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

Kill and Survive: A stealth pilot’s guide to excellence

U.S. Air Force pilot Bill Crawford is a stealth pilot, someone who has risen to the very top of an extremely challenging field. But to hear him tell it, it can all be chalked up to a very simple secret, a secret that will sound familiar to anyone who has served in the military.


Kill and Survive: A Stealth Pilot’s Secrets of Success | Bill Crawford | TEDxRexburg

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His trick is becoming the best in the world, studying and refining himself and his processes until he’s above whatever cutoff he needs to clear. And that includes the time in college when he learned that the Air Force was cutting fighter pilot training slots from about 1,000 a year to 100 per year. In order to make sure he cleared the cutoff, Crawford became the best.

Not the 100th best, not the 10th. He received a scholarship that year for being the single best.

And he wants everyone to have the chance to be the best in the world at whatever it is they do.

In his TEDx talk, Crawford talks about bombing Baghdad, conducting inflight refuelings, and, most importantly, conducting the post-mission debrief. The after-action review.

And, yeah, that’s a big part of Crawford’s secret. As anyone in the military can tell you, all the branches have some sort of process for reviewing mission performance and success (two different things) from any operation. Crawford’s version from his Air Force career is asking five questions:

  1. What happened?
  2. What went right?
  3. What went wrong?
  4. Why?
  5. Lessons learned?

The Army had a slightly different version. What was supposed to happen? What did happen? Why? What should we, as a team, sustain about that performance? What should we change? But all the branches have some version of this process.

And this self-review is key to understanding modern military success. If you look at old articles from the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008, plenty of hand-wringing in the West was about the pain, death, and destruction Russia inflicted, but many military leaders worried about Russia’s review process after the invasion.

That’s because the most successful organizations and individuals define their processes and actively assess whether or not they are doing it the best way they can. Russia hadn’t historically reviewed their successes all that deeply. But they decisively won the war on the ground in Georgia in five days, then they reviewed their success for how to do better.

And that meant that they wanted to improve their processes. Crawford wants everyone to learn to do that process in their own life just like the American military has for decades, and Russia now does as well. And the process is simple.

But it’s also hard to do. Crawford and his team had to do their debrief from bombing Baghdad right after they landed. So, right after completing 40-hours of flying and bombing, they had to go sit in a room and discuss their process, their success, and what they could do better.

But if you can make yourself do all that, you’re more likely to get better. And if you keep getting better, you’ll be the best.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How Army’s mascot came to be

On December 2, 1899, Colonel Gonzalez Bingham woke up with a smile. As the quartermaster of the Schuylkill Arsenal in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he had plans to attend the first Army Navy Game to be played in that city. Adding to the excitement and anticipation of a big game was the fact that the Army-Navy Game had not been played in six years. President Grover Cleveland decided to halt the game when fights broke out after the 1893 game, believing that the interservice rivalry had gotten out of control. Slowly, over the next few years, support for resuming the game grew, and it was decided to renew the tradition on December 2, 1899 at Franklin Field in Philadelphia, one of the few places with a stadium large enough to handle the expected crowds. 

When the big day arrived, everyone was on their best behavior. Army and Navy sent bands down Philadelphia’s Market Street prior to the game. Debutantes, city officials, old Civil War veterans and cabinet officers up from Washington, DC made their way to the stadium. It was the biggest day in sports the nation had seen, and tickets had long ago sold out. 

What fans did not know was that Bingham had a secret. A big one! He had been scheming and planning for weeks to do something to delight the crowd, rally the cadets, and inspire the team. Colonel Gonzalez Bingham was about to introduce the very first Army Mule as the mascot of West Point. Up until the 1899 game, Army had never had a mascot. Worse yet, Navy had for several years adopted a goat as their mascot. In fact, legend has it that the first Navy Goat was actually a pet goat “borrowed” from the backyard of a West Point faculty member by a Navy fan and dragged off to the game, which was the first Army-Navy Game played on the West Point Plain. While the details have been lost and history has turned to legend, all West Pointers know that the story fits everything they know about Navy, so the tale must be a stone-cold fact! West Point grads might feel some lingering outrage from the theft of a goat on the grounds of West Point, but then again they also have to question the wisdom of any Army officer who selects a goat as a pet, so it’s best to leave the story for another time. 

Getting back to Bingham’s insightful brilliance in December 1899 and the Army Mule, that story actually begins much earlier with Bingham’s father, Judson Bingham, Class of 1854. Upon graduation, Judson Bingham worked his way up as a quartermaster and found himself in support of Major General Ulysses S. Grant, Class of 1843, and Major General William T. Sherman, Class of 1840, during the Civil War. In fact, it was the efforts of quartermasters like Judson Bingham that largely allowed Grant to take the audacious gamble of slipping loose from his supply chain, floating down the Mississippi, and successfully attacking Vicksburg. It was one of the brilliant campaigns of the Civil War, but to be successful, Grant depended upon the abilities of inspired quartermasters to feed and supply an Army that was living off local supplies once traditional supply lines had been cut. Later in the war, Sherman would adopt a similar strategy in his famous march through Georgia. Sherman also relied on Judson Bingham for managing the complex supply lines. And what did Judson Bingham rely upon? 

Mules! 

Mules could carry large loads and could live on most any fodder. As Sherman’s quartermaster, Judson Bingham used them with great effect, and his ability to supply and sustain large armies operating far away from traditional supply lines was brilliant. Interestingly enough, one of Judson Bingham’s greatest challenges was to keep his mules from being captured by the Confederate raiders led by one of his classmates, Major General J. E. B. Stuart of the Confederate Cavalry. 

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

Without any doubt, Judson Bingham owed much of his success to the effective use of mules. Grant certainly knew it, and he felt a great admiration for mules and would often intervene when he saw anyone mistreat a mule. Sherman did too. Long after the Civil War was over, when Sherman was serving as Commanding General of the U.S. Army, he got word that a favorite mule that had served with distinction was about to be sold off. Sherman forwarded the information to Robert Todd Lincoln (President Abraham Lincoln’s son), the Secretary of War, who quickly responded with the following message: “The Quartermaster’s department will be charged with ingratitude if that mule is sold or the maintenance of it is thrown on the charitable officers of the post. I advise he be kept in the Department, fed, and maintained until death.” 

Judson Bingham retired as a brigadier general and had a son, Gonzalez Bingham, who also joined the Army and went into the Quartermaster Corps. The young Bingham would have heard the many stories about the effective use of mules in Civil War campaigns, and he also knew that his father loved West Point (Judson Bingham is buried in the West Point Cemetery). Like his father, Bingham also had a successful career in the Army. In 1899, he oversaw the sprawling Schuylkill Arsenal, which functioned as the Quartermaster Center for the Army. 

And so, on December 2, 1899, fortune smiled on West Point, because Gonzalez Bingham was the right guy at the right place, at the right time. He had heard his father talk about the great service of mules in the Civil War. He also knew that his dad loved West Point and had almost certainly heard the shameful story of the filched Navy Goat. Best of all, Bingham was willing and able to take initiative. He knew that Army had never had a mascot and was about to change all that. 

Bingham’s job as a quartermaster put him in the perfect place to commandeer one of the many mules that served the Schuylkill Arsenal. His selection was a big mule that pulled an ice wagon. Based on his color, the mule went by the name “Big White.” The next inspiration of genius came from Bingham’s wife, Nettie, whom he had met while serving in the West. Nettie was the daughter of an Army officer serving at the same post on the western frontier as then Lieutenant Bingham and she knew that if a thing is to be done in the Army, it best be done well. 

It was Nettie who came up with the idea to fully outfit the mule in the proper attire. Under her guidance, a special “uniform” was fashioned in the cadet colors of black, gray, and gold. Nettie also organized a group to attach silk ribbons to Big White’s tail, and when they had finished the mule was escorted into Philadelphia’s Franklin Field. Cadets and other Army fans went wild! 

The next day newspapers noted that the mule “carried the West Point colors with an air of mulish superiority to anything in his vicinity.” 

Big White not only warmed the crowd and inspired the cadets, but also helped Army overcome a Navy team that was heavily favored to win the game. Navy had a much better record, and few thought Army had much of a chance. But immediately after the arrival of Army’s first Mule, the game was never in doubt, and Army went on to a convincing 17-5 win, having never trailed in the game. 

When the game was over, Nettie Bingham had hoped to salvage the silk ribbons she had bought, along with the cadet uniform that she had pieced together, but the first Army mascot was such a sensation that fans literally tore the mule’s uniform apart trying to grab a piece as a souvenir. From those humble beginnings in 1899, the Army Mule has served as the official West Point mascot. He fulfilled his duty to the Army with honor by securing a win over Navy. Then, he gave up his uniform and returned to civilian service, hauling ice to help build and grow our country. Mules would continue to serve as the Army mascot following the 1899 game, but they were just loaned or rented for game day: West Point would not have a fully enlisted Army Mule with dedicated duties until the 1930s. Bingham continued to serve with distinction and had a son, Colonel Sidney Bingham, Class of 1912, who taught history and English at West Point. Sidney Bingham’s son, Sidney Bingham Jr., also attended West Point and graduated in 1940. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroic action leading the 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment at Normandy on D-Day, 

June 6, 1944. 

As learned from this origin story, Army’s mascot is not some cartoonish figure nor a random animal typical of other college mascots. Nor was he shamefully purloined from someone’s backyard. Instead, our mascot is a warrior that was selected because of great service to the nation, a battle-tested beast called upon to do hard things, in hard times, and that did so with distinction. 

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

Mules have earned the honor of serving as Army’s mascot, and the Army Mule is a living example of Duty, Honor, Country. 

This piece was originally featured in the West Point Association of Graduates Winter Magazine and was submitted by the author for WATM’s republish.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army couple spreads joy through music

As the holidays are upon us, finding happiness in the midst of a pandemic has been challenging. One Army couple is using music to heal, connect and bring joy to veterans and military families around the world. 

When retired Army Sergeant 1st Class Jose Pomales enlisted at 17 years old in 1997, it wasn’t to become a member of the Army Field Band. Although he was an accomplished piano player growing up in Puerto Rico, he became a combat medic. He would serve as one during and after the attacks on the World Trade Center, deploying multiple times. In 2005, to the surprise of many, Jose made the decision to leave his MOS and return to his first passion: music.

“When you join after high school, you are just a kid. You sort of grow up in the Army. I had to grow up fast,” Jose explained. “Changing into music, everyone looked at me like ‘Why are you doing that?’ I saw a pianist playing with the [Army Field Band] and that was it.” Once Jose realized that he could apply to be part of the music program, he dove in – ready to make a difference in another way. He was able to deploy with the Army Field Band all over the world, bringing music to troops and boosting morale.  

For Army Staff Sergeant Megan Pomales, music was always for her. A “choir kid” growing up and avid piano player, she knew she wanted to continue with it. But she also felt a calling to serve, joining the Army Reserves after graduating college in 2008. “I was working for Universal Music Group in New York for a record label… But when I saw the road it would really take for me to dedicate my life to music in the record label industry, it just wasn’t for me,” Megan said. 

Megan also took a leap of faith, diving into active duty with the Army by serving in their music program. In 2011, she found herself at Fort Bragg in the Army Ground Forces Band as a vocalist and keyboard player. Later on, she made her way to Fort Eustis in Virginia where she met Jose. “I walked in and saw him and was like, ‘What is happening…’ – I avoided him like the plague,” she said with a laugh. 

It wasn’t long before the two soldiers became good friends and began dating, eventually marrying. Although they both have a very different background before joining the Army, their passion and belief in the power of music connected them right away. “I know I am very privileged with my position in the Army because I know Jose sees things from a very different world view with his combat medic experience,” Megan said. 

Jose retired from the Army in 2018 and Megan began singing the lead with the Six String Soldiers in 2019. Although the Army Field band is known for doing traveling shows and their well-received holiday shows, COVID-19 has greatly changed the way they deliver music. This year, they wanted to go the extra mile to bring holiday cheer. Megan received a message from a fellow soldier and producer sharing that he wanted her to sing ‘Christmas 1914’ for the 2020 Holiday Show. “He sent it to me as a YouTube video and I listened to it and was completely undone,” Megan shared. 

Written by Catherine Rushton in 2004, the song is an emotional and haunting walk down the experiences of ground troops fighting during World War I. In 1914 the Pope suggested a truce for Christmas. Taking the suggestion to heart, the Germans and allied troops entered into an unofficial cease fire. Tales were told of Christmas carols being sung and words of goodwill echoing through the night. The lyrics of the song tell a story of the beauty of Christmas and the reality of war that followed the celebration: For three days we played football, three nights we drank and sang, ‘til it came time to say farewell. Then we went to ground; each side fired three rounds. And just like that we all were back in hell. 

German and British troops playing soccer during pause in World War I

Never again would a war fully pause, but the memory of it lives on.

Not only did Megan take on the historic lyrics for the Sound The Bells show, but the Army also granted approval to record a music video to accompany the powerful song. Set in a church built before World War I, it was a fitting setting. Megan admits it was an emotional song to sing and there were definitely times it was difficult for her not to show it. It is her hope that the spirit of the song will hit home and remind people of possibilities, especially as the world continues to battle the pandemic. 

Jose and Megan share a deep love of purpose and giving that they are able to bring to fellow soldiers, veterans and military families through music. Knowing that they can create a connection, smile or bring peace as they serve their country is the reward of a lifetime. 

Happy Holidays! We Are The Mighty has proudly produced a holiday musical with the US Army Field Band, titled Sound the Bells. This excellent family entertainment will air multiple times on FOX BUSINESS and FOX NATION from 12/23 to 12/26.

MIGHTY CULTURE

World War II veteran will return to Normandy for first time since D-Day

The Greatest Generation is being lost to the unalterable process of aging. Today’s youngest World War II veteran is more than 90 years old, and fewer than 400,000 of the 16 million American’s who served still survive.

Drafted in 1943, Clifford Stump of the famed 82nd Airborne Division will celebrate his 95th birthday one week after the 75th anniversary of D-Day, a day he experienced firsthand, and will soon relive, as he returns to the shores of France for the first time since he fought there in 1944.

“We were 18, 19, 20-year-olds, we were tough, we knew everything,” says Stump as he recalled that infamous day. “But on D-day, we sobered up really quick to life.”


Stump was a U.S. Army Airborne artilleryman operating a ‘British 6 pounder’ as 156,000 allied troops landed at Normandy on June 6, 1944, as part of the largest amphibious military assault in history. Stump fought in campaigns in France, Belgium, Germany and was part of the final push to Berlin in 1945.

Stump is a long-time VA North Texas Health Care System patient with an active fan base. When he visits Dallas VA Medical Center, Stump makes his rounds visiting with employees and his fellow veterans, schedules appointments, and regales many with stories of our Nation’s history from the first-person perspective.

Dallas WWII veteran to return to Normandy

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“It’s humbling to get to know our veterans, to care for them, and most importantly, to learn from them,” says Lara Easterwood, Physician Assistant with VA North Texas’ Community Living Center.

On his most recent visit to the Dallas campus, Stump shared the news that he’ll soon travel to Normandy, France, to participate in 75th anniversary D-Day events in early June 2019. Stump will also re-visit other locations during the week-long trip–locations he last saw as a 20-year-old soldier, operating in support of his fellow soldiers of the 82nd Airborne and the 156,000 American, British and Canadian forces who landed on five beaches along a 50-mile stretch of heavily fortified coast.

“You think about all the buddies you made over there and you always have to keep them in mind,” said Stump. “I wanted to stay with them and you had to be ready to save them.”

Stump’s trip to Normandy, France and other battlefield locales he last visited 75 years ago is part of the 82nd Airborne Division Association and USAA’s support to honor 20th-century Veterans’ sacrifice before they pass.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Being productive: 10 things you’ve been putting off doing but shouldn’t

You’re stuck at home. You’ve watched everything interesting on Netflix, and it’s only been a week. It might be time to do some of those projects you always knew you should but have been putting off… and off… and off… If you can accomplish all of these, you’ll come out of this time of lockdown with a much more organized life and a clearer head.


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

1. Get your documents in order

Put all of your family’s essential documents in one place. This includes marriage licenses, birth certificates, passports, social security cards, medical files, car titles, a copy of your LES and orders, the deed to your house and insurance documents. Do you have a will? If not, now is a good time to do one, either online or virtually with a lawyer. Make sure you have all the insurance you need – not just auto and health insurance, but pet insurance, disability insurance, cell phone insurance, and flood insurance. Also insure your wedding and engagement rings. These are the ones people typically overlook.

2. Photograph your house

Take a photo of everything in your house for insurance purposes. Make sure you have a photo of each room, and all of your valuables. If you have a prized book collection, photograph the titles – you’ll want to remember what they all are if you have to replace them. Keep the photos on the cloud and on a USB that you keep in your safe.

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

3. Clean your car

Now is the perfect time to clean your car! Like, really clean it. Take everything out – all the car seats, trash, reusable shopping bags, first aid kit, etc. Wipe down everything with a leather or car cleaner. Vacuum everything – get into the nooks and crannies. Clean the inside of the glass and all the crevices of the vents. Then tackle the outside of the car. Get a full tank of gas. You’ll feel SO much better.

4. Go over your finances

First, if you don’t have a budget, make one. It’s especially important now to stick to one and to know what you’re spending (and not spending). If you’re married, do this as a couple. Next, go over all of your bank accounts and make sure both you and your spouse know how to access all funds and what the passwords are (so military spouses don’t know the passwords to pay their bills until a deployment happens). Go over all of your investment accounts. If you have kids, consider setting up a 529 for them. If you haven’t yet, set up an IRA or Roth IRA. Put contributions on auto-debit if you tend to forget. Another tip to consider is splitting your savings accounts into different accounts. For example, have one for “vacation,” one for “auto tax (which usually is billed all at once every year), one for “utilities” or any quarterly bills, one for “auto maintenance fund,” etc. This will make it easier to see what you have in each.

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

5. Get rid of stuff

Go through every room and every closet and see what you have that you can either sell online, donate or save for a garage sale this summer (hopefully we’ll be able to have these this summer). This will help free up some extra cash if you need it, and it will also help you see what you have and what you don’t use. You’ll be surprised what you find. Commit to doing one room of the house each week.

6. Home improvement projects

Now is the perfect time to tackle those home improvement projects you’ve always wanted to do. Change out the hardware in your doors and outlets – it will make a big difference. Paint. Change out light fixtures. Replace your faucet or backsplash. Paint your front door. These are simple fixes that have big impact.

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

7. Make a list of grocery staples and meals

Write down all of the things you regularly buy at the grocery store – this will make your life so much easier when you’re shopping. Identify a place in your fridge or pantry for each of these items and always put them there; that way, you can see when you’re out. Also, put together a list of five to ten meals and recipes your make regularly. That’s the first step to meal planning, which is the first step to a much more organized dinner life.

8. Back up your files

Make sure all of your computer files are backed up. Clean out any unnecessary computer programs. Print out your favorite photos and put them in an album too, which will give you extra security.

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

9. Zero-out your inbox

This may be the most difficult, but it’s so important for your productivity. If you have thousands of emails (too many to sort through), I recommend creating a folder called “Emails until January 2020” and putting them all in there. Then create either work folders or folders for your person emails like “Online orders,” “Kids school,” “House,” “Military,” etc. Go through the last several months and start a new system of filing everything away (or deleting it) once you read it.

10. Talk about your future

Talk about your goals for the future with your spouse, or, if youre single, journal about them. Where do you see yourself in five years? In twenty? What is the one thing you’ve always wanted to do? What is that trip you always wanted to take? If you identify what’s important to you now, you can do the steps necessary to get there.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This therapy dog is a hero to veterans

Hercules, in classical mythology, is a hero and god famous for his strength, travels, and adventures.

At the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa, a black lab, appropriately named Hercules, is a hero to veterans, visitors, and VA staff. He’s their resident rock star and therapy dog, and he’s about to celebrate his third birthday.

Robert Lynch is a Marine, the Tampa VA Veterans Experience Officer, and proud dad to Hercules. As a service-connected veteran, Lynch is upfront and open discussing his physical and mental health needs, including mobility, depression and anxiety.


In 2017, Lynch applied for a therapy dog to help with his own overall health, but after further thought wanted to expand the role of his potential new best friend. He talked with Tampa VA Director Joe Battle about having a therapy dog as a VA staff member.

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

Battle loved the idea of a full-time canine on staff, as did other leadership and they created a hospital policy defining what would be the role of their new employee.

Southeastern Guide Dogs, a non-profit group that trains guide and service and therapy dogs, brought a few furry friends to meet Robert. Once Lynch met Hercules, he knew they had a special bond. The trainer from Southeastern saw it too, saying they were “surprised at how fast the two connected.”

To this day, Hercules doesn’t want Lynch out of his sight. While working at the Tampa VA, Hercules and Lynch do spend some time apart as Hercules goes with other trained handlers to visit different areas of the hospital. Hercules puts in about 50 hours a week, rotating visits to various clinics and care units.

A work day for Hercules can range from playing fetch with veterans in physical therapy, painting with veterans in a creative arts class, or playing a role in a Final Salute–a ceremony held inside the VA to honor a veteran who has passed. Hercules carries the flag and seeks out those who may need some emotional support.

Hercules Saves the Day

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Lynch received a call one day with a special request. A veteran in the hospice unit wanted to visit with Hercules again. Hercules was not scheduled to visit that part of the hospital that day, so Lynch made arrangements and took the intuitive black lab to see the patient as quickly as possible.

Hercules got in bed and snuggled the gentleman as he reminisced about his boyhood pup named Shadow and how Hercules reminded him of his beloved dog.

Lynch and Hercules spent about 45 minutes with the patient and then went back to their regular schedule. A short time later, Lynch received a call. “It was for a Final Salute. The same man that wanted to see Hercules in hospice had passed and they wanted us to be a part of the Final Salute.”

Director Joe Battle consoled Lynch by telling him, “You gave that man, that veteran, his last wish, there’s no better way to honor him.”

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

Hercules shakes with Medal of Honor recipient Woody Williams at the VA Patient Experience Symposium.

As VA staff come in to start their day, several make sure to stop by Lynch’s office and get a hug from Hercules. Lynch knows the importance of this seemingly small gesture. “It’s just as important to enhance the staff experience as it is the veteran experience when they come to VA,” he said. “Something positive sets the tone for the work day and happier employees means happier customers.”

What does Hercules do to unwind and have fun? He takes breaks during the day and will lay at Lynch’s feet to rest and recharge. On the weekends, Lynch and his family take Hercules fishing and to his favorite spot–the dog beach.

“Sometimes I think he’s kinda bummed out that he’s not at the hospital every day. He likes to play with other dogs, but he really loves to be around people,” Lynch said. “He’s so devoted. I still have my own issues. I love to see him make others happy.”

Tampa VA will be celebrating Hercules’ 3rd birthday with a Barkday party, June 26, 2019, at 1pm. For details, visit the James A. Haley VA Medical Center’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/VATampa/.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marine snipers may have a new MOS in 2020

A recent shortage of snipers has prompted a new “proof of concept” sniper position in the Marine Corps, according to “Marine Times.”


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(Staff Sgt. Donald Holbert)

In mid-2018, the Marines announced the start of a new course for the specialized sniper position that was slotted to take place at SOI-West. The class was going to redistribute military personnel from the School of Infantry-West and the Basic Reconnaissance Course.

Although original plans were set for February of 2020, it has been moved to May to “provide sufficient staffing, and when resources would be available,” according to a “Marine Times” interview with Training and Education Command Official 1st Lt. Samuel Stephenson. Only Marines who hold the rank of Lance Corporal or above are eligible to take the scout sniper training course.

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

Candidates for Scout Sniper Platoon (2015)

(Sgt. Austin Long)

The new MOS is going to be “0315” and is a specialized scouting sniper position. The new MOS is guided towards Marine snipers with advanced patrolling ability. The core track will remain in the same vein as other “03” MOSs.

In fact, the 0315 MOS is essentially an abridged path for scout Marines in the 0317 MOS. According to “Marine Times” the training for 0317 would, “…divide the course, providing a shortened version for the initial 0315 MOS before that individual would then be shipped back to a unit to perform scout duties and guidance from unit 0317 snipers.”

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

(Robert B. Brown Jr., USMC)

The news of the upcoming course comes hot on the heels of recent deficiencies in sniper success rates. The “Marine Times” reported the significant failure rate led to the Marines producing only 226 snipers from 2013-2018. This figure is down approximately 25% from years past.

The same report also found that “less than half” of all Marines who took the sniper courses in 2017 passed, even though the eligibility and training requirements had remained static.

The new 0315 seeks to help remedy the need for more total snipers in the Marine arsenal by supplying a scout sniper course, while still creating an environment for upward mobility should Marines pass the more specialized advanced sniper courses.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons why veterans tend to ruin the fun of haunted houses

It’s that wonderful time of year when veterans, their friends, and their families go out to enjoy a little spooky fun around town. They’ll have fun with the decorations, getting into goofy costumes, and, overall, just enjoying the spirit of the season — but there’s just one place veterans tend to avoid: haunted houses.

We don’t avoid these because of their intended scariness — far from it. Veterans just don’t seem to have the same reaction as most civilians. We tend to have one of three reactions to being put in what is, essentially, a guided maze filled with actors dressed like our favorite monsters: Either we’re way too in to how cool what’s going on around us is, we just can’t suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy it, or, well, we’ll get to the last one in a minute.


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Perfect for war! Terrible for Halloween fun…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Justis Beauregard)

1. We aren’t scared the same way

Once you’ve spent some time in the military, certain things just don’t scare you the same way. I’m not saying that seeing someone dressed as a distressed clown brandishing a chainsaw (with the teeth taken out for safety) isn’t objectively terrifying — it definitely is.

But veterans spent years learning how to always switch their “fight or flight” response in one direction. Once you’ve done your time, that response never really shuts off. You may not be fighting every monster you see, but you’re not going to run through the haunted house like most guests.

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 again, having attention to detail is never fun…

(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Ronald Bailey, 100th Missile Defense Brigade Public Affairs)

2. Our attention to detail overshadows the rest of the “fun”

We keep level heads and analyze every tiny detail of what’s going on while others are cowering. We notice the tiny things. This works absolute wonders in haunted escape rooms — but that same cannot be said for haunted houses.

You’ll look for and find things that break the immersion. You’ll stop admiring/being spooked out by all of the scary stuff and simply get through the thing like there’s some kind of reward at the end — there isn’t. The experience of the haunted house was the reward.

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

You might also get asked to leave if you stack your family by sector of fire they’d take as they enter the room.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Devon Tindle)

3. We will use room-clearing techniques as we go through 

There’re only so many spots for actors to hide throughout a maze: behind that door, at the end of the hallway, behind all those curtains. Coincidentally, these are the exact same spots that most veterans remember from room-clearing drills.

The ideology is the same, but instead of jumping out to attack a squad of infantrymen, the haunted house actors are just trying to help you celebrate the Halloween spirit. It actually gets a bit disappointing when the veteran thinks to themselves, “if I were them, I’d totally set up an ambush point here at the funnel of death,” only to realize the actors didn’t get your memo.

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

“Want to see a real horror monster? You should see my old drill instructor when faced with an unsecured wall locker.”

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Pedro Cardenas)

4. We will one-up creepy moments with real-life stuff

There’s a certain expectation that guests at haunted houses will suspend disbelief enough to allow themselves to be scared and enjoy the experience. That kind of goes out the window when you can’t help but notice that the “blood” splotches on the walls don’t really line up with how arterial blood would actually spew out of that “zombie’s” neck.

That’s fine and all, but it ruins the fun for the other people in your party. Nobody really wants to hear us say, “oh, you think this is scary? Try losing your weapon in a porta-sh*tty as your FOB is getting indirect fire! Now that’s scary!”

We know, bro. We know.

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

What’s actually a scary thought is that your MACP Level 1 isn’t going to do jack sh*t against a security guard who likes tasing people.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jensen Stidham)

5. We tend to get a bit… punchy… around the actors

You knew this one was coming. No, you can’t punch the actors that jump out at guests. They’re not allowed to touch you and you’re not allowed to feed them their teeth.

In fact, it’s against the law — and everyone will laugh at you if you try to say that some minimum-wage-earning teenager in a cheap costume at a haunted house that you knowingly and willingly paid money to visit is actually some monster.

Plus, most haunted houses have cameras and security guards in place for just such occasions. So, uh, just don’t do it.

MIGHTY BRANDED

8 musicians who aren’t named Elvis that served in the military

When you think of famous musicians who have honorably served in the United States Armed Forces, the mind immediately goes to Elvis Presley — and how could it not? Photos abound of the handsome, young Elvis in a crisp Army uniform. When he arrived at the airport to attend basic training, the airport was mobbed with screaming fans.

Upon being drafted, Elvis Presley entered the United States Army in spring of 1958 and served until spring of 1960, receiving his discharge from the Army Reserve in 1964. At the time of his draft, he was the most well-known entertainer in the Armed Forces, but he didn’t let his fame get in the way of service. Despite being offered a safer, cushier role in the Special Services as more of an entertainer and recruiting tool, Elvis chose instead to serve as a regular soldier.

However, Elvis isn’t the only famed musician to serve their country. Let’s look at eight other musicians you might be surprised to learn served their country in the United States Armed Forces.


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​Ice-T

Tracy Lauren Marrow, better known by his stage name, Ice-T, is one of many young adults who found themselves turning to military service as a way out of a tough situation. Dealing drugs on the streets of Los Angeles to support himself, he knew he needed to turn his life around when his daughter was born.

Marrow enlisted in the Army and served four years in the 25th Infantry Division at the Tropic Lightning Schofield Barracks in Hawaii.

During his time in Hawaii, Marrow served as a squad leader at Schofield Barracks. It was during this time that he purchased musical equipment and began work to hone his skills, save money, and prepare to launch a career in music. As Ice-T, Marrow went on to a dynamic career, first as a Grammy Award-winning musician, rapper, and songwriter, then as an actor on television on the hit show Law Order: Special Victims Unit.

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

Jimi Hendrix

American rock legend Jimi Hendrix remains one of the most influential guitarists of all time, despite an incredibly short career of only four years.

Well known for his groundbreaking instrumentalization on electric guitar and his legendary performance at Woodstock, Hendrix entered the military as one of two choices given to him by police after being caught twice in stolen cars: it was prison or the military.

Hendrix enlisted in May 1961 and was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division and stationed in Kentucky. Hendrix next completed paratrooper training and was given the prestigious Screaming Eagles Award in early 1962.

However, it seems that Hendrix wasn’t well-suited to military service and was given an honorable discharge just six months later. While Hendrix later claimed that he received a medical discharge after breaking his ankle in a parachute jump, he was actually discharged due to “unsuitability” for 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
Johnny Cash receives an award from a Marine sergeant during his performance for military personnel at the naval station.

Johnny Cash

The Man in Black was first a man in uniform. Johnny Cash, singer, songwriter, and one of the bestselling musicians of all time, had a career that spanned decades, genres, and generations.

Before he was an award-winning musician, Cash served in the United States Air Force. At age 18 and directly after high school, Cash enlisted and attended basic training at Lackland Air Force Base and technical training at Brooks Air Force Base in Texas.

He was assigned to the 12th Radio Squadron Mobile of the Air Force Security Service in Germany as a Morse code operator, intercepting Soviet transmissions.

His earnings in the military allowed him to buy his first guitar while stationed in Germany and he actually formed his first band, the Landsberg Barbarians, in the Air Force. Upon his discharge, he took advantage of the GI Bill to attend a radio announcing course in Memphis before launching his country music career.

And if it weren’t for his time in Germany, we probably wouldn’t have this version of “I Walk the Line” to contemplate!

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

Willie Nelson

Singer, songwriter, and grassroots activist, Willie Nelson is one the most famous voices in country music. He’s well-known for his work supporting American farmers and advocating for the legalization of marijuana through his role as co-chair of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

He grew up in Texas during the Great Depression. After tumultuous early years, he moved to Arkansas to live with his grandparents, and he began playing honkytonks to avoid field work.

After he left high school, Nelson enlisted in the Air Force and served for about nine months before receiving a medical discharge due to back issues.

And while he didn’t serve very long, he has stayed passionate about veteran issues throughout his storied career as a singer, songwriter, author, and actor, advocating for increased medical care for veterans and supporting veteran advocacy groups, helping to raise awareness about homelessness among veterans.

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

Yes, that MC Hammer.

MC Hammer

Stanley Burrell, known professionally as MC Hammer, is an American hip-hop recording artist, dancer, and producer who enjoyed tremendous success during the 1980s and ’90s with hits such as “U Can’t Touch This” and “2 Legit to Quit.”

After graduating from high school in Oakland, Burrell took undergraduate classes in communications. Discouraged by his lack of success, he was at a crossroads. He vacillated between considering work as a drug dealer or a job in the military.

He ultimately decided to join the United States Navy for three years, serving as an Aviation Storekeeper 3rd Class at the Naval Air Station at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California, until his honorable discharge.

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

John Coltrane

Jazz legend John Coltrane was one of the most influential saxophonists and composers of all time. Known for his own recordings (more than 50) and his collaboration with other jazz greats, including Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk, Coltrane died young of liver cancer but leaves behind an exceptional musical legacy.

To avoid being drafted by the Army in 1945 during World War II, Coltrane enlisted in the Navy on the day the first atomic bomb was dropped on Japan. He trained as an apprentice seaman and was sent to Pearl Harbor.

During this time, his musical talents came to light, and he joined the Melody Masters, the base swing band. By the end of his service, he had assumed a leadership role in the band, and it was during this time that he made his first recording with other Navy musicians, playing alto saxophone on jazz standards and bebop tunes.

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

Tony Bennett

With a career that has spanned more than six decades, Tony Bennett is the living voice of American pop standards, jazz classics and, more recently, contemporary duets with other legends such as Amy Winehouse and Lady Gaga. He has earned 19 Grammy awards, two Emmy awards and is a Kennedy Center Honoree. He has sold more than 50 million records worldwide.

However, before he was Tony Bennett, he was Anthony Benedetto, who was drafted into the United States Army in November 1944 during the final stages of World War II. As a replacement infantryman, he served across France and into Germany, and in March 1945, he joined the front line.

During active combat, Bennett narrowly escaped death several times and he participated in the liberation of a Nazi concentration camp, where American prisoners of war from the 63rd Division were also freed.

During his service, he also sang with the Army military band under the stage name Joe Bari, and played with many musicians who went on to have post-war music careers. Once discharged, Bennett studied at the American Theater Wing on the GI Bill.

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

George Strait with U.S. Army Chief of Staff Peter J. Schoomaker at the 2005 San Antonio Stock Show Rodeo, before Schoomaker swore in a new group of Army recruits in front of rodeo fans.

George Strait

Country music singer, songwriter, and producer, George Strait, AKA the “King of Country,” is considered by many to be one of the most popular and influential country music artists of all time. George Strait is famed for his neo-traditionalist style, his cowboy look and 60 No. 1 Billboard country music hits.

In 1971, Strait eloped with his high school sweetheart, Norma, then joined the United States Army. He was enlisted in the Army from 1971 to 1975 and was stationed in part in Hawaii. While there, he launched what would become a lifelong career, singing with the Army-sponsored band called Rambling Country.

Strait’s commitment to the men and women of the Armed Forces has continued throughout his illustrious career. He even served as the spokesman for the Wrangler National Patriot program, which raises awareness and funds for American wounded and fallen military veterans and their families.


MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons why no one really cares about the FNG’s basic training stories

Once you’ve completed your branch’s initial entry training, you’re officially entered into the ranks of one of the most prestigious fighting forces the world has ever seen. Congratulations. You’ve done something difficult that your civilian peers couldn’t even imagine. The day you graduate should be a moment of pride. You’ve earned the right to call other troops and veterans family.

With all of that being said — good job: You’ve done the exact same thing that literally every single troop has done before you. Unless you’ve got some grand story that doesn’t center around being yelled at, your story isn’t interesting to rest of us.

Why?


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

Oh? Your DS had a wicked sense of humor? Hate to break it to you, kid, but they all need one to handle years of idiot recruits.

We’ve heard it all before

Quick: Describe your entire time at basic training using just a few words. Chances are, it sounds a lot like, “we got yelled at, told to do push-ups, and were given a brief moment of levity when the drill sergeant showed compassion for a half a second before snapping at anyone who tried to take advantage of that moment of humanity.” Sound about right?

The details may differ slightly and the set-up to a joke the drill sergeant played on a recruit may change, but that’s about 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

They’re more like “freedom baseballs” in the hands of grunts.

We do way more interesting things in the unit

You may have done some pretty cool sh*t back at Sand Hill. You got to go to the range and, if you’re old school, you got to toss a grenade. Out of the entire nine weeks you spent in training, there are roughly 3-ish days of cool sh*t happening.

At the unit, those kind of days are always on the training calendar and, just a heads up, no one tosses grenades like a shot put in the real world.

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 M203 is one of the greatest things the Army ever adapted. Someone must have just been like, “I know bayonets are awesome and all, but what if we had one that shot grenades.” A true American legend.

(Meme by We Are The Mighty)

We have all of the cooler toys at the unit

Riding in the back of an LMTV with the entire platoon packed in like sardines is fun and all, but it’s nothing compared to the fun of actually driving one of those bad boys in the training area of Fort Irwin — doing doughnuts in the desert and whatnot.

Sure, grenades are always going to be cool, but hearing the PATHUNK of a M203 being fired into a plywood structure is the kind of moment that makes you question leaving 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

Sure you do, buddy. Sure you do.

Recruits often miss the bigger point of training

FNGs often come out of basic with the grandiose idea that they’re now some hardened badass who can take on the world because they shot “sharpshooter” and took combatives level one. That’s cool and all, but you probably missed the things you were actually supposed to learn, like customs, courtesies, how to set up a uniform, how to march, and how chains of command work.

It’s just the way things are. Regardless of when or where you went to basic, the Army needs its soldiers to know how to properly put on their uniform and address their superiors before they can move on to being badasses.

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

If you were honestly duped into falling for the “Emotional Support Drill Sergeant” meme, I heard the training room needs you to refill out a new ID 10-Tango form.

(Meme via Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Says)

Admittedly, each cycle of basic is slightly less intense than the cycle before it, but…

Don’t tell me, let me guess: Your cycle was the “last of the good ones before everything got soft.” That exact phrase has been used for as long as recruits have been graduating basic. In its own weird, paradoxical way, no one is lying but everyone is full of sh*t.

The needs of the Army shift so basic may encompass more tasks suited for a garrison lifestyle, but it should never be implied that the Army got soft. Your cycle wasn’t given stress cards, cell phones, or desserts, sure — but that’s probably because no cycle gets those, no matter how much your buddy’s friend’s cousin swore they’re real.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 ways your service never really ends after you leave the military

All good things, inevitably, come to an end. Whether you were counting down the days until you had your DD-214 in your hands or you stubbornly got your retirement paperwork after giving everything you had to Uncle Sam, there eventually comes a time for you to lace up your boots for the very last time.

That’s neither a good thing nor a bad thing — it’s just a thing. But your time in uniform has forever changed you. What life has in store for you after service is no one’s guess, but wherever you find yourself, know that you’ve still got a fire inside of you that will never 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

Being in the military really teaches you that motivating others isn’t always a matter of throwing a flashy office party. It can be something as small as a well-timed “good job” or expressing interest in someone’s well-being.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Aaron S. Patterson)

You’ll still conduct yourself like the troops

The Marines have a saying: “Once a Marine, always a Marine.” There’s a lot to that statement, but in one sense, it can be applied to everyone who served in the Armed Forces. There are a lot of things that you pick up in whichever branch you served that just won’t ever fully go away.

You’d be amazed at how far punctuality, polite greetings of the day, and standing up straight will take you. Shy of your ability to do whatever job, employers want someone who’s going to work well with a team, communicate effectively with others, be willing to take charge, and have the guts to make impromptu decisions that will benefit others and the company.

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

No pressure, but your guys are all crossing their fingers for your success. Don’t let them down.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Samantha Villarreal)

Your passion and drive comes from within

It really doesn’t matter what you end up doing for a living after you’ve transitioned back to civilian life. You could get a job doing pretty much the same thing you were doing on the green side, you could use the GI Bill to learn a trade you always wanted to pick up, you could even try your hand at something artistic. It’s your life, and you’ve earned the right to pursue whatever you’re passionate about.

Want to open up an auto shop in your old hometown? Open it and give it your all every single day. Are you gifted in computer work after being a computer guy in the Army? It’s a damn fine job, and you’ll be great at it. Heard the jokes about the LT getting a degree in underwater basket-weaving and want to give it a shot? You will be the best damn underwater basket-weaver the world has ever seen.

Why? Because your leaders instilled in you a mission-oriented mindset. That’s what separates you from the “I might” or the “I could” people of the world. Your NCO made you into an “I will” kinda person.

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

What seems like simply reaching out your hand to someone will make a world of difference to everyone else.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Andrew Parks)

You’ll never lose that will to help others

Where life takes you still doesn’t really matter. Wherever you find yourself, you’re still going to go out of your way to selflessly impact the life of another person. It doesn’t matter if you open a veteran-owned nonprofit to help the troops or you’re just taking care of the grandkids in your cabin hidden in the woods. You’re always going to strive for something bigger than yourself.

This is because veterans have always been taught to think of “one team, one fight.” Everyone may be fighting to reach the top, but you’ve got to help out your squad if they’re not able to reach the goal.

Whether your metaphorical squad in the outside becomes your coworkers, your family, or the entire veteran community as a whole, you’re always going to fight to help bring them up.

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

You’ll always find someone new to share a laugh with. Hell, even just telling civilians about some of the funny stuff we did is a great way to break the ice.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace)

Your brotherhood with your fellow troops will last forever

Everyone you’ve ever met, from your squad mates to that admin clerk you occasionally bumped into before formation, will stay with you always. Even if they are no longer with us, the good times you had together will keep bringing a smile to your face whenever you’re alone in the sometimes-unforgiving civilian world.

When times got rough in the military, your brothers and sisters were always just a knock on a barrack’s room door away. Now they’re on, what seems like, the other side of the world. But are they really? It doesn’t matter if it’s been years, we all have someone we served with that we can call at a moment’s notice to talk to. We all swore to give our lives to protect our brothers and sisters in arms — answering a phone call is leagues easier.

Nearly every other veteran will embrace you as their own if you’re in need of a hand. Even civilians can occasionally earn that level of trust and respect if you let them into your new “squad.”

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

Stay the course, my friends.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron Henson)

You’re always going to be the flag bearer for the Armed Forces

Fewer people are enlisting in the Armed Forces than ever before. Fewer people have relatives that served, and it’s astounding how many people have never interacted with a veteran. That sucks for Uncle Sam trying to fill out the formations, but that gives you the advantage.

There’s no denying it. Finding your place in the civilian world will be hard, and there’s no road-map to follow. It will get lonely at times. Just keep holding onto that flag and others will see you for your true worth. Just as the flag-bearer in wars of old inspired the troops, you will, too. It will also help other vets find you in hopes of rekindling the camaraderie we all once had in the barracks.

You’re not the first person to ever leave military service, and you’re not going to be the last. Let it be your guide, even if you don’t know where you’re going.

MIGHTY CULTURE

LRC develops future leaders by using hands-on practice in tackling both leader and follower roles

After the Second World War, the Air Force established their version of a LRC, Project X, which would be used as one of the four means to evaluate students of the Squadron Officers Course at Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.


“What we are trying to replicate for the students is being under stress and how you manage people under stress with limited resources, limited time and trying to solve a complex problem with a group of people with different personalities, different ways of leading and ways they want to be followed,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Clayton, Air University assistant professor of leadership.

The primary purposes of the course are to improve the students’ leadership ability by affording the student an opportunity to apply the lessons learned in formal leadership instruction. Secondly, to assess the students by measuring the degree to which certain leadership traits and behaviors are possessed. It’s also used to provide the students with a means of making a self-evaluation to determine more accurately their leadership ability and to provide the opportunity to observe the effects of strengths and weaknesses of others during a team operation.

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

Most importantly, the LRC is used to develop diverse individuals as future leaders in the Air Force.

Stress plays an important part in the evaluation of each leader as it is through stress the critical leader processes and skills will be observed by the evaluator. To produce a stressful environment for the working team, certain limitations are placed on them.

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

Officer trainees work together to overcome an obstacle at the Project X leadership reaction course. The course is designed to improve leadership traits to Air-men attending Squadron Officer School, Officer Training School, Air Force Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy and other schools on Maxwell AFB.

(Air Force photo by Donna L. Burnett/Released)

According to the LRC standard of operations, the course operation is designed so that each individual will be a leader for a task-one time and serve as a team member or observer the remainder of the time. For each task there is a working team and an observing team. The working team is responsible for completing the mission while the observing team acts as safety personnel, overwatch elements, support elements, or competition.

The tasks themselves vary. For example, one task may be to get personnel and equipment across a simulated land mine without touching the ground by building a makeshift bridge from supplies. Another task may incorporate fear and more physical endurance by getting a team and gear over a high wall. Each task has a time limit and unique problems to solve the mission.

Although completing the mission isn’t the goal of the LRC.

“As a leader, you have to recognize some of these people may be scared to do this task or to move across this task with me. So, how do you motivate those people? Do you have the emotional intelligence to understand that you may be able to get through this task on your own, but other people may be scared to do it, so how do you understand that? How do you communicate to your people, motivate them, lead them by example, inspire them to follow you and get through the task? These tasks are designed to cause that stress and to make you apply the leadership skills you learned in the classroom,” Clayton said.

The whole concept is getting students to identify what type of leader they are as well as understand and identifying leadership traits in others.

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