SAN ANTONIO – The Thanksgiving holiday is often synonymous with family gatherings and a shared meal. But for many, this year will look different as COVID-19 has had a health and financial impact on millions of American households. USAA today announced a commitment of $5 million to two dozen nonprofit organizations in six of the company’s campus communities that are helping to address food insecurity needs exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic.
“Since the pandemic began in March, many families across the country have experienced hardships related to food insecurity, limited access to technology and connectivity for remote schooling, lack of childcare and sometimes even homelessness,” said Harriet Dominique, Chief Diversity, Inclusion and Corporate Responsibility Officer at USAA. “Aligned with our mission, we hope this continued support that we are able to provide to key nonprofit organizations helps with some of the burdens families are experiencing.”
Studies show that more than 24 million adults in the country reported that their households didn’t have enough to eat. Additionally unemployment numbers show that tens of millions of people continue to struggle to afford adequate food and housing expenses. Remote learning also can contribute to increased financial and emotional stress, widening the ‘digital divide’ for families who do not have access to necessary technology and connectivity.
This year, USAA and The USAA Foundation, Inc. have assisted over two million people through more than $47 million in philanthropic support to pandemic-related efforts. This represents over half of the $90 million the company has pledged to nonprofit organizations in 2020. Additionally, USAA employees – along with matching funds from the company – have given more than $14.3 million to nonprofit organizations and volunteered 141,000 hours – mostly virtually – to support our communities and those in need.
In addition to philanthropic efforts to support COVID relief, USAA has returned more than $1 billion in auto insurance dividends as a result of fewer drivers on the road. Additionally, the company provided special payment assistance and arrangements for members facing financial difficulties in the wake of the pandemic.
To learn more about the nonprofit organizations receiving pandemic-related support or if you are a military service member in need of financial assistance as part of USAA’s Military Family Relief Initiative, visit usaa.com/coronavirus.
Spc. Mohamed Sullaiman joined the U.S. Army from Freetown, Sierra Leone, in 2015. He cites that he was, “inspired as an old man,” but Sullaiman chose to serve not just for himself, he also knew it could give his family a better life.
“I am here working for my family,” said Sullaiman, who deployed to Afghanistan with the Rock Battalion in early spring 2018 to fight for the country he now calls his own.
Three years ago, Sullaiman graduated from basic training with more than just a rank, he earned the right to become a U.S. citizen. Since then, he has excelled as a soldier and a leader.
“Spc. Sullaiman is a fit, inspired, disciplined train and truly inspirational soldier,” said 1st Lt. Gerald Prater, Sullaiman’s platoon leader, “He is an outstanding contributor to the organization.”
A large part of his motivation to be a standout soldier is the hope to one day bring his whole family to the United States. While Sullaiman has served on active duty for the last three years, his wife and two children still live in Freetown. His wife is raising their two children since Sullaiman joined the Army in 2015.
Sullaiman hopes the opportunities available to Americans will open new doors for his wife and children — opportunities to escape poverty and tribal rivalry and exchange them for security and freedom.
Spc. Mohamed Sullaiman, an infantryman, from 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division returns from conducting combat operations in Kabul Province, Afghanistan.
(U.S. Army courtesy photo by 1st. Stryker Brigade Combat Team)
Having been away from his family for three years, most recently in Afghanistan, Sullaiman understands the importance of constant communication, “I try hard to talk to them every night so they know that everything is okay. That I’m alright.” He also contacts the State Department regularly to keep in step with the process for his family’s permanent resident visa.
Sullaiman has kept his spirits high despite the separation, “I have a special prayer every night at midnight for an hour to ask help from Allah to guide me in the right way. He’s helping me not lose faith. It’s just a matter of time. I’m still going to keep praying until it finally happens.”
A devout Muslim, Sullaiman fasted during Ramadan despite patrolling daily in the July heat. “It wasn’t really easy. There were a lot of challenges but I overcame them.”
His determination is evident whether he’s serving overseas or in the United States. While it’s easy to save money for his family while deployed, Sullaiman, who turned 36 in June 2018, lives in the barracks and stays within his paycheck so he can send money to his family every month. He doesn’t own a car and visits his family once a year, “Depending on how much money I save,” he says.
Sullaiman exudes optimism, and plans on taking three weeks off after deployment to visit his family. His goal, with full support from his leadership, is to return with his family after his much deserved leave. When asked about what it will be like when his family joins him in the United States, “I’ll be one of the happiest men. I will say thanks to Allah for everything.”
Sullaiman continues to work alongside his chain of command to bring his family to the United States.
Almost everyone agrees that being preparedfor the worst while hoping for the best is the ideal way to get through life. It’s balancing optimism with action, which makes perfect sense right? On one hand, optimism without action is just being blindly oblivious to reality. On the other hand, being laser focused on inevitable trauma robs you of a fulfilling life.
In theory, we all agree on this. But where are the lines drawn? How can you tell when you’ve slipped from Boy Scout to Doomsday Prepper? How do you know if you’re teaching your kids to be thoughtful and self-reliant, or creating mini-balls of crippling neuroses?
The world – especially right now – isn’t exactly helping matters. Coronavirus is public enemy number one. But then there’s also the fact that climate change has nature erupting into fits of destructive insanity, healthcare is still a privilege rather than a right in far too many places, and school shootings are a bi-weekly occurrence. It is not a time to be even mildly anxious, so it’s understandable if the state of things has you teetering on the edge of a full-on panic room scenario.
We all want to protect our families and ourselves, so let’s try and find the happy medium that allows us to consider stepping outside once in a while.
The Healthy Way to Prepare for the Worst
“Preparedness not only makes sense from a practical standpoint, it is, I believe, a responsibility that every parent has,” says Dr. George Everly, Jr., a professor at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and author of When Disaster Strikes: Inside Disaster Psychology.
In his work, Everly often uses a different term when discussing the concept of being prepared: Resilience. Not only does this choice of word carry with it significant connotations – it makes you think of someone who is resourceful and strong, not worried – it also sits at the core of a very important psychological trait.
“Preparation does bring not only reassurance but a sense of self-efficacy,” says Everly. “Self-efficacy lies at the root of self esteem.”
“Self-efficacy,” Everly points out, was coined by Canadian-American psychologist Dr. Albert Bandura, the David Starr Jordan Professor Emeritus of Social Science in Psychology at Stanford University. In the 60s and 70s, Dr. Bandura conducted a number of studies on this concept, which essentially boil down to a person’s belief in their ability to alleviate their own phobias. It’s not so much a belief that you can avoid problems by being prepared, it’s that you are confident that you can overcome them when they plop on your doorstep.
This is an important distinction. One is having an almost talisman-like belief that your emergency kit will ward off danger; the other combines action with self-reliance and a form of optimism. In a Psychology Today essay “Preparing for Bad Things,” Everly calls this “Active Optimism,” which he defines as the belief “that life events will turn out well, largely because one believes she/he possesses the ability to assist in making things turn out well.” That’s the sweet spot.
In addition to a strong sense of self-efficacy, Everly believes that confidence in previous success is vital (locking the doors and avoiding all dangers won’t actually prepare anyone for anything), as are encouragement and self-control. Learning to keep stress levels down and emotions in check can do a lot to help you overcome problems or handle unexpected emergencies. After all, panic leads to doubt and confusion and, ultimately, a much worse situation.
The Unhealthy Way to Prepare For the Worst
There’s a big difference between preparation — and Everly’s idea of Active Optimism — and pure paranoia.
“Can one worry and prepare to an excessive degree? Of course, as one can eat too much chocolate cake or exercise too much or even drink too much water,” says Everly. “The bottom line, I believe, is prepare as best one can for the highest probability ‘worst case scenarios’ then leave it alone. Move on.”
However, Everly is more concerned about the other end of the spectrum, where parents lean too much into optimism to the point where they seem to actively deny the existence of real world concerns.
“Repression and denial can be effective ego defense mechanisms and are certainly the prerogative of any given individual,” he says. “But I believe that prerogative must yield to a higher responsibility one has to one’s children.”
To Everly’s early point about action being a necessary component of preparedness and resilience, Dr. Clifford Lazarus offers a succinct distillation of the idea in his essay “Why Optimism Can Be Bad For Your Mental Health.” In it, Dr. Lazarus explains the difference between types of optimism that echo Everly’s beliefs.
“The difference between false optimism and rational optimism can be captured by two different statements,” he writes. “‘There’s nothing to be concerned about, everything will be just grand.’ That’s false optimism. The second statement reflects realistic optimism: ‘We’ve got a real mess on our hands, things don’t look too good, but if we tackle it step by step, we can probably do something about it’.”
While both Everly and Lazarus preach the perfectly reasonable idea of action along with resilience and optimism, even those concepts can go too far. All you have to do is see the deeply unnerving lack of Purell at the store in the midst of the Coronavirus outbreak, or the mad, panicky rush to stock up on water and essentials when a severe storm is on the horizon. This is action, for sure, but it is action robbed of realistic optimism and, in many cases, credible information.
A lot of the psychological problems that fester alongside attempts to prepare for disaster come from a lack of information mixed with speculation, imagination, and outright lies. Being able to sift through the social media Chicken Littles who declare the end of the world with every sneeze is vital for not only true preparedness, but for passing on a sense of resilience and emotional strength to your children. A constant barrage of misinformation can make any form of action seem pointless, which is counterproductive.
“People who exhibit pessimism with limited self-efficacy may perceive psychosocial stressors as unmanageable,” says Everly. “And are more likely to dwell on perceived deficiencies, which generates increased stress and diminishes potential problem-solving energy, lowers aspirations, weakens commitments, and lowers resilience.”
So where does that leave us?
There’s the simple truth that we’re never going to be prepared for everything. The world is a Whack-a-Mole game of problems and tragedies, and something will catch you off-guard at some point. Locking yourself in a well-stocked bunker also isn’t a viable option for anything remotely resembling a life. What is, is to cultivate a sense of self-efficacy in yourself and your children. The optimism of “I didn’t see this coming, but I can overcome it.” So, prepare. Have contingency plans in place. Be ready for the worst. Practice resilience. And help yourself — and your family — understand that things will be under control. And maybe buy a 30-pack of batteries.
All was quiet in the world of military memes until a Blue Star mom chimed in on Twitter about her yeoman son and the internet went freakin’ nuts. All political undertones aside, the most hilarious part of the meme was her bragging about her son being “#1 in boot camp and A school” and how he was awarded the coveted “USO Award” — pretty much every vet laughed because none of those are a thing.
The Navy vet took it all in stride. He and his brother verified themselves on Twitter and he set the record straight after his mom’s rant that turned into the latest and greatest copypasta. He’s down to Earth, loves his cat, and doesn’t seem like the kinda guy who’d brag about nonsense to his mother.
And, to be completely honest, it was kind of bound to happen. She had the best of intentions and military mommas embarrassing their baby warfighters is nothing new. Personally, I’m just glad my mom doesn’t know how to use her Twitter or else I’d be in the exact same situation.
Sgt. Samantha Alexander, Distribution Management Office freight noncommissioned officer in charge aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal on Nov. 13, 2019, for saving the life of a local teenager April 25, 2019.
She was driving home with her daughter and as she turned into her neighborhood the car ahead of her slammed on the breaks and swerved, hitting two boys on their bicycles.
Alexander pulled safely off the road, and began to approach the scene. As she was getting closer, she noticed that the woman who had hit the two boys was standing over them screaming frantically, “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry!” Another gentleman ran to attend to one of the boys, so Alexander helped the other.
“While I started talking to the (boy), I asked him his name, how old he was and I told him who I was. He said he had just got released from high school, and they were riding their bikes home.”
Three Marines receive The Navy Marine Corps Commendation Medal Nov. 13, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Aidan Parker)
As she talked to the boy, she examined his body for trauma.
“I noticed that he had blood on his pants and they were torn. I (moved) the sweatpants, and could see bone and fatty tissue. I pulled off my belt and I tied it as far above the laceration as possible.”
Alexander kept telling the boy to brace for the pain, but due to the traumatic leg injury he couldn’t feel his leg.
“Once I got it tightened down as much as I could, I locked it in place and sat there talking to him.”
Despite seeing tunnel vision, and having spiked adrenaline, Alexander remained calm for the boy until emergency services arrived.
Shortly after EMS arrived, the boys were taken to Beaufort Memorial Hospital where the 15-year-old was immediately medevacked to Savannah. The doctors confirmed that it was an arterial bleed, and Alexander’s quick reaction to stop the bleeding saved his life.
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
Deciding to be a Marine means you have to accept the challenges that you’ll have to face along the way. Earning that Eagle, Globe, and Anchor is no easy task. To become a Marine, you have to be willing to stare every challenge straight in the eye and say, “I got this.” That’s what it means to be a Marine. That is the very quality at the core of every person who becomes one. This is no exception for Michael Campofiori, one of the Corps’ newest Marines — and a survivor of leukemia.
According to the American Cancer Society, patients with childhood leukemia very rarely survive after five years. This disease is a monster of a challenge for anyone to overcome, and it’s a tragedy for any child to have to experience. That didn’t stop Michael Campofiori from wanting to become a Marine, despite being diagnosed at age 11.
This would be his first challenge on a path of many:
Michael Campofiori poses for a photo with Sgt. William Todd, a recruiter with Recruiting Substation Myrtle Beach, and Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Falk, the Staff non-commissioned officer-in-charge of Recruiting Substation Myrtle Beach, after swearing in to the Marine Corps on Aug. 16, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lcpl Jack Rigsby)
Joining the military is difficult when leukemia is a part of your medical history. There’s a special waiver for it, but Campofiori had trouble finding recruiters willing to take on the paperwork and help him realize his dream of becoming a Marine. The journey took him, a native of New Jersey, all the way to South Carolina.
Poolees with RSS Myrtle Beach posing with the recruiters.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lcpl Jack Rigsby)
The recruiters at Recruiting Substation Myrtle Beach were willing to do the work necessary to get Campofiori in. They felt he had what it took — and they were absolutely right. Not only did his waiver go through, but Campofiori dominated as a Poolee, earning nearly a perfect score on the Initial Strength Test, the prerequisite fitness test for eligibility to join.
Of the maximum 20 pull-ups, 100 crunches, and 9:00 minute run-time, this badass got 29 pull-ups, 121 crunches, and a 9:18 run-time for the mile and a half. He wasn’t even a Marine before he was going above and beyond.
Michael Campofiori, a recruit with Platoon 2020, Company E, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, participates in the Day Movement Course as part of Basic Warrior Training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, Feb. 6, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jack A. E. Rigsby)
Campofiori was sent to boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina on Dec. 10, 2018. Of course, the challenge isn’t over there — boot camp is its own obstacle to overcome. It’s difficult in its own right. But, Campofiori was already slaying dragons.
Welcome to the Corps.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jack A. E. Rigsby)
On February 23, 2019, Michael Campofiori completed the Crucible and received his Eagle, Globe, and Anchor, completing the transformation into a United States Marine. From battling leukemia to earning the title, Campofiori overcame every challenge that he ever had to face. Campofiori embodies the very spirit of being a Marine.
You can watch the video of him receiving his EGA here.
The United States Military is full of bizarre rules that, at some point, probably served some obscure purpose before being ingrained in tradition. For example, you’re not allowed to keep your hands in your pockets. It all began because, apparently, putting your hands in your pockets “detracts from military smartness.” I don’t know about you, but in my lifetime, I’ve never equated pocketed hands with being aloof — but the rules are rules. Quit asking questions.
But if you’re looking for an antiquated rule that’s really nonsensical, look no further than the (now) unwritten rule that states officers of the United States Army cannot carry an umbrella. It might not be an official regulation anymore, but all Army officers generally adhere to the rule regardless, for tradition’s sake.
Soldiers on the other hand? Nah. We enjoy the rain.
(U.S. Army photo)
This was once a hard-standing regulation, put into effect under Army Regulation 670-1: Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia, Chapter 20-27: Umbrellas. The regulated stated,
“Females may carry and use an umbrella, only during inclement weather, when wearing the service (class A and B), dress, and mess uniforms. Umbrellas are not authorized in formations or when wearing field or utility uniforms.”
This rule forbade the use of umbrellas by male officers entirely, from the fresh-out-of-OCS second lieutenant all the way up to the Chief of Staff of the United States Army. As you can see, it didn’t stop female officers from carrying or using an umbrella, nor was it implemented for any other branch or applied to the Army’s enlisted. It affected male Army officers exclusively. The regulation wasn’t amended to allow for umbrellas until 2013.
It’s worth noting that the U.S. Air Force kept this regulation when it split from the Army in 1947, but in just 32 short years, they realized it was pointless and authorized their officers to carry and use umbrellas in 1979.
I’ll give you a little hint. It has everything to do with this photograph here and who the back of that head belongs to.
(Imperial War Museum)
So, why was the rule put in place to begin with? It certainly wasn’t for appearances’ sake. In the rain, ribbons would sometimes start to bleed ink, which would potentially stain and ruin an officer’s otherwise pristine uniform. These stains were surely more unsightly than an officer holding an umbrella.
Furthermore, the regulation didn’t outright forbid officers from standing under an umbrella or having an enlisted soldier carry one for them – though most junior officers likely wouldn’t dare ask a salty NCO to shield them from the big, scary rain drops for fear of eternal mockery.
The regulation clearly says not to carry an umbrella, whether it was in use or not. In fact, holding a closed umbrella is what started all of this to begin with.
Leave it to one spineless politician to forever make umbrellas uncool.
To those who don’t recognize the men in the photo above, that’s disgraced British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain shaking hands with Adolf Hitler, infamously appeasing him just before his 1938 occupation of the Sudetenland, a region of today’s Czech Republic, despite his government’s clear promise to do everything in its power to protect Poland.
Chamberlain went behind his peoples’ and parliament’s backs in a deal that gave the Nazis the power they needed to arm a full-scale invasion of Poland, thus, in a way, kicking off World War II. When it turned out that the Nazis didn’t give a sh*t about peace treaties, Chamberlain again tried to appease Hitler in 1939. The invasion of Poland followed soon after.
Though Chamberlain’s actions may have been done with the best intentions for the UK, he will forever be seen as weak and enabling for them.
To this day, umbrellas are highly discouraged, but that may just be a “we’re too cool for umbrellas” kind of mentality.
(U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Henry Chan, 16th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs, 21st Theater Sustainment Command)
All things Neville Chamberlain have been tainted by his appeasement policy – including his signature style of always carrying a black umbrella and his hat in his hand. Just as Churchill was synonymous with his cigar and Lincoln with his stove pipe hat, Chamberlain was almost always seen with his umbrella.
Before the appeasement with Hitler, the umbrella was seen by the Britons as a symbol of endurance, as it allowed people to carry on despite the crummy weather the British Isles are known for. After the deal, it became a symbol of treachery.
Immediately, most of the British Military was discouraged from using umbrellas. They never implemented it as official policy for practical reasons – it’s the British Isles, after all. But the U.S. Army made their anti-Chamberlain stance into an actual regulation.
Guess that’s what happens when you stand by and give Hitler time to start a world war.
The United States government was founded on the principle of separation of church and state. That being said, if the U.S. could select a single holy site and have everyone in America agree that it was not to be trifled with, the frontrunner would be the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier — the monument to those who fought and died for the U.S. but remain unidentified.
Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknowns is guarded 24 hours a day, seven days a week by the tomb sentinels of the 3rd Infantry Regiment, The Old Guard. And these guys do not mess around. When it comes to discipline, The Old Guard have such firm bearing that they can get stabbed in the foot with a bayonet and keep standing guard.
They will guard the tomb during hurricanes. They will stay at their post during epic snowstorms. There is nothing they won’t do to maintain a watchful eye on what might be America’s holiest of holies.
So, it should come as no surprise that when tourists are around the tomb, these sentinels don’t tolerate anything short of solemnity and adherence to the rules that govern such hallowed ground. In the past, numerous videos have shown how the Old Guard responds to those who try to get a closer look at the tomb by crossing barrier obviously in place to keep onlookers away.
And that’s just what they do when you try to cross the barrier for a photo (to fast-forward, the sentinel admonishes a woman for crossing the line at 1:00 into the video). Imagine what happens if someone suddenly tries to reach out and touch the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier itself.
Aside from getting manhandled (and probably tazed) by the Arlington Police, the Tomb Sentinels are carrying fully functional weapons. Whether they’re loaded weapons or if the sentinels have ammunition remains unknown (many sources say they don’t), but that’s not a reason to go testing the theory. What is known, however, is the sentinels will move much faster than we’re used to seeing them in order to stop you.
Quora user Chris Leonard, who used to be a part of the Old Guard, reminds us that maintenance work is done on the aging tomb all the time, but workers are expected to show the same reverence in touching the tomb for repairs that the sentinels themselves would observe — and the sentinels are watching them every second they’re at work.
Leonard recalled a moment where a maintainer touched the tomb in a manner inconsistent with the respect called for by the monument — he was leaning on it. The sentinel yelled at the man to stop as he quickly approached. The sentinel then “cross checked” the maintenance worker.
The maintenance worker later apologized to the sentinels.
Today’s military has many antiquated training plans still written into the calendar. Troops will still practice drill and ceremony despite the fact that the need for marching into combat died out more than a hundred years ago. We still sharpen our land navigation skills despite the fact that we have overwhelming technological advantages that make the use of more primitive tools highly improbable.
However, the one training that always draws the loudest “but why?” from the back of the formation is bayonet warfare. And you know what? That loud, obnoxious dude isn’t entirely wrong — the last time “fix bayonets!” was officially ordered to a company-sized element in combat was by Col. Lewis Millet during the Korean War.
But bayonet training isn’t about just learning to attach a “pointy thing to your boomstick and poking the blood out of people,” as an old infantry sergeant once told me. It’s about laying the fundamentals of everything else.
It’s only silly if you make it silly. If you do, the other guy will knock the silliness out of you.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Melissa Marnell)
Bayonet training was officially taken off the Army’s basic training schedule back in 2010 because it created scheduling conflicts with other needed skills. Still, some drill sergeants find a way to work it in on their own time. The Marine Corps still learns the skill, but it’s a part of the greater Marine Corps Martial Arts Program.
The training is always conducted in stages. The first stage is to have the recruits train on pugil sticks — giant, cotton-swab-looking sticks. This teaches a warfighter the importance of maintaining a positive footing while trying to overpower an opponent. Literally anyone can take on anyone in a pugil stick match because it’s not about size or strength — it’s about control.
Learning to control your body while asserting dominance on your enemy is crucial in close-quarters combat. Once you’ve mastered the pugil stick, you can move on to bayonets.
“Yeah! Take that, tire! F*ck you!”
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Walter D. Marino II)
Fighting with a bayonet is less like fighting with a rifle that happens to have a knife attached and more like using a spear that has a rifle on it. Much of the same footwork learned while training with pugil sticks plays a role here. Maintain good footing, thrust your bayonet into the enemy, and send them to their maker.
Maintaining good footing is a fundamental of nearly every single martial arts form known to man. Instead of having troops learn a martial art (which would take years to yield workable results), troops can come to understand the importance of footwork by just stabbing a worn-out tire — much more efficient.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Maximiliano Bavastro)
The third and most vital lesson that’s secretly taught behind the guise of bayonet training is when the troops line up to conduct a full charge toward targets.
Sure, without the real threat of danger, the point may be missed by some, but it’s important nonetheless. If you and your unit are tasked with making a last-ditch effort to stop the enemy and all you have is your bayonet, many of you may die. But when you know for certain that you and your brothers will charge into death head-on with the hopes of gutting at least that one, last son of a b*tch… you’ve embraced the warrior lifestyle.
Sure, missing out on that life lesson doesn’t hurt the “combat effectiveness” that training room officers love to care about, but there’s little else that compares to the ferocity of a bayonet charge.
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.
(Feature cartoon: Delta’s Marinus Pope is grilled for missing his intended touch down point by a significantly wide margin East by Northeast [E/NE]. His reconnaissance brothers approached me about roasting him for all eternity in the Unit Cartoon Book; an ask I joyfully accepted.)
My Special Mission Unit did a lot of parachute training, almost exclusively jumping from very high altitudes pulling out our parachutes at low altitudes, a technique called High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) drops. The technique leverages the high altitude to help cover the presence of the delivery airframe, and the low opening to keep the view of parachutes in the sky at a minimum.
To this day, I have a clinical fear of heights. That kept me away from trying out for elite units for the longest time, but after two years in a regular infantry unit, I was heading to airborne with or even without a parachute.
A modification of the HALO drop is the High Altitude High Opening (HAHO). In this scenario, paratroops exit at ~18,000 feet and pull immediately. Now the troops are under a parachute at nearly 17,000 feet!
At that altitude, a parachutist can travel a staggering lateral distance, even as far as from one end of a state to the other. (A point of humor: in addition to the HALO and HAHO capability we invented a faux elitist group of jumpers called OSNO men; Outer Space No Opening)
Under such conditions a man will descend under (parachute) canopy for an extended period of time — upwards of nearly an hour — and as you might already imagine, the higher the altitude, the greater the propensity for navigational errors.
Once I had a canopy malfunction at 17,000 feet, causing me to lose position in the group formation and drift so far away from my Drop Zone (DZ), that one of our ground support crew had to jump in a truck and race to where I hit the ground to pick me up. My impact was many (MANY) miles off target. I recall free-falling over a near-solid cloud cover and watching my shadow race across the top of the cloud bank toward me at great speed until it met me just as I penetrated the cloud top. Just me and my shadow I say, though I did not know it at the time; I had never heard of or experienced the phenomenon, and rather thought it was another jumper on a collision course toward me. I braced the bejesus out of myself for impact.
Anyhoo… I came down in a cornfield, which was odd, in that there were no cornfields in the state that my jump aircraft took off from. A fine American patriot came screaming up in a really large, really old all-metal Impala:
“I seen ya coming’ down in that-there parachute. Me, I ain’t nevah see anything like it ’round this cornah of Nebraska!”
“Nebraska?!?” Yeah, that was not a good day; that wasn’t where I started from in Colorado.
Did I mention the time I collided with a fellow jumper at night at 24,000 feet? Yeah — pretty much hated it! It was already stressful enough, as we were all breathing pure oxygen through a pilot’s face mask since there was not sufficient breathable oxygen at that extreme altitude. In the collision, my oxygen supply valve had been shocked shut, leaving me with only the rarified atmospheric gas I could suck through the seal of my mask.
Drastic circumstances call for drastic measures, and I did what any other warrior would do — I passed out. Since I was not conscious, I don’t know exactly what happened in the next 16,000 feet or so, but I estimate that I fell flat and stable. When I was low enough for breath-worthy air, I came to, only to find a brother was falling right with me some three feet away staring me in the face intently, ready to pull my reserve for me if I failed to snap back to reality. A glance at my altimeter strenuously urged me to pull my ripcord immediately.
Another thing that happened during the time I was “away” from my fall, was that it had begun to lighten up on the horizon as the sun crept in. The aurora made it able for me to see the details of the men around me and the ground below. It all looked so so so much like a cartoon… but I had my sense about me and saved my own life; oh, but that doesn’t count for a medal.
C-ARTS ushers in a new standard in mobile, interactive training, designed to meet the instructional needs and expectations of tech savvy Sailors, accustomed to learning through hands-on classes that exploit augmented, virtual, and mixed reality learning tools.
The C-ARTS facility is located on the waterfront at NNS and also nearby Newport News Shipbuilding for Sailors assigned to PCU John F. Kennedy. Since December, the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) has been conducting multiple underway test and training evolutions, as part of an 18-month phase of operations known as Post-Delivery Test and Trials (PDT&T), scheduled to continue through mid-2021. The crew on this first-in-class aircraft carrier are certifying fuel and on-board combat systems as well as exercising the flight deck, launching and arresting aircraft as part of critical aircraft compatibility testing. In preparation for these complex tasks, many Sailors have attended unique training courses, conducted at the C-ARTS facility.
“As the first new aircraft carrier design in more than 40 years, Gerald R. Ford is integrating advanced warfighting technologies essential for air dominance in an era of great power competition,” said Downey. “Sailors can’t wait to receive training on these systems. C-ARTS provides the capability to bring high-velocity instruction to crews at the Sailor’s point of need.”
When the Carrier-Advanced Reconfigurable Training System launched its first course in 2018, C-ARTS instructors guided technicians through the complexities of fiber optic cable repair. Since then, more than 500 Sailors have completed 17 courses logging more than 5,700 total classroom hours.
Interior Communications Specialist 1st Class Jessica Diaz, assigned to CNAL and the first billeted instructor assigned to the Ford Center of Excellence, participated in the C-ARTS ceremony demonstrating her training proficiency of the high-velocity learning opportunity for Sailors assigned to Ford-class aircraft carriers.
“As the lead instructor I am responsible for building curriculum that is both hands-on and interactive while utilizing the augmented, virtual, and mixed reality learning tools,” said Diaz. “The training is currently tailored to the 29 new systems including the Advanced Weapons Elevators, Machinery Control Monitoring System, and Plasma Arc Waste Destruction System found on the Ford Class Carrier but there is unlimited potential to be used fleet wide.”
The 1,000-sq-ft reconfigurable classrooms offer “high-velocity” learning—integral to the Sailor 2025 concept of providing ready relevant learning at the sailor’s point of need. C-ARTS provides innovative tools for delivering the right training at the right time in the right way to crews in modern, spacious spaces—all in the shadow of the ships on which sailors serve.
As the Command Master Chief assigned to the future USS John F. Kennedy, Wright brings a credible amount of experience to the table. Having served on board the Enterprise, Nimitz, and Ford class aircraft carriers he is witnessing the warrior ethos today’s Sailors display.
“Technology is a vehicle that Sailors continue to benefit from,” said Wright. “I am happy to serve on a Ford-class aircraft carriers knowing that through C-ARTS we have brought the training to the Sailors on the waterfront. This form of high velocity learning will allow us to fulfill the vision of the Sailor 2025 concept in building warriors who serve at sea.”
The training site consists of two stand-alone, 53-foot trailers, which may operate either in pairs—with one unit providing an electronic classroom and the other a maintenance lab—or independently. Adjustable classroom configurations can accommodate 16 students, each training on two 24-inch touch screen monitors, with instructors teaching a single class or two classes of eight students. In the lab, eight students perform tasks from portable workbenches using 24-inch touch-screen monitors.
Delivering training at the Sailor’s point of need helps to mitigate impacts to Sailors’ work/life balance. In the case of the C-ARTS facility at Naval Station Norfolk, CVN 78 Sailors can walk 1,200 ft. from pier 11, where the CVN 78 is berthed. Two other units are also located at Newport News Shipbuilding, walking distance to Pier 3, where the John F. Kennedy (CVN 79) is under construction. A fifth 1,000-sq-ft classroom unit is planned to join the C-ARTS location at NS Norfolk in Spring 2021..
Utility deposits, eating in restaurants because your kitchen is in boxes, having to buy everyone in the family a winter coat because you moved from Florida to Colorado in February (just me?) — military families know that whether you do a full HHG or a full DITY move, or something in between, moving can be expensive. But until now we didn’t know quite how expensive.
The Military Family Advisory Network just released survey data that shows that every PCS move can set a military family back by an average of about $5,000. That’s money they’ll never be reimbursed for and will never recover. Considering that military families move, on average, every two to three years, it sheds some light on one reason why it’s so hard for military families to save money and build wealth. Eighty-four percent of active duty respondents to the survey said they had moved within the past two years.
Included in that $5,000 figure are things that families have to pay to move themselves and the cost of loss and damage to items over and above the reimbursements they receive through the claims process. This PCS season the added chaos of COVID-19 promises to only make moving more hectic and more expensive.
“We’re struggling because of it. You have to spend your money for the expenses, THEN get reimbursed afterwards. We’re skipping my birthday and Thanksgiving … maybe Christmas because it’s not wise to spend any unnecessary money at this time,” said the spouse of an active duty airman in Hawaii.
Respondents reported that, on average, their unreimbursed, out-of-pocket expenses during a move were almost ,000 and that their average financial loss over and above claims for lost and damaged items during the move was almost ,000. And, 68% of respondents said that their possessions—furniture, keepsakes, and other items—were damaged during the move, and some of those items could not be replaced.
“Movers lost one leg of a table and reimbursement tried to just pay us the value of that leg, which is silly. It rendered the table unusable,” said the spouse of an Army active duty member in Washington.
Numerous respondents reported dissatisfaction with the professionalism of the movers.
“They know they can take and break whatever they want, and nothing is really done about it. They will also mark damage that actually isn’t there on the paperwork so they can avoid claims for when they do damage things. They dropped our daughter’s dresser out of the truck and just laughed about it,” said the spouse of an active duty soldier in Texas.
The moving costs data is part of MFAN’s larger 2019 Military Family Support Programming Survey, presented by Cerner Government Services. The full survey report will be released Tuesday, June 23 at 3 p.m. during a one-hour interactive release event.
Earlier this month, senior Department of Defense officials said the PCS-freeze put in place because of the pandemic is beginning to lift and that 30 to 40% of military personnel moves are already happening. Officials said that as regions of the country get labeled “green,” meaning that service members and their families can move to and from that region, more service members will be allowed to move. In order to be “green”, the region must have decreasing trends in COVID-19 diagnoses and symptoms, and local authorities must have eased stay-at-home and shelter-in-place restrictions.
Once a region is determined to be “green,” the Service Secretary, Combatant Commander or the DoD Chief Management Officer (CMO) will make a determination if the installations within that region have met additional criteria that include:
Local travel restrictions have been removed
The upcoming school year is expected to start on time and sufficient childcare is available
Moving companies are available to safely move individuals from the community they’re leaving and to the one they’re going to
Local services, such as water, sewer, electricity, are safely available
For many military families, moving is both a blessing and a curse. Living in a new place can be exciting and fun, but uprooting your whole life and starting over somewhere can be overwhelming. Add all the extra costs in, and it’s no wonder that orders to move are often met with dread. Moving is one of the most stressful and expensive experiences in military life, even without the confusion caused by the pandemic. And this year promises to be crazier and costlier than ever.
An Air Force veteran has created a business that provides variety and comfort in military lodging. Ever heard of Airbnb? Well, Military Crashpad is similar, but specifically caters to military personnel, veterans, and their families.
Above is a general example of TDY billeting at Fort Indiantown Gap, PA.
Active duty personnel in every military branch travel a lot, whether it be for TDY or a permanent change of station (PCS). The only problem with travel is finding a place to stay for a government rate. Military Inns and on-base facilities are okay for short stays, but when a military member has to remain in a certain place for an extended period of time, government accommodations just don’t cut it.
Captain Johnny Buckingham, CEO and Founder of Military Crashpad.
Captain Jonathan Buckingham is the man behind the mission of Military Crashpad. Buckingham started off in the Air Force Academy and commissioned as a pilot, flying mainly KC-135 aircraft. With six deployments under his belt and over twenty TDY’s to count, he is well-seasoned in living in government quarters.
It was during his first 5-month TDY to Altus, OK, when Buckingham realized that military lodging could be ten times better. Base billeting, normally, is not equipped with kitchens or many of the everyday amenities that makes a place ‘homey’ or cozy.
Instead of staying on base, he went in search of a crashpad to fit his needs. A “crashpad” is a home, fully-furnished, that anyone can rent a room in to stay for a period of time. Unfortunately, there were no crashpad rooms available in the area. That’s when Buckingham got the idea to make crashpads exclusively for military personnel. As CEO and Founder of Military Crashpad, his motto is always, “because it was difficult for me, I want to make it better for the next guy.”
Above, the first Military Crashpad location in Altus, OK.
Why stay at a Military Crashpad? Below is only a taste of the amenities that are offered at their locations:
More space than a hotel room
Fully furnished with 60″ TV’s
Full Cable packages
Not active duty? No problem. Military Crashpad caters to veterans, reserves, and active duty alike. You want to take your family with you? No problem. Customers can rent a room or a whole house for privacy — all at the government rate. The mission behind Military Crashpad s to help our nation’s military and it’s evident in the care that comes with customer service. Military Crashpad offers thoughtful consideration to those serving in our armed forces.
Johnny Buckingham says it best,
“If we can make veterans lives easier when they’re stateside, then they’ll be more energized and rested which will allows them to fight harder, better, and faster. That benefits everyone.”