhere dangerous, he sent her everywhere she wanted to go. It’s because of his inclusiveness and belief in her abilities that she was able to go right into the thick of things just like her male counterparts. He never saw her as “just” a woman; he saw her as a competent Marine.
When asked if serving as a combat photographer was everything she’d hoped for, Kirk-Cuomo smiled sadly. “I wasn’t prepared to stand up for myself as much as I should have,” she said. She recalled her experiences of continuous harassment and even a sexual assault. She feels strongly that the Marine Corp created a toxic environment by first segregating the sexes in boot camp and creating an environment that made females feel as though they were “less than.”
The Marine Corps just graduated its first co-ed company in March of 2019. If Congress has anything to say about, it will be mandatory due to the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which has a provision requiring them to integrate both boot camp locations. The west coast location has never trained female recruits.
“I am horrified that I didn’t stand up for myself just to fit in and get by. We older female Marines really do carry a sense of guilt with that. How much worse did we make it for the generations that came after us because we didn’t stand up and say something?” she asked.
Kirk-Cuomo gives credit for being able to openly share her experiences with the new generation of female Marines that have refused to accept that behavior. “I am just in awe of them – seeing what they’ve done and what they continue to do,” said Kirk-Cuomo. She feels confident in the new wave of female Marines making positive changes.
When she left her last deployment, she became a photographer at Marine Corps Headquarters, assigned to the Commandant. She left the Marines in 2010 and went on to become a photographer for the Secretary of Defense.
After President Obama was elected, she remembers there being a level of high tension among male Marines and heavy discussion about whether Obama would repeal the rule that prohibited females from serving in combat positions. He did.
Kirk-Cuomo was able to photograph the moment the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff signed the repeal. “I remember standing in the briefing room, photographing this momentous thing,” she shared. “I was taking these pictures and just sobbing behind the camera.”
These days Kirk-Cuomo is an active advocate for female Marines and one of their loudest cheerleaders and supporters. When asked if she regrets joining, she didn’t hesitate to say no. But when asked if she would advise females to pick the Marine Corps over other branches of service to enlist in – she immediately said not yet, they still have a lot of work to do.
We live in a world full of uncertainty. This has always been the case. But when you have kids, that uncertainty becomes less abstract and action is required. It needs to be met with the understanding that it’s on you to take the proper precautions to protect your family when shit hits the fan. There’s truth in that saying “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.” There’s also truth in the saying “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” The act of preparing helps you feel a bit less worried about hurricanes, floods, super viruses, and other such events. You can’t control anything; but you can control how ready you are.
One way to ensure you’re ready: prepare an emergency kits or go-bag. Companies like Uncharted Supply Co., Echo-Sigma, and Emergency Zone have made small fortunes in recent years selling premade emergency kits for this very reason. Affordable, portable, and packed with short-term survival essentials, their sole purpose is to arm people with the gear they need to get out of town should a life-or-death situation unfold right before your eyes.
Emergency kits are also commonly known as bug-out bags. Borrowing military terminology, the moniker refers to when U.S. troops were directed to retreat (or “bug out”) with their vital survival gear during dire situations in the Korean War. Some other common nicknames used today include the battle box, 72-hour kit, go-bag, and INCH bag, the latter of which stands for “I’m Never Coming Home”.
Not necessarily intended for long-term survival, the modern-day bug-out bag emphasizes being ready to go with everything you would need should an unforeseen emergency evacuation arise. And while the concept of proactively preparing for a worst-case scenario can seem like a daunting task, it’s also incredibly important.
“Natural disasters and society disasters such as a loss of power are not going to stop happening — we all know there will be something happening again sooner or later,” says Stroud. “It takes such little effort to prepare, yet the payoff can be very profound, and even save lives.”
Stroud, true to his reputation, doesn’t believe in taking the easy way out and is not a fan of the one-size-fits-all, ready-made bug-out bag. Why? For the simple reason that the hands-on nature of putting one together yourself makes you aware of its contents. “People must become comfortable making their own bug-out bags through research and learning,” he says.
“There is no shortcut here, and there is no company that is going to put together a grab-and-go kit that is going to work for your own family’s individual needs,” Stroud adds. “Most people will purchase such a kit and never open it or go through the contents to make sure they all work well.”
So what does the proper bug-out bag contain? While an emergency kit for single guy in his 50’s will vary significantly from the contents of one prepared by parents evacuating with a newborn, there are certain items both need to contain..
Now, it’s important to keep in mind that you aren’t planning for a glamping vacation or a weekend family escape to the woods. These evacuation essentials are geared toward survival purposes. They’re intended to keep you covered during the first 72 hours after an emergency strikes. You’ll want to source items that are easy to carry, durable in unpredictable conditions, and most importantly, useful in keeping you and your family safe.
Here, with Stroud’s help, are some of non-negotiables that need to be included in a bug-out bag
What to Pack in a Bug-Out Bag or Go-Bag
Water purification pump:The LifeStraw Mission, a gravity water purifier, weighs a little more than a pound but has the capacity to purify 12 liters of water per hour
There’s no shortage of online communities and websites completely dedicated to survivalism and preparedness. Popular digital destinations like The Ultimate Bug Out Bag Guide, The Prepared, and Ready To Go Survival are teeming with resources related to the topic, ranging from how-to-videos to in-depth gear reviews.
All of these sources keep updated master lists of everything you could possibly need in a bug-out bag. And a simple Google search for “bug-out bag essentials” will instantly return millions of results. But at the end of the day, only you can ultimately decide what needs to be included in your family’s survival kit. Personalization is paramount.
Stroud even brings it a step further, advising that every family member takes ownership of preparing for their specific needs.
“I recommend one bug-out bag per person,” he says. “Each family member, including all adults and any children capable of carrying, should have their own bug-out bag — personally designed — that they are familiar with.”
In addition to the general must-have survival elements, what should parents evacuating with kids in tow bring? Consider the below list a starting point. While there’s bound to be some crossover in the lists below, use your best judgement when curating each bag. Include any additional items that you feel would be absolutely necessary, and engage your kids in preparing their own bags so they’re familiar with the contents.
Bug-Out Bag Essentials for Babies
Diapers: Diapers are so lightweight, it’ll be easy to bring enough to last a 72-hour period. The absorbency of diapers also helps them come in handy as cold or hot packs when emergencies strikes.
Dry formula: Even if your baby is still breastfeeding, you’ll want to make sure to keep a healthy supply of dry formula packets on hand, just in case.
Bottle: Bring a bottle should you need to resort to using dry formula (plus, you can use the nipple as a pacifier, or store other items inside the bottle for extra protection).
Pacifier: Because a pacified baby beats a crying baby.
Antibacterial wipes While these can be used for the whole family, they’ll come in handy for a quick baby bath or other sanitation purposes.
Baby carrier You’ll want to be able to use your hands and carry your baby comfortably.
Bug-Out Bag or Go-Bag Essentials for Children Ages 3-6
Snacks: Food may be scarce, so be sure to bring some of your kid’s favorite snacks along. Bonus points if the snacks also pack a jolt of energy or nutrition.
Oral hygiene supplies: keeping to some routine habits, even in extreme situations, can help instill a sense of normalcy and independence―plus, healthy oral hygiene habits never hurt.
Multivitamins: your child’s diet can be severely challenged in an emergency, so stash a daily vitamin supplement in their bag.
Study walking shoes: terrain may be rough, so plan to pack a durable pair of walking shoes (that fit their ever-changing foot size) which can stand the conditions you may face.
Thermal blanket: A light, metal-coated space blanket is ultra-lightweight and designed to retain heat in colder temperatures. It can even be used as a make-shift shelter.
Ear plugs: depending on the scenario, ear plugs can help drown out frightening noises during the day and ensure a more sound sleep at night.
Bug-Out Bag Essentials for Children Ages 6+
Gum or hard candy: Whether they’re leveraged as an energy-booster or a pick-me-up when morale is low, you’ll be glad you brought a handful of sweets.
Pedialyte powder: Children aren’t the best at communicating when they’re thirsty, so avoid dehydration with a few packets of this electrolyte-infused powder.
Books: we’re not talking heavy, hard-cover books, but the mind can weaken faster than the body in times of stress―so keep a favorite paperback close by.
Other mind-occupiers: should boredom set in, it’s not a bad idea to have a deck of cards, coloring book, or other such extras on hand.
Emergency whistle: Kids six and older can let curiosity get the best of them, so arm them with an emergency whistle in case they get separated from the family.
Walkie-talkies: When whistles won’t cut it, or the family is planning to temporarily split up, a pair of walkie-talkies will definitely come in hand.
Additional Bug-Out Bag or Go-Bag Items to Keep in Mind
Power bank: pack a fully-charged power bank or two to keep cell phones and other necessary electronics charged. Ideally, you want a solar-powered bank that can be refueled via sunlight.
Document protection: during periods of uncertainty, it’s imperative to keep your family’s important documents (like birth certificates, social security cards, and passports) with you at all times, so invest in a waterproof document pouch for when you’re on the go.
Super Glue and duct tape: in an evacuation scenario, you never know when you’ll need to take a page from the MacGyver playbook (plus, Super Glue and duct tape can be used in a range of medical emergencies).
N99 masks: These face masks are effective at filtering out 99 percent of non-oil-based airborne particulate matter, including most pollution, bacteria, and viruses.
Extra money: In emergency situations, cash is king. Five-hundred dollars in small bills is a good amount.
Sunscreen: Because sun exposure is likely in emergency situations.
This covers the basics. The point here is to get you thinking about preparing and taking an active role in considering the worst. Luck, they say, is where preparation and opportunity meet. While it’s good to hope that the opportunity never arises in this case, you’ll be thankful to have prepared if it does.
Justin Constantine knows all about being challenged. In 2006, he survived an almost fatal gunshot to the head by a sniper in Iraq. It didn’t stop him. Instead, this now retired, Purple Heart recipient and decorated Marine fought through endless surgeries and therapy to become a successful entrepreneur and renowned motivational speaker.
President George W. Bush painted Constantine for his book, “Portraits of Courage,” and Constantine has received multiple awards for his work with veterans and advocacy efforts for those with disabilities. Constantine even gave a TEDx talk on being strong, which has transformed countless lives. Just as COVID-19 started igniting fear and anxiety throughout the world, he received a phone call from a doctor that would challenge his own strength.
Stage 4 cancer.
Constantine was told it was very severe and had spread from his prostate to his bones. Rather than let the currently incurable diagnosis stop him, Constantine is using it to motivate him to become an even better version of himself.
Constantine overhauled his diet completely, cutting out anything that could be harmful or “feed” his cancer. He exercises every day and implemented daily meditation into his routine. He shared that he’s lost 35 pounds since his diagnosis and is the healthiest he’s ever been. “I focus on why today was a good day and why tomorrow will be great too. I look at how I can infuse positivity in my life. It doesn’t mean unicorns and rainbows all the time, it means I make my glass half full,” Constantine shared.
Receiving his diagnosis during a world pandemic has been difficult, but Constantine has decided to continue to utilize his own past and current challenges to help motivate and encourage others. “I’m not saying it’s easy because you have to look at what your challenge is and choose to push past it. It takes effort,” he explained.
Constantine emboldens people to examine their lives and determine how they can have more purpose and happiness. “COVID is going to cast a long shadow over our lives. Things are a lot more complicated than they were a few months ago but with that comes time to think about what’s really important,” he shared.
Reports of increased suicide among veterans during COVID-19 has been present in the media, something that weighs heavily on Constantine. Despite dealing with his own significant medical challenges, he still remains focused on supporting veterans and encouraging them to seek support. “That’s so sad that someone has something that they are going through right now and it means life isn’t worth living. If they could step up and look down, they may see how many people care about them and want them to be here,” he said.
Constantine referenced his own experience of healing from his gunshot wound and then developing post-traumatic stress disorder. He sought counseling without hesitation for his PTSD, despite working for the FBI. He was very open about receiving services and it didn’t impede his continuing career. “I saw my counselor for 18 months for an hour each week. You could tell the difference in me if I missed a session. I encourage veterans to get the help they need and deserve for themselves and for their families,” he said.
Constantine often credits his wife, Dahlia, with being his rock. He shared that he knows how lucky he is to have her as his constant support and partner through life, especially since many people may not have that kind of presence in their own lives. To that he encourages all people and especially veterans who may be struggling to know they aren’t alone. “Together we are stronger; help is just a phone call away. There is always someone waiting to support you,” he said.
Throughout the past five months of the pandemic, Constantine has been consistently recording public motivational videos on his social media. He’s also been reaching out to veterans he identifies that may need support and doing his best to be an encouraging voice for them.
All while facing his own deeply personal challenge.
The effort Constantine exhibits may be born from his own experiences of recovering from his gunshot wound. When asked if he thinks surviving his near fatal wound made him more prepared to receive his current diagnosis, Constantine said yes. He explained that the experience definitely contributed to his commitment to overcoming cancer. “I think it was poignant. I feel that knowing that I overcame such a significant challenge before, makes me very confident that this too shall pass and I will push past this too,” he said.
Although Constantine may be facing the fight of his life, he continues to make the active choice not to fall into despair or spend his days thinking about his diagnosis. Instead, he’s doing what he’s always done: motivating others and living with purpose.
The Truman sailed into the Arctic Circle on Oct. 19, 2019, to conduct operations in the Norwegian Sea. After years of operations in warmer climates, leaders had to think carefully about the gear they’d need to survive operations in the frigid conditions.
“We had to open a lot of old books to remind ourselves how to do operations up there,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said this week during the McAleese Defense Programs Conference, an annual program in Washington, D.C.
In one of those books was a tip for the Truman’s crew from a savvy sailor who knew what it would take to combat ice buildup on the flattop.
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.
“[It said] ‘Hey, when you get out to do this, when you head on out, don’t forget to bring a bunch of baseball bats,'” Richardson said. “‘There’s nothing like bashing ice off struts and masts and bulkheads like a baseball bat, so bring a bunch of Louisville Sluggers.’
“And we did,” the CNO said.
Operating in those conditions is likely to become more common. Rising temperatures are melting ice caps and opening sea lanes that weren’t previously passable, Richardson said.
But it takes a different set of skill sets than today’s generation is used to, he added.
“Getting proficiency in doing flight operations in heavy seas, in cold seas — just operating on deck in that type of environment is a much different stress than doing flight operations on a deck that’s 120 degrees in the Middle East,” Richardson said. “You’ve got to recapture all these skills in heavy seas.”
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Taylor M. DiMartino)
The Truman’s push into the Arctic was part of an unpredictable deployment model it followed last year. For years, the Navy got good at taking troops and gear to the Middle East, hanging out there for as long as possible, and then coming home.
Now, Richardson said, there’s a different set of criteria.
“We’re going to be moving these maneuver elements much more flexibly,” he said. “Perhaps unpredictably around the globe, so we’re not going to be back and forth, back and forth.”
The Truman sailed through the Strait of Gibraltar after leaving Norfolk, Virginia, last spring. The carrier stopped in the Eastern Mediterranean, where it carried out combat missions against the Islamic State group and trained with NATO allies.
For most people, a new calendar year brings celebration, enthusiasm and possibility. We write hopeful resolutions in our journals, craft vision boards to set positive intentions, and greet every conversation with a resounding, “Happy New Year!”
But 2021 is not normal or typical for many people, especially if you’re in the midst of a job transition or moving from the military to the civilian sector. While you’re focused on potential career options, connecting with prime networking contacts, and ensuring your resume and cover letter are in ideal shape, the people around you might come across as stressed, anxious and less than optimistic.
This part is not normal. With more people working remotely, job sectors feeling the strain of shifting and uncertain markets, and pandemic fatigue taking over, your ability to be patient and diligent is critical.
Consider this checklist to help you stay focused, motivated and ready when opportunity presents itself:
1. List what you can (and can’t) control. Seriously, make these lists. Even if it feels foolish, write down what you have the power to influence (i.e., how you organize your day, how much time you spend on social media, who you follow up with) and what’s outside of your control (i.e., unexpected emergencies that arise, what someone else says online, whether someone answers your call or responds to your email).
Stress often comes when we feel we’re losing control over things we actually can’t control. By listing what’s realistic, you may see you have more options than previously believed.
2. Write down what gives you energy. Do you feel inspired watching TEDx Talks about overcoming challenges or new technologies? Are you energized when you help others? Do you feel uplifted when your workspace is clean and organized? Make note of what gives you energy and makes you feel inspired and happy.
3. Ask yourself: Who inspires you? Who, in your life, lifts you up? Are there people in your network who are consistently cheerful, motivating and positive? Are there online influencers who post messages that you’re always saving and referring to later? Do you reference literary figures or heroes from books who inspire you to persevere?
Make note of these people and where they are in your life.
4. Celebrate every positive milestone. Did you send a resume and get a positive response? Celebrate! Did you reach out to three contacts on LinkedIn with a well-written note and schedule two phone meetings? Cheers! Were you able to look at the camera during the entire Zoom job interview without getting distracted? Yay for you! When stressed or uncertain, celebrate the milestones that confirm your actions are moving you forward.
It’s important to recognize the things you’re doing well and seeing positive results from.
5. Keep communicating. If you’re tempted to retreat when things get stressful or you’re feeling anxious, now more than ever you need to connect with others and communicate. Likely, the person you’re reaching out to is feeling similar emotions and could also use a check-in.
Now is not the time to isolate and wait for the stress to pass.
6. Draw upon your skills of resilience. During your time in the military, you learned how to be resilient, to adapt and to overcome — physically, emotionally and spiritually. Draw upon the same strength and focus you used then to help you now.
The environment you’re in today will change — maybe tomorrow, next week or this Spring — and you want to be ready and prepared to meet the opportunities that are presented.
As you navigate your military-to-civilian transition in 2021, recognize that the things that feel “off” or different to you are likely new for all of us. The world changed in 2020, and so did many of the companies, industries and systems on which we all relied. This is a great time to learn, adapt and find new paths forward to create a career for yourself in the private sector, if you can stay focused, motivated and open to possibilities.
More than 20 veterans die by suicide every day in America. This number does not include the loss of first responders, caregivers, or their family members. Due to the lack of effective treatment for mental health issues developed from traumatic experiences, self-medicating, isolation and violence have plagued a generation of heroes.
The Boulder Crest Retreat, a privately funded organization, uses an innovative approach to treating mental health issues in veterans, their families and first responders, without the use of drugs. Treating symptoms derived from mental health issues has become big business in America, especially amongst the Armed Forces. Medicating symptoms of PTSD, depression, and other mental health issues only create new, and possibly, worse issues like self-medicating, leading to addiction.
America’s service members are exposed to numerous levels of trauma when they go to war. Upon their return home, they may experience feelings of paranoia, anger, guilt and sadness. Expected to function normally, many of them indulge in unhealthy coping habits to appear ordinary. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, during Vietnam, 15 out of every 100 veterans were diagnosed with PTSD, this number later increased to 30 per 100 in more recent studies. In the Gulf War, 12 out of every 100 veterans were diagnosed with PTSD. Now, in OIF and OEF, the numbers have continued to rise and are anywhere between 11 to 20 diagnosed in any given year. With the number of veterans seeking treatment for PTSD growing rapidly, the costs have become unmanageable for VAs across the country. They have partnered with non-profits and other state agencies to help fill the financial void for treatment.
Chairman, and Co-Founder of Boulder Crest Kenneth Falke, spoke about his personal journey to creating a place of peace for Veterans and first responders. He visited top psychiatrists from a few of the best universities in America, including Harvard. He was in search of a way to help relieve the stigma of mental illness. On this journey, he met Dr. Richard Tedeschi. Dr. Tedeschi has studied the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder on individuals and families for many years. He now teaches post-traumatic growth and how the traumatic experiences people face can create a positive response over time.
With the incorporation of methods taught by Dr. Tedeschi, Falke was able to offer a comprehensive curriculum to people who’d before, only been treated with medical intervention. “We need to normalize mental health issues,” Falke insisted. Boulder Crest does just that. The program began five years ago with the help of philanthropic funding. Falke said, “At some point in time, we all suffer.” He’s right. Nearly every person on the planet has experienced some form of trauma in their lives. With the help of Boulder Crest, people can feel safe and normal. Instead of treating symptoms, Boulder Crest teaches wellness to their clients, with a focus on mind, body, spirit, and finance. There is a program specifically for family members, couples, and caregivers. The family path program also teaches family members how to live a mentally healthy life. This program has proven to be more effective than symptom reduction alone. The Warrior Path program is an 18-month program with a required seven-day, in-residence stay for all clients. Male and females are housed separately throughout the duration of the program.
The Boulder Crest Retreat has two locations; Virginia and Arizona. Sitting on acres of grasslands, Boulder Crest offers a desirable serene ambiance best for rest and relaxation. Each location houses about 10 males and two females per year. With the ever-increasing need for services, Boulder Crest Retreat hopes to offer its program to more individuals in the coming years. The organization also offers activities outside of formal instruction such as; Archery, Equine therapy, the labyrinth, and so much more.
Boulder Crest Retreat is free to combat veterans (honorably discharged), their families, and first responders. Potential clients do not need a mental health diagnosis to be considered for the program. This retreat is a highly sought-after program. Wait times can be up to six months, depending on location. Proven to be three to five-times more successful than medical intervention alone, this program has changed how PTSD is treated.
Because programs like Boulder Crest are funded through the community, they rely on crowdsourced funds to operate. There are ways you can get involved that will empower you to want to do more for America’s veterans and first responders. By attending events, donating, and volunteering, you can help more Veterans get the treatment they need. If you are a college student, applying to be an intern at Boulder Crest Retreat, not only helps them, but it helps you too.
If you are a veteran or first responder and have experienced Post Traumatic Stress and could use some encouragement and guidance, contact Boulder Crest. Your now doesn’t have to be your forever. Change paths and begin the wellness journey you deserve.
As reported by CBC, the Canadian Armed Forces will now authorize their troops to grow a beard — within certain limits, of course. Canadian service members’ beards must not exceed two centimeters (roughly 3/4th of an inch) in length, must be kept off the neck and cheekbones, and may not be in any non-traditional, trendy style.
This puts our brothers to the north in league with the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, and most of our other NATO allies in realizing that beards aren’t as detrimental to troops as once believed. This leaves the United States and Turkey as the last two beardless, major US powers — but the Turkish Armed Forces haven’t yet taken the debate off the agenda.
With the Global War on Terrorism winding down and garrison life becoming an ever-growing aspect of a troop’s career, it’s about time the Pentagon at least entertains the idea of allowing conventional troops some leeway on facial hair grooming standards.
Even a tiny bit of stubble will stop a gas mask from completely sealing and let all that nastiness inside.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kate Thornton)
The current policy that requires U.S. troops to be clean-shaven comes from the need to properly seal a gas mask in the event of a chemical attack. In World War I and II, such a policy made absolute sense. Chemical weapons were used extensively against Allied troops and anyone fighting in areas where the enemy was known to use them kept their mask close by.
Today, the use of chemical weapons against US troops is not a complete impossibility. After all, Saddam Hussein used nerve gas against Iranian troops and the Kurds in 1987, sarin gas was used in 2013 during the Syrian Civil War, and many terrorist organization — including ISIS, Aum Shinrikyo, and Al-Qaeda — have been known to use chemical weapons in their attacks.
While a chemical weapons attack against U.S. service members could happen, today aren’t taking gas masks with them on patrol. Ounces make pounds and any additional weight slows troops down — especially when the odds of needing a mask are so slight. So, most troops opt to leave their mask back at the tent, unless mission dictated.
But even if the worst should happen, the Canadian military developed a gas mask that fits over the entire face and chin and is designed specifically with beards in mind. In the absence of such a mask, troops can just slather a bunch of Vaseline on their beard before putting the mask on — believe it or not, that does the trick, too.
Shaving while deployed also runs into the issue of wasting a valuable resource — water — on an arbitrary task.
(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Rosalie Chang)
The next argument against beards is that they’re not in line with a “professional appearance.” The problem here is that there’s no real, defined standard as to what’s considered “professional.” That being said, we all know there’s a fine line between having a well-kept beard and looking like a bum.
On the same side of the coin, certain Special Operations Command units have turned a blind eye toward facial hair standards. You’d have to be very firm in your convictions if you’re going to call out a Green Beret, a quiet professional, for being unprofessional.
The two loudest voices on the matter are that of Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell, the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who opposes beards as he believes it would loosen discipline standards in the ranks, and the Command Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey, who is in favor of beards as long as they are kept to a strict standard. And Dailey supports a caveat that would revoke beard privileges in environments with a high risk of chemical attacks.
There are pros and cons on either sides of the facial hair debate but, as it stands now, the need for a clean-shaven face simply isn’t as dire as it once was. And, as shown in an informal study done by Military Times, a vast majority of troops and veterans are in favor of loosening the grip on facial hair standards now that troops are spending more and more time in-garrison.
As a new military spouse, one of the biggest changes is your new coverage in health insurance. Whether your spouse’s status is active duty, retired, or with the reserves, you’ll have access to health insurance options that are envied by the rest of the population.
In fact, many cite military health insurance as one of the biggest work perks as a soldier. Considering its span, there’s no wonder, either. Last year, Tricare, the company that’s assigned to military spouses and dependents, covered more than 9 million beneficiaries, accounting for more than $50 billion. Now that’s some serious healthcare coverage!
The power of government pull
If covered services are billed to an in-network civilian provider, Tricare has a final say in how much is charged … and in many cases, they take care of it entirely. Of course, this is completely dependent on the type of coverage, service, and if the beneficiary has a deductible. But if it’s covered, they mean covered!
Oftentimes smaller companies leave the patient with much of the bill, which can be staggering without a big name to cap costs.
(It is worth noting that much of this could change, pending proposed medical billing transparency laws.)
How many of you have stood searching for an insurance card that was inevitably buried in the bottom of a wallet? With Tricare coverage, your military ID serves as your insurance card. This might sound minute, but there’s much to be said about not having to dig for an additional proof of insurance.
Patient advocacy and customer service
If you’re stuck with an unpaid bill, are mistreated, need a service that’s not covered, etc., your pool of resources is deep. Talk to Tricare and get instant movement on your issue, or stop in person for a meeting with patient advocates. You are not even close to being alone in this!
In rare cases, you can even look toward the chain of command to tip the scales in your favor, should logistics hit a stand-still. Look toward available services and divide and conquer until your medical needs have been met.
187FW Medical Airmen Provide No-Cost Healthcare in Training Mission.
Entire hospitals and customer service
Yes, as a military spouse, you’re entitled to be seen at military healthcare facilities. This means additional choices in patient care (and pharmacy pick up), with a quick dose of military history.
Check out stories of soldiers past while you walk the halls of your dedicated spot. This is a unique way of incorporating military-based themes into healthcare, while providing multiple options of qualified services for dependents.
Brandon Clinic provides medical care close to home.
Little paperwork and logistics required of the beneficiaries
In most cases, the paperwork is handled on the back-end, meaning you, the dependant, don’t have to worry about filing this or faxing that. The paperwork is handled on your behalf. There are, of course, exceptions to everything, but in comparison with civilian providers, you have a reliable resource to help keep bookwork in check.
As a current or upcoming beneficiary of military healthcare benefits, there’s much to be thankful for. What are some of your favorite perks of Tricare coverage?
When Michael Oulavong came home from the Marine Corps, he wasn’t able to make the same transition as some of his peers. Initially, he found success training as an EMT and firefighter, but ran into troubles when old Marine Corps injuries derailed his plans.
He sank further into his mental funk and started experiencing more symptoms of his PTSD. He needed a change and he needed a friend. That’s when he met Zoe.
Marine veteran Michael Oulavong deployed.
“My plan literally just fell apart and, being a Marine, I need to prepare for everything,” he said. “I have everything planned out… …I didn’t plan for this injury and for this doctor to be like, ‘You shouldn’t be a firefighter.’ That’s when I was like, ‘Well, crap. I’m in this black hole right now. I’m just stuck. I don’t know what to do.’ …I was in a rut. I was dealing with depression, suicidal thoughts. I was lonely.”
Oulavong knew that he needed a change, and he heard about Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation’s program to pair rescue dogs with veterans and teach the veteran to train the animal to be a service dog. It meant that Oulavong could get a service dog to help with his symptoms nearly for free.
And that’s a huge deal. Service dogs can change the trajectory of a veteran’s life, but costs can also top ,000 for a single animal.
Oulavong signed up and was surprised by how quickly he was paired with Zoe, a mixed-breed dog that clearly has a lot of German Shepherd blood.
“… the day that I first met her, it was, to be honest, it was just kind of like meeting a stranger,” he said “It was just like, ‘Hey, there’s a dog. Shoot, I guess this is my dog.’ It was kind of overwhelming when I initially met her because it was like, ‘Okay, now I have another living thing to take care of.'”
Michael Oulavong and service dog, Zoe, at the pet store.
Zoe and Oulavong met just two weeks after he signed up for the program, but he quickly became worried about the financial obligations of owning a dog. Even though he had received Zoe for free, he knew that taking care of animals can get expensive. That’s when Purina Dog Chow, which partners with the Animal Rescue Fondation to help cover some of the costs of the program and of the individual animals, stepped in.
“I was like, ‘I can’t afford this type of thing, but thank you,'” he said. “Thanks to Merritt [Rollins, ARF Veterans program manager] and to ARF and Purina, everything, they calmed those nerves down pretty quickly. You get free food for the rest of your dog’s life. They take me to Pet Food Express, and the program paid for everything the dog needed, from their poop bags to its crate to her food to everything else.”
And so Zoe and Oulavong started training. Luckily for him, Zoe stood out during training for her calm and for ability to learn quickly.
Michael Oulavong and Zoe on the day of their graduation from Basic Manners I.
“It was easy to train her,” Oulavong said. “It took work. I spent every day doing it, but compared to the other dogs in the program — not trying to talk bad about them — Zoe really made them look, seriously, she made them look like kids, but she was the adult.”
Some of the training is basic obedience work, but dogs and veterans who stick with the program will graduate to full-on service dog status, with the dogs properly trained to identify and interrupt panic attacks and other episodes in their nascent stages.
“When I do have those instances of having a panic attack or feeling very anxious and everything, I have certain tells in my body,” Oulavong explained. “So, that’s what the program has been training us to do. Say it was shaking my leg, or punching my fist, or grinding my teeth, or what not, she’ll sense that and she’ll come up and dig her head under me, or lick me, or kiss me.”
With Zoe around, Oulavong has someone protecting him from descending into a dark spiral, and someone to take care of, giving him a purpose that he compares to his time as a Marine. Between those two factors, he’s been able to better transition into the civilian world, getting a job at a Japanese restaurant as a bartender and server.
Michael Oulavong and Zoe
“…everyday I PT with Zoe every morning,” Oulavong explained. “We go for about anywhere between a mile and three mile walk, depending on how I feel that morning. She helps me keep active. I go for a walk with her every day. I just spend time with her. Five times a day, I do at least five to ten minutes simple, basic training with her, just to keep her refreshed.”
Right now, Purina is holding a fundraiser it calls the “Service Dog Salute.” As part of the fundraiser, for every bag of specially marked Dog Chow sold, including bags that feature Michael and Zoe, Purina will donate the Animal Rescue Foundation, giving up to 0,000. They’ll be giving up to another 0,000 based on how many people share the Buzzfeed video above.
Native American Vietnam veteran Robert Primeaux shared his journey from a Lakota reservation to the Army and even to Hollywood.
As a young man, Primeaux was eager to get off the reservation and see the world. To leave, he decided to join the Army. He trained in Fort Lewis and Fort Knox before joining the 101st Airborne Division and sent off to Vietnam.
In 1972, Primeaux returned to the United States. His younger brother had been killed in a car accident, leaving Primeaux as the sole male survivor of his family.
However, he did not stay in the Army long. A car accident of his own put him in a coma for three weeks. After he recovered, he was discharged.
Primeaux then lived on his grandmother’s ranch while he recovered from his injuries. To help with his recovery, he began to self-rehab by working with the horses on the ranch. His love for horses gave him the opportunity to go to school through a rodeo scholarship from the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA).
Between school and living on his family ranch, Primeaux met Michael Apted on the set of Thunderheart in South Dakota. Through this meeting, he landed a stunt role on Thunderheart and become eligible for access to the Union of the Screen Actors Guild.
Later, Primeaux moved to LA to begin his film career where he landed roles in Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and a more prominent role in Rough Riders. This role as Indian Bob was special to Primeaux because the director John Milius specifically created it with him in mind.
Recently, Primeaux has worked as an advocate for fallen service-members.
Throughout his life, through thick and thin, Primeaux credited the Four Cardinal Lakota Virtues for helping him recover from the Vietnam War and his car accident. He listed the Lakota Virtues as:
Bravery. “Individual valor meant more than group bravery, and the warrior who most fearlessly risked his life earned the admiration of all the people and received the most cherished honors.”
Generosity. “If you have more than one of anything, you should give it away to help those persons.”
Fortitude. “All had to be borne without visible signs of distress.
Wisdom. “A man who displays wisdom, displays superior judgment in matters of war, the hunt, of human and group relationships, of band and Tribal policy, and of harmonious interaction with the natural and spiritual world.”
From childhood, Lakota Warriors were taught these four virtues. Primeaux stated that warriors who were taught the true meaning of these virtues learn to treat their Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.