7 things to know about being a military veterinarian - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

Humans in the military rely on doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals to take care of them while they’re on the job. Military working dogs need someone to look after them, too. That job falls to military veterinarians. Military veterinarians provide medical and surgical care to all kinds of military working animals, but their responsibilities go far beyond that of a normal veterinarian. 

What the job entails

The primary role of Army veterinarians is to provide care for animals- both for working animals and for military family pets. While on active duty, however, their responsibilities vary from mission to mission. They are highly involved in supporting public health and humanitarian projects, like creating vaccines and developing strategies to prevent the spread of animal-borne diseases. 

They’re also in charge of inspecting food sold to service members to make sure it’s safe for consumption. They may even perform audits of major manufacturing plants to confirm that they’re following food safety protocols; think Coca-Cola and Ben & Jerry’s. 

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

Things to know before you try it

  1. After education, it’s basically an eight-year commitment.
    Most military veterinarians go through the Health Professionals Scholarship Program. The HPSP contract stipulates a minimum three year commitment to active duty, plus five years of reserve duty. While vets are rarely called upon during the five years on “inactive” duty, it’s always a possibility. 
  1. Veterinarians typically enlist as officers, not soldiers.
    When you become an Army veterinarian, you’re not signing up to fight. Instead of Basic Training, you attend a Basic Officer Leadership Course for a few months. It’s not as physically tough as the boot camp designed for soldiers, but you still have to be in decent shape. New veterinarian officers also attend a one-year internship program which doesn’t count toward your active-duty requirement.
  2. Being involved in combat is always a possibility. 
    While your job description is to care for animals and assist with humanitarian efforts, danger isn’t off the table. Most Army vets never see combat, but it has happened. If you’re sent to a combat zone, you will carry a weapon and should be prepared to fire it. Most missions are fairly low-risk, but veterinarians HAVE been wounded or killed on the job. Veterinarians are never assigned combat-related tasks, but if you’re in the vicinity of an unexpected attack, anything can happen. In other words, if you want a risk-free gig, this isn’t it. 
  1. Travel is part of the job description.
    Military veterinarians can be assigned to missions anywhere in the world. This is a pro and con in one. You get the opportunity to see amazing places. If you become a Special Forces vet, you can work on serious international animal health projects. The Navy’s marine mammal program is another option.
7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

Regardless, you’re going to be moving around while on active duty. Family members and pets may be able to join you on some missions, but that’s not always an option. If you do have pets or children with you, you’ll need to make arrangements for their care while you’re working long shifts or overnight. If you’re on a combat mission, it’s important to have a network of friends and family to care for your pets while you’re away. 

  1. The options for advancement are appealing.
    If you’re considering a long-term career in the military, there’s a program for that. The Long-Term Health Education & Training program will cover the cost of veterinarians to continue their education in a number of specialties, like pathology, emergency/critical care, radiology, and surgery. After retiring from the military, veterinarians often start their own private practice or transition into teaching- all while receiving a hefty pension!
  2. The pay is nothing to laugh at.
    The pay and benefits are very good compared to our civilian veterinary colleagues. When I started out four years ago at an assignment in the U.S., I was making about $75,000 a year. Now while assigned in Europe I am making about $100,000 a year. It can be kind of tough to calculate the exact salary because of all the different types of special pay, housing/living allowances, etc, and that stuff changes depending on where you are located.
  3. You’re a veterinarian, but you’re also a military professional.
    This one bears repeating. While military veterinarians are there to care for animals, they’re also committing to serving the US Army. During your years of service, the army will decide where you work, when you work, and what your job entails. That might mean getting deployed to a combat zone even though you’d prefer to work on the home front. If you’re a leader who likes to carve your own path, you’ll probably be disappointed.

    If you’re passionate about animals and interested in serving your country, becoming an Army veterinarian is probably a great fit. The benefits don’t hurt, either! 

Steps to becoming a military vet

The U.S. Army’s Health Professions Scholarship Program is usually the first step to becoming a military veterinarian. You’ll have to convince the military that you’re worth the investment, but if you get the scholarship, the program covers your tuition while you earn your D.V.M. Alternatively, the Health Professions Loan Repayment Program can help those who have already completed school. 
Your military committment doesn’t begin until you’re done with school. At that point, you complete Basic Officer Training and an internship before beginning active duty. After three years of service, you can join the Army Reserve. There, you’re welcome to run your own practice. To get started, learn more about the process here or contact a recruiter. If you want to hear a first account of what it’s like becoming an Army Veterinarian, Elliot Garber can tell you all about it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Combat controller goes up against 350 ISIS fighters

A special operations airman from the Kentucky Air National Guard will receive the nation’s second-highest medal for combat valor for his actions on an Afghanistan battlefield.

Gen. David L. Goldfein, Air Force chief of staff, will present the Air Force Cross to Tech. Sgt Daniel P. Keller, a combat controller in the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, in a ceremony Ept. 13, 2019. The award — second only to the Medal of Honor — is given to members of the armed forces who display extraordinary heroism while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States.


Keller earned the Air Force Cross on Aug. 16, 2017, while assigned as a joint terminal attack controller for Combined Joint Special Operations Air Component Afghanistan during Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Keller was on a clearance mission in Nangarhar Province against 350 Islamic state fighters, according to the award citation. After 15 hours of sustained contact, the assault force struck an improvised explosive device, killing four personnel and wounding 31. Injured and struggling to his feet, Keller executed air-to-ground engagements while returning fire, repulsing an enemy assault less than 150 meters away.

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

Staff Sgt. Daniel P. Keller, a combat controller in the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, Friday, Sept. 13, 2019, receives the Air Force Cross, the nation’s second-highest medal for combat valor for his actions on an Afghanistan battlefield.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Vicky Spesard)

Keller then helped move 13 critically wounded casualties to a helicopter landing zone “under a hail of enemy fire,” the citation said. “When medical evacuation helicopters were unable to identify the landing zone, he sprinted to the center of the field, exposing himself to enemy fire in order to marshal in both aircraft and aid in loading causalities.”

As U.S. forces departed, Keller fought off a three-sided enemy attack by returning fire and passing enemy positions on to another joint terminal attack controller.

“His courage, quick actions and tactical expertise … under fire directly contributed to the survival of the 130 members of his assault force, including 31 wounded in action,” the citation concluded.

A Silver Star medal for the same operation was presented at Hurlburt Field, Florida, Sept. 6, 2019, to Air Force Staff Sgt. Pete Dinich, an active-duty pararescueman assigned to the 24th Special Operations Wing.

Special Tactics is the Air Force and Air National Guard’s special operations cadre, leading personnel recovery, global access, precision-strike missions and battlefield medical care.

This article originally appeared on National Guard. Follow @USNationalGuard on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to get your ailments diagnosed online (and covered by Tricare)

Having a cough has never been more nerve wracking than during the current pandemic. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be a cough. Needing to go to the doctor for any reason can send a quick thought of panic, due to current protocols. Needing something as simple as a prescription refill suddenly got complicated.

But fear not, military families! There is an easier way. Thanks to ongoing efforts to increase the logistics of telemedicine and over-the-phone appointments, Tricare beneficiaries can video chat with their doctors to receive a quick fix to many questions or prescription needs.


This includes video calls, but will not include phone calls or texts.

If you or a family member is in need of a non-urgent appointment, you can call your normal doctor’s number and ask what their options are for telehealth appointments.

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

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Tricare covers these services via telemedicine

If you or a family member has an upcoming appointment scheduled, you’re likely to be contacted about rescheduling or moving the appointment to your phone. Services covered include:

  • Office visits
  • Preventative screenings
  • Mental health services (individual psychotherapy, psychiatric diagnosis interviews/exams, and medication management)

In addition, from March 31 through May 31, Tricare has announced they will also cover telehealth services for “applied behavior analysis (ABA) parent or caregiver guidance services under the Autism Care Demonstration.”

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian
Spangdahlem Clinic Pilots Virtual Health program

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Stay up-to-date on health with social distancing

Don’t skimp on important healthcare appointments just because you can’t be seen in person. These distancing appointments allow Tricare patients to get the care they need, without risking germs. Additional distancing measures have been put into place on military bases, such as drive-through pharmacies, or in-vehicle triage.

Talk to your healthcare team to see if telehealth is available at your base.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What it looks like when Marines fire their biggest guns

Last year, the Australian Army hosted one of its largest military exercises with participants from the U.S. Marine Corps and the French military working side-by-side with Australian forces. The three militaries practiced how to work with each other as well as how to best incorporate the strengths of each force.

And that gives us a perfect chance to watch the highly mobile, flexible and lethal Marine artilleryman at work.


For warfighting exercise Koolendong, the 3rd Battalion, 11 Marines brought out their “Triple Sevens.” These are M777 howitzers which fire 155mm shells. An M777 is capable of sending a 103-pound shell to a target almost 14 miles away and of hitting that target within 54 yards thanks to a GPS-guided fuze.

An extended-range version of the round can go almost 23 miles at maximum range.

But of course, the rounds and the howitzers are only as good as the artillerymen manning them, and the Marines in the video above prove themselves quite capable of using their weapon to maximum effect.

While other troops sometimes make fun of artillerymen with accusations that they’re too weak to walk all the way to the target or too dumb for other work, the fact is that artillery requires a crap-ton of math, even more upper body strength, and an insane level of attention to detail.

And that need for strength and attention to detail only gets greater the larger the gun is. And if artillery is king of the battle, the M777 is a roided-out king who could wrestle a lion.

There’s a Marine who ferries ammunition from the truck or ammo supply point to the weapon, which requires a quick movement of dozens of yards while carrying over 100 pounds every time he does it.

There are two Marines who work together to ram the round from its staged position into the breech, something that is accomplished with a massive, heavy tool that they sprint against.

There’s the gunner who’s trying to make sure his weapon is perfectly aimed after each shot, even though it settles into the dirt differently after every firing. The tiniest mistake in his measurements could send the round hundreds of yards off target.

And while the crew is firing at its sustained rate, of two rounds per minute, it can be tough. But their max firing rate is five rounds per minute, meaning that they have to repeat their physically and mentally challenging jobs every twelve seconds without fail. To see what that looks like, check out the video at top if you haven’t already.

MIGHTY CULTURE

8 unanticipated downsides of cool Army jobs

The Army is cool, as any recruiter will happily tell you while sliding a suspiciously thick stack of paperwork your way across the desk. But even the coolest jobs have downsides. The people who get to do the coolest stuff also often have to deal with the crappiest side bits.

Here are eight awesome jobs that sometimes, unexpectedly, suck:


7 things to know about being a military veterinarian
Mortar Soldiers with the 77th Armored Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, fire a 120mm mortar round to provide indirect, suppressive fire for infantry Soldiers during a squad live-fire exercise November 3, 2016 at Udari Range near Camp Buehring, Kuwait.
(U.S. Army Sgt. Angela Lorden)
 

1. Mortarmen lob bombs but carry insane weight

On the list of cool jobs, “use rifles and armor to find and fix enemy forces, then bomb them with mortar shells that you launch out of hand-held tubes,” ranks pretty highly. But being a mortarman, or “Indirect Fire Infantryman” as it’s known, has some drawbacks. The greatest of which is the sheer weight.

Mortarmen can sometimes get close to their firing points with vehicles, but that’s far from guaranteed. And planners seem to take a perverse interest in making the 60mm mortar crews march as far as possible. Those crews have to carry a mortar that weighs about 20-40 pounds in addition to mortar shells that weigh about 4 pounds each.

The weight only goes up from there with the 81mm mortar system. The 120mm mortar system obviously weighs the most, but the weapon and its ammo is typically moved by vehicle.

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian
U.S. Army Sgt. John Leslie, of Sierra Vista, Ariz., completes system setup for the Wolfhound intelligence gathering system during the fielding and training class at Forward Operating Base Gamberi, January 25, 2014.
(U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class E. L. Craig)

 

2. Wolfhound operators can listen in on enemy radio transmissions but are always seen as nerds

There’s a class of soldier that can detect the location of enemy transmissions and then listen in on them, translating them instantly if they’re a linguist or have one nearby. But, unless the carrier is an infantryman who can absolutely destroy on the Expert Infantry Badge course, they’re going to be derided as a nerd.

And that’s because they have to learn some nerdy stuff, especially if they’re an Electronic Warfare Specialist by MOS. Managing the device requires knowing a bit about radio frequencies and electronic devices used by the enemy, but getting a soldier who can relay the enemy’s entire plan to the platoon is worth the occasional Poindexter joke.

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Brendan Mackie, photojournalist with the Hawaii Army National Guard’s 117th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, photographs from the back of a Stryker fighting vehicle during Operation Buffalo Thunder II in Shorabak district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, June 27, 2012.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Brendan Mackie)

 

3. Public affairs troops get to see many angles of the Army, but are always just tourists

Want to patrol with the cavalry one day, hit buildings with infantry the next, and clear obstacles with the engineers on the third? Then public affairs is for you! Unfortunately, you will also be considered a tourist for your efforts.

That’s because public affairs rarely has the chance to really learn their unit’s job on the tactical level since, you know, that’s not their job. But they do get to learn a little about all the forces in their unit or — if they’re in a public affairs detachment or a high-level office — their entire area of operations. Kind of like how a tourist learns a little about a bunch of things in a city or country.

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian
U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to Multinational Battle Group-East’s Forward Command Post clear a building during a training exercise in Gracanica, Kosovo, May 10, 2017.
(U.S. Army Spc. Adeline Witherspoon)

 

4. Cav scouts are human eyes and ears for units, but are heckled for their efforts

They go forward in small groups, sneaking as best they can around potentially massive enemy forces. They’re outgunned, outnumbered, and using their eyes and ears to call in bigger, badder weapon systems against enemy formations. And they’re also widely made fun of, especially by the infantry.

Cavalry scouts have a reputation for being a bit weird, and that leads to all sorts of comparisons to groups considered odd by the internet, like Bronies and Furries. It’s not fair, obviously, but the scouts seems happy as long as they still get to crawl around in the mud looking for tanks and yelling, “Scouts out!”

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian
California Army National Guard Soldiers from the 40th Combat Aviation Brigade prepare simulated casualties to be evacuated by a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from Company F, 2nd Battalion, 238th Aviation Regiment, 40th CAB, at a tactical combat casualty care lane at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, February 23, 2016.
(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ian Kummer)

 

5. Medics are linchpins of combat units, but have to see lots of gross genitals

They’re venerated, valued, and skilled. They’re de facto members of whatever unit they’re part of, even being protected from the “POG” title if they serve with the infantry. Their skills transfer well to the civilian world — they’re actually required to maintain their EMT certification, which makes finding employment easy.

But medics are the primary source of medical advice and care in many of their companies and platoons, meaning that they see all the symptoms of disease or injury in their units first. And that includes STDs and genital trauma, which means that most medics have a mental library of nightmare material. They also have to ask things like, “can you describe the discharge for me?”

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian
A Soldier for 4th Squadron, 10th U.S. Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, ground guides an M1A2 Tank commander to a maintenance area after his crew qualified during Gunnery Table VI, Fort Carson, Colorado, March 2, 2017.
(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ange Desinor)

 

6. Tank crews roll in thick armor, but draw fire from everything that can kill them

What could be safer than a tank, with its thick, composite armor, massive gun, and multiple machine guns? Well, in force-on-force warfare, a lot of things. That’s because tanks are so powerful that any maneuver force that can take them out needs to do so as quickly as possible. And tanks aren’t invulnerable. Even powerful IEDs have destroyed them.

So, when an enemy force sees a body of Abrams tanks, they concentrate artillery and anti-tank fire on them. Now, luckily, tanks do have great defenses and both armored and standard commanders work hard to protect them. But, if you take a tank into a fight against Russia or China, be prepared for your cramped little tank to get rocked all the time.

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian
U.S. Army Sergeant 1st Class Jeramy Bays, a master diver assigned to Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, returns from inspecting a seaplane wreck site in the waters of U.S. Army Garrison Kwajalein Atoll on August 16, 2016.
(U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Markus Castaneda)

 

7. Divers get to swim all day, but have some of the toughest fitness requirements

Who doesn’t love a nice day at the pool, complete with sunshine, warm water, and military salary and benefits? Well, Army divers enjoy all three of those things, but the frequent exposure to chlorine and the constant fitness requirements still make it a tough job.

During training, recruits often spend three hours a day in the pool and have to do tasks like treading water with large weights. Trainees get a few months to build up their skills before graduating, but then they have to maintain or even improve their already-high levels of physical fitness so their bodies can perform and withstand the rigors of living under the water.

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian
Unmanned aerial systems operators prep a drone for launch. While Air Force pilots famously operate from remote stations, Army pilots are typically near the front.
(U.S. Army Spc. Andrew Ingram)
 

8. UAS operators are commonly near the front lines despite the whole “remote” part of their job

Want the title of pilot without all the risk of flying over enemy forces? The unmanned aerial systems operator is the job for you (most people refer to them as “drone pilots)! But, before you start shopping for real estate in the American West, you should know that it’s mostly Air Force pilots who can fly drones over the Middle East from the States.

But Army drone pilots are much more likely to be enlisted and to be deployed forward with their birds. Part of their job is actually launching and recovering their aircraft. So, yeah, they’re generally within a few dozen miles of the fighting, potentially within range of enemy artillery, close air support, or even enemy drone attack.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Local children learn english with Fuji based Marines and sailors

U.S. Marines and Sailors with Combined Arms Training Center Camp Fuji participated in the National Chuo Youth Friendship Center’s third annual English camp Aug. 23 to Aug. 25, 2019, at CATC Camp Fuji, Shizouka, Japan.

The English camp served to provide 30 Japanese schoolchildren in the local community to learn English and experience American culture through a myriad of group activities with U.S. service members. The 30 selectness were chosen out of a pool of approximately 300 applicants.

“The children don’t have much of an opportunity in school to interact with English-speakers,” said Ayano Quentin, the host nation relations liaison with CATC Camp Fuji. To Quentin, this program gives these children the opportunity to have conversation practice with native English-speakers.


While at the youth center, the service members assisted the children with conversations and interactions in shopping, ordering food, sending mail, etc.

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

Employees with the National Chuo Youth Friendship Center, schoolchildren and volunteers from the local community, and U.S. service members with Combined Arms Training Center Camp Fuji pose for a photograph during the youth center’s third annual English camp at the National Chuo Youth Friendship Center in Gotemba, Shizouka, Japan Aug. 23, 2019.

(Photo by Cpl. Marvin E. Lopez Navarro)

“The local community here really likes Americans,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Donnie Nelson, the CATC Camp Fuji chaplain. “This event is a great relationship-building opportunity and it’s also a time for these young students to learn English and also come onto our base.”

One of the signature events of the camp involves the participants visiting and touring Camp Fuji. There, the Japanese children are able to apply their English speaking skills while also witnessing several displays from the Camp Fuji Provost Marshal Office, fire station, and library.

In addition, all of the participants on the second day of the camp came back to the youth center to sing and dance to music popular with Japanese and American youths around a bonfire.

“The atmosphere felt very positive,” Nelson said, “the smiles, the games, and the music certainly played into that.”

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Sophia Meas, left, the warehouse chief with Combined Arms Training Center (CATC) Camp Fuji and native of Modesto, Calif., and Sgt. Justin Dodd, the range control chief with Combined Arms Training Center (CATC) Camp Fuji and native of Cornelia, Ga., pose for a photograph during the National Chuo Youth Friendship Center’s third annual English camp at the Camp Fuji Fire Station in CATC Camp Fuji, Shizouka, Japan Aug. 24, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ryan H. Pulliam)

Nelson also stated that the Marines and sailors served as positive role models for the children.

The English camp is the largest community relations event Camp Fuji has with the local community where it has managed to garner national media coverage. Even though this camp has been held twice previously, this year’s English camp had over 300 child applicants from the local Japanese community.

CATC Camp Fuji provides U.S. Forces the premier training facility in Japan, supports operational plans, and strengthens relationships with joint and Japanese partners in order to ensure U.S. forward deployed and based forces are ready for contingency operations.

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Navy reveals official seal for its newest aircraft carrier

Capt. Todd Marzano, commanding officer, Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) and his crew officially unveiled the seal of the US Navy’s second Ford-class aircraft carrier currently under construction at Newport News Shipbuilding on Nov. 6, 2019.

The seal is crafted to integrate elements that honor President John F. Kennedy, his service to the Navy, and his vision for space exploration.

It features 35 stars located around the outer ring that represent John F. Kennedy as our nation’s 35th president. The 35th star is positioned after his middle initial and the two gold stars placed between CVN and the number 79 symbolize the fact that this is the second aircraft carrier bearing his name and legacy.


The Roman numeral “CIX” or 109, is a tribute to President Kennedy’s heroic naval service as commander of Patrol Boat 109 in the South Pacific. Additionally, the moon backdrop represents President Kennedy’s instrumental role in the nation’s space program.

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

The ship’s crest for the Ford-class aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CVN 79).

(US Navy graphic)

“No nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in the race for space,” said President Kennedy during a Sept. 12, 1962, speech at Rice University on the nation’s space effort. “For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and space.”

Anchoring these and other elements on the seal is the ship’s motto — “Serve with Courage.”

“Our motto exemplifies President Kennedy’s life,” said Marzano. “From the first day of his presidency, he challenged every American during his inauguration speech to ‘ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.’ He regarded serving one’s nation as an honor and held the utmost respect for those who did so with courage, especially when faced with adversity.”

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

Pre-Commissioning Unit John F. Kennedy reaches another milestone in its construction as its dry dock area is flooded three months ahead of its slated production schedule, Oct. 29, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Adam Ferrero)

“John F. Kennedy displayed extraordinary courage, both in combat as a naval officer, and as president of the United States,” said Marzano. “The seal design and ship’s motto are a very powerful and fitting way to honor his legacy.”

Most recently, on Oct. 29, 2019, the ship’s dry dock was flooded officially launching the aircraft carrier approximately three months early to the original schedule. PCU John F. Kennedy will be christened at Newport News Shipbuilding-Huntington Hills Industries in Newport News on Dec. 7, 2019.

In addition to the unveiling of the seal, and the flooding of the ship’s dry dock, other milestones have been completed to include laying of the ship’s keel on Aug. 22, 2015, and placement of the 588-metric ton island superstructure on May 29, 2019.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

WATCH: Marine catches toddler thrown from burning building

There’s nothing more terrifying than imagining yourself trapped in a burning building, unable to escape … until you imagine being trapped in there with your children.

According to multiple news sources, that’s exactly what happened in Phoenix, Arizona, last week. A mother and her two children were in a third-story apartment when flames presumably rendered the exits inoperable, forcing the woman to the balcony. Bystanders encouraged her to throw her baby from the balcony and when she did, 28-year-old Marine turned security guard Phillip Blanks sprinted in, dove and caught the boy milliseconds before he would have hit the ground.


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According to the Washington Post, Blanks said his time in the Marines, coupled with his athletic training as a wide receiver in high school and college, prepared him for this moment. The Marines taught him to “always be on high alert, not be complacent and to have discipline,” he said.

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4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

The Air Force has enough people from other branches making fun of it. Airmen don’t need to be the subject of ridicule for things they don’t deserve. The facts people can use to poke fun at the Air Force are so plentiful, why go through all that extra effort to make stuff up? Just because it seems like something the Air Force would do doesn’t make it real.

The chocolate fountain inside a DFAC in Iraq? Yes, that existed. I can say I saw it with my own eyes. To be fair, there was one in the Army chow hall on Camp Victory, too, but I’ll let the Air Force take the heat for it. Dining facilities with made-to-order omelets and a salad bar? The Air Force has that, too. And yes, it was not too long ago the Air Force did its annual PT test on a stationary bike.

The reasons to poke fun are plentiful.


Related: The complete hater’s guide to the Air Force

There’s no need perpetuate myths about airmen. Forget, for a moment, that Air Force “barracks” are nicer than most Holiday Inns (no, airmen do not get swimming pools… not at their living quarters, anyway) and help us debunk these continuously repeated myths that are both untrue or unjustly attributed to the Air Force.

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian
How’s that taste, shipmate?

 

1. The Stress Card Myth.

This has been debunked on We Are The Mighty before, but it’s important enough to reiterate here. For anyone joining the military, no, you will not be issued a Basic Training “Stress Card” that allows you to take a “break” from training if your nerves get a little frayed. The Air Force is still very much a military branch and, while it might have the “easiest” time in Basic Military Training, you will still get yelled at, still do PT ad nauseam, and it will all be very stressful.

That’s the point.

If anything, BMT is only getting more difficult as time goes on. Where it was once a six-and-a-half week course, it’s now eight weeks. Now that airmen spend more time in joint-service operations — and thus become “battlefield airmen” — it’s important that they be able to handle themselves under stress, which can often mean under fire.

Besides, it was the Navy who had the closest thing to a Stress Card.

Related: The truth behind basic training “Stress Cards”

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian
Tech. Sgt. Zachary Rhyner medically retired in 2015 due to wounds sustained in combat that prevented mobility below the knee. Rhyner is an Air Force Cross recipient and Special Tactics combat controller attached to the 24th Special Operations Command. Rhyner served 11 years, earning three Purple Hearts in six deployments. (U.S. Air Force)

 

2. The Air Force has no enlisted warfighters.

The Air Force’s enlisted troops are mostly happy with rendering a sharp salute to our officers as they taxi out on their way to the wild blue yonder, the battlefield the Air Force controls with unrelenting hostility toward would-be interlopers both on the ground and in the air.

But there are many Air Force specialties that have nothing to do with simply letting others go into combat while waiting on the flight line. The Air Force’s battlefield airmen aren’t limited to conventional forces, like Security Forces Phoenix Ravens, the airmen who protect aircraft on the ground in a hostile environment. USAF Combat Controllers, TACPs, Weather Technicians, and Combat Rescue Officers will all deploy anywhere in the world with the best special operators from any branch. And when the sh*t hits the fan, you will be happy to know that Air Force Pararescue Jumpers are on their way to bail you out.

Fun Fact: When Air Force PJs go into action, their alarm is the Leeroy Jenkins battle cry.

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian
The closest any of these guys will get to the stick is flying a drone. (U.S. Air Force)

 

3. We all fly planes.

This one is mainly for civilians. Anyone who’s met the average junior enlisted airman will be happy to know that flying a plane, especially for the United States Air Force, is not something you can just sign up to do. As a matter of fact, it’s incredibly difficult to get behind the stick of any Air Force aircraft anywhere.

That includes training aircraft.

The closest enlisted airmen will get to being in the cockpit’s hotseat aboard a USAF aircraft is either in a simulator or stealing one off the flightline. And before you scoff at the last part, it happens a lot more than anyone might expect.

Now read: That time a Marine mechanic took a joyride in a stolen A4M Skyhawk

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian
[Laughs in Coast Guard] (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

 

4. The Air Force is the “smartest branch.”

I hate to debunk this one because it saves me so much stress and hassle whenever a bunch of veterans are at the bar comparing the size of their brains based on branch of service. Eventually, someone pats the airman on the back and says, “Hey! At least you’re the smartest branch!”

This myth transcends every branch and era. Inevitably, some Facebook commenter, veteran or civilian, will remark on how the Air Force is the smartest without actually reading this article and the myth will perpetuate itself. While the Air Force handles a lot of high-tech equipment and research laboratories, the people who handle that aren’t taking the ASVAB. And if they were, they would probably ace it for any branch they were going into.

Sure, the Air Force works on satellites, the Navy works on nuclear reactors, the Army operates geospatial imaging systems, and the Marines have to at least know enough to pick up Air Force women at the bar. The actual branch that is the most difficult to get into is – wait for it – the Coast Guard.

The military divides enlisted candidates into three tiers, with the top tier being those with a high school diploma and tier two being recruits with a GED. The Air Force recruits 99 percent tier one candidates, but the Coast Guard won’t even look at anything other than tier one unless they’ve been in the military before. If you prefer to judge by using minimum ASVAB score, the lowest the Air Force will go is 36, while the Coast Guard’s minimum is a solid 40.

The Coast Guard is also the smallest branch of the military, but has no trouble recruiting new Coasties. This means they’d rather send you down the street to the Army than let a substandard Coast Guardsman slip through the cracks. Meanwhile, in the Air Force, they say, “there’s a waiver for everything.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Preparing future generations for leadership and military service

The children are our future. Isn’t it time to talk to them about leadership and military service? Today’s children are the future leaders and military personnel of our country. They are the ones that will one day take that oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” The reality that today’s youth are the future of our country and our military is why it is so important that we have programs in place to mold, teach, and prepare them to be the strong leaders of tomorrow. The military branches have had programs in place for decades to aid in this preparation of today’s youth. These programs include: the Sea Cadets, the Young Marines, and the ROTC.


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The US Naval Sea Cadet Corps is sponsored by both the Navy and the Coast Guard. They are designed to promote interest and skill in naval disciplines while also instilling strong moral character and life skills through leadership and technical programs. The main goals of the Sea Cadets are: developing an interest and ability in seamanship and seagoing skills, instill the virtues of good citizenship and strong moral principles in each cadet, demonstrate the values of an alcohol-free, drug-free, and gang-free lifestyle, expose cadets to the prestige of public service and a variety of career paths through hands-on training with our nation’s armed services.

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The Young Marines set out to build tomorrow’s leaders today. They promote the mental, moral, and physical development of each of their members. The Young Marines program focuses on the values of leadership, self-discipline, and teamwork. They strive to strengthen the lives of America’s youth, and they do so by teaching the importance of self-confidence, academic achievement, honoring our veterans, community service, and living a healthy drug-free lifestyle. The Young Marines aims to mold today’s youth into productive members of society.

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The Reserve Officer’s Training Corps, or ROTC, as it is more commonly known, is designed to give young people invaluable experiences while still in school. ROTC is different because it is a program that is a part of a school or university. Each branch has its own ROTC program, so students can choose which path they want to take. Through the ROTC program, students can begin a military career in health care, aviation, finance, engineering, chemistry, law enforcement, and transportation, among others. ROTC is designed to mold them and prepare them for officer programs and careers in the armed services.

No matter what program the youth of today chooses to join, they will be taught valuable skills and learn how to become the strong leaders the future of our country depends on. They will be taught structure and discipline, while being molded into productive members of society. Whether or not they choose to go into a career in the military, the experiences they receive in these programs will follow them through the rest of their lives. They will learn invaluable lessons that will aid them in any career path they choose, and they will make memories that will last a lifetime.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why these morale patches caught the Navy’s attention

One of the best things about the military is its subculture and sense of humor. If you give any group in the military any leeway at all in regard to uniform wear, even the slightest bit, the chances are good that they’ll make jokes out of it. One such tradition is the morale patch. Usually worn during deployments and on aircrew, the morale patch is worn solely by the designation of a unit commander. They often make fun of some of the worst, most boring, or most defining aspects of a career field.

Recently, some Naval aviators got into hot water by wearing patches that may have been a little too close to political.


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It’s not as if this is the military’s first Trump joke.

Many of the best morale patches often have a pop culture element to them. Some of them may have some kind of inside joke, or technical jargon. In the patch above, for example, a UARRSI is part of an aircraft’s in-flight refueling apparatus, specifically on the receiving end.

Related: 13 of the best military morale patches

Unfortunately for the Navy aircrew sporting the red patch and the “Make (blank) Great Again” joke, using an image of the President’s 2016 campaign slogan might be a little too political for the Navy’s top brass, with or without the “p*ssy” joke the Air Force used in the second patch above. No matter what the reason, the military is increasingly concerned about U.S. troops and their acts of political affiliation in uniform.

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Trump signed signature red “MAGA” hats for deployed troops during a New Years visit in 2018. What concerned brass then was that the White House didn’t distribute the hats, troops already brought them.

The Pentagon’s Uniform Code of Military Justice states “active duty personnel may not engage in partisan political activities and all military personnel should avoid the inference that their political activities imply or appear to imply DoD sponsorship, approval, or endorsement of a political candidate, campaign, or cause.” This expressed line may be the cause of the Navy’s ire with the red Trump aircrew patch.

More: 13 more awesome military morale patches from around the service

It’s possible that the aircrews were making a political statement, but it’s much more likely that the reference to the President and his 2016 campaign slogan is a pop culture one. Trump’s revival of the old 1980 Reagan election theme has permeated American culture since Trump adopted it and made it his own. Even the President’s detractors use some variation of the MAGA line to insult the President and his policies.

The problem is this time, U.S. troops were seen by members of the media sporting the patches during an official Trump visit to the USS Wasp in Tokyo Bay. The image of troops wearing the patch went viral, and people who don’t seem to know about the morale patch tradition called it “more than patriotism” and “inappropriate.”

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President Trump delivers a Memorial Day speech aboard the USS Wasp.

(U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric Shorter)

The Navy downplayed the patches officially, calling them “old news” but acknowledged it was conducting an inquiry to determine if the move was an overtly political act.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here are the new uniform changes for female Marines

Marines have been given the approval to let their hair down — at least some of it — while they work out.

Women with medium-length hair are now allowed to wear a “half ponytail” hairstyle during physical training. The style, which pulls the top portion of the hair away from the face and into a ponytail while the rest of the hair remains down — is one of several new uniform-related changes the commandant signed off on this week.


“The section of hair pulled back into the half ponytail should be secured over the ‘crest of the head,'” according to a graphic depicting the new authorized look. “The half ponytail must lay flat, and hair may not stick straight out or at extreme angles from the head.”

7 things to know about being a military veterinarian

Female Marines with medium-length hair are now allowed to wear a “half ponytail” hairstyle during physical training.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pamela Jackson)

Half ponytails are allowed only for female Marines with medium-length hair. The style is authorized during PT, including when the Marine Corps combat utility uniform is worn during physical training. Women with long hair will still need to put their hair up, in a regular ponytail or free-hanging braid.

Half ponytails won’t be allowed with any Marine Corps headgear, the message states. And if the combat utility uniform isn’t being worn for PT, it’s back to the regular hair regs for all women, according to the message.

Women have also been given the OK to wear silver earrings with their service uniforms. Female Marines were previously allowed to wear only gold earrings with that uniform.

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Marines with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit participate in an endurance course.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Caleb McDonald)

“Small, polished, yellow gold or silver colored, ball, or round stud earrings (post, screw-on, or clip), not to exceed 6 millimeters (about 1/4 inch) in diameter, may be worn with the service, blue dress, and blue-white dress [uniforms],” the message states.

The changes follow a survey the Marine Corps Uniform Board conducted earlier this year. Officials declined to provide the results of that survey, but it did ask Marines to weigh in on these two approved changes.

The commandant also this week granted men the approval to use black umbrellas when it’s raining while they’re in their service or dress uniforms.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Warrior shares why he stayed in the Army after injury

Taking care of others, and showing love and appreciation for others, is a core reason why retired Maj. Dennis “DJ” Skelton chose to stay in the Army. He continued to serve for 21 years, even after suffering grievous wounds during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004.

Skelton told his story to a large crowd of soldiers, veterans, and Army civilians during the “Why We Serve” ceremony hosted by the Army’s chief information officer/G-6, Sept. 5. During the event, 30 young men and women from the Baltimore and Richmond areas raised their right hand to take the Oath of Enlistment.

“I was kind of a punk kid growing up in a small farming community in South Dakota,” he said. “I barely graduated high school and had absolutely no discipline whatsoever, which is why I had a hard time holding down a job.”


Shortly after getting expelled from the University of South Dakota, Skelton eventually found his way to an Army recruiting office. A year later he was sent to training at Monterey, California, to learn Chinese at the Defense Language Institute.

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Retired Maj. Dennis “DJ” Skelton shared his story to a large crowd of soldiers, veterans, and Army civilians during a “Why We Serve” ceremony, Sept. 5, 2019.

(Courtesy photo Maj. Dennis DJ Skelton)

At one point, two officers pulled Skelton aside and asked him, “‘Why are you here?'” Skelton looked up and couldn’t answer the question, he said.

Instead of turning Skelton away, the two officers decided to take an opportunity to encourage the young private. They encouraged him to become an Army officer.

“That was the first time in my life that I had been pulled aside by someone that looked at me from a distance and chose to spend some extra time with someone they did not know. They saw something in me that I didn’t see,” Skelton said.

Skelton eventually made it to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. After graduation, he moved to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. Not long after his arrival, he was told to prepare for a deployment in Iraq.

“I remember sitting on the tarmac waiting for the plane to load up,” he said. “No one in my unit has ever [deployed] before. I remember standing in front of my platoon — naive — and I looked at those family members and said, “‘I promise you this: I will bring all of your sons and daughters home.'”

Two months later, Skelton was wounded and in a coma. One of his soldiers, “went through a volley of fire to drag my body through the kill zone,” during a battle in Fallujah, Skelton said emotionally.

Battling for his life, Skelton was flown back for treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland.

“This is 2004, and there was no Warrior Transition Unit. West Point professors, [and] enlisted soldiers that I served with found out that I was wounded and showed up at the hospital. They would cook food every night and delivered it to my parents, sister, and loved ones, because I couldn’t do that,” he said with sorrow.

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Retired Maj. Dennis “DJ” Skelton discusses why he chose to stay in the Army after suffering grievous wounds during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004, during a “Why We Serve” ceremony at Fort Belvoir, Va., Sept. 5, 2019.

(Army CIO G6 photo)

A year later, Skelton was out of the hospital, and the Army was quick to start his medical evaluation board process. It was one thing to be injured, but the feeling of rejection and being told he no longer provided value to the Army felt worse, he said.

Skelton eventually convinced the Army to let him stay as he spent the next six years bouncing through various assignments.

“For six years, I did what everyone told me to do: ‘Be resilient.’ And for six years … what I learned is that I hate the word resilient more than any other word in the English language.”

To others, resilience is the measurement of time that it takes to get back to normal, Skelton added.

“For six years, I tried to get back to the point where I had two eyes [and] two limbs so I could go hunting, climbing, and fishing. That was a source of happiness. I want to go back to a time when I was not peppered with shrapnel so that I can look handsome again,” said Skelton, with sadness in his voice.

“The reality is we can’t; these negative things that happen to us are now forever part of us,” he said.

It took time, but Skelton eventually saw his injury as a source of his strength. Through it all, he recognized that each person brings value and worth to a team or organization, he said.

So to answer the question, ‘Why do I serve?’ I made a promise on a tarmac that I bring my soldiers home,” he said.

“Even though it took six years, I finally made my way back into the infantry. And even though it wasn’t [my same] platoon, I got to command the same company in which I was a platoon leader,” he said. “Some of my privates were now my NCOs. And I got to bring them back home.”

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

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