In the early hours of Oct. 10, 2018, many communities in Northwest Florida prepared for a storm expected to make landfall as a Category 2 hurricane.
Tyndall Air Force Base was also preparing for the storm named Hurricane Michael.
Base leaders evacuated nonessential personnel, stored equipment in protected areas as much as possible and a team of individuals battened down the hatches in a two-story cinder block emergency operations center building with almost no windows to ride out the storm on base.
Col. Brian Laidlaw, 325th Fighter Wing commander, was one of the individuals who stayed during the storm. The “ride-out team” was ready for a Category 2 hurricane.
However, the scene soon changed.
“We realized very quickly that this would be the storm we had trained for,” Laidlaw said.
The Category 2 hurricane escalated into a Category 5 within just a few hours.
Col. Brian Laidlaw, 325th Fighter Wing commander, walks with President Donald J. Trump, after a flightline tour at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., May 8, 2019. Tyndall AFB leaders and civic leaders met with Trump to provide an update on base recovery efforts.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Monica Roybal)
Hurricane Michael hit the coastline and surrounding areas of Tyndall AFB, Mexico Beach and Panama City.
“Without question, this was not just a Tyndall AFB event,” Laidlaw said. “This was a Northwest Florida event. The whole area took a hit. Thankfully we were in a secure building to wait out the storm.”
As the storm progressed, the eye of the hurricane passed over Tyndall AFB for a handful of minutes.
“The only reason we knew we were in the eye of the storm was because the walls stopped shaking,” Laidlaw said.
The eye passed. After the second half of the storm ran its course, it was safe for the ride-out team to emerge from their shelter and survey the damage.
“We recognized very quickly how much work we had to do,” Laidlaw said. “It will probably take five to seven years before the rebuild (of Tyndall AFB) will be complete.”
An assessment of the damage concluded that 484 buildings on base were destroyed or damaged beyond repair, while the other half were stable enough to sustain repairs.
“This base has been here for 79 years and most structures pre-date modern day building codes,” Laidlaw said. “We built the infrastructure in the 40s and 50s and repurposed it many times over the years. It was important, very soon after the storm, to bring in engineers to take a close look at the base. As we did so, we learned what worked and what didn’t work.”
According to Laidlaw, the Air Force allocated 8 million for immediate repairs. To get the base back to pre-storm capacity will require more time and more funding in the future.
One of the first concerns was how to make the base available to accept relief forces.
“The Air Force and our joint partners sent us relief just a little faster than we were able to take it,” Laidlaw said. “We saw an outpouring of support from the Air Force, and other organizations, to get us back on our feet.”
“Much like many communities across Florida, our community is fiercely protective of our airmen and the missions we have here,” Laidlaw said. “We have to make the base compatible not only for today’s missions but for those of the future and to protect assets and aircraft we haven’t even invented yet.”
Staff Sgt. Jake Gonzalez, fire truck and refueling mechanic temporarily assigned to the 325th Logistics Readiness Squadron, repairs a refueling truck component at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., June 4, 2019. Hurricane Michael brought devastation to Tyndall AFB and units across the base adapted to limited manning and temporary facilities.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)
Prior to Hurricane Michael, Tyndall AFB was home to two F-22 Raptor squadrons including the training school house for that weapons system. Today, some aspects of that mission are still here at Tyndall AFB, like the academics and simulator facility, while others have moved temporarily to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
As for the rebuild of Tyndall AFB, the base is preparing to take on a new mission consistent with the long-range goals of the Air Force.
“The secretary of the Air Force directed a rebuild to house up to three squadrons of F-35A Lightning IIs, and the base remains the preferred alternative for the MQ-9 Reaper,” Laidlaw said.
According to Laidlaw, Tyndall AFB is a critical asset for the nation’s defense strategy.
“We have some of the best training airspace anywhere in the Department of Defense,” Laidlaw said. “Tyndall AFB has 29,000 acres of land, 70% of which are in their natural state and are uninhabited.”
According to Laidlaw, the buffer Tyndall AFB acreage and 129 miles of coastline provides, allows for testing and training that is invaluable and free from encroachment. The base takes great pride in maintaining the land in its natural state.
Almost one year after the storm, Tyndall AFB is building up forces again.
“Currently, we have 80% of the (personnel) we had before the storm,” Laidlaw said. “As we recover the base we’ve transitioned from living in offices, to living in tents, to living in modern facilities and, in some cases, in repaired dorms and lodging rooms.”
“We no longer have any airmen living in tents” he continued. “We moved our airmen from these short-term temporary tents into facilities to hold us over until we fully rebuild.”
Tyndall AFB had 11 operational dormitories available when Hurricane Michael hit. Only three survived the storm but required immediate repairs before personnel could move in. Currently, there are four dorms available for housing airmen.
Task Force Talon II Airmen rally around Chief Master Sgt. Craig Williams, 325th Fighter Wing command chief, at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Nov. 28, 2018. Williams spoke to his fellow Airmen on the state of Tyndall AFB now and in the future. Task Force Talon II Airmen are responsible for clearing debris from various parts of Tyndall AFB.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Isaiah J. Soliz)
In addition to building replacement dorms for personnel, Tyndall AFB has the enormous task of rebuilding other buildings across the installation. For this task, the Air Force Civil Engineer Center Program Management Office stood up a unit on Tyndall AFB to coordinate the construction efforts.
“We are going to combine multi-purpose facilities, which will give us fewer buildings, but we will get much more use out of them,” Laidlaw said. “Brig. Gen. Patrice Melancon, Tyndall AFB Program Management executive director, is championing the technologies needed to build the base of the 21st century.”
Tyndall AFB and AFCEC PMO have been working together from the very beginning to get Tyndall AFB back to full capability and ready to accept F-35s and MQ-9s.
“The partnership between the 325th Fighter Wing and the Tyndall AFB Program Management Office following Hurricane Michael has been like no other,” Melancon said. “Col. Laidlaw’s leadership has been instrumental to the base’s success. I am so very proud of the dedicated airmen, civilians, and contractors who flew in from around the country with their sleeves rolled up ready to work. These dedicated individuals have literally moved mountains of debris and worked to repair key buildings quickly this past year to get critical base missions back online.”
According to Melancon, Tyndall AFB will be ready for an F-35 mission by October 2023.
“The rebuild will support a 21st century mission while also focusing on structural resiliency and efficiency,” Laidlaw said. “The people who are here want to be here. We have the right experts in the right areas.”
“When an event like this happens, it becomes a team effort,” he continued. “I do think there’s a story to tell. We’ve learned a lot, and the communities around us have learned a lot, and we are happy to share what we have learned.”
“The (partnership between Tyndall AFB and) the state of Florida and Bay County is very beneficial,” Laidlaw said. “It will take a long time to recover. Like us, our community takes great pride in taking care of our airmen and our mission.”
“I never thought we’d come this far so fast,” Laidlaw said. “It’s hard to believe it’s been a whole year. Our people are amazing. We have the right people in the right places with the right resources, and they have accomplished so much.”
“There have been some great airmen, both military and civilian, at Tyndall AFB before, during and after the storm,” Laidlaw said. “Their hard work and determination have sustained our momentum through twelve long months.”
“I can’t imagine where we would be without these people and the support from their families,” he continued. “The reality is, (you can replace buildings, but) you can’t replace people. The mission needs airmen. Tyndall AFB’s airmen make the base just a little bit better every single day.”
In a perfect world, you’d have a squad of hardcore and dedicated troops to your left and your right who you can count on to always have your six. For the most part, this is true. Your standard squad within the military is a ragtag group of misfits who are ready to kick ass and take names.
But there’s always that one guy who’s just there. Everyone else is close knit but, for whatever reason, while everyone begrudgingly accepts that guy in an official capacity as technically one of them, you’re unlikely to see anyone invite that person out for a beer on the weekends.
Now, nobody’s perfect. And someone in your squad might exhibit a couple of the following traits and still be cool with everyone. But we can all admit that there are some troops who’ve stepped over the line into being plain annoying — and they typically fall under one or more of the categories:
“Oh, wow! Your feet are hurting on this ruck march? No way! You’re literally the only person that that has ever happened to!”
Give this person a brick of solid gold and they’ll complain that it’s too heavy. They never see the good in any situation and they’re constantly reminding everyone that they’re out of their comfort zone.
Even just yelling at this person to stop whining starts getting on peoples’ nerves after a while.
“Stop trying to get ahead in your career! You’re making us all look bad!”
The Captain America
There’s nothing wrong with trying to be the best at any given thing. PT standards are meant to be exceeded and rule-abiding troops are rarely going to bring the hammer down on the rest of you. But there’s something about this person that just makes everyone else just look bad.
You may not be doing anything wrong, but you’re hot garbage compared to this guy. The “Captain America” of your squad is the type of person that the chain of command points to and says, “why can’t you guys be more like him/her?”
“As seen in their natural habitat, this brown-noser has gone a step too far.”
While Captain America is great and the command knows it, the brown-noser is ate-the-f*ck-up and still tries to make everyone think they’re on Cap’s level.
Given even the most minor of accomplishments, this dude is trying to show off to the world. Any mistake and they’re trying to brush it under the rug or shovel it onto someone else.
This guy lives by the “Army of One” mentality. It’s one thing for a troop to be quiet and shy around the rest of the squad, but this guy makes it a point to show he’s above hanging out with you lot.
Paradoxically, this guy is also the one person trying to make everyone look at him when he does something good and expects a ticker-tape parade in his honor.
“Can you schedule that wisdom tooth removal for the 17th? We’re going to the field soon.”
The escape artist
There’s not a single soul in the U.S. military that enjoys the pointless details that just keep everyone under the eye of the first sergeant until close-of-business formation. No one’s special and you can’t wiggle out of it — except this guy somehow.
They always have an ace up their sleeve. One day it’s dental, another it’s finance, and the next it’s some nondescript family emergency. For some reason, these things only manage to crop up when there’s a detail coming up. Their goldfish never needs to go to the vet when fun stuff is going down…
“As my first sergeant once said; You can either be smart or strong in this Army. The choice is yours.”
The “can’t get right”
Bless this troop’s heart. They aren’t inherently a bad troop, they’re just… stupid.
They’ll give their all and have the best of intentions, but they’re just not cut out for the intense lifestyle of the military. They wouldn’t be a problem if they weren’t dead weight that everyone else needs to carry.
The Blue Falcon
F*ck this guy. The rest of the troops on this list can be forgiven if they’re genuinely pleasant to be around or can occasionally bring the funny. These f**kers have no remorse about intentionally screwing over their battle buddies and will throw anyone under the bus if it means personal gain.
Anyone can be accepted into the team if they’re willing to try to be a team player — except these f*cks.
Finding a job is a daunting and sometimes difficult task after separating from the military. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes (HOH) is a nationwide initiative to help veterans, transitioning service members, and military spouses find meaningful employment opportunities. Hiring Our Heroes provides a variety of tools such as a resume builder, a corporate fellowship program and a career planning tool, along with several hiring events across the U.S each year.
Career Summits are meant to help veterans improve their chances of obtaining a job by providing training programs and job fairs around the country.
The Hiring Our Heroes Resume Engine is a resume building tool used to help civilian employers understand skills learned in the military. Veterans can better explain their skills to potential employers by using this system.
Hiring Our Heroes helps Veterans and military personnel translate skills, build resumes and find employment after they leave service.
Hiring Our Heroes provides a guide to help veterans understand the resources available in their search for a job. Much like the military, the transition process requires a strategic plan, an assessment of resources, and a lot of work. The VET Roadmap breaks the military-to-civilian transition process into three simple actions, helps a veteran navigate the transition process which is continuous, and identifies best-in-class resources.
Veteran Fellowship Program
The Veteran Fellowship Program is a six week long paid internship with businesses in Maryland, and Washington D.C. Veterans have the opportunity to work and learn valuable skills from these businesses. Additionally, the fellowship program helps veterans with their resume and interview skills.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Once trick or treating is over and your kids are safely tucked into bed, you’ll probably want to engage in the time-honored tradition of “borrowing” some candy from her bucket of treats. And after a long night roaming the neighborhood, you’ll have more than earned a delicious beer. But which pairs best with the candy buffet you’re about to explore? For that, we asked some beer experts to see what brews they would drink alongside some of the most popular Halloween candies around. Here’s what they said.
Best with: A Hefeweizen like Funky Buddha’s Floridian Hefeweizen, Star Hill’s The Love Wheat Beer, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s Kellerweis.
Why? Matthew Stock, beer specialist for The Brass Tap, says that notes of banana and clove in wheat beers like Hefeweizens pair nicely with the caramel and shortbread flavors in Twix bars.
(Photo by Ravi Shah)
Best with: A peanut butter porter (which seems obvious in retrospect) like Horny Goat Brewing Co.’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter.
Why? Jessica Salrin of Growler USA recommends doubling down on the peanut butter goodness of Twix with a porter that is itself made with peanut butter.
Best with: A lambic like Lindemann’s Framboise.
Why? Dave Selden, owner of 33 Books, a company that makes beer tasting journals, rightly points that Homer Simpson may have been to pair Skittles and beer with Skittlebrau. But instead of Duff, he recommends a tart Lambic because “the acidity is a nice contrast to the sweetness.
Best with: A saison like Wild Florida Saison, Goose Island Beer Co.’s Sofie, The Lost Abbey Carnevale, Stone Brewery Saison.
Why? Stock calls SweeTARTS a “lively and often intense candy” that is balanced out with a “slightly tart, semi-dry, and earthy beer like a saison.”
5. Three Musketeers
Best with: An American porter like Samuel Adams Holiday Porter, Yuengling Black and Tan, Leinenkugel’s Snowdrift Vanilla Porter.
Why? Stock says that the light sweetness of this old standby has flavors that will be intensified when paired with a rich American porter.
Best with: A brown ale like Rogue’s Hazelnut Brown Nectar or a stout like Guinness.
Why? Our experts differed on this Halloween classic. Salrin says that the nutty, caramel base of a brown ale pairs nicely with the peanuts and caramel in a Snickers bar. Selden says that the combination of salty and sweet that makes Snickers the “balanced meal” of candy bars means that it pairs well with stouts, known as the “meal in a glass” of the beer world. The dryness of a stout goes well with the sweetness of the candy.
7. Candy Corn
Best with: A Vienna lager like Green Room Brewing Vienna Lager, Dos Equis Amber Lager, or Great Lakes Brewing Co.’s Eliot Ness or a vintage old ale like North Coast Brewing’s Old Stock Ale.
Why? In our second split decision, Stock recommends a light, refreshing Vienna lager to wash down the intense sweetness of candy corn while Selden said that vintage old ales have the subtle malt sweetness that brings out the vanilla flavor of candy corn.
8. Caramel Apple Pops
Best with: A cider like Original Sin Hard Cider Black Widow.
Why? We’re fudging our own rules with a non-beer pick here, but drinking an apple beverage with an apple candy seems like a no-brainer. Salrin says that this lollipop pairs well with many cider options, but that the spooky name of the Black Widow from Original Sin makes it an extra-festive choice.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
#WWIII, #NoWarWithIran, and other trending Twitter hashtags from the past week reveal the anxiety people across the globe are feeling amid near-boiling-point tensions between the US and Iran.
The US is sending 3,500 Army paratroopers to the Middle East, reports Tuesday revealed, adding more uncertainty — especially for military families.
To add to that distress, those being deployed have been told to leave their cellphones at home.
Eighteen-year old Melissa Morales is one of those family members caught off guard. Her twin sister, Cristina, is scheduled to leave Wednesday, she said in an interview with CNN.
“As her twin sister, it kind of hurts. It stings,” she told the outlet.
Research shows deployment can have a very real psychological impact on family members, particularly military spouses and children.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Sean Mathis)
Among a range of feelings, studies have shown that families of deployed military personnel experience a range of challenging emotions.
Learning of a spouse’s deployment can mean “emotional chaos.”
A qualitative study of 11 women married to deployed Army Reserve military members had a heart-wrenching finding.
Nearly all of the women described the moment they learned their husband would have to deploy fell into a category researchers call “emotional chaos,” or experiencing a range of emotions — like stress, disbelief, and sadness — all at once.
Partners of those deployed report higher levels of anxiety and stress.
One study of 130 US military spouses (68 spouses of non-deployed servicemen and 62 spouses of servicemen deployed to a combat zone) took a close look at stress.
Spouses of deployed servicemen had markedly higher stress scores than spouses of non-deployed service members, the study found. Additionally, anxiety levels were “significantly higher in spouses of deployed versus non deployed servicemen,” the researchers found.
Spouses are at an increased risk for substance abuse.
UK-based King’s Centre for Military Health Research collected data from 405 women in military families with at least one child.
Shared routines, rituals and set rules help keep members feeling stable and grounded.
These women reported higher rates of binge drinking than women in the general population, 9.7% compared to 8.9%, respectively. They also reported higher rates of depression, 7% compared to 3%.
For parents, there’s often no room for self-care.
When spouses deploy, many partners are left to take care of their families by themselves.
One 2018 study found that spouses report not having enough time to take care of themselves. As one participant said, when it comes to taking care of themselves, “Everything else comes first.” Time to go to the gym and money to buy healthy food is nonexistent, they said.
Children are at a higher risk for depression and other psychosocial issues.
Kids with a deployed parent show higher incidents of lashing out, sadness, worry, and depression, a meta analysis of several studies shows.
Toddlers of deployed parents can experience confusion and separation anxiety.
The American Academy of Pediatrics writes on its blog that toddlers “may not understand why mom or dad isn’t there for bedtime” and that school-aged children “may worry mom or dad will be hurt.”
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brad Mincey
A 2014 research analysis supports this finding, with author Dr. Suzannah Creech, a research psychologist with Veterans Affairs and a professor at Brown University writing, “For children, deployment-separation can bring a sense of fear, anxiety, uncertainty, and absence.”
Trouble sleeping and poor academic performance can weigh on kids.
A 2009 study that looked at children ages 5-12 with a deployed parent found that 56% had trouble sleeping and 14% had school-related issues.
Social support and therapy are proven to help spouses and children.
While these findings paint a grim picture, there is help out there for military families.
Within military families individually, maintaining shared routines, rituals and set rules help keep members feeling stable and grounded. And regular family meetings before, during, and after deployment can be helpful, researchers report.
Editor’s note: If you or someone you know is struggling, please call the US National Suicide Prevention Helpline anytime at 1-800-273-8255.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The summer road trip is an iconic American institution.
Whether a cross-country tour with the family, a trip to the beach with friends, or the long haul home from college when the second semester ends, American motorists log millions of collective miles on those summer road trips. A US Department of Transportation study found that the average recreational summer road trip sees an average of a 314-mile drive one-way on such trips, or more than 600 miles in total. Many trips, of course, measure well into the thousands of miles.
Road trips can be enjoyable and relatively inexpensive compared with air travel, but they can do a number on the car, truck, or SUV logging all those miles. To keep your vehicle in its best possible shape, you need to complete a number of car care tasks after the long drive is over, and these go beyond the routine maintenance you offer a commuter vehicle.
Here are the steps to take to service a car after a long summer road trip.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexandra Singer)
1. Clean the car thoroughly, inside and out
After days on the road, deep cleaning your car is a necessary and timely step. As Mike Schultz, Senior Vice President of Research Development with Turtle Wax explains: “Not only are smashed bugs unsightly on your ride, but some also contain acidic substances, which can bite into the paint. Simply trying to scrape of stuck-on bugs can damage paint, too.”
He recommends using a dedicated car cleaning product to lift away the smashed insects. You should also remove floor mats and thoroughly clean the car’s carpets and upholstery and then let it air out for hours to prevent mold growth.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nathanael Callon)
2. Check the tire treads
Long drives can wear down tires past their point of full efficacy and safety, so check the treads once you get home.
As Fred Thomas, Vice President and General Manager for Goodyear Retail explains: “Proper tire depth is an easy way to help maximize safety and performance. There are several ways to check tread depth, including the ‘penny test.’ Simply insert a penny into your tire’s tread groove with Lincoln’s head upside down, facing you. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, it’s time to replace your tires.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)
3. Add a fuel stabilizer to the tank
After a long road trip, it’s likely you won’t use your car as heavily for a period of time, especially if you live in a city and store the vehicle elsewhere.
Adding a fuel stabilizer to the gas tank can help fuel remain fresh and prevent corrosion. If your car is likely to go unused for more than a month following your long drive (or any time) you should use a fuel stabilizer.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nathanael Callon)
4. Top off the fluids
Beth Gibson, Experiential Travel Expert with Avis Car Rental says: “Fluids are like blood for your car, and after a long trip they’ll be depleted. To keep levels where they should be and ensure your car is in drivable condition for the next time you use it, replenish windshield wiper fluid, and transmission fluid,” and so on.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)
5. Get an oil change
Even if your car isn’t due for an oil change for another few months or few hundred miles, it’s a good idea to get an oil change after a long trip.
The extended journey will have put more strain than usual on the motor, especially if your vehicle was towing a trailer or was more heavily laden than normal what with luggage and passengers.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)
6. Replace the wiper blades
Auto experts recommend you get fresh wiper blades twice a year anyway, but the likely heavy use your windshield wipers saw during a long road trip may necessitate earlier replacement.
Wiper blades usually cost less than and you can install them yourself or have a shop do it, which will likely only charge you for 15 minutes of labor.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)
7. Run a diagnostics check-up
You can buy a top quality OBD-II scanner that lets you assess all sorts of systems within your car for less than , and using such a scanner might detect an issue before it becomes a big problem, saving you an even costlier repair.
After a long drive, these scanners can check everything from filter quality to engine health, and it can explain what’s behind that annoying check engine light.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)
8. Test your brakes
Jenni Newman, editor-in-chief, Cars.com, says: “You gave your car a work out on that long road trip – now it’s time to pay extra attention to how it’s driving now that you’re back on local roads with slower speed limits. Is there a squeal happening when you hit the brakes or a weird sound coming from the wheel? Give your ride a test drive so that you know what work needs to be done when you take it in for maintenance.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
All good things, inevitably, come to an end. Whether you were counting down the days until you had your DD-214 in your hands or you stubbornly got your retirement paperwork after giving everything you had to Uncle Sam, there eventually comes a time for you to lace up your boots for the very last time.
That’s neither a good thing nor a bad thing — it’s just a thing. But your time in uniform has forever changed you. What life has in store for you after service is no one’s guess, but wherever you find yourself, know that you’ve still got a fire inside of you that will never die.
Being in the military really teaches you that motivating others isn’t always a matter of throwing a flashy office party. It can be something as small as a well-timed “good job” or expressing interest in someone’s well-being.
You’ll still conduct yourself like the troops
The Marines have a saying: “Once a Marine, always a Marine.” There’s a lot to that statement, but in one sense, it can be applied to everyone who served in the Armed Forces. There are a lot of things that you pick up in whichever branch you served that just won’t ever fully go away.
You’d be amazed at how far punctuality, polite greetings of the day, and standing up straight will take you. Shy of your ability to do whatever job, employers want someone who’s going to work well with a team, communicate effectively with others, be willing to take charge, and have the guts to make impromptu decisions that will benefit others and the company.
No pressure, but your guys are all crossing their fingers for your success. Don’t let them down.
Your passion and drive comes from within
It really doesn’t matter what you end up doing for a living after you’ve transitioned back to civilian life. You could get a job doing pretty much the same thing you were doing on the green side, you could use the GI Bill to learn a trade you always wanted to pick up, you could even try your hand at something artistic. It’s your life, and you’ve earned the right to pursue whatever you’re passionate about.
Want to open up an auto shop in your old hometown? Open it and give it your all every single day. Are you gifted in computer work after being a computer guy in the Army? It’s a damn fine job, and you’ll be great at it. Heard the jokes about the LT getting a degree in underwater basket-weaving and want to give it a shot? You will be the best damn underwater basket-weaver the world has ever seen.
Why? Because your leaders instilled in you a mission-oriented mindset. That’s what separates you from the “I might” or the “I could” people of the world. Your NCO made you into an “I will” kinda person.
What seems like simply reaching out your hand to someone will make a world of difference to everyone else.
You’ll never lose that will to help others
Where life takes you still doesn’t really matter. Wherever you find yourself, you’re still going to go out of your way to selflessly impact the life of another person. It doesn’t matter if you open a veteran-owned nonprofit to help the troops or you’re just taking care of the grandkids in your cabin hidden in the woods. You’re always going to strive for something bigger than yourself.
This is because veterans have always been taught to think of “one team, one fight.” Everyone may be fighting to reach the top, but you’ve got to help out your squad if they’re not able to reach the goal.
Whether your metaphorical squad in the outside becomes your coworkers, your family, or the entire veteran community as a whole, you’re always going to fight to help bring them up.
You’ll always find someone new to share a laugh with. Hell, even just telling civilians about some of the funny stuff we did is a great way to break the ice.
Your brotherhood with your fellow troops will last forever
Everyone you’ve ever met, from your squad mates to that admin clerk you occasionally bumped into before formation, will stay with you always. Even if they are no longer with us, the good times you had together will keep bringing a smile to your face whenever you’re alone in the sometimes-unforgiving civilian world.
When times got rough in the military, your brothers and sisters were always just a knock on a barrack’s room door away. Now they’re on, what seems like, the other side of the world. But are they really? It doesn’t matter if it’s been years, we all have someone we served with that we can call at a moment’s notice to talk to. We all swore to give our lives to protect our brothers and sisters in arms — answering a phone call is leagues easier.
Nearly every other veteran will embrace you as their own if you’re in need of a hand. Even civilians can occasionally earn that level of trust and respect if you let them into your new “squad.”
Stay the course, my friends.
You’re always going to be the flag bearer for the Armed Forces
Fewer people are enlisting in the Armed Forces than ever before. Fewer people have relatives that served, and it’s astounding how many people have never interacted with a veteran. That sucks for Uncle Sam trying to fill out the formations, but that gives you the advantage.
There’s no denying it. Finding your place in the civilian world will be hard, and there’s no road-map to follow. It will get lonely at times. Just keep holding onto that flag and others will see you for your true worth. Just as the flag-bearer in wars of old inspired the troops, you will, too. It will also help other vets find you in hopes of rekindling the camaraderie we all once had in the barracks.
You’re not the first person to ever leave military service, and you’re not going to be the last. Let it be your guide, even if you don’t know where you’re going.
Joanna Mendez, former Central Intelligence Agency Chief of Disguise, watched spy scenes from a variety of films and television shows in order to break down how accurate they really are. From Jason Bourne finding his cache of passports and foreign currency to Carrie Mathison’s (Homeland) half-assed “disguise” through airport security, Mendez doesn’t hold back in her opinions and expertise.
During her 27-year career, her position in the CIA’s Office of Technical Service involved providing operational disguises and alias training in hostile theaters of the Cold War from Moscow to Havana. Her duties included clandestine photography and preparing CIA assets with the use of intelligence-collecting equipment like spy cameras, as well as processing the information brought in.
Think “Q” — James Bond Q, not Star Trek…
Now retired, Mendez continues to consult with the U.S. Intelligence community as well as lecture with her husband Antonio Mendez, also a retired intelligence officer, with whom she has published several books about their covert experience including Spy Dust, which reveals “the tools and operations that helped win the Cold War,” and Argo, which would become an Academy Award-winning film of the same name that told the story of “the most audacious rescue in history.”
In the video below, Mendez lets her critiques fly. Check it out:
Former CIA Chief of Disguise Breaks Down 30 Spy Scenes From Film & TV | WIRED
“Carrie’s disguise, which basically consisted of dying her hair…was absolutely ineffective. She’s still Carrie…but with dark hair. She could have cut her hair and restyled it. She could have changed her makeup. She could have put on sunglasses to hide that crazy-eyed look she has…” claps Mendez.
She then jumped to a scene from Alias where Jennifer Garner nails her disguise. “She didn’t just dye her hair — she dyed it outrageously red and then adopted the whole persona to go with it. We could have used that as a training film!” she laughed.
Mendez moves on to Matthew Rhys’ character in The Americans. “He was never trying to look good. He came really close to projecting ‘the little gray man’ that we would talk about at the CIA. You wanted to be forgettable,” she commended.
Mendez then moves on to a “quick change,” the name for a move where an agent clandestinely changes his appearance in 37 seconds. She commented on Mission Impossible III, and in particular discusses why Tom Cruise’s “priest” would have been ethically off-limits.
From Megan Fox in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, to Ansel Elgort in Baby Driver, Mendez breaks down the “quick change” further — and also warns against stealing.
The video covers blending in with the crowd in James Bond — and CIA inventions that helps its agents remain discrete; being assigned a new identity in Spy; cultural customs in Inglorious Bastards; and life-like masks that cover the entire face in order to give the appearance of a completely different face.
The video is highly entertaining, not just because it grabs clips from iconic pop culture favorites (Austin Powers and Sherlock Holmes make appearances) but also because Joanna Mendez has a great, wry humor (“we never tried to disguise ourselves as furniture at the CIA…”).
Watch the full video above and find out what the CIA really thinks about black cat suits and seducing the enemy!
This week’s Borne the Battle episode features Mike Fisher, the Chief Readjustment Counseling Officer for VA’s Health Administration, who discusses some of the unique and generous benefits that Vet Centers offer.
Vet Centers began in 1979 when Vietnam veterans had difficulty readjusting to civilian life. Vet Centers seek to help and equip veterans by offering a community-based counseling center that provides a wide array of services. In addition, these Vet Centers actively help veterans to simply get started, set goals, and eventually accomplish them.
Vet Centers have quickly expanded and is now celebrating its 40th anniversary. There are currently over 300 Vet Centers, 80 mobile Vet Centers, and a Veteran Call Line as well. This model seeks to make readjustment smoother and more effective.
This week’s episode covers:
Mission, Vision, and Peer-to-Peer Model of Vet Centers
Expansive services of Vet Centers, including all types of counseling, opportunities, and trauma rehabilitation resources
Inclusive Eligibility requirements, including grandfathering of Vietnam veterans and inclusion of all, regardless of character of discharge
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Any post-9/11 Marine could easily sit down and binge through all seven episodes of the HBO miniseries, Generation Kill. In fact, if you’ve sat in your squad bay at Camp Wilson while there for a training exercise, you’ve probably already watched it a few times. Why is it so popular with the Devil Dogs? Simple: it feels pinpoint accurate.
There aren’t a whole lot of accurate depictions of Marines out there. At least, not many that really, 100% capture the true nature and mannerisms of Marines — the Infantry-type especially. That’s what sets Generation Kill apart from the rest. Based on the novel written by Evan Wright, a reporter for Rolling Stone, who was embedded with the 1st Recon Battalion during the invasion of Iraq, Mr. Wright set out with the goal of showing Marines as they were, unfiltered.
And that he did — but the miniseries adaptation took it a few steps further. There were aspects in production that not only honored Mr. Wright’s material, but Marine culture as well:
If he’s portraying himself, is this still considered his costume?
1. Military advisers
A lot of people give Hollywood sh*t when incorrectly depict aspects of military life — likely due to the lack of someone on set who knows (from experience) what they’re talking about. In this case, they had two guys on the job — Rudy Reyes, who plays himself in the series, and Eric Kocher, both Recon Marines. They went as far as having the actors go through a six-day mini-boot camp to learn all of the basics.
A side-by-side comparison of the real-life Brad Colbert with Alexander Skarsgard, who played Colbert in the series.
And the actors took it seriously. They dedicated themselves to honoring the memory and the experiences of the real-life Marines they portray in the series. Rudy Reyes himself said,
“… These guys have shown incredible discipline and attention to detail as well as commitment and camaraderie.”
Which goes to show that they picked the right actors for the job. But, in many cases, an actor can only be as convincing as the material they’re given.
Lee Tergesen as Evan Wright.
2. Source material
As previously stated, Evan Wright set out to portray the Marines as they were. He’s gone on record as saying he didn’t aim to depict them as heroes or villains — but just as they were. If you were to go to Rolling Stone to read through his original series of articles, you’ll notice that they, too, are extremely accurate.
From reading his writing, you get a sense that he wanted to show the world that Marines are people, just like anyone else. Such authentic source material meant that the production team had some big shoes to fill — they needed performances that felt real. Really real.
Thankfully, HBO at this point had already done Band of Brothers, which was another accurate depiction of troops in war. For Evan Wright, that kind of pedigree was comforting; he know that HBO would do their best to faithfully adapt his work.
Also, notice how the actors have learned to keep their booger hooks off the bang switch.
3. Cast and crew
And, of course,Generation Kill has a great cast of actors. As mentioned before, they were extremely dedicated to their roles and understood what it was that they were doing. Of course, that’s partially credited to the Reyes and Kocher, but the actors themselves played their roles brilliantly.
Beyond that, every department understood what they were making and made sure to get a lot of the details correct, including costumes.
When it comes to getting things accurate, Generation Kill does an outstanding job. It would be great to sit here and write all of the amazing things the actors and crew had to say about it, but to hear them say it is even better:
The Nation appears fractured with the January 6th assault on the U.S. capitol interrupting America’s most sacred democratic process. If you’re like me, and you’re watching the news 24/7, you can begin to feel like our nation really is divided, maybe even irreparably so. At a minimum, several perceived realities are playing out on a national scale, depending on the social system in which one interacts. However, I want to offer an alternative perspective and a model for unification of these realities: our nation’s military.
2020 was my last full year of service in the Army, with my impending retirement this summer. As I consider the next chapter of my life, I am also considering the state of our Nation, and I’m drawn to the reality constructed for me by the military over the past 24 years. This reality is one in which members of the military are all united in a common purpose: to fight and win our nation’s wars. The military takes people from all backgrounds and imbues them with a core set of values and a core philosophy– with no consideration given to race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, or political affiliation; these factors are transparent on the battlefield.
According to sociologists Peter Berger and Thomas Luckman in their book, Social Construction of Reality, “Society is a human product. Society is an objective reality. Man is a social product.” Therefore, our realities are socially constructed by inputs from our social systems– families, friends, media (all types), our education, and our daily interactions with our environment, among other factors.
Humans are responsible for the societies we create. Therefore, we are all responsible for our own behavior when our differences become more apparent and the conversations more difficult. At times, it seems like Americans can no longer have difficult conversations without resorting to ad hominens, dangerous rhetoric, violence, and brutality. Is this who we want to be as a nation and as a society?
When stimuli hit our senses, our brains interpret it based on the way that information fits into our personal psychological puzzle, largely derived from our heuristics and biases. But what if we could tweak our inputs, change our perspectives, and influence our brains to develop the psychological systems and pathways that lead us closer together, rather than driving us further apart?
In order to rewire our brains, we must first recognize we have a problem and decide to change our behavior. We can the begin to expand our repertoire by diversifying our inputs and committing to considering perspectives that clash with our personal realities. Our goal should be to cultivate a society in which we treat each other as compatriots, recognizing that while we all have the right to espouse our personal perspectives, we must respect the sacred democratic processes that make this country what it is, and treat each other with dignity and respect. We must actively listen when others speak, without reloading, and then share our counter arguments with a sense of decorum absent from so many conversations today.
I don’t want to leave you with the impression that the military has it all figured out- we don’t. While the military is still charting its own course to improve in many areas, including those of diversity and inclusion, its model for unity can be found in the willingness of our leaders to have difficult conversations with service members at all echelons, and our ability to unify in pursuit of a shared purpose.
While there is no shortage of disagreements amongst members of the military, and a whole host of varying viewpoints, perspectives, ideals, and political points of view, we sit at the table together and vow to respectfully work out some of our thorniest issues. Senior leaders like 22nd Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General Charles Q. Brown, Jr., at a volatile time in our nation’s history, told his story to help the military start a difficult conversation about race within its own ranks. He modelled vulnerability and transparency, and in doing so empowered others to find their voice and share their stories so that we can begin to heal.
When we have these conversations, we attempt to do so with empathy for those who have been most impacted by our failures in diversity, equity, and inclusion; and in consideration of our nation’s long-term goals. People have a right to be angry when they feel like they’ve been oppressed, disadvantaged, or even duped, but we have to check this emotion at the door if we want others to listen and feel like valued members of the institution, without caveats.
The military doesn’t always get it right and feedback exists in the system which causes its progress to ebb and flow over time. However, if you consider the military’s progress over the long term and changes in policy across different administrations and senior leadership, you would still see significant growth and progress in the force. You would also see a continuous effort by the institution to improve the way we treat people and create a social system in which everyone feels valued- that opportunities exist equally for all.
More importantly, the military plucks people from every corner of our country and territories and unifies them with a shared purpose, using tried and true leadership skills and attributes and values like dignity, respect, empathy, equality, duty, and selfless service as the arbiters of unity. When those within our community commit acts that conflict with our values, we hold them accountable and we ask that they accept personal responsibility for their behavior. We focus on people’s strengths, not differences, to leverage individual skills and behaviors across diverse teams to achieve a common set of objectives; our shared purpose to fight and win our Nation’s wars.
Americans will never completely agree on the specifics of our domestic policies or foreign interests but we should be able to have a conversation and reach amicable resolutions for some of our most contentious issues. We must be willing to come to the table for rational conversations, chart a path ahead to coexist in peace as one nation, and most importantly, preserve this great democratic experiment we call America. This requires a commitment to listen to each other in the sharing of ideas, hear both sides of an issue, and most importantly, treat others the way we want to be treated.
The military has withstood the test of time. Its history and legacy survived a civil war and later, those forces came back together, unified in a common purpose. One day they were shooting and the next saluting, the military’s customs and courtesies and core set of values indelibly woven into the fabric of the force. If the military could achieve this unification after such a violent and brutal past, I believe America can too.
America also has a set of core values, in which there are currently varying degrees of faith. A State Department pamphlet designed to enable Americans to best discuss their homeland while abroad expounds on shared values like equality, individualism, and democracy. To this list, I would add unity as one of the principles I’ve mentioned when engaged in similar discussions with international peers.
We are, in fact, the United States, but that name loses its meaning if our people are not also united. When George Washington spoke of the concept of unity, he envisioned it as “…wholesome plans digested by councils,” rather than individuals acting in their own interest. Our nation, when truly whole, is still but the sum of its parts. If our people and our institutions fail to work together, or we become too myopic in our understanding of our shared reality, then our country’s very name loses its fundamental meaning.
With our American values in mind, let’s stop focusing on our differences and instead focus on our similarities as we look to calm this disruption in civility. Consider the other; there is a large part within all of us living the same reality. We work together, we shop in the same stores, and our children attend the same schools. We’re on the same grind everyday to do the best we can, and we are all bound by this common purpose- just trying to survive. It’s within that shared purpose and our shared values we can find a new reality in America, one in which we are all united in our efforts to preserve democracy and ensure the survival of our great nation.
LTC Cassandra Crosby is an Army officer and Editor-in-Chief of From the Green Notebook. Check her out at LinkedIn.
Maj. Gen. Patrick C. Higby, director of DevOps and Lethality, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, discusses his mission and responsibilities and the roles of DevOps, cyber resiliency and diversity in Air Force readiness during an interview with Airman magazine at the Pentagon. Higby devises and implements strategies to responsively combat cybersecurity threats while rapidly delivering cyber/digital/IT capabilities to the point of need.
During an interview with Airman magazine, Higby discussed his mission and responsibilities and the roles of DevOps, cyber resiliency and diversity in increasing Air Force readiness and lethality.
Airman magazine: Can you summarize the objectives of your office and how your responsibilities in DevOps and lethality pair together to impact the National Defense Strategy?
Maj. Gen. Higby: In my first meeting with Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, he also had a question about my duty title, which was something totally different, but really didn’t resonate with what was trending and what was gaining importance. So, we were struggling with what’s the right way to capture my role.
My role is to nudge the culture in a different direction, not just the culture in the Air Force, but the culture in the Pentagon in general, with all of the politics, stove piping and the other challenges we face sometime when we try to do something agile in DevOps. So, we came up with DevOps as being part of my title. And when I say DevOps, I include DevSecOps as Nick Chaillan, our chief software officer, always reminds me. The “Sec” adds the security aspect.
DevOps of 15 years ago wasn’t necessarily very security minded. Today when we say DevOps or SecDevOps, there is a big security aspect to it as you develop code and then deploy the code.
The lethality piece is there to influence the message, especially to our industry partners, we’re not just doing this for some admin system, this is war fighting. This is giving American men and women and our coalition partners the edge against the enemy to make sure we hit the right targets, we don’t inflict unneeded casualties and also protect our lives in combat.
Lethality is a balance it’s not just inflicting on the bad guys, it’s also preserving your own force.
Airman magazine: How do you define DevOps and what it means in the actual development of programs and weapons systems and what does that mean to the warfighter?
Maj. Gen. Higby: DevOps came out of the software and coder world in what some would argue the eighties and nineties, so it’s been around awhile.
The concept was that the developers that are writing code or software packages, they were historically not well connected with the operators, either the operators of the network or the operators that were going to consume that code.
What DevOps endeavored to do was to bring the coder and operator together. So, you have a very well-integrated team where you’re continuously checking with each other on what’s needed and what do we have to do and you are continuously delivering product.
The idea is that you have a continuous pipeline of valuable product, in this case software code, but you could apply this to anything that’s continuously being updated based on the needs of the user of that product.
In many cases what we’re delivering to them (the warfighter) is a pristine rotary dial telephone system connected to a landline and in their private lives as Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors or Marines they’re using iPhones. It’s like, I joined the military to have this high-tech experience to do good things and schwag bad guys and I’m burdened with this old technology.
And so, what do we owe our young men and women that have vowed to put their lives on the line to defend the constitution of the United States. We owe them the best technology that America has to offer. We have many industry partners that are alongside and stand strong in that message to say, we want our American fighting men and women to have the best technology available. And that’s not a rotary dial phone, it’s an iPhone that is continuously getting updated, getting new apps, getting refreshed, getting new security hardening, put on it continuously.
Airman magazine: What has been the traditional rift between the engineers who develop software iterations and the people who use these products in the field?
Maj. Gen. Higby: The rift has been it’s not delivered quickly enough at the speed of need. And so what DevOps or Agile, what that replaced was called the waterfall process where you have lots of intelligent engineers that are very capable and they come up with something that then gets delivered to the field.
The process takes a long time because you’re deploying a full solution vice, a prototype or a minimally viable product. It’s the full up solution that you’ve invested 10 years of work and billions of dollars in, you’d get it deployed and that’s the first time that the warfighter gets to use it and they’re like, wow, this needs a lot of work. Then it would go back to the engineers and then they’d come up with a “B” version that would take another 10 years and so on and so forth. In today’s environment at the velocity of change, the acceleration of change, that’s just not a viable architecture to have.
That’s why Agile development and then later on DevOps and DevSecOps, caught on, not just an industry, but in the Department of Defense and in the joint fight.
Dr. Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, discusses ÒThe Future Air Force, Faster, Smarter: The Next GearÓ during the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Md., Sept. 16, 2019. The ASC Conference is a professional development forum that offers the opportunity for Department of Defense personnel to participate in forums, speeches, seminars and workshops.
Airman magazine: Is this why Dr. Roper talks continuously about the fact that speed is the most important aspect of development of weapon systems?
Maj. Gen. Higby: That’s exactly right. The challenge with speed is that implies more risk and as you know, the Pentagon, is very risk averse. No one wants to be the one that leads failure, so there’s a reluctance there and that’s part of the culture change of nudging people to be more comfortable and accepting risk. It’s getting that minimally viable product out there, vice always talking about the perfect solution, that we’ll get in a couple of years. No, give me something now that works and then I can give you immediate feedback on it and we can continue to iterate.
I’ll even reach back to historical examples in the P-51 Mustang and the German Fw 190 fighters of World War II. If you look at the history of how the P-51 came about, I would argue that’s a DevOps case study.
That came about with a minimally viable product built in the United States by a start-up company that was put out into the field for the British. It wasn’t quite right and then all these other ideas came along; can we put a Rolls Royce Merlin engine in there? Can we do this? Can we give it this kind of Gunsight? Next thing you know, you have one of the best fighters on the planet that helped us win WWII.
Now, did it still have shortcomings even when it was mature? Sure. It wasn’t well-suited maybe for the Pacific domain where you had to travel long distances. It didn’t have all those navigational aids that some of the more expensive, larger fighters did, but in terms of what we needed it for at the time, which was bomber escort to defeat Nazi Germany, it was the perfect system. And it could go beak to beak with enemy fighters and come out on top.
That was industry and coalition partners taking risks, making stuff happen. Then suddenly it dawned on the United States as our bomber crews are getting slaughtered that if we had some of those P-51s it would be a game changer for our air war against Germany.
A P-51 Mustang passes over the Shaw flightline after being displayed as a static aircraft during the 20th Fighter Wing change of command ceremony, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., March 19, 2012.
Airman magazine: So, what you’re saying is that what you’re attempting to do now in nudging this culture change, that it’s not a new culture?
Maj. Gen. Higby: It is not new, this has been done many times before. Today we call it DevOps. Five years ago, we were calling it Agile. Industry has been calling it DevOps for quite a while, but a lot of these concepts aren’t new. It’s just the getting out of our box that we sometimes get ourselves trapped in – we have this and we can’t change now because it’s too risky.
Airman magazine: What are the benefits of developing systems this way for the people in the field and how you would explain that to somebody on Capitol Hill who is holding the purse strings, making the decisions on the money? How do you explain to them that allocating a certain amount of money and taking risk at the front end is actually a better way to safeguard the taxpayer money than doing it the old way?
Maj. Gen. Higby: The best way to convince them, I believe, is to build trust through some successes. In a real DevOps risk accepting environment you are going to have failures, but you want those failures to inform the next success. After you do it for a while you can point to some successes like the modern-day P-51 kind of stories and we have several of those, not just in the Air Force, but in or other services.
One of those stories that we like to celebrate is the original DevOps software package the tanker (air refueling) planning tool grew out of. We were doing things in a very industrialized way in our combined air operations centers with grease pencils and white boards trying to schedule aerial refueling by hand. Then with some lines of code, working with the people that were actually using this planning tool and you create a product that saves a lot of man hours and comes up with a better solution in terms of planning where to put your tankers to conduct a certain portion of the air tasking order and taking the fight to the bad guy.
Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC) at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, provides command and control of air power throughout Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and other nations in the U.S. Air Forces Central Command region. In 2016, the CAOC was using dry erase boards to plan AFCENTÕs aerial refueling operations.
This degree of automation and using an algorithm to figure things out is way faster than having a bunch of very smart people doing it the old-fashioned way. That’s just one example. There’re many others like that, but, those are the ones we need to continuously be pointing at to show Capitol Hill, hey, this works.
We also have to let them (Capitol Hill) understand that when we started this, we weren’t quite sure what the end solution was going to look like and that’s the other big hurdle. I don’t necessarily know where I’m going to end up when I start with something.
So, projects continuously changing as they go forward. So, what we think might be the destination today, five years from now, we might be over here somewhere better than we thought we were going to be. I don’t want to trap the DevOps teams into, you have to end up here, because somewhere else might be better.
Airman magazine: You mentioned the tanker planning tool and how much money that ended up saving and how it was one of the success stories we could go back to Congress and say, “Look, we took a risk on the front end, but here are the payoffs.” So, could you please explain a little bit about 804 and OTA has acquisition authorities and how that kind of goes hand in hand with the DevOps thing. How do you explain to someone who’s been on Capitol Hill for a long time, what the advantages are of making those mistakes at the beginning and spending money as you iterate instead of one big large chunk?
Maj. Gen. Higby: Right. OTA, other transactional authority, that’s what OTA stands for. There are two flavors. There’s the prototyping flavor and the experimentation flavor. Let me rewind, you can do either, you can take a product that’s already in the commercial sector and say we’re going to buy this and we’re going to experiment with it and see if it works.
Staff Sgt Brian Nesbitt, assigned to the 169th Maintenance Squadron at McEntire Joint National Guard Base checks his M-16 assault rifle during the classroom portion of an the M-16 qualification course. Nesbitt is completing the training as part of his pre-deployment requirements.
A good historical example is the M-16 rifle, a Vietnam era, the first plastic rifle, put into combat. That was done under an OTA. So, these (OTAs) aren’t necessarily that new. The 804 (Section 804) Middle Tier Acquisition (MTA) authorities, so that is trying to get after these middle-tier programs, so not the super big programs, but sort of the middle-tier programs.
We don’t need all this excess of documentation that’s been inflicted over years. Because again, historically, when you look back at programs that have failed, those failures usually end up in some kind of legislation that tries to point at, “this is what went wrong in that program.” Now we’re going to write a law to prevent that from happening and that volume of laws has continued to grow and grow and grow to the point where now when you try to do something fast and you’re confronted with all those laws, it makes it really hard to go fast. And that’s what the 804s were supposed to be incentivizing.
In the Air Force, we dove full in and we had, I don’t remember the count, but it was dozens of programs that went down the 804 path and saved a hundred years of labor and acquisition timeline and cut that out. That gets delivery of capability of the warfighter faster. That’s what we’re trying to do and the 804 does that.
Airman magazine: You mentioned the fact that it not only applies to programs being developed from the ground up, but programs that are taken off the shelf that already exist and are augmented, you said the M-16 rifle, but does the newly acquired MH-139A Grey Wolf helicopter fit into that? Can you talk about that a little?
Maj. Gen. Higby: I would argue it could. The question on helicopters is, do I need to develop an all-new military-specific helicopter or can I use something that’s already in the civilian market that already has shown reliability, make the few minor modifications to it that I need for its military applicability, and then put it out there, begin to use it and then begin to iterate? There are many opportunities to ask this question from firearms, all the way up to helicopters and maybe even (flight) trainers and aircraft.
Part of this also is when we look at our defense industrial base, are there opportunities to bring along smaller companies that have some very genius ideas that we could use in the Department of Defense to help our mission that are also then viable in the commercial market.
The MH-139A Grey Wolf lands at Duke Field, Fla., Dec. 19, 2019, before its unveiling and naming ceremony. The aircraft is set to replace the Air Force’s fleet of UH-1N Huey aircraft and has capability improvements related to speed, range, endurance and payload.
And that’s another tack Dr. Roper is taking. Can we, the United States Air Force, become like a venture capital company, where we look out, we see this small company that has something and we’re like, “Hey, we could use that in the Air Force?” But, I don’t want to create another defense contractor where your only customer is the Air Force. I want you to also be viable in the commercial marketplace with that product. Now we might use a version of that product that’s adapted for military use, but in general, whatever you’ve got is going to be commercially viable as well.
There are tons of opportunities in the United States, with our intellectual capital, which I think is a strategic competitive advantage vis-a-vis some of the adversaries that we talk about in the national defense strategy.
Airman magazine: Before we move on, is there anything just on the general concept of DevOps that you want to talk about that you think we should have asked?
Maj. Gen. Higby: The one challenge with DevOps is there’s a temptation again in this building (the Pentagon) where we’re always looking for efficiencies. There’s a temptation to see DevOps as a money saver. I have to speak up about that because DevOps is not about saving money. DevOps is about being more effective for our warfighter, being more lethal for our warfighter.
You have to understand that when you roll out this minimally viable product, it could be an app for your phone or it could be a software module for the combined air operations center or anything like that, that continuous delivery and continuous integration continues and you’re always have a DevOps team that’s taking care of that product. So, when you think in the old term of sustainment and you’re making improvements, that comes at a cost.
You’re paying those people to be the caretakers of this product and to continuously be engaging with the users of the product, daily. And then employing new software updates could be daily, it could be multiple times a day if you’re doing extreme programming, but daily, weekly, monthly, and then maybe as, as the product ages you’re only doing a release once a year and you might not need as much human capital bandwidth to be paying attention to it. But it’s not a widget that you deliver and then you’re done.
DevOps is continuous, so the sustainment tail, as we call it in the industrial age, that sustainment tail is still there. It’s just that sustainment tail is now different in the sense that you’re not just sustaining the current capability. You’re continuously improving the capability up to the point where the operator or the user of the product says, “Hey, we think we need something different now.” And then you got to spool up another DevOps team to say, what do you need? Where do we go? What’s this new thing you’re trying to do? What’s this new capability you’re looking for?
Pararescue jumpers and combat rescue officers with the 103rd Rescue Squadron, 106th Rescue Wing conduct mass casualty training with the Battlefield Air Targeting Man-Aided Knowledge System (BATMAN) at FS Gabreski ANG, Aug. 25, 2015. The BATMAN system is an Air Force research laboratory advanced technology demonstration program that develops enhanced capabilities for battlefield airmen. The program applies an airmen-centric design approach to all its research and development efforts to maximize the airmen’s mission effectiveness and efficiency.
Airman magazine: Can we explore a tangential perspective on that? A lot of warfighters that we spend a lot of money training in various disciplines have spent a lot of years saying nobody listens. Now people are listening on a weekly, sometimes daily basis about what they need to do their job. Is this a positive influence on retention?
Maj. Gen. Higby: I think it absolutely is because you’re giving the warfighter direct input into the tools that they’re using, sometimes in life or death situations. And, it’s being done with all of that bureaucracy abstracted away because your DevOps team, whether it’s in a software factory like Kessel Run or whether it’s a dedicated team to some specific mission, that DevOps team is a close-knit group and they are making stuff happen and adjusting capability the way the warfighter wants it with the warfighter right there.
That’s the amazing thing. Now again, you can study, you can look back in history and any of the successful programs that we’ve (Air Force) done, it’s usually predicated on a small team that’s protected from the bureaucracy that’s given a mission to do and they’re usually successful.
Airman magazine: So, let’s shift gears a little bit and get you to put your cyber hat on. Your job takes what appears to be the two foundations, the first bricks that are necessary in building an Air Force of the future and that’s acquisition reform and incorporating cyber resiliency from the very beginning. Is that correct?
Maj. Gen. Higby: So, cyber resiliency in simple terms is making sure you can get your mission done no matter what happens in cyberspace. In other words, no matter what happens to your computers or your phones or your RF links, you can get your mission done. That’s really what cyber resiliency is about.
Now, when you look at the original cybersecurity standards, they all had aspects of that in there. In civilian terms, we’d call it continuity of operations or continuity of business operations. And so those of us that went through our security plus training and CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) training, all those aspects of cyber resiliency were already there. But, the idea is to quit thinking just about cyber resiliency in terms of, I’m on a computer, I need cyber resiliency. It’s, I’m doing a mission and that mission is very reliant on what’s happening in the cyberspace domain, so you better make sure that you have some of those aspects of cyber resiliency built in.
In a modern, data-driven Air Force, cyber-resiliency is crucial to mission security and success.
And again, some, some of this thought is still being developed. A NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) is on the verge of publishing Special Publication 800-160 Vol. 2, which is 14 different techniques to achieve cyber resiliency. And it’s everything from, do we have divergent or diverse paths to communicate with, all the way to are we doing a good job deceiving the adversary so that they don’t have the easy targets to poke at because we’re constantly putting up false targets and decoys and honeypots that they might be tempted to go after within the cyberspace domain.
But then there’s PACE planning, primary, alternate, contingency emergency, that is an aspect of cyber resiliency. So, I have a primary way to get my mission done, that primary way I’m going to take advantage of all those great electronic systems and computer systems and AI machine learning that’s available. But, if any one of those or all of those go away, I better still have an alternate way of doing the mission and then a contingency way and then an emergency way.
So, I may start off with a very elegant high-tech kind of strike and the emergency way may be, we’re back in the agricultural age and we might have to take Spears and go fight the bad guy. So, the idea behind resiliency is you’re going to fight to get your mission done, no matter what happens.
Airman magazine: Also, could you talk about the Cyber Resiliency Office for Weapons Systems or CROWS office and how this all works together?
Maj. Gen. Higby: The CROWS stood up in 2016, I believe, and it was in conjunction with a cyber squadron initiative, which called out this entity called a mission defense team.
Initially created to look at legacy weapon systems, the Air Force CROWS office will be taking aim at ensuring cybersecurity concerns are taken into account from the start of new programs.
So, the thought was we would have mission defense teams at the tactical edge associated with a specific mission capability, be it F-16s (Fighting Falcons) or Air Operations Centers, B-52 (Stratofortress) bombers, tankers or presidential airlift support. All of those have mission defense teams associated with them. Again, they’re at that tactical edge that can detect something is going on here, that invisible hand or that obscured hand from the adversary. They’re the cop on the beat that sort of knows what their neighborhood is supposed to look like. They’re the first ones that can see that window over there isn’t supposed to be open, let’s go investigate.
So, they go in with the flashlight, they investigate and “holy cow” there’s somebody in there, where do you go with that? And so, the CROW stood up as sort of that interface, especially when you talk about legacy weapon systems.
Take the F-16, which are very cyber dependent as we’ve learned in the last 10-15 years. How does that team, that cop that’s on the beat that says, there’s a window open in that F-16 software that shouldn’t be open, how do you get the right experts, engineers and PhDs involved that may have built that system or designed that system and facilitate a very quick turn response to that? The response could be a whole number of things. It could be, we need to ground that asset for now. We can’t fly the next sortie because the risk is too great. It may be, I think we can still fly with that vulnerability in place because we have other work arounds.
Again, back to that resiliency discussion. It may be, we can deploy some code very quickly and shut that window and get the adversary out of the system. But you need the expert that built that system originally to be in that discussion.
Two F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to the Alabama Air National Guard’s 187th Fighter Wing approach a tanker during an aerial refueling mission over Nevada during exercise Green Flag-West 13-02.
We really want the CROWS to be that interface to the real expert of a given weapon system, whether it’s an aircraft, a missile, a helicopter or whatever, to understand, if you’re going to tweak this, it may have these other consequences to it. And then make that risk decision. Grounding the asset is not always an option, we have to launch because we have other actors that are dependent on us striking a target.
Airman magazine: Cyber was involved in everything we do. How does the Air Force get that level of education raised? That sea level of understanding about how cyber influences everything that we do across the entire force.
Maj. Gen. Higby: We do have a cyber (Air Force specialty code), a tribe of cyber professionals that are trained to do that. But as you said, cyber affects everything.
So, now the question is how do I open up that aperture to find more cyber talent that we may have on the force that we’re not aware of? And so, we came up with the concept of a cyber aptitude test. So just like you test for different aptitudes like spoken languages, you can test for cyber aptitude and you might find cyber aptitude in unusual places.
It may be a fuels troop in an LRS (Logistics Readiness Squadron) at a base somewhere that on the side, tinkers with Raspberry Pis and develops apps for phones. That’s probably the Airman that you want working to look at (creating) the digitized fuel pump that’s pumping fuel to the jets when they’re in the hot pad. He or she is probably the good beat cop to have on the mission defense team to say, “Hey, somebody is messing with that fuel pump” and I might be able to circumvent it right here on the spot and allow the mission to continue without having to escalate up and get those higher-level SWAT teams to come in.
Proposed content viewing page on the Cyber Education Hub, which is being developed at the Center for Cyberspace Research in the Air Force Institute of Technology, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The online site is a platform for multimedia cyber education content geared to cyber experts and Airmen seeking knowledge of how cyber applies to their career fields. The site builds user profiles based on user viewing history, job description and preferences, as well as command directives.
Then there is modularized training and we began rolling that out in 2014, allowing some self-paced training. So, a certain module might be really easy for me, but might be really hard for you. Let me go through it at my speed and then the next module, it might be the other way around, but don’t limit the learning. If somebody already has the skills, I don’t have to have them relearn it at the school house. We can do it remotely. We can do it through things like YouTube videos.
All of that is now becoming available to our Airman. So, any Airman out there, on the chief software officer’s webpage (software.af.mil), there’s a whole bunch of training modules about DevOps, for example.
So, if you’re that LRS Airman fuels troop and you say, “Hey, I hear all this DevOps stuff and ‘Containers’ and ‘Kubernetes,’ what does all that mean? All of that is available to them.
Airman magazine: How important is it making sure that that cyber resiliency not only extends to the finished products, the war fighting systems that we use, but the supply chain from all the contractors and all the various companies that supply parts from various locations?
Maj. Gen. Higby: That’s a huge challenge. I was actually involved with our general counsel office because they were seeing the same concerns across the supply chain.
So, we’re building a new airplane or a new pod for an airplane. That system relies on a lot of integrated circuit boards, processors, chips, chipsets and timing clocks that all come from diverse places. And how do we assure ourselves that when they come together that they inter-operate properly and that there isn’t some kind of malware or malicious code or backdoor baked into them that the adversary could then use in the future to defeat that weapon in a way that would surprise us.
A 507th Air Refueling Wing aircraft maintenance team installs a Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures pod onto the underside of a KC-135 Stratotanker Oct. 25, 2017 at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla.
That is hard. Now again in the commercial sector this has been a concern for a long time too and there are companies, some pretty big-name computer companies, that have pretty good supply chain resiliency and supply chain monitoring making sure that you can track where a given product was made and if it was made in the right place by the people with the right clearances.
So, there are techniques out there. The challenge for the Air Force, since we don’t tend to make our own pods and airplanes, is we usually rely on an industry partner and what’s the right balance for us have that industry partner get the help they need, when they need it, but also to be open to communicate to us when they have concerns.
We have an Air Force asset, but it works for the entire Department of Defense, the defense Cyber Crime Center, under the Air Force Office of Special Investigations that specializes in just that kind of stuff. And I believe their role will increase in the future as we move forward. They need more staff and help and all kinds of things too. They’re the right experts that can look at a given component and say, this has something in it or this is behaving in a way that it shouldn’t, so they can detect some of that as well and then find ways to circumvent it and then upstream consequences for whoever the person was or the entity was that in injected that into the supply chain.
Our supply chain is a big concern not only for DoD, but for our industry partners as well.
Hypersonic Research Engineers, Ryan Helbach and 1st Lt David McLellan, talk in Hypersonic Combustion Research Cell 22, used in research into SCRAM jet technology, at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, Jul 21, 2016. Helbach is the program lead for AFRL’s Intellect to Intellect Exchange (i2i Exchange) which pairs AFRL scientists and engineers with innovative private tech companies and created the AFRL Entrepreneurial Program allowing scientists and engineers to take sabbaticals to pursue outside for-profit goals.
Airman magazine: What kind of things are being undertaken to try and attract new cyber talent and to retain our talent?
Maj. Gen. Higby: There’s a huge number of initiatives. One that I mentioned, again, the cyber aptitude test of finding talent and places where you may not think it exists.
So, there may be a young man or woman who grew up in the mountains of Appalachia that didn’t grow up with iPhones and computers. But, maybe they have a natural gift, they’re a gifted musician perhaps. And guess what gifted musicians sometimes make really good coders. Unless we can expose them to a cyber aptitude test, we won’t know that they have that ability. Then we could say, you scored really high in this thing, would you like to join this team that’s doing big important things for our country?
I think even today, despite all the bad rap that millennials get, there is a desire to be part of something that in our generation would call bigger than yourself, so doing something for the greater good.
There are still young Americans who are willing to step forward and do that. The key is attracting them and once we attract them, we know we’re not going to retain them by paying them more.
I can’t compete with the big-name companies in Silicon Valley in terms of financial compensation, but what I can compete with is the coolness factor of the mission. Hey, you’re doing something here that’s either saving American lives or making Americans that are in combat somewhere more effective in protecting our constitution. There are American millennials and the generation after them willing to do that.
The challenges, what’s the environment that they’re going to come into? Are they going to come into that environment where we hand them the rotary dial phone tethered to a cable or we are going to bring them into the force that says, here’s the iPhone or whatever that we’re going to issue you a basic training? Your orders are on there, all your personnel files are on there. Your training, a program that you need to go through is on there. The links to all those YouTube videos, it’s all on there. Where you need to go to get your uniform issued, that code or that app is on there. That’s the experience that they should be having. Not here’s your big rotary dial phone with the cable attached and then you need all these pieces of paper to go over there to get your uniform.
So, it’s on us to make that environment conducive to the generation that grew up as digital natives where we don’t bring them into an analog world, because that’ll be a turnoff very quickly.
It comes down to understanding our Airmen and the two biggest and in all of the retention surveys I’ve seen the results of, the two big factors that stick out is, one, does the Airman feel tethered to an important mission? That’s a huge retention factor.
And then the second is the Airman’s relationship with their supervisor? The frontline supervisor, not wing commander, that’s not MAJCOM commander, that’s not the chief of staff or the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force. That is your frontline supervisor, the person that you’re interacting with every day. If that is a good relationship and that frontline supervisor is keeping you inspired about the importance of the mission you’re doing and how that plays into doing something bigger than yourself, you’re going to stay on the team.
Airman magazine: I would imagine the key to retention too is after you’ve trained them up to do these cool missions, is not having Airmen stuck doing housekeeping things. Can we talk about how (artifical intelligence) fits into this conversation?
U.S. Air Force Airmen 1st Class Raymond Rowe and Jaran Daly, 460th Space Communications Squadron, Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, and Staff Sgt. Derrick Shipley, 932nd Airlift Wing, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, students, attend the 24th Air Force Enterprise Cyber Security Tools Training Course at Lott Hall at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, Sept. 12, 2018. This is the first time the 690th Cyber Operations Group has held the course at Keesler.
Maj. Gen. Higby: Our enlisted career field for coders, 3D0X4, we have a number of case studies where this good coder gets to go to Kessel Run and work on the tanker planning tool for example and absolutely love it.
They’re doing paired programming with the industry expert attached to their hip learning together, growing together, creating code that’s being used. They’re talking to the war fighter that’s actually using it on a daily basis. It’s a very rewarding experience and then after their six-month TDY ends, they go back to their base-level communication squadron and they’re a SharePoint administrator, which is not necessarily what they signed up for.
Now, does SharePoint need to be administered at that base? Absolutely it does. But, maybe now we have enough talent in that Airman where they could use something like an algorithm or some kind of machine learning tool to automate the SharePoint administration aspect and then free themselves up to do the DevOps full time, vice having to do a lot of the laborious housekeeping that could be done through code or through an industry partner.
If you look at the AFNet today and I think most of us that are working on the AFNet would agree, it is a complicated, convoluted mess. It’s overly complex and in terms of the user experience, if you ask most Airmen, how would you rate the AFNet? They’re not going to give it good grades.
What we’re trying to do now is get some of those industry providers that provide service for the commercial sector, for our civilian lives, to bring that experience into the Air Force and have them run the network at a base or have them run the network in a given region.
So now you get the same user experience that you like in your private life, you now get that at work as well instead of staring in the blue wheel of death, waiting for something to load.
Cyber-warfare specialists serving with the 175th Cyberspace Operations Group of the Maryland Air National Guard engage in weekend training at Warfield Air National Guard Base, Middle River, Md., Jun. 3, 2017.
Airman magazine: Let’s talk about our civilian Airman, the Air National Guard units. How important is that? When it comes to DevOps and contracting, acquisitions and cyber to have people out there getting real-world experience in a different vein and bringing that cross pollination back into the force.
Maj. Gen. Higby: That’s always been a huge success story for the Air Force between our total force as we say, “Guard, reserve and REGAF (regular Air Force).” In the guard and reserve, there is so much untapped talent, it’s everything from coders all the way through to pilots. If we can find the right ways to tap into that talent at the time of need, I think it would make us a much more capable Air Force.
Some functional areas have figured that out. It’s hard because again, a lot of these total force Airmen have civilian jobs and I can share anecdotes of say a cyber security officer for a high-end Fortune 500 company in civilian life, but they’re a defender for security forces in their guard role. I ask, “Can I make you a cyber Airman? And the answer is, well, I don’t want to do all that cyber stuff. I want to be in a foxhole with a gun.
We have to figure out what are the right incentives for someone like that to say, okay, I’ll leave you on the security forces side, but can we leverage some of your cyber talent to make that SF unit more capable? Because you can do some DevOps things to manipulate the base defense cameras or a system that detects non-ferrous materials coming into the base. You can manipulate those systems in ways to maybe have a quicker response or more capable response and you’ll still get to carry your gun and lay in the foxhole on the weekend if that’s really what you want to do.
Airman magazine: You have stated that your career field pyramid is inverted. What does that mean and how is that being addressed?
Maj. Gen. Higby: When I was the cyber career field manager two or three years ago, this was one of the challenges on the officer’s side. It ended up that in our inventory we had more field grade officer positions than company grade officer positions.
Normally in the military hierarchy, you would have more CGOs then you pick the best and promote them up and so you have a pyramid. The biggest hit was probably the PBD720 force shaping cuts of the 2008-2009 timeframe, that harvested a lot of the CGO positions. And so the cuts weren’t necessarily laid in a way that made sense in terms of that pyramid. That’s where you end up and in some cases it’s a good opportunity, where a captain fills a major’s position or a major fills a lieutenant colonel’s position and they can work at an echelon higher than they normally would be able to. Some do really well at that and it’s a great opportunity, but that’s something that needs to get fixed.
I know Maj. Gen. Kevin Kennedy, who replaced me, that’s one of the challenges that he’s looking at is how do we right size that and are there places where perhaps we can trade FTO for CGO billets and fix that manpower map.
Our manpower system in the Air Force is an industrial age system and it is something that our A1 team (manpower, personnel and services) is struggling with, as well as figuring out how do we get into the DevOps and Agile age? I know Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly is working hard on that and trying to come up with different ways where we don’t get trapped in the old thinking of it has to be a pyramid. There may be cases where if you’re working as a team, it doesn’t have to be a pyramid and we can leave our rank at the door, so to speak.
Airman magazine: Does getting away from being a one mistake Air Force enter into that?
Maj. Gen. Higby: It certainly does and especially when you talk about the risk appetite that’s required to do DevOps or Agile, you have to be able to celebrate those failures.
Now again, I’m not talking about breaking laws and committing crimes. I’m talking about taking a risk on something and it ends up not working out. Failing forward, that’s the term that the chief (Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein) likes to use. It’s what do you learn from that failure to enable your next success.
Over history, there’s plenty of examples of people that have failed and failed and failed, but they keep trying and then eventually they hit that big success that makes all those failures pale in comparison. We’re talking about venture capital and venture capital is predicated on a lot of failures. You invest in a hundred different things as a venture capitalist waiting for that one big one to be the breakthrough. Ninety-nine of the rest aren’t going to make you any money.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein addresses members of the Project Kessel Run team during a visit in Boston Dec. 6. Kessel Run personnel, led by the program executive officer for Digital at Hanscom AFB, Mass., create and rapidly deliver software and applications for U.S. warfighters.
Airman magazine: So how about you, if you don’t mind us asking, what did you learn from your failures? Has there been a failure in your career that has affected the way you lead or affected a project or something that you were working on?
Maj. Gen. Higby: Yeah, my career is replete with many failures. I’ll share one from when I first came in the Air Force and all of my failures in the Air Force, as I look back now, they have sort of a common theme and that is that I didn’t rely on the team in the way that I should have relied on the team.
My first duty station was at Fort Meade, Maryland, in the Musketeer Program. We didn’t use terms like cyber or DevOps at the time, but that’s essentially what we were doing in the musketeer program. So, I was given this assignment as, as part of a team. So think back to 1990, The Soviet Union has come apart, but they still had a very capable military and they were doing something like out of a Tom Clancy’s Hunt for Red October novel. They had something they were doing to non-acoustically detect submarines and that was very worrisome for us. I was assigned to this project to figure out what they were doing.
We figured out they had some airborne assets that were emanating a certain kind of signal and so I was assigned to figure out in three months how to correlate where the aircraft was so we could figure out what that power pattern polarization actually looked like coming from the aircraft. In other words, I had to figure out how to track the aircraft.
So, we’re deploying in like three months and I’ve already wasted two months and I’m at wit’s end. Nothing is working. And the whole team is relying on me to come up with this answer. Finally, a colleague of mine that wasn’t on the deployment team per se, but was a musketeer said, “have you considered a V beam?”
So, I do a little research and team up with him and we get two commercial yacht radars, put them back to back, tilt them at 37 degrees and spin them on top of a little container that I put in this gun emplacement to get azimuth bearing and altitude. And that all comes in digitally and then you write code to correlate to what the other system is collecting. It went from I’m an epic failure because I was trying to do it by myself to be the hero to there’s actually somebody over on my team and if only I would have engaged them earlier.
Every failure I’ve had in my career is where I try to solve a problem alone and sort of suffer in silence and then realize in hindsight there’s actually somebody right here that can help me. Whether it’s personal life problems or work projects I’m not able to get a breakthrough on, it’s always I’m trying to do it by myself and I’m not leveraging those other great Airmen that are around me that have different viewpoints and different backgrounds. That diversity of thought can help you solve a problem.
Oregon Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Carl Green and Airman 1st Class Michelle Johnson, 142nd Fighter Wing Diversity and Inclusion Counsel’s co-chairs, review notes during a group activity as part of the monthly Unit Training Assembly weekend of events, Jan. 11, 2015, at Portland Air National Guard Base, Ore. The Diversity and Inclusion Counsel helps foster communication by recognizing that a diverse set of experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds are crucial to mission success.
Airman magazine: When you put on those stars, is this something that is now a lesson learned that you’re feeding down the chain?
Maj. Gen. Higby: I talk a lot about diversity and making sure you have a diverse team that comes together. In some cases that diversity can be visually ascertained, like you all look different. In other cases that diversity can be ascertained once you get to know each other and you realize, wow, you really think about this very differently than I do. Instead of being afraid of that, we ought to embrace it, because there could come a time where I’m confronted with a situation that I can’t get around, but you’ll look at it in a different way and throw the solution on the table that helps us get the mission done quickly and again, that’s all part of DevOps.
Back to the original question, what is DevOps? DevOps is that team of diverse individuals that are continuously iterating and continuously improving that capability that you need to get the mission done.
Transitioning from the military is hard. Habits and disciplines established over years of service are supposed to fall away as you drive off base. Here are the biggest things you’ll have to deal with when becoming a civilian.
1. Civilians don’t have safety briefs
Literally none. Everyone just expects you to remember to not drink and drive, to use protection while doin’ it, and to practice weapons safety. To help ease the transition, record your last safety brief from your unit commander and set it as an alarm on your phone. Set the alarm for every Friday at 1700.
2. Learning that ten minutes early is early
Yes, your platoon sergeant has told you for years that ten minutes early is late, but it’s actually ten minutes early because that’s how words work.
Most civilians will aim to be “on time,” which is anything up to the scheduled meeting time.
3. Civilians have no idea what military time is
Speaking of 1700, after you leave the military you will notice that 1700 hours isn’t a thing. It’s called “5 p.m.” This is completely separate from 0500 which is called “5 a.m.” If you find yourself having trouble, check out this helpful book. Books are like field manuals but there are more types. They’re also similar to magazines (the paper kind).
4. Learning the language
Yes, “magazines” can also refer to devices that store “rounds” for your “weapons.” Your new civilian friends will call these things “clips,” “bullets,” and “guns.” They don’t care what you call them. In the civilian world, military vocabulary falls under the category of “trivia.”
5. Civilians actually have to look before they cross the street
In the civilian world, you will most likely run on your own without supervision or a cadence caller. You can choose to wear headphones to keep your motivation and pace up, but remember that no one will be stopping cars at intersections for you. The trick is to identify the sidewalks and run on them when possible. When you must cross a street, look left, right, and then left again. Only cross if no vehicles are approaching your route.
6. Avoiding danger without a reflective belt
Compounding this problem will be the fact that you won’t be wearing a reflective belt. In theory, you should still be fully visible, but it turns out that civilian drivers are about as stupid as military drivers. Stick to the “left, right, and then left again” thing described above. Or you could just start moving through the world in human hamster balls.
7. Defining your personal value without PT scores or military evaluation records
You will not have a records brief listing all your rewards and accolades, and you will have to determine your personal value without these aids.
If you find yourself unable to decide if you’re a good person without this help, go ahead and assume you’re not. Then, start putting any awards or certificates you earn, along with any really good drawings you do, up on your parents’ fridge. The fridge can serve as a pseudo-records brief.
8. Trading badges, ribbons, and medals for a single lapel pin
Not only will you not have a piece of paper stating your accomplishments, you won’t be able to wear them on your shirts anymore either. This is especially tough for soldiers who are used to wearing their badges and patches year round.
You can wear a lapel pin, but that’s only good for bragging about one thing at a time. If you need to brag about graduating basic while also making sure people know you were a marksman, you’ll have to put stickers on your car.
9. Figuring out who you can yell at when no one wears ranks
Like the sudden absence of awards, there will be no ranks in the civilian world. But, if you work in a company, some people are still more powerful than you.
What can you do? If just treating everyone with respect is out of the question, grab a copy of your company’s personnel list and make flash cards for yourself. The CEO is like a general, your district manager equals a battalion commander, and the head custodian is essentially your squad sergeant. You can only yell at people who don’t outrank you.
10. As a civilian, choosing your own outfits is normal
Notice how all those people who aren’t wearing ranks are wearing different clothes from each other? Don’t worry! You don’t have to match any of their outfits, and no platoon sergeant is about to yell at everyone.
See, in the civilian world there are no uniforms, so you pick your own clothes to wear. Cargo pants and shirts are a good starting point when you first get out. You’ll get these at stores rather than exchanges. If the first store doesn’t have anything you like, don’t worry. Where bases only have a couple of different stores with the same tired inventory, civilians live in cities with tons of different shops all selling different merchandise.
11. Speaking without acronyms
FYSA, the DoD isn’t the only AO where acronyms are prevalent, but civilians still think you’re weird when you string together a sentence of alphabet soup. Go ahead and plan on stating entire words when speaking to civilians.
If you need to, use lozenges and honey to soothe your throat during the transition.
12. Civilians speak with a whole lot less cussing
Even more important than not using acronyms is not cussing. Most people find it harsh in the civilian world, especially if you’re around children at all. Avoid other colorful language as well, such as “BLOOD! BLOOD! BLOOD MAKES THE GREEN GRASS GROW!” and “KILL!” Click here for a more complete list.
13. Pointing instead of knife-handing
Knife hands have been disappearing from the armed forces and even the Marine Corps seems to be cutting back. If that bothers you, hold on to your butts. Civilians don’t even know what the knife hand is! And using it would be a major mistake.
When you want to knife hand to point out an object, civilians use a finger instead or even a verbal description of where someone should look. Where a knife hand would be used to emphasize a point or establish displeasure, civilians rely on tone of voice or a sternly worded note.
14. First names
That’s right, instead of ranks or last names, civilians use first names. You’ll be expected to as well unless you’re a doctor.
But we both know you’re not.
15. What to do with all your moto
In the military, you could throw on a gas mask and some armor for a 10-mile run when you were over-moto, but in the civilian world that ends with you dodging Taser shots from nervous cops. You can still go running or head to the range, but you’ll probably just deaden the moto with reality T.V. like everyone else.