‘You're saving lives with this' - How a hunting trip for veterans could be a national model for better health - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

‘You’re saving lives with this’ – How a hunting trip for veterans could be a national model for better health

Steve Houghton’s rugged face shone orange in the firelight as he pulled in a deep breath of the frigid Montana backcountry air and shifted in his chair before taking his turn at a personal story. The stress lines of an often-furrowed brow and eyes tinged with sadness advertised the toll of an especially bruising year for the former motor transportation Marine. 

The snipers and special operations soldiers around the campfire were half-expecting a familiar tale of combat trauma and trouble transitioning to civilian life. If anyone in the group of 17 military veterans had a thousand-yard stare, it was Houghton.

Marine Steve Houghton veteran hunting, Coffee or Die
Former motor transportation Marine Steve Houghton listens to a campfire discussion during the first camp hosted by the Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Armed Forces Initiative Nov. 8. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

A crackle from the fire disturbed the brief silence as the circle waited for him to speak. 

“You know, I didn’t know how much I needed this,” Houghton said with a somber Montana drawl as he opened up to the men and women who two days earlier were complete strangers. “It’s been a rough 2020 for me, and before I came out here, I was in pretty bad shape. I went through a divorce, and I’ve struggled with other issues. But the last two days have put a smile on my face even while I was sleeping.” 

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Armed Forces Initiative, Coffee or Die
Base camp at BHA’s first Veteran Dual Skill Acquisition Camp Nov. 9. Composite photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Houghton and 16 other military veterans traveled to eastern Montana’s vast swath of public lands Nov. 6 through 10 for an inaugural event hosted by Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA), a nonprofit committed to preserving North America’s outdoor heritage of hunting and fishing in a natural setting through education and advocacy on behalf of wild public lands and waters. 

After launching its Armed Forces Initiative in June, BHA developed its first-ever Veteran Dual Skill Acquisition Camp, where BHA mentors covered skills such as e-scouting, shot placement, field-dressing, meat considerations, carcass disposal, and education about public lands and related legislative issues. But as Houghton and the others quickly learned, the best parts of camp weren’t listed in the promotional materials that drew them to the event. 

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers veterans initiative, Coffee or Die
Veterans warm themselves and listen to campfire discussions during the cerebral portion of the camp Nov. 8. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

“I’ve been on my own for quite a while now, and I was kind of getting into a real rough spot just before I came out here,” Houghton continued. “But getting out in the woods with a bunch of veterans has made a world of difference. I feel supported on multiple levels, and it just feels really good. I’ve learned so much, and I think this is about the most therapeutic stuff I’ve experienced since I got out of the Marines. It gives you back that sense of camaraderie and that mission that, once you’re out, you just lack in life.

“This gives me hope for the future with myself and other veterans that are struggling to find a sense of meaning again. Just being around everybody and seeing that you’re not alone, it’s been absolutely incredible — absolutely lifesaving. You’re saving lives with this.”

Morgan Mason, BHA, Coffee or Die
BHA Armed Forces Initiative coordinator Morgan Mason leads a campfire discussion Nov. 8. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Knowing nods and grunts of approval from Houghton’s newfound tribe validated his sentiments. There was the sergeant major from the 19th Special Forces Group, the recently retired special operations pilot, Marine snipers and grunts, Army snipers and other soldiers, sailors, National Guard members, and an Air Force member who cheerily absorbed all the standard trash talk that always gets heaped on extra thick for members of the “Chair Force.” 

Morgan Mason, BHA’s Armed Forces Initiative coordinator and a former Army intelligence analyst, coordinated the camp. Mason was 20 when he participated in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. 

veteran Morgan Mason, BHA Armed Forces Initiative, Coffee or Die
Army veteran Morgan Mason is the Armed Forces Initiative coordinator for BHA. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

“When I left the Army, I just wanted to head West and break free of everything,” Mason said. “I spent a lot of time on public lands, and they were my source of decompression. I thought it was amazing that I could go do all these outdoor activities — whitewater rafting, mountain biking, climbing, hunting.” 

Mason said his experiences led him to the path he’s on now. His passion and mission are to make sure all military members and veterans can have the same experiences outdoors that were integral to his transition and that continue to enrich his life. For BHA’s Armed Forces Initiative, he focuses on three pillars: active-duty programming, veteran programming, and legislative efforts.

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Armed Forces Initiative, Coffee or Die
From left, Washington National Guardsman Tyr Symank, BHA Armed Forces Initiative coordinator Morgan Mason, retired Army special operations pilot Ryan Burkert, and former Army infantryman Tyler Jensen take a break to scan the ridges for deer and crack some jokes in eastern Montana Nov. 8. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

BHA has forged a unique relationship with the US military to develop its active-duty programming initiative. It has partnered with several major military installations, including Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Camp Pendleton, California, to promote outdoor activities on public lands among military members at those locations and others. 

“Spending time outdoors is like a reset button for your brain,” Mason said. “For military members and veterans who are dealing with issues like post-traumatic stress, survivor’s guilt, or opioid addiction, outdoor activities like hunting aren’t a cure-all, but having these experiences makes you a better person because they destress your mind by dumping some dopamine into your brain and making you feel good. We want people to feel the weight of the world drop off their shoulders and feel that stress melt away, and public land makes that possible for everyone.”

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Matthew Carlock, right, mentors Andrea Nofio while hunting mule deer and whitetail deer Nov. 9. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Mason put together the veteran camp as a pilot program for the veteran programming pillar, picking a diverse group of veterans — both mentors and mentees — from a pool of candidates who applied for the mule deer and whitetail hunt in Montana. 

“We tried to bring folks of various skill levels and experiences,” Mason said. “Some are first-time hunters — never shot a deer until this camp — and some have been hunting since they were kids.”

Mason organized the camp around two focus areas: tactile and cerebral. The tactile portion covered skills such as stalking, glassing, and other field tactics. The cerebral portion consisted of campfire talks and bonding over shared experiences and public lands education. 

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Andrea “Eagle-Eye” Nofio and “Two-Shot” Steve Houghton glass the terrain while hunting mule deer and whitetail deer Nov. 9. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

One of the topics around the campfire was the Accelerating Veterans Recovery Outdoors Act, which advanced through the US Senate Nov. 10. The bipartisan legislation would require the secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish an interagency task force on the use of public lands to provide health and wellness for veterans through outdoor recreation. That means if President Donald Trump signs the act into law, the federal government will study the health benefits of trips and activities like BHA’s veteran hunt.   

It didn’t take long for fast friendships to form in the teams and hunting parties Mason organized. Houghton hooked up with BHA mentor and former Idaho National Guardsman Matthew Carlock and husband-and-wife-duo Andrea and Patrick Nofio — both Navy veterans — to form “Team Send It.” 

veterans, field-dressing deer, Coffee or Die
Mentor Matthew Carlock, left, demonstrates for other military veterans how to properly field-dress a deer while Steve Houghton helps. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Carlock’s stocky frame and boundless energy in the backcountry terrain earned him the moniker “The Mountain Goat,” and after Houghton bagged his first of four deer, Carlock helped pack the whole animal back to camp so he could give a demonstration on how to field-dress a deer, a vital skill that several first-time hunters put to use in short order. 

On the second day of camp, Andrea earned her nickname, “Eagle-Eye Andrea,” when she spotted at about 300 yards a beautiful six-pointed mule deer buck at the 11th hour of a long day of following the Mountain Goat up and down endless ridges and valleys in frigid conditions. The Alaska native said she “saw every wild animal you could ever see” growing up in the Great North State, but her father, who raised four daughters, never took her hunting. 

Patrick and Andrea Nofio, women veterans, hunting, Coffee or Die
Andrea “Eagle-Eye” Nofio and her husband, Patrick, pause to glass the terrain while hunting mule deer and whitetail deer Nov. 9. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

“I’d been thinking about it for a long time, but there’s so many barriers to entry,” Andrea said about finally learning to hunt with BHA’s support. “Hunting is expensive. You need a mentor, and you need to just be really intrepid.”

Andrea said she and Patrick jumped at the opportunity when they heard about the Montana hunt because it removed a lot of the intimidation factor they felt.

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Mentor Matthew Carlock instructs other military veterans during a demonstration on how to properly field-dress a deer. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

“The vast knowledge that is shared freely by everybody here has just been amazing,” Patrick said. “We’re checking off bucket list items with this trip, getting out here and finally putting the miles down, and being able to share in the pride and camaraderie of harvesting an animal with all these awesome veterans — it’s really meaningful and just an absolutely phenomenal experience.”

Around the campfire each night, a common theme kept permeating the conversation: Nobody gets veterans like other veterans. 

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A view from public lands in eastern Montana Nov. 9. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Healthy competition, trash talk, and crude humor were sources of bonding throughout the weekend. 

After former Army sniper Jim Vinson shared his personal story around the fire one night, he couldn’t help but end with a flex: “I smoked a doe last night at 511 yards, so somebody needs to top that.” 

veteran Matthew Carlock, BHA hunting, Coffee or Die
Matthew “The Mountain Goat” Carlock treks through the hills while hunting mule deer and whitetails Nov. 9. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

On a long hunt the day after Andrea bagged her buck, Carlock — The Mountain Goat — promised Team Send It they’d likely find deer if they’d follow him for yet another long push to a far-off ridge. 

“Yeah, we’ve heard it before, Matthew,” she said. “Just the tip, just for a second, just to see how it feels.” 

veteran Steve Houghton, Coffee or Die
“Two-Shot” Steve Houghton shares a laugh with his new veteran friends while hunting mule deer and whitetail deer Nov. 9. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Houghton, who needed eight rounds to bag his four deer and was dubbed by his Team Send It brethren “Two-Shot Steve,” howled at the joke. “I love veterans,” he said. 

Andrea, who is currently enrolled as a college student in Montana, said, “Yeah, I don’t usually get to make those kinds of jokes these days. I really miss being around veterans.”

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Armed Forces Initiative, Coffee or Die
From left, Morgan Mason, Patrick and Andrea Nofio, Steve Houghton, Zach and Jessi Condon, Tyr Symank, Matthew Carlock, and the author Nov. 10. Photo by Ethan E. Rocke/Coffee or Die Magazine.

After three days, on the Marine Corps birthday, the veterans broke down the camp. A handful of them held a small ceremony, taking down the American flag that had flown proudly at the entry path and folding it in accordance with military tradition. Together, they had killed 18 deer over three days and would feed their friends and families for months to come. 

They shared some hot coffee on a final cold morning together, traded hearty hugs, handshakes, and contact information, and left for home — batteries recharged by new friendships and experiences and with plenty of great stories and newfound respect for public lands to share with friends and family. 

MIGHTY CULTURE

These 5 ways to tell if your boss sucks apply to military leadership, too

We tend to see leadership as a glamorous and desirable career destination, but the crude reality is that most leaders have pretty dismal effects on their teams and organizations. Consider that 70% of employees are not engaged at work, but it’s their boss’ main task to engage and inspire them, helping them leave aside their selfish interests to work as a collective unit with others. Instead, managers are the number one reason why people quit jobs. As the old saying goes, people join companies but quit their bosses.

As I highlight in my latest book, passive job-seeking, self-employment, and entrepreneurship rates have been on the rise even in places where macroeconomic conditions are strong and there is no shortage of career opportunities for people. For instance, in the US, there are now 6 million job seekers for 7 million job openings, but people appear to be disenchanted with the idea of traditional employment, mostly because it may require putting up with a bad boss.


To be sure, there are many competent leaders out there, but academic estimates suggest that the baseline for incompetent leadership is at least 65% (note this figure is based on analyzing mostly public or large companies), and, even more shockingly, there appears to be a strong negative correlation between the money we spend or waste on leadership-development interventions and the confidence people have in their leaders.

‘You’re saving lives with this’ – How a hunting trip for veterans could be a national model for better health

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is an international authority in psychological profiling.

(Flickr photo by Bret Simmons)

An obvious question this sad state of affairs evokes is how one can work if his or her boss is incompetent. Clearly, it is always tempting to blame our manager for our unfavorable work experiences, but it may also be the case that the problem is us rather than them, with recent research indicating that all aspects of job satisfaction are influenced as much by employees’ own personalities and values as by the actual (objective) working circumstances they are in.

The way we experience our boss is no exception. Here’s a quick five-point checklist to work out what your manager’s probable level of competence might be.

1. He or she is generally liked, or at least well-regarded, by his or her direct reports

This would be consistent with the mainstream scientific view that upward feedback (feedback from those who work for the manager) is the best single measure of a manager’s performance. Conversely, how managers are seen by their own managers is mostly a measure of politics, likability, or managing “up.” If the answer is no, the probability that your boss is incompetent increases dramatically.

2. His or her team tends to achieve strong results compared with similar/competing teams (internally and externally)

Note this may happen even if the answer to question one is no, though generally speaking, both points are positively intertwined: People perform better when they like their bosses, and they like their bosses more when they perform better. Thus, if the answer is no, then your boss is probably not that competent.

3. He or she frequently provides you with constructive and critical developmental feedback to improve your performance

And does he or she do it for others in your team, too? If the answer is no, then chances are your boss is less than competent, as one of the fundamental tasks of any manager is to improve their team members’ performance by providing accurate and helpful feedback on their potential and performance.

‘You’re saving lives with this’ – How a hunting trip for veterans could be a national model for better health

A Ranger Assessment Course instructor (right), informs the class leader that he needs to improve his leadership skills at the Nevada Test and Training Range.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Thomas Spangler)

4. He or she knows you well and has an accurate picture of your potential, including your strengths and weaknesses

No bosses can do their jobs well unless they are fully aware of what their team members can and can’t do, which is a necessary precondition to assigning each employee to tasks and roles in which their skills and personality are best deployed. After all, talent is by and large personality in the right place. If you think your boss doesn’t know you, then he or she is less likely to be competent.

5. He or she seems truly coachable and continues to improve to the point of getting better on the job all the time

Just like your employability depends on your own ability (and willingness) to continue to develop key career skills and learn things that broaden your career potential, your boss should also be finding ways to get better. This means not just displaying the necessary humility and curiosity to learn — including from his or her own employees and customers — but also finding ways to keep their dark side or undesirable tendencies in check. In short, does your boss show self-awareness and the drive to get better, irrespective of whether that actually advances his or her own career? If the answer is no, then your boss has limited potential.

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is an international authority in psychological profiling, talent management, leadership development, and people analytics. He is the chief talent scientist at Manpower Group, cofounder of Deeper Signals and Metaprofiling, and professor of business psychology at both University College London and Columbia University. He has previously held academic positions at New York University and the London School of Economics and lectured at Harvard Business School, Stanford Business School, London Business School, Johns Hopkins, IMD, and INSEAD. He was also the CEO at Hogan Assessment Systems. Tomas has published nine books and over 130 scientific papers (h index 58), making him one of the most prolific social scientists of his generation.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

LinkedIn or CheckedOut: How to live your best life after service

Retiring from the armed forces can be a very stressful transition because there is no magic crystal ball that allows you to see into your future as a civilian. Veterans often have strong networks built over the course of their military service, but as useful as these networks are, they are also apt to keep you from branching out into something new, or taking time off to pursue uncharted possibilities. You don’t know what you don’t know, so it is easy to fall into a trap where income becomes the driving force behind career decisions rather than a deep introspective look into what you really want out of life. This leads to a pursuit of employment rather than fulfillment, and ends in a contract that forces you to trade more of your precious time for money. After giving so much to your country, and asking your family to sacrifice just as much or more, taking time to reconnect with them and yourself before a second career is worth your consideration. You might be pleasantly surprised where it will lead.


Consider the following in your calculus:

  • Military service didn’t leave much room for hobbies and passions. Do you have any languishing in the recesses of your life?
  • Military regulations and culture compelled you to identify yourself by an all-consuming job title, which in turn suppressed your identity as an individual. You were the Admiral, the Colonel, Skipper, Warrant, Chief, Senior, Top, OPSO, COS, the LPO, the First Sergeant. Do you really know who you are anymore without a job title to define you?
  • Time keeps ticking, but money comes and goes. Is time more valuable than money when you realize that you can bank one but not the other?
‘You’re saving lives with this’ – How a hunting trip for veterans could be a national model for better health

This last thought is the one that gave me the most pause. If you are shackled to a life dictated by consumerism and workism, your “one day” list becomes less and less achievable. This is paradoxical, because chances are you might be making a decent salary on top of your retirement income, but you don’t have time for you, your spouse, your kids, your dog, your forgotten hobbies, or your wild and crazy ambitions. Why? Because your new job might provide a comfortable existence and a title to impress your friends, but it doesn’t guarantee you will have time for anything on your bucket list. How many successful people have all the toys in the world but no time to use them? More than you think. In this article, I will argue that as a veteran, you have been given all the resources you need to thrive in a life of your choosing. To be clear, I am not suggesting that you become completely “checked out” and retreat from society never to work again. Instead, I am advocating for a period of time that prevents you from rushing headlong into a second career. This will give you some “maneuver space” to sort through the stress, the noise, and the pressure that is screaming at you to immediately get a job and keep slogging forward. That space might be a few months, or it might be a few years, but either way, it is time well-spent.

‘You’re saving lives with this’ – How a hunting trip for veterans could be a national model for better health

Try this little exercise. Mentally fast forward to the end of your life. You are looking back on your experiences wondering why you worked your whole life, yet missed out on so much living. Maybe you wanted to take a year and surf the south Pacific, or fish the great rivers in Alaska, or hike the Appalachian Trail, or follow the Tour de France, or start a business, or write a novel, or raise alpacas, or sell it all and buy a sailboat…but you didn’t, and now you are too old and tired to do anything but look back with sadness and regret. You realize there was always something standing in the way; there were always reasons why you couldn’t. So, instead of doing, you resigned yourself to watching others as you scrolled through your social media feeds and groused about your boss, staff meetings, the person who chews their food too loudly in their cubicle, the jerk who cut you off on your commute, and the endless mundane aspects of life in “The Matrix.”

As you contemplate those lost dreams, you might be asking yourself with a twinge of frustration, “Why didn’t I go for it? What was I afraid of? What was the worst thing that could have happened to me if I had unshackled myself from the ‘golden handcuffs,’ put down the electronic tether, and lived the life I always imagined?” You might be surprised to learn the worst thing that could have happened was nothing from which you could not have quickly recovered.
‘You’re saving lives with this’ – How a hunting trip for veterans could be a national model for better health

Now, rewind to the present. Ask yourself this question, “Have I ever allowed myself to fail?” If you made it all the way through a 20-year (or more) career, chances are the answer is a resounding no! So why do you think you will start failing now? I’ll let you in on a little secret…you won’t. You already know how to succeed. The sad truth, however, is that many of us never take a chance, because we focus on the reasons we shouldn’t…the fears…rather than the reasons we should…the inspiration.

Every military member goes through transition class on their way out of the service. You learn that it is possible to reinvent yourself, but it isn’t easy. You are instructed to make a list of your assets, your liabilities, and any gaps you have in your skill set, then cross-reference it against what you need to break into a sector outside of what you have been doing for the past twenty-plus years. You are told to be willing to move to an area where that sector has a presence, be patient, be willing to evangelize yourself, build a network in your new community, use your hard-earned benefits to get the education or certifications you need to fill in any gaps, and be willing to start at the bottom. If you do these things while exhibiting all the qualities that made you successful on active duty, you will succeed.

What if I told you that same blueprint for reinventing yourself professionally is just as useful for reinventing yourself personally, and going after those “one day” dreams before you blindly (or deliberately) trade one overlord for another. With a little bit of planning and foresight, you can do it, and if I haven’t made my position clear, I think you should. When else will you get a planned break in your professional life to do something crazy?

I started my transition playing by the rules. I spent hours…no, weeks…working on a resume. I went to career fairs. I interviewed for jobs. I received job offers. None of it felt right in my gut. I started terminal leave in June 2018 in a panic-stricken state, grasping for a lifeline. At my wife’s urging I had been exploring the idea of trade school using my GI Bill benefits, but I was afraid to commit. “It’s not what I am expected to do,” was my typical reason, which was ridiculous. I was afraid of the unknown and everything that came with it. That was the truth. I had reached the first portal of fear, and with my wife’s encouragement, I stepped through it.

In September 2018, I enrolled in a six-month program at the IYRS School of Technology and Trades in Newport, R.I. that ended with a one-month internship and American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) certifications as a Marine Electrician, Diesel Mechanic, and Systems Technician. I wrote about how beneficial that was for me as a veteran while I was serving as a student ambassador at the school. But as I approached the end of the program, I realized I had only deferred my dilemma. I still had to figure out my life after the military.
‘You’re saving lives with this’ – How a hunting trip for veterans could be a national model for better health

Once again, I found myself grasping for the familiar and hiding from my fears. I applied for a government job overseas, knowing it wasn’t what I really wanted. A friend was recruiting me to come back to the staff I had left a year and a half earlier, but after I submitted my resume, there were knots in my stomach. “What am I doing,” I asked myself. “Is this what I really want?” I wasn’t ready for staff meetings and point papers again. I wasn’t ready for days when I went to work at dawn and came home after dinner just to get up and do it all over again while my life ticked away a second at a time.

My wife had a dream that we could sell it all and go sailing. I was adamantly opposed. “If there is one thing I learned at the marine trade and technology school,” I joked, “it is don’t buy a boat!” The truth of the matter is I was terrified of selling everything and buying a boat. There were too many voices in my head telling me it would be our ruination…MY ruination. I hid behind my biggest fear – money. We couldn’t afford it. End of story.

But, it wasn’t.

It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it. As I tell my children, there is a solution to every problem, we only need to outthink it. So we looked at the problem again and realized we could afford it. But, I still wasn’t ready to commit. I needed a push.

Fate intervened on my behalf. Much to my surprise, my resume never made it through the initial screening for the civil servant position, so I never got the job interview on the staff overseas. Despite my ego being bruised, I actually breathed a sigh of relief. I was a free man again. A few weeks later, after some long, introspective conversations with my wife, I agreed to the sailing adventure. Failure had somehow opened a pathway to an outcome I did not think possible. That was in March 2019. Four months later, we would be boat owners after an exhausting push to sell, donate, or repurpose just about everything we owned. Three months after that, we would be getting underway from Hampton, VA for a 1,600 nautical mile ocean passage to Antigua.

How did we go from “normal life” to “boat life” so quickly? We followed the same blueprint I received in the transition seminar. We laid out a plan, prioritized our resources, and focused everything we had on the achievement of our goal. I had already filled in the knowledge gaps by becoming a certified marine mechanic. Anyone who knows boats will tell you that 90% of boat ownership is boat maintenance, so I felt confident I could handle that responsibility with my new skills. I grew up sailing, so that wasn’t an issue, but living aboard a boat full-time was another story. We hired a couple who had twice circumnavigated with their kids as “cruising coaches.” We built a network by talking about our plans with people who could help and guide us. We made sure we were able to fund our dream by paying cash for a boat and living within the means of my retirement income. Using our new and growing network, we found a boat, brokered the deal, and moved aboard on July 31, 2019.

It was not an easy transition from land life to sea life. In fact, it was harder than anything we had ever done. Being a military family, we were used to relocating and starting over every couple years, so we put all that experience to good use. But, this time it was different. It was all on us to get it done. There were at least three distinct points when we wanted to quit. We didn’t, largely due to the encouragement and instruction we received from people who had walked the same path. The rewards for persevering are too many to list. Suffice it to say, I answer to no master. I have learned more about myself and my family in six months than I have in six years. I have swum with a whale in 19,000 feet of water halfway between Bermuda and the Leeward Islands. We have sailed our way through 50-knot squalls and come out the other side stronger and more resilient. I have made lifelong friendships with people I would never have met had I stayed in my “safe” bubble. I have gained valuable perspective by using this time away from the rat race to sort myself; to be a better husband, father, and friend.

A good counterargument to this conversation would go something like this – “My professional stock is highest immediately after I retire. It will be irresponsible for me not to take advantage of that transition point and start building my professional resume in the real world. Statistics support the fact that I most likely will change jobs several times as I find my niche, so it doesn’t matter what I do. The important thing is to get into the ring and make a name for myself.” So you get a job and a fancy-sounding title that you eagerly post on LinkedIn. You beef up your profile with a power photo that has you leaning into the camera with a smile that says, “I’m a go-getter!” You add a description underneath that says something like, “I’m a results-oriented leader with a proven track record of astonishing accomplishments, fiscal maturity, operational prowess, cunning initiative, etc, etc, etc.” It becomes your identity, and it is the right thing to do, isn’t it? I certainly thought it was. But for me, at least, it wasn’t. I am not getting any younger. Neither are you. The counterargument doesn’t hold up, in my opinion. You can always get a job and make money, but you can’t make more time. Another aspect of this counterargument is that your network will abandon you if you take time for yourself and your family. I also believe that this is invalid, and would go so far as to suggest that your network will respect you more for leading in this manner.

‘You’re saving lives with this’ – How a hunting trip for veterans could be a national model for better health

We as Americans have it all backwards. We work and work and work until we hit the “golden years,” then we retire with the idea that we are going to take off from our empty nest and explore the world. I have heard so many tragic stories about people who FINALLY get some time to do the things they have always wanted to do only to be sidelined by unexpected health crises that leave them debilitated or worse. Derek Thompson, a senior staff writer for The Atlantic wrote a compelling article in February 2019 titled, “Workism is Making Americans Miserable,” where he argues that work has become, unfortunately, the, “centerpiece of one’s identity and purpose.” It’s an excellent, thought-provoking read.

Work, pay taxes, then die.

As a retiring military member, you have the resources to do what you want – healthcare, education opportunities, steady income, and many more benefits to jumpstart your second life. You only need to face down your fears and embrace the possibilities that lay before you. I am not done working, but I guarantee whatever employment I pursue in the future will be far different than what I thought I had to shoehorn myself into when I first transitioned from service. We have had a lot of people tell us how amazing our life is…how lucky we are…how courageous we are to be out sailing with our kids full time. We don’t see ourselves as different or special. We are just us, living a life of our choosing. We realized in hindsight that fear had been holding us back, not resources. Once we made our decision, we were flabbergasted by how everything suddenly seemed to align behind us. It was all there to begin with, but we were blinded by our fears of the unknown, and therefore too afraid to take a chance.

‘You’re saving lives with this’ – How a hunting trip for veterans could be a national model for better health

Fear is paralyzing, and in the weeks surrounding my transition there were days when I didn’t want to get out of bed and face reality. In the middle of those dark moments, a very wise friend of mine asked me to stretch my hands out in front of myself palms up, then she had me clench my fists. She looked at me and said, “There won’t be room for anything new in your life if you are holding onto everything so tightly, afraid to let go. You have to open your hands and be willing to release – toxic relationships, needless possessions, clutter, the wrong career, convenience, the safe and easy path, money. But more importantly, you have to open your hands so what you really want has a place to land.”

I stood there for a moment clenching and unclenching my upturned hands. I am not a particularly spiritual person, but I was shocked at how profoundly her simple exercise struck a chord. “Money comes and money goes, and it should,” she concluded, “but even though we have had our backs to the wall a number of times, we always believed we would be fine because we kept our hands, figuratively of course, upturned and open.” She and her husband are better now than ever after launching their own business nearly twenty years ago. They had been let go from their previous jobs at the same time, when their kids were still young, and their stress levels already high. In that moment of darkness, they chose to open their own business and live life according to their own terms. It wasn’t easy, but looking back, they wouldn’t want it any other way.

‘You’re saving lives with this’ – How a hunting trip for veterans could be a national model for better health

In the final analysis, it’s not about how much you have, but what you do with it. Achieving your ambitions means making decisions, prioritizing and leveraging resources, and aligning efforts. Do you want to be linked in right away, or checked out to gain some perspective and clarity? The choice is yours, and it doesn’t matter how big your proverbial or actual boat is. It only matters that you believe in yourself and face down your fears. Trust me, someone always has a bigger boat. You can find dozens of YouTube channels where people are sailing the world on every manner of boat imaginable. I used to watch some of them and say, “Look at their boat. It’s so ugly, or small, or dilapidated.” My wife would answer, “Yeah, sure is…but they are doing it!” How true. Would you rather be sitting in a staff meeting wishing you were doing it, or actually doing it?

I’ll close with this final thought. Many, if not all of us, who are retiring from a career in the service lost shipmates, close friends, and comrades in training and combat. A few years ago, standing on a beach in Italy looking out into the Adriatic Sea, where a friend in Air Wing 17 had perished during a nighttime training flight off the USS George Washington (CVN-73) in 2002, I made a promise that if I somehow made it through my military career, I would not squander the opportunity to fulfill dreams and live an amazing life. I felt like I owed that to those who couldn’t. Life is short, and precious. Don’t let fear hold you back. Don’t let a false sense of obligation keep you from doing the things on your “one day” list. If you do, that list will go unfulfilled.

We keep a sign on our boat that reads, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” It is a constant reminder for us to keep pushing forward. You can, too.

Glenn Robbins is a retired Naval Officer cruising full-time on a 46-foot catamaran named FEARLESS with his wife Andi and their two children, Gavin and Alexis.

MIGHTY CULTURE

US spending on ‘war on terror’ blows past $6 trillion

Federal spending on post-9/11 military action in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere around the world stands at $6.5 trillion through fiscal year 2020, according to a new study from the Cost of War project at Brown University.

And its cost to American taxpayers will keep climbing for decades to come.

The staggering amount reflects spending across the federal government and not just the Department of Defense, the study noted. Much of it has been paid for deficit spending as taxes were not raise to cover the cost.

The study said military action taken after the 9/11 attacks has now expanded to more than 80 countries, making it “a truly global war on terror.”


Its human costs have been profound as well. Over 801,000 people died as a direct result of the fighting — 335,000 of them being civilians, according to the report.

The report said the US government should expect to spend at least id=”listicle-2641427189″ trillion in benefit payments and disability claims for veterans in the next several decades. Last year, there were 4.1 million post 9/11 war veterans, making up around 16% of all veterans served by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

‘You’re saving lives with this’ – How a hunting trip for veterans could be a national model for better health

U.S. Army soldiers perform security measures during a security halt on a route reconnaissance mission in Afghanistan, April 4, 2007.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael L. Casteel)

“Even if the United States withdraws completely from the major war zones by the end of FY2020 and halts its other Global War on Terror operations, in the Philippines and Africa for example, the total budgetary burden of the post-9/11 wars will continue to rise as the U.S. pays the on-going costs of veterans’ care and for interest on borrowing to pay for the wars,” study author Neta Crawford wrote.

Back in March 2019, the Department of Defense estimated that the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria have cost each US taxpayer around ,623 to date.

Open-ended military operations overseas have stretched on for so long that starting on Sept. 11 2018, an 18-year-old person could enlist in the military and fight in the wars that the 9/11 attacks ushered in.

The estimate drew attention from one of the leading Democratic presidential candidates: Sen. Bernie Sanders, who quipped on Twitter about its colossal price tag on Nov. 21, 2019. The Vermont senator had previously slammed “costly blunders” made in US foreign policy over the years.

Moderate rivals had criticized Sanders for the sweeping costs of his progressive agenda, which include implementing a universal healthcare system, forgiving all student debt, and tackling climate change through the Green New Deal.

Several Democratic candidates, including Sanders, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (an Afghanistan war veteran) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, have vowed to wind down US military operations overseas. Others like former vice president Joe Biden say some nations would continue requiring American military support.

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

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6 of the greatest phrases you hear as lower enlisted

To the absolute surprise of no one in the military, being enlisted personnel can suck. Of course, the magnitude of that suckiness depends on your unit but, overall, there’s a very good reason it tops many peoples’ lists of “worst jobs in the world.”

Being the lowest guy on the worst totem pole isn’t all bad, though. There are genuine moments of levity that keep troops reenlisting — despite how much bile they spew about their unit.

Leaders in the military aren’t the troops’ mothers. They won’t pat them on the back for tying their boots properly or washing their hands like a big kid. What a good leader will do, however, is commend good troops when it’s warranted. And, to be completely honest, there was no better feeling than knowing you’ve impressed your chain of command.

As a lower enlisted, these are the six greatest things you’ll hear.


“Huh… I guess you’re right”

‘You’re saving lives with this’ – How a hunting trip for veterans could be a national model for better health
The thing about being commo was that no one notices you until something goes wrong — and then it’s your fault. Being commended means a lot. (U.S. Marine Corps)

Good troops will always try to better themselves in their given field. If they’re an infantryman, you know they’re going to try to be the best infantryman they can. If they’re a waterdog, you better believe they’ll be be best damn waterdog the world has ever seen.

Acknowledgement of one’s hard work is rarely direct. You’ll likely never hear, “good job, Pvt. Smith. You really cooked one hell of a batch of eggs this morning.” True gratification usually comes when a leader admits that they’ve been bested at a given task by the person they’re training.

Having a superior admit that you’re in the right is a sweet, sweet feeling.

“The commander has a surprise for you at close out formation”

‘You’re saving lives with this’ – How a hunting trip for veterans could be a national model for better health
Or the commander could just have you mop the grass in front of the company. That’d be a surprise to everyone. (U.S. Marine Corps)
 

Surprises are almost never a good thing. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it means that the poor Joe has to go clean the latrines or sweep all that sunshine off the sidewalk.

When it’s specifically noted that a surprise is coming “at close out formation,” however, it usually means either a promotion ceremony or an award. You know, the kind of surprises you actually want.

“I got nothing else for you. Go clean your barracks room or something”

‘You’re saving lives with this’ – How a hunting trip for veterans could be a national model for better health
If your barracks room actually does need cleaning, then it’s not a subtle clue. Clean your damn barracks room. (U.S. Army)

The military can’t stop for a single second. That’s just how it works. So, when the business day is reaching its close, the company area has already been cleaned for the seventh time that week, and there aren’t any pending connex layouts, leaders still need to find something for their troops to do.

There’s an understanding between good leaders and troops that the phrase “clean your barracks room” doesn’t always mean “clean the barracks.” Sometimes, it means go hide out in your room with your phone on. It definitely mean, “start drinking” — you’ll be called back in at any moment.

“Your paperwork was pushed through”

‘You’re saving lives with this’ – How a hunting trip for veterans could be a national model for better health
Training rooms are like those sloths in Zootopia except the reason they’re so slow is that no one cares enough. (U.S. Army)

You’d think that with the stupid amount of bureaucracy in the military, accountability of paperwork would be paramount. It isn’t. Not by a mile. When people tell you to make copies of everything and keep your originals, it’s not an off-handed suggestion. Things will get lost.

That being said, there are those once-in-a-blue-moon moments when everyone in the training room and battalion S-1 are in sync and absolutely nothing gets lost, torn, or rejected. When everything works in concert and a leave form is involved, it’ll bring a tear to your eye.

“My guy is one hell of a soldier/Marine/airman/sailor”

‘You’re saving lives with this’ – How a hunting trip for veterans could be a national model for better health
All you can do is keep being the troop that your leader knows you to be. (U.S. Army photo)

Leaders are in a perpetual pissing contest, trying to prove that they lead best. That’s part of the reason they push for their Joes to make the “Soldier of the Month” boards. Sure, it looks good for the soldier, but it’s more about getting some bragging rights over other leaders.

Still, knowing that you’re one of the guys that your leader is willing to put on a pedestal is one hell of a feeling.

“Zonk!”

This list wouldn’t be complete without the one-word phrase that makes a morning so much better:

“Zonk!”

It means that the first sergeant is fine with giving the troops a morning of PT off if they can sprint to their barracks room/car before they have time to change their mind. Legend has it that the first sergeant will do something if they catch someone — but nobody has ever been slow enough.

This is basically what it looks like:

‘You’re saving lives with this’ – How a hunting trip for veterans could be a national model for better health
MIGHTY CULTURE

How troops could get to keep destroyed gear as a memento

That shrapnel-scarred flak jacket or battle-blasted Kevlar might not have much use to the military by the time they’re turned in to an equipment issue facility for reset following a deployment.

But for the service member who wore them and lived to tell the tale, the items’ value just might be immeasurable.

A small provision in the fiscal 2019 defense budget bill aims to make it easier for the military to donate protective gear deemed no longer fit for military use to the service members who wore it during combat and other military operations.


The provision, first reported by Army Times, would grant formal permission to the military to do something that has from time to time been done informally — presenting old gear to the troops it protected as a keepsake — and tacitly acknowledges that the equipment these troops wear tells a story of its own.

“The Secretary of a military department may award to a member of the armed forces… and to any veteran formerly under the jurisdiction of the Secretary, demilitarized personal protective equipment (PPE) of the member or veteran that was damaged in combat or otherwise during the deployment of the member or veteran,” the provision reads. “The award of equipment under this section shall be without cost to the member or veteran concerned.”

‘You’re saving lives with this’ – How a hunting trip for veterans could be a national model for better health

Lance Cpl. Bradley A. Snipes stands with the helmet that saved his life. During a mission with his platoon, Snipes was shot in the head by an enemy sniper. The only thing that saved his life was the Kevlar helmet he wore.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jerad W. Alexander)

The stories of troops whose lives have been saved because their Kevlar helmets stopped an enemy bullet have become a genre of their own in reports from the battlefield. Photos showing Marines and soldiers mugging with shredded helmets highlight the importance of the stories these protective items tell.

One Marine Corps news release from 2005 recounts how Lance Cpl. Bradley Snipes, an anti-tank assaultman with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, was hit squarely in the head by a sniper round during a deployment to Iraq. He came away uninjured, thanks to his Kevlar.

“I was really surprised. It’s supposed to be able to stop a 7.62mm round at long distances. Well, it did,” he told a Marine combat correspondent at the time. “The gear works, don’t doubt it. This is proof.”

The story added that Snipes wanted to petition to keep his helmet as a memento. It’s not clear from the story or follow-on reports if he was given the chance to do so.

“I want to put it in a case with a plaque that says, ‘The little bullet that couldn’t,'” he said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s why nuclear explosions are often shaped like mushrooms

Susan K. asks: Why do nuclear bombs make mushroom clouds?

This phenomenon all comes down to a little something called the Rayleigh-Taylor instability, and by extension, convection. I’ll begin with the somewhat longer, but less geeky explanation before descending once again into extreme nerdery.

It all starts with an explosion that creates a Pyrocumulus Cloud. This ball of burning hot gases is accelerated outwardly in all directions. Since the burning ball of accelerated gases is hotter, and therefore less dense, than the surrounding air, it will begin to rise — in the case of nuclear explosions, extremely rapidly. This ultimately forms the mushroom cap.


As the ball rises, it will leave behind air that is heated, creating a chimney-like effect that draws in any smoke and gases on the outer edge of the chimney — convection in action! Visually, this forms the stipe (stalk) of the mushroom.

The perception that the mushroom cap is curling down and around the stipe is primarily a result of the differences in temperature at the center of the cap and its outside. The center is hotter and therefore will rise faster, leaving the slower outer edges to be caught up in the stipe convection’s awesome attributes.

Once that cloud reaches a certain point in our atmosphere, where the density of the gas cloud is the same as the density of the surrounding air, it will spread out, creating a nice cap.

This brings me to the shorter, yet more geeky answer.

‘You’re saving lives with this’ – How a hunting trip for veterans could be a national model for better health

The mushroom cloud from the 15-megaton Castle Bravo hydrogen bomb test, showing multiple condensation rings, March 1, 1954.

This entire process is something that describes the Rayleigh-Taylor instability. This instability is well known in physics and, in general, describes the merging between two different substances (mainly liquids and gases) that have different densities and are subjected to acceleration. In the case of an atomic bomb, the acceleration, and the hotter gases creating the differing densities of material, are caused by the explosion.

From this, you might have guessed you don’t necessarily need an atomic bomb to create a mushroom cloud. All you need is enough energy delivered rapidly (in this case an explosion) that creates a pocket of differing densities of material (in this case, heated gases).

There are numerous other examples in our world that create, and are described by, the same phenomenon that gives us this formation. For instance, the magnetic fields of planets, the jet-stream of winds that help control our planet’s climate, the sound of snapping shrimp, even our understanding of certain different forms of fusion can all be attributed to Rayleigh-Taylor instability.

‘You’re saving lives with this’ – How a hunting trip for veterans could be a national model for better health

The mushroom cloud from the 6.9-megaton Castle Union hydrogen bomb test, showing multiple condensation rings.

Now, you might have also noticed that nuclear explosions, besides producing this frightening fungal formation, also sometimes result in a cloud ring around the mushroom cap. What’s going on here is that a low pressure area is created via the negative phase of the shockwave (the phase that follows the wave of compressed gases at the leading part of the shock wave). This results in a drop in temperature, which along with the low pressure can potentially lower the dew point sufficiently for a temporary cloud to form. This cloud halo around the explosion is known as a “Wilson Cloud”, named after Scottish physicist Charles Wilson who invented the Wilson Cloud Chamber where similar sorts of things can be observed.

Bonus Fact:

  • What has been commonly referred to as the Rayleigh-Taylor instability was first brought to light by Lord Rayleigh in 1880. He was attempting to describe the motion of liquids when one of higher specific gravity was supported by one that was lighter. Specifically, trying to better understand how cirrus clouds were formed. In 1950, Sir Geoffrey Ingram Taylor discovered that Rayleigh’s “interfacial instability” occurs for other differing substance accelerations as well. The phenomenon, and all the equations that describe it, became known as Rayleigh-Taylors.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet the Air Force’s top couple

The Browns are self-proclaimed foodies who explore the DMV restaurant scene and steal time for walks together. It is during these no-tech-allowed strolls when the Air Force’s top couple catch up on their days and feed their relationship. Pun intended. 

And it takes work to maintain, Air Force Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown Jr. said of marriage and a military career. He and his wife, Sharene, met after he was already an airman but she was no stranger to the lifestyle. Her dad served in the military. 

Sharene Brown says the adventurous side of military life has long been a favorite aspect of being a dependent ID cardholder. It is likely the characteristic that kept her “all in” throughout the decades her husband has been building a career.

“First of all, I would describe military life as adventurous. I’m an adventurous person anyway; I like to travel; I like to see different things and what not. Since coming into the military as a spouse, I have found some of the same challenges a lot of our younger spouses have found,” Sharene Brown said.

‘You’re saving lives with this’ – How a hunting trip for veterans could be a national model for better health
Sharene Brown takes a tour of Jakarta Intercultural School, Jakarta, Indonesia in 2018. The Browns visited the country ahead of the 70th anniversary of the U.S.-Indonesia relationship, seeking opportunities to enhance cooperation between the two nations. Photo by Staff Sgt. Hailey Haux.

A 2019 survey found the rate of unemployment for military spouses to be 24%, according to Blue Star Families. It is reflective of the old adage that as much as things change, they stay the same. In fact, Sharene Brown said change is the one thing that remains constant throughout the decades for those married to service members. She can also relate to hardships in pursuing and maintaining professional aspirations. 

“There are things that I have experienced that I have grown from, but there are still some circumstances that are not much different. If I go back a few years to when I first came in, I was looking for a job and had a hard time finding one, moving from place to place. Then our family started to grow … our oldest son has some learning challenges, and so the plan was to go back to work after he got into school. It didn’t necessarily work out because of the challenges and I was determined at that point to just make sure he was going to be fine,” she said. “But what I found is when one door closes, another door usually opens.”

Read: Second lieutenant makes history in Air Force program

The connections she built over the years alleviated some of the common stressors she faced. Sharene Brown was not shy to dig in at duty stations, either. She relishes in the couple’s time overseas where they often chose to live off base to get a greater sense of the culture. Her favorite location was at Doha, Qatar, where she participated on a dragon boat team.

‘You’re saving lives with this’ – How a hunting trip for veterans could be a national model for better health
Brown with her dragon boat team. Courtesy photo.

Gen. Brown also grew up as a military kid. His dad, who retired from the Army as a colonel, guided Gen. Brown through the process of applying for ROTC scholarships. Ultimately, he said, the Air Force stood out for its opportunities in engineering.

In 1984, Gen. Brown was commissioned as a distinguished graduate at Texas Tech University. He has served in a variety of positions at the squadron and wing levels, including an assignment to the U.S. Air Force Weapons School as an F-16 Fighting Falcon Instructor, according to his official biography. He said it was working with the people at that school that led to a snowball effect of positive career experiences, leading him to contemplate a long-term future with the Air Force. Then, a notable staff tour as Aide-de-Camp to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force opened his world even further.

“I got to see a bigger part of the Air Force. Exciting mission, a lot of responsibility, get to see the world, and get to meet a lot of good people,” he said.

In the summer of 2020, Gen. Brown became the first Black service chief in U.S. military history — an appointment that intersected with a period of heightened racial tension after George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, was killed by a Minneapolis police officer. Gen. Brown says he is keenly aware of the significance of his role, but also emphasizes that he wants to be judged on the merits of his performance rather than the color of his skin. 

‘You’re saving lives with this’ – How a hunting trip for veterans could be a national model for better health
Sharene Brown presents the official Air Force Chief of Staff service cap to her husband during the CSAF transition ceremony at Joint Base Andrews in 2020. Photo by Staff Sgt. Chad Trujillo.

“I would say there’s a before and an after: before George Floyd and after George Floyd. Before, I already knew it [my appointment] was historical in the like, and you know I’ve thought about it but I haven’t really. Partly because, a lot of the times in the jobs I’ve been in, I’ve been either the first of or the only one. It’s probably in some cases — I hate to say it this way — it’s a bigger deal for some others than it is maybe for me because I’ve lived this. … I am who I am and I just want to be good at what I do, and be recognized as a good officer. And then after that, be recognized as a good African American officer. Just like any other officer or leader, you just want to be recognized as a good leader. 

“I think after George Floyd, a bit more visibility and pressure was on the fact that I’m coming into this position. I think it adds a bit of extra weight because there’s some expectation that I’m going to be able to do things, but I’m just one person and I have almost 700,000 airmen that will have to buy into whatever good idea I come up with. And so, when we start looking at diversity and inclusion, it has to be things the whole Air Force can buy into and not just happen because I’m sitting in this chair as Chief of Staff of the Air Force,” he said.

In 2020, leaders ordered an independent review focusing specifically on assessing racial disparity in military discipline processes, personnel development, and career opportunities as they pertain to Black airmen and space professionals. The examination included a look at survey findings from more than 123,000 responses, formal interviews, and listening sessions. Results found that “varying degrees of disparity were identified in apprehensions, criminal investigations, military justice, administrative separations, placement into occupational career fields, certain promotion rates, officer and civilian professional military educational development and some leadership opportunities,” according to the report.

The full report can be found at https://www.af.mil/Portals/1/documents/ig/IRDR.pdf

Gen. Brown said small steps have been made, but his priority is to do “the deeper dive” that would include determining the root cause of the problem so recommendations can then be made of how to move forward. One example he cites is getting underrepresented demographics into aviation career fields. 

‘You’re saving lives with this’ – How a hunting trip for veterans could be a national model for better health
The Browns conduct an interview with Military Families Magazine at the Pentagon. Photo by Wayne Clark.

“Do some of the tools we have, are they biased in some way? Not purposely but for whatever reason, we may have missed opportunities and that all comes down to exposure. We only aspire to be what we’ve been exposed to, so looking at how we can lay that out earlier for underrepresented groups, whether it’s race, gender, ethnic background,” he said.

At the same time, leaders are grappling with the ongoing pandemic that has placed restrictions on the normal way of doing business. Gen. Brown says an integral part of checking the morale and mental health of the force starts with building relationships. 

“The key part is knowing your people, and you can’t know they’re having a bad day if you don’t know them — because you can’t tell the difference between a good day and a bad day. And some of that has to happen before you get into a crisis. I found just a few minutes goes a long way. It’s building relationships with the people you work with; you got a professional relationship but you also got to have a little bit of a personal relationship — know about them, their family, some of the ups and downs they have, and talk to them about what they do in the evenings, what they do on the weekends. By building relationships, when they do have a problem, they may be more inclined to talk to you, to seek help,” he said.

‘You’re saving lives with this’ – How a hunting trip for veterans could be a national model for better health
Gen. Brown at his office in the Pentagon. Photo by Wayne Clark.

The line of communication between airman and leader is also important, especially for those junior enlisted members and officers who have certain aspirations in the Air Force. Gen. Brown tells airmen to “take your chances.”

“Always ask for what you want. The worst the Air Force can do is tell you no, but they can’t tell you yes unless you ask,” he said. “I just tell airmen to explore what it is you want to be able to do, and then share that with your leadership so they have an opportunity to help you get to where you want to go. Or, to help you understand you may not be qualified for where you want to go — but you have to have the conversation. If you keep it to yourself, you may miss an opportunity or talk yourself out of it.”

Gen. Brown is adamant that his vision for a successful tour will be the same in years to come as it is today: he wants to make a difference.

“Flying was not the reason why I came into the Air Force or even why I stuck around. I mean, I like to fly, but it’s not the end-all be-all for me. It’s making a difference and that’s the key part; if I can do something that will change the Air Force for the better, make it better for our airmen and families. I would consider myself a failure if I didn’t make a difference in some form or fashion,” he added.

Follow twitter.com/GenCQBrownJr for updates on the 22nd Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force.

You can find this story and more in our February issue of Military Families Magazine. Download it here

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Why troops love the overpowered MICLIC

It’s time to go take out the enemy position. Whether it’s North Korean artillerymen raining rounds down on Seoul or an insurgency bomb factory, your most important targets can be protected by mines and IEDs that will slow down even the most determined force. But there’s a tool made of 1,750 pounds of C4 that will get you through in a hurry: the MICLIC.


 

Originally developed by the Marine Corps, the Mine Clearing Line Charge is exactly what it sounds like: A line of explosive charges that can clear enemy mines.

The basic design is also super simple. Small bundles of C4 are strung together into a 350-foot long single charge. A MK22 Mod 4 rocket is attached to one end of the line, and a few dozen feet of extra cable attaches the whole thing to a breaching vehicle. The whole thing is often packed into a trailer for easy deployment and movement.

When the Marines or Army reach an enemy minefield, they fire the rocket, and it carries the explosives across 350 feet of defended territory. And then the C4 is detonated, clearing a lane about 26 feet wide. That’s over 9,000 square feet of territory cleared with a few button presses.

If the minefield is deeper than 350 feet, then another breaching vehicle can drive to the end of the cleared lane and fire a second MICLIC to keep the party going. The MICLIC also works pretty well on IEDs and other explosive-based defenses.

All of this is much easier and faster than clearing the obstacles by hand or with plows, and much safer. But we should be clear that there are some limitations to the MICLIC.

First, they have a reputation for failing to detonate. This author has seen a MICLIC fail, and correcting it typically requires that explosive ordnance disposal experts come out. (Though, in combat, we’re willing to bet that the engineers chuck a few other explosives at it with their fingers crossed first.)

But another important caveat to the MICLIC is that it’s specifically designed to take out what are called “single pulse, pressure fuzed mines.” Basically, those are the mines that go off once they are stepped on or driven over. But some mines have very specialized triggers. Maybe they go off the second time they are stepped on, or they are set off by an operator or a remote signal.

MICLICs can destroy these mines through the miracle of sympathetic detonations. Basically, the MICLIC’s explosion can activate the payloads of the closest mines even if it can’t activate the fuse. But a mine or IED with a special fuse that’s 10 feet from the MICLIC might survive. This could result in Marines hoping for a 25-foot wide safe lane finding out that they only have a 20-foot wide lane in the worst way possible.

Still, the MICLIC rapidly gets rid of a lot of potential mines all at once. And engineers can always follow up with additional breaching vehicles to be sure the lane is clear. If you’re the guy driving a plow to make sure the lane is clear, you’re going to appreciate every mine that the MICLIC gets rid of so that you don’t have to hit it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marines, soldiers, and sailors participate in joint training exercise

U.S. Marines with 2nd Transportation Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics participated in exercise Resolute Sun from June 11-19, 2019.

The exercise allowed Marines to increase combat operational readiness in amphibious and prepositioning operations while conducting joint training with the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy during a joint logistics over-the-shore (JLOTS) scenario.

JLOTS provides operational movement capabilities in places where access to and from an area is not accessible. It is meant to strengthen interoperability between service branches so they can quickly build an improvised port and get equipment to and from wherever it is needed.


The Marines started the exercise on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. and convoyed down to Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, more than 250 miles away.

“We don’t get an opportunity to conduct long-range convoys like that all the time; it takes a lot of discipline to accomplish something of this scale,” said 1st Sgt. Brent Sheets, company first sergeant of Alpha Company, 2nd TSB. “The Marines got to see that there is more behind their job then the routine mission they do every day in garrison.”

‘You’re saving lives with this’ – How a hunting trip for veterans could be a national model for better health

U.S. Army Soldiers with 11th Transportation Battalion, 7th Transportation Regiment prepare for a landing craft, utility to dock on a trident pier during exercise Resolute Sun at Fort Story, Virginia, June 18, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

After the convoy, the Marines embarked 38 vehicles onto the USNS Watkins (T-AKR-315), once they reached Joint Base Charleston.

The USNS Watkins is part of the Navy’s Military Sealift Command 19 Large, Medium-Speed Roll-on/Roll-off Ships. The ship is used for prepositioning of ground vehicles and is designed to carry vehicles which are driven on and off the ship.

After the ship was embarked with all cargo, it set sail for Fort Story, Virginia. There, the equipment was offloaded utilizing a trident pier built by the U.S. Army’s 331st Transportation Company, 11th Transportation Battalion, 7th transportation Regiment. Simultaneously, Amphibious Construction Battalion 2, Naval Beach Group 2 conducted a beach landing utilizing the improved navy lighterage system.

‘You’re saving lives with this’ – How a hunting trip for veterans could be a national model for better health

U.S. Marine Corps logistics vehicles system replacements from 2nd Transportation Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, load onto the USNS Watkins during an on load port operation as part of exercise Resolute Sun at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, June 12, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

“We’ve worked smoothly with the Marines during this exercise. They are our main counterparts,” said Construction Mechanic First Class Mark Paystrup, with Beach Master Unit 2, Battalion Cargo Group 10. “Because we work with them often, we are familiar with each other’s roles. What is more of an adjustment, is working with the Army. It is always good to practice that interoperability between the Services.”

The Navy-Marine Corps team works together all over the world, regulatory conducting beach landing operations together. The Army only has a few ship-to-shore assets, and sailors and Marines make sure to capitalize on training with soldiers to improve functionality between them.

“What we are doing today is exactly how we’re going to fight when we need too,” said Lt. Col Jonathan Baker, the Commanding Officer of 2nd TSB. “We’ll never go to war alone. We’ll go as a coalition. It’s important to understand how to do this jointly.”

Another benefit to the joint training environment is the ability to stay fiscally responsible while conducting such a large exercise. Working together with the Army and Navy, the price can be spread out amongst the branches, with each unit only being held responsible for paying for the gear and supplies they need.

‘You’re saving lives with this’ – How a hunting trip for veterans could be a national model for better health

U.S. Marines with 2nd Transportation Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Battalion 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, load an M970 semitrailer refueling truck onto the USNS Watkins during an on load port operation during exercise Resolute Sun at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, June 12, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

“Doing a joint training exercise such as this one, allows for all branches to get connected and get the same amount of training,” said Baker. “This is training that they have to do, so if we can get connected to that, it provides us with cost-saving opportunity and unique training situations that we would normally get through warfare.”

All 38 vehicles from 2nd TSB were able to be offloaded and redeployed via convoy 220 miles back to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. within two days of the USNS Watkins arriving in Virginia.

“It takes a lot of individual actions to make something like this happen. That’s the individual Marine knowing his job and doing it effectively,” said Capt. Bryan Hassett, company commander of Alpha Company, 2nd TSB. “109 Marines worked together seamlessly as a unit to accomplish the mission, and that is something that needs to happen every time we go out, no matter where we are anywhere in the world.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Marine veteran Todd Boeding, Carry the Load

On this week’s episode of Borne the Battle, Tanner Iskra interviews guest Todd Boeding, who shares his past, present and future as a Marine Corps veteran, as well as his involvement honoring veterans through Carry the Load.

Born and raised in Texas, Boeding was always known to take unorthodox paths in life. He dabbled in college, left for the Marine Corps seeking structure and discipline, and eventually returned to finish up his degree at The University of Texas at Dallas.


Since leaving the Marine Corps in 2003, Boeding discussed the hardest part of the transition back to civilian life: finding a sense of belonging. Boeding was able to find his purpose of being part of something bigger through Carry the Load.

September 11th Volunteer Opportunity with Carry The Load

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Carry the Load offers opportunities to learn how to care again and to do it in a way that meaningfully impacts the families who lost their loved ones. Currently, Carry the Load is partnering with the National Cemetery Association on Sep. 11, 2019, to help maintain the dignity of cemeteries.

If you would like to learn more or want to help in this movement, click on this link: www.carrytheload.org/NCA.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch the USS Constitution fire a cannon for the Marines birthday

The United States Marine Corps turned 244 on Nov. 10, 2019. To celebrate, the Devil Dogs probably did whatever it is Marines do after their respective Marine Corps Balls. The U.S. Navy, often called the Marines’ Taxi Service, laid aside sibling rivalry for the day, and fired a shot from the oldest warship in the Navy and the only active ship to have sunk an enemy in combat, the USS Constitution, in their honor.

They even let a Marine pull the trigger.


The Constitution was first laid as a 44-gun frigate in 1794, outfitted with 24-pound long guns and 32-pound carronades. In combat, she would carry around 54 guns. The carronades would be on the spar deck, a long 18-pound “chase” gun would be mounted forward, and 30 24-pounders would be loaded on the gun deck. The guns on her gun deck, like the one fired by the Sergeant of Marines in the above video, are not her original guns. In 1883, Constitution became a housing ship for sailors in the port of Boston, and her guns were removed. They were soon replaced, however, with replica guns.

Her centennial refit saw 55 replica guns made for the ship by the end of 1931. Cast in the Charleston Navy Yard in 1929, these are the guns aboard her today. Two War of 1812-era carronade replicas were placed aboard in 1981. All her guns were restored and refurbished during Constitution’s 21st-Century restoration.

The only problem with the ship’s new guns is that they were never intended to be fired. It wasn’t until 1976 that the Constitution’s commanding officer decided it would be a novel idea for the oldest active warship in the U.S. Navy to be able to give a salute from its era. Two of the 24-pound long guns were sent to the Naval Ordnance Station in Louisville, Ky. to be retrofitted to fire a saluting charge in time for the United States Bicentennial Celebration.

The Marines aren’t the only ones who receive a salute from the USS Constitution. Past recipients include anyone from Chief Petty Officer selectees to Queen Elizabeth II. The day after the Queen received the salute, she boarded Constitution for a tour with Prince Philip. It was the only time a reigning British monarch ever stepped foot aboard the ship.

It seems we’ve been forgiven for the whole HMS Guerriere incident.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 items every barracks room should have

The phrase, “proper prior planning prevents piss-poor performance” can be applied to all areas of your life. Preparation is often the difference between being comfortable and being miserable, especially if you’re on active duty in the barracks. Living on base has its challenges, but if you take a few extra steps, you can insure your leave is approved on time, all uniforms are ready for any inspection, and you’re sitting pretty while everyone who lives off base is frantically fighting traffic.


‘You’re saving lives with this’ – How a hunting trip for veterans could be a national model for better health

1. Clothing steamer

Local dry cleaners are likely a little out of reach and aren’t open when you need them to be. This makes a clothing steamer an essential in every barracks room. Grab a portable steamer from your nearest Walmart to ensure your uniforms are wrinkle-free at all times — plus, you’ll save some money by doing it yourself.

‘You’re saving lives with this’ – How a hunting trip for veterans could be a national model for better health

2. Printer with scanner

Bureaucracy sucks — especially when it ends up with the company office telling you to update something that the S1 should have already done, and now it’s affecting your leave approval. Here’s a rule to live by: When handling important paperwork, scan it, e-mail it, and print a physical back-up.

Print out proof of updates, classes, courses, MCI, and anything else that you have been tasked to do digitally. The machine isn’t going to stop turning for you; when you need physical proof that something’s been done, don’t rely on the company office to have a printer in working order.

‘You’re saving lives with this’ – How a hunting trip for veterans could be a national model for better health

3. Rechargeable batteries

Rechargeable batteries are good for your wallet and the environment. They’re an investment that pays off almost immediately because you’re going to use them in everything from console controllers to that wireless mouse for your laptop. You won’t have to go to the store at 0300 because you ignored the low-battery light for a week.

‘You’re saving lives with this’ – How a hunting trip for veterans could be a national model for better health

4. Cleaning supplies

Your future self will thank you for having a fully-stocked cabinet of cleaning supplies when the time comes to clean up that crime scene of a mess after a night of partying.

Plus, the most common form of corporal punishment is forced cleaning. Whole units have been known to attack the nearest PX at the same time when getting set straight — if you’ve got everything you need already, you’ll be finished by the time your neighbors hit the checkout line.

5. Extra food

There will be days when going for a run with the LT results in missing mess hall hours. Most mess halls have a rule that states a troop cannot be served if they are filthy or in a PT uniform.

By keeping a reserve of breakfast staples in your barracks room, you can still enjoy a satisfying meal even when the Big Green Weenie is hungry for seconds. Cereal and microwavable foods are a way better alternative to that forgotten MRE that’s been sitting at the bottom of your pack since the last field op.

‘You’re saving lives with this’ – How a hunting trip for veterans could be a national model for better health

6. A Nerf gun

BB and air soft guns are banned on most military installations, but don’t worry, there’s a loophole: the Nerf gun. They’re essentially harmless, ricochets don’t damage government property, and they’re a must for those times when the leadership has gone home. Glide into best bro’s room with a sweet combat stance and hook him up with your mastery of marksmanship. Exercise that trigger discipline and economy of rounds as you enthusiastically shout politically incorrect phrases at your best friend.

Technically, it’s training and you’re a motivated troop keeping your team from becoming complacent.

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