President Trump reverses 'ridiculous decision' to cancel Wreaths Across America due to COVID-19 concerns - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

President Trump reverses ‘ridiculous decision’ to cancel Wreaths Across America due to COVID-19 concerns

On Monday November 16, 2020, Arlington National Cemetery announced that they were canceling the laying of wreaths in the cemetery and the Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home Cemetery due to COVID-19 concerns. Arlington National Cemetery said that it conducted a “thorough analysis” of the possibility of safely conducting the laying of wreaths before deciding to cancel the event. The controversial announcement received an outpouring of responses to reverse the decision.

Wreaths Across America took to Twitter to express their disappointment with the decision. “As an organization, we are shocked by the unexpected turn of events,” they said. “To say we are devastated, would be an understatement.” Over the past six months, the organization has been working with officials to ensure that their outdoor wreath-placement events were conducted in accordance with all applicable rules and mandates. Other Twitter users expressed their disappointment with Arlington National Cemetery’s decision and called for them to reconsider, including members of Congress.

President Trump reverses ‘ridiculous decision’ to cancel Wreaths Across America due to COVID-19 concerns

President Trump participates in the 2018 wreath-laying event at Arlington

“I encourage Army leaders to reconsider this decision,” tweeted Sen. Tom Cotton, a former Army infantry captain. “Thousands of people have marched in DC streets the past couple weekends for Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Surely volunteers can responsibly place wreaths on the graves of our fallen heroes at Arlington.”

Sen. Cotton was joined on Twitter by another veteran in Congress. “This decision to cancel #wreathsacrossamerica must be reversed immediately. Critical thinking must win over emotion,” tweeted Rep. Dan Crenshaw, himself a former Navy SEAL Lt. Cdr. “Large areas, outside and well spaced, with masks on, is perfectly safe. Our fallen deserve to be remembered.”

On Tuesday, November 17, 2020, the calls to reverse the decision were answered with two announcements from the Executive Branch. “I have directed Arlington National Cemetery to safely host Wreaths Across America,” tweeted Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy. “We appreciate the families and visitors who take time to honor and remember those who are laid to rest at our nation’s most hallowed ground.”

Secretary McCarthy’s tweet was followed by one from President Trump. “I have reversed the ridiculous decision to cancel Wreaths Across America at Arlington National Cemetery,” he tweeted. “It will now go on!”

Since Morrill Worcester organized the first wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington in 1992, hundreds of millions of wreaths have been laid on the headstones of American heroes at Arlington, across the United States, and at American military cemeteries around the world.

President Trump reverses ‘ridiculous decision’ to cancel Wreaths Across America due to COVID-19 concerns

(Wreaths Across America)

MIGHTY CULTURE

32 terms only airmen will understand

As the youngest member of the U.S. armed forces, the Air Force gets a lot of flak from other branches, despite having the capacity to (arguably) destroy all life on Earth in 30 minutes. In its relative short history, its Airmen evolved a culture and language all their own.


“Airman Snuffy”

The original Dirtbag Airman, he’s an example Air Force instructors use to train Airmen how not to do the wrong things in hypothetical situations. The difference between the example and the real Airman Snuffy is the real Snuffy is a Medal of Honor recipient. He tried to put out a deadly aircraft fire by pissing on it while simultaneously shooting down Nazi fighter planes.

What the Piss

This is the trademark, go-to phrase said (yelled) by Air Force Military Training Instructors (MTI). From Zero Week until graduation, anytime you forget where you are, you’ll hear this phrase right before you get a reminder. Only MTIs know why they chose this. It could be a tribute to Airman Snuffy.

The Snake Pit

Where Air Force MTIs eat, usually right at the end of the chow line, so every Airman trainee has to walk by to get to their table.

House Mouse

Never to be referred to as such – it is technically the Flight Office Technician, aka the MTI’s assistant. See also: Snitch.

 

President Trump reverses ‘ridiculous decision’ to cancel Wreaths Across America due to COVID-19 concerns
Staff Sgt. Robert George, a military training instructor at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, marches his unit following the issuance of uniforms and gear. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo)

Stress Cards

The most persistent myth about the Air Force. Other branches think we get these during basic training in case we need “to take a moment.” These have never existed and never will, but because of the Air Force’s old six-week basic training length, it sure sounds plausible. If the USAF ever did try this, the ghost of Curtis LeMay would burn the Air Force Secretary’s house down.

Rainbow Flights

Before basic trainees get their first uniform issue (aka “slicksleeves”) at Lackland, they’re usually walking around in the civvies in which they first arrived. In formation, they look like a dirtbag rainbow and probably smell bad because they have been wearing these clothes for 2-4 days.

Reporting Statement

“Sir/Ma’am, Trainee ________ reports as ordered,” the phrase you give an MTI anytime you need to respond to an inquiry.

AF Form 341

Excellence Discrepancy Report – Every Airman in Basic Training and Technical School must carry at least three of these small forms on their person at all times. When you screw up, one will be demanded of you and turned into your training unit. The 341 is an excellent way to introduce Airmen to the primary Air Force disciplinary system – Paperwork. Rumors of this form being used to report excellence are unsubstantiated.

President Trump reverses ‘ridiculous decision’ to cancel Wreaths Across America due to COVID-19 concerns
Here, Staff Sgt. Michael Sheehan fires a man-portable aircraft survivability trainer, or MAST, at Saylor Creek Range at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Nutri-Grain Bar Prank

More advanced basic trainees will sometimes tell newer trainees they can’t eat the Nutri-Grain Bars at breakfast unless they take the bar, slam it on the Snake Pit’s table and shout out what flavor it is, then stand at parade rest until given permission to digest.

Dirtbag Airman (DBA)

The chaff that fell through the cracks — The Dirtbag Airman has no regard for regulations, dress and appearance, customs and courtesies, or even personal hygiene. It shows up late with Starbucks cups and takes the most breaks while doing the least work.

Pull Chocks

Refers to pulling the wedges used to prevent a stationary aircraft from moving while parked on the flightline. Also known as “Let’s go” or “Let’s get out of here,” in Air Force parlance, because you have to pull the chocks before the plane can leave the base.

DFAC

The Air Force does not have Chow Halls or Mess Tents. It has Dining Facilities (or DFACs). Referring to the building in which Airmen who do not have the time to go to the BX Food Court or Burger King as a “Chow Hall” actually offends senior enlisted Food Service Craftsmen.

President Trump reverses ‘ridiculous decision’ to cancel Wreaths Across America due to COVID-19 concerns
Airman 1st Class Mohamed Berete, 22nd Force Support Squadron services apprentice, hands a salad to Airman 1st Class Joshua Houseworth, 22nd Contracting Squadron contracting specialist, at the Chisholm Trail Inn dining facility. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Maria A. Ruiz)

Load Toad

A USAF Weapons Loader. He or she sometimes drives a “Jammer.”

Squawks

Notes made by USAF pilots and left for maintenance crews to fix. Because aircraft maintainers are, for the most part, funny, sometimes the crews’ responses are worth compiling.

Prime Beef

Not an actual hunk of meat. A Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force is a rapidly deployable, specialized civil engineer unit. If you’re deployed in an austere location, you want them to be your best friends.

BRRRRRT

The sound an A-10 Thunderbolt II aka “Warthog” makes when projecting freedom.

President Trump reverses ‘ridiculous decision’ to cancel Wreaths Across America due to COVID-19 concerns
(U.S. Air Force photo)

BTZ

Means “Below the Zone” promotion from E-3 to E-4, or getting that extra stripe before your regular time in service promotion. Squadrons sometimes groom Airmen for this.

AFI 36-2903

This is the regulation for Air Force Dress and Appearance Standards, and is usually the only Air Force Instruction most Airmen actually know, can remember when asked, or have ever read. 

The Gauntlet – aka “Tacking On”

Enlisted Air Force personnel wear their rank on the sleeves of their ABUs. When they are promoted, their new rank is “tacked on.” The Airman’s peers stand in two lines, the new rank patches are pinned to the Airman’s uniform, and the promotee walks down the line as his coworkers punch them as hard as possible in the rank.

President Trump reverses ‘ridiculous decision’ to cancel Wreaths Across America due to COVID-19 concerns
The U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Drill Team performs June 26, 2014, at Mount Rushmore. The Drill Team recently completed a nine-day, seven-city, 10-performance tour across the Midwest with the U.S. Air Force Band’s rock ensemble Max Impact. During the tour, the two groups performed in Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Nathan Wallin)

Whole-Airman Concept

An enlisted performance review system designed to keep you from earning a perfect rating (and ultimately a BTZ promotion) despite being the best performer in your unit at your actual job function, because you didn’t volunteer to pick up trash at the squadron commander’s mandatory fun burger burn.

FOD Walks

FOD is Foreign Object Debris, anything on the flightline that doesn’t belong there and could damage the aircraft. Entire units sometimes walk shoulder to shoulder picking up whatever FOD they find. Airmen in non-flightline roles will sometimes be assigned to augment FOD walks.

First Shirt or “Shirt”

The unit First Sergeant. There are a lot of theories as to why, but there’s no real consensus.

President Trump reverses ‘ridiculous decision’ to cancel Wreaths Across America due to COVID-19 concerns
Capt. Patrick Applegate, an Airman with the 23rd Bomb Squadron currently deployed with the 23rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, removes ground safety pins on a MAU-12 Jan. 29, prior to a B-52H Stratofortress live drop mission for exercise Tropic Fury. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald)

Operation Golden Flow

Being “randomly selected” to have someone watch you pee for drug use testing.

Why Not Minot?

Universally regarded as the most unpleasant duty station due to its extreme remoteness, Minot Air Force Base’s staff use this phrase to laugh at their situation because otherwise the terrorists win. The entire Air Force recognizes this phrase and it’s reply: Freezin’s the reason! In the SAC days, they would say “there’s a woman behind every tree!” There were no trees.

JP-8

Jet fuel. Smells like freedom.

Prop Wash and Flight Line

A fool’s errand given to new enlisted airmen, similar to a snipe hunt or the Army’s “box of grid squares.”

President Trump reverses ‘ridiculous decision’ to cancel Wreaths Across America due to COVID-19 concerns
Staff Sgt. Nathan A. Hruska fires his Beretta M9 pistol during a weapons qualification Aug. 15, 2014, at Operation Northern Strike in Alpena, Mich. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Lealan Buehrer)

Wing King

The Wing-level Commander — usually the base commander — who is always 0-6 or above. Sometimes the highest ranking person on the base, though some bases have multiple wings, missions, etc.

Breaking Red

Walking outside the designated personnel areas (marked in red) on the flightline or not using designated entry and exit control areas. Breaking Red will result in youtr face pressed to the ground with a boot on your back and an M-16 pointed at your neck (aka Eating Ramp). Security Forces love it when people do this.

LOX

Liquid oxygen used in aircraft oxygen systems, run by environmental management techs. Sometimes used to cool beer. (Update: Some readers did not realize this is a joke. Using LOX to cool beer is a bad idea.)

IYAAYAS

Every career field and unit has its own slang, motto, and/or culture. IYAAYAS is the most widely-known and is the official rally cry of the USAF Munitions Specialists and means “If You Ain’t Ammo, You Ain’t Shit.” Others include “Who the hell, POL” (fuels) and “No Comm, No Bomb” (Communications).

 

President Trump reverses ‘ridiculous decision’ to cancel Wreaths Across America due to COVID-19 concerns
US Army Staff Sgt. Scott Graham, a medic with the 214th Aviation Regiment (Air Ambulance), carries a litter and a backboard from a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter to extract a simulated patient during a medical evacuation mission. (US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley Reed)

Port Dawg

Aerial Porters who rig cargo, parachutes, prepare airdrops and load/unload aircraft are technically “Air Transportation Specialists” but are referred to as Port Dawgs.

Army Proof

Derivative of “Fool Proof,” this is how Airmen lord our higher ASVAB score requirements over the Army. Every time a grunt says “Chair Force,” an Air Force PJ gains one of their IQ points.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Green Beret Foundation announces historic accreditation by Veterans Affairs

The Green Beret Foundation is the premiere benevolent organization dedicated to the Special Forces soldiers and their families. The organization is now poised to do even more thanks to its newly announced Veterans Services Organization accreditation by the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

The Green Beret Foundation’s accreditation by Veterans Affairs is an accomplishment that GBF is extremely proud of. At this time, it is the only special operations charity to hold the distinction. The organization recognizes the deep impact and importance the accreditation offers and leadership states that they look forward to being able to greatly expand their ability to serve. 

“The overall health and wellness of a Green Beret and their family is our priority, and this accreditation is a testament to our expertise and level of support as the premier benevolent organization in the Special Forces community,” Brent Cooper, Executive Director of GBF shared. 

While the GBF has been supporting its Special Forces soldiers with their needs from the VA for some time, its hands were tied with how much help they could give in many areas. With the new accreditation, the GBF can now walk alongside its soldiers throughout the entirety of the VA claims process, which is known to be cumbersome and difficult to navigate even with support.

John Armezzani is the Veterans Services Director for the claims process with the VA. In a statement posted to the GBF website, Armezzani shared that, “This process, which may range from initiating claims to carrying them through VA and Board of Veterans Appeals hearings when necessary, will greatly enhance the capability of the GBF and its Next Ridgeline program to provide unique assistance throughout the life of our Special Forces veterans.”

One deeply impactful way the Green Beret Foundation’s accreditation will help is by being able to more fully support its soldiers as they leave the military. “This [accreditation] allows the GBF to expand it’s Transition Assistance Program from providing general informational briefings on benefits to filing the benefits claims for those separating service members,” Armezzani explained. 

Not only will the organization be doing more to ensure its Special Forces soldiers receive the support they may need as they get out, but it will be able to be there throughout issues of hardship too. “GBF now has the ability to provide benefits assistance to Green Berets with life events such as change of career or in the event of a catastrophic health event. This includes dependents too,” Armezzani stated. 

As the Special Forces soldiers from the Vietnam War era continue to age, their needs will most likely increase. The VSO accreditation will allow the GBF to step in and support these honored veterans by being their voices in the benefits claims process. “Inherent in this accreditation is the ability to provide benefits assistance to our legacy holders from the Vietnam era as they enter into the twilight of their lives,” Armezzani said.

Perhaps one of the most impactful parts of the announcement is the ability for the GBF to now represent its Special Forces Soldiers in the appeal process. “We will be able to represent Green Berets in appellate actions before the Board of Veterans Appeals when they disagree with a VA decision,” Armezzani said. No longer will they have to fight appeals without support, the GBF will be right there with them and will fight to ensure they are heard.

The ultimate goal of this newly-expanded program is to be able to install a representative at each location where a Special Forces Group is located. This will all be made possible through the generosity of donors and future fundraising efforts. 

The Green Beret Foundation remains committed to ensuring that every single Special Forces soldier is not only honored for their service to this nation but also cared for the way they deserve. Although the VA VSO accreditation is an impressive and important feat to have achieved, GBF is ready to do even more. 

MIGHTY CULTURE

How the US maintains strategic advantage in the Arctic

In 1935, Billy Mitchell, former U.S. Army brigadier general and airpower advocate, testified before Congress that Alaska was the most strategic place in the world. From there, he said, U.S. Army aircraft could reach any capital in the northern hemisphere within nine hours.

Much of that flight time was over unoccupied polar ice, as only the most intrepid of explorers ventured high above the Arctic Circle.

As technology improved, the coming decades led to increased civilian and military activity over, under and on the Arctic ice sheet.

Today, however, it is environmental changes that are leading to increased activity above the Arctic Circle.


Citing a National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Arctic Report Card, a Department of Defense report to Congress in June, 2019, stated, “The Arctic’s environment continues to change, including diminished sea ice coverage, declining snow cover and melting ice sheets. Temperatures across the Arctic region are increasing more than twice as fast as the global average…”

The result has been the opening of sea lanes year-round, increasing both Russian and Chinese civilian and military presence near U.S. borders and the borders of its allies.

As an Arctic presence enables global reach for whomever has this strategic access, Russia has been reopening, fortifying and building new military bases in the region.

While Russia’s presence in the region has been increasing, melting permafrost beneath some of the U.S. Air Force’s most remote satellite tracking and communications facilities threatens its capability to observe and respond to threats.

The accompanying video explores how the Air Force is addressing the challenge of maintaining a strategic advantage in the Arctic, as this northernmost arena for the great power competition becomes more and more accessible.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

New website gives military exclusive travel discounts

Military personnel, retirees and their family members now have access to an exclusive discount travel website managed by Priceline.

American Forces Travel is a full-service travel booking site, offering hotel, flight, car rental and cruise deals as well as bundled or package deals that Priceline spokesman Devon Nagle said can save travelers an average of $240 per person.

The site, which is available to active-duty military, National Guard members, Reservists, retirees and family members, as well as 100 percent disabled veterans and civilian Defense Department employees, officially went live Jan. 22, 2019, after having been beta-tested on several military bases.


According to Nagle, the site offers discounts that have been negotiated specifically for military personnel, including hotel deals up to 60 percent off and cruise deals up to 80 percent off. Roughly 1.2 million hotels can be booked through the site, as well as the most popular flight and car rental brands, he said.

Brett Keller, Priceline chief executive officer, said that the company was thrilled to be selected by the DoD to “bring the site to life.”

President Trump reverses ‘ridiculous decision’ to cancel Wreaths Across America due to COVID-19 concerns

(Flickr photo by LoadedAaron)

“American Forces Travel was developed for a simple reason. The people who support the United States of America through military service have earned access to the world’s most exclusive travel deals,” Keller said.

A recent review of the site by Military.com found hotel deals in San Diego ranging from to off prices found on non-military travel websites, and car rental discounts ranging from to off per day for a minivan, SUV or convertible.

A non-stop round trip airline fare from the Washington, D.C., area to San Diego for a weekend in February 2019 was available for 3 on Alaska Airlines, while the same flight was advertised as 4 other travel websites. Still, non-stop flights for the same weekend on United could be purchased for significantly less on another website — between 0 to 0 less.

Advantages to booking air travel through American Forces Travel include reduced fees for reservation changes and all flights being cancellable within 24 hours, according to the site. For cars, benefits include free cancellation on post-paid cars and larger discounts for prepaid rates.

Each AmericanForcesTravel.com transaction also will generate a commission that will go to the military services’ Morale, Welfare and Recreation and quality-of-life programs.

Nagle described the new site as a “labor of love for Priceline.”

“Members of the military are a unique community and deserve the opportunity to access great deals when they take vacations. With American Forces Travel, they can search for deals 24 hours a day,” he said.

Users can access the site by inputting their last name, date of birth and last four digits of their Social Security number when prompted. The DoD then verifies the information, and future travelers are ready to shop.

President Trump reverses ‘ridiculous decision’ to cancel Wreaths Across America due to COVID-19 concerns

(Flickr photo by m01229)

Nagle said Priceline does not capture or retain any of the verification data that is provided.

In addition to Defense Department service members, National Guard and Reserve and civilian employees, Coast Guard men and women and their families also can use the site.

Military members have had access to travel deals through base ticket and tour offices, as well as lodging through the Armed Forces Vacation Club, a no-fee membership group that offers week-long stays at resorts, apartments, condominiums and homes — usually timeshare destinations — in more than 100 countries on a space-available basis for about 0 a week.

Armed Forces Vacation Club is managed by Wyndham Worldwide.

According to Nagle, Priceline was chosen to run AmericanForcesTravel.com by a competitive bidding process. Company executives said they — and the Defense Department — see their website as a way to thank the military community.

“Until now, leisure travel was typically handled by travel agents on military bases. The DoD chose to create a new online platform that was modern, fast and widely accessible and to populate the site with the broadest and deepest collection of travel deals,” the Priceline release states.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Committing to gender integration: Get rid of the female tent

Over the past decade, the U.S. Army has taken steps to fully integrate women into all positions in its formations. Last month, the Army announced female infantry and armor Soldiers will integrate into the last nine brigade combat teams by the end of the year. In light of these initiatives and the open-mindedness of my leadership, I competed for and served as a light infantry brigade assistant S2 and, more importantly, an infantry battalion S2, a position open to women since 2014.

Gender integration has had its challenges but in my experience, leaders at all levels are trying to embrace this evolution. It is not unusual for a group of officers to experience awkward initial counseling sessions with their maneuver commander wherein the commander overemphasizes their support of female integration directly to the one female officer in the room. Although it may seem uncomfortable for all parties involved, these maneuver officers are still learning and while it may not be perfect, at least they’re trying..


However, even with the best of intentions, military leaders occasionally make decisions that inadvertently segregate women, leading to the unintended consequence of isolating them from their units.. This article addresses how a commander’s simple decision on troop billeting can have an adverse impact, and how commanders and leaders can more successfully lead gender-integrated teams.

The female tent: A flawed good intention

When a unit deploys to a Combat Training Center (CTC), Soldiers are housed in “tent city” while conducting Reception, Staging, Onward movement and Integration (RSOI), Leaders are responsible for allocating tents, ensuring they account for all personnel on the ground. Sometimes as an afterthought, someone asks the question “Where is the female tent?”

The idea that women require their own tent is an antiquated tradition that many senior leaders (and often junior leaders) have yet to break from and likely causes more harm than good . This issue may initially seem benign within the context of integrating women into combat arms units. After all, it’s “just” a tent, it is only temporary, and you only go there to sleep and then show up to the next formation. This issue is about much more than a tent. The decisions leaders make can help or hinder their ability to build a cohesive team that sees beyond gender.

The female tent exists mainly as a safety precaution to protect the female Soldier population. Sexual assault and harassment continues to be a large issue in the military. However, as we look deeper into the effects of gender-segregated tents, we will start to identify how our separate treatment of genders only exacerbates the issue. Studies in the past decade, including one conducted on the Norwegian Army’s Unisex living spaces in 2014, concluded that integrating genders for training and in living quarters increased team cohesion between genders by breaking the “us versus them” mentality, decreased sexual harassment and assault claims, and made gender difference less significant. Instead of training separate teams of male and female Soldiers, the integrated training and living arrangements created teams of Soldiers comprised of men and women.

The segregation of women from their platoon, company, or battalion leads to them missing critical events, and team building and bonding built during times of uncertainty when leaders make decisions and plans change. The female tent creates an additional barrier to communication where a portion of the unit does not receive updates on the evolving operational conditions because men and women are hesitant to enter each other’s tent to get information. Women show up to meetings being caught off guard by changes in the plan that were made among the male officers at 2300 but failed to make it back to the female battalion staff lead because they forgot, they figured it could wait, or it was too inconvenient to send a runner to inform them of the change. This communication barrier creates an overall disadvantage to the commander who now has a population in the formation that is unable to inform the decision-making process and in the end hinders the unit in achieving mission success.

More importantly, the female tent denies female Soldiers equal access to the esprit de corps and cohesiveness building reality of shared accommodation, and often imposes a gender divide on teams. In the end, this causes women to miss the stories told in their team, invitations to the gym, and group meals. They miss the inside jokes and become an outsider in their own unit. They struggle to get to know their unit and their unit struggles to bring them into the fold. It becomes a self-perpetuating cycle of damaging isolation that most women do not want, but are forced to endure.

How do we fight the female tent?

1. Prioritize mission success over comfort. Key to mission success is enabling your commander’s ability to exercise command and control over the formation. The female tent takes women of different ranks across the formation and puts them in one tent geographically separated from their organic teams. We, in turn, hindered multiple leaders’ ability to lead effectively by complicating the flow of communication, reducing ability to receive feedback from a select population, and decreasing the flexibility of a unit to rapidly adapt and execute operations. The female tent becomes more unfeasible as we integrate more women into company commander, executive officer, and platoon leader positions in combat arms formations.

As leaders in charge of planning training events, we need to focus on how to enable mission success. In 2018, my light infantry brigade had one battalion commander, one command sergeant major, two brigade staff primaries, five brigade staff senior NCOs, at least one battalion staff primary officer or NCO per battalion, and five company commanders or first sergeants who were women. That equaled 20 leaders at the company level and above that were integral to the brigade’s success at our CTC rotation. Since then, the number of female leaders in today’s brigade combat team continues to increase.

Focusing on mission success means all leaders are able to be with their Soldiers through all aspects of a training environment. Integrated tents allow leaders to better take care of their Soldiers because they are together in one place where they can monitor the well-being of each Soldier as the unit goes through stressful training exercises. It allows leaders to identify and address sexism issues in their ranks because they can monitor the interactions among all of their Soldiers.In a segregated environment, leaders may not be present when their female Soldiers are harassed while they are isolated in separate areas. Integrated tents build better teams that communicate more effectively, provide feedback to their commanders, and react quicker to rapid changes because they are a cohesive unit that treats everyone as a valued member of the team.

2. Use informal leadership. As described in ADP 6-22 Army Leadership, part of informal leadership is taking the initiative to advise formal leaders on decisions based on previous experience or expertise. Informal leadership takes initiative and some courage, because it usually involves an individual speaking up to leaders who outrank them. In one experience at a CTC exercise, my company leadership was trying to remove the female Soldiers from our unit’s tent because the brigade’s designated female tent did not have enough females in it. A female lieutenant I supervised looked at me with disappointment and asked me if there was anything I could do to stop it. I decided to work with another female captain located in our company to make it clear to our leadership that we did not want to leave our sections to live in a separate tent. The company leadership relented but not without some offhand remarks about how we were an inconvenience.

After that experience, the female officers made it a point to teach our staff sections how the separation of women into female tents affects women because our male peers honestly did not understand. How could they? In their military career, they never had to be separated from their team because of their gender. The effort we made to stay in the tent was worth it because our section became a more cohesive team and it was a leadership opportunity that enabled us to discuss a gender issue with our male counterparts that they will never experience firsthand. Informal leadership is a powerful tool that leaders can use to prevent segregation in their units, regardless of gender.

3. Be comfortable asking “What’s best for the team?” You may not know all the right answers when it comes to how best to integrate women and that’s okay. It is a learning process for everyone. What Soldiers do not want to hear is what one of my peers told me as he shrugged his shoulders, “We forgot to account for you guys (for bed space). Sorry, I’m infantry.” Instead, leaders should exercise humility and ask their female peers or subordinates for input. More often than not, they have been through these situations multiple times and they will appreciate your willingness to learn about how best you can assist your formation. It is as simple as something an infantry major once said to me, “I’m new to this. Do I need to make special accommodations for you or do you feel comfortable staying with the unit?” Yes, it can feel awkward to ask, but there is a certain amount of respect you gain when you open yourself up to learning how best to ensure everyone feels like a valued member of the team.

If a living situation is poorly planned or seems like it may be an issue, present the options. “We can let you stay in the open bay with the males and everyone will just use their sleeping bags or the latrines to change, or we can cordon off an area in the bay for privacy so that we can keep you with the team.”

4. Keep everyone in the loop. Sometimes it is inevitable to be forced to split your unit into gender-specific tents, especially while traveling through different locations with transient barracks or if the final decision is made above your level. When this happens, it is important to take steps prior to the unit splitting apart to make sure that the isolated personnel stay in the loop. Leaders should develop a clear communication plan and battle rhythm to distribute information. It is imperative to ensure inclusiveness of the isolated population for both work- and social-related events. If a squad goes to eat together, it is the responsibility of that squad and team leader to include the female squad members. If a platoon is tasked for a working party, the platoon sergeant needs to get everyone involved in helping. If the battalion staff needs to talk through some minor decisions, make the effort to get those female staff officers involved. It can be demoralizing to hear the stories of what someone missed because no one bothered to let her know what the unit was doing.

It’s a learning process

Gender integration will continue to be a learning process for the military. To build better integrated teams, units need to train, eat, and sleep in harsh environments together. As leaders, we are responsible for making decisions that enable mission success, providing feedback on gender integration, and remaining open to new ways to improve integration. No part of ADP 6-0 Mission Command and ADP 6-22 Army Leadership suggests that any type of segregation is good for the Army. Segregation of any type creates resentment, isolation, and ultimately an unsafe environment for everyone. Instead, leaders need to focus on building cohesive teams based on mutual trust, and unit integrity through shared hardship is essential to that cohesion. We should be able to reach solutions that allow all Soldiers, regardless of gender, to feel like an equal member of the team and trust that they can depend on each other for anything.

Captain Ashley Barber is a military intelligence officer currently serving in the 10th Mountain Division G2. She has previously served in MI brigades and IBCTs (LI). She completed her KD time in 2/10 IBCT (LI) as the brigade AS2 and the 2-87 Infantry Battalion S2 through iterations of LTP, JRTC, and a deployment to Afghanistan.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

The top 10 survival skills you should know (If you want to live!)

Say you’re taking an adventurous hike off the beaten path. Your trail map isn’t making a lot of sense. The sun is starting to dip below the mountaintops and there’s a chill in the air. You brought enough supplies for a day hike, and that’s it. What do you do? Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. If night is only a few hours off and you’re too mixed up or far away to make it back to the car, get ready to spend the night in the wild. If chipmunks can do it, so can you! These are the top 10 survival skills you should have to stay safe on your accidental adventure.


1. Finding and purifying water

Feeling a bit peckish? Too bad. Snacks are not your first order of business. Even people who are slim can go for weeks without food, but only a few days without water. Prioritize what will kill you first! To find water, start simple. Listen for the sounds of fresh, flowing water. If you don’t hear anything, follow the animals. They’re better at this than you are! Look for animal tracks, or note what direction birds are flying in the early morning.

Since water flows downhill, head towards low spots and you’ll likely find water. From there, purifying it is a must. Boiling water works well, but not many people carry a pot on day hike. Instead, plan ahead and bring purification tablets or a Life Straw. Alternatively, you can use one of these methods to collect water that’s already safe to drink.

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(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Sarah Sangster)

2. Building a fire and keeping it lit

Keeping matches or flint in your backpack makes this step infinitely easier. There are multiple ways of starting a fire without either, so let’s start with the simplest. Remember that psychotic neighbor kid who liked to burn ants? That works on twigs and leaves, too. If you have a magnifying glass, a pair of glasses, or even ice, you can start a fire just by focusing the light of the sun on some dry kindling. Most of these methods are a little trickier, but they’re worth a try if you’re in a pinch.

3. Staying warm without a fire

If it’s pouring rain, building a fire will be nearly impossible. To stay warm without, try to stay as dry as you can. Water will draw heat away from your body, cooling you down faster. Layer clothing to create insulating pockets of air, but don’t let yourself get too hot either! Sweating will cool you down, so try to shed layers if you start feeling warm. It’s also a good idea to place something between your body and the ground for extra insulation.

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USMC photo by Sgt. Aaron Rooks. (DVIDS)

4. Selecting an ideal location to make camp

Head uphill and look for spots with natural shelter, like large boulders. Thick trees can also provide some protection against the wind. Avoid low areas near water since they may be prone to flash flooding, and steer clear of areas with tall grass that might be home to venomous snakes that could make your impromptu night in the woods a whole lot scarier.

5. Building an appropriate shelter

Your options for shelter depend on what supplies you have. A survival knife or hatchet and a tarp will make things so much easier. If you don’t, you can try building a simple lean-to with branches and debris that will provide at least some barrier against the elements. There are lots more options, too!

6. Navigation, with a compass and without.

Navigating with a compass should be pretty self-explanatory. If you can’t use a compass, you probably shouldn’t be wandering through the woods to begin with. If you didn’t bring one, navigation depends on what part of the world you’re in. The sun does always rise in the east, so that can give you some sense of where you are.

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U.S. Air Force photo//Master Sgt. Jessica Kendziorek. (DVIDS)

7. Finding and prepping food

Fish, birds, and even non-venomous snakes make for decent meals if you can catch them. If not, try foraging. Look for edible plants and insects, but if you don’t know what it is, don’t eat it! Avoid unfamiliar plants and anything with more than six legs. Not that you wanted to eat a spider anyway. Whatever you find, cooking it will make it safer to eat and easier to digest.

8. Avoiding injury

First aid skills are important, but it’s better not to need them. Your biggest tool here is awareness. Be aware of your surroundings, and be aware of your own conditioning. Don’t push past your personal limits unless it’s 100% necessary for survival. If you push yourself to exhaustion, you’ll start slipping. In your weakened state, you’ll be less agile and more prone to injury. Your decision making skills will also suffer. Self-care in the wild is a luxury, not a necessity! Here are some more tips in case you need them.

9. Applying first aid correctly when needed

If you don’t know basic first aid, take a class before heading into the wilderness. Your backpack should have a first aid kit in it even for short excursions. These are some great tips to keep in mind if you manage to slice open your leg or burn yourself miles from a hospital. The short version: Stop bleeding with pressure and keep wounds clean and covered to prevent infection.

10. How to make rope

When you’re trying to build a shelter, rope is an exceedingly useful tool to have. Learn to make your own, or save yourself the trouble and pick up one of these paracord survival belts.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Delta Cartoonist: Toad Jumper

Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.

Student: “Sergeant, how long do I have to deploy my reserve parachute if my main fails to open?”

Sergeant: “The rest of your life, son… the rest of your life.”

There is no argument that Tier-1 units routinely engage in dangerous training: climbing skyscraper structures, engaging in gunfights in close quarters and confined spaces, hunkering down nexts to explosive breaching charges that are barely an arm’s reach away as they ignite… A cringe-worthy component to that list that hooks every seasoned operator’s attention is airborne operations, because most things that go wrong during them can be fatal.

The feature image, Toad Jumper, is of course a parody of “towed jumper,” an airborne term used to describe a paratrooper whose static line, a 15-foot nylon cord that pulls open the jumper’s parachute, doesn’t separate from the aircraft. On the rare occasion that the parachute pack fails to break free from the static line anchored to the jump aircraft, the paratrooper will be towed behind the aircraft at ~120MPH spinning and slamming against the airplane. It is a horrid and deadly event.

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Paras line up and hooked up. Static lines are hooked to anchor cable; they are routed correctly OVER the men’s arms. Mac’s had looped under his arm.

My best friend and renowned firearms trainer Patrick Arther “Mac”McNamara was a towed jumper on his very first training jump with the Army’s Airborne School in Ft. Benning, GA. His static line had unfortunately looped under his arm, cushioning the tug of the line and preventing it from effectively pulling his parachute loose.

Mac spun wildly and bounced off of the kin of the aircraft… then his static line fortunately was able to pull away his pack and deploy his parachute canopy correctly. The violent tug of the static line ripped his biceps muscle from his humerus bone and pulled it down to his forearm. He was in severe pain and unable to use his damaged arm.

When it rains it pours, and since Mac was not able to use his arm, he could not steer his parachute for a safe up-wind landing. Rather than face into the wind a parachute defaults to running down (with) the wind at higher speed. Mac braced himself, cringing before the impending impact with the ground.

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Patrick McNamara frame grab from one of his training videos reveals the gnarly scar on his left biceps, a staunch reminder of being a towed (toad) jumper

He hit with great speed tumbling and flipping in excruciating pain. Landing is the most critical step in a jump that the jumper can have the most control over. The jumper must correctly assess the wind direction and turn himself to face into the wind by maneuvering the lines that suspend him from his canopy.

A paratrooper must perform a proper Parachute Landing Fall (PLF) to preclude broken bones and other injuries, and finally, a jumper must quickly securehis parachute to prevent being dragged across the ground resulting in potential death.

Now, the instructors on the Drop Zone, the Black Hats, saw Mac’s cartwheel landing and began to scream at him through electrically amplified megaphone:

“HEY LEG! WHO THE HELL TAUGHT YOU TO DO A DOWN-WIND LANDING, LEG!”

A leg was a term used to refer to a soldier who was not airborne qualified. By military doctrine, soldiers can be referred to as regular straight-leg infantry, and airborne infantry. Leg is a mildly derogatory term, yet a moniker of pride used by airborne forces.

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Airborne pipe-hitters from the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) packed in their jump aircraft

Now Mac was being dragged by the wind across the ground further contributing to his anguish, as he could not release his parachute connection on his chest. That further infuriated the Black Hats:

“GODDAMNIT LEG, PULL YOUR CANOPY RELEASES, LEG… YOU STINKING LEG!!!”

A fellow student ran in front of Mac’s inflated parachute and collapsed it. Mac now had to stow all of his parachute into a kitbag and carry his gear to an assembly zone where students were gathered… all with just one good arm and the other in extreme pain.

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Airborne soldier about to make contact with the ground; always a tense moment

Mac stumbled to the assembly point. His assessment of the event sums up what an amazing warrior Pat Mac is, and why I regard him such esteem to this day (words to the effect): “I didn’t really know what to think at the time; I mean, it was my first time and I really had no idea what to expect. To me, that was just what jumping was like… what every jump would be like… and I was willing to accept that.”

Pulling open his BDU shirt he saw that his biceps had been reassigned south of his shoulder to his forearm; the skin was stretched so tight that it had taken on a transparent form revealing the color of the sinew and blood vessels thereunder. He showed it to a couple of other students to see if their arms all looked the same way; none did. Only then did Mac realize his plight.

Mac had to have surgery to pull his bicep back up to his humerus to re-attach it, leaving him a gnarly scarred reminder. One of my team brothers in Delta also suffered the same fate as Mac in jump school. His static line looped under his arm. When he jumped he was momentarily towed; his biceps torn and pulled down to his forearm.

His biceps never really recovered to its original position, rather a bit low on his humerus toward his elbow. It really looked funny when he flexed his biceps, intentionally flexing it often in the gym with accompanying remarks such as: “(flexing) Just came in to pump up ol’ Betsy here… I know she looks pretty ripped now, but you should have seen how ripped she was in jump school!”

The trauma associated with a towed jumper scenario would easily be “quittin’ time” for most folks, with no fault assigned or explanation required. For Pat McNamara it was just one entry in a long line of threats that tried to beat him down and prevent him from obtaining his warrior goal. He went on to be arguably the best physically fit and top-performing Delta Operator of our era, and continues today to even exceed the standards that we maintained in the Unit.

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McNamara’s personal domain

MIGHTY CULTURE

100 year old sentinel returns to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

At 100, Jack Eaton is the oldest living, oldest known sentinel of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. His and other sentinels’ names are there on plaques, commemorating their service. Sentinels, all volunteers, are members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as “The Old Guard.”

Life in the Army for Eaton began when he left coal country in southeastern Pennsylvania to enlist in 1937 at age 18. Stationed at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, he said, he fired expert with his rifle and was very competitive in military training and other activities, and that got him selected for the job. Sentinels are also usually tall, and Eaton’s height also helped. At 6-feet, he was considered tall at the time.


Eaton spoke during a tour of the Pentagon, where he met with Deputy Defense Secretary David L. Norquist and others.

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Army Capt. Harold Earls, right, commander of the Tomb Guard, presents World War II veteran Jack Eaton, 100, with a signed photo and challenge coin from the Tomb Guard.

(Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Vanessa N. Atchley)

Earlier in the day, he also visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, after arriving on an Honor Flight from Burton, Michigan, where he now lives.

While at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, Eaton said he was struck by the elaborate, precision movements of the sentinels, although he remembers it being similar during his time there, with knife-edge creases on the soldiers’ uniforms. He recalls the snap and pop sounds of doing the manual of arms with his rifle.

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World War II veteran Jack Eaton, 100, visits the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Oct. 23, 2019.

(Photo by Marine Corps Sgt. Dylan C. Overbay)

One thing that has changed since Eaton’s days as a sentinel is that the changing of the guard ceremony is now every hour instead of every two hours. Eaton said he was told that the change was made so more visitors could view the ceremony, and he said that’s a good thing for the public to see.

Eaton picked up rank quickly and eventually became corporal of the guard, responsible for ensuring that the changing of the guard and other activities went smoothly.

President Trump reverses ‘ridiculous decision’ to cancel Wreaths Across America due to COVID-19 concerns

World War II veteran Jack Eaton, left, and Army Capt. Harold Earls, commander of the Tomb Guard, speak to new recruits in the Tomb Quarters at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Oct. 23, 2019.

(Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser)

Eaton’s enlistment expired in 1940, and he went to work for Hudson Motor Car Company. His work there was short-lived, however, because the United States entered World War II after the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Eager to get into the war, Eaton returned to Fort Belvoir. His old unit had disbanded, but his old company commander was still there and remembered him. He got Eaton into welding school in Washington, where he trained daily on the use of oxy acetylene and various forms of electric welding. The training soon paid off, he said.

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World War II veteran Jack Eaton, 100, points to his name on a plaque at the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Oct 23, 2019.

(Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Vanessa N. Atchley)

Eaton was assigned a truck full of welding gear and mechanical tools and parts, as well as a full-time mechanic. In 1942, just months after the war started, Eaton, his mechanic and the truck were shipped off to England, where they went from airfield to airfield repairing heavy equipment such as bulldozers, graders and cranes used to build runways.

It was a lot of work, he said, because many new runways were being built. This required a lot of heavy equipment, which frequently broke down.

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World War II veteran Jack Eaton, 100, is greeted by Soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Oct. 23, 2019.

(Photo by Elizabeth Fraser)

As the war progressed, Eaton, his truck and his partner were transferred to France, and eventually to Germany. By the end of the war, he had attained the rank of technician fourth grade.

After the war ended in 1945, Eaton said, he went back to Hudson to work, but only for a short time, because he found a better job in the window replacement industry.

After a while, he said, he decided he could make a lot more money starting up his own window business, and he did so after purchasing a 2,100-square-foot factory and showroom. His business was such a success that he was able to retire at the ripe young age of 55.

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Karen Durham-Aguilera, executive director, Arlington National Cemetery and Army National Military Cemeteries, World War II veteran Jack Eaton, 100, and Rep. Jack Bergman of Michigan walk at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Oct. 23, 2019.

(Photo by Elizabeth Fraser)

Eaton said he’s impressed with the service members he meets today. As for advice to give them on how to succeed, he offered: “Accept responsibility, don’t shirk your duty, honor your oath, be proud of what you do and try to do better each time.” He also said that healthy competition with other soldiers will do much toward self-improvement.

President Trump reverses ‘ridiculous decision’ to cancel Wreaths Across America due to COVID-19 concerns

World War II veteran Jack Eaton, 100, and Army Capt. Harold Earls, commander of the Tomb Guard, point to Eaton’s name on a plaque at the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Oct 23, 2019.

(Photo by Elizabeth Fraser)

As for his secret to living to be 100 and walking around the Pentagon at a fast pace without a wheelchair, Eaton credited the genes of his mother, who lived to be 100. He also said he quit smoking in his early 30s, drinks moderately — or not at all for long periods of time — eats right and gets up every morning to do rigorous exercises.

Eaton said he’s lived a full and happy life and was blessed to have the chance to serve his country and contribute to society afterward.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Sylvester Stallone just posted the coolest recap of the ‘Rambo’ series

The ‘Rambo’ series didn’t start off with John Rambo as a one-man Army, hell-bent on killing anyone who stood between him and his mission. But that’s what it turned out to be. And now few action movie images are more iconic than Rambo tightening up his trademark red headband.


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You know the one.

The series began as a very poignant, yet action-packed treatise on the treatment of Vietnam veterans in the years following the end of their war. In First Blood, there’s only one onscreen kill, a guy who falls out of a helicopter for trying to kill Rambo. Rambo isn’t purposely involved in his death. If you want to know the whole point of the first Rambo movie, you can just watch John Rambo’s speech at the end of the movie.

By First Blood: Part II, the idea that John Rambo was just a simple guy with extraordinary training in extraordinary situations, was long gone. In the second Rambo movie, John Rambo is the perfect man to lead a mission back to Vietnam to rescue POWs still held there. Rambo is twice as ripped and definitely kills people in this movie. By Rambo III, he just lays waste to an entire army.

If you don’t remember any of that, Sylvester Stallone posted a helpful reminder to his Instagram account.

From G.I. Joe-level animation for First Blood, the VCR-level graphics in between the “trailers,” the backyard, action figure quality of the trailer for First Blood: Part II, to the 8-bit Nintendo-style graphics for the Rambo III trailer, everything about this rundown of John Rambo’s life is perfect. And perfectly chock-full of late 1980s to early 1990s nostalgia. Whoever came up with this idea – and it very well could have been Stallone himself – needs an award of some kind. A webby, a grammy, a Pulitzer. Something.

The fun doesn’t stop at the original three Rambo movies. The “trailer” for the fourth installment is a nod to a hilarious “Reading Rambo” meme. This comes in the form of a Rambo IV children’s book, narrated by Sly, describing the most epic and violent Rambo scene in the series’ history.

President Trump reverses ‘ridiculous decision’ to cancel Wreaths Across America due to COVID-19 concerns

You know the one.

If you’re interested in watching the entire Rambo series recap, check it out on Stallone’s official Instagram feed. If you’re interested in recapping the entire series in its non-cartoon entirety, you can join me on my couch on Thursday as I attempt to contain my overwhelming excitement for the best action movie series since … ever.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch Army sniper legend Ed Eaton on GunnyTime

R. Lee Ermey doesn’t need to be wearing a uniform for you to know that he’s a legend. His entire demeanor shouts Badass, from his squared shoulders to his commanding voice. There’s nothing about Gunny that’s not full-on epic.

As with all GunnyTime videos, this episode is one half fun and one half history lesson. Army sniper Ed Eaton talks with Gunny about the history of snipers in the Army, how the training has changed for the military and what kinds of weaponry today’s snipers are using.

BLUF – Gunny wants to remind us that there’s nothing better than being out on the range on a gorgeous day. He’s totally right – it doesn’t get much better than that … except when you get to talk shop with one of the most decorated Army snipers of all time.

Ed Eaton brought along his M 14 rifle and the M 21. During Vietnam, Eaton used the XM 21. It’s hard to believe, but the entire Army started out with just 55 XM 21 rifles at the beginning of the Vietnam War. What made the XM 21 stand out was in the details.

Not only was the stock coated with epoxy, but the rifle weighed about two pounds more, and the rifle featured camo. Reworking the trigger helped separate this rifle from others, too. As Gunny notes, that modification helps “take the drag out and lighten it up a little bit.”

Two scopes allowed for day and night missions to be completed.

Gunny and Eaton discussed the benefits of using the XM 21 versus the other version that the Army and Marine Corps used during the conflict. The weight difference aside, Eaton said he preferred to use the XM 21 because it was more accurate.

Eaton was one of the first 55 snipers to be trained in the Army with the 9th Infantry Division. In the early days of sniper training, soldiers had to be combat infantrymen for a specific amount of time. There was no active recruiting for snipers, making it all the more elusive of a position.

Gunny reminds us that today’s snipers are using the best weapons in the world and that their training is bar none, the best in the world. Modern era warfighting snipers are using M2010s. One major change is in the round size, which is now a .300 round.

As Gunny so eloquently puts it, that round can “really reach out and touch someone.” Well said, Gunny. Well said.  

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why you need to stop what you’re doing and do a buddy check

In the military, we had such a strong bond with those with whom we served. From day one in uniform, we had a battle buddy by our side. The closeness we had with our brothers and sisters is not something for those that didn’t serve to easily understand. Would your current co-workers pull ticks out for you from near your anus? Yeah, that actually happened to me … Thanks Mac, that’s what we call close! Do you think the people you work with now would run into gunfire for you?

We leave that family and often, many feel alone. This feeling is natural because being out of uniform is different from still serving. However, it’s what every veteran goes through as they leave their service. We may not talk about it at parties, but it’s as real as anything else in the world. This feeling can’t be ignored, but must be addressed.


It’s no secret that we have a suicide problem in the U.S. and even more profound in our veteran community. It’s a sad reality that we’ve lost more to suicide — over 108,000 — than combat during the Global War on Terror. Most of us know a brother or sister who’s taken their life after losing their personal battle at home. We can never eliminate the crisis, but we can certainly limit the amount who are overcome by their demons.

According to Stop Soldier Suicide, a nonprofit focused on reducing the number of service members and veterans lost to suicide, veterans are at a 50 percent higher risk of suicide than those who didn’t serve. By 2030, the number of veteran suicides will be 23 times higher than post 9/11 combat deaths. There has been a 93 percent increase in the suicide rate of male veterans aged 18 to 34.

I applaud people bringing attention to the issue through different methods. It may be doing 22 pushups a day, talking about why they served for 21 days or, I’ve also seen other messages and posts on social media raising awareness about the problem. We know there’s a problem, but I’m more for doing what Non-Commissioned Officers always do: Identify the problem, develop solutions and implement change.

Let’s be more proactive.

While serving, we saw our teammates every day. We were able to witness signs that they may be struggling. Being around each other so much, we could see if their behaviors changed, if they were down, if they showed the signs of depression and if they needed help. These checks are more difficult when we’re out of the military.

One of my favorite quotes: “You don’t need to have a patch on your arm to have honor.” – LT Kaffee at the end of A Few Good Men.

I’m challenging you to do one thing: pick up the phone and call someone you served with. Check on them. Ask them how they’re doing and listen. This is not a time to bullshit around the topic – ask them if they’re doing ok. How are they handling being out of uniform? Bring up the fact that it’s different and you feel the difference, too. We know how to accomplish tough tasks — this should be easier because of the love we have for those we served with. Have a real talk, reconnect and you may help someone suffering silently.

It’s not easy for people to acknowledge they’re having problems; generally, it’s not our veteran way. It’s not a disorder and we’re not broken. If we look out for each other and remove the stigma, we can mitigate the risks. Let’s show our love for our brothers and sisters. If you need help, reach out. And, reach out to others and do a buddy check.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Air Force ‘hub’ looks for threats from within

“If you make a mistake, it is better to acknowledge that one small mistake than let it snowball into something more significant.” This, according to Jason Barron, Air Force Insider Threat Hub deputy director for operations, is the key to safeguarding important information and resources.

As the Air Force’s defense against insider threats, identifying indicators of potential risk is the hub’s primary mission, but not all indicators they detect are symptoms of espionage or intentional wrongdoing. According to Barron, most indicators are unintended exposures, or the result of policy and training gaps.


“If someone is issued a speeding ticket, it does not necessarily mean they did something to indicate they are an insider threat; it all depends on the severity and quantity of unique indicators,” Barron said. “We may look for other indicators that, when put together, could mean something more substantial – even then, the team does not act individually against indicators discovered.”

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Air Force Insider Threat Hub deputy director for operations Jason Barron.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Lori A. Bultman)

According to Barron, personnel in the insider threat hub identify, aggregate, analyze and refer potential risk indicators. The teams relay their findings to other agencies for review and possible action. Additionally, the hub has a lawyer on staff to ensure any referrals are in accordance with established policies and laws.

“We provide information we find to authorities within the Air Force. When we identify something on an individual within the Air Force who might be a risk, whether intentional or otherwise, we provide that information to a decision maker in higher authority who is in place to determine whether an action needs to result,” Barron said.

Hub personnel also receive threat information from other sources.

“We might have a point of contact in the field who relays risk concerns to us,” Barron said. “The team in the hub can look into a reported concern and determine whether there is enough to consider it a viable threat.”

Workplace violence is another insider threat concern for the team.

“If someone commits a security violation but is cleared of espionage, that does not mean there is not a policy issue we could address,” said J.T. Mendoza, Air Force Insider Threat Hub deputy director for strategy and integration. “While it is difficult to quantify the damage someone caused when documents or classified items are taken, an act of violence is often more damaging due to human life being involved.

When Barron and his team established the 25th Air Force Insider Threat Program in 2014, their goal was to stop technical related insider threats before they grew into major breaches for the Air Force intelligence community.

Within the program, a myriad of staff members from varying backgrounds sifted through data in an attempt to locate indicators of threats and vulnerabilities. In April 2017, Air Force officials had enough confidence in the program capabilities that it became the services interim hub until a permanent Air Force hub could be established.

“During the year we were the interim hub, we put a lot of processes into place. We built a solid foundation from internal analysis, data integration, increases in manpower and capabilities and the implementation of reporting procedures,” Barron said.

The Air Force made a decision in October 2018 to transition the organization from being the interim hub to the permanent insider threat epicenter, while the team continued to prepare for the transition and acquire more space and personnel. Significant support and coordination from local 25th Air Force and Air Staff leadership was required to achieve this milestone.

President Trump reverses ‘ridiculous decision’ to cancel Wreaths Across America due to COVID-19 concerns

(Flickr photo by Blogtrepreneur)

“Preparations for the transition also included establishing the policies and documentation required to run a cooperative matrix organization,” Barron said. “We more than tripled the hub staff and added coordinating representatives within each major command.”

“One of the challenges we face is finding the right people and being able to train and develop them into what we believe is the right skill set,” he said. “There is no specialty code within the Air Force or department at large for what we do; we are creating most of our procedures as we go. We are where cyber was 10 to 15 years ago.”

Another challenge for hub personnel is figuring out how to share data between multiple agencies who might help connect indicators.

“Sharing information between organizations that have different authorities or conduct different missions is difficult,” Barron said. “The root of this mission is sharing risk information, just like commanders share information on the battlefield. It is a challenge across any mission set; how do I share the right information, at the right time, at the right level to make a decision?

“What we have done is partner within our matrix organization to put people from different agencies in the same place to allow ease and speed of sharing critical information,” he said. “Having that proximity to each other really helps speed up processes. If information is not documented and shared in an appropriate manner, you are going to have a hard time piecing dots together to look at information over time and mitigating threats.”

Since its inception, the Air Force Insider Threat Program has experienced many successes, ranging from notifying organizations of security shortfalls and identifying indicators of suicide, to de-conflicting individuals’ identities in reporting. Its next milestone will be reaching full operational capability status, expected in the next 12 months according to Barron.

The Air Force Insider Threat team encourages all Airmen, military, civilian and contractor, to contact their security office or appropriate chain of command to report potential insider threat incidents, including accidental or unintentional indicators; it could resolve potential incidents before they become legitimate threats.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

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