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.
We tend to see leadership as a glamorous and desirable career destination, but the crude reality is that most leaders have pretty dismal effects on their teams and organizations. Consider that 70% of employees are not engaged at work, but it’s their boss’ main task to engage and inspire them, helping them leave aside their selfish interests to work as a collective unit with others. Instead, managers are the number one reason why people quit jobs. As the old saying goes, people join companies but quit their bosses.
As I highlight in my latest book, passive job-seeking, self-employment, and entrepreneurship rates have been on the rise even in places where macroeconomic conditions are strong and there is no shortage of career opportunities for people. For instance, in the US, there are now 6 million job seekers for 7 million job openings, but people appear to be disenchanted with the idea of traditional employment, mostly because it may require putting up with a bad boss.
To be sure, there are many competent leaders out there, but academic estimates suggest that the baseline for incompetent leadership is at least 65% (note this figure is based on analyzing mostly public or large companies), and, even more shockingly, there appears to be a strong negative correlation between the money we spend or waste on leadership-development interventions and the confidence people have in their leaders.
Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is an international authority in psychological profiling.
An obvious question this sad state of affairs evokes is how one can work if his or her boss is incompetent. Clearly, it is always tempting to blame our manager for our unfavorable work experiences, but it may also be the case that the problem is us rather than them, with recent research indicating that all aspects of job satisfaction are influenced as much by employees’ own personalities and values as by the actual (objective) working circumstances they are in.
The way we experience our boss is no exception. Here’s a quick five-point checklist to work out what your manager’s probable level of competence might be.
1. He or she is generally liked, or at least well-regarded, by his or her direct reports
This would be consistent with the mainstream scientific view that upward feedback (feedback from those who work for the manager) is the best single measure of a manager’s performance. Conversely, how managers are seen by their own managers is mostly a measure of politics, likability, or managing “up.” If the answer is no, the probability that your boss is incompetent increases dramatically.
2. His or her team tends to achieve strong results compared with similar/competing teams (internally and externally)
Note this may happen even if the answer to question one is no, though generally speaking, both points are positively intertwined: People perform better when they like their bosses, and they like their bosses more when they perform better. Thus, if the answer is no, then your boss is probably not that competent.
3. He or she frequently provides you with constructive and critical developmental feedback to improve your performance
And does he or she do it for others in your team, too? If the answer is no, then chances are your boss is less than competent, as one of the fundamental tasks of any manager is to improve their team members’ performance by providing accurate and helpful feedback on their potential and performance.
A Ranger Assessment Course instructor (right), informs the class leader that he needs to improve his leadership skills at the Nevada Test and Training Range.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Thomas Spangler)
4. He or she knows you well and has an accurate picture of your potential, including your strengths and weaknesses
No bosses can do their jobs well unless they are fully aware of what their team members can and can’t do, which is a necessary precondition to assigning each employee to tasks and roles in which their skills and personality are best deployed. After all, talent is by and large personality in the right place. If you think your boss doesn’t know you, then he or she is less likely to be competent.
5. He or she seems truly coachable and continues to improve to the point of getting better on the job all the time
Just like your employability depends on your own ability (and willingness) to continue to develop key career skills and learn things that broaden your career potential, your boss should also be finding ways to get better. This means not just displaying the necessary humility and curiosity to learn — including from his or her own employees and customers — but also finding ways to keep their dark side or undesirable tendencies in check. In short, does your boss show self-awareness and the drive to get better, irrespective of whether that actually advances his or her own career? If the answer is no, then your boss has limited potential.
Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is an international authority in psychological profiling, talent management, leadership development, and people analytics. He is the chief talent scientist at Manpower Group, cofounder of Deeper Signals and Metaprofiling, and professor of business psychology at both University College London and Columbia University. He has previously held academic positions at New York University and the London School of Economics and lectured at Harvard Business School, Stanford Business School, London Business School, Johns Hopkins, IMD, and INSEAD. He was also the CEO at Hogan Assessment Systems. Tomas has published nine books and over 130 scientific papers (h index 58), making him one of the most prolific social scientists of his generation.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Several months ago, no one believed us when we said that there would eventually be a Space Force. Everyone thought it’d be a foolish idea. We were the biggest fans of the idea from the very beginning. It’s not like we’re mad or anything — just that we’re calling first dibs in line at the Space Force recruitment office.
Whatever. Here’s a bunch of memes that are about the Space Force curated from around the internet and a hand full of other ones that aren’t space related, I guess.
Few cinematic crime fighters are more revered than Inspector Harry Callahan, from Clint Eastwood’s 1971 film, Dirty Harry. Before that, it might have been Frank Bullitt, as portrayed by Steve McQueen in 1968’s Bullitt. Both movies are centered around a hard-boiled police detective working the streets of San Francisco. Frank Bullitt was fighting mafia hitmen while Harry Callahan was trying to bring down an insane serial killer.
Both of these fictional detectives are based on one man: real-life San Francisco detective, Dave Toschi.
Behind that glorious bow tie is a force of nature.
At his desk in San Francisco’s Hall of Justice, one might not have picked out the man in a bow tie as someone who served in the 24th Infantry Division in Korea. It was the unit that took the brunt of a full-scale North Korean invasion with no reinforcements in sight, the unit that held the Pusan Perimeter for months on end, and the unit that pushed the Chinese back to the 38th Parallel the very next year. David Toschi was that guy, but he truly made his name as a police detective, cleaning the streets of San Francisco for 32 years.
He joined the force right after leaving the military, in 1953. His ties, signature suits, and “exaggerated” trench coats earned him the attention of the San Fran news media, but his work was his enduring legacy – and what ended up translated to the silver screen.
Actor Steve McQueen, upon meeting Toschi, demanded his character, Frank Bullitt, wear a similar shoulder holster.
Even though Toschi’s flair won him attention from the media, it was his biggest case that earned him the most acclaim – and would later be his downfall. He began working homicide in 1966. Just three years in, he was assigned to work the murder investigation of cab driver Paul Stine. Stine picked up a passenger who wanted to be taken from Geary Street to Maple Street in San Francisco’s Presidio Heights neighborhood. Just one block North of Maple, the passenger shot Stine in the head, then took his keys, wallet, and a portion of his bloody shirt.
No one knew why until three days later, when the Zodiac sent a threatening letter to the San Francisco Chronicle with a piece of Stine’s shirt, to prove the cabbie was a victim of the Zodiac; the only time Zodiac killed inside the city.
In 1971’s ‘Dirty Harry’ the Toschi-inspired inspector hunted the killer calling himself ‘Scorpio,’ a figure ripped from the Zodiac headlines at the time.
Toschi estimated that he investigated 2,000-5,000 people while looking for Zodiac but the killer was never found. Toschi left homicide in 1978 and retired in 1985. Toschi was reassigned from the Zodiac case in 1977 after it was revealed that the detective sent so-called fake “fan letters” about his own performance in the case to the San Francisco Chronicle. Zodiac was active from 1969 through the early 1970s but sent letters to the paper for years.
Zodiac had a confirmed seven victims but claimed as many as 37. His last confirmed victim was Stine, and his last letter to the paper came in 1978. The prime suspect in the Zodiac case – and the man Toschi always suspected – was U.S. Navy veteran and schoolteacher, Arthur Leigh Allen.
“Why didn’t we get this guy?” Toschi once asked the Chronicle. “I ended up with a bleeding ulcer over this case. It still haunts me. It always will.“
Allen (left) in 1969, compared to the composite sketch of Zodiac from a 1969 attack in Napa County, Calif.
Toschi could never find enough evidence to bring Allen to trial, despite spending nine years on the case. Toschi’s other cases include bringing down a gang of murderers calling themselves the “Death Angels.” The group committed racially-motivated killings against white victims. They are known to have killed at least 15 but may be responsible for as many as 73 murders in San Francisco in 1974.
Dubbed the “Zebra Murders,” they caused widespread panic in the city of San Francisco at a time when the city was still reeling from the exploits of the Zodiac. Toschi was part of the team that helped bring the gang down and put them away for life.
It was Zodiac that kept his attention, but he never managed to pin the killer down.
“I’m not a vengeful type, but when a life is taken, there must be justice,” he said.
Mark Ruffalo as Toschi in the 2007 film, ‘Zodiac.’
In the years following his service on the SFPD, he took a job doing private security and even as a technical advisor on the 2007 David Fincher film, Zodiac, watching actor Mark Ruffalo portray him on screen.
Every October 11, from 1970 until 2017, Toschi sat in his car at the same Presidio Heights location where Paul Stine was murdered by the Zodiac, wondering what he missed. Toschi died in January 2018 at the age of 86.
The Air Force has planes for every mission, but those planes aren’t always doing missions for the Air Force.
In October 2018, the Defense Department comptroller released the latest reimbursement rates for each service branch’s planes and helicopters.
These costs are generally calculated based on fuel use, wear and tear, and personnel needs — the branch providing the aircraft also typically provides a pilot and crew, an Air Force spokeswoman told Business Insider.
The document lists four categories for reimbursement: other Defense Department components, other federal agencies, foreign-military sales, and “all other.”
“When determining the hourly rate, agencies should utilize the appropriate rate category,” the document said. “The ‘all other’ annual billable rate will be used to obtain reimbursement for services provided to organizations outside the Federal government.”
Below, you can see Air Force aircraft reimbursement rates for users that fall into the “all other” category — that’s you.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Betty R. Chevalier)
A-10C Thunderbolt — ,454
The A-10C Thunderbolt, also known as the Warthog, is the US Air Force’s premier ground-attack aircraft and perhaps the best in the world, renowned by foot soldiers for its ability to absorb punishment and dish out even more with its 30 mm cannon.
The Air Force has a total of 281 A-10s in its inventory. As of mid-2018, 173 of them had gotten or were in the process of getting new wings.
The future of the roughly 100 that still need wings has been the subject of debate between Air Force officials, many of whom want to retire the Thunderbolt and move on to other platforms, and members of Congress, who want to see the fearsome gunship continue flying.
The AC-130J Ghostrider.
(US Air Force photo)
AC-130J Ghostrider — ,541
The AC-130J is the latest variant of the AC-130 gunship, upgraded with enhanced avionics, as well as integrated navigation systems, defensive systems, and radar. It is also modified with the Precision Strike Package, which has a mission-management system that puts sensors, communications, and order-of-battle and threat information into a common picture.
The Ghostrider — a name officially designated in May 2012 — is still relatively new, having completed developmental tests and evaluation in June 2015. As of 2016, the Air Force planned to have 32 Ghostriders in the active-duty force by fiscal year 2021.
The aircraft has struggled, particularly with its 30 mm and 105 mm guns. But the commander of the 1st Special Operations Wing said last year the gunship would probably be “the most requested weapons system from ground forces in the history of warfare.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brian Ferguson)
B-1B Lancer — ,475
Of Air Force aircraft, the B-1B Lancer packs the largest payload — 75,000 pounds — of both guided and unguided weapons and is the “backbone” of the US long-range-bomber force.
It has a ceiling of 30,000 feet, which isn’t the highest of the Air Force’s bombers, but it is the fastest, capable of topping 900 mph, or a little over the speed of sound at sea level.
In order to comply with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, signed by the US and the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the Lancer was modified to make it incapable of carrying nuclear weapons, a conversion process completed in 2011.
As of late 2016, the Air Force had 64 Lancers — two for testing — all of which were in the active force.
A B-2 Spirit.
(US Air Force photo)
B-2A Spirit — ,012
The B-2A stealth bomber arrived at the Air Force in 1993, six years after the first Lancer was delivered.
Unlike the Lancer, which is designed for high-speed, low-altitude strikes, the Spirit flies higher — up to 50,000 feet — and slower. It’s also capable of hauling nuclear weapons.
As of the end of 2015, there were 20 Spirits in the Air Force active-duty fleet, one of which was for testing. The only operational base for the B-2 is Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, so add that flying time into your budget.
(US Air Force photo)
B-52H Stratofortress — ,919
Pricewise, the B-52 is a bargain compared with its bomber counterparts, but the Stratofortress is well over a half-century old, reaching initial operating capacity in spring 1952.
Flying at 650 mph and up to 50,000 feet with a payload of 70,000 pounds of both conventional and nuclear weapons, it can conduct strategic strikes, close air support, and maritime operations.
Its unfueled range is more than 8,800 miles. With aerial refueling, its range is limited only by its crew’s endurance.
At the end of 2015, there were 58 B-52s in use by the Air Force’s active-duty force and another 18 being used by the Air Force Reserve. They’re all H models and are assigned to the 5th Bomb Wing at North Dakota’s Minot Air Force Base and to the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana.
A C-130J Hercules.
(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Thomas Grimes)
C-130J Super Hercules — ,651
The C-130J is the latest addition to the C-130J family, replacing older C-130Es and some C-130Hs with more flying hours.
Technology on the C-130J reduces manpower needs and operational and maintenance costs. The J model also climbs higher and faster and can fly farther with a higher cruising speed, in addition to taking off and landing in a shorter distance.
As of June 2018, the Air Force had 145 C-130Js in active duty, with anther 181 being used by the Air National Guard and 102 by the reserve component.
A C-17 Globemaster III.
(US Air Force photo)
C-17A Globemaster III — ,236
The C-17 is the most flexible member of the Air Force airlift fleet, able to deliver troops and cargo to main operating hubs or to forward bases.
“The C-17 was designed for multi-role functions,” Maj. Steve Hahn, an instructor pilot with the Air Force Reserve’s 301st Airlift Squadron, said in 2010. “Its strategic and tactical abilities join the missions of the C-5 (Galaxy) and C-130 (Hercules) into one aircraft. It does everything, and not many aircraft can do that.”
As of mid-2018, there were 157 C-17s in active service, 47 in use by the Air National Guard, and 18 being used by the Air Force reserve.
A C-5M Super Galaxy.
C-5M Super Galaxy — ,742
The C-5M Super Galaxy — the modernized version of the legacy C-5 aircraft — is the largest aircraft in the Air Force inventory, tasked with transporting troops and cargo.
It can carry oversize cargo, including 50-foot-long submarines, over intercontinental distances, and doors at the front and back allow for it to be loaded and offloaded at the same time.
Its maximum cargo is 281,000 pounds, and the longest distance it can fly without refueling is just over 5,500 miles — the distance from its base at Dover Air Force Base to the Incirlik air base in Turkey.
In August 2018, Lockheed Martin delivered the last of 52 upgraded C-5s, bringing 49 C-5Bs, two C-5Cs, and one C-5A up to the M variant and wrapping up a 17-year overhaul effort. The work extends the C-5 fleet’s service life into the 2040s.
(US Air Force by Louis Briscese)
E-4B — ,123
The E-4B is an expensive aircraft with an invaluable mission.
It serves as the National Airborne Operations Center, providing a highly survivable command, control and communications center where the president, defense secretary, and joint chiefs of staff can direct US forces, execute emergency war orders, and coordinate actions by civil authorities if ground command centers are destroyed.
The Air Force has four E-4Bs in its active force, and at least one is on 24-hour alert. In addition to an advanced satellite-communications system and an electrical system to support it, the E4-B is hardened against electromagnetic pulses, if that’s something you’re worried about.
An F-15E dropping a bomb.
(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)
F-15E Strike Eagle — ,936
The F-15 is an all-weather, highly maneuverable tactical fighterdesigned to gain and maintain air superiority. It became operational in 1975 and has been the Air Force’s primary fighter jet and interceptor for decades.
The F-15E is two-seat integrated fighter for all-weather, air-to-air, and deep-interdiction missions. The Air Force has 219 F-15Es in total.
The first F-15E was delivered in 1989, about a decade after the F-15C, a single-seat fighter, and the F-15D, another two-seater. The latter two are also available, but they’ll cost you a little be more — ,233 for the C model and ,045 for the D model.
An F-16 Fighting Falcon.
(US Air Force photo)
F-16C and F-16D — ,000 and ,696, respectively
Despite the low price, the F-16 is considered one of the most capable fighter aircraft out there.
It arrived in 1979, built in partnership between the US, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Norway.
The F-16C/D started arriving in 1981 and are the single- and two-seat counterparts to the F-16A/B, bringing improved cockpit control and display technology.
As of late 2015, the Air Force had 1,017 F-16s across its active, reserve, and guard components.
An F-22 Raptor.
(US Air Force Photo)
F-22A — ,005
Reaching initial operating capability in December 2005, the single-seat F-22 is considered the Air Force’s first fifth-generation fighter, incorporating low-observable technology that gives it an edge over air-to-air and surface-to-air threats.
Caught between low-intensity wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a crushing global recession in 2008, and the Pentagon’s move toward the F-35 in the late 2000s, the F-22 program was shut down in 2009. As of September 2015, there were 183 F-22s in use by the Air Force.
(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)
F-35A — ,501
The F-35A Lightning II is the Air Force’s second and newest fifth-generation fighter, reaching initial operational capability in August 2016.
The US, the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Denmark, Norway, and Australia were involved in the F-35’s development.
The F-35A is meant carry out air-to-air combat and ground-attack missions, replacing the F-16 and the A-10, while bringing next-generation stealth technology, enhanced awareness, and reduced vulnerability to the US and allies, several of whom have already received their versions of the fighter.
There is also a carrier variant — meant to replace the Navy’s F/A-18s — and a short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing variant, which is meant to replace the US Marine Corps’ AV-8B Harriers and F/A-18s, as well as the UK’s Harriers and Sea Harriers.
The F-35 has also become the most expensive weapons program in history, and hiccups during its development process have not improved its perception.
The KC-46A Pegasus.
(Boeing/John D. Parker)
KC-46A Pegasus — ,740
The KC-46A aerial-refueling tanker is the newest addition to the Air Force, with officials accepting the first one from Boeing on January 10.
The program was delayed for years by technical problems, and Boeing has eaten more than .5 billion on the program, as the firm is responsible for any costs beyond the Air Force’s .9 billion fixed-price contract.
Six tankers have been accepted by the Air Force, but Boeing is not out of the woods. Deliveries were suspended earlier this month by the Air Force because of problems with foreign objects, tools and other debris, left aboard the aircraft.
Will Roper, the Air Force’s assistant secretary for acquisition, technology, and logistics, said it would likely be “some time” before the Air Force began accepting tankers again.
An HC-130J Combat King II.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor T. McBride)
HC-130J Combat King II — ,001
The HC-130J — an extended-range version of the C-130J — replaces HC-130P/Ns as the only dedicated fixed-wing personnel recovery platform in the Air Force inventory. It’s tasked with rapidly deploying to recover downed aviators in enemy territory and with all-weather expeditionary personnel-recovery operations.
An MC-130H Combat Talon II.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony)
MC-130H Combat Talon II — ,166
The MC-130H Combat Talon II provides infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply of special operations forces and equipment in hostile or denied territory. Secondary missions include psychological operations and helicopter and vertical lift air refueling.
The Combat Talon II is based on the C-130, with structural changes that include a stronger tail to allow high-speed and low-signature airdrops. It also has terrain-following and terrain-avoidance radars that allow it to fly as low as 250 feet in poor weather.
The MC-130 first flew in 1966 and has operated around the world — an MC-130E landed in the Iranian desert in April 1980 to support Operation Eagle Claw, a failed attempt to rescue Americans being held by Iran.
MC-130Hs were also used to seize an airfield in southern Afghanistan for ground operations there in 2001, and in 2003, an MC-130H was the first US aircraft to land at Baghdad International Airport. As of the beginning of 2016, the Air Force has 18 MC-130Hs.
An LC-130 Hercules.
(US Air Force photo)
LC-130H — ,774
The Air Force has a lot of cargo planes, so you have a lot of options. But what if you need to go to Antarctica? Well then you’ll need the LC-130H, the polar version of the C-130.
The US is the only operator of ski-equipped LC-130s, which the 109th Air Wing describes as the “backbone” of US transport within Antarctica, where it supports an array of scientific endeavors, and as a provider of transportation between McMurdo Station and New Zealand.
(US Air Force photo by Josh Plueger)
OC-135B — ,435
Night or day, austere or hospitable, ice or solid ground, the Air Force’s airlift fleet can do it all.
But what if you need to conduct an unarmed observation flight over territory belonging to one of the signatories of the 1992 Open Skies Treaty? That’s where the OC-135B comes in.
A modified version of the WC-135B, its main mission is to take pictures, and it’s outfitted with equipment and systems to support its cameras and camera operators.
That includes one vertical and two oblique KS-87E framing cameras, which are used for low-altitude photography — about 3,000 feet above ground — and one KA-91C panoramic camera, which scans from side to side to give each photo a wide sweep. It’s used for high-altitude photography — roughly 35,000 feet.
As of spring 2014, there were two OC-135Bs in the Air Force inventory.
A T-38 Talon.
(Department of Defense)
T-38C Talon and T-6A Texan — ,156 and 7, respectively
The T-38 Talon is a high-altitude supersonic jet trainer, used for a variety of operations because of its design, ease of maintenance, high performance, and safety record. Air Education and Training Command is its primary user of the T-38, employing it for specialized undergraduate pilot training, preparing pilots to fly F-15s, F-16s, F-22s, A-10s, and B-1Bs.
The T-38 first flew in 1959, and 1,000 of them were delivered between 1961 and 1972. The planes and their components have been modified and upgraded since then, and the Air Force had 546 in usewith the active force as of January 2014.
The T-6A Texan II is also a jet trainer, though it only has one engine and is also used by the Navy.
The first operational T-6A was delivered in May 2000. Joint Primary Pilot Training, the Texan’s main mission, began in October 2001. Production of the aircraft ended in 2010, and the Air Force has 446 of them in use by its active force.
(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kristin High)
U-2S Dragon Lady — ,496
Along with the B-52, the U-2 is one of the only Air Force aircraft introduced early in the Cold War that’s still in use.
Despite its age, its prowess is unquestioned. At 70,000 feet, the curvature of the earth gives it a field of vision of about 500 miles. In one mission, it can map all of Iraq.
Built in complete secrecy, the U-2A first flew in August 1955. The spy plane’s early history is marked with two high-profile blemishes — a 1960 shootdown over the USSR, which led to the capture of pilot Gary Francis Powers, and a 1962 shootdown over Cuba, which killed pilot Rudolf Anderson Jr. But it remains in use as one of the US’s premier surveillance aircraft.
All U-2s have been upgraded, adding a new engine that resulted in it being designated the U-2S. Pilots train on one of five two-seat aircraft designated as TU-2S. (The Air Force announced recently that it would change the training process.)
The U-2 is based at Beale Air Force Base in California, but it rotates worldwide. As of September 2015, there were 33 U-2s in use by the active force, including the five trainers and 2 ER-2s in use by NASA.
(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Ryan Labadens)
WC-130J — ,472
Not every Air Force aircraft is for combat or transport. The WC-130 Hercules is used by the Air Force Reserve for weather missions, flying into tropical storms, hurricanes, and winter storms to gather data.
The WC-130J is a C-130J reconfigured with palletized weather instruments. At its optimum cruising speed of 300 mph it can stay aloft for almost 18 hours. A typical weather mission can last 11 hours and cover 3,500 miles.
As of mid-2014, only 10 WC-130Js were in use, all of them belonging to the Air Force Reserve. They operate out of Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi, flown by the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron — the Hurricane Hunters.
A US Air Force WC-135 Constant Phoenix.
WC-135C/WC-135W Constant Phoenix — ,173
Getting ahold of the Constant Phoenix may be tough. The Air Force has only two of them, and they have a highly specialized mission: collecting particles, gas, and debris in order to detect any nuclear or radioactive events.
Then-Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower commissioned the Constant Phoenix program in September 1947. Two years later, one of the program’s aircraft picked up evidence of the first Soviet nuclear test while flying between Alaska and Japan. Forty years later, the WC-135W helped track radioactive debris from the meltdown of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in the USSR.
The WC-135s are the only planes in the Air Force inventory conducting air-sampling operations, which are now done in support of the 1963 Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The treaty prohibits countries from testing nuclear weapons above ground.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Air Force senior leaders are aware of the need to not only adapt, but retain the service’s competitive edge over our enemies.
“All of us have to come together to understand the threat and be clear-eyed on the competition that we face,” said Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson. “A changing world environment, strategic competition and peer competitors are the catalysts that make this change so immediately important.”
Part of this change is the emphasis on Joint All Domain Command and Control, or JADC2, the internet of the joint warfighter that connects all platforms and people and accelerates the speed of data-sharing and decision-making in all five domains: land, air, sea, cyber and space.
Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett says JADC2, “more seamlessly integrates the joint team in a battle network that links all sensors to all shooters.”
Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett delivers remarks during the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium, in Orlando, Fla., Feb. 27, 2020. The three-day event is a professional development forum that offers the opportunity for Department of Defense personnel to participate in forums, speeches, seminars and workshops with defense industry professionals.
With the creation of the U.S. Space Force, the Air Force is showing intent to dominate space, allocating .4 billion from the 9 billion budget proposal to ensure superiority in space, provide deterrence and, if deterrence fails, provide combat power.
“Space is essential in today’s American way of life,” Barrett said. “Navigation, communication, information all depend on these aging, vulnerable, though brilliant, GPS satellites.”
The Air Force has already begun replacing these older satellites with new, defendable GPS satellites.
With the budget proposal comes a continued effort to increase the number of squadrons in the Air Force to 386, ensuring the ability to generate combat power and improve readiness.
“This budget moves us forward to recapitalize our two legs of the [nuclear] triad and the critical nuclear command and control that ties it all together,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein.
Gwynne Shotwell (center), SpaceX Chief Operating Officer, briefs Gen. Stephen W. Wilson, Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force (left) and David Norquist, Deputy Secretary of Defense, on SpaceX capabilities during the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) demonstration at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Dec. 18, 2019. During this week’s first demonstration of the ABMS, operators across the Air Force, Army, Navy and industry tested multiple real time data sharing tools and technology in a homeland defense-based scenario enacted by U.S. Northern Command and enabled by Air Force senior leaders. The collection of networked systems and immediately available information is critical to enabling joint service operations across all domains.
During her speech at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium in February, Barrett stated, “Our priorities can be summed up simply. We need a modern, smart, connected, strong Air and Space Force to deter and defend against aggression and preserve precious freedom and peace.”
The Air Force is changing, but as Wilson puts it, “The threat has changed; now we’re looking through a lens that is an existential change, and an existential threat out there.”
A new study on the military’s pay and compensation system asks a surprising question: Are troops getting paid too much?
Service members have typically earned about 70% of the salaries for civilians with similar skill sets, when factoring in their housing and allowances to offset food costs. That’s the level of compensation researchers found the military would need to offer to recruit and retain the right quality and quantity of personnel, according to a new report from RAND Corporation, a nonprofit think tank.
But troops’ compensation has jumped beyond that 70th percentile mark for both officers and enlisted troops, according to RAND. Over the course of the 2000s, military pay relative to civilian pay “increased substantially,”the report’s author wrote.
Now that enlisted troops are earning closer to 90% of what their civilian counterparts make, and officers about 83%, she says it’s “raising the question of whether military pay is set too high relative to civilian pay.”
The report, which Military Timesfirst wrote about, looks at how the military’s pay system could be improved to support recruitment, retention and performance. Beth Asch, a senior economist at the RAND Corporation, doesn’t make a determination about whether troops are overpaid, but rather recommends the levels be assessed.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Leland White)
“Given that military pay is above the 70th percentile benchmark and has been for some time, the important question is whether this benchmark is still relevant or whether military pay is set too high relative to civilian pay,” Asch wrote.
In addition to their pay, troops also live on base at no cost or receive a non-taxable housing allowance if they reside off post. That amount is determined by pay grade, geographic location and family size. Active-duty troops may also draw stipends to offset food costs.
Troops are also eligible for military-provided health care, but those benefits aren’t factored into the military compensation totals referenced in this study. There are other benefits and advantages, too, that may draw people to the military that are not factored into the calculation, including skills training, guaranteed employment on multi-year contracts and free post-secondary education through the post-9/11 GI Bill, among others.
Of course, military service also comes with unique challenges and risks — including deployments, mandatory moves and far less employment flexibility than the civilian world offers.
As military pay improved, so did the quality of troops, Asch said — that is, in all the services but the Army.
“The reason why the Army did not increase recruit aptitude as military pay rose relative to civilian pay is an open question,” she wrote.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Weismiller)
One possibility, Asch wrote, was that the introduction of the post-9/11 G.I. Bill cut out the Army’s ability to provide education benefit “kickers” to recruits entering selected occupations. Since all recruits got access to post-9/11 education benefits, the Army might have struggled to attract some high-quality prospects, she said.
Aside from recruiting, Asch discusses how military pay affects retention and performance. Rather than simply relying on step increases when troops pick up new rank, Asch says a more flexible system could incentivize hard work.
“The primary source of flexibility and efficiency in the military compensation system turns out to be only a small fraction of cash compensation,” RAND’s key findings state. “Special and incentive pays are not as efficient as they could be in providing incentives for retention and performance.”
The think tank recommends improving how incentive and special pays are handled to “increase flexibility and efficiency.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
We’ve all heard the jokes — some are making calls for Secretary of Defense James Mattis to throw his hat into the 2020 presidential election. We’d have to admit, it’d be pretty funny because the slogan writes itself: Mad Dog 2020. For the uniformed, when you combine Mattis’ nickname with the year of the election, you’e left with a reference to a cheap, fortified wine that tastes only slightly better than “fruit-flavored” cough syrup.
First of all, let’s set a few things straight: The ‘MD’ in “MD 20/20” doesn’t actually stand for “Mad Dog,” but rather Mogen David, the company responsible for the nasty drink. The numbers 20/20 mean it’s a 20 oz. bottle filled with a substance that’s 20% alcohol by volume, which is funny because it’s actually sold at 13%.
And most importantly, General James Mattis (Ret.) doesn’t give a flying f*ck about politics.
Secretary Mattis is a military man, through and through.
(DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)
Recently, Pentagon Press Secretary Dana White responded to an erroneously cited “source” that told them that Secretary Mattis said, “I’d kick Trump’s ass in 2020, and I just might have to!”
That is so far from the truth that the Pentagon “got quite a laugh” from it and called it “complete fiction.” Mattis is not a politician and has remained true to his apolitical mindset in Washington. In fact, one of Secretary Mattis’ greatest strengths is that he has bipartisan support.
Yes, he was confirmed under President Trump, but he has never shown any sign of support for or against either political party. This neutrality is a core component to avoiding an undesired rabbit hole that would only hinder his leadership over the defense department.
As much as the politics game sucks nowadays, it’s kind of hard to become president if you don’t play the politics game for either party.
(DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)
Secretary Mattis managed to make many allies across both political parties by promising to stay true to his goal of leading the military. He was close to many staffers from the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations. He was confirmed immediately in the Senate by a vote of 98 to 1. The sole “nay” came from a senator who was opposed to waiving a clause in the National Security Act of 1947, which required being a minimum of seven years removed from military service to become the Secretary of Defense – but still agreed that he was the right man for the job.
For his efforts, he has managed to keep politics out of the way the military operates. That way, when he proposes a budget, neither side will argue with the man who is clearly the most qualified to make an estimate — his assessments are very obviously not driven by party politics.
But, you know, a vet can dream… right?
Now, this isn’t to say that he wouldn’t make a fantastic president. Mattis is unarguably one of the most brilliant minds the modern military has to offer and many of the finest presidents in America’s history cut their teeth with leading men on the battlefield before taking on the country. There’s also no denying his near cult-like following by almost everyone within the military community — he’s already got a supportive base.
But, even if Secretary Mattis were to, for whatever strange reason, decide to run for president in 2020 (which, again, just won’t happen), he’d never willingly use “Mad Dog 2020” as his slogan.
He isn’t a fan of the “Mad Dog” moniker and he doesn’t drink alcohol.
In the military, we had such a strong bond with those with whom we served. From day one in uniform, we had a battle buddy by our side. The closeness we had with our brothers and sisters is not something for those that didn’t serve to easily understand. Would your current co-workers pull ticks out for you from near your anus? Yeah, that actually happened to me … Thanks Mac, that’s what we call close! Do you think the people you work with now would run into gunfire for you?
We leave that family and often, many feel alone. This feeling is natural because being out of uniform is different from still serving. However, it’s what every veteran goes through as they leave their service. We may not talk about it at parties, but it’s as real as anything else in the world. This feeling can’t be ignored, but must be addressed.
It’s no secret that we have a suicide problem in the U.S. and even more profound in our veteran community. It’s a sad reality that we’ve lost more to suicide — over 108,000 — than combat during the Global War on Terror. Most of us know a brother or sister who’s taken their life after losing their personal battle at home. We can never eliminate the crisis, but we can certainly limit the amount who are overcome by their demons.
According to Stop Soldier Suicide, a nonprofit focused on reducing the number of service members and veterans lost to suicide, veterans are at a 50 percent higher risk of suicide than those who didn’t serve. By 2030, the number of veteran suicides will be 23 times higher than post 9/11 combat deaths. There has been a 93 percent increase in the suicide rate of male veterans aged 18 to 34.
I applaud people bringing attention to the issue through different methods. It may be doing 22 pushups a day, talking about why they served for 21 days or, I’ve also seen other messages and posts on social media raising awareness about the problem. We know there’s a problem, but I’m more for doing what Non-Commissioned Officers always do: Identify the problem, develop solutions and implement change.
Let’s be more proactive.
While serving, we saw our teammates every day. We were able to witness signs that they may be struggling. Being around each other so much, we could see if their behaviors changed, if they were down, if they showed the signs of depression and if they needed help. These checks are more difficult when we’re out of the military.
One of my favorite quotes: “You don’t need to have a patch on your arm to have honor.” – LT Kaffee at the end of A Few Good Men.
I’m challenging you to do one thing: pick up the phone and call someone you served with. Check on them. Ask them how they’re doing and listen. This is not a time to bullshit around the topic – ask them if they’re doing ok. How are they handling being out of uniform? Bring up the fact that it’s different and you feel the difference, too. We know how to accomplish tough tasks — this should be easier because of the love we have for those we served with. Have a real talk, reconnect and you may help someone suffering silently.
It’s not easy for people to acknowledge they’re having problems; generally, it’s not our veteran way. It’s not a disorder and we’re not broken. If we look out for each other and remove the stigma, we can mitigate the risks. Let’s show our love for our brothers and sisters. If you need help, reach out. And, reach out to others and do a buddy check.
It is my staunch belief that warriors are born and not created. In the case of either you can trace back through your past to your first ever action that made you realize — though not likely back then at the time — that you were destined to take the warrior’s or the leader’s path through life.
I came up through Army infantry at 19 years old gravely afraid of heights, a condition that kept me from becoming a paratrooper, the gateway training to the elite forces. After two years in the infantry, I was ready to jump even without a parachute if that was what it took to get me out of that horror show.
I made it into the Green Berets only to be met with great disappointment, as in those years between wars I felt we were more of an in-case-of-war-break-glass unit with peacetime ambition and an equally disappointing budget. The thought of going to war with my Green Beret A-Team scared me to the extent that I ran arms-flailing to the Delta Force, where I immediately faded into anonymity by a sea of raw talent and sheer badassery. I was home.
But even after arriving at the unit, which requires one of the toughest selections on the planet, I came to realize that the essence of my warrior spirit had been with me all along. I can finally go back to the very early days of my own basic army training and identify an event that has stayed with me for so many years. Finally, I think I understand what it meant and why the simple memory has remained close to my heart for so many decades.
Search as I have for hints of warrior potential during my coming of military status in basic training, I’m put finally in mind of a trivial incident that remains to impress me still today. I have thought of it often in attempts to make sense of it. Since it is mine, I shall own the interpretation.
It was during my own Infantry Basic Training in Sand Hill Georgia, where my platoon and I were waiting in the pine woods for a couple of hours between training events. At times like those, there was nothing to do but notice and complain about how hot it was, and it was plenty hot.
We boys huddled under the shade of an awning in our steel helmets. In that year I learned that shade was indeed only a state of mind, and had little physical impact on the Georgia swelter; where a boundary blocked the direct sun’s rays, the humidity served to usher the heat around obstacles, presenting it to who would cower. “We” huddle and bitched and complained and moaned, making it all the worse. I quickly grew annoyed with the negative attitude of the group to the extent that I, but for slight, sniped at them verbally.
The “group” — my group: the hayseed from under the Bible Belt who spoke maybe just a little too fondly of his female cousin, the guy who came in for college; he already had one semester and constantly wanted everyone to know that by saying things like: “Yeah, but that doesn’t detract from or minimize the context of what I’m saying,” the fellow who was given the choice by a judge of either the Army or jail, the black man whose dad and grandad were both in the Army before him, the white dude who felt a patriotic debt to the country but really had no clue what that meant, the Chicano who wanted something different out of life… anything other than what he was living at the time.
And then there was — OMG! — that Asian fellow who during a group debate on race and equality announced to the group: “If there is a man here who can sh*t with his pants on, let him stand now and show it!” As God as my witness, he did say that. I resigned to the notion that he was trying for something along the lines of “We all put on our trousers one leg at a time.”
I suffered too from the heat, but the urge to bellow seemed so futile, only adding to the misery. Knowing no better, I decided to remove myself from the crowd, so I stood and stepped some fifty feet away in direct view of the blazing sun. There I squatted in the muddy sand and hung my head and thought:
“The heat is bad, but it’s better than being in the shade with the pity patrol. Bad means there is a worse; there is even a worse than this… somewhere. This too is bearable. All things, no matter the intensity, are always bearable. Here, I’m setting an example for all my platoon — see me here, guys? It’s not so bad!”
Indeed remarks wafted over:
“What the hell’s the idiot doing?”
“He can’t last out there like that.”
“Someone needs to go get him; he’s delirious, he is.”
“Yeah, holy crap, man!”
You see, now no longer were they absconded in their own misery; they were submersed in mine. I had taken their suffering away, even if for this brief bout of minutes. “I complained because I had no shoes, and then I saw a man who had no feet.” Bad begets worse, and even worse is tolerable.
I think by wanting to be alone I had only drawn attention to myself… but it was done, and now I would give them a show. This is how we deal with the pain. This is how we stand up and take it… how we shake it off and defy it! This is how a much grander force within us makes a thing like the Georgia swelter such an insignificant trifle — “pour it on, Blythe! Fire your weapon!”
From the nose of my drooped head, beads of sweat were queued up and falling in serial. I decided that I would count off 100 of them before I went back to the shade. When 100 beads had fallen, I decided that I would let yet another 100 fall before I relented… then another 100, followed by another then another concatenation of 100.
After 500 had fallen, I stood and removed my helmet. I shook my face wildly, like a dog shakes off pool water upon exit. I wiped my face with my sleeves as I trudged back to the shade and the group. I remarked as I squatted back down:
“Yep… it’s a real scorcher out there today, brothers.”
And there was nothing but silence and a man who reached out his canteen my way, which I graciously declined.
Sometimes we imagine the Earth was gifted with us, to just be us, our mystical, magical, wonderful selves. Other times we might wonder if the planet might get along just swimmingly without us. Ask ten people if they “march to the beat of a different drum,” and you will get ten affirmative answers every time. Now watch when the different drumsticks start their cadence how many stand, step out, and march… and keep marching until 500 beads of their sweat have rolled from their nose and hit the ground.
As I have searched and debated over the years to answer the question are warriors born or made, I often think back to the quote from Heraclitus nearly 2,000 years ago,
“Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn’t even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.” (Heraclitus c. 535 – c. 475 BCE)
Ethiopian Emperor Tewodros II spent his last hours holed up in a fort near the Red Sea town of Maqdala. He was under siege by British troops who had just routed his numerically superior force and tore through his lines. With the British storming his fortress, the Emperor shot himself in the head, ironically using a gun gifted to him from Queen Victoria.
British forces had a field day with the fort. They would eventually destroy it before heading back to England, but first, they had to plunder everything of value from the captured prize. Their victory train required 15 elephants and 200 mules to carry all the gold, gems, and artifacts back to where they came from. But the British took more than that, they presented the Emperor’s seven-year-old son to Queen Victoria and kept locks of Emperor Tewodros II’s hair as a prize.
Not my first prize choice, but whatever.
Tewodros’ legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of Ethiopians to this day. More than 150 years later, the defiant Emperor’s spirit of independence inspires some of Ethiopia’s finest writers and artists. He is now a symbol for the potential of the country, a forward-thinking leader that would not bow to outside pressure or simply allow his people to be colonized. His star was on the rise as he worked to keep his country away from the brink of destruction, only to be brought down in a less-than-glorious way.
The Christian emperor was busy reuniting Ethiopia from various breakaway factions as the power and force of Islam and of Islamic nations put pressure on him to push back. Tewodros expected help from the Christian nations of the world but found none was forthcoming. He tried imprisoning British officials to force an expedition to come to Ethiopia’s aid. He got an expedition, but the 12,000 troop-strong force was coming for him, not his enemies.
The fort at Maqdala overlooks a deep valley. The British did not have an easy time of it here.
The Emperor imprisoned those officials at Maqdala, where he himself was holed up, along with 13,000 of his own men. The British force coming to the fort was comprised of only 9,000 men, but they were carrying superior firepower with them. When the redcoats completely tore up the Abyssinian army, Tewodros decided to take his own life, rather than submit to the humiliations that the British would surely subject him to.
That small act of defiance earned him immortality in Ethiopia, who remembers Tewodros today as one of the country’s most prominent cultural and historical figures.
And for decades, the Ethiopians have demanded the return of Tewodors’ hair. Only now, after decades and a French push to restore captured colonial artifacts to their home countries, has England ever considered giving in.
With heavily tattooed arms, a motorcycle vest, red bandana, and long goatee, Jay Dobyns fit the stereotype for the kind of person who would hang around the street-hardened bikers of the Hells Angels Skull Valley Charter. He would peddle T-shirts for the one-percenter motorcycle club, run errands at ungodly hours, and eventually break bread with individuals who wouldn’t think twice about taking a baseball bat to someone’s head.
Two years in, and the Hells Angels had no idea that Dobyns, who was close to getting his patch, was an undercover agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The patch is sacrosanct to the Hells Angels. After a shootout between the Hells Angels and the Mongols, a rival biker gang, “We found Mongols cuts in vents, stuffed in trash cans, and some were floating down the Colorado River,” Dobyns said. “As far as the Hells Angels and their patches, we didn’t find a single one. The Hells Angels don’t take off their patches for anyone.”
Becoming a patched member of the gang is no easy task — and Dobyns had already done a lot more than simply run errands for them in his attempt to be welcomed into the gang.
Dobyns undercover with the Hells Angels.
(Photo courtesy of Jay Dobyns)
At times, he even had to participate in assaults, getting a taste of the vicious world in which the Hells Angels reside.
“My reaction was to fight my way to the victim and take control of the victim, throw my punches, both maintain my cover and protect my persona, and protect the victim from any life-threatening battle damage,” Dobyns said. “It’s one of the elements of tradecraft.”
For the Hells Angels, it was hardly enough.
In 2002, the rift between the Hells Angels and their legendary rivals, the Mongols, hit a boiling point. The two gangs were involved in a big-time gunfight at the Harrah Casino Hotel in Laughlin, Nevada. It was the event that led to Dobyns going undercover.
Dobyns wanted to get a good idea of where the Hells Angels stood against the Mongols, especially with what had happened in Laughlin. “I asked the president of the Skull Valley Charter what I should do if I come across a Mongol,” Dobyns said. “And he said to me, ‘It’s your job to kill him.'”
As time passed, Dobyns sat on the incriminating information from the charter president, continuing to gain more trust with the gang members, all while a series of homicides happened in his wake. One of the murders was particularly brutal. The Hells Angels beat a woman to death in their clubhouse, wrapped her body in a piece of carpet, and cut her head off in the desert.
It was a pivotal moment in the investigation. Dobyns decided it was time for the Hells Angels to see how far he was willing to go to show his devotion and loyalty. If it worked, he was in. If it didn’t, he was dead.
“We took a living, breathing member of our task force, got a Mongols cut, dressed him up in the vest, and brought in a homicide detective to create a crime scene,” Dobyns said. “We used makeup, animal parts, animal blood, and dug a shallow grave. Then we duct taped his hands and feet and threw him in the grave.”
The elaborate ruse needed to be properly documented in order to convince the Hells Angels leadership that it was real.
The fake homicide Dobyns used to get patched into the Hells Angels.
(Photo courtesy of Jay Dobyns)
“I asked the homicide detective to make it look like the victim had been beaten with a baseball bat and shot in the head,” Dobyns said. “Almost Hollywood-style. We photographed it. We took pictures of the crime scene, and we took the bloody mongol vest back to the Hells Angels leadership.”
Dobyns showed the vest to the charter president, the vice president, the sergeant-at-arms and one another member of the gang. “They were either going to believe me, or I was going to get a baseball bat to the back of the head or razor wire to the throat,” he said.
Fortunately, the president didn’t have any plans to dispose of Dobyns. In fact, quite the opposite: They hugged him, kissed him, and welcomed him into the gang.
Convinced that Dobyns had just savagely murdered a Mongol, the gang wanted to immediately get rid of the fabricated proof. “We went out to the desert and burned all the evidence along with the Mongol cut. They helped destroy the evidence of the murder we exposed them to in order to cover up the crime.”
Dobyns now had his patch, but his time in the Hells Angels was coming to an end.
The investigation, code named “Operation Black Biscuit,” concluded with ATF executives citing that it was too dangerous to continue — even though Dobyns argued that they should let him stay and work the case. Regardless, he remains the first law enforcement officer to successfully infiltrate the cold and callous world of the Hells Angels.
Momma babysits inmates at Arizona State Prison. Dad served as a Marine in the 90s. My little brother drives a 23%-interest, blacked-out Dodge Charger, which means — you guessed it — he is also a Marine. I, on the other hand, chose to study theatre and English.
My brother and I were raised (like nearly all children of military/law enforcement parents) on a diet of heavy structure, logic, toughness, discipline, preparedness, and accountability. He ordered seconds; I drew a pretty picture on the menu with a crayon.
From one generation to the next — see the resemblance?
The closest I ever came to military service was yelling, “1, 2” as a toddler in the bath when my dad would call out “sound off” from his living room recliner.
The closest I ever came to being a corrections officer was babysitting an 8-year-old kid obsessed with cramming Cheerios up his nose. He claims his record was 12, but when I told him to prove it, he could only fit, like, 6 or 7. Liar.
I say “corrections officer” because my momma prefers the term “corrections officer.” She thinks the term “prison guard” describes a knuckle-dragging extra in an action movie — who, by the way, always seem to get killed in movies. Like dozens of them just get absolutely mowed down, usually by the GOOD guys, and nobody cares. Nobody! Do you know what it feels like to be in a large room full of people who cheer and clap every time Jason Statham snaps the neck of your could-be mother on-screen? Not super great.
It always occurred to me as odd that I noticed that in movies and my momma never did. But it highlights an important aspect of growing up in that atmosphere — you don’t really talk about how or why you feel a certain way. Which, if you’re coming from a prison system or a military system, is completely understandable. In those worlds it’s all about short, useful information: yes sir, copy, etc.
I think that rigid structure ironically led me to be drawn to things I found subjective and expressive — sort of like Malia Obama smokin’ weed, or Jaden Smith doing, uhhh, whatever it is that he’s doing. However, that made me a sort of black sheep — not really feeling like I belonged on either side of the fence.
Here’s what I mean: I can go out and absolutely slam some brews with my little brother and his military brothers. We can talk about why we think the Raiders can’t seem to win a damn game, we slug each other in the arm, and tell each other truly depraved jokes.
But, I’m still gonna end up hanging on his shoulder, telling him how much I love him, and I’ll inevitably tear up while telling him I cried reading a Wilfred Owen poem that reminded me of him while he was deployed. That’s just who I am. They never really quite feel comfortable in emotional moments. And that’s okay — it’s just a difference — like how my brother looks like a Jason Statham character (it’s a love/hate thing with that guy) when he’s shooting a gun, but I look kinda like Bambi trying to learn how to walk.
Conversely, if I’m out with some of my theatre or comedy buddies, the military/prison differences are highlighted. They are, for instance, fifteen minutes late to everything. I, personally, would rather take a shot of bleach than be late. Sure, they can be comfortable discussing how they feel (maybe even too much) — but they are terrified of any confrontation. I once had an actor sit me down and ask me what being in a fight felt like. Me, the guy who cries at Silver Linings Playbook, was seen as traditionally masculine.
Plus, they’re always excited to hear me suggest a “blanket party” until they find out what it is. Bummer.
So either way, my folks shaped who I am. The military and the prison — they shaped my folks. Those systems; the words, the discipline, the people — it’s impossible to separate them.
Even though I’ve never fastened a utility belt at 5 a.m. and willingly locked myself in a prison with violent offenders, even though I could never imagine what it feels like to tie up your boots and go to war for your family — the lessons they learned while they did those things for me, even if indirectly, shaped who I am.
It is only because my folks got their hands dirty, raised me to embrace who I am — to follow what I believe in — that I have the dear privilege to sit here, criss-cross-applesauce, and type this up while I blow gingerly at a decaf coffee that’s a little too hot for my lips.