What It's Like to Transition Off Active Duty (In GIFs) - Part I - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty (In GIFs) – Part I

At NVI, we love to talk about “user experience” (check out any of our previous blogs here, here, or here on the topic). Part of user experience is perspective taking, or walking a mile in your user’s shoes. To that end, we’re inviting you to join us on an emotional rollercoaster full of anticipation, promise, disappointment, and resilience. Welcome to the life of one transitioning veteran.


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Part I: Getting Out

Your separation request has been approved. This is happening. It’s really happening.

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You get a date for TAP (now Transition GPS) and don your finest (OK, only) business casual duds (or, if you’re me, drop some serious coin at Ann Taylor Loft because you own no business casual attire). Turns out you clean up alright!

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Welcome to your Transition GPS. Cue three-to-five days of sipping from a proverbial firehose full of PowerPoint presentations. Job search, interviewing, benefits (oh my). Not exactly how a soon-to-be veteran spends every single day for umpteen years until this day, but onward.

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To be fair, you’re also guided through exercises like a financial wellness worksheet that alerts you that, without BAH, life’s going to be tough.

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Then, you get to the section on labor market information and find out (shock, horror) that your hometown has precisely zero jobs matched to your career field. Guess it’s time to consider your soft skills…

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At the end of the program, you’ve got a signed transition plan that says you know what you’re going to do and you’re clear on how you’re gonna do it. In reality, it’s more like this:

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Oh well. Onward to outprocessing!

For the uninitiated, this bureaucratic rite called “outprocessing” is essentially a quest for about two dozen signatures. Your mission is complicated by your signatories’ preternatural ability to have just stepped out when you show up. Challenge accepted.

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A few weeks and a couple dozen signatures later, it’s your special day. The much-fabled “final out.” If you’ve satisfactorily completed your quest, you’re outprocessed! If you bungled any of your tasks, do not pass “go” or collect 200 dollars. You’re in for a wild goose chase (and possibly a stern talking-to). Time for the most sacred of paid time off: terminal leave.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Air Force lab in charge of processing COVID-19 samples from military facilities around the world

(Editor’s Note – The following is an updated repost of a story on the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine Epidemiology Reference Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, which was originally published on March 27, 2018. It contains new information on the lab’s mission during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

For the latest Air Force information and guidance on COVID-19 go to https://www.af.mil/News/Coronavirus-Disease-2019/

UPDATE – COVID-19 AND THE USAFSAM EPI LAB

The United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine’s epidemiology laboratory is the Air Force’s sole clinical reference laboratory, and as such, is testing and processing samples of COVID-19 sent from military treatment facilities around the world.


EPILAB

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The lab was authorized by the Defense Health Agency to test samples from Department of Defense beneficiaries for COVID-19 in early March, and received its test kit from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention shortly after.

“The USAFSAM Epi Lab is currently working long hours, testing and processing samples of COVID-19 that are coming in from MTFs globally,” said Col. Theresa Goodman, USAFSAM commander. “If you ask anyone on this team how they’re doing, they’ll tell you they’re fine–that they’re just doing their jobs. But I couldn’t be more proud of them right now — their selfless and tireless dedication to this mission. COVID-19 testing is our primary mission right now and the members of the Epi Lab are my front line to this fight.”

USAFSAM’s epidemiology laboratory, nested in the Air Force Research Laboratory’s 711th Human Performance Wing, has a long history of testing and identifying various infectious respiratory diseases, including those that occur on a regular basis like influenza, and the ones similar to COVID-19 that become a public health issue, spreading globally. Because of this, the team works closely with the CDC and other agencies.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty (In GIFs) – Part I

Col. Theresa Goodman

“We have been in operation for approximately 30 years, and therefore involved with many other infectious disease outbreaks, for example SARS,” said Col. Dana Dane, USAFSAM Public Health Department chair.

This laboratory is only authorized to test samples coming in from DoD beneficiaries, but those outside this demographic have the support of their state public health departments for testing purposes. USAFSAM is working closely with public health professionals across the DoD, as well as with the CDC as the situation evolves. Per CDC guidelines, reference laboratories are no longer required to submit samples to the CDC for further testing and final confirmation. If the tests do show as positive, the USAFSAM Epi Lab marks the sample “confirmed positive.”

USAFSAM’s laboratory is not participating in vaccine development. It also is not the type of laboratory where people go to get blood drawn, nasal swabs, etc., like a CompuNet or clinic at a doctor’s office or in a hospital. USAFSAM’s clinical reference lab is set up to receive these samples from military treatment facilities. They run the tests on those samples and log the data.

“We’re all sensitive to those around the world who are grieving losses due to this awful virus as well as to others who are just downright scared. Our hearts go out to you,” said Goodman. “But just know that our epidemiology laboratory here in USAFSAM is waiting at the door 24/7 for any and all samples that come in from our DoD family.

Goodman also stated that the team is lockstep with public health personnel around the world as well as with our partners at the CDC.

“We truly are all in this together,” she said. “Fighting this virus will take all of us doing our part–from those staying at home washing their hands a little more often and checking on neighbors to USAFSAM’s public health team testing samples and getting the data where it needs to go.”

THE DISEASE DETECTIVES (ORIGINAL POST – MARCH 27, 2018 )

After slowly using a blade to cut through thick tape, a technician in a protective gown and glasses opens the flaps of a cardboard box revealing a polystyrene container. As her gloved hands cautiously remove the lid, a wisp of vapor rolls slowly over the edge of the box, clinging to its surface as it descends onto the tabletop.

The technician gingerly reaches through the fog and removes a plastic bag filled with clear vials from the container. This process is repeated over a hundred times each morning as carts filled with boxes of clinical patient specimens arrive at the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine’s Epidemiology Laboratory Service at the 711th Human Performance Wing at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

Created in 1990, the Epi Lab, as it is referred to at USAFSAM, focuses on clinical diagnostic, public health testing and force health screening, performing 5,000 to 8,000 tests six days a week (or about 2.1 million tests a year) for clinics and hospitals treating active duty service members, reservists and National Guard members and their dependents and beneficiaries.

The data collected from these tests not only enables the analysis of disease within the joint force, but is shared with civilian public health agencies contributing to the tracking of diseases, such as influenza and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), as well as supporting disease prevention efforts, such as the formulation of vaccines.

While the lab receives most of its medical samples from Air Force bases around the world, it also tests specimens sent by Navy and Army hospitals and clinics, totaling more than 200 military medical facilities around the globe.

The Epi Lab’s workload is a result of its efficiency and economics, according to Elizabeth Macias, Ph.D., a clinical microbiologist, and director of the Epi Lab.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty (In GIFs) – Part I

Elizabeth Macias, Ph.D., is a clinical microbiologist, and director of the Epidemiology Laboratory Service, also known as the Epi Lab, at the 711th Human Performance Wing’s United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine and Public Health at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio. The lab, which receives between 5,000 and 8,000 samples, six days a week, for analysis, routinely reports results to Department of Defense hospitals and clinics around the world within 48 hours of a sample being shipped to the lab.

PHOTO BY J.M. EDDINS JR.

“A lot of the testing is very specialized, and in some cases can be very expensive. Many of our Air Force clinics and laboratories are small and don’t have the personnel to do that kind of thing or the funding to get all the specialized instruments that we have,” Macias said. “Our personnel are comprised of military, government civilians and contractor civilians, so we have the expertise and the personnel to handle the workload.”

Nearly 30 people work throughout the morning, removing samples packed in dry ice from their boxes, ensuring the patient information on the specimen tubes and paperwork match the orders on the computer system and then re-labeling them for the lab’s computer system before sending the samples to the appropriate testing departments.

“The laboratory consists of three branches; Customer Support, Immunodiagnostics and Microbiology. Immunodiagnostics and Microbiology perform testing, such as immune status and screening for STDs, like Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), gonorrhea, syphilis and hepatitis and some other serology assays,” said Tech. Sgt. Maryann Caso, noncommissioned officer in charge of the immunodiagnostic section of the Epi Lab.

Just over a year ago, the Epi Lab adopted fourth-generation HIV testing, which enables the lab to detect an HIV infection two weeks sooner after a patient is exposed. This newer technology allows patients to receive treatment and counseling sooner.

There is a constant flow of samples requiring STD screening and immune status testing, as these are gathered as part of the in-processing screening for each new service member. The tests help screen for potentially infectious diseases as well as establish a baseline of antibody types and levels for each new recruit to precisely target which vaccines they need.

“For example, all the new recruits are tested for measles, mumps, and rubella. So if they have antibodies to those diseases then they’re not vaccinated again. This saves the Department of Defense because they don’t waste manpower and money to vaccinate somebody that is already protected against those diseases,” Macias said.

The lab has become more efficient and safer for laboratory technicians after the installation of an automated testing system last year.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty (In GIFs) – Part I

Laboratory technicians unpack and log in blood serum, fecal, urine or respiratory samples which arrive from U.S. Air Force hospitals and clinics around the world, as well as some other Department of Defense facilities Jan. 30, 2018. The Epidemiology Laboratory Service, also known as the Epi Lab, at the 711th Human Performance Wing’s United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine and Public Health at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio, receives 100-150 boxes a day, six days a week. The lab, which tests between 5,000 and 8,000 samples daily, is a Department of Defense reference laboratory offering clinical diagnostic, public health, and force health screening and testing.

PHOTO // J.M. EDDINS JR.

“The samples come in now and are put on an automated line. It will actually uncap the sample, spin it down, aliquot it (divide the sample into smaller portions for multiple tests) and sort it to whatever section and analyzer it needs for a particular test,” Caso said.

“Before, our techs had to manually uncap the tubes, aliquot the samples and sort them. When you have thousands of samples that you have to uncap and then recap by hand, you get repetitive-motion injuries to the wrist – such as carpal tunnel. The whole idea is to have automated processes and to eliminate or mitigate pre-analytical errors, such as specimen contamination.”

Once tested, the results are automatically returned to the submitting hospital or clinic via computer, unless the system notifies a technician to intervene and manually certify the test result.

“Specimens are collected at hospitals and clinics around the world and sent to us,” Macias said. “We receive the boxes within 24 hours and most of the results are completed within 24 hours… So, generally, we get those results back to the submitting clinic within 48 hours from when they are shipped to us, so the docs can then treat their patients appropriately and with a good turnaround time.”

In addition to the immunology testing that is performed in the lab, the Microbiology branch performs testing on bacterial cultures, examines fecal samples for parasites that cause intestinal disease, and performs influenza testing.

The Air Force began an influenza surveillance program in 1976 to collect data about disease and its spread in response to an outbreak of what was called “Bootcamp Flu.” In the close quarters of basic training, the virus spread through many barracks, according to Donald Minnich, technical supervisor for the Virology and manual testing section at the Epi Lab.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty (In GIFs) – Part I

Donald Minnich, technical supervisor for the manual testing section, oversees the influenza surveillance program at the Epidemiology Laboratory Service, also known as the Epi Lab, at the 711th Human Performance Wing’s United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine and Public Health at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio.The lab identifies and sequences the genome of influenza samples received from U.S. Air Force hospitals and clinics around the world, as well as other Department of Defense facilities. The data collected on active flu strains contributes about 25 percent of the total data used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to formulate its yearly influenza vaccine.

PHOTO // J.M. EDDINS JR.

To combat illness, recruits needed to be regularly monitored, giving birth to Operation Gargle, in which recruits gargled with a solution and spit it back into a specimen cup which was then tested for influenza and other respiratory pathogens.

The Air Force program is now part of the Defense Health Agency’s Global, Laboratory-Based Respiratory Pathogen program which grows, sequences and collects data on influenza, parainfluenza, adenovirus and the Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV.

The flu surveillance program at the Epi Lab has approximately 95 submitting laboratories scattered across the continental United States and the globe, from deployed areas to Europe, Japan and Guam.

In a typical flu season, the surveillance program receives between 5,000 and 6,000 specimens. This year, the Epi Lab has received 5,000 specimens in just the first few months of the flu season, according to Minnich.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

What happens when a working dog retires into its handler’s home

Two four-legged police officers ended their long careers with the Marine Corps Police Department aboard MCLB Barstow by getting their forever homes with their human partners, Sept. 12, 2018.

Military Working Dogs “Ricsi” P648, and “Colli” P577, both German shepherds, were officially retired in a ceremony held at the K-9 Training Field behind the Adam Leigh Cann Canine Facility aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow.

Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Silkowski, MCLBB executive officer; Darwin O’neal, MCPD chief; Danny Strand, director, Security and Emergency Services; fellow police officers, and members of the Marine Corps Fire Department aboard the base gathered to see the two MWDs into their well-deserved retirements.


“Tony” Nadeem Seirafi was the first of five handlers Ricsi worked with beginning in 2010 aboard MCLB Barstow. He has since moved on to Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., but returned for the first time in years to pick up the dog he considers to be a friend.

“I love that dog and I’ve been dreaming about doing this for years,” Seirafi said. “Retired police dogs can be a little more stubborn than a regular dog, but they just basically want to be loved and lay on the couch and be lazy.”

Jacob Lucero was a Marine Corps military policeman partnered with MWD Colli when he was stationed Marine Corps Air, Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., from 2011 to 2012. Lucero moved on after the Corps to become a correctional officer and is now a student in his native Kingman, Ariz. Colli was sent to MCLB Barstow in 2016.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty (In GIFs) – Part I

A United States Air Force Belgian Malinois on a M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle before heading out on a mission in Kahn Bani Sahd, Iraq, Feb. 13, 2007.

“I started working with Colli when he was about a year and a half old,” Lucero said. “He’s now nine, which is a good age for a police dog to retire.”

He agreed with Seirafi there are some unique challenges to adopting a police dog, but they are worth it for the loyalty and love they give in return.

“One of the issues of adopting a working police dog,” Lucero said, “is that they sometimes need more socializing because they had only been with their handler or in a kennel.”

Both MWDs received certificates of appreciation acknowledging their retirement from the K-9 unit and “In grateful recognition of service faithfully performed.”

Lieutenant Steven Goss, kennel master, MCPD, concluded the ceremony with the reading of the short poem “He Is Your Dog”:”He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Heroic US Army soldier saves life of drowning man

While on a typical morning run in Smithfield, Virginia, a soldier witnesses a small boat capsize in the local Pagan River, then hears yelling and screaming coming from the area. As he looks around trying to pinpoint the sound, he takes off into a sprint to the end of the bridge, and with no hesitation he dives into the water.

He proceeds to swim 75 meters when he comes across a man struggling to stay afloat gripping onto the side of the boat. The men successfully turned the boat upright, but couldn’t get the excess water out and in a split decision U.S. Army Maj. Timothy Decker, operations officer for the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training, had to make the decision on how he would save 82 year-old George Gray.


“Once we couldn’t get the boat drained, I decided to have him hold on to it like a flotation device as I swam and pulled him and the boat,” Decker said. “After about a minute of trying that I realized we wasn’t making any progress to get closer to the shore line.”

Decker attempted to swim back to the same location he dove in, until he realized he was swimming against the current and was in the same spot he started just moments ago.

“I quickly changed directions and started swimming perpendicular to the current,” Decker said. “I was extremely exhausted, but I could see we were making progress, so I just pushed ahead. It took us five to seven minutes to reach a dock.”

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty (In GIFs) – Part I

U.S. Army Maj. Timothy Decker, operations officer for the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training, poses for a picture with George Gray in Smithfield, Va., Nov. 5, 2019.

(Photo by Bert Blanchette)

Throughout the whole process Decker explained how Gray maintained his composure and remained calm throughout the incident.

“It was pretty instantaneous from when he stepped foot on to the dock; he broke down in tears and gave me a big hug,” Decker said. “It was a very humbling experience.”

Shortly after, the police and ambulance were waiting to ensure both men were safe.

“I think anyone would have done what I did if they were in that situation,” Decker said. “I’m just happy I was there to help.”

Because of his actions on Oct. 5, 2019, when Decker saved Gray from drowning, Smithfield Police Department awarded him with the city’s Life Saving Award.

The Life Saving Award is issued to anyone whose actions saved the life of a fellow citizen in an emergency.

“I’m just thankful to be alive,” Gray said. “I was hanging on to the boat and I had on a really heavy coat and if it wasn’t for this gentlemen [Decker] I wouldn’t be here today.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

To DITY or not to DITY?

With each set of PCS orders, I wonder whether we should consider a Personally Procured Move (PPM), which is the official name of what most of us call a DITY, or Do It Yourself move. It’s tempting — you hear stories of military families making tons of money, and it seems like there is less chance of damaged goods. If you’re considering a DITY move this PCS season, here are six questions you need to ask yourself:

How much reimbursement will you get?

For most people, the main reason to consider doing a DITY move is to make a little money. Before you get started, be sure you understand exactly what you will and will not receive, whether you do a DITY, a full government move, or something in between.

All service members who are executing PCS orders are entitled to a wide range of travel entitlements, including:

  • temporary lodging,
  • monetary allowance in lieu of transportation (technically called MALT, but often just called mileage),
  • per diem for travel days,
  • dislocation allowance.

When you do a DITY move or a partial DITY move, you’ll also get an allowance for moving your belongings, based upon the distance and weight moved. From that allowance, you pay all the expenses of the move: packing materials, hired help, the actual transportation of your goods, and unpacking. Any excess reimbursement beyond your actual expenses is taxable income.

Contact your personal property office to be sure you understand your entitlements and the reimbursement requirements for your branch, including when you need to have your vehicle weighed (empty/full/both? start/finish/both?).

Can you manage an upfront cost?

All branches have a process for getting an advance of a portion of your anticipated move reimbursement, but it doesn’t always work out as expected. If you decide to do a DITY move, you should plan to pay for all expenses out-of-pocket and expect that it may take months to be reimbursed.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty (In GIFs) – Part I

Is moving yourself realistic?

Doing a DITY move is work, especially if you have a lot of stuff or heavy things like a piano or old-school entertainment center. Do you realistically have the time, mental energy and physical strength to pack up everything you own, load it safely onto a truck — or into a moving container — and unload it all on the other end?

Do you have a lot of professional gear?

One major limitation of a full DITY move is there is no way to separate out professional gear weight. Service members and their spouses are permitted to deduct the weight of certain specified work-related items from the overall weight of goods. Separating professional gear is a big help if you are close to your weight allowance.

Will you be able to keep track of the paperwork?

DITY moves require extra paperwork and receipts, particularly when you go to file your income tax return. You’ll need weight receipts to get reimbursed by the military — requirements may vary by branch. Then, because DITY reimbursements are taxable income, you’ll need all your expense receipts to deduct from your income.

TIP: Experienced DITY movers recommend a designated folder or envelope for receipts, but also taking a photograph of every single receipt when you get it. Upload the picture to the cloud to ensure you’ll always have access to a copy.

Have you considered a partial DITY?

One of the easiest ways to get the benefits of a DITY move without the work is to do a partial DITY, which separates your move into two parts. The government movers take care of the things you don’t want to move, and you get reimbursed for the portion you do move. A partial DITY is a good solution if you aren’t sure you want to do a full DITY, or if you have certain items you want to move yourself.

DITY moves are a good option for different situations, but they are a lot of work and they may or may not make money. Understanding the reimbursements and the process will help you decide if it is the right option for you.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Navy sailors step up to help deliver meals to senior citizens

Two sailors partnered with Meals On Wheels (MOW) Mesa County to deliver meals to local clients in the Grand Junction, Colorado, area during Western Slope Navy Week, July 23, 2019.

The mission of MOW is to promote the independence, health, and well being of the elderly through quality nutritional services. This is the first time Navy Outreach has partnered with the organization during a Navy Week.

“We were really glad to have the sailors here to help us, and a lot of the clients were looking forward to the interactions,” said Amanda Debock, program manager. “We gave them a route that had a large amount of veterans and they were especially excited to have their meals delivered by active duty sailors.”


MOW Mesa County provides affordable lunchtime meals to seniors age 60 and older in Mesa County. Today, the program prepares and serves more than 120,000 meals annually and 500 or more per day.

Lt. Jacob Cook and Navy Aviation Structural Mechanic 2nd Class Giovanni Dagostino, both assigned to Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 117, rode along with volunteer Steve Kendrick to deliver lunch to 19 clients.

“I have never volunteered with Meals on Wheels myself,” said Cook. “This experience has been really great just to go out and see what they do as an organization and to meet the people in this community that they serve and take care of.”

Seven clients included in the route were Navy, Army or Air Force Veterans that served during Word War II, the war in Vietnam and throughout various other periods.

“I was surprised how excited some of the veterans were when we showed up at the door,” said Kendrick. “We had one vet that was almost in tears when he saw the sailors come to the door in uniform. A lot of them just acted like [the sailors] were just part of their family. It seemed like it was a very special event for everyone.”

Started in 1970 by a group of concerned citizens, Meals on Wheels Mesa County has been serving nutritious meals to seniors for 49 years.

The Navy Week program brings sailors, equipment, and displays to approximately 14 American cities each year for a week-long schedule of outreach engagements designed for Americans to experience firsthand the Navy the nation needs.

This article originally appeared on United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

From Nicaraguan refugee to Army NCO

Those who consider the military always have a reason for joining. Whether to continue a family tradition of service, or to see the world, the decision is life changing.

“I remember growing up and seeing Nicaraguans killed, or jailed for protesting against the government. At that time it wasn’t a safe place to be,” said Staff Sgt. Orlando Alvarez, a parachute rigger assigned to the Group Support Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne). “Deciding to leave was the toughest decision I’ve had to make in my life.”

“I also knew what I was leaving behind, in the end, it would be so I could have something more in the end. The U.S. military provided me the opportunity my country could not. If I had to do it again, I would do it in a heartbeat,” said Alvarez.


“When I left Nicaragua and inquired about joining the military, people said it would be hard and near impossible,” said Alvarez. “But, I didn’t give up.”

In 2013, while speaking very little English, Alvarez moved with his wife, Lucila, to the United States, and joined the Army.

His main reason for joining was to eventually be in a position to give back to the country that took him in as a refugee, while affording him freedoms that he enjoys today.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty (In GIFs) – Part I

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Orlando Alvarez, attached to 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), poses for a portrait on Fort Bliss, Texas, Nov. 19, 2018.

After five years of service in the U.S. Army and since being assigned to 7th SFG(A), Alvarez was promoted several times and attended a variety of military schools, to include the Special Operations Combative Program.

Although he joined later in life, his goal is to serve 20 years in the military and retire.

“You cannot be afraid to follow your dreams,” said Alvarez. “If I had let what people said discourage me from joining the military and coming to America, I don’t know where I would be today. I don’t even know if I would be alive. But, I am thankful for what the Army has afforded me, and I will continue to serve my country proudly.”

Alvarez’s journey from Nicaraguan refugee to U.S. soldier is his American dream. He plans to continue his life of service while setting an example for his children.

“This country has provided my family with many opportunities,” said Alvarez. “I am grateful for that, and I am willing to fight and protect it. One day, I hope my children will do the same.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how U.S. Marines are the President’s Fist

Throughout world history, leaders have needed expeditionary units to enforce their rules abroad. When diplomacy fails and time is of the essence, sometimes sending in the full Army is not viable. U.S. citizens may need to be rescued, property protected, or to prevent the slaughter of our allies. The nation needs action immediately; the President needs something destroyed overnight and deploys the Marines – The President’s Fist.

The Constitution grants Congress the sole power to declare war. Congress has declared war on 11 occasions, including its first declaration of war with Great Britain in 1812. Congress approved its last formal declaration of war during World War II. – Senate.gov

Without congressional approval, the president cannot deploy troops. Check. However, presidents have a trump card – the 1973 War Powers Act. Under 50 U.S. Code § 1541 – Purpose and policy section C states:

The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to (1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorization, or (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces. 

When I was in boot camp I was told, ‘If the president wants a Marine to protect a Wendy’s overseas, there would be a Marine there within 24 hours.’ There is some truth in that joke. It wasn’t long after the War Powers Act went into effect that presidents used their new power to protect the weak and defeat the strong. There is a fine legal line that the president must walk but thankfully it is clearly defined as Low-Intensity conflict.

At some point along the conflict spectrum envisioned by military and national security strategists, a LIC (Low-intensity conflict) becomes a mid-intensity conflict.’ Presumably, at this point, congressional authorization would be required for military action, provided that the conflict does not involve a direct attack against U.S. territory or U.S. military forces stationed abroad, because the conflict would be considered a “war” under Article I of the Constitution. Thus, conflicts such as those in Korea, Vietnam, or Iraq-Kuwait would require congressional approval prior to the commitment of U.S. military forces. On the other hand, military operations that fall below this point would be considered LIC, and under a theory of presidential prerogative, would not be subject to such a constitutional restriction in the absence of specific legislation. — PRESIDENTIAL PREROGATIVE UNDER THE CONSTITUTION TO DEPLOY U.S. MILITARY FORCES IN LOW-INTENSITY CONFLICT, MARK T. UYEDA

So, now we’ve established that the president does have the power to deploy troops but nowhere does it specifically say Marines are the force for these deployments. Technically the president can send any branch he wants. 

Legally, yes, the President can now deploy whatever forces he wants instead of the Marines, but in practice that simply doesn’t happen, except for small actions by small, covert SOCOM teams, and stuff like that. Whenever it is determined that an actual military task force needs to put boots on the ground somewhere and establish an American military presence, the Marines are still the go-to. This is especially true in “flash-points” around the globe, when unstable situations develop quickly and without much warning. – Sgt. Mitch Carroll USMC

Roman emperors had Praetorians, an elite imperial guard tasked with protecting the emperor. Marines share a similar role in protecting the President of the United states. There are only four Marines that are within close proximity to the president at all times. 

Semper Fidelis, ‘Always Faithful’ comes from never having taken up arms and marched on the capital… a lifetime commitment to America and the Marine Corps. A history not all branches share with the Marines. Even the Marine Corps Band is known as ‘The President’s Own’ and is known as America’s oldest continuously active professional music organization. 

As the initial invasion force of choice, the Marines have also played a huge part in humanitarian aid on behalf of the president.

Here is a quick timeline since the 1973 War Powers Act was ratified provided by fas.org:

1974 – Evacuation from Cyprus. United States naval forces evacuated U.S. civilians during hostilities between Turkish and Greek Cypriot forces.

1975 – Evacuation from Vietnam. On April 3, 1975, President Ford reported U.S. naval vessels, helicopters, and marines had been sent to assist in evacuation of refugees and U.S. nationals from Vietnam. Evacuation from Cambodia. On April 12, 1975, President Ford reported that he had ordered U.S. military forces to proceed with the planned evacuation of U.S. citizens from Cambodia.

South Vietnam. On April 30, 1975, President Ford reported that a force of 70 evacuation helicopters and 865 marines had evacuated about 1,400 U.S. citizens and 5,500 third country nationals and South Vietnamese from landing zones near the U.S. embassy in Saigon and the Tan Son Nhut Airfield. 

1982 – Sinai. On March 19, 1982, President Reagan reported the deployment of military personnel and equipment to participate in the Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai. Participation had been authorized by the Multinational Force and Observers Resolution, P.L. 97-132.

Lebanon. On August 21, 1982, President Reagan reported the dispatch of 800 marines to serve in the multinational force to assist in the withdrawal of members of the Palestine Liberation force from Beirut. The Marines left September 20, 1982.

1983 – Grenada. On October 25, 1983, President Reagan reported a landing on Grenada by Marines and Army airborne troops to protect lives and assist in the restoration of law and order and at the request of five members of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States

Air, land, and sea — any clime and place. 

The Marine Corps is the President’s Fist.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why Iran’s Special Forces still wear US green berets

When looking at Iran’s 65th Airborne Special Force Brigade, you might notice a few striking similarities — the yellow enlisted chevrons seem a lot like the the yellow chevrons on old Army greens, for example. Before the Iranian Revolution, their unit insignia looked a lot like the De Oppresso Liber crest that signifies the United States Army Special Forces.

The distinctive green beret worn by the Iranians may not be the same shade of green worn by today’s U.S. Army Special Forces, but Iranian special operators wear green for a reason — they were trained by Americans.


In the 1960s, the United States sent four operational detachments of Army Special Forces operators to Iran to train the Shah’s Imperial military forces. The Mobile Training Teams spent two years as Military Assistance Advisory Group Iran. Before they could even get to Iran, the soldiers had to pass the Special Forces Officer course at Fort Bragg, then learn Farsi at the Monterey, Calif. Defense Language Institute. Only then would they be shipped to Iran to train Iranian Special Forces.

It’s been a long time since the 65th was a part of the Imperial Iranian Special Forces. Now called 65th NOHED Brigade (which is just a Farsi acronym for “airborne special forces”), the unit’s mission is very similar to the ones the U.S. Special Forces trained them for in the 1960s. They perform hostage rescue, psychological operations, irregular warfare, and train for counter-terrorism missions both in and outside of the Islamic Republic.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty (In GIFs) – Part I

Inside the Iranian military, the unit is known as the “powerful ghosts.” The nickname stems from a mission given to the 65th in the mid-1990s. They were tasked to take buildings around Tehran from the regular military – and were able to do it in under two hours.

Since their initial standup with U.S. Special Forces, Iran’s 65th Airborne Special Force Brigade survived the 1979 Iranian Revolution, then they survived the brutal Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, and now advise the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as they fight for the Iran-dominated Assad regime in Syria against a fractured rebellion.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty (In GIFs) – Part I

NOHED members operating a machine gun in highlands of Kordestan during Iran–Iraq War of the 1980s.

The legacy of the harsh but thorough training with American Green Berets continues in Iran. The current training includes endurance and survival in desert, jungle, and mountain warfare, among other schools, like parachute and freefall training, just like their erstwhile American allies taught so long ago.

MIGHTY CULTURE

One of the scariest tasks for pilots is to land in rough seas

What’s the most dangerous part of the mission for a Navy pilot? Flying over enemy forces? Dodging hostile jets? Well, when the enemy isn’t ready for the full might of the U.S. Navy and what the sea state is, the most dangerous part of the mission might be landing on the ship when it’s time to go home. That’s because the sea can move the ship’s deck 30 feet.


PBS: Carrier – Landing on a Pitching Deck Pt. 1

www.youtube.com

PBS had a documentary team out on the USS Nimitz when it hit rough seas in the Pacific and got to watch pilots, many of whom had experience flying missions over Iraq and Afghanistan, get nervous when they were sent out for some peaceful training.

But it was still some of the riskiest flying that many of the young pilots had done, because the waters were so rough that the ship’s deck—the thing the pilots had to land their planes on—was heaving up and down and rising as high as 30 feet. Just dealing with that altitude is a big deal, but it also means that the angle of the deck their landing on or taking off from is changing as well.

Time it wrong, and a takeoff could throw you straight into the water.

“This is absolutely more dangerous than it was flying missions in the gulf,” an unnamed pilot told the film crew. “We got lucky in the Gulf; the seas are calm. But out here, pitching decks, this is scarier. Still gotta get back and land on the boat.”

“It’ll kill you in a second,” said a Navy commander.

But it’s still worth it to the Navy to do risky training like this, because it needs the pilots able to fly and fight in the worst seas they can possibly handle, because that reduces the types of weather that can weaken the Navy against an enemy like China.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How the Air Force is mitigating vulnerability

Over the last few years, the Air Force has been taking proactive approaches to prepare for a proverbial “sucker punch” via cyber-attack. In preparation for this assault, and to mitigate vulnerability, cyber resiliency is being ingrained into Air Force culture.

By military definition, cyber resiliency is the ability of a system to complete its objective regardless of the cyber conditions, in other words, how well it can take a cyber-punch and keep fighting.


Blue: Cyber in the Contested Domain

vimeo.com

To help lead these efforts, the Air Force, through Air Force Materiel Command’s Life Cycle Management Center, stood up the Cyber Resiliency Office for Weapons Systems, or CROWS, in response to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016. The NDA instructed the military to analyze the cyber vulnerabilities of major weapons systems and report findings back to Congress. In 2018, the program was fully funded by Congress to begin its mission.

“It’s all about two things, making sure our warfighters are protected and making sure they are able to do their jobs,” said Joseph Bradley, director of CROWS.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty (In GIFs) – Part I

Joseph Bradley is the director of the Cyber Resiliency Office for Weapons Systems (CROWS) which ensures cybersecurity is integrated into the development of all new programs from the start, then maintains and validates the cyber resiliency of the system throughout its life cycle. (U.S. Air Force)

Initially CROWS was created to look at liabilities in legacy weapon systems, but now it is taking aim at ensuring cybersecurity is integrated into the development of all new programs from the start, rather than as an afterthought. Then CROWS maintains and validates the cyber resiliency of the system throughout its life cycle.

Cyber resiliency needs change constantly and impact all Air Force missions — new threats emerge regularly and require new approaches to improve mission assurance.

As an F-35 Lightning II pilot, Maj. Justin Lee flies one of the most advanced aircraft on the planet with systems that will be upgraded and enhanced well into the future.

“We’re passing off a tremendous amount of data and, just like your computer, you want that data to be correct,” Lee said. “If you go into an adversarial environment against a frontline threat, then they’re going to be trying to do their best to interfere with it.”

It’s not just his weapons system that is vulnerable; the data these systems take in and put out is just as vulnerable and critical to mission success.

“If a hacker is able to get into the GPS time and get it off sync just by a few nanoseconds, then it can cause the bomb to land in a place that we don’t want,” Lee said.

One key mission in the evolution of CROWS was to find ways to implement cyber resiliency in the acquisition process. This now includes embedding cyber professionals within a program’s executive offices. Also, an acquisitions guidebook was created to standardize cyber-related language for contract evaluations, reducing the burden on any future programs while also allowing better communication with industry partners.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty (In GIFs) – Part I

An Air Force pararescueman, assigned to the 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, communicates with an Army Task Force Brawler CH-47F Chinook during a training exercise at an undisclosed location in the mountains of Afghanistan, March 14, 2018. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // TECH. SGT. GREGORY BROOK)

CROWS allow cyber experts to join forces with the command responsible for the maintenance and development of a weapons system. Through testing and analysis, CROWS will then offer recommendations to make the system less vulnerable and ultimately safer.

Combat and training missions, weapons delivery and air drops are all put together using computer-based air-space mission planning systems. When the Air Force’s Life Cycle Management Center wanted to overhaul their software to assist ground operations for aircraft, they called on the CROWS for help.

“As the challenges were identified we put together an engineering plan for how we would start to resolve or mitigate some of those cyber security vulnerabilities. The CROWS walked us through that analysis,” said Col. Jason Avram, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Airspace Mission Planning Division chief.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty (In GIFs) – Part I

Tech. Sgt. Michael Vandenbosch, 22nd Space Operations Squadron defensive counter-space operator, uses software to identify interference to a specific satellite at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, Dec. 16, 2019. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // AIRMAN 1ST CLASS JONATHAN WHITELY)

“As that engineering plan came together, which looks specifically at how we’re going to deal with data integrity issues not only the data that we’re ingesting, but also how we’re processing that data through our software and then how we’re transferring that data to any platforms.”

According to Avram, CROWS funded the effort to develop an engineering plan on how to mitigate vulnerabilities over time.

Having cyber resiliency personnel inserted into a weapons system’s development and life-cycle management allows them to be at the tactical edge; fully understanding the system so they can detect if the obscured hand of an adversary is at play.

“They’re (CROWS) the cop on the beat that sort of knows what their neighborhood is supposed to look like. They’re the first ones that can see that window over there isn’t supposed to be open, let’s go investigate,” said Maj. Gen. Patrick Higby, director of DevOps and lethality. “So, they go in (figuratively) with the flashlight, they investigate and ‘holy cow’ there’s somebody in there, where do you go with that?”

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty (In GIFs) – Part I

Initially created to look at legacy weapon systems, the Air Force CROWS office will be taking aim at ensuring cybersecurity concerns are taken into account from the start of new programs. (AIR NATIONAL GUARD PHOTO // KELLYANN NOVAK)

Higby asked, how does that cop who is on the beat, how do they get the right experts, engineers and PhDs involved who may have built or designed that system to facilitate an agile response to the threat?

He explained the responses to a threat could mean a number of repercussions to the Air Force. There could be a need to ground the asset and not fly the next sortie because the risk is too great. It may be a decision to still fly with the vulnerability in place because there may be other work arounds.

It all goes back to the resiliency; can the weapon system maintain a mission effective capability under adversary offensive cyber operations. The fix may be the deployment of code to quickly patch and shut the window and get the adversary out of the system. But in all responses, you need the expert that built that system originally to be in that discussion alongside the CROWS.

“We really want the CROWS to be that interface to the real expert of a given weapon system, whether it’s an aircraft, a missile, a helicopter or whatever,to understand, if you’re going to tweak this, it may have these other consequences to it. And then make that risk decision,” Higby said. “Grounding the asset is not always an option, we have to launch because we have other actors that are dependent on us striking a target.”

In short, the Air Force has to be ready and able to take a punch.

“That’s the idea behind resiliency; you are going to fight to get the mission done no matter what happens,” Higby said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Unit Cartoonist: How the Grinch burned down Christmas

Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.

(Featured cartoon: The unfortunate Christmas fire started by the Grinch here is likened to the great Chicago Fire of 1871, when a cow being milked by owner Catherine “Cate” O’Leary kicked over an oil lantern that started a hay fire in the barn they were in. The fire killed 300 people and destroyed over 17,000 structures)

Quite a lot of the nation tends to kick back and cut slack during the holidays. Some functions cannot do that by sheer nature of the importance of their contribution. Others will not simply because…they don’t want to.

That was the attitude of my Special Mission Unit. It was a year that we felt we needed to train more, but were just running out of days in the year to do it. It was then that we ran our live-fire urban combat training all the way up to the 24th of December.


What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty (In GIFs) – Part I

Not even Christmas was a candidate to compromise our resolve to train to standard.

Our urban combat training site was an abandoned neighborhood just off the far end of the runway of a major American airport. The property values had sunk out of sight due to the constant roar of the aircraft overhead. The houses were pretty old, but I don’t think they were older than the airport. It begged the question: “why would anyone think it was a good idea to build a community so close to the flight path of such a large airport?”

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty (In GIFs) – Part I

An abandoned hood such as this makes an excellent complicated urban target

subject.

[David Lohr, Huffington Post]

While some real estate investor had come up bust, Delta had gained a 360-degree free-fire city where anything could go into the tactical fight. Our operations cell had worked on the hood for weeks preparing it with modifications: pop-up targets in windows and doors, on roofs, and even behind bushes. Some of the targets moved across streets mounted
on rollers that ran along the tops of cables. There simply was just no way to even modestly know what to expect.

The keyword there is what lends the greatest to the realism of the training venue — not knowing what to expect; to be coaxed into expecting the unexpected. The whole ambiance of the scenario begged every man to constantly scan overhead and wonder just what might burst forth from out of the ground. Therein lies a formidable test of our true live-fire marksman skill.

The Grinch was our Bravo Assault Team Leader. He was a painfully no-nonsense one-man wrecking machine with combat experience in Lebanon, Somalia, the Iraqi Wars, and Afghanistan. “Asscrackistan,” the Grinch would say, “is no place for a fatherless boy.” Yes, just what exactly he meant by that no sane man knew, but it was his version of humor, and knowing that we all laughed each time he said it.

Another famous Grinch-ism: he was once formally quoted to have said to a man: “Well, that’s your opinion, and it’s wrong!” Any attempt to explain the absence of degrees of right or wrong of an opinion was in danger of being met with a lung-collapsing blow to the chest; that’s just how the Grinch rolled. Ours was never to reason why with the Grinch, ours was to pop the snot bubble and move out.

We spent half days planning our assaults on our “Slim City” as we called it: methods of infiltrations onto target, exit strategies, routes of movement to objectives, and contingency plans. The second halves of the days we executed our assaults on targets.

A meeting with the City Mayor’s office and Police Chief was required to secure the use of the abandoned neighborhood that was scheduled for demolition. After presenting a description of the training we planned to do, the Mayor asked our senior officer: “What guarantee can you give me that your men will not miss some of these targets and send bullets whizzing through my city?”

The response: “Because they’ll be told not to,” the senior officer replied — sold!

During the last assault (it’s always on the last assault) the Grinch skillfully maneuvered his pipe-hitters from building to building. The booming of flash-bang grenades and the quick staccato of double-tap* rifle shots was almost rhythmic, to the extent that we could pretty much tell how far through the buildings he was.

Then “it” happened…

The Grinch slammed a flash-bang in a room. It bounced off a wall and came to rest near the open entrance door. When it exploded it shoved the locked door shut. It was a metal door that did not respond to mule kicks from the powerful Grinch: “put a man on it and the rest of us by-pass it!” the Grinch instructed. When they finished clearing the structure, it had become filled with smoke that was coming from the locked room.

“BLOW IT!!” the Grinch called out, and a man immediately slapped a full 80-inch high explosive charge on the door and fired it. With an Earth-rocking explosion, the door was pushed inside the room…but immense flames shot out of the doorway. The Grinch keyed his microphone and called in the situation as structural fire out of control. The Command and Control element had the city fire department alerted.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty (In GIFs) – Part I

It became painfully clear that most the the neighborhood was going to burn.

The old building was consumed totally and in short order by flames which spread from building to building. Soon an entire block was a raging inferno of flame and choking smoke. The pumper trucks from the local fire department showed up. The boys were there to meet the trucks:

“Thanks, we’ll take it from here,” the boys told the fire crews, who stood stunned for many moments, then ultimately had to concede the pipe-hitters who bore no grins upon their faces. It was no joke.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty (In GIFs) – Part I

“They… they took our trucks.

The fire crews huddled at the hood entrance while the boys fought the fires, knocking them down with high-pressure hoses and water canons. The assault tactics on fire were the status quo for any assault, just that water was now being launched. The last of the flames succumbed to the deluge with a small number of structures hardly worth the count.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty (In GIFs) – Part I

The brothers knocked down the flames with high pressure water the best they could.

“Who on God’s Earth is responsible for this?” demanded our ranking officer later into the night where he addressed the balance of the men. The mighty Grinch, offering no sugar coating, took a mighty step forward.

Saying nothing as he stood with hands on hips, and stared the Major down.

“Ok… we’re all tired from a very long day and night; let’s knock it off and get some sleep!” the major conceded.

*Double-tap: two shots of rifle or pistol that are fired very quickly to the chest area of a threat target. Often time they are fired so fast as to be barely discernible as two separate shots fired. Double-taps are often fired with a slower third “clean up” shot to the head. The meter of the event will “sound” like this: “Ba-Bam… bam, Ba-Bam… Bam.”

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty (In GIFs) – Part I
MIGHTY CULTURE

The DoD has its own brownie recipe and it’s 26 pages long

Looking for a dessert that won’t just impress your houseguests but could impress them years from now? Look no further than the first name in cakes, pies, and other fine desserts: The Pentagon. The Department of Defense has a brownie recipe that is sure to end the clear and present danger to your sweet tooth.


Just imagine being able to whip up some sweet treats for your unborn children, whether you’re currently pregnant or not.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty (In GIFs) – Part I

Kinda like this but without all that green sh*t.

The Pentagon’s brownie recipe is (perhaps unsurprisingly) the only recipe that tells you exactly how things are gonna be and does it in the vaguely threatening manner that only the United States military is capable of. The consequences of diverging from the recipe aren’t listed, but you definitely get the feeling there might be consequences:

Shortening shall be a refined, hydrogenated vegetable oil or combination of refined vegetable oils which are in common use by the baking industry. Coconut and palm kernel oils may be used only in the coating. The shortening shall have a stability of not less than 100 hours as determined by the Active Oxygen Method (AOM) in Method Cd 12-57 of the Commercial Fats and Oils chapter in the Official and Tentative Methods of the American Oil Chemists Society. The shortening may contain alpha monoglycerides and an antioxidant or combination of antioxidants, as permitted by the Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS), and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and regulations promulgated thereunder.

What It’s Like to Transition Off Active Duty (In GIFs) – Part I

“And parties found to have added walnuts to said brownies shall pay a 00 fine and serve no less than three years in a federal correctional facility because that sh*t is gross.” That’s not in the recipe, but it should be in every brownie recipe.

But the brownie regulations don’t stop at shortening. Each ingredient has more specific sourcing instructions than a vegan hipster with Celiac Disease. Even adding the eggs is enough to make any baker wonder what a legal chicken is.

“Whole eggs may be liquid or frozen and shall have been processed and labeled in accordance with the Regulations Governing the Inspection of Eggs and Egg Products (7 CFR Part 59).”

The strict regs came about in part because the military needs their baked goods to be edible for much longer than the average baker needs them. The U.S. military’s brownies are said to last up to three years, just in time to bake brownies for the kids currently in high school that will be deploying to Afghanistan by then.

Make the brownies yourself with this recipe.

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