As the second largest world coffee exporter — behind Brazil — Vietnam exports 25 million 60-kilogram bags of coffee per year. While 95 percent of this is the Vietnamese Robusta bean, only 5 percent of the coffee grown and exported in Vietnam is the original Arabica bean introduced by the French during colonization. With the rise of specialty coffee in Vietnam and worldwide, the demand for the more expensive — and more desirable — Arabica bean is getting stronger. The push for high-quality coffee is greater than ever, and it’s beginning to take the Vietnamese coffee industry by storm.
Black Rifle Coffee Company’s latest Exclusive Coffee Subscription roast is a full-bodied, wet-hulled Vietnamese Arabica with a smoky aroma; tasting notes of tobacco, spice, and Mexican vanilla; and soft acidity.
Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company.
As Robusta beans are less fragrant, more bitter, and have a higher caffeine content than Arabica beans, they are ideal for instant coffee. In fact, the first coffee processing plant in Vietnam was established in 1950 to manufacture instant coffee using Robusta beans.
Even though Robusta beans dominate the coffee fields of Vietnam, there remains a strong underbelly of coffee growers who produce high-quality specialty Arabica beans. Arabica coffee trees grow shorter than their Robusta cousins and require a higher elevation. This limits their spread across Vietnam, finding roots only in the northwestern part of the country and the central highlands in the south.
Cantimor is the most common type of Arabica grown in Vietnam, though this hardy bean isn’t a true Arabica bean. The Robusta-Arabica hybrid isn’t well-known for producing a high-quality cup of coffee. Other types of Arabica grown in Vietnam are of the Bourbon and Mocha varieties, or Moka in Vietnamese.
In Vietnam, coffee beans are generally harvested using a strip-harvesting method. This involves stripping a coffee tree of all its cherries, both ripe and unripe. This is the normal practice for Robusta beans and results in a lower-quality coffee.
Arabica beans require a more selective method of harvesting, which involves continually harvesting only the ripest cherries and leaving the unripe cherries to fully develop. This labor-intensive process requires coffee farmers to pick through their coffee trees every few days to select the beans at their ripest.
After harvesting, Robusta beans are processed using a drying method that spreads the cherries out in the sun for up to two weeks. While this can produce high quality coffee, it requires vigilant watch and exceptionally dry sunny weather.
Black Rifle Coffee Company’s latest Exclusive Coffee Subscription roast is a full-bodied, wet-hulled Vietnamese Arabica with a smoky aroma; tasting notes of tobacco, spice, and Mexican vanilla; and soft acidity.
Photo courtesy of Black Rifle Coffee Company.
Arabica coffee is processed using the wet-hull method. Instead of immediately drying the cherries in the sun, the cherries are soaked and rubbed in order to remove skin and pulpy flesh from the bean. Sometimes this is done using a hand-cranked pulper, similar to a meat grinder. The beans are then submerged in water with a fermentation enzyme that helps to rid the beans of any remaining pulp.
After fermenting overnight, beans are rinsed to reveal a clean layer of parchment covering the bean. These parchment-coated beans are dried in the sun for up to a week before being run through a wet-huller. This machine vibrates powerfully to jostle the beans, providing the friction needed to separate the wet parchment from the coffee bean. The intense vibrations can sometimes cause the soft beans to split at the end, resembling a “goat’s nail.”
Once through the wet-hulling process, the beans are spread out to dry in the sun. The beans are raked consistently throughout the day but kept bagged at night to continue fermentation. Without the protective layer of parchment, wet-hulled coffee dries quickly and achieves the ideal moisture content in less than a week.
Only the best beans make it into the Vietnamese Arabica elite coffee. Beans are sorted using sieves of different sizes, then they are sorted again based on various characteristics such as foreign matter, moisture content, color, and wholeness. In Vietnam, it is popular for the Arabica beans to be dark roasted in butter, brewed strong, and served with sweetened condensed milk.
For the first time since launch, the latest “Call of Duty” game is getting a major update to its Battle Royale mode: A new map named Alcatraz.
As you might expect, the map is directly based on the infamous prison island in the San Francisco Bay.
The Battle Royale mode in “Call of Duty: Black Ops 4” is named “Blackout” — it’s a big hit with fans of the series.
Given the relatively small size of the island, the new Blackout mode is geared towards close-quarters gameplay.
As you can see above, Alcatraz is full of multi-level buildings where most of the fighting will take place — a major change from the sprawling, region-based Blackout map that arrived with “Call of Duty: Black Ops 4” in November 2018.
Alcatraz is a free addition for anyone who owns the game, and arrives on the PlayStation 4 on April 2, 2019; Activision says it will head to Xbox One and PC on an unspecified date.
Check out a trailer showcasing the new map right here:
Official Call of Duty®: Black Ops 4 — Alcatraz Trailer
President Donald Trump on Oct. 28, 2019, released a picture of the “wonderful dog” he said took part in the raid against Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State terrorist group.
“We have declassified a picture of the wonderful dog (name not declassified) that did such a GREAT JOB in capturing and killing the Leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,” Trump said in the pinned tweet with the photograph of the dog.
Military officials did not comment on the dog’s actions during the raid, but Trump gave some insight on its mission during a press conference on Oct. 27, 2019. He said US forces found al-Baghdadi in Syria, where he fled into a tunnel with three children and was pursued by at least one military dog. He had an explosive vest, which Trump said he activated, killing himself and the children.
“He reached the end of the tunnel, as our dogs chased him down,” Trump said. “He ignited his vest, killing himself and the three children.”
Trump added that the dog received minor injuries in the raid. Pentagon officials on Oct. 27, 2019, said the dog returned to duty after the raid, but they declined to give further details.
Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the dog was still in a combat zone and that he would not comment on its name.
News of the dog’s role in the raid prompted speculation over its name and breed. Several military officials said the dog’s name was “Conan,” according to the Newsweek reporter James LaPorta. The dog is reportedly named after comedian Conan O’Brien.
US officials also told ABC News that it was a Belgian Malinois, the same breed that took part in the operation against the al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The British Army diet is getting a millennial makeover.
While full English breakfasts have long been a staple for troops, this could soon be replaced by everyone’s favorite brunch: avocado on toast.
Alongside a healthy smoothie, the new millennial-friendly breakfast option is being introduced in a bid to tackle obesity amongst troops, the Express reported.
Indeed, Lieutenant-Colonel Ben Watts was recently quoted as saying that 57% of soldiers are overweight and 12% fall into the obese category — however, it’s worth noting that BMI tests often class extremely muscular people as overweight as well.
Watts even said that the growing rate of obesity in the army is a “national security threat” because fewer troops are fit to be sent into battle.
And so the healthier “warrior breakfast” options are reportedly being trialed with units of 4 Infantry Brigade at Catterick in North Yorkshire.
It’s been devised by defense contractor Aramark in collaboration with HQ Regional Command, the Express reported, and will see soldiers offered a light pre-breakfast of yogurt, fruit, and smoothies to start their day, and then avocado on toast as a refuel meal after their morning training sessions.
A spokesperson for the army explained to INSIDER that they take a “holistic approach” to wellbeing, educating recruits in nutrition, diet, and exercise in order to maintain a healthy weight. Troops have to pass regular fitness tests too.
The new breakfast forms part of a “Healthy Living Pilot,” which aims to lead to improvements in the areas of nutrition, alcohol, smoking, work-life balance, and mental health, with the ultimate goal of increasing retention of personnel in the military.
But what will the soldiers make of the changes?
A source who spent time as a reserve soldier in the British Army told INSIDER: “Smoothies and avocado would be a pretty drastic turn from army breakfasts as I knew them, which were mostly focused on filling you up — and not costing too much.
“My first breakfast on a British Army base was: sausage, bacon, bread, hash browns, beans, and porridge. There were apples and bananas, but it is fair to say the troops were not that enthusiastic about them.”
Another source from inside the army, who wished to remain anonymous, agreed that the new menu likely wouldn’t go down well with all the recruits.
“It’s an interesting thought and would certainly be welcome in the Officers’ Mess, not so sure about the soldiers though!” he said.
He also explained that one reason obesity is an issue in the army is that the food provided isn’t particularly appealing, which means troops often end up purchasing more delicious — but less nutritious — options.
“One of the main reasons for poor health and obesity is the government’s decision to outsource chefs and cooking to contractors like Aramark,” he said.
“The ‘core meal,’ which they are obliged by the MoD [Ministry of Defence] to provide is a balanced meal but is deliberately bland and uninspiring.
“Soldiers can opt for the more expensive alternative options which are more appetizing but are regularly unhealthy, such as burgers, pizzas, chips, baked beans, etc.”
Soldiers are able to order more appetizing but less nutritious meals such as pizza.
The army spokesperson added that caterers are required to provide food to suit a wide range of dietary requirements, including healthy options.
There’s also been a change in how food is paid for.
“Soldiers now have to pay for their food as well,” our source continued. “The old system had it deducted at source from pay.
“Many soldiers are bad at managing their finances and then end up with no money to pay for food so have to eat rations, which are designed to dump loads of calories into your system to keep you going for high-intensity exercises!”
Breakfast is a little different though — for the “core option,” soldiers can currently eat a cooked breakfast comprising six items including two proteins, but cereal and milk are also deemed one of the six. This means that even if you only want a bowl of cereal, you’re wasting money by not getting a fried egg, a sausage, and beans on fried bread alongside it, according to our source.
He also explained that many of the soldiers and officers choose not to go to breakfast at all because they’d rather sleep longer and they don’t actually want to eat a big meal before doing a high-intensity exercise circuit as part of their physical training.
Would soldiers be more likely to go to breakfast if it was a light smoothie?
“Officers used to be able to order soldiers to have breakfast but we cannot order people to spend their own money.”
Perhaps with lighter options on offer to start their day, more soldiers would decide to eat before training.
Rhiannon Lambert, a registered nutritionist and founder of Rhitrition clinic on London’s Harley Street, said she welcomes the healthier changes to the army diet.
“Regardless of the growing rates of obesity, the army deserves to have a nourishing and fulfilling breakfast that’s going to aid them in their productivity and overall health,” Lambert told INSIDER.
“Focusing on changing their dietary plan owed to obesity is something that should be seen as a positive thing in helping the health of our troops rather than focusing on the question of weight and numbers.”
However, Lambert pointed out that avocado toast isn’t actually the perfect healthy meal many people believe it to be.
“Avocado on toast isn’t actually that balanced as it doesn’t have enough protein in,” Lambert explained. “I would recommend adding a protein source on the top such as nuts, seeds, beans, eggs, or hummus.
“And of course, everyone is completely unique, and lifestyle and activity levels should dictate the diet.”
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
If you have ever run into a situation in which you asked yourself, “What rule? How could someone think that was a good idea? Why was I not told?” you can now offer your comments for an upcoming rule.
You may have experienced distance learning during your military service or know someone who has. As such, you can provide valuable insight into a proposed rule, Distance Education and Innovation, which will likely affect service members’ online schooling worldwide.
The U.S. Department of Education, led by Secretary Betsy DeVos, has published a proposed set of rules that will significantly affect distance learning for service members and their families enrolled in post-secondary educational programs. The public comment period for your valuable insight closes May 4, 2020, at 11:59 PM ET. If, after reading, you feel you would like to share your thoughts, you can do so here. Following the comment period, the Department will publish a final regulation before November 1, 2020.
In its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Distance Education and Innovation, the Department has proffered many changes to current educational policies from how universities define their curricula to how regular and substantive interaction between students and instructors is defined. Most importantly, educational institutions with proven track records will benefit from a streamlined approval from the Secretary for the first direct assessment program offered by the school.
What this means for service members
In the coming months, service members will likely see a rapid expansion of new online schools and online programs — also, advertisements for newly G.I. Bill-approved schools will appear on social media platforms everywhere. Also, a more comprehensive array of applications will be made accessible to members of the military and veterans. This is excellent news for members of the military bouncing from state to state and country to country, where some traditional universities’ programs cannot follow due to their accreditors’ archaic and arguably avaricious policies.
For example, in response to one of its student’s military-related mobilization, a servicemember’s military friendly school may state, “You want us to record your classes? That’s too much of a burden. You volunteered to deploy, that is not the university’s problem.” Thus, the traditional university, under the guise of its federal and state regulations, may deny a student-soldier’s request for accommodation and defer to its accreditation standards in its defense.
Conversely, the non-traditional university, better equipped, may see a mobilization of a Reserve or National Guard soldier as a straightforward situation to accommodate because, fundamentally, the online university is best positioned to handle the unique circumstances that affect service members and civilians alike. As an example, the current COVID-19 pandemic, which is forcing traditional students to stay at home, has driven student-soldiers nationwide to temporarily drop their textbooks and, instead, get into their uniforms. Thus, student-soldiers’ statuses and VA-payments may be negatively affected.
Despite the proposed set of rules accommodations for non-traditional students, the rapid development of the rule itself – the process – may be cause for concern.
Criticism of the Rule
According to William J. Zee, partner and chair of the Education Law group at Barley Snyder, LLC., a strategically focused, full-service law firm representing businesses, organizations, and individuals in all major areas of civil law, “Critics believe it is worrisome that these regulations were proposed at the same time the biggest commentators – namely higher education institutions – are busy trying to institute distance learning in the face of COVID-19 and do not have enough time to fully digest and comment on the proposed regulations.”
Critics’ concerns about the rapidity of this Rule’s development are supported by a seemingly absent involvement of traditional universities within the Department’s “months-long negotiated rulemaking effort” that constituted public hearings and engagement from education-subject matter. Seegenerally Notice, DoED, 2020 at 1.
Also, Sharon L. Dunn, PT, Ph.D., president, American Physical Therapy Association, stated publicly, “. . . changing the accreditation requirements, process, or standards for purely programmatic accreditors could cause lasting damaging effects.” SeePublic Comment, APTA, September 14, 2018.
Thus, the Department’s shift towards programmatic accreditation standards may mean damaging effects on educational institutions relying more on institutional accreditation, and an outcome possibly welcomed by some in the military community.
Support for the Rule
Mr. Zee, continued, “On the other hand, the proposed distance learning regulations could prove positive for current active military servicemen and women who have the possibility of being deployed while obtaining some sort of degree. These regulations propose to broaden the ability for institutions to better use technology and serve the classes of people who may not be in a traditional school setting. These regulations call for more use of technology, a broader acceptance of distance learning, and a recognition that the method of obtaining credentialing isn’t as important as the end result.”
In addition, Blake Johnson, a first-year law student, stated publicly, “This is a very important move toward protecting the student . . . First year itself is difficult and presents an educational challenge unlike any I’ve faced before. That being said, I was getting used to the in-person socratic lectures. That’s all gone. The ABA (American Bar Association) is stringent on their allowance of distance learning. This current situation has seen an unprecedented move in which the ABA allowed for students to not only go ‘online’ but also allowed for a trend towards Pass/Fail type grading. This proposed rule allows for a relaxed and more accommodative approach to education and factors in the issues associated with the current [COVID-19] pandemic.” See Public Comment, April 15, 2020.
Thus, more significant innovation in distance learning could prove beneficial to members of the military.
Author’s Public Comment and Concerns
This author will be specifically addressing administrative remedies in his public comment to the Federal Register.
Because of the extraordinary degree of speed by which the Department has rollbacked regulations in its Proposed Rule, student-soldiers could be at higher risk of exposure to misrepresentation and fraud.
Addressing this author’s concern, the Department generally states, “These proposed regulations attempt to limit risks to students and taxpayers resulting from innovation by delegating various oversight functions to the bodies best suited to conduct that oversight—States and accreditors. This delegation of authority through the higher education regulatory triad entrusts oversight of most consumer protections to States, assurance of academic quality to accrediting agencies, and protection of taxpayer funds to the Department.” SeeProposed Rule, DoED.
In laymen’s terms, the Department is passing the buck to State regulators such as the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, for example, a state agency charged with the duty of assuring academic quality in Massachusetts.
The problem with such delegation is (1) many state regulators are hyper-focused on targeting for-profit institutions and politically incentivized to protect non-profits, and (2) there are very few remedies for student-soldiers facing disputes with their universities, regardless of the school’s tax status. Frequently, military commanders cite the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, USERRA, a federal employment law, in response to their student-soldiers’ concerns with missing classes due to drill or deployments.
Expect to see a Public Comment from this author very soon that will advocate for the inclusion of protective language to the Department’s Proposed Rule modifying eligibility to ensure student-soldiers are given big sticks to augment their respectful, soft voices in the classroom.
The metaphorical equivalent of a student-soldier’s attempt to resolve a dispute with their non-profit university would be like an attempt to sue God. The cards are stacked unfairly in favor of universities nationwide, and, in closing, for those who believe non-profit universities to be a fragile, delicate butterflies, worthy of extraordinary deference by state regulators, please research universities’ publicly available Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 990(s).
Call to Action
After reviewing the Department’s Tips for Submitting Comments, submit your comments through the Department’s Rulemaking Portal or via postal mail, commercial delivery, or hand delivery. The Department will not accept comments submitted by fax or by email or those submitted after the comment period. To ensure that the Department does not receive duplicate copies, please submit your comments only once. In addition, please include the Docket ID [ED-2018-OPE-0076-0845] at the top of your comments. If you are submitting comments electronically, the Department strongly encourages you to submit any comments or attachments in Microsoft Word format.
If you must submit a comment in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF), the Department strongly encourages you to convert the PDF to print-to-PDF format or to use some other commonly used searchable text format. Please do not submit the PDF in a scanned format. Using a print-to-PDF format allows the Department to electronically search and copy certain portions of your submissions.
Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to www.regulations.gov to submit your comments electronically. Information on using Regulations.gov, including instructions for accessing agency documents, submitting comments, and viewing the docket is available on the site under ”Help.” See 18638 Federal Register Vol. 85, No. 64. Thursday, April 2, 2020, Proposed Rules. at 1.
Attending a Non-Profit vs. For-Profit Educational Institution
A common misconception about non-profit educational institutions is that they cannot, by definition, be predatory. In an online document concerning non-profits, last updated February 2018 by Pasadena City College (PCC), a non-profit educational institution, PCC states, “None are predatory, but have varying success rates – students should research institutions carefully applying.” See Document at 2. In its blanket immunity declaration, PCC also highlights the importance of carefully researching educational institutions’ successes, which can be intentionally elusive to some consumers.
A more in-depth article addressing the logical fallacy behind blanket immunity granted to non-profits is discussed further in These Colleges Say They’re Non-profit—But Are They?, written by Robert Shireman, Director of Higher Education Excellence and Senior Fellow at The Century Foundation. If further clarification is needed on what it means for an educational institution to be predatory, the Federal Trade Commission, in concert with many State Attorneys General, maintains publicly available reports and cases that define bad actors’ deceptions of consumers in areas ranging from aviation to wine and beer.
According to Mr. Zee, “For-profit institutions have been preying on the education of current soldiers and veterans because their GI Bill does not go toward the for-profit institutions’ 90/10 limit of federal funding. For-profit institutions have been caught deceiving prospects into believing they are actually non-profit institutions, and many soldiers have been negatively impacted, as they are seeking a non-traditional method of schooling.”
In deciding whether to attend a non-profit or for-profit educational institution consider this, enrolling at an institution of higher learning through an online portal provided by the bursar’s office may not feel the same as removing a wrinkled dollar bill from a tired, leather wallet, handing it to a cashier across a counter, and receiving a delicious chocolate candy bar unwrapped in return. Still, it is a financial transaction just the same. Students are consumers of educational services provided by companies, whether the U.S. Internal Revenue Service sees them as 501c3 or not.
Measure of a Post-Secondary Educational Institution’s Success
It is generally easy to discern the success of teaching a child to play catch, the child either catches the ball, or they do not catch the ball. However, some may take the view that the measure of success is instead the child reaching to catch it. The attempt itself is worthy of some admiration, an ideal not lost to many.
However, an attempt to catch the ball is categorically not a success, determined by many programmatic-accreditation bodies, an example of which would be the American Bar Association. One either passes the bar exam or does not pass. Likewise, one either passes their State’s medical board or they do not. The ramifications of either determine whether one will be permitted to practice law or medicine, an ideal we value for the professionals charged with the duties of either keeping us out of prison or alive on the operating table.
Conversely, to an institutional-accreditation body, a child may be the next Jason Varitek despite missing the ball and landing on his or her face. An institutional-accreditation authority is not so concerned whether the child catches the ball, it is concerned with what the ball is made of, how fast it was thrown, and whether the child was the intended recipient. In other words, institutional-accreditation bodies are more concerned with the educational process, the number of students per class, than the result, the number of students working in their desired field. An accredited university can retain its accreditation by solely focusing its business decision-making process on an extensive gamut of unique gradable metrics, rather than merely one: whether its graduates obtained jobs.
In its Notice, the Department “call[s] for institutions, educators, and policymakers to ‘rethink higher education’ and find new ways to expand educational opportunity, demonstrate the value of a post-secondary credential and lifelong learning, and reduce costs for students, schools, and taxpayers. See Factsheet (emphasis added).
What is a CFR?
CFR is short for a Code of Federal Regulation, more amicably known as administrative law by members of the legal community. Administrative law is unique because it is technologically complicated. For example, Lawyers and Judges typically do not enjoy defining what is or is not the correct way to fly an airplane.
Hence, a federal agency, the Federal Aviation Administration, filled to the seams with aviation experts, defines the technical means to fly an aircraft correctly. Likewise, other areas of specialization like immigration or education are governed by administrative rules, ultimately guided by the federal, executive branch of government.
In this instance, the Department’s change to the CFR will result in a cascading effect on how the education sector conducts its education-business – or for the FAA, flies a plane. However, unlike flying a plane, which arguably has a clear right and wrong way of doing it – up or down, education has its unique nuance. For example, a law student, activated for a combat military deployment – yet with access to computers, may
As a valued reader of We Are the Mighty, you may know or be a Soldier, Sailor, Airmen, Marine, or Coast Guardsman who balanced online, distance learning with their military service. Please, share your insight on what you think of the Department of Education’s proposed rules.
F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft from the U.S, United Kingdom, and Israel participated in Exercise Tri-Lightning over the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, June 25, 2019.
Exercise Tri-Lightning was a one-day defensive counter air exercise involving friendly and adversary aircraft from the three participating countries and consisted of active and passive air defense operations.
This exercise is a demonstration of the interoperability between the U.S., U.K., and Israel using the F-35A, F-35B, and F-35I respectively.
“We build capacity with our strategic partners to harness our air component’s capabilities and skills,” said Lt. Gen. Joseph Guastella, U.S. Air Forces Central Command commander. “The transatlantic strategic relationship between the U.S. and our allies and partners has been forged over the past seven decades and is built on a foundation of shared values, experience and vision.”
A U.S. Air Force pilot from the 4th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron enters the cockpit of a F-35A Lightning II before Exercise Tri-Lightning June 25, 2019, at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Thornbury)
The U.S. Air Force F-35As flew from Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, the Royal Air Force F-35Bs flew from RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, and the Israeli Air Force F-35Is flew from Nevatim Air Base, Israel.
“Tri-Lightning was an exercise which had been planned for months and it provided an outstanding opportunity for the squadron to operate and learn from our fellow F-35 community,” said U.K. Wing Commander John Butcher, Squadron 617 commanding officer. “In addition it allowed us to share and gain valuable experience that we will be able to exploit during future training and potentially operational deployments, whether embedded on the Queen Elizabeth or from overseas air bases.”
An F-35A Lightning II from the 4th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron taxis the runway at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, before Exercise Tri-Lightning June 25, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Thornbury)
The F-35s from the three nations played as primary friendly, or blue, force players in this exercise while a variety of other aircraft played the aggressor roles, simulating realistic combat situations between the advanced F-35s and previous generation fighters.
“The exercise today reflects the close cooperation between the participating nations, said Brig. Gen. Amnon Ein-Dar, Israel Chief of Air Staff. “This training opportunity between Israel, the U.S. and Britain, strengthens shared capabilities and overall cooperation amongst allies.”
Veterans who have been in the service a while know that the exact dates and times of the biggest operations are typically classified until just before they pop off. But the troops have found ways of knowing what’s coming because the command can’t quite keep everything to “business as usual” while also preparing for a big push.
Here are six signs that sh*t’s about to get real:
Lt. Col. Matthew Danner, battalion commander of Battalion Landing Team 3/1, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, inspects a rifle aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex during a regularly scheduled deployment of Essex Amphibious Ready Group and the 13th MEU, July 31, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Francisco J. Diaz Jr.)
The commander shows up to inspections
In theory, the commander cares about all inspections, but he or she typically leaves the actual inspecting to their noncommissioned officers and platoon leaders. After all, company commanders and above have a lot to keep track of.
But sometimes, the first sergeant and commander are involved in more inspections than normal, and are checking for more details than normal. It’s a sign that they’re worried weapons, vehicles, and troops will see combat soon, making an untreated rash or rust damage much more dangerous.
Soldiers training at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, undergo a CS gas attack simulating an attack with a worse chemical agent.
(U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Hannah Baker)
Low-level, constant exercises or operations suddenly stop
When a force is built up for a potentially big fight, the commanders have to keep everyone razor sharp and focused. If the troops aren’t in regular combat, this is typically accomplished via small exercises and large drills.
But, if the fight is about to start, the higher-ups want to ensure that everyone gets a little rest before going into the big battle. So, leaders get word from their own bosses to cease unnecessary training and operations the days immediately preceding the fight, and troops may even get official confirmation 24 hours out along with orders to rest up.
All the headquarters pukes are suddenly mum, or are talking in whispers in corners
But of course, not every low-level soldier can be kept out of the loop. Someone has to look at where the moon will be on different nights, cloud cover, whether the locals will be outside or in their homes during normal patterns of life. Someone has to move the right equipment to the right spots, and someone runs the messages between all the majors making the plans.
So, those people are all low-ranking, yes, but they’re also in the know. They’ll respond in one of a few ways, usually spilling the beans to close friends or cutting themselves off from everyone — which are dead giveaways in their own right. If the intel guy who typically wants to talk to everyone is suddenly mum or will only talk in whispers to close friends, get ready for a fight.
Marines deliver an M777 howitzer via MV-22 Osprey slingload during training in Australia in 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Wetzel)
A whole bunch of fresh supplies arrive
Here’s a little secret: For as much as all the troops complain about always having to deal with old, hand-me-down gear, the U.S. is actually one of the best-supplied militaries in the world, if not the best supplied (we’re certainly the most expensive). But all of those supplies are typically sent to top-tier units or units about to go into the fight.
So, if you’re not in a Special Forces unit but the supply guy shows up with a ton of useful, new gear — especially batteries —that your unit has been asking for — and failing to receive — then you might be going into combat. Get to know the equipment quick.
Pizza Hut shows up at the Marines’ base just before the invasion of Iraq begins in ‘Generation Kill,” a mini-series based on a journalist’s account of the invasion.
A sudden, seemingly unprompted, nice meal
As odd as it sounds, an unexpected nice meal is a dead giveaway that troops are about to experience something rough. If you’re a soldier in the middle of a huge force, it’s a good bet that the “something rough” is the planned operation.
This sometimes comes up in movies and TV, like in Generation Kill, when 20 cars showed up at the wire filled with Pizza Hut while the Marines were waiting for the invasion of Iraq to begin. Driver and comedian Ray Person immediately calls it,
“Sh*t is on. Has to be.”
Marines communicate with family and friends on new morale internet lines in 2011 in Kabul, Afghanistan.
(Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs)
Of course, the officers typically want to tell all their troops what’s going on and get them mentally prepared for the fight, but there’s a big step they need to take to make sure word doesn’t leak out: a communications blackout. Internet and phone access to the outside world is cutoff so no one can send an errant text home and let the enemy know the invasion is coming.
So, if the morale lines suddenly cut off, go ahead and report to your platoon, because word is coming down that something has happened or is about to.
Full of fear and anxiety, a 10-year-old Vietnamese boy sailed across the South China Sea for 10 days, in 1986, with the expectation that a better life awaited him across the ocean.
In his mind, the only way he could live a full and prosperous life was by coming to the United States.
“If it was not for America, I probably would be dead long ago,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Thinh Huynh, the senior enlisted advisor of 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. “If I didn’t escape, my life wouldn’t be like this.”
Born in a small village in Southern Vietnam, Huynh and his siblings lived most of their youth in poverty fighting for survival daily.
“We were so poor that we used to watch people eat,” he said. “We were barely eating. We would eat only two or three times a week.”
While recalling the struggles he faced growing up during post-Vietnam War conditions, the infantryman relates to images of children suffering from chronic malnutrition.
Command Sgt. Maj. Thinh Huynh, the senior enlisted advisor of 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, prepares to conduct pre-jump training during Operation Devil Storm at Green Ramp, Fort Bragg, N.C., July 17, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Alleea Oliver)
“When I see those TV commercials where they show the kids that have bloated bellies, to me, that was how I grew up in Vietnam at that time,” he said.
Huynh believes the Vietnam War, along with other wars, determined the outcome of his family’s future. Before the war, they were rice farmers and after the war they were forced to share their harvest with the communists, he said.
“Not only that, but they took away our home,” he said.
It was then that his family decided to escape Vietnam in hopes of a better life. Packed like sardines in a tiny fishing boat, Huynh and his family sailed across the South China Sea.
“I looked at old slave-boat drawings and I would compare us to that,” he said. “We were all packed in tight with no space to spare.”
Being hungry, thirsty and tired for an extensive amount of time altered the other passengers’ character.
“When people think they are about to die, they will do just about anything to survive,” Huynh said. “This brought out some of the worse behavior from people that I ever witnessed.”
Huynh said he observed a lot of things that kids shouldn’t have seen. “I saw greed, fear and anger,” he said. “Some people were so greedy they would drink as much water as they could while the rest of us had about a shot glass per day.”
After ten days of sharing the small space with 86 others, they arrived at a refugee camp on Pulau Bidong Island. Huynh’s hope finally had became his reality.
Command Sgt. Maj. Thinh Huynh, the senior enlisted advisor of 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, holds a static line while conducting pre-jump training during Operation Devil Storm at Green Ramp, Fort Bragg, N.C., July 17, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Alleea Oliver)
“One of the happiest days of my life was the day I escaped out of Vietnam,” he said. “I didn’t know if I was going to make it or not, but I was happy and very excited.”
Huynh and his family lived in the camp for nearly two years before coming to the United States, where he learned how to read and write, and studied America’s culture.
On Sept. 28, 1989, Huynh and his family moved from the refugee camp to a small town in Iowa.
Being interested in the military throughout grade school, he chose to focus his first American homework project on the U.S. Army.
At the age of 22, Huynh joined the U.S. Army in 1996, but waited to tell his loved ones because of his fear of disappointing his mother.
“When I joined the Army, I didn’t tell my parents until two days before I went to basic,” he said.
“My mom was really upset, because I was in college at the time. Nobody wanted their kid to escape out of Vietnam and go through all that just to join the military. “
In spite of their fears, he believed there wasn’t anything better than serving the country he now calls home.
“Ever since I was in the refugee camp, I wanted to be a U.S soldier,” he said. “Every day I would say, I need to be in the Army. So that’s what I did. I joined the Army. I don’t have any regrets.”
Twenty one years and six combat deployments later, the paratrooper says he’s gained resilience, honor and a profound love for the United States.
Although he has led many soldiers, Huynh never predicted he would become a command sergeant major within the 82nd Airborne Division.
“I never had the goal of being a command sergeant major,” he said. “My goals were to always take care of my soldiers. Now that I’m a command sergeant major of an Airborne Infantry battalion in the 82nd, I’m enjoying every minute of it. It is such an honor to be in a unit that is filled with so much history, pride, tradition and some of the best soldiers and leaders in the Army.”
According to his youngest sister, Thanh Huynh, he always possessed the qualities and had the desire to be a soldier.
“The characteristics that helped him become a command sergeant major are leadership, loyalty, initiative and courageousness,” she said. “Growing up, that’s all he ever wanted to be.”
At a young age, he demonstrated selfless service by putting Thanh first in every situation. “When we would come across a river while going fishing, he would always make sure I got across safely by finding anything that would float because I can’t swim,” she said.
Huynh believes his experiences in Vietnam developed his gratitude toward the freedoms he has as a U.S. citizen.
“I would never take America, or the freedom I have here, for granted,” he said. “I know what it’s like growing up without freedom [and] fearing for your life on a daily basis.”
Nearly 30 years ago, Huynh left Vietnam and found a place he could call home.
“I realized once I set foot in this country, that this was now my country,” he said. “I was born in Vietnam, but I escaped. America is now my country.”
As interviewer David Begnaud said, “The world is looking for some good news right now.”
This interview with 87-year-old Marine veteran Frank Eller who contracted COVID-19 on a cruise is it. Eller has emphysema, heart disease and all sorts of underlying medical conditions, but also the USMC in his blood.
Facebook photo/Frank Eller
Eller was feeling pretty rough a few days into a two week cruise when he finally went to the medical center on the third day of symptoms at his wife’s insistence. Barely able to breathe, Eller got a chest x-ray which revealed his lungs were filled with infection. The doctor started antibiotics and he was evacuated by the United States Coast Guard to a hospital in Puerto Rico, where he was finally administered a test for COVID-19.
Eller spent 25 years with the Marines and as you can see, is tough as nails with a great sense of humor and an awesome family.
87yo U.S. Marine survives #COVID19 after being evacuated from cruise ship & treated in Puerto Rico
An F-35A Lightning II soars over Hill Air Force Base during a demonstration practice Jan. 10, 2020, at Hill AFB, Utah. The team is now assigned to Air Combat Command at the 388th Fighter Wing.
There are so many things that make the super bowl one of our favorite times of the year; the halftime show, the food, the tailgates and oh yeah, the game. But there is nothing that gets you more amped up for kickoff than a fighter jet screaming over the stadium as the high notes of the national anthem are being hit.
How do they decide who gets to fly in the Super Bowl flyover? Well this year’s honors came down to luck.
Major Alex Horne displays the challenge coin that decided who would get to fly in the Super Bowl LIV flyover.
Tessa Robinson/We Are The Mighty
At The NFL Experience’s USAA Salute to Service lounge, We Are the Mighty spoke to members of VMAFT-140, specifically the F-35 pilots assigned to the flyover for Super Bowl LIV in Miami, FL. Marine Major Hedges told WATM, “It’s a dream to fly over the Super Bowl on game day and it’s hard to choose … so we did what most Marines would do. We tossed a coin.”
It came down to Major Adam Wellington (callsign “Zombie”) and Major Alex Horne (callsign “Ape”). They used their squadron coin to call it. The front of the coin has a blue background, emblazoned with the words VMFAT-501 Warlords with an F-35 set across some lightning, while the back mimics the squadron patch and is largely silver.
“I called blue,” Ape said. “I lost the toss.” He said he was crushed, of course, but still thrilled to be in Miami as part of the squadron and to experience Super Bowl fever, even if they aren’t going to the game.
News broke earlier this week that a military spouse shot and killed her child before turning the gun on herself, dying by suicide.
The news hit the community hard and military spouses are left wondering, where is her movement? Where is her foundation? Where are the bills being passed to help people like her? Silence. As America prides itself on patriotism and strength, we neglect to support the nurturers our foundation was built upon: the military spouse.
Tristen Watson and her son Christopher. Watson was also pregnant with her second child at the time of her suicide.
So many military spouses have silently struggled; myself included. Our community claims to be uplifting and empowering, but when do we really support us? After it’s too late? Once the person is gone, then do we band together for support and strength?
It’s time we put as much energy into someone’s life as we do in mourning their deaths.
Up until recently, the Department of Defense did not keep track of the number of suicides committed by military spouses. Why? Because it wasn’t important. We have always been an afterthought in this community. Our struggles have been minimized as we are called “dependa” and other derogatory slurs that paint an incorrect image of our lives.
According to the Department of Defenses’ first ever study on dependent suicide, in 2017, nearly 200 military dependents committed suicide, that year. Of that, over 100 were military spouses. Knowing that these men and women were spouses of a military member and internally battled something we knew nothing about is not okay. Did they ask for help? Maybe. Our community is pretty tough and often times asking for help may result in actions that are not helpful at all, like bullying.
Our lives aren’t easy. The images of military spouses you see on television aren’t completely accurate. We hurt, too. We face mental health issues like every other human. Yes, we endure hardships within military life. We work, we go to school, we solo parent, we struggle with PTSD, and yet we still find the strength and courage to care for our service members. Many military spouses have college diplomas that are collecting dust, as our student loans collect interest, because we cannot obtain gainful employment. We are turned down by employers because of gaps in our resumes or lack of longevity.
New military spouses receive briefings from members of the Military and Family Readiness Center and Key Spouses during a spouse orientation seminar April 5, 2018, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.
We volunteer within the military community as Soldier and Family Readiness Group Leaders, Crisis Response team members, and so many other positions that help keep our military strong. We are a valuable asset to the military that is often overlooked and underserved. We deserve to have a voice. You need to hear our stories.
Remember, when you are sharing that meme and berating the struggles of our military spouses, you are contributing to the destruction of an already under supported community. Our stories matter. We matter. Let’s spread this message of love and support to our sisters and brothers living their lives with wounds we cannot see. Be the voice of the silent. Speak up!
If you are a military spouse struggling, reach out. Know that your sisters and brothers love you and want you to be okay. We are a village. It’s time to embrace one another and uplift each other during these tumultuous times.
Tiffany Marquis is no stranger to serving her community through volunteerism. Together with her active neighborhood, she’s turned quarantine walks into decorative art treasure hunts with sidewalk chalk displays, massive egg hunts, and even painted sign photo ops.
When Marquis learned from another Family Readiness Group leader that troops were seeking resources for incoming troops facing quarantine after deployment, she quickly pulled resources together.
“Another FRG leader had seen my spouse of the year Facebook page and thought I might be able to help her and reached out. We had never met before, but this is just what you do. We are all here for the same mission, the same cause,” said Marquis.
All returning soldiers were facing a 14-day quarantine in the barracks no matter what their living or marital status was.
“You want them to be comfortable. You want to make what they are going through easier if you can,” Marquis said.
Marquis called upon her contact at NC Packs 4 Patriots, a nonprofit organization supporting service members and families out of North Carolina through care and comfort item donations.
“I met the organization at a back to school drive years earlier. Immediately you get the understanding that they are there to help, to show up. When I called them, they were immediately on board asking me what I needed,” Marquis said, who volunteers her time at the organization whenever possible.
Marquis didn’t stop at calling upon just one organization; she put the ask out to her community Facebook page where the group has regularly shown up for each other throughout the pandemic.
“People were excited to help however they could. Within a few days I had over 15 packs of toilet paper and facial tissue.” While these items may seem obvious on the list of comfort, given the scarcity of local stockpiles nationwide, it speaks volumes to the love and selflessness of those contributing to the project.
“Not only did we get hygiene kits, but we had plenty of favorite snack items donated as well,” she explained. Snacks represent normalcy in America for soldiers. Receiving the comforts of home upon arrival is one small way to help with the reintegration process.
The efforts of Marquis and her neighborhood throughout this tough season is a prime example of how capable and strong the military community is no matter what obstacle they are facing. “We weren’t going to let this pandemic stop us from supporting each other,” stated Marquis confidently.
“The FRG overall is a team. As a leader your goal is to support the unit however you can throughout deployments, homecomings, or with fundraisers.” Marquis and the FRG leader who reached out for support are now mutually invested in the success of each other and their missions, exchanging help and resources to rise to meet the need.
In uncertain times and with plenty of units across all service branches facing similar situations, the example set here is one to follow.
“It starts with one person,” Marquis shared. “One person to form a team and the team then moving forward in the right direction.”
Welcome banner from the 2009 rally (Sturgis Motorcycle Rally)
Since its founding in 1938, the Sturgis Motorcycle has been held every year with the exception of the three year period between 1939 and 1941; the rally did not take place due to gas rationing in support of the war effort overseas. However, the rally returned in 1942 and has been held every year since.
Here are 5 reasons why Sturgis is nothing short of extraordinary.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 is no exception to Sturgis’ longstanding run. On June 16, the mayor of Sturgis announced that the city council had decided to move forward with the 80th Sturgis motorcycle rally. During a Facebook broadcast, he outlined that the rally will include, “modifications that provide for the health and safety of our visitors, and our residents and our town.” Ten days/nights of riding, food and music will take place in Sturgis, South Dakota from August 7-16.
A ride during the 2019 rally (Sturgis Motorcycle Rally)
Historically, attendance at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally has averaged around 500,000 people. Official attendance peaked in 2015 at 739,000 for the rally’s 75th anniversary. Billed as the largest motorcycle rally in the world, people come from all across the country to be a part of Sturgis’ famed rally. Many riders make it a family event, towing their motorcycles behind a camper and riding the last few miles into town. Others transport their rides via shipping companies and arrive by plane. In 2005, when the official attendance was 525,250 people, the rally’s director estimated that fewer than half the attendees actually rode there, a testament to just how many people came from far and wide to experience Sturgis.
Rally Headquarters features vendors, rally registration, and city info booths (Sturgis Motorcycle Rally)
With so many people descending on the small town every year, the city of Sturgis capitalizes on the rally which makes up 95 percent of its annual revenue. In 2011, the city earned nearly 0,000 from the sale of event guides and sponsorships alone. On average, the rally brings in over 0 million to the state of South Dakota annually. While the Lakota Indian tribe has protested the large amount of alcohol distributed at the rally so close to the sacred Bear Butte religious site, they have also acknowledged the importance of the revenue that the rally brings into the region and the tribes.
(Sturgis Motorcycle Rally)
The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is not just a bunch of bikers standing by their bikes in parking lots. Rather, the rally originally focused on motorcycle races and stunts. In 1961, the rally introduced the Hill Climb and Motocross races. Other forms of motorcycle entertainment included intentional board wall crashes and ramp jumps. Over the years, the rally was extended in length from a three day event to its current 10 day length. Entertainment and attractions also expanded to include vendors and live music. The first concert at the Sturgis Rally featured the legendary Jerry Lee Lewis. Other big names have followed like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Def Leppard, Montgomery Gentry, Cheap Trick, Tom Petty, Aerosmith, Bob Dylan, Ozzy Osbourne and Willie Nelson. This year, notable bands scheduled to perform include 38 Special, Quiet Riot and Night Ranger.
Panels of the memorial (Sturgis Motorcycle Rally)
5. Veteran recognition
Regularly attended by veterans, especially Vietnam Vets, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally takes great pride in recognizing the sacrifices made by the men and women of the armed forces. In 2019, the Sturgis Rally held a Military Appreciation Day presented by the VFW. Activities included a reception to honor a local veteran, entertainment and a flyover by a B-1 Lancer bomber. For 2020, the Sturgis Rally will feature the Remembering Our Fallen photographic war memorial. Highlighting service members killed during the War on Terror, Remembering Our Fallen is designed to travel and includes both military and personal photos.