The New Normal - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

The New Normal

Confirmed by the U.S. Senate in December 2019, the Honorable Dana Deasy is the Department of Defense chief information officer. With more than 38 years of experience leading and delivering large-scale information technology strategies and projects, Deasey serves as the primary advisor to the Secretary of Defense for matters of information management, information technology and information assurance, as well as non-intelligence space systems, critical satellite communications, navigation and timing programs, spectrum and telecommunications.

The Honorable Dana Deasy, Department of Defense chief information officer, and Lieutenant General Bradford J. “B.J.” Shwedo is the Director for Command, Control, Communications, and Computers (C4) /Cyber, and Chief Information Officer, Joint Staff, J6, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., discuss the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic leading to the DoD’s massive shift to teleworking, as well as, the Commercial Virtual Remote Environment, modernizing the cyber infrastructure, deterrence to cyber-attacks and the implementation of the Telework Readiness Task Force. Video // Andrew Breese and Travis Burcham

Lieutenant General Bradford J. “B.J.” Shwedo is the Director for Command, Control, Communications, and Computers (C4) /Cyber, and Chief Information Officer, Joint Staff, J6, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C. He develops C4 capabilities; conducts analysis and assessments; provides Joint and Combined Force C4 guidance, and evaluates C4 requirements, plans, programs and strategies for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

During this interview with Airman magazine, Deasy and Shwedo discussed the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic leading to the DoD’s massive shift to teleworking. They also spoke on the Commercial Virtual Remote Environment, modernizing the cyber infrastructure, deterrence to cyber-attacks and the implementation of the Telework Readiness Task Force.

Airman magazine: The COVID – 19 pandemic has driven the DoD to pivot to maximum telework capacity on short notice. What effect has this had on our ability to support the National Defense Strategy?

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I think quite frankly, it’s made us more resilient. The first thing that came to my mind when we first got this tasker, is never let a good crisis go to waste. We always knew we needed to do telework, but in a battle for finite resources, we were never able to fund those. And rapidly, this gave us an opportunity to correct a lot of our shortcomings, so that’s why I feel we’re more resilient. We now have a better comms (communications) situation than we had six months ago.

Dana Deasy: I think if you go back to when we first kicked off the teleworking task force, we had some basic principles we wanted to live by. Principle number one was, ensure we could quickly get as many of our employees, service men and women working from home in a safe way. Two, was ensuring that the technical staff could do their jobs in a safe way. Third, we asked ourselves, is what we are going to build or put in place not only going to get us through the pandemic, but how does this also set us up for a better tomorrow when it comes to supporting NDS (National Defense Strategy)? I think that has actually been a very important principle, because every time we thought through a problem we were trying to solve, we looked at the immediacy. Then we always would stop and say, “Okay, but down the road is this sustainable? Are we building this in a way that will help the war fighter over the long run?”

The New Normal
The Honorable Dana Deasy, Department of Defense Chief Information Officer, and Air Force Lt. Gen. B.J. Shwedo, Director for Command, Control, Communications, and Computers (C4)/Cyber, and Chief Information Officer, Joint Staff, J6, hold a media briefing on the COVID-19 Telework Readiness Task Force on Monday, April 13, in the Pentagon Briefing Room. DoD photo by Marvin Lynchard

Airman magazine: The Secretary of Defense has defined our current times as “a new normal” that we will have to adapt to for an extended period of time in order to maintain a high degree of readiness. What are we learning about our infrastructure and our ability to communicate, lead during this time?

Dana Deasy: Here again, how we’ve conducted ourselves throughout this has been looking towards the future. People have said, “Will we go back to the way we used to work?” I don’t believe we ever go completely back. I think there is a new norm where we will have certain types of our workforce that will continue to work from home. I don’t think that we should think for a minute that we are out of this crisis and we’re ready to go back to a normal situation.

So, we continue to run our tele-tasking workforce, we continue to meet as if we’re still in the middle of trying to solve this problem. Let’s face it, we are going to have a sustained, new set of assets that we have been building out of COVID here, that are going to be here forever going forward. It’s not like we shut this down, we pack it up and we return it. We are going to keep what we’ve put in place. And so, I think this puts us in a much better position, if that day should come in the future, for whatever the reason might be, where the DOD has to go back to a maximum teleworking situation. We not only have the know-how, but we’ve created the technical assets to make that happen quickly.

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: : I was doing a forum with cadets, midshipmen and industry, and  the Superintendent of the Air Force Academy kicked off the whole forum saying, “Now that we’re talking about the new normal and now that we know we can do this, I know every cadet and midshipman will hate what I’m going to say, but we have had the last snow day at the United States Air Force Academy.”

It drives home the point that now we know we can do these things. We’re setting up the infrastructure and it gives you more options and makes you more combat survivable in a myriad of scenarios. There’s no reason to ever want to go back. Quite frankly the landscape, not just within the Department of Defense, but across the world, has changed because of this experience.

The New Normal
Walker Ince, a senior cadet, attends a class remotely on April 6, 2020 from his dorm room in Sijan Hall at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Due to Covid-19, freshman through junior year cadets were sent home to learn remotely while the senior class remained.    U.S. Air Force photo // Trevor Cokley

Airman magazine: Telework has always been viewed as a benefit to employees, but has quickly become a need for readiness and safety. Can you talk to the nature of telework and how this time may shift the mindset and modernize the capability of the DoD?

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I would say that the thing that directed us and the rule sets that we had associated with telework, no longer exist. So, the limitations of going into your e-mail, for instance, it’s been blown away. On top of that, we were always talking about giving people meaningful work and there was a cut-off where classified was concerned. Well, we’ve figured that out and we’re spending lots of money to enable that capability.

We’re finding that our folks are doing a great job from home or from the office. When you look at the larger strategies, like joint all domain command and control, and the things that we’re affording for our strategies in the National Defense Strategy, all of these things we’re discussing are further enablers to ensure that happens.

I believe we’re not going to turn back. The rules set has been blown away and we’re finding, as with every technology, better ways of doing business every day.

Dana Deasy: Could you imagine either of us standing up in front of the Air Force or even the whole DoD back in January of this year and saying, “Hey, we’ve got a whole new model how you can equip, train, create readiness, do operational reviews. People will be able to do that from home. People will be able to do that in a highly collaborative way and you will learn that you can do things highly effectively. I think we would really struggle trying to get people convinced.

You know, COVID forced us to revisit what we thought were the traditional ways of doing your various training, readiness, et cetera. I think now that people have actually seen that people can still do the training, they can still have conversations about readiness, they can still do their ops reviews is quite telling.

I think services such as the Air Force are going to challenge themselves and say, “Okay, we’ve been working this way, what can we continue to do versus falling back to all of the old ways of working going forward?”

The New Normal
U.S. Department of Defense Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy and The Director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. John N.T. Shanahan hold a round table meeting at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Feb. 12, 2019. DoD photo // U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith

Airman magazine: Speaking of the old ways, what was the mindset regarding telework when you were young officers coming up?

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I think it was probably clouded by the limitation of technology, quite frankly. You can roll in and maybe get your e-mail but OWA (Outlook Web Access; email) wouldn’t let you get in and then would kick you out, it was incredibly frustrating. You had a lack of capability to do any classified work, rapidly. It (telework) had a bad connotation because there was not a lot of what would be portrayed as productive work.

I think all of the things that we set in motion very quickly, and proved that we can do, have blown away all of those false mindsets and all of the naysayers, quite frankly, were proven wrong.

Dana Deasy: I’d say all of the services probably had a preconceived view that the only way you can truly get readiness done, that you can get operational planning done, is you’ve got to have people face to face sitting in a room.

To General Shwedo’s point, about new tools that are available today, 10 years ago, five years ago, to be able to put 500 people in a video conference where they all would have full motion, not choppiness, fully could hear each other.  They could put charts into that presentation. They could mark up things as if they were going to a whiteboard sitting in a command center, is quite telling. I would say that it’s become very clear that the technology is at the right level in capabilities today. But it’s not only the technology, it’s the way that people are getting creative and using that technology. I think is what’s made all of the difference in the world.

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I’ll just finish up. When you look at all of the things that we’re being asked to do in the National Defense Strategy, joint all domain command-and-control in air, land, sea, space, cyber in a globally-integrated form, everything Mr. Deasy just described, is going to be your foundational base.

We are getting stronger on all of these things. Going back to never let a crisis go to waste, for a lot of these things, per Mr. Deasy’s scenario, if we walked in and tried to make a funding line for that, it probably would fall below the cutoff lines. So, this has been fortuitous, and not just enabling the telework, but also forwarding our defense strategies.

Dana Deasy: In the NDS we talk about allies and partnerships. We’ve clearly been able to demonstrate through teleworking that you can have very, very effective meetings. As a matter of fact, you might almost argue that when you’re talking to your allies and partners, that’s typically someone getting on a plane and going to a different time zone, you’ll lose a day going over, you lose a day coming back at minimum. This is a case where people were able to quickly say, “I need to speak to so-and-so,” whether it’s the U.K., Australia or whatever, and make that happen.

I think even in our relationships with our allies and partners, people are going to be stepping back and going, “Why do we really need to do all of this always face to face?” 

Airman magazine: The DoD has a culture of innovating as a necessity to adversity, are there any analogies you can relate this crisis to from our history?

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I struggle with that question. I think there was lots of standard planning processes that we attacked this problem with. So, the first thing you do is study your adversary and you have to protect your forces. So, to negate the adversary’s strength, if you want to superimpose COVID on this, the strength was getting us all together, so we’re going to take that away from them and force telework.

Also, you need to remember that the enemy gets a vote, and in this scenario, there were multiple enemies and we anticipated that when we opened up this attack access, when we brought all of these different people into these different forums, we had to make our folks ready for that realm.

What did we do?  We did lots of education. Mr. Deasy’s shop and the greater task force put lots of products to increase the knowledge base, because they were going to be fighting in this cyber environment. The next piece is we needed to increase their tools and needed to ensure that we were securely operating. And then the last part is we knew they were coming, so increased vigilance. So, across the board we were attacking it as a battle plan and we were doing the organized train-and-equip things that is standard operation when we have an adverse situation.

Dana Deasy: I guess if I had to pick an analogy, and I have no idea how well this analogy works, but I think aspects of it work. I remember back when President Kennedy said, “We’re going to go to the moon.” We didn’t really know how we were going to get there or how we were going to pull that off, but a lot of new things were invented that were used not only for space missions, but were used for consumers. They were used for defense. And I think by us being forced to rethink our paradigm around how we get things done throughout the DOD, we created things, tools, techniques and technologies that we will find other ways to continue to use throughout the DOD.

The New Normal
Members of the 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron conduct a virtual flight commander sync via video conferencing tools April 3, 2020, near Travis Air Force Base, Calif. Many Airmen from the 621st Contingency Response Wing have teleworking from home since March 13, all in an effort to avoid unnecessary potential exposure to the COVID-19. Photo // U.S. Air Force

Airman magazine: To accommodate the massive shift to telework, the DoD has activated more than 900,000 remote user accounts under the Commercial Virtual Remote Environment (CVR) launched in late March. Can you explain this system and the enhanced collaboration capabilities?

Dana Deasy: You know, it’s interesting, when we knew we were going to have to start putting people at home, everybody was fixated, early on, around e-mail. Everybody thought that was the way that people were going to solve how we were going to communicate.

But what is it about humans? Humans like the visual, they like to hear people’s voices, there’s a stimulus that occurs. We quickly realized it wasn’t about e-mail, it wasn’t about pushing a document from point A to point B, it was about trying to create and mimic if you and I were sitting right in our same office together, or if we were all in a conference room together.

We pivoted to this idea of what people really want is to look and talk to somebody on video. They want to push a button, have a phone call. They want to have chats, they want to move documents back and forth. So, CVR was the culmination of the variety of things that you think about that you do every day, when you’re in the office, that all came together through the concept of delivering a CVR.

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I would say that they brought together a team very quickly.  What was impressive was, we’ve watched kind of lethargic pace of whenever we wanted to bring on a new tool or anything else and the fact that this task force had NSA (National Security Agency), CYBERCOM (Cyber Command), DISA (Defense Information Systems Agency) and all of the services knew we needed tools very quickly. 

You rapidly found things that they were already working on being brought forward. What was most important was for all of them to look at it quickly and get approval on a secure solution to implement them fast. Had we not had this crisis, I will tell you, the timelines associated with a lot of these initiatives would probably water your eyes.

Dana Deasy: You know, I’ll end by saying, when we set up CVR, we had no idea what the uptake would be. I remember early days, somebody asked me, “What would be an ambitious goal?”  I said, “Boy, if we get up to 100,000 people using this tool, that would be great.”

But, never underestimate the need for humans to want to try to find ways to communicate in styles that work for them. And it clearly became apparent that we were going to blow by that 100,000 and to your point, you know, almost 900,000 accounts later and still growing.

The New Normal
Tech. Sgt. Andrew Wilson, 911th Communications Squadron mission defense team member, checks the connection of wires on a server at the Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station, Pennsylvania, Feb. 4, 2020. One of the primary duties of the mission defense team is to ensure that servers are properly connected. U.S. Air Force photo // Joshua J. Seybert

Airman magazine: How has the coronavirus task force and relief legislation for DoD to support IT procurement and increase agency network bandwidth directly impacted the Air Force?

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: If you’re just talking about the Air Force, they got about $47 million. They went from VPN (Virtual Private Network) users of about 9,000 users to 430,000. So, it was very, very quick.

Remember, when I was talking about getting tools on board, they rapidly found secure (classified network access), because that was the main thing we were concerned about; getting secret-level capabilities as fast as we could. So, the ABMS, the Air Battle Management System program, device one, others, they had some things that we rapidly took, experimented and started using those pieces.

Also, for the folks that were able to use that just at the unclassified level, the Bring Your Own Device program, which had been in the process for a long time but rapidly got attention, you’ll find that DISA, Vice Admiral Nancy Norton and her team, did a lot of quick work to acquire products and push them out to the combatant commands and the other places to enable this capability.

Dana Deasy: I’d say the Air Force, not necessarily for teleworking, had been laying a lot of groundwork. If you think about the Joint All Domain, for some time they had been spending a lot of time and effort and money on technology to figure out how to get warfighters to collaborate in a different way, either within the Air Force or across services. I think that mindset and the fact that they were already down that road, when you overlaid COVID on top of that and the need for teleworking, I think they had positioned themselves well to be able to accelerate quickly.

Airman magazine: As we continue to adapt with increased telework, how do we ensure the adoption of cybersecurity strategies are ingrained into our solutions and not an add-on?

Dana Deasy: From the moment we held the first task force and we talked about keeping people safe, embedded in that was the need to keep people safe from in the cyber realm as well.

One of things I was worried about early on, was when people are sitting inside the Pentagon, or wherever they’re sitting around the world, they feel there is this extra layer of protection and when they go home and when they think they have that same layer of protection.

We spent a lot of time in the early days of educating the workforce. “Remember, when you are at home, here’s what’s different versus if you’re sitting inside the Pentagon.”

And I think that early education and coaching really paid dividends in helping to build a more safe, secure environment for us.

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I would say that the education’s not going to go away. As a matter of fact, I see us continuing because this is a thinking enemy when it comes to this realm.

Also, when we start talking about transitioning from being very narrowly focused on a violent extremist threat to what we’re being directed in a National Defense Strategy, you’ll find that investment, attention and capabilities are herding us in a direction where we’re not going to go back to the way we were doing things.

We, quote, “accepted risks” in this violent extremist fight because the foes we were fighting did not have capability to counter our command-and-control systems, to jam our capabilities. All of these things that we’ve now teased out during this COVID environment are going to be very applicable for the future and the National Defense Strategy.

The New Normal
Lt. Col. James Wall, 436th Airlift Wing inspector general and current battle staff director, teleworks from his house using government equipment April 28, 2020, on Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. Wall, the battle staff and Team Dover members resorted to teleworking, if possible, after shelter-in-place orders were put into place in mid-March to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. U.S. Air Force photo // Roland Balik

Airman magazine: The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) released an interim Trusted Internet Connections (TIC) 3.0 guidance focused on the rapid wide spread transition of telework, can you briefly outline this guidance?

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: This is an initiative from the Department of Homeland Security. I think it’s very helpful. The reasons why I say that is, watching hackers for years and years, like water, they go to the least defended place. So, you’ll see them fish around and they’ll hit hard points, and then go down to the lowest level.

What they produced was kind of a government-wide capability. So, the Pentagon can build their castle walls very high, but if our interaction with the rest of the government’s very low, they’ll go to that place and now they’re in the castle.

So that’s the larger conversation. When we start talking about defense for cyber and the defense for the future of telework, we have to have more of a whole of government (outlook). We have to have more of these collaborative documents and instruction as we go forward.

We have regular meetings with DHS and others to start securing the cyber landscape.

Airman magazine: Are we seeing increased cyber-attacks during the pandemic and does teleworking pose a greater threat to our security?

Dana Deasy: You know, every day I come to the Pentagon is a great threat day. We continue to use technology and we make it more and more pervasive. Every day you continue to do that, you are increasing the surface base of risk. Obviously, now that you’re taking a million people and you’re putting them at home, you’re increasing that risk.

One of the things that I think NSA and U.S. Cyber Command and JFHQ-DODIN (Joint Force Headquarters – Department of Defense information network) did extremely well, was in the very early days of our task force, we started getting them to give us the intel briefs. They were reporting what the adversaries were doing and there wasn’t a single meeting we had where we didn’t stop and say “OK, if we introduce X and we make that part of what we’re going to now provide for teleworking, what do we understand about an adversary’s intent or an adversary’s knowledge as far as how they can exploit that?”

From very early on, everything we architected, we always pivoted to ensure that we were understanding what was the exposure side, how would we monitor for it and how would we correct for it?

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I will say with – there is something to the yin and yang. With great challenges comes great opportunity. So, what we found was, yes, we were expanding our attack access, but we also knew they were coming.

When you know they’re coming – and that’s not always the case in lower level conflicts – we got to study them, we got to move and it is a constant cycle. It is a spy versus spy. They are a learning enemy and what we’ve got to do is incorporate that.

And then back to the opportunity point, once you defend, now you have greater opportunities to go in the other direction. So as opposed to taking your football and going home, you look at it in the other direction as a great opportunity to start exploiting the cyber landscape.

The New Normal
Airman First Class Sabrina Zarate (left) and Senior Airman Melvin Williamson (right), 88th Communication Squadron server operations system administrators, perform routine maintenance on a Wright-Patterson Air Force Base computer server bank. Photo // U.S. Air Force

Airman magazine: How do we build a more modern architecture and what does it look like? What will it look like in 10 years?

Dana Deasy: I think what we’ve done with CVR is an absolute example of a modern architecture. If you say today, “what does modern computing look like?” whether it’s in the defense world, whether it’s in other agencies, the consumer world, it starts with an instantaneous ability to reach out, touch somebody, communicate with them, get information from Point A to Point B.

Then there is the whole idea of how machines will help us think more rapidly, help us take more decisions more rapidly in the future? That will be things like artificial intelligence. If we’re going to have those machines help us think more rapidly, take better decisions, then our quality of data is going to have to change dramatically in terms of how we bring it together. The Joint All Domain discussion is a real perfect example, in that, you’ve got to create that instantaneous ability for war fighters to communicate. They’ve got to have the right data and they’re going to want the assistance of machine learning or artificial intelligence.

All of these elements, we were working already. I think this element of how you get people connected at large scale was just accelerated in COVID, but we were already on that journey towards that modern architecture.

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: When we talk about with Joint All Domain C2 (Command and Control) you’ll find we are looking 10 years out when we’re thinking, but the bottom line is we want to be able to securely talk anywhere on the planet at any level of classification. We want all of the data that Mr. Deasy’s talking about and, quite frankly, we’ve got to have a tablet or something that’s going to give us the ability to manage it.

I anticipate it’ll be managed by a series of apps that you’ll either turn on or turn off to rapidly overcome whatever event you’re in, the bottom-line is we have an on-ramp and it was actually aided by the COVID crisis.

Airman magazine: As the increasing number of cyber actors makes our systems vulnerable, how do we defend the cyber infrastructure? How do you build retaliation credibility in cyber?

Dana Deasy: Well I’ll speak to the defense side of this. You’re going to have to experiment and try new things, especially where you’re dramatically changing and pivoting your workforce – in this case, you know, pre-COVID we were maybe 90, 95,000 people any given day around the DoD world were teleworking and you’re now sitting over a million.

That right there is going to force you to step back and have a really hard, tough conversation about what defense looks like in that world? And I think there is defense around how you monitor. How do you collect the intel to know about our adversary’s intent? How do you educate the end user on their responsibilities of what they need to do differently when working from home?

Throughout this, we always asked ourselves adversary intent; do we have the tools to be able to monitor what’s going on with the adversary and are we feeling confident that our workforce and the men and women that serve this great country know exactly what’s expected of them?

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I would say the holistic nature of taking on offense and defense and then operating the net is making sure that we’re exploiting our advantages and negating any of their strengths while you go forward.

On the defensive standpoint, you’ll rapidly find that we need to reduce their attack platforms – so cyber hygiene, education, reduce their infrastructure, reduce their tools, their capabilities and you do that from publicly exposing those tools or where you’ve seen us publicly expose their hackers on the defensive side.

On the attack side – on the offensive side – you’ll see opportunities, on-ramps from defense to defense and going back and forth. I love football, but it’s not football, it really is hockey. I like the hockey analogy because it goes a lot faster and it hurts bad if you don’t do it right. The bottom-line is going back and forth along those lines, there’s great opportunities and the whole time you’re trying to ensure that you have access and the capability to communicate where your bad guys do not.

The New Normal
Cyber warfare operators assigned to the 275th Cyber Operations Squadron of the 175th Cyberspace Operations Group of the Maryland Air National Guard configure a threat intelligence feed for daily watch in the Hunter’s Den at Warfield Air National Guard Base, Middle River, Md. U.S. Air Force photo // J.M. Eddins Jr.

Airman magazine: How critical is cyber to the future of the U.S. deterrent capability? How do we communicate our capabilities in order to deter adversaries?

Dana Deasy: Well first, you’ve got to buy into the premise that future warfare is going to be about who has superior technology. Then you then go to the next premise – then it’s all going to be about who can take out, disable, disrupt, spoof that technology. That becomes completely paramount.

I firmly believe that we’re looking to a future where everything that we are building, has to start with the mindset of technology’s going to be our superiority and how do we protect that, defend that and how do we use that technology, not only the connect side, but the cyber side to put us in advantageous position at all times?

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: We’ve been very clear our strategy is to do Joint All Domain C2 – air, land, sea, space, cyber. Unfortunately, I think some people have been confused. They would probably pick the worst analogy, which is nuclear weapons and superimpose it on cyber and there’s nothing that could be worse, because they’re two completely different worlds.

The capabilities to be able to produce a nuclear weapon or a cyber effect are on opposite ends of the spectrum. The reason why I bring that up is they carry that analogy further and they believe that we will only play this game of responding in kind, like mutually assured destruction with nuclear weapons. That is a false premise and could lead people down a very, very wrong road.

In 2011, we made very clear if you have cyber effects that are on the same level as any other weapon, we may come back at you not with cyber, but with some other kinetic strategy. A lot of people who were banking on this in-kind game plan rapidly destroyed all of their war plans, because they thought they could hit us and they could absorb our cyber blow; both are bad premises.

I think when you have the synergistic nature of air, land, sea, space and cyber and not separate them out, then it’s just another tool in your toolbox. You’re not going to put a round peg in a square hole, you are going to use the precise weapon in the precise scenario, for the precise solution.

The New Normal
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the DoD’s massive shift to teleworking, modernizing of cyber infrastructure, deterrence to cyber-attacks and the implementation of the Telework Readiness Task Force. U.S. Air Force photo illustration // Airman 1st Class Kevin Sommer Giron

Airman magazine: Is there anything else you would like to add about or discussions today that we have not asked?

Dana Deasy: I think that the Department of Defense, or maybe just the government in general, sometimes can get a bad rap about its inflexibility; that it doesn’t have agility. It doesn’t know how to think out of the box and doesn’t know how to innovate and it doesn’t have speed.

I mean, you do not take Department of Defense and move it to a million plus people working from home with like capabilities that there were in the office, and collaborating as if they were still sitting in the office, unless you can do that quickly with agility and with real innovation. I think this just demonstrated that we have incredibly talented people and, when set free, to have to do something in a completely tight, compressed time frame, great, great results will come.

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I’ll just end it with one of the key strengths for the United States. We have friends. 

You know, our adversaries have clients. When we watched during COVID they threatened them. Taking large swathes of their property because they weren’t paying their bills or even the manipulation of their free press.

The compare and contrast model; we start defending forward in cyber is we start sharing information, we learn in both directions, that is our strength, our partnerships, with all of our friends around the world. When you think about a realm of warfare where it is a manipulation of code or tactics, techniques and procedures that can rapidly get into our attack access in the United States, one of the quickest counters is ensuring that you have friends with whom you share intel. Then you push the defense further from your borders and it rapidly provides you an information advantage for yourself and all of your partners.

Airman magazine: I always like to end with asking how proud are you of the men and women that you are working with and is there anything that you would like to say directly to them?

Dana Deasy: From the moment we kicked off the task force, it looked like an insurmountable task. You know, somebody said “Well you can’t get a million plus people working from home?” There were so many challenges. No one ever walked into any of the meetings and had an attitude of “I’m not sure we could do that.” The Department of Defense is at its best when its back’s up against the wall and it truly has to deliver on something that appears to be insurmountable. And I think this was a great example of everybody coming together across services, civilians, contractors, our industry partners and doing truly extraordinary things.

Lt. Gen. Shwedo: I would just say I’m truly humbled. Mr. Deasy hit it right on the head. I love telling a story, especially to our younger airmen, when I’m traveling around, they always have an app for me and it’s always wonderful. One Airman showed me (an app) and I was wowing over this piece and he goes “Sir, do you want to know what I call it?”  I go “sure, what do you call it?” And he goes, “Stonewall.” And I’m like “cool, how did you come up with Stonewall?” And he goes, “because that’s the reception it’s going to get from my boss when I show it to him.”

I buried my head in the sand and I was like, “god dang it” cause generally the very high (ranking) and the very low (ranking) get it, it’s these curmudgeons in between. To Mr. Deasy’s point, what I have found is this has been a learning opportunity where curmudgeons are getting smaller and smaller. We’ve forced them into an uncomfortable space and they’re excelling.

Every day, I am nothing but impressed and very proud to be on this team, because these guys are very adaptable and that is probably why I feel very good about a future fight. I know we’ll outthink them, we’ll outproduce them and we’ll make whatever changes we have to make sure that we have victory at the end.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 Things you can do outside while social distancing

One of our biggest saving graces during the pandemic is the opportunity to catch some fresh air! Whether you’re cooped up at home with kids or are working overtime to fill a need for essential employees (or both!), catching that fresh vitamin D is good for the body.

In fact, going outside can boost your mood and jumpstart your immune system; it can reduce pain and all the scents can do wonders for your endorphins. But don’t take these scientific reasons into account all on their own, experience the outdoors for yourself and keep everyone busy during the pandemic.


Here are 6 things you can do while social distancing:

Go on a walk

Simple, easy, and done with minimal planning. Steer clear of any neighbors, of course (especially if you live on post or in tight quarters), but now is the perfect time to get in your steps! Explore your neighborhood and find areas you’ve never visited or just breath in that fresh oxygen while taking a few laps around the block. Repeat as needed.

The New Normal

Have a picnic

You’re eating at home anyway, so why not take the party outside? Lay down a blanket to keep the bugs at bay, then enjoy some fun and breezy meals out in the yard. Repeat as weather allows.

Go on a scavenger hunt

These lists are swarming the Internet, so luckily you won’t have to work hard to find your objectives. Whether you’re taking kids or are looking for a more sophisticated list of items, a scavenger hunt is a great way to get creative outdoors.

Don’t forget the neighborhood bear hunt either.

The New Normal

Bust out the old fashioned games

Tag, Frisbee, wiffle ball and more will turn into family favorites during the pandemic. Your family is already in close quarters, so don’t fret about a few passings of the ball.

However, don’t be afraid to be firm with neighbors and let them know they can’t join. Hellos from a distance remain kosher, but passing objects between households is a strict no-no.

Go for a drive

Weather not going your way? For the days you need a change of scenery, head to the car. This is a great time for an automated car wash (don’t forget to Lysol any buttons that need to be pushed), or a cruise to somewhere new.

Roll down the windows and feel the breeze while everyone jams to favorite tunes.

The New Normal

Sit and talk

Weeks ago this might have sounded boring, but today, it’s a nice change of pace! Sit with your morning coffee, FaceTime a friend, let the kids play and simply enjoy being outside and enjoy the fresh air.

Being outdoors can do wonders for your mood and endorphins. Take advantage of this easy but proven mood booster!

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 gift ideas for your commander for the holidays

They’re not our moms or our dads, but they are just as tired of our tomfoolery. Commanders put up with our clowning while taking the brunt of responsibility from Leadership for the squadron and let’s remember: all sh*t rolls downhill. Thanks to the Commander, probably a little less rolled down to us. This holiday season, let’s show our Commanders our appreciation for driving them to the brink of insanity on a weekly, if not hourly, basis.

Ibuprofen: for the headaches.

Antacid: for the heartburn.

Ice Cream GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Ear Plugs: for when they have to sit through yet another meeting about the length of your sideburns. You could also swipe some of these guys from the front desk on your way out to the flightline.

Scotch: single malt is best, though more economical alternatives will also do the trick in case SNACKO funds are running low. Pay your SNACKO bills people. Commander deserves the good stuff.

Spoofer Email Address: to deflect orders from higher ups to requisition volunteers for Wing-wide mandatory fun. Can’t reply to an email you never get.

GIF by Identity - Find & Share on GIPHY

GPS Tile: to track that one guy in your squadron who can’t make it back in time before curfew. Which was created because of him in the first place after a night in Songan… or Iwakuni…or Sigonella…or Phuket…or Dubai…or Yuma… or….

Backpack leash: for TDYs. You know who you are.

Backpack GIF by Saturday Night Live - Find & Share on GIPHY

A Giant A** Umbrella: We all have our commanders to thank for the protection they provide from the ongoing storm of sh*t that rains down from the Good Idea Fairies known as Leadership.

A Giant A** Butterfly Net: Alternatively, to keep the hare-brained shenanigan butterflies from fluttering around the squadron up to Leadership.

Flowers: for their spouses. No doubt the hours they’ve spent worrying about us have taken their attention away from their family. Their real kids probably did not drink a bottle of Fireball and then get handcuffed on the curb for peeing in the bushes near a Saddle Ranch, and yet the Commander has to answer that call at 2am. We’re sorry. And it wasn’t our fault. It was only a security guard anyway, not the real police.

A Laser Pointer – because herding cats is hard and they deserve to have their fun.

Lonesome GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
MIGHTY CULTURE

This might be the best Ranger panties ad ever made

For the first time ever, I find myself seriously considering buying Ranger panties. And not just buying them; wearing them to all sorts of events. These are about to be the centerpiece (and possibly only piece) of my Valentine’s Day outfit. And it’s all thanks to this ad from Dog Company of some battalion or another:


The New Normal

Look at it. Really look at it. It’s got puns, it’s got rhymes, it’s got suggestive language, it’s got a joke at the expense of cavalry scouts (thanks for securing our routes, sorry about all the jokes).

It even suggests that Ranger panties are perfect for signing into the unit when you get to Dog Company, which, come on, if you’re not checking to see if they have openings for your MOS already, you’re doing it wrong. My old MOS, unfortunately, does not appear in any infantry MTOEs, so I have to long after these shorts from afar.

But not Dog Company. No, these guys apparently get to throw on their Ranger panties, smack their significant other on the Ranger panty-clad butt, and then charge into battle against communists with guns firing and thighs open to the air, absorbing the sun’s rays and warmth while the commies are absorbing the bullets.

When they’re done with that, they get to have a short meeting with first sergeant, still in the Ranger panties and ostensibly still covered in the gore of their enemies, before going to a wedding or two and a few children’s parties.

The clown isn’t going to be the scariest thing at that party. Thank Valhalla for that.

We’re still not sure which infantryman found a keyboard and typed up this beautiful masterpiece. The fact that they found a keyboard indicates maybe an XO, but the fact that the final advertisement is quality indicates a specialist or corporal.

Maybe it was a team-up? Regardless, grab a pair if you happen to be in Dog Company (all proceeds benefit the FRG!). If you’re not, just get your panties from Ranger Joe’s or your own FRG or whatever. We can’t help you.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why a think tank puts teen girls in command of military operations

Though women have made a lot of progress in recent years, especially in the military and defense sectors, there are still very few women in senior positions in the U.S. military-industrial complex. Only a third of the senior positions at the Department of State are women, and less than a fifth hold such positions at the Defense Department.

That’s why a Cold War-era think tank agreed to put women in command of a large wargaming exercise. Were women able to prevent an all-out nuclear conflict on the Korean Peninsula?


The New Normal

Alexis Visser is a 19-year-old international relations student and Army Reservist who helped game the South Korean and American forces.

(Dori Gordon Walker/RAND)

The RAND Corporation, a global, nonprofit policy research center created in 1948, wanted to bring a much-needed female perspective to the fields of defense policy and national security. The group of women are in age groups ranging from their late teens to early 20s, and most have never had any kind of wargaming or strategy experience before. Still, they are leading command discussion about scenarios facing troops in a war with North Korea in a conference room overlooking the Pentagon.

In the scenario, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has a long-range missile that can target locations on the U.S. West Coast. The North threatens “grave consequences” if the United States and South Korea conduct their annual joint exercises to practice their responses to a North Korean invasion. The warning from the DPRK is the same the Stalinist country gives the Southern Allies every year. This time, when the allies begin their drills, the North fires an artillery barrage into Seoul. South Korea responds with missile strikes. The new Korean War is on.

The New Normal

(Photo by Dori Gordon Walker/RAND Corporation)

RAND uses wargames like this one to study almost every national security scenario and has since the earliest days of the Cold War. It was the RAND Corporation who was at the center of the 1967 Pentagon Papers case that determined why the United States had not been successful in Vietnam. It’s very unlikely this is the first time RAND has wargamed a war between North and South Korea, but it’s the first time young girls were given command of the allied forces.

That isn’t to say no women have wargamed at the Pentagon. Many of the women who have participated in wargames at the highest levels of the U.S. government, including in the Pentagon, often admit to being the only woman in the room. RAND wants to create a pipeline for young women to be able to participate in such wargames – as professionals.

In the game, the women determine where to deploy infantry, how to stop North Korean advances, and even when to use tactical nuclear weapons, all under the advice and counsel of RAND’s expert and veteran women advisors.

The New Normal

Samina Mondal, right, listens as RAND’s Stacie Pettyjohn reviews the blue team’s tactics.

(Dori Gordon Walker/RAND)

The game is working, and not just against North Korea. History majors decide to turn their attention instead to National Security Studies. Eighteen-year-olds decide on careers in nuclear security. Soon, women will begin to change the way we look at the defense of the United States.

MIGHTY CULTURE

A guy who travels the US to mow lawns for veterans has a new Christmas mission

Rodney Smith is gearing up for a trip to Alaska. He’s already been to all of the lower 48 U.S. states. He’s on a mission to provide free lawn care to the elderly, the disabled, single mothers, and veterans. He’s the founder of a nonprofit for youth which is aimed at community development.

He’s showing everyone in America his dedication to service, and he’s doing it the way he knows best: mowing lawns.


He is the founder of Raising Men Lawn Care Service, a way for young people to give back to their community while learning the ins and outs of the lawn-care industry. Smith doesn’t limit his services to mowing, just like any other lawn-care service. Raking leaves and shoveling snow are just a couple of the services he and his cadre of volunteers offer.

As he travels the United States, he takes requests, even going so far to post his phone number on Twitter. He mows lawns in the dark, just to get one more in for that day. He’ll even do what he calls a “mow by,” completing a lawn-care service for someone in need, even when they aren’t home.

Of course, it’s better if they’re home. Then the family can meet the incredible individual who enjoys giving back and mowing lawns so much he’ll go to disaster sites, like storm-stricken Virginia.

Smith started mowing lawns for free in 2015 after driving by an elderly man struggling to mow his lawn. He stopped his car, got out, and finished the lawn for the man.

A small act of kindness grew into all this,” he says. “You never know what someone is going through and you touch them a certain way.”

After that act of kindness, he founded his nonprofit in his hometown of Huntsville, Ala. while he was working on a degree in computer science. He used to mow lawns in between classes, a challenge for his studies but one he took with zeal. Then, he challenged others to something similar. He wanted kids to mow 50 lawns after posting a photo of them accepting the 50-Yard Challenge.

I show kids the importance of giving back to their community,” Smith says. He now boasts hundreds of volunteer lawn care experts through Raising Men. “At first they didn’t like it… but they see the smiles and it shows them a different side of life.

They didn’t know it when the accepted the challenge, but Smith would present the kids with a new lawn mower upon completing their 50th yard.

He challenged himself again with the task of mowing “50 Yards in 50 States.” In 2017, he drove to all lower 48 states and flew to Alaska and Hawaii. In May, 2018, he started doing it all again, visiting 20 states within three weeks. He’s not just mowing one lawn in each state, either. He often mows up to four per day as he travels. And when he comes across those in need, he stops to hear their story and help out.

And now he finds himself with a different challenge.

In 2017, Smith traveled to all the major urban areas in Tennessee and Alabama, dressed as Santa Claus to deliver gifts to the area’s homeless population. For 2018, the big-hearted lawn mower said he wanted to go even bigger. On Nov. 26, 2018, he began another nationwide tour, to visit each state and meet with at least two people or groups who are homeless and deliver gifts that will make them happy.

He wants to deliver true Christmas cheer. Not content to give and take a photo before moving on, he wants to sit with them, talk, find out how they became homeless, and try to understand what the season means for them.

Rodney Smith covered the lower 48 states in just 22 days. As of Dec. 18, 2018, he was on his way to Alaska to continue his mission.

Every day is tough when you’re homeless, but it’s terribly difficult this time of year – both physically and mentally,” Smith said. “If I can help make even a few people more comfortable and happy, I want to do it. It may sound crazy, but I believe if we all helped just one person where we live, the results would be astonishing.

To make donations, visit Hopefortheholidaystour.com. To follow Rodney and hear stories from those he meets, visit him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why military spouses love these 10 products and services

From advice to events to products and services, at Military Spouse we are all about connecting you with the things you love. MilSpouse: Life is devoted to the products and services military spouses enjoy as a part of their everyday life. We’ll take a behind the scenes look at some of the stuff we love, plus explore how these things make our lives easier.

Here’s what you told us were some of your absolutely favorite things to LOVE!


1. Rent the Runway

Rent the Runway. Have a military ball? Need a dress? RTR has you covered (literally!). One milspouse gives us !! 7 !! reasons why you should do it too.

The New Normal

Farmgirl Flowers.

(Photo by Heidi De Vries)

2. Farmgirl Flowers

Farmgirl Flowers. Nothing pisses a military spouse off faster than receiving messed-up flowers sent by their loving spouse. Worse yet is if they spent a BUNCH of money on them and the flowers die the next day. Tell us we are not alone in feeling like a lot of places take advantage of a service member wanting to show some love. Enter the most awesome flowers we’ve ever seen in a box! Bring on Valentine’s Day!

3. Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World. Mickey ears. Matching shirts. Time together. And, yeah, big military discounts!!! We LOVE this place and so do so many of our military families. Check out these tips from our friends over at Military Disney Tips!

4. Honda

Honda. She’s rollin’ in her Honda Odyssey, baby! If you’ve driven through any military housing lately, you’ve probably seen at least every other driveway filled with one of these in silver or blue. Military moms love the Honda Odyssey and maybe that’s why Honda event says “it’s everyone’s happy place.” Pull out the seats, pulldown the screens, and hit the open road! (See Number 7 below).

5. Bota Box

Bota Box. Wine. Box. Deployments. Moves. Orders to the middle of nowhere. No explanation necessary.

6. Scentsy

Scentsy. Sometimes military life just stinks. Literally. And you probably have a neighbor who sells this around the corner from you. So you get a nice smelling house. They get a business. Win. Win. Now where is my Blue Grotto Scent Circle! This place stinks!

The New Normal

(Flickr / AllieKF)

7. Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers.

Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers. Yeah, they get stuck in the tracks of our Honda Odyssey, but these bits of cheesy (or plain or pretzel) goodness have keep military kids happy for many a road trip and move. Hey, it’s the snack that smiles back, and who doesn’t need a good smile in this crazy military life? Found on the end-cap of every single commissary in the world.

8. Facebook

Facebook. Thank you, Mark Zuckerberg. You gave military families a way to stay connected with each other, our families across the world, and the friends we’ve made along the way. We may be a little addicted to some of the amazing military spouse groups the site also lets us create! Can anyone say, White Walls?

9. Stitch Fix

Stitch Fix. The majority of military installations are usually not known for their great proximity to, well, any place decent to shop. Enter a service that SENDS YOU great clothing. I’m looking at you Fort Irwin.

10. Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime. What did we EVER do without it? Seriously. Let’s just say you live 45 minutes from the closest sports store and your kid needs a chin strap for football like Tuesday and you have to work today, tomorrow, and the day after and, of course, your other kids have activities each night, and your spouse is deployed. Amazon. Prime. To the rescue!!! Five minutes. And the chin strap is rocketing across the country to your mailbox. And it will be here tomorrow in time for practice. Amazon Prime. You’ve got our back.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This epic music video from Mat Best is everything you miss about active duty

Quick: Name all the things you miss about active duty. (If you still are active duty, then list all the things that make your life bearable as well as all the things you most hate.) Well, Mat Best and Jarred Taylor want to take you on a quick nostalgia trip through those memories of PT belts, buddies marrying strippers, and policing brass at the range.


You might remember Mat Best from his T-shirt company. Or the coffee company. Or that epic rap battle. Now, he’s dropped a new, soulful music video about how much veterans find themselves missing even the crappy parts of active duty, from the hot portajohn sessions to the mortar attacks to the PT belts. Turn it up loud in whatever cubicle you’re in.

Military Ballad – Can’t Believe We Miss This

www.youtube.com

Military Ballad – Can’t Believe We Miss This

Their new single Can’t Believe We Miss This is all about, well, the things you can’t believe you miss after getting that coveted DD-214. A quick note before you hit play: It’s not safe for younger viewers and only safe for work if your boss is super cool. There’s not nudity or anything, but they both use some words picked up in the barracks.

Oh, and there are a few direct references to how crappy civilian jobs with suit and ties can be, so your boss might not like that either.

But, yeah, the song is like sitting in an ’80s bar sipping drinks with buddies from your old unit, swapping stories about funny stuff like getting stuck on base after someone lost their NVGs and the serious, painful stuff like dudes who got blown up by mortars and IEDs.

And if you think Mat Best and Jarred Taylor skimped on production, then you’ve never seen their epic rap battle. So, yes, there are plenty of drone shots, weapons, and big military hardware like the HMMWV, aka humveee. It’s got more lens flare than a J.J. Abrams marathon and more explosions than Michael Bay’s house on Fourth of July.

And speaking of Independence Day, they dropped the video just in time for you to annoy the crap out of your family and friends with it wherever you’re partying. If you really want to do that but might not have good YouTube access, you can also watch the video on Facebook or buy it on iTunes.

MIGHTY CULTURE

See the military’s awesome tribute to Stan Lee

As a child, Maj. Scotty Autin loved reading Marvel comic books. One of his favorite characters was Gambit, a fictional quick-handed, card-playing thief from New Orleans.

“Considering I’m from Louisiana, I was always drawn to Gambit,” said Autin, deputy commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District. “I read all the comics that featured him and watched the X-Men animated series just to see him. I remember as a 10-year-old, I would practice throwing playing cards just to be like him.”


So when Autin was invited to participate in “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” Jan. 30, 2019, at The Creative Life, or TCL, Chinese Theatre, formerly known as Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, in Hollywood, it was an offer he couldn’t refuse.

The New Normal

Prior and active-duty military service members with the Veterans in Media and Entertainment, Los Angeles; 311th Sustainment Command, U.S. Army Reserves, Los Angeles; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District; the 300th Army Band, Los Angeles; American Legion Post No. 43, Hollywood, California; and American Legion Post No. 283, Pacific Palisades, California, pose for a picture prior to the start of “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

The event was a memorial tribute to Lee, the legendary writer, editor and publisher of Marvel Comics, who died in November 2018.

But it wasn’t just because Autin grew up reading Marvel comic books that made participating in the ceremony so important to him; it also was a way to honor Lee’s service to the nation as a fellow Army veteran.

The New Normal

Crowds start to gather Jan. 30, 2019, in front of the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood prior to the start of “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

Lee was a member of the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II. While in the service, he started out as a lineman, before the Army realized his writing skills and moved him into technical writing for training manuals, films and posters with a group that included the likes of Oscar-winner Frank Capra and Pulitzer-winner William Saroyan. After the war, Lee returned to Timely Comics, later renamed Marvel, where he served as the editor and co-creator for decades.

He was proud of his military service, said Lee’s longtime friend, Karen Kraft, an award-winning television producer, Army veteran and the chairwoman of the Veterans in Media and Entertainment, or VME, Board of Directors.

The New Normal

An artist sketches a drawing of Marvel Comic creator Stan Lee with actor, producer and director Kevin Smith during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

“He was very proud to have enlisted and was hoping to serve overseas, but his skill set was quickly discovered as a writer, illustrator and storyteller,” Kraft said.

Lee’s appreciation for his military service carried over to his civilian role at Marvel Comics, where it can be seen in the patriotic themes of “Captain America,” she said.

The New Normal

Paul Lilley, an Army veteran, actor, producer and member of Veterans in Media and Entertainment, center, helps fold a flag to present to “Agents of Mayhem” “Legion M” and “POW! Entertainment!” during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

Organizers of the event, which included VME, wanted to ensure that piece of Lee’s life wasn’t lost during the tribute ceremony. So they organized a color guard. A bugler was brought in to play, “Taps.” An Army band was asked to perform. Autin brought American flags he had flown in Iraq on Veterans Day to present to Lee’s daughter, J.C., and the sponsors of the event. American Legion’s Post No. 43, Hollywood, and Post No. 283, Pacific Palisades, California, got on board to help with a wreath-laying ceremony.

First encounter with Lee

Growing up in Rochester, New York, Kraft was drawn to the comic book creations of Lee.

She and her older brothers would go to the comic book store once a month, where she soon fell in love with Marvel Comics — the artwork, the words, the lettering, the coloring.

The New Normal

Jimmy Weldon, World War II veteran and a member of the American Legion Post No. 43, Hollywood, takes in all of the activities prior to the start of “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

“No two comic books are the same,” she said. “It so captivates you that you don’t realize you’re reading a comic book. Your mind is filling in the gaps between the boxes and the pages because you’re so enthralled by it. That’s a power; that’s a storytelling magic.”

Kraft first met Lee at a comic book convention when she was young. After the convention and at the recommendation of her mother, Kraft wrote Lee a “thank you” letter, and he wrote a “thank you” letter back. From there, the two kept in touch, she said.

Later, when Kraft worked for the Discovery Channel, she interviewed Lee and other comic book talents for the documentary, “Marvel Superheroes Guide to New York City.” The documentary entailed traveling around New York City to the locations that inspired Lee and other comic book artists.

The New Normal

A military service member salutes the U.S. flag during the playing of “Taps” at “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

After she left Discovery Channel, Kraft worked with Lee on various projects. Their initial chance encounter and continued correspondence developed into a decades-long friendship.

In Kraft’s eyes, Lee had his own superpower — the ability to connect with people.

“Stan was marvelous in the use of his vocabulary and the way he created these characters you can relate to,” she said. “He created this entire world with all of these different artists … Every character he created is a co-creation. That’s also pretty stunning — including all of these people and inspiring all of that creativity from artists and writers.”

The New Normal

Jere Romano, post commander of the American Legion No. 283, Pacific Palisades, California, left, along with his wife, Martha, place a wreath by a cement plaque of Marvel Comic book creator Stan Lee’s signature.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

Lee was known for a process called the “Marvel Method,” a creative assembly-line style he used in comic book-making. Lee would write in the captions, another artist would sketch the scene, another would color it and a different artist would finish the lettering. Some credit Lee’s process to his Army experience, where everyone had a job, or Military Occupational Specialty.

Throughout the years, Kraft said, Lee always opened his home and office to her and allowed her to bring veterans over to visit, where he would share his World War II stories. The two both joined the American Legion Post No. 43, Hollywood, together and Lee became an advisory board member of VME.

The New Normal

Members of the Veterans in Media and Entertainment present a U.S. flag to a Legion M representative during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

“He would talk to veterans about his military service … he loved to share his story,” she said. “His superpower is people. He’s extremely generous, very open with his time, very kind, very funny and very positive. And, he was very proud of his military service. We bonded over that.”

The New Normal

Crowds of people gather in the TCL Chinese Theatre Courtyard in Hollywood during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

Kraft recalled one time when Lee spoke to about 300 military veterans with VME.

“I remember in the last meeting, he was very emotional when he said to the veterans in the audience, ‘You’re the real heroes in my world,'” she said. “It was very, very touching.”

A legion of fans

The tribute to Lee at the TCL Chinese Theatre was nothing short of honoring his legacy of bringing very diverse groups together. Directors, producers, military service members and veterans, artists, writers, comic book fans and celebrities packed the theatre courtyard on the day of the event.

The diversity of the crowd didn’t surprise Kraft, who said Lee made everyone feel like they were a part of his family.

The New Normal

A cosplayer dressed as Spiderman holds a single red rose while listening to friends and fellow colleagues of Marvel Comic book creator Stan Lee pay tribute to him during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

On a small stage on the left-hand side of the courtyard, a military color guard posted the flags, while a bugler played “Taps” in the background. Army band members played “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes. Those who worked closely with Lee approached the microphone one-by-one to give testimonials of how he impacted their careers and their lives, including actor, director and producer Kevin Smith. A wreath was placed near a stone plaque engraved with Lee’s signature. Folded flags encased in wooden boxes were presented to the sponsors of the event, which included Agents of Mayhem, Legion M and POW! Entertainment. A flag was later presented to Lee’s daughter on the Red Carpet.

Following the courtyard tribute, celebrities, military members and others walked the Red Carpet leading inside the theatre, where celebrity panelists and others also paid tribute to Lee.

The New Normal

Actor, producer, writer and director Kevin Smith addresses the crowd to pay tribute to his friend, Stan Lee, during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

The diversity of the crowd, the presenters and the celebrities at the event spoke to Lee’s impact and reach across not only generations, but ethnic and social lines, Autin said.

“During the ceremony, I stood next to a gentleman who was about my age,” he said. “I was in my military dress uniform, and he was dressed as Mr. Fantastic (of the Fantastic Four). To the outside observer, that had no context of the situation, the sight would have looked like it was straight from a Marvel movie script. However, to us, we were both there to honor a man in our own way. The man that had an impact on us individually, as well as our entire generation.”

Lee loved a crowd and would have loved the ceremony and all of the military representation, Kraft said. He would have snapped off a smart salute to all of the men and women in their dress blues, said a quick-witted phrase, and there would be lots of hugging and smiles.

The New Normal

From left to right, actors Titus Welliver, Wesley Snipes, Laurence Fishburne and Bill Duke, along with a guest, pose for a picture on the Red Carpet during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

“I’m proud that he touched so many lives and inspired so many people to come together,” Kraft said. “People with very different passions, but yet they all share this passion for super heroes — people pushing themselves beyond what they think possible to do what’s right and to be good in this world.”

Finding solace

For Kraft, looking up into the Hollywood Hills, it’s hard to imagine Lee not being there anymore, but she finds solace in his legacy and what he taught her — the power and importance of storytelling to human nature.

The New Normal

Maj. Scotty Autin, deputy commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District, reflects in the background of a wreath honoring the late Marvel Comic legend Stan Lee during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

(Photo by Dena ODell)

“Every culture cherishes its legends, its myths, it’s identity through storytelling,” she said. “Storytelling done truly well really uplifts you … It helps carry you through tough times; it pushes you to do bigger and bolder things. His signature was ‘Excelsior,’ which in Latin means ‘upward to greater glory.’ It means keep pushing yourself, keep moving on, keep trying.”

“I think that’s the power of these superheroes that Stan Lee created,” Autin added. “They each speak to us directly for different reasons, they each show us that it’s OK to be flawed or struggling, but also push us to lean on our strengths and help others.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons why veterans tend to ruin the fun of haunted houses

It’s that wonderful time of year when veterans, their friends, and their families go out to enjoy a little spooky fun around town. They’ll have fun with the decorations, getting into goofy costumes, and, overall, just enjoying the spirit of the season — but there’s just one place veterans tend to avoid: haunted houses.

We don’t avoid these because of their intended scariness — far from it. Veterans just don’t seem to have the same reaction as most civilians. We tend to have one of three reactions to being put in what is, essentially, a guided maze filled with actors dressed like our favorite monsters: Either we’re way too in to how cool what’s going on around us is, we just can’t suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy it, or, well, we’ll get to the last one in a minute.


The New Normal

Perfect for war! Terrible for Halloween fun…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Justis Beauregard)

1. We aren’t scared the same way

Once you’ve spent some time in the military, certain things just don’t scare you the same way. I’m not saying that seeing someone dressed as a distressed clown brandishing a chainsaw (with the teeth taken out for safety) isn’t objectively terrifying — it definitely is.

But veterans spent years learning how to always switch their “fight or flight” response in one direction. Once you’ve done your time, that response never really shuts off. You may not be fighting every monster you see, but you’re not going to run through the haunted house like most guests.

The New Normal

Then again, having attention to detail is never fun…

(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Ronald Bailey, 100th Missile Defense Brigade Public Affairs)

2. Our attention to detail overshadows the rest of the “fun”

We keep level heads and analyze every tiny detail of what’s going on while others are cowering. We notice the tiny things. This works absolute wonders in haunted escape rooms — but that same cannot be said for haunted houses.

You’ll look for and find things that break the immersion. You’ll stop admiring/being spooked out by all of the scary stuff and simply get through the thing like there’s some kind of reward at the end — there isn’t. The experience of the haunted house was the reward.

The New Normal

You might also get asked to leave if you stack your family by sector of fire they’d take as they enter the room.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Devon Tindle)

3. We will use room-clearing techniques as we go through 

There’re only so many spots for actors to hide throughout a maze: behind that door, at the end of the hallway, behind all those curtains. Coincidentally, these are the exact same spots that most veterans remember from room-clearing drills.

The ideology is the same, but instead of jumping out to attack a squad of infantrymen, the haunted house actors are just trying to help you celebrate the Halloween spirit. It actually gets a bit disappointing when the veteran thinks to themselves, “if I were them, I’d totally set up an ambush point here at the funnel of death,” only to realize the actors didn’t get your memo.

The New Normal

“Want to see a real horror monster? You should see my old drill instructor when faced with an unsecured wall locker.”

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Pedro Cardenas)

4. We will one-up creepy moments with real-life stuff

There’s a certain expectation that guests at haunted houses will suspend disbelief enough to allow themselves to be scared and enjoy the experience. That kind of goes out the window when you can’t help but notice that the “blood” splotches on the walls don’t really line up with how arterial blood would actually spew out of that “zombie’s” neck.

That’s fine and all, but it ruins the fun for the other people in your party. Nobody really wants to hear us say, “oh, you think this is scary? Try losing your weapon in a porta-sh*tty as your FOB is getting indirect fire! Now that’s scary!”

We know, bro. We know.

The New Normal

What’s actually a scary thought is that your MACP Level 1 isn’t going to do jack sh*t against a security guard who likes tasing people.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jensen Stidham)

5. We tend to get a bit… punchy… around the actors

You knew this one was coming. No, you can’t punch the actors that jump out at guests. They’re not allowed to touch you and you’re not allowed to feed them their teeth.

In fact, it’s against the law — and everyone will laugh at you if you try to say that some minimum-wage-earning teenager in a cheap costume at a haunted house that you knowingly and willingly paid money to visit is actually some monster.

Plus, most haunted houses have cameras and security guards in place for just such occasions. So, uh, just don’t do it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

20 funny Army memes to distract you from real life

Joining the Armed Forces is nothing to poke fun at. It’s one of the most honorable undertakings on the planet. That said, we all need to laugh at ourselves now and again. If you’re in the Army, these memes are all too relatable, so what are you waiting for? Come on down and laugh a little! If you’re a Marine, don’t get too cocky. No branch is safe from Internet memes.

  1. They weren’t wrong.
army meme

Sometimes you’re the Armed Forces. Other times, you’re just the arm.

2. Oh. So that’s how tanks are made.

The New Normal

They don’t teach you everything in high school bio, kids.

3. Possibly the least peaceful type of angel

The New Normal

But it’s still very nice. Could someone please tell him the holidays are over, though?

4. Do it once, and you’ll never do it again.

The New Normal

Better yet, kick the habit before you enlist, or your drill sergeant might kick it for you. Technically, it only takes a second to remove your hands from your pockets. In combat, however, every second counts. For that reason, hands in pockets are against regulation. It also ruins the clean lines of the uniform.

5. You can do it, right?

The New Normal

Like, it’s not even that hard.

6. Too much?

The New Normal

Commander: We need to distract the enemy.
Private: Hold my beer.

7. Puddle, lake. Same thing.

The New Normal

Forget the map. Someone get him some glasses.

8. Um, excuse me? I think you have a stowaway.

The New Normal

A really, really cute stowaway. On second thought, keep him. Ya know, for backup.

9. Permission granted.

The New Normal

Isn’t he majestic? The Navy needs to step up their game with a Titanic remake.

10. I mean, finals ARE stressful.

The New Normal

Not quite as stressful as, oh, I don’t know, dodging bullets. Stress isn’t really a contest, but if it were, soldiers would win.

11. They skipped a few details.

The New Normal

When you said you wanted to go above and beyond the call of duty, someone must have heard “doody” instead.

12. Someone unlocked a new army prank level.

The New Normal

Here, take these trash bags and collect samples of every vehicle on base. We need to test their carbon monoxide output for maximum efficiency.

13. Whoever told him to trust his intuition, please tell him to stop.

The New Normal

The photographer perfectly captured the moment that Kevin realized he had utterly effed up.

14. Poor Marines…

The New Normal

It’s just not the same, is it?

15. This is the part no one warned you about.

The New Normal

They told you about the most dangerous parts of enlisting, but neglected to mention that duffle bags might be your most stubborn opponent.

16. Not sure what’s happening here, but it looks fun.

The New Normal

What happens when you combine an ice rink, a plastic wagon, and two guys in the army? This, I guess.

17. You mean it? I didn’t realize we were getting so serious.

The New Normal

Might as well propose, honestly.

18. It’s worth checking, at least.

The New Normal

Check again just to make sure. Maybe it changed to 0500 when you weren’t looking.

19. It had to work somewhere.

The New Normal

Ask Grandma if she can mail her couch to the Middle East. Modern problems require modern solutions.

20. Don’t do it.

The New Normal

Be careful. This level of enthusiasm is dangerous.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is the US military’s only search-and-rescue dog

In 2010, airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard deployed to Port-au-Prince, the capital and most populous city of Haiti, in response to a magnitude 7 earthquake that impacted millions.

“With the destroyed airfields, it was difficult for many government organizations to land aircraft and provide assistance,” said Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, a pararescueman with the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron.

The airmen were able to get on the ground and assist in clearing the airfield thanks to their special capabilities, but they soon faced more complications.

“Local sources were telling people that there was a schoolhouse that had collapsed with about 40 children inside,” Parsons said.


“A team of special tactics airmen went over and started looking through the rubble, just carrying these rocks off, looking for these missing kids. A few days into the search, (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) was finally able to land. They brought a dog to the pile and were able to clear it in about 20 minutes. There was nobody in that pile.”

“It had been a couple days of wasted labor that could’ve been used to help save other lives,” Parsons continued.

“It was at that time that we kind of realized the importance and the capability that dogs can bring to search and rescue. Every environment presents different difficulties, but it’s all restricted by our human limitations. Our current practice is: Hoping that we see or hear somebody.”

The New Normal

Callie, a search and rescue K-9 for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, during an exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 17, 2019.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

In response to scenarios like the Haitian earthquake, Parsons spearheaded a new approach, developing the squadron’s Search and Rescue K-9 program. The effort, launched in 2018, is designed to increase the capabilities of disaster response teams in locating and recovering personnel through the use of specially trained canines.

After several months of preparation, the unit acquired its newest member, Callie, a 26-month-old Dutch shepherd, making her the first search-and-rescue dog in the Department of Defense.

She has now earned multiple qualifications to accommodate the specific skillset of the 123rd STS, including helicopter exfiltration and infiltration, mountain rescue (rappelling plus ice, snow and alpine maneuvers), static line and freefall parachute insertion.

“Callie is trained in live-find,” Parsons said. “She goes into wilderness, collapsed-structure or disaster situations. She’s trained to detect living people, find them, and alert me when she’s located them. We react accordingly, mark the spot and begin the extraction of those people.

“The unique function that we can provide by developing Callie is that we can get her to places that nobody else can get to,” Parsons added. “That’s the biggest benefit that we really saw value in. In the situation like the earthquake in Haiti, we can get her in there, and those days in difference could be the difference in somebody’s life.”

Before Callie’s introduction to the unit, the method of search and rescue in urban settings involved probing and digging with drills and cameras. According to Parsons, this slow and sometimes unreliable method only added tools, weight and difficulty to the process.

The New Normal

Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, land at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 17, 2019

(US Air National Guard photo Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

The New Normal

Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, during an exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 17, 2019.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

The New Normal

Tech. Sgt. Rudy Parsons, 123rd Special Tactics pararescueman, and his search-and-rescue dog, Callie, ride a UH-60 Black Hawk as part of Callie’s familiarization training at the Boone National Guard Center, Frankfort, Kentucky, Nov.29, 2018.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

The New Normal

Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, complete a parachute insertion into Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, during an exercise, July 16, 2019

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

The New Normal

Tech. Sgt. Rudy Parsons, 123rd Special Tactics pararescueman, and his search-and-rescue dog, Callie, ride a UH-60 Black Hawk as part of Callie’s familiarization training at the Boone National Guard Center, Frankfort, Kentucky, Nov. 29, 2018.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

The New Normal

Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, during an exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 15, 2019.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

The New Normal

Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, during an exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 17, 2019.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

The New Normal

Callie, a search-and-rescue K-9 for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, alerts Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, her handler, after locating a simulated casualty during an exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 17, 2019.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

The New Normal

Tech Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, rappel down a cliffside at Louisville, Kentucky, as part of Callie’s familiarization training, Dec. 7, 2018.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

The New Normal

Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, during an exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 17, 2019.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

The New Normal

Master Sgt. Rudy Parsons, pararescueman for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Callie, his search-and-rescue K-9, during an exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, July 17, 2019.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

The New Normal

Callie, a search-and-rescue K-9 for the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, rides a UH-60 Black Hawk aircraft as part of her familiarization training at the Boone National Guard Center, Frankfort, Kentucky, Nov. 29, 2018.

(US Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton)

The 123rd SAR K-9 program was funded by the Air National Guard innovation program, meant to enable Airmen to make positive, meaningful change and drive a culture shift toward innovation.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

VA celebrates nurses during National Nurses Week 2020

This National Nurses Week, we salute the over 100,000 VA nurses who work tirelessly every day to serve our nation’s Veterans — and have continued to demonstrate their commitment and dedication throughout this historic global situation.

“VA nurses are fiercely dedicated to our mission of providing excellent care to America’s heroes, which is especially vital during this time,” said Shawanda Poree, program manager of nurse recruitment and resources at VA. “We couldn’t care for the 9 million Veterans enrolled in VA care without them.”


At VA facilities from coast to coast, our nurses consistently advocate for Veterans and ensure they receive the best care.

This year, in honor of Florence Nightingale’s 200th birthday, National Nurses Week is also part of the World Health Organization’s “Year of the Nurse and Midwife,” recognizing the hard work of the world’s nurses.

‘No better feeling’

“There’s no better feeling than caring for the Veteran. You get to know them and they become like your family,” said Sarah Lueger, a nurse manager who serves Veterans at the VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System. “It’s a way for me to give back to them for what they’ve done for us.”

At 100,000-strong, the VA nursing corps is the largest in the nation. Together, they provide continuous, compassionate care and positively impact the lives of Veterans — 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

“The people who work at VA really have a strong passion for what they do, and that is infectious to those around us,” said Karalie Gantz, an inpatient acute psychiatry nurse manager at Topeka VA.

VA nurses practice in a variety of care-delivery settings, including acute, ambulatory, mental health care, telecare and outpatient clinics.

“Within our health care system, there are [so many] different departments and different opportunities that, once you’re here, you can find [your] niche. There really is a place for everyone at VA,” Gantz said.

Grow, lead and innovate

Nurses are a critical part of Veteran treatment teams. They sit on leadership boards and collaborate across disciplines to improve patient outcomes. At all of our 1,250 sites, nurses have a voice at the table with physicians and leadership and help improve patient care.

“Working at VA is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve grown into the nurse that I am now, the leader that I am now,” Lueger said.

We encourage nurses to take advantage of opportunities to accelerate their training. Three available opportunities include:

  • The VA Learning Opportunities Residency (VALOR) Program gives outstanding registered nursing students who have completed their junior year in an accredited clinical program the opportunity to develop their skills at a VA-approved health care facility. More than 50% of VALOR participants are hired as new registered nurses in VA and usually start above the entry-level salary rate established for new graduates.
  • Through the Education Debt Reduction Program, nurses with qualifying student loans receive reimbursements of up to 0,000 over a five-year period. Payments cover tuition and other reasonable expenses, including fees, books, supplies, equipment, materials and laboratory costs.
  • Under the National Nursing Education Initiative (NNEI), part- or full-time VA registered nurses employed for at least one year can receive up to ,117 toward the pursuit of an associate, bachelor’s or advanced nursing degree, including tuition, registration fees and books.

A wealth of resources, including mentoring and preceptor programs, also encourage promotion of staff nurses to executive-level positions.

VA nurses also have the chance to innovate and research. Nurses are helping VA become a leader in telehealth and embracing scientific exploration to come up with new ways to serve Veterans.

Work at VA today 

During Nurses Week 2020 and all year long, we celebrate and thank the VA nurses who are pursuing careers with purpose and making a difference in Veterans’ lives.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information