Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs? - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?

Spouse clubs – you either love them or hate them, depending on your experience. Or, you try to stay so far away from them that you’ve yet to form an opinion. They’re ubiquitous with the military spouse experience in some form or fashion, and they’ve been around for a long, long time.

What started as clubs for officers or enlisted wives, spouse clubs were often segregated, rank-based and very snobby. They were the original mean-girls clubs. Despite the petty cattiness, spouse clubs did a lot for their military communities – from fundraisers to unit events and everything in between. But despite their good deeds, many in the military community shied away from spouse  clubs, specifically for their notorious history of vapidness. 

Of course, that wasn’t the spouse clubs’ intent when they first came on the scene. Most originated as a way for spouses to get information about their service member’s unit, like deployment status and information about redeployment. When a unit is deployed, the spouse club serves as a network of information, and before the digital age, that’s the only thing those spouses had.

Now, it’s so much different. Spouse clubs have morphed from being exclusive for officers or enlisted spouses to being inclusive clubs designed to encourage open friendship, communication, and, well, fun. And members of spouse clubs have been doing the real work to help transform these clubs’ public image into something that is more welcoming, less snobby and more familial. 

Over the last two decades that the country has been at war, spouse clubs have served as the heart of military communities, helping to connect spouses during long deployments and ensuring that everyone within a unit has what they need. Spouse clubs work together with units and installations to host large events, which encourages community involvement, which ultimately might help some spouses feel less alone. This is no truer than for spouses whose service member is on heavy rotations in the field or out to see or logging flight time. Now, more than ever, as the military continues to ask more of its personnel, spouse clubs serve as a way to feel connected, part of a larger community, a place to call home. 

At least, that was the direction things were heading until COVID-19 came in and crashed the party. 

The military hasn’t been immune to the cancellation of social events, and that’s no more evident than with social clubs. This spring, as the world ground to a halt, so too did all of the events planned out by milspouses – events designed to raise funds, do good works, and serve as a way to develop a wider sense of community. The remaining two months of the year don’t look any better for these clubs, and many are now looking to cancel all in-person events until at least next summer. That leaves their executive boards scrambling to find ways to keep the club interactive, fun, engaging and ultimately fulfill its mission.

The Capital Area Spouses Club (CAMS) has had to cancel all of its in-person events but is working with various outlets across the world to offer its members virtual tours. In place of its popular breakfasts, the club now offers a virtual coffee once a month where members can come together and “hang out.” CAMS has decided to nix its annual membership dues this year since none of the events will be held in person, though it’s still committed to providing the National Capital Region’s spouses with fun events. In October, the group attended a virtual Jack the Ripper tour in London, thanks in part to technology and the understanding from club members that this year is anything but typical. 

For CAMS and other clubs, the challenge will come not just in adapting to changing conditions but also finding ways to keep spouses engaged and excited about being a club member. But like military spouses, who themselves are resilient, adaptable and incredibly flexible, so too are milspouse clubs. Though the future might not look the same as the iterations of the past, it’s unlikely that the current pandemic conditions will completely nix the spouse club format – but like the rest of us, the format will definitely have to change. 

Lists

5 tips that will have her grateful to be your Valentine

If you’re single, it’s a chance to mingle. If you’re “wifed-up,” it’s the time to lay it down. Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and everyone has high expectations. If you want yours met, then you best meet hers.


But, guess what: Statistically speaking, you probably haven’t even begun to BAMCIS this date, and just winging it is not acceptable. No worries, brother. We’ve got you covered.

Related: How to make the best steak ever, according to a Marine chef

1. Don’t take her to dinner and a movie.

No one is saying this isn’t a perfectly acceptable date. It is — just not on V-Day, my man. Be a little more original instead of relying on this old standby. Do something interactive, something fun — a date that feels like an adventure.

Basically, you want to plan a date that will make her friends jealous when she tells them about it.

2. Make sure she has the 15th off.

Valentine’s Day often falls right in the middle of the regular work week and not many companies treat it as a holiday. So, do the next best thing and call in for her.

Let her boss know that she’ll be busy recovering from the date you’ve got all planned out and that she’ll need the entire day in order to get back to reality.

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?
D’awww, so sweet.

3. Don’t let her get hungry.

If you don’t already know, learn this now: If she is hungry, she isn’t happy.

It seems simple enough, but your date is likely privy to dropping hints and subtleties. You, being accustomed to overt statements and barked orders, might miss these clues, creating a situation where she seems mad for no reason at all.

It’s not what you did, it’s what you didn’t do!

You didn’t provide snacks. Bring tasty treats and she’ll able to focus on how amazing her Valentine is. Also, don’t watch her eat.

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?
Yum yums. Trust.

4. Keep the drinks flowing.

This one seems obvious, however, it can be overdone. This tip requires a nuanced touch and everyone is different with regards to tolerance. Stick to one drink per hour and make sure she enjoys them. Find out her favorite fruit, smash it up, add some sugar, drain through a sieve, add some good vodka, and finish with equal parts champagne.

Garnish with the same fruit and some mint and boom, you just made her new favorite drink. If this seems too complicated, just get champagne. Everyone likes champagne.

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?
Yep, that’s the one.

Also Read: 15 last-minute Valentine’s Day gift ideas from actual military spouses

5. Get her out of her norm.

If she’s a city girl, rent a cabin in the hills. If she’s a country girl, give her a night on the town. The idea is to get her out of her comfort zone and to be her comfort simultaneously.

If you create a situation where she is experiencing new things, great! But make sure she knows you have everything taken care of. If you plan on ending up in a hot tub, bring her a bathing suit. If you’re going hiking, pack her some boots.

The ideas are endless and the guidelines are simple. Whatever you plan to do, be prepared and make sure she doesn’t have any responsibilities aside from enjoying the ride.

Happy Valentine’s Day, my friends.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Mighty MilSpouse: Meet Nikki James Zellner

2:20 p.m. on February 20, 2020, is not a time Nikki James Zellner will soon forget.


Zellner received an emergency notification from the daycare her two sons, Ronan and Owen, attend in Virginia Beach, where the Navy family is stationed. The facility alerted parents to come pick up their children due to a carbon monoxide leak.

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?

“When we arrived, the children and staff had been evacuated and I was starting to hear stories related to what was going on behind the scenes,” she said. “The one that gave me the biggest pause was that a teacher’s husband had to bring in a detector because the teachers and students were getting sick after hours of symptoms, and there was no detector on site, because there was no Virginia law requiring them to be.”

At that moment, the narrative for Zellner went from “this happened to my child” to “I’m not going to let this happen to anyone else’s child.”

She started by communicating directly with the daycare, asking direct questions, and refusing to jump to conclusions.

“While waiting for their feedback, I got busy researching,” Zellner explained. “I learned that carbon monoxide (CO) detectors weren’t required in Virginia schools, regardless of if they had a source for CO on-site (common sources are fuel-fired sources like furnaces, HVAC systems, kitchen appliances), if the school was built prior to 2015. It wasn’t part of the state code – and in Virginia, it wouldn’t be retrofitted to existing unless legislation was passed to make it apply.”

But Zellner’s research also uncovered a scary reality nationwide.

“Only five states require CO detectors in educational facilities like daycares, public schools, private schools and any place where children are taken care of,” she said. “How many kids and educators aren’t being protected because people just assume carbon monoxide detectors are on site?”

Zellner’s first points of contact were Senators, Representatives and Delegates that represent Virginia and her district. Then, she spoke to the Director of State Building Codes at the Department of Housing and Community Development to make sure she had a firm understanding exactly of the law and when it applied.

“I also started a petition making folks aware of the situation,” she shared. “Within three days, we had 1,000 signatures. Within the week, we had a breaking news story and a commitment from one of the Delegates to work with us on possibly introducing legislation in the 2021 session.”

To date, Zellner’s petition has more than 1,200 signatures, and her determination landed her on the front page of the Sunday edition of Virginia’s leading newspaper.
Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?

“There’s this strange feeling that comes over you when you know that you’re the person that’s supposed to do something,” Zellner emphasized. “That you have the means to do something, and you have the unique perspective to tell the story on why something needs to change. I have a background in media relations and content development, I know how to investigate and ask direct questions, I know how to navigate the political landscape after working in a nonprofit and I’m not afraid to put myself in the line of fire and make a ruckus about it. These are our children. These are our educators. It’s too big of a risk. I feel compelled to raise awareness about it – I can’t explain it any other way. All stakeholders are accountable for solving this – hopefully before it upgrades from close call to tragedy.”

What inspires you about the military community?

The most inspiring thing to me about the military community is their ability to problem solve any situation. What’s today’s mission? How can we help each other? What’s our end goal? This isn’t just the service members – these are the wives, the mil-kids, the support givers – it truly is a community of givers. And it’s up to each member of the community to give more than they take – and I think that really sets the military community apart.

What piece of advice would you give to fellow military spouses?

The biggest piece of advice I have for military spouses is to share your stories. Get comfortable talking about the uncomfortable. Humanize your experiences and make those connections. If we as a group want people to understand our lives, we have to share our lives not just inside but outside of the military community.

What is your life motto?

“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re going to stay silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”

If you could pick one song as the theme song of your life, what would it be and why?

‘No Hard Feelings’ by The Avett Brothers. The Avett Brothers have some of the most honest music out there – and this one just really hits home for me. For me, it’s really about forgiving and being forgiven – and just being able to distinguish what’s important and what’s not so you can live a meaningful life. I think it’s my theme song because even after some really impossible hardships, I’m still able to take gifts from those moments instead of just pain.

What’s your superpower?

I have a fierce love for my people. I will turn superhuman when it comes to their needs – regardless of how much time I have or what’s going on in my life. If you’re someone I trust and love, I will spring into action for you in the biggest way possible.

MIGHTY CULTURE

TOPGUN Instructor shares his leadership lessons from the cockpit in new memoir

One of the benefits of being in the military is that the services place a great value on training and education. Throughout a 20-year military career, service members will have the opportunity to attend schools ranging from learning how to jump out of planes all the way to how to use Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. If we could offer one critique, it is that we don’t have more opportunities to learn across the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.

Recently, I was able to jump the divide and learn from a Navy pilot. I grabbed a new book by Guy “Bus” Snodgrass about his unique experience as an instructor at one of the most premier schools in the military: TOPGUN School. The book, titled TOPGUN’s Top 10: Leadership Lessons from the Cockpit, is part memoir, part leadership book and an extremely quick read at less than 200 pages. Bus recounts how the lessons he learned as a pilot at TOPGUN helped him throughout his military career, and I also found them worthy of application in my line of work in the Army.


We had the opportunity to catch up to Bus and talk to him about his book and about the important role writing and reading played in his military career.

WATM: TOPGUN’s Top 10 is packed full of valuable and insightful lessons. When you were going through the course and later instructing, did you realize that you were learning these leadership skills or did the realization come after the fact?

Bus: I’ll give you the quintessential TOPGUN response: It depends.

Some lessons, like, “Nothing Worthwhile Is Ever Easy,” and, “Focus on Talent, Passion and Personality,” were apparent while I was serving as a TOPGUN Instructor. Others, like, “Don’t Confuse Activity with Progress” and, “Never Wait to Make a Difference,” started at TOPGUN but also benefit from experiences serving alongside Secretary of Defense James Mattis and other senior leaders.

To be honest, the seeds for each of these lessons were planted back in high school because of terrific mentors from my church, community, and Scouting.

WATM: In the book, you make the point that the world is full of noise (social media, news media, things in life that don’t matter). How did Top Gun teach you to focus and what role has focus played in your professional career?

Bus: We call this “compartmentalization” in the aviation community — the ability to push aside distractors and focus solely on the task at hand. As I share in the chapter titled, “Stay Calm Under Pressure,” the ability to prioritize and sort fact from fiction is a critical trait, one that saved my life on a number of occasions.

TOPGUN accomplishes this feat by focusing on an awareness regarding the harm caused by distractions. You never have enough time in any given day to accomplish all that is asked of you. You’re flying high-performance fighter jets to the very edge of your capabilities. Like stoicism, you have to learn to master yourself before you can master the events around you.

WATM: Out of all the lessons you learned at TOPGUN, which one was the most valuable to you? And now that you are out of the military, has that one changed?

Bus: “Never Wait to Make a Difference” remains my favorite lesson. We can all accomplish some absolutely incredible results, many on a level well above our pay grade or position in an organization, if we commit to making a positive difference each and every day.

I’d say this lesson is first among equals… and remains so to this day.

WATM: I know you’re an avid reader and have published articles throughout your military career, did those two practices give you a competitive advantage in your military career?

Bus: Yes, I believe so, especially if you desire to make an outsized impact to your organization. A significant number of leaders who rise to senior levels of responsibility have embraced authorship: Gen. H.R. McMaster, Secretary James Mattis, service chiefs, senior enlisted, and many more.

Writing forces you to prioritize and align your thoughts, which also helps you to better understand what you care about and stand for. Publishing, whether in a professional journal or to a wider audience, significantly increases your chances of influencing others. Publishing also teaches us to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s no small task to put your thoughts into the public domain but like any muscle, the more you use it, the easier the exercise becomes.

WATM: Since we’re talking about reading, what book or books have been the most influential to you as a leader?

Bus: Each book can be paired with a situation or an experience in our life.

In high school, I really enjoyed Stephen King, Tom Clancy and Isaac Asimov — large chapter books that engaged my interest and imagination. As I started college, I really enjoyed reading biographies about senior political and military leaders, people faced with tough choices and limited resources. Then, as I gained seniority in uniform, I began to read more “ancient” history.

Reading is the least expensive form of learning. It opens doors into worlds we might never experience ourselves, teaches us lessons paid for by others, and generates increasingly complex ideas as our awareness grows. All these elements help accelerate us along our path to making an ever greater — and wider — impact!

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Green Beret’s kid wrote a book on coping with deployments

When his father deploys, 9-year-old Davidson considers himself “man of the house” — it’s a role he’s filled eight times.

Davidson’s father, Dave Whetstone — the surname is a pseudonym for security reasons — is a Green Beret currently on his tenth deployment. Dave has deployed nearly every year of Davidson’s life, and each time, Davidson “puts on a brave face,” he said.

To help other military families also be brave, the father and son duo recently published a children’s book, “Brave for my Family,” written by Davidson and illustrated by Dave, with some proceeds going to military charities.


The book was released on Veteran’s Day under pen names to protect their identities, and recounts the family’s experience with one of Dave’s deployments after a life-threatening battlefield injury, recovery, and Dave’s return to war — all through Davidson’s eyes.

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?

“Brave For My Family”

While deployed, Dave tries to stay in touch with his family, he said. In the past, he’s recorded videos of himself — reading bedtime stories, praying, etc. — for his wife, Elizabeth, to replay for their children.

“While Americans are grateful for the sacrifices service members make for our country, it’s the sacrifices they don’t see that are the hardest,” Dave wrote in an email.

Story behind the story

While deployed to Afghanistan in late 2013 — four days shy of Christmas — Dave was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

During the explosion, shrapnel pierced the Green Beret’s face and tore through the right side of his body. It missed his carotid artery by a few millimeters.

Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, the Whetstones were with family over the holidays and carried on with their lives, unaware the patriarch of their family was fighting for his.

After the blast, the Special Forces officer suffered life-threatening injuries. He was triaged on the battlefield, and subsequently airlifted to Germany and briefly hospitalized there.

From Germany, Dave returned to the United States and underwent multiple surgeries at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where he eventually stayed for three-weeks.

Once the Whetstones received the terrible news, they also flew to Washington, D.C., and were reunited with their soldier on Christmas, Davidson said.

Davidson — who was 3 years old at the time — writes about this moment in the book.

“My mom cried, and I was pretty scared my dad was going to die,” he wrote.

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?

An illustration from “Brave for My Family.”

In the book, Dave’s illustration depicts this moment, too. The wounded soldier is in the hospital — he’s battered, with multiple wounds and bandages — but embraced his son.

To this day, the illustration is hard for Elizabeth to see without reliving the memory, she said, because the artwork looks so real.

Also on Christmas day that year, Dave and his family were greeted by then-Vice President Joe Biden. The former VP, who visited wounded troops and their families at the hospital, invited the Whetstones to his home for lunch — an offer they took him up on the following year.

As he recovered, Dave learned his close friend — while also deployed in Afghanistan — was killed in combat. Although he was on convalescent leave, Dave requested special permission to return to Afghanistan and complete his deployment.

The blast claimed the peripheral vision from his right eye, and left parts of the shrapnel lodged in his body. However, Dave doesn’t believe the scars of war are the most painful thing a soldier can experience.

“I have been wounded in combat, I have lost close friends,” Dave wrote. “But, for me some of the toughest pills to swallow are not being there for first words, first steps, first Christmases, first birthdays, and all of the moments that I’ll never see again. The hardest thing is watching my kids grow up in pictures.”

Father and son share their story

Years later — during the summer before Davidson started school — the father and son duo started the foundation for their book. Together, they decided to produce something “that could help kids not be scared if their parents deploy,” Davidson said.

“I know what it’s like to have your dad deployed to a scary place,” Davidson added.

For nearly two years, and in-between deployments, the pair would spend the Sunday afternoons they had, usually after church, being creative together, Elizabeth said.

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?

An illustration from “Brave for My Family.”

“Creating the book was therapeutic for them both,” she added.

For Dave, drawing is a way to organize his thoughts, and a passion that dates back to childhood, he said.

“Illustrating Davidson’s story gave me a strong motivation to create meaningful representation of our family’s sacrifice and courage,” Dave wrote. “It also allowed me to spend time recalling and appreciating the details of our family’s experience, and come to terms with some things.”

Part of the proceeds from the book will go toward charities like the Green Beret Foundation and help support military families and wounded warriors.

“I can’t express how proud I am of my family, and how immeasurably blessed I am to have each of them in my life,” Dave wrote. “I am so proud of Davidson for writing this book. But, if I’m being honest, this is only a snapshot of his talents and passion as a good young man.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Portland Protests: Veterans aren’t special—the oath they swear is

The video of my Naval Academy classmate, Chris David, beaten by federal police last month in Portland, shook me. Like bad guys from a straight-to-DVD movie, cowardly officers attacked a peaceful American exercising his Constitutionally-guaranteed right to protest. David stood unyielding, bearing the blows, earning the nickname ‘Captain Portland’ for his almost superhuman resistance.

Ironically, as police obscured their identity, David wore his Naval Academy sweatshirt for ease of identification, as a veteran. As if the word ‘Navy,’ written boldly across his chest might act as a shield, like Superman’s ‘S’ or Captain America’s star. As someone who’s gotten out of countless tickets by virtue of the Marine Corps sticker on my car, I’d shared the same illusion: My veteran status somehow made me special.


David and I reported aboard the Naval Academy to become midshipmen in July, 1984. After the shearing, the uniform issue and the tearful goodbyes, we swore an Oath:

‘I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…’

By swearing allegiance to the Constitution and not an individual, such as the president, we bound ourselves only to the American people. Despite the nobility (or naivety) of David’s mission — to remind federal officers of their Oath to the Constitution, his presence at the protest came as a surprise for many Americans who’d dismissed protestors as nothing more than ‘lawless hooligans.’

Yet David, and our class, served the American people faithfully as Navy and Marine Corps officers, unhesitatingly laying our collective asses on the line. We’ve got the scars, both physical and mental—and disability ratings as proof. Because yes, we believe in America.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that David was at the protest. David, along with brother and sister veterans, were there to support not only one another, but to defend the Constitution, and by extension, the American people. It’s what we swore to do. Current leadership may possess the law, but not the will to resist an old Marine, soldier, sailor, airman or Coast Guardsman who swore that Oath. Because it’s the Oath that makes us special. Just ask ‘Captain Portland.’

Brian O’Hare is a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, former Marine Corps officer and disabled combat veteran. He’s a former Editor-at-Large for ‘MovieMaker’ magazine and an award-winning documentary filmmaker. Brian’s fiction has appeared in ‘War, Literature and the Arts’, ‘Liar’s League, London’, ‘Fresh.ink‘, ‘The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature’ and the ‘Santa Fe Writers Project’. He currently lives in Los Angeles. You can follow him on Instagram/Twitter @bohare13x.

Editor’s note: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various authors on WATM do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints or official policies of WATM. To submit your own op-ed, please email Managing Editor Tessa Robinson at Tessa.Robinson@wearethemighty.com.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

The US Navy is going to arm all of its destroyers with hypersonic missiles, a top Trump official says

The US Navy is going to eventually arm all of its destroyers with hypersonic missiles that are still being developed, White House national security advisor Robert O’Brien said Wednesday, according to Defense News.

“The Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) program will provide hypersonic missile capability to hold targets at risk from longer ranges,” O’Brien said at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.


“This capability,” he continued, “will be deployed first on our newer Virginia-class submarines and the Zumwalt-class destroyers. Eventually, all three flights of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers will field this capability.”

Hypersonic missiles — high-speed weapons able to evade traditional missile-defense systems — are a key area of competition between the three great powers. Earlier this month, Russia test-fired its Tsirkon hypersonic anti-ship cruise missile from the frigate Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov.

Given the ongoing hypersonic missile arms race, it is easy to see why the US Navy might want hypersonic missiles for its destroyers, something the Navy has previously discussed, but there are challenges.

The CPS missile is a combination of the developmental Common Hypersonic Glide Body (C-HGB) and a two-stage booster, according to the Navy’s fiscal year 2021 budget overview.

Newer Zumwalt-class destroyers have larger vertical launch system (VLS) cells that could accommodate a large diameter missile with a hypersonic warhead in a boost-glide vehicle configuration, but older Arleigh Burke-class destroyers have much smaller VLS cells that would need to be modified or replaced altogether.

“I think it’s a terrible idea to try to outfit these destroyers with hypersonic missiles,” Bryan Clark, a retired Navy officer and defense expert at the Hudson Institute told Insider. Retrofitting dozens of Navy Arleigh Burkes to carry new hypersonic missiles would be expensive, he said.

What the Russian military appears to be doing is developing a new hypersonic missile to fit existing warships. The US military would be going about this in reverse, refitting existing ships to suit a new missile, a weapon that could be quickly replaced by a smaller, cheaper alternative down the road given the rapid pace of technological development.

“If the Navy makes this massive investment in retrofitting only to find in five years that these smaller weapons are now emerging, that money will be largely wasted,” Clark said, adding that the plan “doesn’t make sense.”

In addition to the steep costs of retrofitting dozens of destroyers and arming them with expensive missiles, of which the Navy may only be able to afford limited numbers, other challenges include taking warships offline and tying up shipyards for extended periods of time, potentially hindering other repair work.

Changes risk making the 500-ship plan ‘unaffordable’

Defense News reported that O’Brien also pushed the Trump administration’s vision for a 500-ship Navy, a vision that Secretary of Defense Mark Esper unveiled earlier this month to counter China’s growing naval force.

The plan, known as “Battle Force 2045,” calls for a mixture of manned and unmanned vessels and is based on recommendations from the Hudson Institute, which presented what Clark said was an affordable path to a 500-ship Navy.

A major difference between the Pentagon’s plan and the Hudson Institute study is that the Pentagon wants to build a larger submarine force, which could drive up sustainment costs, making the vision impossible to realize from a cost perspective. Each Virginia-class attack submarine with a larger missile launcher is estimated to cost .2 billion.

Retrofitting destroyers to carry hypersonic missiles would pull away funding as well. “This missile launcher thing, the additional submarines, all the additional ornaments that the Navy is looking at hanging on this fleet are going to make it unaffordable,” Clark said.

He argued that the Navy should focus on arming Virginia-class submarines with hypersonic missiles and let the destroyers be. “You don’t have to rebuild the ship to do it,” Clark explained. “That makes more sense. The Navy should be pursuing that for its boost-glide weapons.”

“That would be sufficient to provide maritime launch capability to complement what the Air Force and the Army are doing,” he said. Both the Army and the Air Force have been pursuing hypersonic weapons for existing launch platforms, such as the AGM-183 ARRW for the B-52 Stratofortress bomber.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Putin tells Lukashenka Russia ready ‘to provide help’ militarily if needed

The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin has told Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka that Russia is ready to assist Belarus in accordance with a collective military pact, if necessary.

The Kremlin said in the same statement that external pressure was being applied to Belarus. It did not say by whom.


The two spoke on August 16 for the second time in as many days.

Belarus has been rocked by a week of street protests after protesters accused Lukashenka of rigging a presidential election on August 9.

Some 7,000 people have been detained by police across Belarus in the postelection crackdown with hundreds injured and at least two killed as police have used rubber bullets, stun grenades, and, in at least one instance, live ammunition.

Hundreds of those held and subsequently released spoke of brutal beatings they suffered in detention, much of it documented and splashed across social media. Thousands more remain in detention as international outrage mounts.

Facing the most serious threat ever to his authoritarian rule, Lukashenka spoke with Putin on August 15, after saying there was “a threat not only to Belarus.”

He later told military chiefs that Putin had offered “comprehensive help” to “ensure the security of Belarus.”

The Kremlin said the leaders agreed the “problems” in Belarus would be “resolved soon” and the countries’ ties strengthened.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

These military spouses ran for political office in 2020, and won

Three military spouses recently ran for political office in their local communities and won their campaigns in the most recent November election.

Kalish Morrow, a Navy spouse currently stationed at Naval Air Station Lemoore, was elected as the City Councilperson for Hanford, California. Although Morrow was not always involved in politics, her work as a small business owner in Hanford motivated her.

“As a business owner, I got involved with our Main Street program and quickly started seeing the issues our small businesses faced with onerous red tape and high fees,” she said.

“In 2016, when a seat opened up on our city council, I threw my hat into the race.”

However, Morrow didn’t win that election. She ran again in 2020, with support from the Libertarian Party.

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?
Kalish Morrow, Hanford City Councilperson (elect). Photo courtesy of Kalish Morrow

“My campaign had a huge focus on the voice of the people … and rallied community involvement through leading by example,” Morrow said.

She spent her campaign doing things like organizing park cleanups, building with Habitat for Humanity, and driving donated items out to Fresno for victims of the recent wildfires over the summer.

Although her background as a military spouse did not have a direct effect on her decision to run for political office, Morrow does believe her experience with the military lifestyle will impact the way she leads her constituents.

“Over the years I’ve had to learn how to compartmentalize and keep moving forward when things get difficult,” Morrow said. “I’ll be stepping into a big role right in the middle of COVID and when the effects of the shutdowns begin to take its toll on the economy. My biggest job … will be to make sure the city keeps providing important services to its people while not placing any additional financial burden [on the people].”

Morrow learned a lot during her two campaigns in 2016 and 2020, but her biggest takeaway is that votes are about the people.

“Votes are earned one person at a time,” she said. “People do not like their votes are taken for granted so they appreciate you taking the time and putting in the painstaking effort of going and meeting with them to show you truly care about your community.”

For military spouses who are also interested in getting involved in politics, Morrow has a few pieces of advice.

“Above all else, you must knock on doors. It sounds tedious … but … people appreciate your willingness to take the time and meet with them personally,” she said. “[Also], having an organized campaign with a great campaign manager. … Your team is precious and vital to a successful campaign.”

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?
Kalish Morrow, Hanford City Councilperson (elect) and some of her volunteers. Photo courtesy of Kalish Morrow.

Morrow also suggests military spouses get involved in their city councils if they are interested in making a change in the community, even if you will only be there for a short time. She recommends going to the city council and county supervisor’s meetings, or join a citizen’s advisory board. You can also attend local meetings.

She also notes that getting involved in the local community helps military spouses meet other like-minded people they might not otherwise have the chance to meet if they stay in their little military bubble. Those connections can become valuable tools if you’re interested in getting more involved in politics in the future as an elected official.

Allison Russo and Erin Pare, both military spouses, also won elections in their local communities on opposite sides of the political aisle.

Russo, a military spouse of a combat veteran, was re-elected as the state representative for the 24th District in Ohio. She first ran for the position in 2018 and flipped the seat from Republican to Democrat in that election.

“My plan was never politics, but as a combat veteran’s wife I have seen firsthand what a call to duty looks like. I know that to make a difference in your community, you have to know when to stand strong for what you believe and when you must put aside your differences to work together,” a statement on Russo’s campaign website said.

Erin Pare, a former Army spouse of 12 years, recently won the North Carolina State Representative seat for District 37 running as a Republican. She and her husband have strong ties to the small community of Holly Springs, North Carolina, where they live and own a sporting goods store. As a small business owner, Pare found herself wanting to make changes in policies regarding small businesses in their area. Her platforms include a pro-growth economy, education, public safety and more.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 reasons you need a MilSpouse bestie

Your life as a military spouse is what you make it. There, I said it — it’s your responsibility to make yourself happy in this military life. Before you stop reading this article or leave me a nasty comment, give me a chance to explain.

I am a military spouse of twelve years and have been with my husband for fifteen years. I’ve moved eight times – from coast to coast and even to Alaska for a time. My first move with my husband was in 2006. I was only 21 years old. I left my family and all I knew, and two days after we arrived at our new duty station, my husband got underway on a boat for weeks.

I was alone, I didn’t have a job, friends, or even cable or internet!


It. Was. Horrible.

I remember feeling waves of depression and not wanting to get off the couch as I watched Grey’s Anatomy on DVD for the millionth time. I was isolating myself and never felt more alone in my life. Did you know that loneliness can literally hurt your brain?

One study found that loneliness was a risk factor of dementia later in life.

After a few days of living in this funk, I took a good hard look at myself. I saw my stained sweat pants, unwashed dishes, and wondered what I was doing. We had just PCS’d to one of the most beautiful beach towns in Florida, and here I was wasting away, getting paler by the minute. I got off that couch and set out to build a life.

I knew that I could stay in that space forever, but I was losing the opportunity of a lifetime in the process. This military life is beautiful – but it’s up to you to embrace it.

Fast forward to 2020 and I couldn’t imagine having any other life. MilSpouse life is my jam! I look forward to every PCS and see it as an adventure just waiting for me to dive into. Each new state is a new home filled with new foods to taste, cities to explore, and above all — friendships that await. Once you get off that couch and commit to building a life as a military spouse, the absolute best part of military life is waiting for you. Your future MilSpouse bestie is out there!

As military spouses, we are so lucky. We get to surround ourselves with people that we immediately have a connection with. A community that gets every annoying, frustrating and beautiful part of military life. You don’t have to say a word and these military spouse brothers and sisters see you and completely get it. There’s no fumbling about the weather or times of awkward silences – you are instantly in a circle that’s welcoming you with open arms.

So, what are you waiting for?

Here are my top seven reasons why you need to get up off your couch, change out of those sweat pants, and find your MilSpouse bestie:

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?

1. They know the best hair stylist or barber

This information has been handed down like the holy grail to them and they are just waiting to share that beautiful treasure with you.

2. Got a nightmare PCS story to share? Pull up a chair. 

Your future BFF wants to hear all about it and compare notes with theirs.

3. They’ve already scoped out all of the medical doctors, dentists, and specialists

Making decisions on your healthcare is exhausting and nerve-racking. They’ll be there to help you with the feedback you need to make your choices more securely.

4. Deployment sucks

They’ll let you cry on their couch, vent out your anger or hibernate alone for a few days. At the exact time you need them to, they’ll drag you on some adventure that’ll make those deployment days fly by. Your MilSpouse bestie will save you – I know, mine saved me.

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?

5. Your holidays will be merry and bright

The military spouse community will fill your holidays with so much joy and laughter that you’ll be okay FaceTiming your family when you can’t go home. Friendsgiving all day every day.

6. They’ll carry you through the hard times

Whether it’s deployment, missing your family, or an unspeakable tragedy, they’ll carry you through loss that feels unbearable. I’ve held my friends through the broken space of experiencing a miscarriage, and when I went through my own years later, their strength kept me from drowning in grief. They’ve got you.

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?

7. Mission first? No problem

The needs of the service will always come first. The needs of the Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and Air Force will always come above your birthday, anniversary, or planned dates. Know it, embrace it, and have a plan B.

Your spouse is working late and missing the delicious dinner you made? No problem, call your bestie to come over and eat with you. Date canceled because of a last-minute training exercise? Totally okay because now you can go see that RomCom with your friends instead. I absolutely treasure my time with MilSpouse besties – because at this point, they are spread all over the country.

I have friends that I can call anytime, anywhere, and know that they’ll be there. It’s a beautiful life and one I choose to make wherever we are. Even with all of the hard pages of my MilSpouse story, thanks to my besties, I would go back and do it all over again.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 unexpected downsides to deploying to a combat zone

Deploying is just one of those things every troop knows will happen eventually. There are two ways troops look at this: Either they’re gung-ho about getting into what they’ve been training to do for years or they’re scared that they’ll have to do what they’ve been training years to do for years. No judgement either way, but it’s bound to happen.

The truth is, combat only makes up a fraction of a fraction of what troops do while deployed. There are some troops who take on an unequal share of that burden when compared to the next, but everyone shares some of the same downsides of deployment.

Today’s troops have it nicer than those that came before them and some units may inherently have an easier time of things. Still, everyone has to deal with the same smell of the “open air sanitation pits” that are lovingly called “sh*t ponds.”


Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?

Yep. And the VA is still debating whether this is unhealthy or not.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Erick Studenicka)

Sanitation

Speaking of open pits of disposed human filth that are totally not going to cause health problems down the road, the rest of your deployment won’t be much cleaner.

Sand will get everywhere no matter how many times you sweep. Black mold will always creep into your living areas and cause everyone to go to sick call. That’s normal.

What’s not normal is the amount of lazy, disgusting Blue Falcons that decide that using Gatorade bottles as piss pots is more convenient than walking their ass to a proper latrine but get embarrassed by their disgusting lifestyle so they horde that sh*t under their bunk in some sick, twisted collection. True story.

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?

That is, if you can get to an uncrowded USO tent to actually talk to your folks back home.

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jonathan Carmichael)

OPSEC

Everyone knows they’re going to have to be away from their family, but no one really prepares you for the moments when you’re going to have to tell them you can’t talk a few days because something happened — “Comms Blackouts.” They’re totally normal and it freaks out everyone back home. it’s up to the troops to explain the situation without providing any info that would incur the wrath of the chain of command.

We’ve all heard the constant, nebulous threats. “The enemy is always listening!” “All it takes is one puzzle piece to lose the war!” Such concerns aren’t unfounded — and it leaves troops clammed up, essentially without anything interesting to talk about while deployed.

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?

I’m just saying, we’re doing you a favor by not saluting you where there could be snipers…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alejandro Pena)

Other units’ officers

Every unit falls under the same overarching rules as set forth by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So, if someone’s doing something that breaks said code, any troop can (and should) step in to defuse the situation. That being said, every unit functions on their own SOPs while downrange and there’s always going to be a smart-ass butterbar who raises hell about not being saluted in a combat zone.

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?

Don’t worry, though. This guy will probably have a a “totally legitimate” copy of all the seasons of ‘Game of Thrones’ on DVD.

(Official Marine Corps Photo by Eric S. Wilterdink)

Everything you’re going to miss out on

Being deployed is kind of like being put in a time capsule when it comes to pop culture. Any movie or television show that you would normally be catching the night of the release is going to end up on a long checklist of things to catch up on later.

To make matters worse, troops today still have an internet connection — just not a very good one. So, if some big thing happened on that show you watch, it’s going to get spoiled eventually because people assume that, after a few weeks, it’s all fair game to discuss. Meanwhile, you’re still 36 weeks away from seeing it yourself.

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?

You’d think this isn’t comfy. But it is.

(U.S. Army)

Sleep (or lack thereof)

Some doctors say that seven to nine hours of sleep are required for the human body to function. You will soon laugh in the face of said doctors. You’ll be at your physical peak and do just fine on five hours of constantly interrupted sleep.

War is very loud and missions occur at all hours of the day. What this means is just as soon as you get tucked in for the night, you’re going to hear a chopper buzz your tent while a barely-working generator keeps turning over which is then drowned out by the sounds of artillery going off. Needless to say, when the eventual IDF siren goes off, you’ll legitimately debate whether you should get out of bed or sleep through it.

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?

Ever wonder why so many troops make stupid films while in the sandbox? Because we’re bored out of our freakin’ minds!

Boredom

The fact that you’re actually working 12-hour days won’t bother you. The fact that you’re going to get an average of five hours of sleep won’t bother you. Those remaining seven hours of your day are what will drive you insane.

You could go to the gym and get to looking good for your eventual return stateside. You could pick up a hobby, like learning to play the guitar, but you’d only be kidding yourself. 75 percent of your time will be spent in the smoke pit (regardless if you smoke or not) and the other trying to watch whatever show is on at the DFAC.

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?

“Oh, look! It seems like everyone came back from deployment!”

(U.S. Army)

All that money (and nothing to spend it on)

Think of that episode of The Twilight Zone where the world’s end comes and that one dude just wants to read his books. He finally finds a library but — plot twist — he breaks his glasses and learns that life is unfair. That’s basically how it feels when troops finally get deployment money. It’ll be a lot more than usual, since combat pay and all those other incentives are awesome, but it’s not like you can really spend any of it while in Afghanistan.

If you’re married, that money you’re be making is going to be used to take care of your family. Single troops will just keep seeing their bank accounts rise until they blow it all in one weekend upon returning.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

US taxpayers have reportedly paid an average of $8,000 each and over $2 trillion total for the Iraq war alone

The human costs of war are huge and crippling. The financial costs can be, too.


According to a new estimate by the Costs of War co-director Neta Crawford, US taxpayers have paid nearly $2 trillion in war-related costs on the Iraq war alone.

Newsweek estimated that the total for the Iraq War comes out to an average of roughly $8,000 per taxpayer. The figure far exceeds the Pentagon’s estimate that Americans paid an average of $3,907 each for Iraq and Syria to date. And in March 2019, the Department of Defense estimated that the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria combined have cost each US taxpayer around $7,623 on average.

The Costs of War Project through Brown University conducts research on the human, economic, and political costs of the post-9/11 wars waged by the US. Stephanie Savell, a co-director of the Cost of Wars Projects, told Insider it’s important for Americans to understand exactly what their taxes are paying for when it comes to war-related expenses.

“As Americans debate the merits of U.S. military presence in Iraq and elsewhere in the name of the U.S. war on terrorism, it’s essential to understand that war costs go far beyond what the DOD has appropriated in Overseas Contingency Operations and reach across many parts of the federal budget,” Savell said.

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?
Iraqi Freedom

Breaking down the financial costs of the Iraq War

The Pentagon had been allotted approximately 8 billion in “emergency” and “overseas contingency operation” for military operations in Iraq from the fiscal year 2003 to 2019, including operations fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria. However, Savell says the actual costs of the war often exceed that of the Congress-approved budgets.

“When you’re accounting for the cost of war, you can’t only account what the DOD has spent on overseas contingency funds,” Savell told Insider. “You have to look at the other sets of costs including interest on borrowed funds, increased war-related spending, higher pay to retain soldiers, medical and disability care on post-9-11 and war veterans, and more.”

According to their estimates, the cost of the Iraq War to date would be id=”listicle-2645054426″,922 billion in current dollars — this figure includes funding appropriated by the Pentagon explicitly for the war, spending on the country by the State Department, the care of Iraq War veterans and interests on debt incurred for the 16 years of the US military’s involvement in the country.

Crawford says that war-related spending in Iraq has blown past its budget in the 16 years military forces have been in the country, estimating a nearly 2 billion surplus in Iraq alone.

The increases to the Congressionally approved budgets were used to heighten security at bases, for enlistment and reenlistment bonuses, to increase pay to retain personnel, and for the healthcare costs of servicemembers.

Aside from the Defense Department costs, the State Department added approximately billion to the total costs of the Iraq War for USAID on Iraq and Syria. Meanwhile, 9 billion has been spent on Iraq war veterans receiving medical care, disability, and other compensation.

The US has gone deep into debt to pay for the war. That means it has interest payments.

As expected, that taxpayer dollars are going towards war-related expenses including operations, equipment, and personnel. But a surprising amount of the costs are to pay off the interest on the debt the US has accrued since going to war.

“People also need to know that these wars have been put on a credit card, so we will be paying trillions on war borrowing in interest alone over the next several decades,” Avell told Insider.

Since the US launched its “Global War on Terror” in Iraq and Afghanistan — and later Yemen, Pakistan, and other areas — the US government has completely financed its war efforts borrowing funds. A Cost of War Projects report estimated the US government debts from all post-9/11 war efforts “resulted in cumulative interest payments of 5 billion” on a trillion debt.

The financing method departs from previous international conflicts, where the federal government either raised taxes or issued war bonds to finance war-related expenses. According to Boston University political scientist Rosella Cappella-Zielinski, tax payments accounted for 30% of the cost of World War I and almost 50% of the cost of World War II.

Borrowing from both domestic and foreign sources, Crawford estimates the US has incurred 4 billion in interest on borrowing to pay for Pentagon and State Department spending in Iraq alone.

While the money spent on the Iraq War may seem staggering, the Costs of War estimates the US has spent over .4 trillion total on all of its “War on Terror” efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the related violence in Pakistan and Syria.

Defense Department spokesperson Christopher Sherwood told Insider that the Defense Department dedicates id=”listicle-2645054426″.575 trillion for war-related costs, with an average of spending .2 billion per month on all operations for the fiscal year 2019.

Sherwood said that the department’s costs go towards war-related operational costs, such as trainings and communications, support for deployed troops, including food and medical services, and transportation of personnel and equipment.

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?
Press conference in Al Fadhel

upload.wikimedia.org

The human costs of the Iraq War are even harder to track

The US invaded Iraq in 2003 on the belief that Saddam Hussein had, or was attempting to make, “weapons of mass destruction” and that Iraq’s government had connections to various terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda. Although the invasion initially had overwhelming support from the American public and the approval of Congress, it is now considered one of the greatest foreign policy blunders in US history.

189,000 soldiers were killed in direct war deaths and 32,223 injured, Cost of War estimated. Meanwhile, the deaths of hundreds of thousands of service members due to war-related hardships remain difficult to track.

The Costs of War Project believes calculating the total costs of war — economic, political, and human — is important to ensure that Americans can make educated choices about war-related policies.

“War is expensive — in terms of lives lost, physical damage to people and property, mental trauma to soldiers and war-zone inhabitants, and in terms of money,” Cost of War researcher Heidi Peltier wrote.

In 2016 and leading up to 2020, President Donald Trump has campaigned on a promise of pulling American troops out and ending “these ridiculous wars” in the Middle East. However, Trump deployed more troops to the country after an attack on the US embassy in Iraq.

The Pentagon originally requested less than billion of that amount for Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria — however, the Crawford believes that budget may be blown after more troops were sent into a war zone that was meant to be winding down.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

4 benefits of being a military brat

In most cases, the term “brat” is one of a put-down. But when it comes to military affiliation, it’s almost a term of endearment. Possibly an acronym dating back hundreds of years — short for British Regiment Attached Traveler — it’s a word that refers to military children and all that comes with it: frequent moves and a military lifestyle for much, if not all, of their childhood years.


Being a brat is often a badge of honor. Here are four benefits of growing up on the move:

Military kids are great with change

Moving? Making new friends? Adapting to a new climate and culture? Military kids can do it all. They might not like it, but they’re more than equipped to do so. Brats know how to settle in somewhere new, and how to ultimately fit in.

Kids (even adults) who have remained in one place their entire lives are lacking in these areas. Whether or not brats realize it at the time, frequent moves are creating important life skills in confidence, adaptability, social abilities, and more.

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?

Military brats are more open-minded

If you’ve never lived anywhere new, it’s hard to understand how others think, let alone put yourself in someone else’s shoes. But when you’ve lived in different states, possibly even different countries, all before adulthood, that closed-mindedness simply doesn’t exist.

Because they grew up hearing different thoughts, trying new foods, and meeting new folks, military brats automatically learn to be more well-rounded individuals.

They don’t focus on “stuff”

Every decluttering program can rejoice in the lack of things that come from military moves. If you don’t need it, it’s got to go! This is a great way for kids to avoid becoming materialistic and instead, to focus on what’s important in life. With less focus on “stuff,” it frees up time to look at other things — activities, people, quality time with family, and more.

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?

Brats are better communicators

Being a military brat means talking with grandma and grandpa through FaceTime. It means writing letters or sending gifts in the mail. It means learning how to talk with others from a distance. While it’s not ideal having family that’s so far away, one perk is that it teaches young kids to hold conversations and how to stay in touch, even from a young age.

Military brats can benefit from a lifestyle that keeps them moving. What’s the biggest benefit you’ve seen as a family?

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