Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

Be it writing, crafting, sewing, makeup, painting or music, the arts are considered both a hobby and an outlet for many military spouses. One such hobby – cosplay – has begun to pop up more and more in the military community. Cosplay, by definition, is, “a performance art in which someone dresses up as a character from a book, a movie, or a television show.” Cosplay often combines sewing and various forms of crafting, including makeup and building, to make a costume. But to some, it is much more than a hobby – it is a form of self-expression. These three military spouse cosplayers share what cosplay means to them, and how it has ultimately changed their lives for the better.

“Cosplay gives me an attainable outlet that I would not have otherwise.”

For some, cosplay is a way to get back in touch with oneself when life doesn’t go as planned. Lexi Fontaine, 26, an Air Force spouse stationed in Virginia, grew up doing theatre. However, when Fontaine was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at 16, she had to stop performing for the sake of her health. 

When Fontaine and her new husband moved to Georgia in 2015, Fontaine noticed character appearances for birthday parties and other events were a huge hit. “I thought, ‘Well, that sounds fun, and sounds like something that I could do, and would enjoy doing.’ This was also at the beginning of my health journey, so I said, ‘why not?’” she said. 

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

Shortly after starting her own business, Fontaine realized that this wasn’t what cosplay was supposed to be to her. “I think what was hard for me was when I started the business, I didn’t feel true to myself when I was charging people,” she said. “Because, for me, dressing up was an extension of the escape that theater always was for me. Cosplaying, being able to take on the personality and the magic of other characters – especially Disney – gave me an outlet for creative expression that I felt like my health took away from me.”

Fontaine also enjoys how liberating cosplay can be. “I got some really really nasty comments about my weight when I was dressing up for events, and I was a fraction of the size I am now. They really discouraged me. But with cosplay, you’re allowed to dress up as whoever you want to dress up as, so long as you do it respectfully and like it; you have no obligation to conform to anybody else’s standards. I think that there’s something very freeing about that,” Fontaine said.

If you follow Fontaine on Tiktok, you’ve likely seen her singing, dancing and dressing up like various Disney characters. She even “duets” with other TikTokers who make similar content to hers. “TikTok is where I use a lot of my costumes now. A lot of acting duets and stuff I do are modern day characters inspired by Greek gods and goddesses, and being able to take that and create a character out of that, there’s something that’s also very empowering about that. I feel that way about creative outlets in general – being able to take all of this extra creative energy that is constantly going through my mind, and actually put it somewhere, it gives you the sense of accomplishment that I don’t really get from a lot of things right now,” she said. 

If you haven’t already, be sure to follow @minniefontaine on Tiktok to see her latest content!

“It feels like a way to express the inner desires of my soul.”

Whether she is splashing in the waves as Mermaid Harmony, frolicking in the forest as Fairy Moonfire or Live Action Role Playing (LARP) as the notorious villain in her local roleplaying group, Aj Smit is weaving joy wherever she goes. Affectionately known as “The Joy Weaver”, Smit, 31, is an Air Force spouse, author, speaker and owner of  In Joy Productions, a safe space for women to explore who they are through art, meditation and creative conversation. 

Smit started cosplaying seven years ago, when she and her husband lived in Hawaii. “We went to the Comic Con. I was selling things, and everybody else’s dressed up and I thought it’d be awesome.” When asked what drew her to cosplay, she replied, “Honestly, I didn’t want to be in ‘human’ clothes.”

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

She also created a business through cosplay with her character Mermaid Harmony, who entertained moms and kids. “I started [my Mermaid Harmony business] because I always wanted to be a mermaid growing up,” she said. “[My husband] Jared joined the Air Force, and so it was a perfect way to have my own business, be a mermaid and also take it with me anywhere I went. It just looked like the perfect job, and it became the best of both worlds.” she said. “There’s a lot of moms who have dreams, and they also want magical moments for their kids. The way that we strip imagination and fantasy from people nowadays, we only allow it into escapism and we don’t weave it into our everyday lives,” she said. “I wanted to change that.”

When it comes to cosplay, Smit says it gives her a way to explore aspects of herself without ramifications. “When I do my photo shoots, or when I go dress up or dance in the woods, paint or draw henna, it’s all a way to explore who I am,” she says. “And with LARPing, it’s all an expression of something I want to explore, discover or uncover, like a personality trait or something that’s not safe to explore in the regular human world.”

Smit says that she can also explore some of her “dark” side. “You know I can be a crazy power hungry satyr in a game and be like, ‘Nope, it’s my way or the highway,’ where I would never do that in the human world,” she says.

Be on the lookout for Smit’s new book, The Red Thread, out in September 2021!

“Cosplay gave me a way to reconnect with my Ffmily”

Ashleigh Magee is a busy woman. Not only is she an active duty sailor in the Navy, but she is also a military spouse AND entrepreneur. She owns Ashleigh Magee Coaching, where she helps women in the military community lose weight, get fit and build healthy habits. 

Magee says her love of cosplay started when she went to her first San Diego Comic Con. Because of her circumstances, she had to buy her first costume. “I went to my first [San Diego] Comic Con in 2013.I was able to get tickets really late, and I [had] just graduated from the Naval Academy. I was living out of the hotel, so literally the only thing at my disposal was ordering online. So I cosplayed as Princess Peach. And I had a friend dress as Mario,” she said.

Shortly after her first comic con, Magee tried her hand at making her own costume. “When I lived in Hawaii, I found this amazing hot pink sequin ABS dress and got it tailored to my body. So I have an 80s Princess Peach with pink high top Chuck Taylors.” she said.

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

She says cosplay helped her realize that she had other interests. “I’ve always been a theater kid. I also didn’t know I was a nerd until later in life.I was always the weird kid that didn’t fit in but I didn’t understand what that meant until I was in college. In college, I was finally around theater kids.”  So I think part of it is the theater kind of aspect but cosplay to me is an external expression of who we are and who we want to be.” she said. 

Magee credits cosplay with helping her reconnect with her creativity. “When the pandemic started, I was here alone. I’m extremely extroverted, and I had just moved here so I had time to make maybe three friends before everything shut down,” she said. “I was using my business as a coping mechanism, and just work work work work work work, and I was like, ‘I need to reconnect to my outlets,’ and this was also happening while I was reconnecting with my biological mom who instilled those things in me at a young age.”  

Magee says cosplay has also helped strengthen her relationship with her mother. “I grew up in a house where they taught me how to knit, and quilt, and we were always crafting. So it’s been really beautiful in that way. As I’ve reconnected to my own creativity, I’ve healed my inner child and strengthened my relationship with my mom, so it’s like all these beautiful things all wrapped up into one,” she said.

Her next project? “She [my mom] and I are actually doing a 2021 sewing project! We’re both going to make Victorian outfits – I’m talking skirt, corset, the whole nine yards!” she said.

The next time you’re at a convention and you happen to see a cosplayer, be sure to tell them how awesome their costume is. You never know how much they need to hear it!

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 regulations from von Steuben’s ‘Blue Book’ that troops still follow

The winter of 1777 was disastrous. The British had successfully retaken many key locations in the 13 colonies and General Washington’s men were left out in the cold of Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Morale was at an all-time low and conditions were so poor, in fact, that many troops reportedly had to eat their boots just to stay alive. No aid was expected to arrive for the Americans but the British reinforcements had landed. It’s no exaggeration to say that, in that moment, one cold breeze could have blown out the flames of revolution.

Then, in February, 1778, a Prussian nobleman by the name of Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben arrived. He set aside his lavish lifestyle to stand next to his good friend, George Washington, and transform a ragtag group of farmers and hunters into the world’s premier fighting force.


With his guidance, the troops kept the gears turning. He taught them administrative techniques, like proper bookkeeping and how to maintain hygiene standards. But his lessons went far beyond logistics: von Steuben also taught the troops the proper technique for bayonet charges and how to swear in seven different languages. He was, in essence, the U.S. Army’s first drill sergeant.

The troops came out of Valley Forge far stronger and more prepared for war. Their victory at Stony Point, NY was credited almost entirely to von Steuben’s techniques. He then transcribed his teachings into a book, Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, better known as, simply, the “Blue Book.” It became the Army’s first set of regulations — and many of the guidelines therein are still upheld today.

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

Given the hours you spend prepping your dress blues, there’s no way in hell you’d bring it to a desert — or do anything other than stand there for inspection.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Daniel Schroeder)

Different uniforms for officer, NCOs, and troops

This was the very first regulation established by the ‘Blue Book.’ In the early days of the revolution, there was no real way to tell who outranked who at a glance. All uniforms were pieced together by volunteer patriots, so there was no way to immediately tell who was an officer, a non-commissioned officer, or solider. von Steuben’s regulations called for uniforms that were clear indicators of rank.

Troops today still follow this regulation to a T when it comes to the dress uniform — albeit without the swords.

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

The rifle twirling is, however, entirely a recent officer thing.

(Department of Defense photo by Terrence Bell)

Marching orders

If there was one lasting mark left on the Army by von Steuben, it was the importance of drill and ceremony. Much of the Blue Book is dedicated to instructing soldiers on proper marching techniques, the proper steps that you should take, and how to present your arms to your chain of command.

Despite the protests of nearly every lower enlisted, the Army has spent days upon days practicing on the parade field since its inception — and will continue to do so well into the future.

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

If you thought troops back then could get by without hospital corners on their bed, think again!

(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Petty Officer Susan Krawczyk)

Cleanliness standards

One of the most important things von Steuben did while in Valley Forge was teach everyone a few extremely simple ways to prevent troops from dying very preventable, outside-of-combat deaths. A rule as simple as, “don’t dig your open-air latrine right next to where the cooks prepare meals” (p. 46) was mind-blowing to soldiers back then.

But the lessons run deeper than that. Even police calls and how to properly care for your bedding (p. 45) are directly mentioned in the book.

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

While there arestillpunishments in place for negligencetoday, the armorer would be paying far more than for a lost rifle.

(U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa)

Accountability of arms and ammo

No one likes doing paperwork in the military (or anywhere else) but it has to be done. Back then, simple accounting was paramount. As you can imagine, it was good for the chain of command to actually know how many rifles and rounds of ammunition each platoon had at their disposal.

While the book mostly focuses on how to do things, this is one of the few instances in which he specifically states that the quartermaster should be punished for not doing their job (p. 62). According to the Blue Book, punishments include confinement and forfeiture of pay and allowances until whatever is lost is recouped.

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

Once given medical attention, a troop would be giving off-time until they’re better — just like today.

(U.S. Army photo by Robert Shields)

Sending troops to sick call

The most humane thing a leader can do is allow their troops to be nursed back to full health when they’re not at fighting strength. The logic here is pretty sound. If your troops aren’t dying, they’ll fight harder. If they fight harder, America wins. So, it’s your job, as a leader, to make sure your troops aren’t dying.

According to the Blue Book, NCOs should always check in on their sick and wounded and give a report to the commander. This is why, today, squad leaders report to the first sergeant during morning role call, giving them an idea of anyone who needs to get sent to sick call.

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

“No one is more professional than I” still has a better ring to it, though.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Maria Mengrone)

NCOs should lead from the front

“It being on the non-commissioned officer that the discipline and order of a company in a great measure depend, they cannot be too circumspect in their behavior towards the men, by treating them with mildness, and at the same time, obliging everyone to do his duty.” (p. 77)

This was von Steuben’s way of saying that the NCOs really are the backbone of the Army.

According to von Steuben, NCOs “should teach the soldiers of their squad” (p. 78). They must know everything about what it means to be a soldier and motivate others while setting a proper, perfect example. They must care for the soldiers while still completing the duties of a soldier. They must be the lookout while constantly looking in. Today, these are the qualities exhibited by the best NCOs.

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

They probably didn’t think we’d have radios back then…

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Thomas Duval)

The soldier’s general orders

Today, each soldier of the Army has their general orders when it comes to guard/sentinel duty. von Steuben’s rules run are almost exactly the same:

  1. Guard everything within the limits of your post and only quit your post when properly relieved? Check.
  2. Obey your special orders and perform your duties in a military manner? Check.
  3. Report all violations of your special orders, emergencies, and anything not covered in your instructions to the commander of the relief? Kinda check… the Blue Book just says to sound an alarm, but you get the gist.
MIGHTY CULTURE

Air Force wants to make its moves more stealthy by hiding in plain sight

In the social media age, U.S. military planners know it is near impossible to move large equipment, like ships and aircraft, without being spotted and having the activity broadcast to the world.

As the Defense Department continues to posture itself to counter China and Russia, one Air Force command is strategizing ways to throw off the enemy by doing everything in plain sight, according to the top general for the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command.

“That may mean not going into the predictable places or setting up new predictable places,” Gen. Maryanne Miller said. Miller spoke with Military.com during a trip with Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein to the base here.


Executing that strategy could be as simple as sending a C-5 Supergalaxy aircraft instead of a C-17 Globemaster III, on a cargo mission, or by placing cargo in spots the U.S. typically doesn’t operate in, making movements more difficult for observers to interpret.

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

US Air Force C-5 in flight.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Brett Snow)

“An example is, if you drive by a 7-11 [store], is that really a 7-11, or what’s really going on in there?” Miller said. “We land places all the time. You can land at MidAmerica [St. Louis] Airport and there may be some customers that are using some of those hangars that do some very special things. But yet when you see that place operate every day, it looks normal.”

She continued, “We need the capacity and the capability to just get to where we need to get to, [and that may be] off the beaten track sometimes.”

The initiative is part of a larger effort to actually shrink the Air Force’s footprint while expanding its reach, added Goldfein. The service has been working on modular bases that would act as small hubs designed to house a quick-reaction force. The Air Force has conducted exercises in Eastern Europe in recent months to see how effectively it can build up, tear down and move to get closer to a potential crisis.

The Air Force may also be able to make use of positions and infrastructure not designed for military purposes.

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III.

(US Air Force photo)

“For me, the number one [thing] is, ‘Do we have the right amount of basing and access to be able to perform the global mobility mission?'” Goldfein said. “The global mobility mission requires a number of bases … military and civilian, that we routinely exercise and use. Because in a time of crisis or conflict, you don’t want to start building your basing access at that point. You actually have to have it.”

The Defense Logistics Agency, for example, is working fuel contracts with civilian ports to get more fuel access for Air Force planes, he said.

“We’re going to all these different places all the time to make sure that we can move an airplane; every three minutes, there’s somebody taking off or landing to do that,” Goldfein said.

There are also lessons to be learned from close international partners, Goldfein said.

For example, “India, in the global mobility business, actually operates the highest-altitude C-17 operations on the planet,” Goldfein said.

“We have a lot to learn from India in high altitude and mobility operations. And we have a lot to offer India when it comes to global mobility and how we operate back and forth. So that’s one example where … we’re more competitive because we … build trust and confidence at a different level,” Goldfein said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here are the Navy uniforms issued in the brig

Navy Personnel Command has a new uniform for prisoners at all ashore correctional facilities, and it’s uni-service.

Wearing of the new uniform will be mandatory starting May 1, 2019, for all prisoners in pre-trial and post-trial confinement at Military Correctional Facilities (MCFs) run by the Navy, regardless of the prisoner’s service affiliation, the Navy said in a news release last week.

The new standardized prison uniform (SPU) also will likely save the Navy money, the release states. The costs associated with buying and maintaining service uniforms for a prisoner become a tremendous and unnecessary fiscal burden to the Navy and the taxpayer, the service said.


The new uniform will come in two colors, dependent on the prisoner’s legal status, the release states. Those in pre-trial confinement will get a chocolate-brown uniform, and those in post-trial confinement will get a tan uniform.

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Neah Rau, corrections specialist, Naval Consolidated Brig Chesapeake, models the new pre-trial standardized prisoner uniform.

(U.S. Navy photo by Yeoman 2nd Class John LeBaron)

Currently, prisoners at Navy MCFs wear their service utility uniforms, in line with the Navy’s theory that doing so helps maintain discipline and aids in rehabilitation.

“However, having prisoners wear their service uniform creates security and public safety challenges, such as difficulty in distinguishing staff from prisoners,” Jonathan Godwin, senior corrections program specialist with the Corrections and Programs Office of the Navy Personnel Command, said in a statement.

In addition, sentences often also involve total forfeiture of all pay and allowance, “and it is rare for a prisoner to return to active duty,” Godwin said.

The new standardized prison uniform (SPU) also will likely save the Navy money, the release states. The costs associated with buying and maintaining service uniforms for a prisoner become a tremendous and unnecessary fiscal burden to the Navy and the taxpayer, the service said.

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

Yeoman 2nd Class John LeBaron, corrections specialist, Naval Consolidated Brig Chesapeake, models the new post-trial standardized prisoner uniform.

(U.S. Navy photo by Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Neah Rau)

According to the release, the cost for a service-specific military utility uniform with one pair of trousers and a top is about . Add a fleece jacket, and the cost exceeds 0.

The new SPU top and trousers will cost approximately .50, the release states. Add a belt, buckle, ball cap and watch cap, and the price is about . With a jacket, the complete price to clothe a prisoner will be about .

“In addition to the enhancement of correctional security, improved public safety and significant fiscal savings, the wearing of the new SPU will produce numerous benefits across a wide range of Navy corrections operations,” Godwin said. “These include an SPU with a neat and professional look, an easier-to-maintain and care-for uniform, and less wear and tear on equipment, i.e. washing machines and dryers, and less cleaning supplies, i.e. laundry detergent.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Navy vet goes from fighting in Iraq to fighting fires

Navy veteran Tyler Welch used to patrol the streets of Iraq as a corpsman. Now, he’s fighting a new battle against fires.

Welch is part of the Veterans Fire Corps crewmember program, run through the Southeast Conservation Corps. SECC is an AmeriCorps-affiliated non profit that engages recent-era veterans, partnering with the U.S. Forest Service Southeast Region. SECC started the Veterans Fire Corps program in 2018. The 10-month intensive training program engages recent-era military veterans up to age 35 in fuels reduction, fuels management, and wildland firefighting.

For veterans like Welch, the program is a perfect fit for his transition.


“Wildland firefighting had been an idea in the back of my head for a few years as a job to looking into when I got out of the military,” Welch said. “The program that SECC is running piqued my interest because it is a veteran program and is a lengthy training program allowing me to see several parts of the wildland world.”

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

Navy veteran Tyler Welch went from corpsman to Veteran Fire Corps member.

Welch served tours in Hadditha, Iraq, with Marines as the senior corpsman; and in Basra, Iraq, and Kuwait as a search and rescue medical technician. Stateside, he served at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, and at Naval Hospital Whidbey Island, Washington. Seeking a new challenge, he sought something that could use his military service.

“The biggest skills I’ve carried over from the military that have helped with the program are team work and leadership,” he said. “Additionally, just being able to grind and get the work done on the hard day. It’s not always easy or fun, but at the end of the day you look back and see what you accomplished.”

For those looking for a challenge, Welch had three pieces of advice. The first is to keep fit, as days are long. The second is carryover advice from military service: get a good pair of boots. The third is to go camp and get used to being in the woods, living out of a tent and campground.

VFC crews

VFC crewmembers can earn certifications related to fuels management. This includes courses on firefighting, wildland fires, chainsaws, incident management, first aid and CPR. Southeast National Forests use VFC, which facilitates opportunities for crew members to work across a variety of districts and landscapes while simultaneously assisting forests with a myriad of fuels related needs.

“This program is designed to engage veterans in a truly hands-on experience,” said SECC Director Brenna Kelly. “Through rigorous and repeated trainings as well as field-based project work, veterans will earn necessary certifications and practical experience needed to compete for career positions related to fire and natural resource management.”

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

Navy veteran Tyler Welch went from corpsman to Veteran Fire Corps member.

Home base for VFC crews is the Conasauga Ranger District of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest in Georgia. The crew roves throughout the Southeastern United States for the duration of the program.

Some projects require members to work five days at a time with two days off. Other projects require camping and living on project locations for 8-14 days, with a set amount of days off. Members cannot use drugs or alcohol during work related travel at any time.

In addition to a stipend, members receive paid trainings and certifications and an education award upon program completion. Members also receive food and accommodations during overnight travel and transportation to and from work sites.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

Soldiers of the post-9/11 generation have been part of a social experiment aimed at preventing them from doing dumb things. The idea was to pair each troop with an assigned “best friend” — a battle buddy — and that each pair would keep an eye on one another. Troops have to make sure their comrade is doing the right thing and, if they aren’t, say something before both of them make the blotter- aka, the buddy system.

At its worst, soldiers end up in trouble because their Blue Falcon of a squadmate decides to throw caution to the wind and do whatever’s on their mind. But, as much as soldiers bemoan always having someone by their side — and the system’s goofy name — it’s actually brought about plenty more benefits than downsides.


Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

Even if that means you’re now forced to take that guy into less-than-pleasant situations.

(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Robert Taylor)

It makes sure no one is left out

Let’s call the “battle buddy system” what it truly is — a forced-best-friend system. Everyone from the social butterfly specialist to the dorky private is forced to at least talk to each other after they join the unit.

Granted, you’ll eventually either become actual friends through the process — or you’ll swap to someone you’re cooler with — but it opens the social gates for some of the shier soldiers in the barracks.

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

If your squad leader is happy, everyone’s happy — or you should be terrified. Depends on the squad leader…

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Keeler)

It eliminates much of the stress of being an NCO

Specialists and below often miss the bigger picture when they’re at the lowest rungs of the totem pole, but taking any kind of weight off their shoulders is a blessing. When you’ve got to watch over six soldiers, things get missed and mistakes happen.

When those six soldiers are keeping to themselves and keeping each other in check, there’s a better chance that they’re doing the right thing.

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

Worst case scenario: You’ve got another person to help you win a fist fight against some overzealous douchebag.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Charles Highland)

It ensures someone will always watch your back

Soldiers stationed overseas in Korea or Germany know this all too well: You can’t even leave post without a battle buddy by your side. Drunk, American GIs being tossed into a foreign city without any means of figuring out how to get back in time for formation is actually pretty common.

Sure, now you run the risk of leaving two soldiers more lost than a butterbar on the BOLC land nav course, but the odds are better that they’ll at least be safe while they’re trying to find their way back.

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

Hopefully, at least one of you listened to the safety brief.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brian Johnston)

With the buddy system, it’s been proven that dumb stuff happens less frequently

As with everything in the Army, there have been studies upon studies that have analyzed the efficacy versus the cost of telling your squad to be friends with one another. Because, you know, even the Army can make something as simple as drinking a beer with your friend into a PowerPoint slideshow.

It’s simple, really. Soldiers who have a person that’ll say, “what are you doing, you friggin’ idiot?!” are less likely to end up in the commander’s office.

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

Everyone needs a good, steady shoulder every now and again. It’s the least you can do for someone who’ll do the same for you.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Tyler Kingsbury)

The buddy system gives soldiers at least one person to talk to when it gets rough

Those studies also point to why the battle buddy system was implemented to begin with — to help decrease the alarming number of self-inflicted deaths and injuries within the ranks.

Everything else on this list is all fine and dandy, but if just a single soldier is saved because they had just one person to talk to, the program is a success. If hundreds of soldiers were talked out of that darkness because their squadmate became their best friend, I’ll forever argue its merit, no matter how goofy it sounds calling another grown-ass warfighter my “battle buddy.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

How ‘upskilling’ with Microsoft can kickstart your new civilian life

‘Upskilling’ is the new corporate buzzword taking employers by storm. Never heard of it? Don’t be shocked; be prepared for a whole new mindset. 

Upskilling is when a corporation takes already-talented individuals and teaches them an entirely new skill set. It gives the company a new expert in a critical role and it gives an employee an entirely new career trajectory. 

While the word may be new, it’s something Microsoft has been doing with active duty military personnel for years.

Employers need skilled workers. But technology changes fast and the pace of that advancement changes the ways we live and work faster than we may realize. For job seekers, this can be an intimidating prospect. For veterans leaving the military and entering the civilian workforce for the first time, it can be overwhelming. 

Finding a career in tech as newly-separated veterans can be especially daunting if their military career wasn’t in a technical field. Those looking to go to college or technical training may not know what to study or be fearful of missing an emerging trend. 

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

Wouldn’t it be great if America’s leading tech companies just offered training in the most necessary fields and then offered career prospects for those trainees? That’s what “upskilling” is all about. And the company leading the way is one of the world’s most valuable: Microsoft.

Microsoft isn’t just recognizing veterans’ service to a higher calling, the company recognizes their near-limitless potential. Microsoft knows what the military community has known all along: separating veterans leave the military with highly desirable skills that uniquely position them for a career in tech. 

Veterans come with the technical skills of their military career, which can provide valuable problem-solving abilities. They also come with the soft skills employers in this industry so desperately need. These are skills like self-actualization, leadership, being a part of a team and – of course – the value of a good day’s work. Some of us even come with security clearances.

That’s why Microsoft started Microsoft Software and Systems Academy (MSSA). 

MSSA is a training academy for high-demand careers in cloud development and server and cloud administration. The course lasts 16 or 18 weeks and graduates are guaranteed an interview for a full-time job at Microsoft or one of its hiring partners. The program is open to honorably discharged veterans and active duty service members with authorization from their units or commands. 

The program is the result of Microsoft’s ambitious 2015 goal of establishing 14 MSSA programs throughout the country and eventually having the ability to graduate 1,000 veterans every year. In January 2020, it met that goal, graduating its 100th cohort. 

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

MSSA is overseen by the Microsoft Military Affairs team, whose chief concern is helping veterans realize the full potential their military service offers them as well as any potential employer. Best of all, the team is made up of military veterans who know just how daunting a task leaving the military can be. 

Numbers don’t lie. To date, MSSA has a graduation rate of 94 percent and more than 600 companies have hired MSSA graduates. It’s a program that really works for the veteran community. 

Transitioning out of the military is a challenging time. Deciding what and where to study or finding that first post-military career is central to a successful transition. For vets who want a career in tech, Microsoft Software and Systems Academy is the place to hit the ground running. Their Tech Transition Toolkit offers some great tips on how you can get a head-start toward a fulfilling, rewarding career in tech.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s what would happen if China attacked the US

Experts at the cutting edge of simulated warfare have spoken: China would handily defeat the US military in the Pacific with quick bursts of missile fired at air bases.

The exact phrasing was that the US was getting “its ass handed to it” in those simulations, Breaking Defense reported the RAND analyst David Ochmanek as saying earlier in March 2019.

“In every case I know of,” Robert Work, a former deputy secretary of defense, said, “the F-35 rules the sky when it’s in the sky, but it gets killed on the ground in large numbers.”


Against China, which has emerged as the US’s most formidable rival, this problem becomes more acute. China’s vast, mountainous territory gives it millions of square miles in which to hide its extensive fleet of mobile long-, medium-, and short-range missiles.

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

An F-35 is much more capable than the jet shown on the left, but on a runway, the F-35 is just a more expensive target.

(US Navy)

In the opening minutes of a battle against the US, Beijing could unleash a barrage of missiles that would nail US forces in Guam, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, and possibly Australia. With China’s growing anti-ship capability, even US aircraft carriers in the region would likely come under intense fire.

For the US, this would be the feared attack in which F-35s and F-22s, fifth-generation aircraft and envy of the world, are blown apart in their hangars, runways are cratered, and ships are sunk in ports.

The remaining US forces in this case would be insufficient to back down China’s air and sea forces, which could then easily scoop up a prize such as Taiwan.

Additionally, the US can’t counter many of China’s most relevant missile systems because of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty it signed with Russia, which prohibits missiles with ranges between 310 miles and 3,400 miles — the type it would need to hold Chinese targets at equal risk. (The US is withdrawing from that treaty.)

So given China’s clear advantage in missile forces and the great incentive to knock out the best military with a sucker punch, why doesn’t it try?

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

The ranges of Chinese ballistic and cruise missiles, air-defense systems, and warships.

(Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments)

Politics

China could light up much of the Pacific with a blistering salvo of missiles and do great harm to US ships and planes, but they likely won’t because it would start World War III.

China wouldn’t just be attacking the US. It would be attacking Japan and South Korea at a minimum. Whatever advantage China gained by kicking off a fight this way would have to balance against a combined response from the US and its allies.

The US is aware of the sucker-punch problem. In the event that tensions rise enough that a strike is likely, the US would simply spread its forces out among its bases and harden important structures, such as hangars, so they could absorb more punishment from missiles.

Potential targets China needed to strike would multiply, and the deployment of electronic and physical decoys would further complicate things for Beijing. For US ships at sea, the use of electronic decoys and onboard missile defenses would demand China throw tremendous numbers of missiles at the platforms, increasing the cost of such a strike.

Key US military bases will also have ballistic-missile defenses, which could blunt the attack somewhat.

The US also monitors the skies for ballistic missiles, which would give it some warning time. Alert units could scramble their aircraft and be bearing down on China’s airspace just after the first missiles hit.

Justin Bronk, a military-aviation expert at the Royal United Service Institute, pointed out at the institute’s Combat Air Survivability conference that when the US hit Syria’s Al Shayrat air base with 58 cruise missiles, planes were taking off from the base again within 24 hours.

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

A US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bomber.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald)

Payback is a … consideration

Missiles brigades that just fired and revealed their positions would be sitting ducks for retaliation by the US or its allies.

Japan, which will soon have 100 F-35s, some of which will be tied into US Navy targeting networks, would jump into the fight swiftly.

China would have to mobilize a tremendous number of aircraft and naval assets to address that retaliatory strike. That mobilization, in addition to the preparations for the initial strike, may tip Beijing’s hand, telegraphing the sucker punch and blunting its damage on US forces.

While China’s missile forces pose a huge threat to the US, one punch isn’t enough to knock out the world’s best military, but it is enough to wake it up.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 leadership lessons you can learn in the Marines

If there’s anything the United States Marine Corps is known for (aside from striking fear into the hearts of America’s enemies), it’s teaching young Americans how to be leaders. The mission of the Marine Corps is simple: make Marines and win battles. But to find success in the latter, someone has to teach Marines how to lead other Marines into combat. That’s exactly why a big part of boot camp is instilling the idea that every Marine is a leader in their own way.

Granted, not everyone who serves in the Marines becomes a good leader — those rare even among those who enjoy a long, illustrious career — but everyone learns leadership skills. If you move into a leadership position over the course of your service, you’ll likely learn these lessons:


Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

Take the lead.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tommy Bellegarde)

Lead by example

A big part of leadership is giving your subordinates confidence in your ability to lead. Unsurprisingly, one of the best way to do that is by doing the things you ask someone else to do. Show your subordinates that you understand their position and you’re willing to jump in to help.

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

You should also be good at communicating those decisions.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tommy Bellegarde)

Make decisions

There’s a quote from Band of Brothers that spells this one out plainly,

“Lieutenant Dike wasn’t a bad leader because he made bad decisions, he was a bad leader because he made no decisions.”

As a leader, you have to make decisions and you cannot hesitate.

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

You should also be willing to talk sh*t to other squads — look at that grin.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Emmanuel Ramos)

Be confident

If you want your subordinates to believe in you, the first step is believing in yourself. No one wants to follow a leader that’s constantly second-guessing themselves. But it’s essential that you never forget how to stay humble.

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

Know the guys watching your back.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Austin Long)

Know your Marines

How are you going to help out your subordinates if you don’t know what they need? Get to know your subordinates well so you can better keep track of their morale. Keeping the morale of your men high is good for everyone… except the enemy.

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

Plan to the best of your ability.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. David Weikle)

Understand the potential risk

Don’t needlessly put people under your charge in bad situations just because the potential reward is great — and always remember what you’re risking. Before you plan to do something, make sure you understand what you’re about to get into.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Extreme weather could cause a massive surge in the price of beer

Rising global temperatures affect not only our safety but what we eat and drink as well.

In recent years, scientists have uncovered a link between climate change and our consumption of popular items like wine and coffee. Now, a coming study from the University of East Anglia has found a link between extreme weather and how much beer we drink.

Instead of attempting to predict future events, the researchers asked themselves a question: What would happen to the beer industry tomorrow if it experienced the most severe form of drought or heat anticipated by scientists in the coming years?


According to the researchers, whose findings will appear in Nature Plants, these extreme weather conditions could spur a 16% decline in global beer consumption. That’s equivalent to 29 billion liters, or the amount of beer consumed annually in the US.

The issue is one of supply, not demand. In the event of a modern climate-related disaster, farmers could have trouble producing barley — the main ingredient in beer.

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

(Flickr photo by Daniel Taylor)

That’s bad news for the global beer market, which is predicted to reach 0 billion by 2022. It’s also bad news for consumers, who could see beer prices double worldwide.

The effects would be particularly acute in China, the world’s biggest beer consumer. If extreme heat or drought were to strike tomorrow, the nation could see its consumption decline by about 10%, or more than 12 billion cans of beer. By contrast, the US could see its consumption decline by up to 20%, or nearly 10 billion cans of beer.

The study predicts the largest price increases in affluent, beer-loving countries like Ireland, whose six-packs could cost an extra each.

In addition to these economic effects, a global beer shortage may have social and political consequences. According to one of the study’s authors, Dabo Guan, climate change could trigger a new kind of prohibition in which beer becomes a luxury good that’s no longer available to the working class.

“We’re not writing this piece to encourage people to drink more today than they would tomorrow,” Guan said. “What we’re saying is that … if people still want to have a pint of beer while they watch football, we have to do something about climate change.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 people general officers should have in their entourage

All senior officers, but especially generals and admirals, have entourages that exist solely to ensure that the general is as effective and safe as possible. They do everything from managing the general’s calendar to grabbing his dry cleaning. But in addition to their stated duties, the entourage can grease the wheels of command.

Here are 6 people generals should always have in their entourage, whether they want them or not:


Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

“A colonel lifting iron” is the closest thing I could find to an iron colonel, so here you go.

(U.S. Army Sgt. Erik Warren)

Iron colonel is a key component of any entourage

An “iron colonel” is a colonel with little hope or ambition to advance to a general officer. They’re key to military innovation and all general officers should be connected at the hip to one.

There are two major things you’ll need the iron colonel to do: First, they’re there to intercept all sorts of traffic that’s addressed to the general but not really worth their time. More importantly, they’re needed to shoot down all sorts of “good ideas” originating from the general and the staff that would hamper brigade commanders and below.

See, iron colonels are no slouches. They may not be destined to wear stars, but they’ve nearly always commanded brigades in the past and they did well. They have decades of military experience, but they don’t have much reason to fear pissing people off. So, if the general proposes something insane, like pushing machine guns to all the squads — even the human admin office, it’s this colonel who calls the general on his crap. The perfect entourage addition.

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

An Army specialist who is definitely practicing land nav and not just waiting for the photographer to leave so he can trade points data with his buddy.

(U.S. Army)

E-4 Mafia/Lance Corporal Underground liaison

Officers don’t love the junior-enlisted networks for obvious reasons. They’re often known for helping members dodge work and dodge official punishment.

But they can also be super useful additions to the entourage, for the general or admiral who inspires the junior service members. A member of the underground can explain any weirdness from headquarters directly to the other junior guys in billeting. They can also create shortcuts through the bureaucracy and, best of all, do drug deals on behalf of the staff.

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

An Army specialist reaches for a training grenade in a competition. These aren’t nearly as valuable as a rare ink cartridge.

(U.S. Army National Guard Spc. Alan Royalty)

Drug dealers as part of the entourage? 

Not literal drug dealers, of course. The personnel who conduct off-the-books exchanges in order to get needed resources while giving up the unit’s surplus are known as “drug dealers.” This can be the exchange of anything from ink cartridges to range time to borrowing another units’ NCOs.

These types of troops can be amazingly useful for a headquarters. Rare resources, like the ink or replacement parts for plotters (the massive printers that produce maps), are hard to come by and harder to stockpile. So, if you suddenly need resources like that, you need a drug deal — and that means a drug dealer.

(Note: The Navy sometimes call this “comshaw.” Same thing, older term.)

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

Filling out forms accurately and honestly is important, but sometimes you have to help someone out with a little Skillcraft assist.

(U.S. Navy)

Gun decker

“Gun decking” is a Navy term for filling out forms with made-up information, usually to fulfill a mandatory but arbitrary requirement. This is similar to the Army saying that someone “Skillcrafted” the test — that they used a standard-issue pen to make it look like something was done.

This is obviously dishonest — and, on some occasions, it’s technically a crime — but it’s sometimes essential in the bureaucracy. Need to get a soldier to school before deployment, but they haven’t been able to get to the range in the last few weeks? Well, someone has to gun deck or Skillcraft the paperwork (assuming that you’re sure they could actually succeed at the range given a chance; don’t use this to get bad troops into good schools). We could use a few gun deckers in civilian life, too.

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

Soldiers share a meal and, likely, gossip. Having a couple of lower enlisted people advocating for you in the rumor mills can be essential.

(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith)

PNN Reporter/Scuttlebutt master

One of the best soldiers a general officer can have working on their behalf is a credible Private News Network reporter. This reporter can be anybody known around the rumor mill for having accurate info, and any general NEEDs one of these in their entourage. Like the E-4 Mafia or Lance Corporal Underground rep, this troop can relay what is happening in the headquarters accurately to people who usually only get the information a few degrees removed.

But, more importantly, they can intercept and counter incorrect rumors flowing through the scuttlebutt or PNN. Generals often have to deal with rumors about their decision making flying around their unit. Having someone in their entourage who rubs shoulders with the rest of the junior enlisted and accurately relays what’s going on can keep everyone marching on the same foot.

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

(Editor’s note: There’s no evidence that this guy is a FNG. It’s just an illustrative photo. But he was the FNG at one point, so screw ‘im)

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kenny Nunez)

FNG

Finally, every general officer should include a f*cking new guy somewhere in their entourage and check in with them from time to time. Obviously, this guy will typically be somewhere on the periphery instead of in a key position — maybe a comms guy who helps with the radio or a security guy.

But having someone who hasn’t yet consumed too much of the unit’s Kool-Aid allows the general or, more likely, the iron colonel to get an idea of how the headquarter’s decision making seems to an outsider — a needed perspective in a headquarters that might otherwise trip into a cult of personality around a charismatic or talented general.

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 best places to party on leave

Troops train year-round to maintain the high standard of readiness essential to the preservation and defense of democracy. However, none of us are machines that can operate under constant pressure over an infinite amount of time. And enlisted professions, infantry, in particular, are among the most stressful jobs available. That’s why leave (or ‘vacation days’ in civilian terms) is a crucial component to blowing off steam and keeping morale high.

Homesick troops will often use their leave days to go and visit the family. However, those who have leave days burning a hole in their pocket should consider visiting these party cities if they’re looking for something new. Plus, there’s a good chance that someone from your platoon/squad is from the city you’re visiting and may even offer to be your guide.

In no particular order, these are the 10 best places to party on leave.


Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

New York, New York

New York City has earned the reputation of being the city that never sleeps and defends its title vigorously. In the Big Apple, you can party until the small hours of the morning and still find a place serving piping hot, fresh, New York-style pizza. As the economic crown jewel of the U.S. you can find the best brands of any product imported from around the world.

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

Can’t answer SSGT’s call in another country.

Barcelona, Spain

Parties here start at 1 a.m. and last all night long, which means you’ll have enough time to do touristy things, go to the hotel to change, pregame, and invade Spain like a Roman Legionnaire. The theme parties here can get out of control, so definitely bring a battle buddy or two.

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

I’m ready for my close up.

(emerictimelapse.com)

Los Angeles, California

Music labels, film studios, and conglomerates have built empires on keeping you entertained. Los Angeles offers media from every medium, genre, and artist on an unparalleled scale. LA Weekly and Ticketmaster provide information on upcoming events to plan your trip around.

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

Home of the original libo risk.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

A classic destination on every bucket list but you might want to wait until you have your DD-214 to fully toke take in the culture. If your agenda doesn’t include visiting its coffee shops, there’s plenty else to do — Europeans party hard AF.

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

(emerictimelapse.com)

Las Vegas, Nevada

Sin city, a single Marine’s paradise — and other branches, too. The casinos offer free booze while you gamble, gentlemen’s clubs offer the perfect location to blow away your bonus, and many hotels have venues and clubs built into the location. Excellent for post-deployment debauchery relaxation.

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

Ze colors!

Berlin, Germany

Berlin is another city that never sleeps, and it is home to tons of DJs. The mainstream venues are good, but the underground parties are unbeatable. Bring someone who speaks German so you can have your finger on the pulse of this city.

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

The parties are year round.

(Miami.com)

Miami, Florida

Miami has arguably the best club scene; one that can compete with LA and New York. Florida’s beaches are often featured on top ten lists and are capable of dethroning Hawaii. Every troop must storm these beaches at least once in their career.

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

(Air Forces Central Command)

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

U.A.E. is home to the Burj Al Arab, the Palm Islands, and an indoor ski resort in the mall, but make sure you read up on the local laws. As a conservative Islamic country, it has many restrictions — unless you’re wealthy. Remember the golden rule: He who has the gold, makes the rules.

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

The famous bar crawls of Austin

Austin, Texas

Austin has been earning a reputation as a must-visit spot for partygoers at a steady rate in recent years. The city offers pub crawls, ghost tours, historic landmarks, and lounges. It is common to see Austin on lists of top places to live for both liberals and conservatives. This growing metropolis with a southern twang should not be underestimated.

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

New Years Eve in Iceland!

(icelandnaturally.com)

Reykjavik, Iceland

Vikings are still drinking and celebrating in both Valhalla and Reykjavik. Although Iceland is small, their festivals aren’t. Reykjavik is LGBTQ+ friendly and accepting of all types, but don’t wander off into the inland — the wilderness here is dangerous as hell.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army veterinarians help wounded dog after suicide blast

Military Working Dogs, or MWDs, play a huge role in the defense of the United States — and when one of them is injured, the Veterinary Medical Center Europe plays a huge role in getting them back in the fight.

Recently, while on patrol with his handler in Afghanistan, MWD Alex, assigned to the 8th MWD Detachment, 91st Military Police Battalion, Fort Drum, New York, was injured in an attack by a suicide bomber. Following care in Bagram, Afghanistan, Alex was medically evacuated to VMCE for further treatment.


Like many of their human counterparts, when an MWD is injured while deployed, they are often medically evacuated to Germany. Service members are transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center for care, and MWDs are transported to VMCE for comprehensive veterinary care.

According to Maj. Renee Krebs, VMCE deputy director and veterinary surgeon, when Alex arrived in Germany, he had a fractured left tibia, shrapnel wounds, and multiple other fractures below and above his shin bone.

On the day he arrived, Krebs performed surgery to stabilize Alex’s leg, “which worked pretty well,” she said. “But his other wound, particularly the one over his ankle, started to get worse and worse every day despite appropriate medical therapy and pain management.”

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

Maj Renee Krebs, Veterinary Medical Center Europe Deputy Director and Veterinary Surgeon, greets Alex, Military Working Dog from the 91st Military Police Battalion, 16th Military Police Brigade, prior to surgery.

(U.S. Army photo by Ashley Patoka )

Alex’s wound over his ankle was getting so bad that it would likely require up to six months of reconstructive and orthopedic surgery. And because of bone and tissue loss, he was also at a very high risk for infection.

In addition to this, Krebs said that Alex was “not using the limb as well as he had been the first week or so after surgery — it was getting more painful. And he began to develop some behavioral problems, centered on some of the things we had to do when we were treating him.”

Krebs said some of the behavioral problems included aggression and snapping when the team would move him to the table to do treatments.

“I spoke to a behaviorist about it and she thought he was having some post-traumatic stress disorder-type acute episodes,” Krebs said. “So we changed the way we were managing him, but he was still getting worse, so in the interest of allowing him to move on with his life and improve his quality of life, we went with amputation.”

Krebs said that had they not performed the amputation, it was likely that Alex would have still ended up losing his leg if they had gone with the option of three to six months’ of wound management.

“The risk was very high. It was a very guarded prognosis to begin with that he would ever have normal return of function to the leg, and I knew if I amputated his leg he would be functional as a pet or regular dog probably within a week — so it seemed like the best option for him.”

Alex was described as relatively calm by Krebs, and during his time at the VMCE, the staff learned more about him, enabling them to cater to his needs and ensure he was comfortable.

“MWDs run the gamut from very high strung, very nervous and needing to be restrained because they have so much energy and are so anxious, to being very mellow,” Krebs said. “Alex was sort of a strange combination — he was relatively calm, but there were things that you knew if you did them he was going to get angry, like touching his tail.”

At Alex’s home unit, Sgt. First Class David Harrison, kennel master for the 8th MWD detachment at Fort Drum, said Alex always felt like an old soul to him.

“[Alex has] the experience of a career soldier, and always carried himself in a way which always made trainers and handlers just believe he was focused on the mission at hand,” Harrison said. “He carries the ability to simply be a fun-loving dog who values his rapport with his handler as much as he enjoys executing his duties.”

Why we cosplay: How three MilSpouses found an outlet in a world of uncertainty

Military Working Dog Alex is recovering well following leg amputation surgery, after suffering extensive wounds in a suicide bomber attack in Afghanistan.

(U.S. Army photo by Ashley Patoka )

Even while recovering from his injury and going through surgery, Alex was teaching those around him some important lessons.

“It’s tragic what happened,” said Spc. Landon DeFonde, MWD handler with the 8th MWD detachment at Fort Drum, who has been with Alex for his recovery in Germany. “But it just goes to show how selfless and resilient these animals are. For him to go through that blast and still be as strong as he is and kind and gentle towards people, it really amazes me that what they are capable of living through and surviving through. It definitely teaches me resiliency.”

But these lessons don’t just come when an injury happens, as the relationship between MWD and handler is one that both benefit from over the course of their pairing.

“The relationship between handlers and their partners is a relationship I’ve always found difficult to put into words,” Harrison said. “It’s a familial bond, but it almost goes deeper in some ways. The co-dependent nature of the business puts handlers in a position where they have to give more trust to their canine than most put in fellow humans. It’s not always a comfortable or easy process, but once they reach the point where they independently trust each other while working in tandem, the connection the team develops is unparalleled.”

DeFonde, who has been a MWD handler for three years, shares similar sentiments.

“It is truly incredible how selfless one can be and I think it shows the true side and caring side of humans — how much compassion and care we can show another living being — it is really special,” said DeFonde. “It is really amazing how we interact and how we can combine to create such a strong and powerful team.”

Alex will head back to the states at the end of August 2018 where he will continue his recovery. Due to his injury, his home station kennel will submit a medical disposition packet to allow Alex to retire and be adopted.

“I’ve built a bond with Alex—- not as deep as his handler’s,” DeFonde said. “But it is always hard to say goodbye. Dogs do come and go — that is part of the job, but I am just really happy I was able to come over here and help him recover and then get him back to the states and get him to see his handler.

“I’ve always heard the saying, humans don’t deserve dogs because of how kind they are, and I 100 percent agree. You could not ask for a more selfless companion.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information