An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

When Air Force veteran Jerome Hardaway left the military in 2009 after five years, he planned to transition to a civilian job after his service. However, he found that the recession’s lingering impact on the economy meant that jobs were still scarce.

“It was very painful coming back to America,” Hardaway, who’s based in Nashville, told Business Insider.

People would say, “Thank you for your service,” but not hire him, he explained. As he continued looking for jobs, he saw a commercial about a course for teaching people how to code.

While he didn’t take the class — “There were really great resources I didn’t have money for,” Hardaway said — it inspired him to get a book on databases. From there, he taught himself SQL and eventually landed a job as a database analyst for the Department of Homeland Security in 2010.

Eventually, he started teaching himself other programming skills, too, including Ruby on Rails and JavaScript, as well as learning about open source software by reading project documentation and source code and contributing as a general member, finding the JavaScript community to be especially welcoming. He even had the opportunity in 2014 to train in web development at General Assembly.

“I’m an African American male in the south trying to get into a dominant white male industry,” Hardaway said. “Before people look at my veteran status, I have that to overcome.”

In 2014, while Hardaway was working as a digital marketing assistant for a nonprofit, he connected with a family who lost their son in a police shooting and built them a website where he told the young vet’s story. Through this website, the family was able to raise $10,000, and the moving encounter spurred Hardaway to launch a new project:

Hardaway’s nonprofit, Vets Who Code, focuses on teaching veterans the programming skills they need for software engineering jobs and it’s completely free for veterans to participate. So far, the organization has helped over 250 veterans in 37 states learn how to be developers. 

Right now, Vets Who Code teaches languages like JavaScript, cloud technologies like Amazon Web Services, user experience design, GitHub, frameworks like React, and more, as well as less tangible skills, like what it takes to succeed in an engineering job.

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech
Jerome Hardaway, founder of Vets Who Code and Air Force veteran

The nonprofit aims to reduce job anxiety for veterans and take advantage of their skills 

While more than 250,000 military service members transition into the workforce each year according to Navy Federal, one of the greatest anxieties for veterans is being able to find a stable job that honors the skills and experiences they’ve gained from the military.

“The military trains you to be good at what the military needs you to be, not in regards to preparing you for the civilian sector,” Hardaway said.

While in the Air Force, Hardaway served in Iraq, Afghanistan and South Korea and had duties in security, checking airplanes, and law enforcement. However, it wasn’t easy to convey to how those skills could be useful in the larger job market.

While the military has programs that help veterans transition to going back to civilian life, Hardaway says they’re not as effective as they should be, partly because they’re run by people who have never fully transitioned to that life themselves. Unfortunately, it’s all too common for veterans to “fall into these cracks,” he said. 

Because of his own experience, though, Hardaway knows that many of the skills he learned can be directly applicable to software jobs.

“It has made me more of a go-getter, take initiative, and learn on my own, and of course, more discipline,” Hardaway said. “It’s helped me focus on the things that matter: learning how to write code, focusing on the things needed to be employed, teaching the veterans the same skills in my transition.”

For example, Hardaway says the military taught him to drill and adapt to new things faster – all of which helped him when he was learning to write code. In addition, veterans are used to teamwork and over-communicating as they did in the military, and these skills come into play when they work together on a software project.

That’s why Vets Who Code puts an emphasis on coordinating group projects for its students:

“That’s the true secret, making you a good worker, not just a good programmer,” Hardaway said.

Ultimately, Hardaway said that his goal is to empower as many veterans as possible to get good jobs in tech, like he did:

“I’m hoping my sisters and brothers [in the military] don’t have to deal with the hardships I had to deal with.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s what could happen if India and Pakistan have a nuclear war

Pakistan and India have fought three wars over Kashmir, a disputed territory to which both nations lay claim. Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, recently suggested the countries could be headed toward another.”

There is a potential that two nuclear-armed countries will come face to face at some stage,” Khan said at the United Nations annual summit in September 2019, referring to the Kashmir conflict.

Together, India and Pakistan possess 2% of the world’s nuclear arsenal: India is estimated to have around 140 nuclear warheads, while Pakistan is estimated to have around 160. But they’re in an arms race to acquire more weapons.


By 2025, India and Pakistan could have expanded their arsenals to 250 warheads each, according to a new paper that predicts what might happen if the two nations entered into a nuclear war.

In that extreme scenario, the researchers write, a cloud of black soot could envelop the sky, causing temperatures to fall dramatically. Key agricultural hotspots would lose the ability to grow crops, triggering a global famine.

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

Truck-mounted Missiles on display in Karachi, Pakistan.

“It would be instant climate change,” Alan Robock, an author of the study, told Business Insider. “Nothing like this in history, since civilization was developed, has happened.”

His paper estimates that up to 125 million people could die.

Nuclear weapons are becoming more powerful

Robock said the situation outlined in the paper isn’t likely, but it’s possible. So to determine the hypothetical consequences of a nuclear war between Pakistan and India, the researchers sought the advice of military experts.

“We clearly don’t want to burn cities and see what would happen,” Robock said. “Most scientists have test tubes or accelerators. Nature is our laboratory, so we use models.”

The paper doesn’t speculate as to which nation is more likely to initiate a conflict. But it estimates that if India wanted to destroy Pakistan’s major cities, the nation would need to deploy around 150 nuclear weapons. The calculations assume that some of these weapons might miss their target or fail to explode, so the model is based on the explosion of 100 weapons in Pakistan.

If Pakistan attacked India’s major cities, the researchers estimated, about 150 nuclear weapons would likely go off.

If all of those bombs were 15-kiloton weapons — the size of the “Little Boy” atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan — the researchers predict that 50 million people would die.

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

“Little Boy” atomic bomb.

(Public domain)

But Robock said the US’ nuclear weapons today are around 100 to 500 kilotons, so it’s likely that India and Pakistan will have acquired more powerful weapons by 2025, the year in which his simulation takes place. If the nations were to use 100-kiloton weapons, the study suggests, that conflict could kill about 125 million people.

A nuclear war between India and Pakistan could wreck Earth’s climate

Nuclear explosions produce sweltering heat. Structures catch on fire, and then winds either spread those flames or the fire draws in the surrounding air, creating an even larger blaze known as a firestorm.

Either way, enormous amounts of smoke would enter the air, the researchers write. A small portion of this smoke would contain “black carbon,” the sooty material that usually comes from the exhaust of a diesel engine. That substance would then get pumped through the troposphere (the lowest layer of Earth’s atmosphere) and into the stratosphere. Within weeks, black carbon particles could spread across the globe.

It would be “the biggest injection of smoke into the stratosphere that we’ve ever seen,” Robock said.

Smoke particles can linger in the stratosphere for about five years and block out sunlight. In Robock’s simulation, that could cause Earth’s average temperature to drop by up to 5 degrees Celsius. Temperatures could get “as cold as the Ice Age,” he said. With less energy from the sun, the world could also experience up to 30% less rain.

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

An Indian Agni-II intermediate range ballistic missile on a road-mobile launcher.

The researchers estimate that it would take more than a decade for temperatures and precipitation to return to normal. In the meantime, farmers around the world — especially in India, China, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, tropical South America, and Africa — would struggle to grow food.

Entire marine ecosystems could also be devastated, which would destroy local fishing economies.

In sum, the authors write, a nuclear war could trigger mass starvation across the globe.

“As horrible as the direct effects of nuclear weapons would be, the indirect effects on our food supply would be much worse,” Robock said.

This isn’t the first time Robock has modeled this type of scenario: In 2014, he contributed to a paper that predicted what would happen if India and Pakistan deployed 50 weapons apiece, each with the strength of a “Little Boy” atomic bomb.

Even that “limited” nuclear-war scenario, he found, would cripple the ozone layer, expose people to harmful amounts of ultraviolet radiation, and lower Earth’s surface temperatures for more than 25 years. But those explosions wouldn’t release nearly as much black carbon as the scenario in the newer model, so the cooling effect wouldn’t be as severe.

‘We’ve been really lucky’

Robock said this type of global climate catastrophe has happened before, but has never been created by humans. He compared the nuclear conflict modeled in the recent paper to the asteroid crash that triggered the extinction of dinosaurs 66 million years ago. That explosion released billions of tons of sulfur into the atmosphere, causing global temperatures to plummet.

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after the dropping of Little Boy.

Robock emphasized that unlike that disaster, nuclear war is preventable.

“There are all kinds of ways that something like this could happen, but if nuclear weapons didn’t exist, then it wouldn’t produce a nuclear war,” he said.

A key takeaway of the paper, he said, is that when nations threaten to nuke one another, they threaten their own safety, too. A nuclear war between two countries would “affect everybody in the world, not just where the bombs were dropped,” he added.

“We’ve been really lucky for the last 74 years” since Hiroshima, Robock said. “Our luck might run out sometime.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

2,000 Gold-Star family members go to Disney thanks to Gary Sinise

The Gary Sinise Foundation, a non-profit that focuses on veterans, first responders, and their families, has helped send almost 2,000 people from Gold Star families to Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida, as part of Snowball Express, a holiday season program that aims to help families of fallen service members.


According to an Instagram post, the foundation is tracking 1,722 participants this year, including hundreds of kids from over 650 families.

Snowball Express started in 2006 and aims to create a five-day experience for the families that is fun, inspiring, and therapeutic. In 2017, Snowball Express became an official Gary Sinise Foundation program.

The program may be young, but through the tireless work of its supporters and members, it has quickly made an impact on participants. A tweet from Fallen Patriots, a non-profit that focuses on helping Gold Star family members get to college, said that participant Dale Mundell now wants to fly for American Air, the airline sponsoring the event, in order to help other family members take part in such events in the future.


I witnessed an international airport come to a complete stop today …

facebook.com

Airports got in on the festivities as well. The Killeen Airport, a familiar location for any service members who have activated or deployed through Fort Hood, Texas, welcomed Snowball Express participants and a man in a Santa costume met with the families.

In Nashville, other travelers stopped what they were doing and held a rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. U.S. troops in the terminal stood at attention and saluted as the song was performed, and you can see bystanders drying their eyes in a Facebook video of the event.

Meanwhile, airport employees seem amped about the Snowball Express as well. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association sent tote bags to participants to help them get all their goods from location to location, and the controllers themselves posted photos on social media celebrating as flights took off from airfields under their control.

And around the Disney parks, other park goers and local residents have chimed in on social media as they ran into the crowds of Gold Star family members and were affected by the experience. For some, it was simply a great experience to see all the happy families, but for others, it was also a somber reminder that service members and first responders are still in harm’s way every day.

After all, some participants are as young as 2 or 3 years old, as Snowball Express participant Ramonda Anderson pointed out in a tweet.

If you’re interested in supporting the Gary Sinise Foundation, which also builds adaptive homes for disabled veterans, hosts free theater nights for veterans, and helps pay for training and equipment for first responders, they are always accepting donations on their website and are part of the Combined Federal Campaign. Use CFC number 27963.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Service Academy athletes can now go pro after graduation

When Chad Hennings won the top award for College Football’s best inside lineman in 1987, it significantly raised his stock for the NFL draft. He would need it. Despite being the best in the game in his day, he still wasn’t drafted until the 11th round. The reason is that Hennings played football at the Air Force Academy, and would have to serve four years in the military before he could pursue his NFL dreams.

He wouldn’t have to do that today. Defense Secretary Mark Esper just signed a new memo, laying out the guidelines newly-graduated academy athletes need to pursue professional sports careers instead of entering the military.


An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

Go Chad!

Hennings spent four years as a pilot and would actually get his last four years waived by the Air Force. By the time he got to the Dallas Cowboys, he was already 27 years old – almost elderly by NFL standards. Luckily for Hennings, he really was one of the best linemen ever to play the game. After his first start in 1992, he went on to win three Super Bowls and snag 27.5 sacks before retiring after the 2000 season. But other athletes weren’t so lucky.

The issue of letting service members who can play at a professional level attempt that dream has been hotly debated by both pro sports fans and policymakers in Washington. The NCAA is big business now, and the NFL is even bigger, generating 5 million and .1 billion in annual revenues, respectively. The pressure to maintain popular talent is definitely on, but the service academies mean more than just big bucks for big-time athletes. They’re supposed to, anyway. There are many who are against the idea.

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

One in particular.

Before the Obama Administration, academy athletes were required to fulfill their service obligations. The Obama Administration allowed academy athletes to defer their service if they were good enough to be drafted by the NFL. Shortly after Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds was allowed to be drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 2016, the Pentagon rescinded that policy. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis believed the academies “exist to develop future officers,” and those trained officers should fulfill the expectations of their education.

President Trump stepped in in June 2019, saying there was such a short window of talent between their college career and potential professional sports careers, that academy athletes should be allowed to try and take advantage. On Nov. 15, 2019, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper signed a memo that dictates what the athletes must do to try and take advantage – which includes getting permission from the SECDEF and either serving their commitment or paying the government back for their education.

These days, academy grads usually owe the military five years of service after graduation. Under the new athletics policy, once permission is obtained from the Secretary of Defense, the athlete must agree to return to the military and serve those five years. The waiver is then reviewed by the DoD every year while the athlete is in his pro sports position. If they can’t pass the medical standards when they get to the military, they’ll serve five years in a civilian job. If they don’t do either of those, they’ll be charged for their education.

It’s not impossible for service academy grads to serve first and then join the NFL. In addition to the Cowboys’ Chad Hennings, Navy’s Roger Staubach, Mike Wahle, and Phil McConkey as well Army’s Glenn Davis and Alejandro Villanueva all had successful NFL careers after serving their obligations.

MIGHTY CULTURE

11 inspiring quotes by the Navy SEAL admiral who oversaw the bin Laden raid

Retired SEAL Adm. Bill McRaven had an illustrious 37-year career in the Navy.

The commando served in the elite SEAL Team 6 before he was fired by the unit’s commander, Richard Marcinko.

Following his firing, McRaven rose through the ranks, eventually commanding the Joint Special Operations Command.

While he served alongside America’s most elite fighters, he oversaw the capture of Saddam Hussein, the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips, and the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden.

The retired SEAL has had his share of controversy, most recently butting heads with President Donald Trump over the president’s attacks against the media and move to strip the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, who’s been a harsh Trump critic.


An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

Then-Adm. Bill McRaven at his retirement ceremony in 2014.

(Photo by SSG Sean K. Harp for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff)

1. “Changing the world can happen anywhere, and anyone can do it.”

This was just one of many famous quotes to come from a 2014 University of Texas commencement speech.

University of Texas at Austin 2014 Commencement Address – Admiral William H. McRaven

www.youtube.com

2. “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”

In the now famous speech that has been viewed over 4 million times on YouTube, McRaven gave University of Texas’ graduating class advice on how to change the world.

His first tip: Make your bed.

McRaven explains the mantra, which later became the title of a #1 New York Times bestselling book, will help people start each day by accomplishing a task — then one more, and another. It also helps emphasize the importance of the “little things.”

“And if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made — that you made,” he said. “And a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

(U.S. Navy)

4. “Sometimes no matter how well you prepare or how well you perform, you still end up a ‘sugar cookie.'”

In Navy SEAL training, sailors who failed at basic tasks had to perform extra training at the end of each day. These SEAL hopefuls had to jump into the surf then roll around until completely covered with sand — earning the nickname ‘sugar cookie.’

During his UT commencement speech in 2014, McRaven said that many who became frustrated that their hard work didn’t pay off often quit. The lesson, he said, was that the true test is how one recovers from failure.

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

McRaven, then head of US Special Operations Command, in Afghanistan in 2013.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jared Gehmann)

6. “The great [leaders] know how to fail.”

McRaven addressed cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point during a ceremony for its seniors who had 500 days left until graduation. His speech, called “A Sailor’s Perspective on the Army,” detailed leadership lessons he learned from Army officers during his 37 years in service.

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

McRaven reenlists a Navy SEAL in November 2013 at Camp McCloskey in Afghanistan during a Thanksgiving visit.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jared Gehmann)

7. “If you want to be a SEAL, you must do two things: Listen to your parents and be nice to the other kids.”

McRaven gave this piece of advice to a young boy who wrote the SEAL asking if the Navy’s most elite commandos were quieter than ninjas.

8. “It’s not just about holding people accountable, it’s making sure the people around you understand that their effort is worthwhile.”

During a speech at UT’s Moody College of Communications in February 2017, McRaven talked about the connection between leadership and communication.

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

McRaven presents a flag to a family member of a deceased US Navy SEAL during a ceremony in Ft. Pierce, Florida in 2012.

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class James Ginther)

9. “You may be in charge, but it’s never about you and you can’t forget that.”

During his speech at Moody College, McRaven said leaders always need to be aware of the impacts their decisions make on their subordinates.

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

McRaven speaks to service members at Joint Base San Antonio in Lackland, Texas in January 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Ave Young)

10. “There is nothing more important to a democracy than an active and engaged press.”

After his speech at Moody College, McRaven published his thoughts about the American press and President Donald Trump’s repeated attacks against the institution.

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

McRaven salutes at his 2014 retirement ceremony.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Sean Harp)

11. “I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well.”

McRaven authored a blistering rebuke of President Trump’s move to revoke the security clearnace of John Brennan, Obama’s CIA director who has been a harsh critic of Trump.

In the Washington Post op-ed, McRaven defended Brennan as a “man of unparalleled integrity” and said it would be “an honor” to have his own security clearance revoked along with Brennan’s.

Trump responded by calling McRaven a “Hillary Clinton fan.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 ways enlisted Marines want to ‘disrupt’ the Corps

Hundreds of Marines who gathered here in July 2018 were given a risky mission: to challenge their leaders when they’re doing something that doesn’t make sense.

That will be essential as the Marine Corps prepares to take on future adversaries, Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told attendees here at the third-annual Innovation Symposium.

“We’ve got to go faster; we’ve got to be more willing to take risks,” he said. “The only thing we can’t accept is not being willing to change. We’ve got to change.”


Being innovative in an organization as steeped in tradition as the Marine Corps, which also lives by its rank structure, doesn’t come easy. Leaders might not like what their junior Marines have to say, Neller warned, but the Corps needs people willing to challenge the status quo.

Marines here spent a week doing just that, presenting their ideas in civilian clothes and without much reference to their ranks. The vibe was more TED Talks than your typical military PowerPoint briefs, and the ideas were briefed up to a team of general officers.

Here are five ways some of those rank-and-file leathernecks think they can shake up the service.

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

A Marine yells orders to his squad members during an Integrated Training Exercise.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

1. Empowering the disruptors

Sgt. Ryan Reeder says it’s time for the Marine Corps to go through a culture shift. The infantry assaultman is getting ready to leave the service, and it’s not because his military occupational specialty is being phased out.

“No one incentivizes innovators,” said Reeder, an infantry assaultman who’s been studying computer science and will leave the Marine Corps in late 201 “… I can go get a six-figure job anywhere I want to. I want to stay in the Marine Corps, but innovation isn’t recognized.”

Reeder’s been serving with the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory’s noncommissioned officer fellowship program, which allows corporals and sergeants to test concepts and gear before they hit the fleet. NCOs who are willing to speak up offer some vital insight, he said, and leaders should want them to become the next staff NCOs.

“A lot of people don’t like a sergeant coming up here and talking to a star or a colonel like I do,” he said. “But … it’s all about the ideas, not the rank that you wear.”

2. Crowdsourcing ideas

Marines face plenty of problems throughout their careers, and it can be tough to know if a solution already exists. Chief Warrant Officer 4 Sean Flores, a utilities officer with III Marine Expeditionary Force, helped build Phase Zero, a platform where Marines can share their problems and solutions in real-time.

“Maybe you’re trying to deal with countering [unmanned aerial vehicles]. Somebody else might’ve already solved that problem,” Flores said. “So you source it out, and some subject-matter expert might chime in and say, ‘This is how we dealt with it’ or ‘We’re having the same problem, so let’s work on it together and collaborate.’ “

Phase Zero had its soft opening on the marines.mil website in early 2018. Now, Flores said, they’re looking for Marines willing to help edit, code and moderate the site

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

Marines with Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, duck down for a deception breach during a company attack as part of Integrated Training Exercise 3-18 at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, May 10, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Antonia E. Mercado)

3. “Flattening the battalion”

In order to prepare for the future, Neller said the Corps can’t just take legacy gear and make it a little bit better. “We’ve got to change the force,” he said.

Two officers with 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines — 1st Lts. Christopher Mershon and Walker Mills — have ideas about what needs to change. They call it “flattening the battalion,” and they say it will move infantry units from the 20th century into the 21st.

Infantry units are set up in a pyramid structure and built for efficiency, Mershon said. Flattening them out by eliminating non-combat command billets would instead optimize them for adaptability. By integrating logistics and intelligence officers and analysts at the company level and sharing information from across the battlespace, Mershon said, it’ll allow commanders to make decisions faster.

“We’re making the correct relationships in our battalion because those relationships with our friends close our decision-making cycle,” he added.

Mills and Mershon also propose removing Marines performing administrative functions from the battalion, such as the headquarters and service or weapons platoon commanders. Those extra personnel could be moved into a training cadre, which Mills said would help relieve some of the strain on company commanders, and provide higher-quality training across the whole unit.

4. Improving training

Over the next decade, the Marine Corps’ maintenance depots will lose about 1,000 years of experience when officers and staff NCOs assigned to them retire. Those on their way out have come up with ways to get their replacements trained up quickly.

“Is the workforce we’re going to hire going to adhere to paper manuals that stack four feet high?” asked Maj. Dan Whitt with the Marine Corps Logistics Command innovation cell. Instead, depot personnel pitched moving toward animated digital manuals that display on a pair of augmented-reality glasses.

“We have 400 pieces of equipment we work on,” Whitt said. “How great would it be to speed up our training requirements?”

Now, other commands, including Training and Education Command, want to see what they can do with augmented-reality manuals. That’s why it’s important for Marines who have innovative ideas that could revolutionize the Corps to share them so they don’t go unheard, Whitt said.

5. Finding the best approach

When Staff Sgt. Alex Long was a lance corporal, he learned about those risks the commandant mentioned about challenging your leaders. When one of Long’s NCOs asked his Marines what they thought about his plan, Long didn’t hold back when he replied that it was stupid.

“That resulted in some quick and effective counseling,” he said. When Long was asked by his sergeant during one of his counseling sessions to define “tact,” he realized his mistake. His leaders weren’t offended by his ideas, but by his approach. He decided to work on his delivery in order to make his voice heard.

“Data has no rank,” said Long, who would go on to win the Marine Corps’ 2016 Innovation Challenge for a lightweight wearable device that allows Marines to communicate and resupply quickly. “You just have to know how to present it.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

A pandemic couldn’t stop the 2021 Pin-Up for Vets calendar

According to Marine Corps Veteran and avionics technician Monica Patrow, there is more to female veterans than meets the eye. “My Marine Corps uniform will forever be the most prideful thing I will ever wear. But with the uniform comes uniformity. And being a female, you can lose your feminine touches. Being a pin-up is an honor and a privilege, just like my five years spent in the Marine Corps.”

The award-winning non-profit organization Pin-Ups for Vets just announced the pre-sales for their 2021 fundraising calendar. While founder Gina Elise may have 15 years of experience producing the iconic pin-up images, this year she had a little obstacle: the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Female Veterans Become Pin-Ups For 2021 Calendar: PART 1

www.youtube.com

The Pin-Ups for Vets calendar has helped contribute to over ,000 for military hospitals to purchase new therapy equipment and to provide financial assistance for veterans’ healthcare programs across the United States.

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

(Pin Up for Vets)

Not only that, the calendar has a special meaning for the veteran ambassadors featured in its pages. “In addition to helping these female veterans embrace their femininity again, many of the ladies have said that being involved with our organization has given them a renewed sense of purpose after transitioning out of the military. It has given them a community again — and a mission to give back,” Elise reflected.

She knew she didn’t want to cancel the 2021 calendar — but safety was her chief concern and sacrifices had to be made.

In previous years, she was able to invite veterans from across the country to participate, but this year she limited her search to veterans within driving distance. In the past, her breathtaking locations have ranged from The Queen Mary to airfields and hangars. This year, she managed her calendar shoot at one outdoor location, Hartley Botanica, with military precision and carefully coordinated timetables to limit personal exposure and contact.

The result is exceptional.

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

U.S. Marine Ahmika Richards described what makes Pin-Ups for Vets so unique. “It is special to be involved with Pin-Ups for Vets because of the amazing work they do. They are an organization that gives back to a vulnerable part of our community — and that alone is invaluable. Their work is a great support to us veterans and I am so grateful that I was able to contribute to their organization through the 2021 calendar, which was an absolutely beautiful and wonderful experience.”

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

Coast Guard veteran and machinery technician Sarah Weber, currently working towards her doctorate in Psychology echoed Richards’ sentiments. “The best part of being involved with Pin-Ups For vets is the camaraderie. I work a lot with veterans in transition these days, on campus and clinically, and it is clear to me how much benefit there is in maintaining connection to a community of former or current service members. However, in most traditional organizations meant for those purposes, it is difficult to find many women veterans. This is not the case with Pin-Ups For Vets. I meet so many amazing, talented, big-hearted women through being involved with this organization. We can talk about the women-specific aspects of service, and it has been such a relief. This, on top of the fun of dressing up, volunteering and helping raise money for the cause of other veterans makes this the perfect way of staying involved in a community which I care so deeply about.”

While the organization’s 50-state VA hospital tour has been interrupted due to the pandemic, Pin-Ups For Vets is now shipping out care packages enclosed with gifts of appreciation to hospitalized veterans around the country. The organization also continues to ship care packages to deployed U.S. troops around the globe.

You can help support their initiatives by checking out their online shop and pre-ordering your 2021 calendar today!
MIGHTY CULTURE

The best beers to drink with your favorite Halloween candy

Once trick or treating is over and your kids are safely tucked into bed, you’ll probably want to engage in the time-honored tradition of “borrowing” some candy from her bucket of treats. And after a long night roaming the neighborhood, you’ll have more than earned a delicious beer. But which pairs best with the candy buffet you’re about to explore? For that, we asked some beer experts to see what brews they would drink alongside some of the most popular Halloween candies around. Here’s what they said.


1. Twix

Best with: A Hefeweizen like Funky Buddha’s Floridian Hefeweizen, Star Hill’s The Love Wheat Beer, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s Kellerweis.

Why? Matthew Stock, beer specialist for The Brass Tap, says that notes of banana and clove in wheat beers like Hefeweizens pair nicely with the caramel and shortbread flavors in Twix bars.

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(Photo by Ravi Shah)

2. Reese’s

Best with: A peanut butter porter (which seems obvious in retrospect) like Horny Goat Brewing Co.’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter.

Why? Jessica Salrin of Growler USA recommends doubling down on the peanut butter goodness of Twix with a porter that is itself made with peanut butter.

3. Skittles

Best with: A lambic like Lindemann’s Framboise.

Why? Dave Selden, owner of 33 Books, a company that makes beer tasting journals, rightly points that Homer Simpson may have been to pair Skittles and beer with Skittlebrau. But instead of Duff, he recommends a tart Lambic because “the acidity is a nice contrast to the sweetness.

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

4. SweeTARTS

Best with: A saison like Wild Florida Saison, Goose Island Beer Co.’s Sofie, The Lost Abbey Carnevale, Stone Brewery Saison.

Why? Stock calls SweeTARTS a “lively and often intense candy” that is balanced out with a “slightly tart, semi-dry, and earthy beer like a saison.”

5. Three Musketeers

Best with: An American porter like Samuel Adams Holiday Porter, Yuengling Black and Tan, Leinenkugel’s Snowdrift Vanilla Porter.

Why? Stock says that the light sweetness of this old standby has flavors that will be intensified when paired with a rich American porter.

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

6. Snickers


Best with: A brown ale like Rogue’s Hazelnut Brown Nectar or a stout like Guinness.

Why? Our experts differed on this Halloween classic. Salrin says that the nutty, caramel base of a brown ale pairs nicely with the peanuts and caramel in a Snickers bar. Selden says that the combination of salty and sweet that makes Snickers the “balanced meal” of candy bars means that it pairs well with stouts, known as the “meal in a glass” of the beer world. The dryness of a stout goes well with the sweetness of the candy.

7. Candy Corn

Best with: A Vienna lager like Green Room Brewing Vienna Lager, Dos Equis Amber Lager, or Great Lakes Brewing Co.’s Eliot Ness or a vintage old ale like North Coast Brewing’s Old Stock Ale.

Why? In our second split decision, Stock recommends a light, refreshing Vienna lager to wash down the intense sweetness of candy corn while Selden said that vintage old ales have the subtle malt sweetness that brings out the vanilla flavor of candy corn.

8. Caramel Apple Pops


Best with: A cider like Original Sin Hard Cider Black Widow.

Why? We’re fudging our own rules with a non-beer pick here, but drinking an apple beverage with an apple candy seems like a no-brainer. Salrin says that this lollipop pairs well with many cider options, but that the spooky name of the Black Widow from Original Sin makes it an extra-festive choice.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Brains vs brawns: A Green Beret and a Ranger meet

Green Berets rely on their problem-solving abilities to survive in combat. Much of SF selection seeks to assess this talent. The Special Forces qualification course itself develops and improves creativity. Many times, military problems must be solved with the application of force. Green Berets are not afraid to get their hands dirty, but they understand the power of working with and through others.

There is a story that has been told in the SOF community for years. I don’t believe it is factual, but there is a lot of truth in it. The story goes like this:

The new Secretary of Defense had been confirmed and was touring the Pentagon, taking briefings on the capabilities of his forces. He had a well-deserved reputation as a no-nonsense guy. After a briefing on Special Operations Forces, he was escorted to lunch by a Green Beret officer.


The Secretary’s confused look did not bode well as they walked through the E ring. “I understand how SOF is different from conventional forces, but the Rangers and Green Berets seem just alike to me. You have a Special Forces Tab and a Ranger Tab. What’s the difference?”

“The units are very different, sir. While both units are composed of very capable soldiers, selected for intelligence and fitness, Rangers attack the enemy directly, while Special Forces work by, with, and through indigenous forces to accomplish tasks far beyond their numbers.” The Green Beret secretly hoped he would not be pulled into the eternal Ranger versus SF discussion for the 10,000th time. He prided himself in his teaching abilities, but this guy was being obtuse.

“They dress just alike, they are both ARSOF units, and they both have direct-action capabilities. How are they so different?” It seemed the Secretary was going to force this. The next four years of Special Forces missions hinged on the new Secretary’s understanding. As they walked through an area of temporary construction, the Green Beret had a flash of inspiration.

“Sir, humor me here; let’s do a little demonstration. Rangers are highly aggressive. They pride themselves on their toughness and discipline. They follow orders without question. Do you see that huge soldier with a tan beret? He is a Ranger.”

As the Ranger approached, the Green Beret called out, “Hey, Ranger! Come here.”

The Ranger moved toward them, sprang to attention, and saluted. “Rangers lead the way, sir. How may I be of assistance?”

“Can you help us here for a moment? This is the new Secretary of Defense. He wants to know more about the Rangers. Will you help me educate him?”

Pointing to a new section of hallway, the Green Beret officer said, “Ranger, I need you to break through that wall.”

“Hooah, sir. Would you like a breach or complete destruction?”

“A man-sized breach would be fine.”

With that, the Ranger removed his beret and assumed a three-point stance six feet from the wall. With a grunt, he launched himself into the wall, punching his head and shoulders right through the drywall. Hitting a 2×4 on the way through, he was a little stunned, but he continued to work, smashing a hole wide enough for a fully kitted Ranger to pass through. Staggering to his feet with a trickle of blood running down his face, he appeared a little disoriented.

“Thank you, Ranger. Great job. You are a credit to the Regiment. You need to go to the aid station and get someone to look at that cut.”

The Secretary was incredulous. He had never seen such a display of pure discipline and strength. “That was astounding. What could Special Forces possibly do to match that?”

The Green Beret was also impressed, but not surprised. “The Rangers are highly disciplined sir, but Special Forces selection and training also produce strong, disciplined soldiers. We deploy older, more mature soldiers in very small numbers. They understand that they are a valuable strategic resource, and are selected for their advanced problem-solving abilities.”

The secretary seemed displeased. “Frankly, that sounds like bullshit. It seems that these Rangers are the finest soldiers in the Army. What could Special Forces do that the Rangers cannot?”

As he spoke, a Green Beret Staff Sergeant walked by. Not as young or lean as the Ranger, he had a commanding presence and a serious look filled with confidence. The Green Beret officer called him over.

“Hey Mike, can you help us here for a moment? This is the new Secretary of Defense. He wants to know more about the Special Forces; will you help me educate him?”

The staff sergeant shook the secretary’s hand and introduced himself. “How can I help you, sir?”

Pointing to an undamaged section of the hallway, the Green Beret officer said, “Mike, I need you to break through that wall.”

“No problem. Would you like a breach or complete destruction?”

“A man-sized breach would be fine.”

The staff sergeant removed his beret and stood for a moment in silent thought six feet from the wall. He scanned the area and smiled broadly as he found the perfect tool for the job. “Hey Ranger,” he said, “Come here.”

Know your abilities, learn your environment, and use your resources deliberately. Green Berets know that finding just the right tool can be the most important part of the job. The Ranger in the story can take down a wall. The Green Beret can take out walls until he runs out of Rangers, and then one more.

As a force multiplier in the real world, the Green Berets can enlist large units with local knowledge to fight beside them. A single 12-man A-Team can train and employ a 500-man infantry battalion. That is a significant return on investment for the taxpayer.

Value yourself, and use your rapport skills to build partnerships. Many hands make light work; don’t do everything yourself. Green Berets know that there is no limit to what one can do if other people are doing the work.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why Day of the Deployed should be a federal holiday

In the United States, we enjoy a good amount of federal holidays, during which many employers give their employees a paid day off. During these breaks, which sometimes result in a three- or four-day weekend, everyone can take some time to relax with friends and family — maybe even enjoy a barbecue.

Everyone, that is, except the troops deployed to combat zones. On these days, troops will (sometimes) get a slightly nicer meal served by their chain of command before they return to the grind.

To celebrate the troops that are in harm’s way and the sacrifices their families make, we have today, October 26th, the oft-forgotten Day of the Deployed. Despite the fact that it’s officially recognized by all 50 states as of 2012, you’ll likely see far more people posting things to their social media account about National Breadstick Day, which, this year, happens to share the date.

While the holiday doesn’t necessarily call for huge, elaborate celebration, officially recognizing it as a federal holiday during times of ongoing conflicts would go a long way. Hear us out.


An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

Lt. Col. Honsa’s cousin worked to give him a nationally recognized holiday while he was deployed… The rest of our families need to step up their care package game…

(U.S. Army)

Of the ten holidays observed by the federal government, two of them directly honor the military: Memorial Day, for fallen troops, and Veterans Day, for the living. There’s also Armed Forces Day, which honors the current, active duty military, but that holiday is rarely recognized outside of the military community.

The Day of the Deployed is similar to Armed Forces Day, but it specifically honors the troops who are currently deployed. The holiday first began in 2006 when Shelle Michaels Aberle approached North Dakota Governor John Hoeven to officially proclaim a day to specifically honor the troops out there fightin’ the good fight. The date October 26th was selected in honor of Aberle’s cousin, Lt. Col. David Hosna — the birthday of a soldier who, at the time, was deployed.

When Hoeven became a senator, he sponsored S.Res.295 on October 18th, 2011, to designate October 26th as the “Day of the Deployed.” It was approved unanimously and without any amendments. Since then, all 50 states have officially observed the holiday.

Six years later and the holiday is nothing more than a footnote at the bottom of calendars, found by those looking for wacky holidays — and that’s a shame. A day to commemorate the heroic acts of the troops fighting on the front lines does not deserve to be on the same level as Talk-Like-A-Pirate Day.

Federal recognition of the day would put it in league with the holidays that people get an extended weekend to celebrate — you know, the ones people take seriously. For this to make most sense, we’d need to make a couple of changes:

First, it should become a floating holiday — this year, it falls on the last Friday of October. In our opinion, that’s the perfect place for it. Not only would that mean a three-day weekend, it also means it could incorporate Remember Everyone Deployed Fridays in an official capacity, which gives people a way to celebrate.

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

And with the way that the postal system works for outlaying combat outposts, the care packages would arrive just before Christmas!

(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Matthew Stroup)

On this newly upgraded National Day of the Deployed, everyone would wear red as a symbol and, as an action, they’d send care packages out to those on the front line. Hell, even if only a tiny fraction of the American population actually sends care packages, that’d be a huge windfall for the troops.

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

A day to remember the troops deployed overseas is an objectively better reason for a four day weekend.

(U.S. Army photo by CPT Jarrod Morris, TAAC-E Public Affairs)

Now, let’s take a look at the competitors. There are already three holidays that fall around(ish) the last Friday of October: Halloween, Columbus Day, and Veterans Day.

On Halloween, children enjoy a day of free candy and dressing like princesses and superheroes while adults awkwardly party while disguised as various pop-culture references. An extended weekend around that time would be very welcomed by the public — it wouldn’t hurt to give people a day off and let them know they have the troops to thank for it.

Earlier in the month, there’s Columbus Day, a federal holiday that’s becoming less relevant and more contentious by the year. As time goes on, evidence surfaces that suggests that Columbus, as an explorer, never stepped foot on American soil. He wasn’t the first person — or even the first European — to get here, and whether we should celebrate beginning of harsh times for American Indians is hotly debated. A 2014 report from Rasmussen showed that only eight percent of the U.S. population even believes that the day is even important. Honestly, we can’t see there being much push-back if we nixed Columbus Day in favor of Day of the Deployed.

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

It’d also never leave the American public’s mind that our troops are still not home to enjoy the little things — like paid time off.

(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Lauren M. Gaidry)

Finally, on the other side of October, we’ve got Veterans Day. If Day of the Deployed were to become a floating holiday, it’d fall somewhere between eleven and eighteen days before Veterans Day.

If the final Friday of October happened to be the 31st, that means the country would enjoy back-to-back three-day weekends. If it fell on the 25th — the longest possible gap — that’d mean people could enjoy a total of eight days off and ten days of work between two holidays honoring the troops and what they’ve given this great nation of ours.

Give people that kind of time off and the freedom to enjoy themselves a bit, and you’ll truly drive home the point that brave men and women are out there sacrificing so that we can enjoy the liberties we do.

MIGHTY CULTURE

First naval aviators graduate new USAF pilot training program

The first two student naval aviators graduated from the U.S. Air Force’s Pilot Training Next (PTN) program at Randolph Air Force Base (AFB) just outside of San Antonio, Aug. 29, 2019.

The PTN program is a course of instruction designed to train military pilots at a lower cost, in a shorter amount of time, and with a higher level of proficiency leveraging emerging technologies to create a dynamic training environment.

The PTN program individualizes training, adjusting to each student pilot’s strengths and weaknesses. It integrates virtual reality (VR), advanced biometrics, artificial intelligence (AI), and immersive training devices (ITD) with traditional methods of learning.


“The most appealing part of this program is we step away from the common denominator or one-size-fits-all training that has to be done on a certain timeline,” Det. 24 Commander U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Ryan Riley said. “With PTN we have been able to focus more on competencies and the focus of the individual student. We tailor the training to you, and that is a very different mindset shift and that is what I am most excited about.”

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

A T-6A Texan II aircraft prepares to conduct a tough-and-go landing on Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st. Lt. Pawel Puczko)

Navy instructors selected Ensigns Charles Hills and Seth Murphy-Sweet for the PTN program in lieu of the standard Navy Primary Flight Training phase. This joint training effort is a step toward integrating emerging technologies into Navy’s flight training curriculum. Now Hill and Murphy-Sweet are ready to move forward to the advanced stage of flight training with the Navy’s Training Air Wing 2 at Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas.

“I think a big thing with this program was the ability to utilize the VR, get the experience and pacing down for each flight realtime,” Hill said. “This benefited all the students – being able to chair fly while being able to see the whole flight rather than to have to use your imagination. This helped in getting the motor skills while we were able test it out in VR and see how the exact input corresponds to a correct output.”

The relatively new program is being improved with each iteration and allows a more tailored approach to learning in comparison to traditional flight training from the instructor’s perspective. Instructors use a collaborative learning environment to evaluate and analyze students and subsequently make corrections and improvements.

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

Ensign Charles Hill (left) and Ensign Seth Murphy-Sweet stand with their graduating Pilot Training Next (PTN) class on Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st. Lt. Pawel Puczko)

PTN First Assignment Instructor Pilot (FAIP) U.S. Air Force Capt. Jake Pothula shared his views on just how the program differs from the traditional syllabus.

“I went through traditional training,” he said. “The biggest difference with the PTN program is the fact that we aren’t tied to a very rigid, unforgiving syllabus, so students have the ability to choose their own training or have it be molded by instructor pilots who have the students’ individual best interest in mind. In traditional Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) you get more flying hours, but PTN students get a lot more simulator time. The students probably get three times as many hours in the sim than a traditional UPT student would. It’s something they could do at their own pace and choose what they want to do. I would say that these students have a very different set of skills. They excel at understanding their place in a larger mission and understanding what their aircraft is going to do especially in the cases of large field or large force exercises. I feel they definitely have a better grasp on more abstract concept such as mission management.”

Integrating new technologies such as ITDs allows students to gain experience using real-world scenarios. Students can not only fly the strict patterns and procedures they learn from their books, but also integrate air traffic control decondition as well as other aircraft.

“I think the unique and most exciting aspect with where PTN is going is the partnership with the Navy and Air Force,” Riley said. “With this partnership the Navy has loaned us eight T-6B Texan II aircraft. The manufacturer modified the avionics to what we call the T-6B plus, which has software specifically built for the PTN program mission.”

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

Commander Air Force Recruiting Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt speaking at the Pilot Training Next (PTN) class graduation on Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st. Lt. Pawel Puczko)

Adding Navy instructors and students to the PTN program brings a unique perspective since training in the T-6B Texan II is new to the Air Force. VR simulators add a new and exciting element to the PTN program and draws parallels to the gaming industry, which could help attract new accessions.

Today the Navy’s Primary Flight Training phase uses simulators and VR trainer devices to augment the traditional curriculum, which allow students better familiarity with aircraft controls and their areas of operations. Technology within fleet aircraft and the aviation community at large is constantly advancing, and as we move forward simulators and ITDs will play an increasingly significant role in the way we train our military aviators.

CNATRA, headquartered in Corpus Christi, trains the world’s finest combat quality aviation professionals, delivering them at the right time, in the right numbers, and at the right cost to a naval force that is where it matters, when it matters.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Heroic military working dogs receive prestigious medals for courage

The bad guys and their improvised explosive devices couldn’t hide from Marine Sgt. Yeager, a Purple Heart veteran of three tours in Afghanistan.

His specialty was route clearance, and he was credited with sniffing out dozens of roadside bombs in more than 100 combat patrols for his Marine buddies.

On April 12, 2012, Yeager and his handler, Lance Cpl. Abraham Tarwoe, were hit by one of those roadside bombs while on patrol in southwestern Helmand province with a unit from the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment.

Tarwoe, originally from Liberia, perished in the blast and Yeager was hit with shrapnel and lost part of an ear.


Yeager was one of four working dogs who received American Humane’s K-9 Medal of Courage in a ceremony Sept. 10, 2019, at the Rayburn House Office Building.

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

(Robin Ganzert, American Humane / Twitter)

After the 2012 IED blast, Yeager received the Purple Heart from the Marines and was retired to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where the now 13-year-old black Lab was adopted by a Marine family.

Caroline Zuendel, of Cary, North Carolina, Yeager’s new best friend, called him “just a sweet dog” who dotes on her three kids. “He’s like my fourth,” she said.

Yeager hasn’t lost his devotion to service. He’s now a roving goodwill ambassador for the Project K-9 Foundation that seeks to improve the quality of life for retired military and police working dogs.

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

Marine Sgt. Yeager.

(Rep. David E. Price / Twitter)

Another recipient, a 12-year-old Dutch Shepherd named “Troll,” had no designated rank in the Air Force, said his long-time handler, Air Force Master Sgt. Rob Wilson.

Unlike the Marines, who give their working dogs a rank above that of their handlers, Troll went through his working career without a rank.

“But you can call him general,” Wilson said.

Wilson, who was assigned to Troll while serving in Europe in 2011, said he wasn’t quite sure how Troll got his name but speculated that it was because “he’s always in control. He found a lot of IEDs out there [in Afghanistan] and some high-value [targets].”

In 2012, they deployed to Afghanistan, where they went on 89 combat missions in support of Army and Special Operations units, according to the biographies of the four working dogs from American Humane, the animal welfare organization founded in 1877.

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

Military Working Dog Troll.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Samuel Morse)

On a four-day mission against an enemy compound, Troll sniffed out three IEDs enroute to the target and then went on a sweep of the area, finding a well-concealed tunnel where two enemy combatants known to have conducted attacks against the coalition were hiding.

Troll also found nine pressure plates, 20 pounds of explosives and six AK-47 rifles.

The patrol came under fire as they exited the area and an Afghan National Army soldier was wounded.

“Troll and I kinda pulled back for cover,” Wilson said, and he began returning fire.

Troll and Wilson were then told to clear a landing area for a medevac helicopter as Wilson and others from the patrol continued to return fire. Once Troll had checked out an area that was safe to land, the helicopter safely evacuated the wounded soldier.

“By helping locate enemy positions, engage the enemy, sniff out deadly IEDs and hidden weapons, military dogs have saved countless lives in the fight for freedom,” Rep. Gus Bilarakis, R-Florida, co-chairman of the Congressional Humane Bond Caucus, said at the ceremony.

American Humane President Robin Ganzert said that 20 working dogs have been honored with the K-9 Medal of Courage over the past four years.

“These dogs do amazing work and give unconditional love,” she said.

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

Marine Sgt. Yeager.

(Photo by Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez)

The awards were named for philanthropist Lois Pope, who said “there are heroes on both ends of the leash.”

“Niko,” a 10-year-old Dutch Shepherd, spent four years in Afghanistan working for the Defense and State Departments, the CIA, the U.S. Agency for International Development and NATO partner nations, participating in countless patrols and house-to-house sweeps, and protecting personnel at high-level meetings.

American Humane said Niko has now been adopted by a family in Alaska.

Military working dog “Emmie,” a 12-year-old black Lab, was on three tours in Afghanistan from 2009-2012, and worked mainly off-leash, assisting with route clearance. She had three different handlers in Afghanistan, and the last one described her as a “high-drive dog, stubborn at times, who never stopped working,” American Humane said.

After her last tour in Afghanistan, Emmie came to work at the Pentagon, where she easily adapted to working on leash in searching cars, buildings and parking lots, American Humane said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The musical transformation of Aaron Lewis

The Hoyt Sherman Place has been an icon in Des Moines, Iowa, for more than 140 years. Filled with eclectic paintings and sculptures, the structure once hosted some of America’s most powerful and influential people, including former presidents Ulysses S. Grant and William McKinley, as well as General William Tecumseh Sherman, whose brother is the namesake. Today, it’s a music and theater venue.

Last November, on an overcast and snowy evening, I visited the Hoyt Sherman to interview Aaron Lewis, who was taking the stage that night. The world-renowned musician rose to stardom in the early 2000s with the rock band Staind. However, Lewis’ current pursuit in the country music genre signifies a path most fans didn’t expect. The journey has brought his career full circle, reconnecting him to childhood memories and his roots. This unique musical dichotomy embodies who he is, was, and always will be — the ultimate outsider who is still trying to make it.


At 6:30 on the dot — just as expected — Pete Ricci, Lewis’ tour manager, found me in the lobby and took me to Lewis’ tour bus. I walked inside from the bitter cold and was immediately pursued by a small dog who jumped on my lap as I sat down. With a cigarette in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other, Lewis looked at me and said, “That’s Levi. He must like you.” I laughed and shook his hand while introducing myself. He took a sip of his coffee, sat down across from me, and said, “I’m ready.”

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

The stage at the Hoyt Sherman before Aaron Lewis started playing.

(Photo by Christopher Hart/Coffee or Die)

At that moment, I was taken back to my youth — the endless nights as a teenager memorizing his harrowing and cryptic vocals. His two-decade career with Staind spawned seven studio albums — including the five-times-platinum “Break the Cycle” — with over 10 million units sold and worldwide tours but that was only the beginning for Lewis. In recent years, Lewis’ path has taken him in a different direction. A serendipitous voyage back to his first music listening experience: country music.

Lewis began to reveal how he transformed from a rockstar into a country musician whose second country album, 2016’s “Sinner,” debuted at No. 1 on the Top Country albums chart and fourth on the famous Billboard 200. Growing up, Lewis spend a lot of time with this grandfather, a man who had a deep love for the foundations of old-fashioned country music — artists like Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Hank Williams Jr.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsQzw_Ax8Cw
Aaron Lewis – “Country Boy” (Official Video)

www.youtube.com

“Growing up I didn’t dig it at all,” Lewis said. “It was a forced listening for sure. I ran as far away from that style and type of music as I possibly could and ended up in a rock band. But it’s kind of a funny story with what rekindled it.

“I was on Kid Rock’s bus one night back in 1998. […] It was one of those nights where we stayed up all night drinking and using substances,” he continued. “The whole time he is playing this old country music, and in my head it’s replaying the soundtrack of my childhood. It was the first time I had let any of that style of music, that twang, come back into my life or listening choices.”

That late night alongside Kid Rock was life changing with respect to Lewis’ future. It was the start of something new, a transformation that would lay dormant as he ascended to the top of the rock industry with Staind. It erupted full flame years later.

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

Aaron Lewis performing “So Far Away” by Staind in the official music video.

(Screen capture via Atlantic Records/Youtube)

“When I got to the end of my record contract with Staind I was good with that,” Lewis said. “I needed to put that away for a bit and reinvent what I was doing, something that wasn’t going to get compared. So the music of my childhood is where that manifested itself.”

There are endless stories of musicians who tried to transform themselves and failed, but Lewis’ isn’t one of them. His past creations have topped the charts, and his country music has received critical acclaim and best-selling status. Despite that, Lewis still feels out of place. He considers himself an outsider, a man who doesn’t fit in the country-music box.

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

(Photo courtesy of Aaron Lewis/Instagram)

Part of the reason is that today’s country music hardly resembles the pillars upon which it was built. It is often conflated with pop culture crossovers in order to appeal to a wider audience and generate more revenue, something that frustrates Lewis. On the business side, Lewis said the conglomeration of radio stations led to the Top 40 industry taking over country radio.

“When [Taylor Swift] came out as a cute little country girl and got airtime on Top 40 radio, all of a sudden [country music] had an audience of hundreds of millions of people across the world,” Lewis said. “It set up a model to strive for. […] Do I get it from the competitive road of radio and advertising? To an extent, but I am also able to see the short-sightedness of it. When you handle the country genre like Top 40, you are alienating a majority of your listeners.”

It’s a conflict that Lewis has never shied away from, even putting it into a hit single from the album “Sinner.”

“Life’s not all sunshine and roses. I mentioned that in ‘That Ain’t Country,'” Lewis said. “Most stuff on country radio these days are tales of good times and happy endings. But guess what? Life isn’t like that. Life is a struggle from the time you realize it is a struggle. But if life wasn’t a struggle, those happy moments wouldn’t stand out so much.”

Lewis’ comments on struggle hit on something he has spoken about over the years. When comparing what he wrote while in Staind to what he is putting out now, there are similar themes. His lyrics are brooding, introspective, and explore the scope of the human experience. It’s curious how a man who has accomplished so much routinely speaks from such a dark place.

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

Aaron Lewis performing at the Hoyt Sherman.

(Photo by Christopher Hart/Coffee or Die)

“I just can’t help but be a bit dark with my writing. That’s just the vein of creativity I have that is evoked by music,” Lewis said. “I’m never really inspired to write about happiness. I have a couple of times completely by accident and been really weirded out by recording it, as weird as that sounds.”

He continued: “I tend to tap into the darker side of myself for writing purposes. The things that I can’t say in life and normal conversation are what I tend to express in songs. We can all be socially challenged sometimes when trying to say what is on our mind the right way — to truly express it to the person sitting in front of you in the manner you are trying to. To say it in a manner they won’t take the wrong way for any multitude of reasons. I’m not affected by those limits in the writing process.”

After accepting a cup of coffee and a cigarette from Lewis, the conversation veered into the acceptability of the aforementioned lyrical topics — how it may be okay in one genre but considered taboo in another. I relayed how my parents were conflicted about the music I listened to as a teenager: Marilyn Manson, Slipknot, Limp Bizkit, Korn, and a handful of others. These bands were contemporaries of Lewis and Staind. My stepmother was convinced that this music made me rebellious and was the work of the devil.

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

Aaron Lewis performing at the Hoyt Sherman.

(Photo by Christopher Hart/Coffee or Die)

“That was a way for parents to define how this music could have such an effect on their children,” Lewis said. “As a parent, to wrap your head around the fact that your child is finding solace in something like that — that can be a tough thing to define. To someone who is super religious, well, it must be the devil for it to have that much of a hold and an impact — but that’s just the magic of music.”

But as magical as music can be, it still takes a toll on someone who makes it their career. Life on the road can present a troublesome and extreme burden. The sacrifices made by artists like Lewis aren’t often recognized by listeners beyond what they hear in a song. Fans aren’t necessarily attached to the plight of their favorite artists, just what they produce.

Lewis mentioned that the Thanksgiving holiday prior to our meeting was one of the only breaks he’d had from touring since February. There is certainly a cost to being in the limelight. But what exact price has he paid — and has it been worth it?

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

Aaron Lewis performing at the Hoyt Sherman.

(Photo by Christopher Hart/Coffee or Die)

“As crazy as it might sound coming from my mouth, I still feel I am only as good as the next song that comes out,” Lewis said. “I still have a really, really hard time stopping and smelling the roses. I still feel at times that maybe one day I will make it — it’s really fucked up.

“Most creatives are the walking wounded. We would do just about anything to be seen and heard. We are so broken on the inside that we will wager anything to feel that connection and acceptance. This ride that I’ve been on, this ‘dream come true’ that everybody calls it, that I’m living my dreams — yeah, okay, maybe. But it’s also cost me everything that has ever meant anything to me.”

After letting that sentiment sink in, I took one more drag of my cigarette and one last sip of coffee before asking what advice Lewis would give an aspiring musician.

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

Aaron Lewis performing at the Hoyt Sherman.

(Photo by Christopher Hart/Coffee or Die)

“Be careful what you wish for. There is a cost to everything,” he said. “There is a lot of truth to that old story about Robert Johnson meeting the devil at the crossroads and selling his soul. That is kind of what you are doing when you sign a record deal. The longer you survive having a record deal, the more your soul fades and pretty soon there is nothing left — because your feet never touched the ground and you never slowed down enough to see it all go away. So be careful what you wish for.”

With those cautionary words, I turned off my recorder. Lewis was set to take the stage in an hour, so after a final handshake, I prepared to head back into the venue.

“Enjoy the show, Chris,” Lewis said as I made my way off the tour bus.

Over the next few hours, Lewis and his bandmates performed a memorable set for the sold-out crowd at the Hoyt Sherman. The set list included most of his recent country efforts, but he also threw in several Staind hits. Lewis played a few new songs from his upcoming album, “State I’m In,” including “The Party is Over,” “God and Guns,” and “Keeps on Working,” the latter of which he joked would make him some more friends in Nashville. “State I’m In” is slated for release on April 12, 2019.

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

Aaron Lewis performing at the Hoyt Sherman.

(Photo by Christopher Hart/Coffee or Die)

Lewis’ musical transformation is a testament to the idea that life isn’t about the destination — it’s about the journey. And while his solo country music career appears to have solid footing, he’s made headlines recently for walking off stage when the audience was being unruly. He also mentioned during a live performance earlier this month that Staind might be making a comeback. “I might be lying, but I might not. There might even be live shows this year. I can’t say for sure. You never know.”

Lewis shows no signs of slowing down, but he also appears to be living in constant conflict. As I left the Hoyt Sherman, I replayed the night’s events in my mind and wondered when, if ever, Aaron Lewis would feel that he had made it.

Aaron Lewis – That Ain’t Country (Official Video)

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This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

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