‘Upskilling’ is the new corporate buzzword taking employers by storm. Never heard of it? Don’t be shocked; be prepared for a whole new mindset.
Upskilling is when a corporation takes already-talented individuals and teaches them an entirely new skill set. It gives the company a new expert in a critical role and it gives an employee an entirely new career trajectory.
While the word may be new, it’s something Microsoft has been doing with active duty military personnel for years.
Employers need skilled workers. But technology changes fast and the pace of that advancement changes the ways we live and work faster than we may realize. For job seekers, this can be an intimidating prospect. For veterans leaving the military and entering the civilian workforce for the first time, it can be overwhelming.
Finding a career in tech as newly-separated veterans can be especially daunting if their military career wasn’t in a technical field. Those looking to go to college or technical training may not know what to study or be fearful of missing an emerging trend.
Wouldn’t it be great if America’s leading tech companies just offered training in the most necessary fields and then offered career prospects for those trainees? That’s what “upskilling” is all about. And the company leading the way is one of the world’s most valuable: Microsoft.
Microsoft isn’t just recognizing veterans’ service to a higher calling, the company recognizes their near-limitless potential. Microsoft knows what the military community has known all along: separating veterans leave the military with highly desirable skills that uniquely position them for a career in tech.
Veterans come with the technical skills of their military career, which can provide valuable problem-solving abilities. They also come with the soft skills employers in this industry so desperately need. These are skills like self-actualization, leadership, being a part of a team and – of course – the value of a good day’s work. Some of us even come with security clearances.
MSSA is a training academy for high-demand careers in cloud development and server and cloud administration. The course lasts 16 or 18 weeks and graduates are guaranteed an interview for a full-time job at Microsoft or one of its hiring partners. The program is open to honorably discharged veterans and active duty service members with authorization from their units or commands.
The program is the result of Microsoft’s ambitious 2015 goal of establishing 14 MSSA programs throughout the country and eventually having the ability to graduate 1,000 veterans every year. In January 2020, it met that goal, graduating its 100th cohort.
MSSA is overseen by the Microsoft Military Affairs team, whose chief concern is helping veterans realize the full potential their military service offers them as well as any potential employer. Best of all, the team is made up of military veterans who know just how daunting a task leaving the military can be.
Numbers don’t lie. To date, MSSA has a graduation rate of 94 percent and more than 600 companies have hired MSSA graduates. It’s a program that really works for the veteran community.
Transitioning out of the military is a challenging time. Deciding what and where to study or finding that first post-military career is central to a successful transition. For vets who want a career in tech, Microsoft Software and Systems Academy is the place to hit the ground running. Their Tech Transition Toolkit offers some great tips on how you can get a head-start toward a fulfilling, rewarding career in tech.
Aliens have had a constant home in the minds of sci-fi enthusiasts and space nerds. The concept of extraterrestrial contact has been the centerpiece of many great movies, books, and games. Inevitably, if you’re talking about the arrival of an alien life form, the conversation turns itself toward a single question: How would Earth defend against an alien invasion?
Yes, Earth is home to the United States Marines, but we certainly can’t rely on a fighting force using broken, outdated equipment to take on a technologically superior race that has figured out faster-than-light travel. But just because we’re outgunned doesn’t mean we’ll ultimately fail.
That’s where The Infographics Show comes in. Not only have they created a solid defense strategy, they’ve also broken it down into three phases — a whole two phases shy of your brand new lieutenant’s plan to raid a single compound. The best part is, their plan revolves around something we’ve learned from history — if you don’t have the tech to fight even, just fight dirty.
Here’s how they break it down:
Phase 1 — Using space debris
Essentially, a piece of space debris as small as a screw could destroy non-shielded spacecraft just coming out of light-speed to enter Earth’s orbit. We could send missiles to destroy our own satellites to create a shield of debris around the planet, which will either destroy a large amount of alien spacecraft or, at the very least, hinder their ability to enter orbit, which would buy us enough time to prepare for the second phase.
Phase 2 — Attack during entry
When a shuttle re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it experiences heat of up to 21,140 degrees Fahrenheit due to friction with the air. The extreme heat and thermal energy disrupts many communications devices and on-board sensors.
If an alien spacecraft experiences those same effects, the moment of entry into our atmosphere would be a great time to use a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, intercepting incoming spacecraft that, without sensors, would be difficult to see coming.
Then, we prepare for phase three.
Phase 3, Option 1 — Nukes
If the invading aliens are anything like us, they’re probably coming to Earth to colonize it. In that case, we could prepare all of our nuclear weapons and hold our own planet hostage.
If these aliens are, in fact, hostile and wish to cleanse the planet of our filthiness, then we threaten to detonate the nukes, which would render the planet uninhabitable and many of our resources unusable.
Take that, alien scum!
Phase 3, Option 2 — Guerrilla warfare
If our invaders are coming from a distant planet, light years away, their continued siege might prove very costly. After all, interstellar logistics are probably pretty complex. So, humans could resort to making life on Earth as nightmarish as possible by operating as small, guerrilla outfits.
It’d be something like the Vietnam War. Over time, the cost of war may eclipse any potential rewards, and the aliens will withdraw… hopefully.
This post was sponsored by Kensington Books. The author’s comments below on the novels are his own.
It’s a new year and one of the many resolutions people tend to make is to ‘read more!’ What should you be reading?
With all the choices of books and genres out there finding the right book or series can be a challenge. If you or your loved ones are into military fiction or thrillers, the team here at We Are The Mighty have your back with three very solid book recommendations which we’re sure you will enjoy.
First up is Nathan’s Run by prolific author and New York Time’s bestseller John Gilstrap. Nathan’s Run is John’s first published work which launched a successful career spanning twenty books. John is best known for his ‘Johnathan Graves’ series, a ten book series about a former Delta operative running an independent hostage rescue firm, which has garnered praise from other authors and reviewers alike. He clearly knows how to spin a good tale.
Nathan’s Run is a retelling of the ‘Fugitive’ tale, except the fugitive in this case is a scared but resourceful twelve-year-old boy who is pursued by an overly ambitious District Attorney, law enforcement officers who believe Nathan is a murderer, a villainous mob enforcer, and a weary and emotionally wounded Detective playing a hunch. The book starts off ‘small’ but the story soon blossoms into a nation-wide obsession as the stakes get higher every hour Nathan remains at large.
The author has a unique background as a fire-fighter and safety inspector, not military or law enforcement, but he has a knack for finding the right mix of detail and storytelling to create a book which was quite cinematic. It didn’t take me long to become emotionally invested and start rooting for Nathan. I wager those willing to give the novel a chance will be pulling for him as well.
Next is Northern Thunder by Anderson Harp. Northern Thunder is the first book of a newer series – currently three books – featuring Will Parker, a small-town Georgia prosecutor and former Marine special operations veteran. There is trouble in North Korea, and Will’s background and ‘specific skills’ makes him uniquely suited to go into North Korea in a high stakes covert mission. Complications ensue and what should be a straight-forward mission turns in a deadly struggle for survival.
Northern Thunder has a ‘Dirty Dozen’ kind of vibe to it as a good portion of the book is taken up with descriptions of Will and his team’s training for the mission, interspaced with peripheral dramas that ultimately feed into the central storyline. The book is filled with intricate details of military gear, jargon and culture, and survival skills informed by Anderson’s long history in the Marine Corps honing his craft. Ultimately this book is highly recommended for those who like their military fiction detailed and tradecraft heavy.
The final recommendation is Active Measures by Marc Cameron, the eighth book of his long running Jericho Quinn series. Marc is a former United States Marshal and a New York Times bestselling author, penning the popular Jack Ryan series set in the extended Tom Clancy universe.
The Jericho Quinn series, despite the military background of its central character, is more espionage and spy craft than special operations raids. The latest book sees Quinn and his companions in Havana, Cuba trying to stop a madman with a nuclear missile. The Jericho Quinn books feature a host of real-life bad folks ranging from Russians to Cartel guys going full Bond villain, with increasingly intricate and dastardly plots to destroy the United States and/or do evil. Active Measures can be read as a stand-alone, but there is a lot of fan service written to satisfy long time readers of the series. If your reader likes this book, they can always go back to the beginning to find the origins of this interesting cast of characters.
Have a safe and joyful holiday season and keep reading!
This post was sponsored by Kensington Books. The author’s comments above on the novels are his own.
Ever notice how some envelopes arrive to your deployed friends with the stamp upside down? Probably not, but oftentimes you’ll see it. Sometimes they’re also tilted at an angle. This is not an accident, it’s an antiquated but still-living little language in the placement of a stamp.
There’s no better way to tell someone in jail you love them.
An upside-down stamp means “I love you.” The stamp posted slightly off-kilter means “I miss you.” There’s a lot more crammed into the placement of one little square on a slightly larger square. It’s an old-timey easter egg, a way to make the letter more than a piece of paper, to personalize it and make even the envelope ones own, transmitting a little emotion along with their ancient text message.
The coded messages are more than a century old now, having their origins in the Victorian Era and have somehow survived the advent of modern texting, email, and other forms of communication that don’t require stamps.
Of course, there are variations to the language.
“Another military wife told me that her grandmother used to flip her stamps when writing her husband, who was deployed overseas,” Janie Bielefeldt, an ex-marine living in Jacksonville, N.C. told the New York Times. “It’s just something you hear about on the base.”
In those days, young lovers couldn’t exactly be as open with their emotions as we have come to be. The idea of sending nudes or a dick pic might actually cause someone to get hanged or burned at the stake back then. Of course, not so these days, where an entire subculture grew up around sending racy photos. For U.S. military members and their families, however, the practice of writing letters is alive and well, and with it is the language of stamps.
America’s military and police working dogs’ needs are fully supported and funded by the government, until they retire. The costs of their care after years of dedicated service can be high. This is where Project K9 Hero jumps in.
According to their website, their vision is to ensure quality of life for America’s retired Military Working Dogs and Police K9 Heroes by providing the needed assistance for their medical, food and end-of-duty services. These dogs have worked and trained their entire career. Many will retire with serious medical issues that can be costly and may also suffer from anxiety or PTSD. Project K9 Hero has made it their mission to ensure these heroes receive everything they need to enjoy their retirement years.
MWD and Police K9s that have what are deemed “special needs” are considered first by the board of directors of Project K9 Hero for financial assistance. Many also have to demonstrate that their care is a financial burden on their owners. They accept dogs into their program that have served within all branches of the military or law enforcement.
(Project K9 Hero)
Project K9 Hero is a national 501c3 nonprofit organization that relies on the generous donations of the public and corporate sponsorships to continue their vital work to support these heroes. Currently there are no public funds to support these K9s. Some go on hundreds of deployments and missions, serving this country faithfully for years on end. But once that service ends, their support lies in the hands of nonprofits and those that adopt them.
Project K9 Hero has been heavily involved in working on legislation to support K9s for years. The K9 Hero Act will allocate million in federal grants to be awarded to nonprofits for the medical bills of retired military working dogs and police K9s. But Project K9 needs the public’s help to get the bill moving forward. It was introduced into Congress in November of 2019 but has not been brought forward for a vote yet. The public can help support and move this legislation by asking their representatives and senators to support this bill.
On Project K9 Hero’s website, founder Jason Johnsons stated, “For me it’s a legacy as the Founder of Project K-9 Hero. I want to make sure that the work is being carried on for generations to come. It’s time our government take into consideration that if we’re going to use them and treat them like heroes when they’re on duty and during their service that we’re going to treat them the same way in retirement.”
(Project K9 Hero)
The needs of America’s K9 heroes go beyond medical and financial, though. They also need safe and secure retirement homes as well. Project K9 is currently fundraising to build a rehabilitation and rehoming facility in Tennessee which will allow them to further their mission. According to their website, it will be a 6,340 square foot facility that will have kennels, a play zone, a veterinary clinic and grooming facility. It will also become their corporate headquarters.
Around 90 percent of MWD and police K9s are adopted to their handlers, who usually get the opportunity to adopt first. While the public tends to be quick to adopt MWD and K9 puppies that don’t make the cut for the program, the older dogs aren’t adopted quite as quickly. This facility will aim to support these heroes by providing an enriching, safe and healthy environment for those in need of an immediate home. The public can donate to support this facility or purchase items in their REDD (remember every dog deployed) collection, which will support the opening of this facility.
Project K9 Hero wants to make sure that the loyal service MWD and Police K9s provided to this country is never forgotten. Their statement on their website says it all: Protecting Those Who Protected Us. To learn more about this nonprofit and how you can support their mission of taking care of our K9 heroes, click here.
Yeoman 2nd Class Kenny Jones wears his pride for Virginia Beach — its culture, its beachfront, its military presence — on his sleeve.
He’ll soon be wearing that pride on his feet.
Jones, who last month celebrated six years of service for the Coast Guard, recently won an Instagram contest to design a Nike shoe. The contest, organized by the @nikesbornothing Instagram account (and not affiliated with Nike), encouraged fans of the Nike SB Dunk shoe to design a version to represent a city of their choice.
Jones, 28, picked Virginia Beach, the place where he grew up. His father, a Navy man who served on submarines, moved the family there when Jones was in first grade.
The shoe he designed is Navy blue, a nod to the region’s large Navy and Coast Guard populations, and the Nike swoosh is silver, a reference to the Navy’s steel ships.
On the side is a trident, representing the King Neptune statue that guards the Virginia Beach oceanfront. A musical symbol references some of the music superstars that hail from Virginia Beach, like Pharrell and Timbaland. Blue waves and a tan outsole evoke the sand and surf.
Sometimes Virginia Beach can be overlooked, Jones said, but it’s a place that people are proud of, and his design was a way to display this pride.
“I want them to continue to feel proud of the area that we’re from,” Jones said. “Everything about it, whether it’s the oceanfront that we have, or the military aspect, to be proud of those who serve in this area.”
For Coast Guard members, Hampton Roads, a coastal region that includes Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Chesapeake, the city where Jones lives and works for the Coast Guard Communications Command, has special meaning, he added, since so many members have been stationed in the region.
When he posted his Virginia Beach design on his Instagram account, it attracted a boatload of likes. In late March, the @nikesbornothing account announced that Jones’ design had won its “Have a Nike SB Day” contest.
It wasn’t just fellow Nike enthusiasts that embraced Jones’ design. Posting on Twitter, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner congratulated Jones for his win, adding, “I cannot wait to wear the real thing.”
Jones also received a shout out from Jason M. Vanderhaden, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, who tweeted his congratulations.
For Jones, who said he is naturally a quiet guy, the response, especially from prominent leaders like Warner and Vanderhaden, has been an overwhelming experience.
And he’s taking it as a sign.
Jones took the money he was saving for a new pair of Nikes and instead used it to buy a new iPad and Apple Pencil. He’s watching online videos to teach himself design, a way of “investing in myself.”
“I feel like I got an opportunity, so I don’t want to waste it,” he said.
He wants to pursue the dream he’s had for a long time: to design shoes and other apparel. These days, when he’s not at work or spending time with his wife and their three-year-old son, he’s working on making that dream come true.
And he’s waiting for a special custom pair of Virginia Beach-themed Nike SBs. As the contest winner, Jones’ custom design will be created by a company called ReverseLand.
When will the shoes be available? He says he’ll let his fans know on Instagram.
On Friday, August 24, the illustrious Chesty XIV retired from the Marine Corps after five years of service as a ceremonial animal. While Chesty XIV is an illustrious Marine veteran, some aren’t sure if he quite measures up to his namesake, Lt. Gen. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, a hero of World War II and Korea who led the 1st Marine Regiment during the breakout from the Chosin Reservoir.
So, which is the real “Chesty,” the true hero of the Marine Corps? We find out in five easy steps:
1. Body composition
Chesty Puller was famous for his stature and ramrod posture. A physically imposing man, he inspired the loyalty and rallied the spirits of thousands of Marines over his nearly four decades of service. He also had two feet.
Chesty XIV has four feet, approximately twice as many as Chesty Puller.
Chesty Puller received five Navy Crosses for heroics performed during things like leading national guardsman in Haiti and Nicaragua through devastating ambushes deep in the jungle and personally leading the naval artillery to rescue his Marines under fire during a Japanese ambush on Guadalcanal.
Chesty XIV, meanwhile, is a dog assigned to ceremonial duties who once wore a drill instructor’s hat.
3. Time in service
Chesty XIV served for five years. The general guideline for dog years is that one human year equals seven dog years, meaning the Chesty XIV would be credited with a joint-aching 35 years. That’s a long time to march with Marines in (modified) dress blues.
Meanwhile, Chesty Puller served for… let’s see… 37 years. Yeah, the human Chesty tried to deploy to World War I, but was assigned to training instead in 1918, then served in Haiti and Nicaragua, then the Pacific Theater of World War II, and, finally, Korea before retiring in 1955 as a two-star general.
4. Battle scars
Chesty XIV has a small black spot under his eye that the Wall Street Journal said looked, “…as if he stepped out of a bar fight while on shore leave.” It’s a cool look.
But, Lt. Gen. Chesty Puller had a Purple Heart and was so well known for standing in the heat of battle and rallying his troops that some Marines claimed his nickname of “Chesty” was in reference to his steel prosthetic chest, which was installed after Haitian rebels hacked away his old bony chest, but still failed to kill the man.
5. Ranks and demotions
Chesty the XIV rose from recruit to sergeant in just five short years, an impressive rise to be sure, but not unheard of. He managed to hold onto his rank despite being physically incapable of properly wearing the rank according to Marine Corps Order 1020.34H.
Chesty Puller, meanwhile, rose all the way to two-star general on active duty and three-star general after retirement. But, he only did this after rising from recruit to corporal to second lieutenant multiple times until finally entering the officer ranks to stay.
Sure, all the demotions for Puller were either due to downsizing or the removal of foreign ranks that he held while leading local national guard forces, but still. Only one of the Chestys was demoted.
Seriously, no one needs a final tally. Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller is deservedly a legend of the Marine Corps who trained and led Marines from World War I to Korea, became one of America’s most decorated heroes, and was a class act that nearly anyone could inspire to, despite the fact that they’d almost certainly fall short of his example.
But Chesty XIV did, and Chesty XV now does, represent the tenacious spirit of Puller himself and the Marine Corps as a whole. Hopefully, Chesty XIV will enjoy his well-deserved retirement, and Chesty XV will bring high morale to the young Americans under his charge.
The holidays can feel awfully lonely when you’re hundreds of miles from your hometown, and your spouse is deployed. Traveling solo with kids is overwhelming, sure, but a holiday season with no adult interaction is even more depressing. Here’s what you need to know to travel while solo parenting, whether on the road or in the skies.
Don’t forget the gifts
If you’re planning to visit relatives over Christmas, take advantage of online shopping, and have your children’s gifts and gifts for others shipped directly to your destination—no one wants to schlep a Barbie Dream House through DFW. But, speaking of that Dream House, don’t forget that you’re going to have to take all of this stuff back home with you! Don’t buy anything big for your kids and remind your relatives not to give big gifts, either.
Pro Tip: Cram a large duffle bag into one of your suitcases so you can use it to pack and check gifts for your flight home.
Traveling alone with kids means your days of throwing some clothes into a bag and heading out are long gone. This is going to require thought and planning. Start packing at least a week in advance. Chances are good that the stuff you all wear all the time, is also the stuff you’ll want to bring, so put your empty suitcases next to the washer and dryer and toss the clothes in as you fold them. Only bring enough diapers, wipes, and formula for two or three days. You can buy more at your destination.
Whether flying or driving, it’s a good idea to use your biggest suitcase and try to consolidate multiple bags into one. Unless you’ve got a teenager to help carry bags, you’re going to be handling them all yourself, and one big bag is easier to manage than three small ones.
Pro Tip: If you’re driving a long distance, it’s a good idea to pack an overnight bag with stuff for each of you. Put that small bag into the car last so it’s easily accessible. If you have to stop for the night along your route, you’re not going to want to drag all your big suitcases into the room.
Just pack PJs, comfy traveling clothes, toiletries, diapers and wipes, and whatever woobies or special stuffies you all can’t sleep without, and a few snacks for the room. A snack bag will absolutely save you when the late-night hunger hits, and your hotel doesn’t even have a vending machine. You might want to throw in some herbal tea bags (or a single serving wine box) for yourself.
No two kids are exactly the same, and you know yours better than anyone. Some can’t handle more than an hour of uninterrupted driving, others can go 15 hours so long as their bellies are full of chicken nuggets. Don’t fool yourself that a child who hates driving will miraculously be great for a 17-hour slog, or that you’ll be able to drive all that distance without getting tired. If you need to stop for the night, do so. A motel room is much cheaper than a wreck.
Be sure to plan your route ahead of time. GPS navigation is great and all, and by all means use it, but it’s no substitute for actually knowing where you’re going. The roads will likely be crowded, you may encounter closures, accidents, and detours, and we’ve all had navigation lead us astray. RoadTrippers.com is a great resource for planning.
iExit tells you how far the next Interstate exit is and what amenities you’ll find there, like the always-important bathrooms, gas, and food.
Flush Toilet Finder uses your location to show you nearby toilets on a map, which is absolutely essential information when you’re traveling with preschoolers. Bonus: it works offline and can integrate with Google Maps to provide directions.
And if you’re not in a big rush and want to break up your drive with some Americana oddities, the Roadside America app will tell you about all sorts of weird stops along your way, like Foamhenge.
The Priceline app is also great for road trips because it lets you bid on rooms that are nearby, meaning you don’t have to know in advance where you’ll be when you want to pull off and sleep.
ProTip: Wait until after 3 p.m. to start bidding. By afternoon check-in time, many hotels are willing to accept a lower bid than they would have taken earlier in the day.
Parenting Pro Tip: Try to book a hotel with an indoor pool and free breakfast. A day strapped into a car seat will leave any kid antsy, with oodles of energy to burn. An evening splash in the pool will mean that your children actually fall asleep when you turn the lights out. Complimentary breakfast means you can get back on the road without stopping to eat, saving time and money.
And another one: If your children are too small to help with bags at the hotel, grab a luggage cart. You can easily set an infant carrier on the cart, and toddlers and preschoolers can climb on and catch a ride. They’ll love it! Most importantly, you’ll be able to manage all your bags and people in one trip.
It should go without saying, but arrive early, at least 30 minutes earlier than what you think being early means. Flying is stressful. Flying with children is even more stressful. Flying solo with children when you’re running late is agony.
Pro Tip: If at all possible, book a morning flight, especially if you have to make a connection. Why? Because if your flight gets cancelled or delayed, you’re more likely to get on another flight if you start early in the day. You do not want to be stuck overnight in an airport with children.
If your kids are too big for a stroller but too small to turn loose, look into buying a fun ride-on suitcase, like this one. All of a sudden, the tedium of the airport will look more like a playground, at least to your child. Speaking of playgrounds, here’s a list of some of the family-friendly amenities available in U.S. airports.
Don’t forget about the lounges and the USO. If you have the American Express Platinum Card (And you should, the annual fee is waived for active duty, plus you get all these perks) you and your children can access the Delta Sky Club Lounges and the Centurion Lounges … and all the free food, drinks, and WiFi in them. Some even have a family room.
But even if you don’t have the AMEX, your military family status allows you to use the USO lounges, which means you get access to free snacks, comfy chairs, and the nicest people in America. Many of the volunteers are grandparent-aged and love to play with kids. Stop in, grab a snack (the USO in Charlotte, NC’s airport often has free Cinnabon), kick back in a recliner and let other people soak up the adorableness that you stopped noticing somewhere over Des Moines, when your toddler kicked the seat in front of her for the 18th time.
Speaking of, while you’re on the plane, just accept that your normal nutrition and screen time rules are on hold. Bring your own junk food and whatever device your child likes to play— with headphones, please!— and then let them play and eat as much as they want. Bring old fashioned coloring and activity books, too. Kids love having your undivided attention, and a game of Hangman or Tic-Tac-Toe on a seatback tray will burn up some time. You will be exhausted by the end of the flight. It’s just going to happen. Accept it and expect it.
You don’t have to spend the holidays marinating in loneliness and exhaustion. With a little planning, a lot of patience, some managed expectations, and a few apps, you can travel with children to celebrate the season, without losing your sanity.
Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army spouse, a mother of three, a professional writer and an obsessive traveler. Once, during a deployment, she took all three kids on a 6-week-long roadtrip from Florida to Maine— and back!—stopping to see every long lost military friend and roadside attraction along the way.
Military Working Dogs, or MWDs, play a huge role in the defense of the United States — and when one of them is injured, the Veterinary Medical Center Europe plays a huge role in getting them back in the fight.
Recently, while on patrol with his handler in Afghanistan, MWD Alex, assigned to the 8th MWD Detachment, 91st Military Police Battalion, Fort Drum, New York, was injured in an attack by a suicide bomber. Following care in Bagram, Afghanistan, Alex was medically evacuated to VMCE for further treatment.
Like many of their human counterparts, when an MWD is injured while deployed, they are often medically evacuated to Germany. Service members are transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center for care, and MWDs are transported to VMCE for comprehensive veterinary care.
According to Maj. Renee Krebs, VMCE deputy director and veterinary surgeon, when Alex arrived in Germany, he had a fractured left tibia, shrapnel wounds, and multiple other fractures below and above his shin bone.
On the day he arrived, Krebs performed surgery to stabilize Alex’s leg, “which worked pretty well,” she said. “But his other wound, particularly the one over his ankle, started to get worse and worse every day despite appropriate medical therapy and pain management.”
Maj Renee Krebs, Veterinary Medical Center Europe Deputy Director and Veterinary Surgeon, greets Alex, Military Working Dog from the 91st Military Police Battalion, 16th Military Police Brigade, prior to surgery.
(U.S. Army photo by Ashley Patoka )
Alex’s wound over his ankle was getting so bad that it would likely require up to six months of reconstructive and orthopedic surgery. And because of bone and tissue loss, he was also at a very high risk for infection.
In addition to this, Krebs said that Alex was “not using the limb as well as he had been the first week or so after surgery — it was getting more painful. And he began to develop some behavioral problems, centered on some of the things we had to do when we were treating him.”
Krebs said some of the behavioral problems included aggression and snapping when the team would move him to the table to do treatments.
“I spoke to a behaviorist about it and she thought he was having some post-traumatic stress disorder-type acute episodes,” Krebs said. “So we changed the way we were managing him, but he was still getting worse, so in the interest of allowing him to move on with his life and improve his quality of life, we went with amputation.”
Krebs said that had they not performed the amputation, it was likely that Alex would have still ended up losing his leg if they had gone with the option of three to six months’ of wound management.
“The risk was very high. It was a very guarded prognosis to begin with that he would ever have normal return of function to the leg, and I knew if I amputated his leg he would be functional as a pet or regular dog probably within a week — so it seemed like the best option for him.”
Alex was described as relatively calm by Krebs, and during his time at the VMCE, the staff learned more about him, enabling them to cater to his needs and ensure he was comfortable.
“MWDs run the gamut from very high strung, very nervous and needing to be restrained because they have so much energy and are so anxious, to being very mellow,” Krebs said. “Alex was sort of a strange combination — he was relatively calm, but there were things that you knew if you did them he was going to get angry, like touching his tail.”
At Alex’s home unit, Sgt. First Class David Harrison, kennel master for the 8th MWD detachment at Fort Drum, said Alex always felt like an old soul to him.
“[Alex has] the experience of a career soldier, and always carried himself in a way which always made trainers and handlers just believe he was focused on the mission at hand,” Harrison said. “He carries the ability to simply be a fun-loving dog who values his rapport with his handler as much as he enjoys executing his duties.”
Military Working Dog Alex is recovering well following leg amputation surgery, after suffering extensive wounds in a suicide bomber attack in Afghanistan.
(U.S. Army photo by Ashley Patoka )
Even while recovering from his injury and going through surgery, Alex was teaching those around him some important lessons.
“It’s tragic what happened,” said Spc. Landon DeFonde, MWD handler with the 8th MWD detachment at Fort Drum, who has been with Alex for his recovery in Germany. “But it just goes to show how selfless and resilient these animals are. For him to go through that blast and still be as strong as he is and kind and gentle towards people, it really amazes me that what they are capable of living through and surviving through. It definitely teaches me resiliency.”
But these lessons don’t just come when an injury happens, as the relationship between MWD and handler is one that both benefit from over the course of their pairing.
“The relationship between handlers and their partners is a relationship I’ve always found difficult to put into words,” Harrison said. “It’s a familial bond, but it almost goes deeper in some ways. The co-dependent nature of the business puts handlers in a position where they have to give more trust to their canine than most put in fellow humans. It’s not always a comfortable or easy process, but once they reach the point where they independently trust each other while working in tandem, the connection the team develops is unparalleled.”
DeFonde, who has been a MWD handler for three years, shares similar sentiments.
“It is truly incredible how selfless one can be and I think it shows the true side and caring side of humans — how much compassion and care we can show another living being — it is really special,” said DeFonde. “It is really amazing how we interact and how we can combine to create such a strong and powerful team.”
Alex will head back to the states at the end of August 2018 where he will continue his recovery. Due to his injury, his home station kennel will submit a medical disposition packet to allow Alex to retire and be adopted.
“I’ve built a bond with Alex—- not as deep as his handler’s,” DeFonde said. “But it is always hard to say goodbye. Dogs do come and go — that is part of the job, but I am just really happy I was able to come over here and help him recover and then get him back to the states and get him to see his handler.
“I’ve always heard the saying, humans don’t deserve dogs because of how kind they are, and I 100 percent agree. You could not ask for a more selfless companion.”
The fire team is the most important unit of the Marine Corps’ infantry. The Corps is always looking for new ways to make its fire teams more effective on the battlefield. From equipment upgrades to weapon replacements, there’s always room for improvement. But one thing they have yet to figure out is what Marines at the lowest levels can do during their free time. Well, why not reserve some time at the Indoor Simulated Marksmanship Trainer?
At the bottom of the Marine Corps task organization is the four-person fire team and they are, by far, the most critical asset in the entire hierarchy. The more lethal each individual team, the more lethal the unit as a whole and the ISMIT gives troops the opportunity to practice their shooting skills without firing real bullets on a live range. It’s like playing Nintendo Duck Hunt with military guns and honestly, it puts a lot of current virtual reality gaming to shame with its fun factor.
But beneath that, there’s a deeper level of training value that can make a unit much more effective and especially more lethal, given the right prompt and simulation.
Here are some ways the ISMIT can improve your unit at the fire team level:
Unit cohesion will keep your troops motivated.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Takoune H. Norasingh)
Build unit cohesion
The best thing you can get out of going to the ISMIT is bringing your troops closer together. You can start with some simple, basic simulations and move on to having full blown shooting competitions where the winners are rewarded. It really gives your team a chance to put their money where their mouth is.
Meanwhile, everyone is growing closer as they talk more sh*t.
You want your team to have deadly precision.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Yamil Casarreal)
The air rifles you get to use at the ISMIT aren’t going to be adjusted for you so their shots will be all over the place. This helps you refine your ability to adjust your aim based on shot impact since you’re going to spend the first few rounds figuring out where your shots are hitting.
The more you train these positions, the better you’ll become.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jamean Berry)
Practice solid shooting positions
This is key for basic marksmanship and you can practice this without having to shoot but it’s extremely helpful for a shooter to learn how their position affects their accuracy and the ISMIT does just that.
Instead of the laughing dog, you get actual people who will make fun of you after the game is over.
There are simulations that take you into a city or a desert where you get to shoot at enemies. Whether it’s zombies or insurgents, you get a feel for having a target that’s maneuvering and you can practice using a bullet as a stop sign.
You want to be able to retain as much ammo as possible without sacrificing your aggression.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Taylor W. Cooper)
Practice ammo conservation
One competition you can have with your fire teams is seeing who can get the highest number of hits with the lowest amount of shots. This really puts you to the test and makes you focus on taking your time with each shot to ensure a solid hit. This becomes a valuable lesson because your team will be able to save ammo they might need for follow-up missions.
From diagnosing and treating patients in high-pressure situations to working with complex medical technology, former military healthcare workers are uniquely equipped to care for others. While these skills make an incredible asset to the civilian medical field, at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, it takes on even more meaning. VA has careers, tied to specialized skill sets, where former military healthcare workers can heal and care for fellow veterans.
People trained in the healthcare field are in high demand all across the country. But VA understands veterans perhaps better than any other employer. It’s why VA goes beyond offering premium-paid health insurance and robust retirement plans. Veterans employed by VA enjoy education support through veteran-focused scholarships, professional development opportunities and special accommodations to make the workplace fully accessible.
These six VA healthcare jobs are perfect for former military members.
1. Intermediate Care Technician
After active duty, it may be difficult to find a civilian healthcare position that allows you to apply military training without additional licenses and credentials. But through VA’s ICT program, former military medics and corpsmen can work as healthcare providers at VA medical centers (VAMCs) and continue their medical training, skills and career.
Intermediate Care Technician Paul Singleton, a former Army medic who now works in the JJP Bronx VA emergency room, is known for his ability to put his patients at ease.
Although emergency room positions are highest in demand, ICTs are also needed in mental health, geriatrics, primary care and surgical services.
2. Health Technician
Professionals working as Health Technicians at VA provide diagnostic support duties and medical assistance to VAMCs and specialty clinics. In an emergency setting, many of the duties performed by this role mirror that of a paramedic and align closely with the experiences of military corpsmen.
3. Nursing Assistant
Nurses play a crucial role at VA. They work across disciplines and treatment settings with a medical team to provide integrated care for veterans under their watch. Day in and day out, they make a difference in the lives of veterans and their families through their patience, empathy, and care.
Nurses can start a post-military career at VA as a Nursing Assistant and take advantage of the special education support programs VA offers to earn the degrees and certifications necessary to become a Licensed Practical Nurse or a Registered Nurse.
4. Physician Assistant
Physician assistants provide primary care and preventative care as part of a medical team that includes nurses, physicians and surgeons. A physician assistant examines patients, offers diagnoses of conditions and provides treatment for veterans at VA under the supervision of a physician.
Dr. Angel Colón-Molero, Orlando VA Medical Center Deputy Chief of Staff, discusses procedures with VA Physician Assistants Aji Kurian and Mario Cordova at the VA’s Lake Baldwin campus.
With access to cutting-edge technology and pioneering research opportunities, physicians at VA lead the charge in veteran care. Their work includes primary care services and specialty medicine. Physicians at VA are given great latitude to develop solutions that improve patient outcomes. Physicians have special insight into VA’s patients and can thrive in this environment.
6. Physical Therapist
At VA, physical therapists make a huge impact in veterans’ quality of life. They increase mobility, reduce pain and restore independence through physical rehabilitation, wellness plans and fitness programs. Physical therapists help veterans understand their injuries so they can enjoy mobility benefits, long-term health and a high quality of life.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
The world is abuzz for the new trailer for Top Gun: Maverick that dropped during the San Diego Comic-Con – and no one is more curious than the United States Department of Defense, who lent considerable support to the film’s production. And why not? The first Top Gun was quite possibly the Navy’s best tool for recruiting new sailors since the draft.
But support from the Pentagon didn’t come without some strings attached (it never does). In exchange for support from the DoD, the film’s producers and Paramount Pictures had to agree to give the top brass an exclusive screening before the film is made public.
Not a bad exchange.
Most importantly for the filmmakers of Top Gun 2, the production staff was able to fly aircraft around secured facilities and restricted airspace usually reserved for Naval Aviators. Also important for a movie depicting Naval Aviators, the production crew received escorted access to a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. For safety, the cast and crew were also trained by the Navy’s sailors in the art of water survival and aircraft ejection seats.
Two things Goose could have really used.
On top of the unparalleled access to Navy facilities, ships, and F/A-18 Super Hornets (as well as the ability to place cameras in the cockpits and on the fuselage of these Super Hornets), the Navy gave Top Gun: Maverick staff a staff of Public Affairs troops in order to “review with public affairs the script’s thematics and weave in key talking points relevant to the aviation community.” On top of the PA crew, a Navy subject matter expert was on hand during filming to ensure action scenes were depicted with accuracy. Of course, the Navy also reviewed the days’ footage to ensure there were no security violations.
The coolest part (if you were in the Navy at the time, I mean) is that active-duty troops and real Naval Aviators were used as extras and background in the film. Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer reprise their original roles and are joined in the cast by Ed Harris, Jon Hamm, Miles Teller, Glen Powell, and Monica Barbaro. Top Gun: Maverick hits theaters in 2020 and the Pentagon shortly before that.