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. 

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Introducing a bug-out bag that is crazy impressive

‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.


For the civvy you’d really like to survive the next earthquake:

~the only bug out bag to survive ABC’s Shark Tank~

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?
The Seventy2, by the savvy survivalists of Uncharted Supply Co.

Uncharted Supply Co. is the only non-veteran-owned company we’re featuring in the Mighty Holiday Gift Guide. Founder Christian Schauf will be the first to tell you that his credentials, while prodigious, do not extend to military service. However, that doesn’t mean he lacks firsthand experience in combat zones.

As frontman of the band Catchpenny, named by the Pentagon the “Armed Forces Entertainers of the Year” in 2008, Shauf made 38 separate trips to Iraq, performing 150 shows for servicemen and women stationed all over the Middle East.

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?
Spc. Stephen L. Bray, administrator with the 248th Area Support Medical Company out of Marietta, Ga, and Catchpenny lead singer, Christian Schauf, rock out at Joint Base Balad, Iraq (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

He even engineered a touring kit compact enough to fit in a Black Hawk so Catchpenny could get out to remote bases to perform for the most isolated operators. Through 7 years of non-stop Armed Forces entertainment, Schauf and his bandmates encountered sniper fire, sand storms, mortar attacks, brutal temperatures, and gnarly pit latrines. And they kept going back for more.

According to Shauf, the experience of retooling his touring kit to suit a changing mission influenced the thinking behind his current offering, the Seventy2, a go bag designed to help you (f)ace the crucial first 72 hours of a mass emergency.

Veterans understand the importance of preparedness. They know what belongs in a good go bag. Most civilians have no idea (ie: this dum dum). The Seventy2 was meticulously curated for the trained and untrained alike.

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?

Each tool has multiple uses. Crucial system components, like light sources, cutting edges, and firestarters have secondary backups. Detailed instructions cover the bag’s tactical insert. Hobbyist toys, like blow darts and night vision goggles, are conspicuously absent.

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?
Just the right tools for the mission.

What remains is a concise answer to the question “How do I ensure the safety of my loved ones in case of a civil emergency?”

The Seventy2 is a gift bearing an old-school American message:

“Be prepared.”

The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.

Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?

MIGHTY CULTURE

You love watching military reunions. We wish you could see the goodbyes.

On Tuesday night, the nation watched as President Trump praised a military spouse for her sacrifices and efforts, and then surprised her and her children. “I am thrilled to inform you that your husband is back from deployment. He is here with us tonight and we couldn’t keep him waiting any longer!” The woman looked genuinely surprised.

She gathered her two young children close and they watched as her husband, handsome in his dress uniform, walked down the stairs toward them, as members of Congress and millions of television viewers cheered.

But some of us in military families saw something different.


As pleased as we were for that family, and we were very pleased, we were also cringing. We knew more, much more, was happening under the surface, and would be happening for many days to come. I’ve been married to a soldier for 17 years, and he has deployed nearly every year of our marriage. I know this subject well.

Some of us call these public homecomings “reunion porn” because they’re shared for the entertainment of the spectators, not for the health of the family. Surprise public reunions are such a part of our culture now, after 18 years of war have overlapped with 15 years of YouTube, that in the later weeks of a deployment, well-meaning friends and family members will start asking us what our plans are for the reunion. They look on expectantly, hoping for details of jumbotrons — like we’re supposed to be organizing a flash mob on top of taking care of absolutely everything else. For them, these are grand milestones that should be celebrated en masse, like over-the-top engagements and increasingly complex gender reveals.

But a deployment reunion does not have the unfettered joy of an engagement or a birth announcement. It’s a complicated stew. There is joy, undoubtedly, but there is also trauma. There is survivor’s guilt, and resentment, and weeks of awful reintegration that loom, in sleepless nights after endless fights. On some level, I wish that every reunion video was paired with a deployment video, bookends of the war experience, and that you didn’t get to celebrate the hello until you had agonized through the goodbye. I wish people saw that many months before that child was surprised by a smiling, uniformed parent in an elementary school classroom, he had to be peeled and pulled off that deploying soldier by the parent who was staying home. I wish people saw that service member gulp, blink back tears, and force him or herself to turn and walk away. Not out of indifference or cruelty, but out of duty.

I wish people could hear the screams – the actual screams – military teens and tweens make when they are told their parent is deploying. Again. I wish the cheering crowds knew what it feels like to give birth alone, in a town where you know no one, and to take that baby back to an empty home without a clue of what to do, but having to do it anyway.

I wish they knew what it feels like for a service member to meet his own child on Skype, and not get to hold her in his arms until the baby is already crawling. Or to not be at the bedside when their child goes into surgery. Or to miss a graduation, and every game, recital and play.

I wish they saw me, sitting in a patio chair in the July heat, trying to hear my husband over a spotty satellite phone connection, with gunshots and mortar rounds perforating the conversation. Then hanging up and putting on a brave face to go back inside the house, because it was time to give my dad more pain medicine so that he wouldn’t feel the cancer that killed him.

I wish they heard the three volleys. I wish they watched the flag being crisply folded. I wish they hugged strangers at military funerals because it was obvious those strangers needed hugs. I wish they pushed the wheelchairs and suffered through the night terrors and witnessed the humiliation of a brain-injured warrior trying to remember his own address.

But, of course, I don’t actually wish everyone could see all of these raw moments. No one should have the worst days of their lives televised. I suppose what I really wish is that the same good-hearted, well-intentioned people who are sincerely happy to see our military families reunited would pay more attention to the war. I wish they knew where our service members were deploying to, and why.

I wish they knew our lives, even when the scenes aren’t pretty or heartwarming, so it wouldn’t feel like we were carrying these burdens alone.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Operation Safety Net locates 25 more missing children; Operation Moving Target arrests 27 suspects

Operation Safety Net, the US Marshals Service-led child trafficking task force in Ohio, has located 25 missing children as of Saturday, according to a US Marshals press release. In addition, Operation Moving Target, led by the Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force, concluded on Thursday with 27 online predators arrested for cybercrimes and attempted sexual conduct with children.

“Sometimes the situations they — they go to, believe it or not, may be better than the situations they left from,” US Marshal Pete Elliott told WOIO-TV. “We’re trying to do our part. A number of these children have gone to the hospital after we’ve recovered them to get checked out, so again this is something we take very seriously.”


Operation Safety Net focuses on Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, and the surrounding area to locate missing and endangered children. The operation’s reach has extended into the northern portion of the state with help from the Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force. According to the US Marshals press release, “Children have been recovered in Cleveland, East Cleveland, Akron, Mansfield, Euclid, Willoughby and as far away as Miami.” Even though the operation started in Ohio, leads developed in the state have led to locating missing children outside of Ohio.

U.S. Marshals launch initiative aimed at finding endangered, missing children

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The US Marshals have been working with Cleveland, East Cleveland, and Newburgh Heights police departments for the past 20 days to locate missing children, ages ranging from 13 to 18 years old. One in every four cases resolved by the task force are related to human trafficking or prostitution.

While Operation Safety Net is still underway, Operation Moving Target was started by the Ohio ICAC on Aug. 24 and concluded on Aug. 27. The Ohio ICAC is a federal anticrime task force funded by the US Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The operation was short in duration but concluded with the arrest of 27 suspects.

For Operation Moving Target, undercover law enforcement officers posed as children online to lure sexual predators. During conversations via various social media platforms, the suspects requested meeting times and locations for sexual activity, and some even sent photos of their genitalia to the purported children. Many of the suspects had firearms, condoms, personal lubricant, sex toys, and drugs in their possession at the time of arrest.

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?

Georgia’s Operation Not Forgotten, in action above, is comparable to Ohio’s Operation Safety Net. Photo courtesy of Shane T. McCoy/US Marshals Service.

When the suspects arrived at the meeting place, law enforcement arrested them for crimes including attempted unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, disseminating matter harmful to juveniles, importuning, and possessing criminal tools. The suspects were transported to Cuyahoga County Jail, and each case will be viewed by a Cuyahoga County grand jury.

“As we have seen the number of Cybertips dramatically increase this year, it is clear that online predators remain a serious threat to our children,” said prosecutor Michael C. O’Malley in a Cuyahoga County Office of the Prosecutor press release. “Hopefully the success of yet another operation serves as a stern warning to offenders that you will be found, you will be arrested, and you will be prosecuted.”

Federal, state, and local law enforcement have been pursuing missing children and their predators for years. The US Marshals partnered with the National Center for Missing and Endangered Children in 2005. Since this partnership began, the US Marshals Service has assisted in recovering more than 1,800 missing children, according to a US Marshals press release. In 2015, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act was approved, granting the US Marshals enhanced authority.

This legislation enabled the creation of the US Marshals Service Missing Child Unit, which has been setting up joint task forces to carry out operations across the country, including Ohio’s Operation Safety Net and Georgia’s Operation Not Forgotten, which located 39 missing children in a matter of weeks.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Virtual museum tours help you get out of your house when you’re forced to stay inside

With museums and galleries around the world shuttered, it might feel like there’s no way to explore the world. For the military community, this Inside Time can feel even more cloistered, since we can’t get out and explore new areas. Now, thanks to tech, closed doors don’t mean you can’t get your culture fix.

Access the most renowned museums, all from the comfort and safety of your own home.

Digital archives are available for everything from top-notch spots like the Louvre to lesser-known museums, tourist attractions and even graffiti tours. When you’re ready to get outside but can’t leave your house, check out this list.


Start here

If you’re not sure where to start your digital tours, the most comprehensive resource is Google Arts Culture. With access to art in over 2500 museums, GAC offers the chance to “stroll” through museums and gather your thoughts, explore inspiration or just marvel at how painters and sculptors do what they do.

GAC also offers a comprehensive list of tours to the world’s most famous museums, like Florence’s Uffizi Gallery and the Tate Modern in London. If you have a specific museum in mind, you can search for it at the GAC. Or, let the curators lead you on a tour of exciting exhibits, like this one that gives you access to six street-level installations that are no longer open to the public.

Global Tours

Mumbai’s City Museum is the oldest museum in Mumbai. It was initially established as a “treasure house’ for decorative arts. Its current exhibits feature a gallery that explores oppression, freedom, and justice.

The Pergamon Museum in Berlin is one of Germany’s largest museums and is the home to the Greek Pergamon Altar and the Ishtar Gate of Babylon. Online offerings include exploring the Eighth Wonder of the World and a short historical tour of Pergamon.

Contemporary and modern art lovers will enjoy exploring the myriad galleries at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul. Its doors opened in 1969 and have been witness to the blossoming art modern art scene in the region.

Closer to Home

Ever wonder what Americans were wearing in 1790? Now you can take a look, thanks to the digital tours offered at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. The museum also boasts an impressive collection of Vermeer paintings and is home to over forty thousand items, all available for browsing from your screen.

Located inside a park, the Cincinnati Art Museum has a diverse collection of works that span six thousand years. One of the most popular online exhibitions features the myths and heroes of popular legends.

For folks who can’t process any new info but still want to feel like they’re a part of humanity, 24-hour live feeds of highly-popular areas might offer a little sense of normalcy. Check-in on Times Square, take a look at the Eiffel Tower or watch ships navigate the Panama Canal. If you’re into something more celestial, NASA offers a 24-hour live stream from space.

In the time of social distancing, as we’re confined to our homes, we have to explore new ways of expanding our horizons. For families that have made the shift to homeschooling, virtual museum tours can offer you a chance to give your kids access to new words that aren’t available right now.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

As U.S. moves to exit Afghanistan, rivals prepare to swoop in

The U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 was backed by most countries in the region, who shared the goal of ousting the extremist Taliban regime and eliminating the allied Al-Qaeda terrorist network.

The governments in Tehran, Moscow, and Islamabad readily helped the United States fight the extremist groups.


Iran provided crucial intelligence to support U.S. special forces and CIA teams orchestrating the invasion.

Russia supplied Soviet-era maps and intelligence and later allowed the U.S. military to send supplies to Afghanistan through its territory.

Even Pakistan, the chief backer of the Taliban, offered its assistance in helping hunt down Al-Qaeda militants and became the main supply line for NATO forces.

But in the intervening 19 years, the regional consensus favoring the U.S. troops in Afghanistan has eroded.

Though the U.S. military swiftly overthrew the Taliban and eliminated Al-Qaeda safe havens in Afghanistan, many feel it got bogged down in mission creep.

Meanwhile, Washington’s ties with many regional players — including Pakistan, Iran, and Russia — became toxic.

With U.S. forces scheduled to exit Afghanistan next year as part of a framework peace deal with the Taliban, Washington’s rivals see an opportunity to step in and expand their footprint in the war-torn country.

Those efforts have intensified since the United States and the Taliban signed a deal in February aimed at negotiating an end to the war, which began way back in 2001.

Under that agreement, U.S. forces will withdraw from Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which has pledged to negotiate a permanent cease-fire and power-sharing deal with the Kabul government.

The delayed intra-Afghan peace talks are expected to be complex and protracted, and will likely take years.

Impatient to end the costly and unpopular war, President Donald Trump is considering fast-tracking the exit of American troops ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November, according to U.S. media reports.

Experts say that in the absence of a peace deal, a U.S. military withdrawal could ignite a free-for-all that involves regional powers pursuing often competing interests in Afghanistan.

“The stage has already been set, with many key actors — including Russia and Iran — increasing their ties with both the Afghan state and the Taliban,” says Michael Kugelman, South Asia senior associate at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.

“The objective is to develop more influence and generate more leverage with key actors across the board, so that they will be in a better position to pursue and achieve their goals in a post-America Afghanistan — a place we can expect to be increasingly unstable and complex.”

Iran, Pakistan, and Russia — with long histories of meddling in the country — are hedging their bets. The three countries have sought to improve their relations with the Western-backed government in Kabul, while also reaching out to the Taliban in case it gains a role in a future Afghan government.

Islamabad has retained its long-standing ties with the Taliban and shelters the group’s leadership, while Tehran and Moscow have been tacitly working to bolster their ties with the militants, with the goal of expanding their own strategic interests in Afghanistan.

‘Make The Taliban Even Stronger’

Pakistan has long been accused of playing a double game in Afghanistan, sheltering and aiding the Taliban while receiving billions in U.S. aid to clamp down on the militants.

Pakistan’s ties to the Taliban date back to the 1990s, when it provided arms, training, and intelligence to the militants. Islamabad was one of only three countries to recognize the Taliban government when it took power in Afghanistan in 1996. After the regime’s fall in 2001, many Taliban leaders took shelter inside Pakistan.

Observers say Pakistan sees the Taliban as an insurance policy for reaching its long-standing strategic goals in Afghanistan — installing a pro-Pakistan government in Kabul and limiting the influence of its archrival India, which has close ties to Kabul.

Experts say Pakistan stands to be the biggest beneficiary of a U.S. military pullout from Afghanistan.

“If a withdrawal leads to a peace process that results in a settlement, then Pakistan would benefit as this would likely entail the Taliban holding a fair share of power,” says Kugelman. “If the peace process collapses and the U.S. withdrawal ushers in a period of extended destabilization, Pakistan would still benefit because it would make the Taliban even stronger.”

‘Buffer Zone’

Iran has supported its traditional allies in Afghanistan — the Shi’ite Hazara minority and the Persian-speaking ethnic Tajiks — while recently establishing contacts with the Taliban, a predominately Pashtun group.

Iran and the Taliban were on the verge of war in 1998 — when the group controlled most of Afghanistan — after the deaths of eight Iranian diplomats in the Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif.

Tehran backed the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance before the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. But in recent years the Islamic republic and the Taliban have forged closer ties, with militant leaders even visiting Tehran.

The relationship between Shi’ite-majority Iran and the Taliban, a fundamentalist Sunni group, is complex. Iran officially opposes the Taliban, but experts say it provides some military support to the mainstream Taliban and even rival breakaway factions.

Analysts say that while Iran does not want the Taliban to return to power, Tehran is looking to maintain influence with the group as a hedge in case the Taliban becomes a political player in Afghanistan or it forcibly seizes control of the country.

“These initiatives serve the purpose of securing Iran’s sphere of influence in Afghanistan and perhaps even creating a buffer zone on Afghan soil to protect parts of Iran’s eastern borders from infiltration by forces hostile to Iran,” says Ali Alfoneh, a senior fellow at The Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.

‘A Great Power’

For more than a decade after the U.S.-led invasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin praised Washington for taking on the “burden” of fighting terrorism in Afghanistan and urged it to “carry it to the end.”

But since 2014, the Kremlin has attempted to undermine the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, fueled by Moscow’s desire to be an international power broker and its rivalry with the West in Ukraine and Syria, where Russia joined Iran in supporting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Moscow said it has established contacts with the Taliban in recent years because of the common threat posed by the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Afghanistan. Washington has accused Russia of arming the Taliban, which it denies.

In the past two years, Moscow has hosted two international conferences on the Afghan peace process, inviting Taliban leaders and Afghan opposition members.

Earlier this month, U.S. media reported that a Russian military intelligence unit had offered secret bounties to the Taliban if they killed U.S. or NATO-member troops in Afghanistan.

Moscow and the Taliban have denied the reports, which are based on U.S. intelligence assessments. But the revelations have served to highlight Moscow’s murky dealings in Afghanistan.

“Russia’s interests in Afghanistan are twofold: to avoid an explosion of chaos on the borders of what it considers its sphere of influence, and to use it as an opportunity to demonstrate and assert its claim to be a great power,” says Mark Galeotti, a Russia analyst and a senior associate fellow at the British-based Royal United Services Institute.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Coastie serves as liaison for Combined Maritime Forces in Bahrain

An enlisted leader is proving the Coast Guard’s reach extends far beyond America’s coastlines.

Bahrain is the epicenter of the Combined Maritime Forces — a partnership comprised of 33 different nations dedicated to combating terrorism and piracy, while promoting maritime safety. Command Master Chief Lucas Pullen, the first Coast Guard member to hold a senior enlisted leadership role for a coalition force, serves as its liaison. The decision to put him in that position instead of a sailor was done purposefully, he says.


Since the CMF operates as a part of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, a coastie brings objectivity, Pullen explained. In the midst of extensive Navy operations, him being in the Coast Guard more clearly defines his position and role.

“With this there are no blurred lines on who does what, I am able to specifically make sure things are working for the coalition side of things,” Pullen said.

The Oklahoma-native enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1998 to become a Boatswain’s Mate, a rating that is the operational core of almost every mission. After completing basic training, he was assigned to Small Boat Station South Padre Island, Texas, according to his official biography. As an operator, he gained experience “in maritime law enforcement to include fisheries, counter-narcotics, and counter-migrant operations, as well as search and rescue, and maritime security operations.”

Pullen’s extensive 22-year Coast Guard career prepared him for his new role as the senior enlisted leader of the CMF. He now works directly with senior military leaders from the multi-national partnership to promote security and stability across 3.2 million square miles of international waters.

“As a command master chief, one of my main jobs is the people and their families,” he said.

Working directly with members of the coalition has been an incredible experience, Pullen added. He described a typical day as starting with sharing Arabic coffee with a Kuwaiti leader and ending with tea and scones with the British. He loves the diversity and continuous ability to learn from the other nations’ military leaders, he said, also expressing his position in Bahrain will serve him well for further Coast Guard positions, although none will probably be as unique and involved.

Prior to Bahrain, the Pullen family was stationed in Guam — a duty station the kids did not want to leave. Marcy Pullen, who has moved 10 times with her husband, didn’t initially think she and the couple’s children would be eligible to PCS to Bahrain. It is typically an unaccompanied tour but a waiver changed that.

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?

Photo courtesy of Candice Baker.

“I didn’t hesitate, I said let’s go,” she said.

Her husband praised his family’s resiliency and strength. Their oldest son, Tucker, is 17 and about to start college. If he attends the same college all four years, it’ll be the longest he’s ever lived anywhere.

Adjusting to life in Bahrain has included a unique set of experiences for the family, due to the political influence, culture, and customs. Seated to their left could be a fellow military kid while on their right, a Saudi Arabian royal.

Sixteen-year-old Cheyenne shared her struggle with not being able to just go explore or do things independently off base because it isn’t safe, especially for girls. Bahrain is a very conservative country where most women are either hidden or extensively covered when in public. But Levi, 13, also says there’s some good to being a military kid in Bahrain.

“I loved getting to do new things like learning how to play cricket with the Australian military kids. You get all of these amazing experiences that are out of the way and interesting,” he said.

All of the kids did agree on one thing: the food is amazing. One of their favorite things to eat is Baklava, a sweet dessert dish made with nuts and honey.

Pullen also credits the Coast Guard with preparing his family for such a unique assignment in the Middle East.

“Our quality of life thought process is very different from the other branches. I think we are very resilient as a service because we go into these remote locations without big military bases. We pick up all the military challenges without the resources there to support us,” he explained.

Marcy Pullen echoes his sentiment, reflecting on how hard it was as a new Coast Guard spouse and mom. She takes those lessons and experiences with her, using what she’s learned to help all military families who may be struggling to adjust to life in Bahrain.

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?

Lucas and Mary Pullen Photo courtesy of Candice Baker.

With one year left in Bahrain, travel remains high at the top of their bucket list — though COVID-19 and tensions overseas have heavily restricted movement. As the Pullen family reflected on their journey, they agreed each move has brought new lessons and memories. They eagerly anticipate their next Coast Guard adventure that can take them anywhere.

Visit https://www.cusnc.navy.mil/Combined-Maritime-Forces/ to learn more about Combined Maritime Forces.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army spouse dances her way through chemotherapy

It is not uncommon to stumble upon live videos while scrolling through Facebook. And for the hundreds of people who follow Army wife Sofia de Falco — who is an adjunct professor of Italian language and literature — it is not uncommon to come across her videos where she is smiling and dancing, uplifting them with a joyful and serene expression on her face. As the hundreds of comments on her posts highlight, Sofia is a source of inspiration and a true beacon of light to many.


But in those videos, Sofia is in a hospital room, wearing a shirt that lightly uncovers the right side of her chest, revealing the central venous catheter that feeds her chemotherapy medicine directly into her bloodstream.

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?

In February 2019, Sofia was diagnosed with lymphoma. “I found a lump in my groin,” Sofia said. “But I didn’t give it much thought because it wasn’t the first time. I always had them removed and nothing suspicious ever came of it.”

During her Christmas vacation in Naples, Italy — where she is originally from — Sofia developed a dry and irritating cough. “I decided to go to a local doctor and see if there was anything he could do.” After the doctor dismissed her because he couldn’t find anything wrong, Sofia made a follow-up appointment with her PCM in Virginia, where she and her family are stationed.

“As I was leaving my PCM’s office,” Sofia said, “I turned around and told him about the lump in my groin, which had grown in size by then.” The doctor had Sofia lie down, checked the lump and told her to see a hematologist and a surgeon. Although he didn’t explicitly verbalize it at the time, the doctor suspected Sofia had lymphoma.

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?

He was right. “Since February 2019, I have been going through countless tests and surgical procedures,” Sofia revealed. After being told the first round of chemotherapy — which she faced in “warrior mode,” she said — had worked and she was clear, in November 2019 Sofia’s positive attitude and bright outlook on life was put to the test again. “The cancer came back,” she said. “And this time, I have to fight even harder.” Sofia will have to undergo a stem cell transplant and several rounds of high-dose chemotherapy.

Yet, she dances. As if those tubes were not attached to her body. As if the machine next to her was not feeding her chemo medicine. As if she didn’t suffer from nausea and migraines. She dances as if she were by the beach in downtown Naples, with a bright sun glittering over the Mediterranean Sea in the background, its warm rays caressing her exposed skin.

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?

“I dance on it,” she said. “Dancing makes me happy, so I know it’s what I’m supposed to do. My body feels so much better after I get up and start dancing, just like one, two, three, four,” she said snapping her fingers as if following the rhythm of an imaginary song.

“Dancing is a way for me to keep away the pain, the sorrow and the negative thoughts,” she admitted. “I believe that it is possible to defeat this beast because I believe in the power of hope.”

And as her hundreds of followers are inspired by her inner strength that shines through her smile, and as the stunned nurses watch her from outside her hospital room while she dances through chemo, she laughs out loud confessing, “You know, I’m actually really bad at dancing!”

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

The hyperspeed of military spouse friendships

Part of the Air Force wife gig is making and losing friends constantly. It’s a revolving door of meeting people, forming fast friendships and saying goodbye. The whiplash pace of hails and farewells has conditioned me to act quickly in forging relationships, more easily done in Mil-world because of the high-pressure situations we find ourselves in together.


The average time spent at an Air Force assignment is two years and six months before PCSing (Permanent Change of Station) to the next. That’s 30 months to find a place to live, receive your household goods, pick up your vehicle from the nearest VPC (Vehicle Process Center), enroll your kids in a new school and get familiar with a new doctor before packing it all up and doing it again.

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?

(U.S. Army photo)

So there you are, standing on the steps of the Coffee, glass slipper in hand. Do you chase after a fast friendship or let her go? There’s only one answer for me.

“Hi, my name is Rachel. Let’s be friends.”

The great part of the military spouse culture is other wives get it. You show up, and you start getting invited to events. Two and a half years is already a short time to make a meaningful connection with someone, but odds are you don’t have that long. When you meet that special person you want to get drunk with at the Christmas party, either they are probably halfway through their assignment, or you are.

I went to a wedding at Shaw and hit it off with another pilot’s girlfriend who just moved there from out of state. She laughed at my jokes. I laughed at hers. We got our phones out to exchange numbers, but when we realized I was PCSing in under a month, we both just shrugged and put our phones away. The same thought went through our heads. “Damn. I liked her.”

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?

Heather Miner, president, Officers’ Spouses’ Club, left, speaks to a guest during the Havana Nights Gala Benefit Auction hosted by Smith’s Ranch in Twentynine Palms, Calif.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo/Preston L. Morris)

For the past eight or so years, moving around as an active duty Air Force spouse, I’ve been trained to nose out my new friend in a crowd then get to making her realize we are friends as quickly as possible. The downside of Hi-my-name-is-Rachel-let’s-be-friends is that I forget that it scares civilians. It’s just too aggressive. Time is a luxury I can’t afford, and I suspect most civilians don’t have that kind of pressure. I have to dial it down or else I come on too strong, which is very easy for me to do.

Where are you from? Did you like your high school? These questions are okay.

What illnesses run in your family? How often do you guys have sex? Did your episiotomy go all the way to your butthole? These questions are nooooot okay in the civilian world. Sure, they are a little wobbly in the military world too, but when you live overseas for a few years with roughly the same 100 people, things heat up quickly, especially when alcohol is involved. If I’m being honest, it’s more fun that way.

After a series of cringe-worthy fails, I’ve untrained myself from using Hi-my-name-is-Rachel-let’s-be-friends with civilians, even when I want to be friends with you now. Like, right now. But the truth is if in my heart I like you, I still don’t want to waste time. I’m ready for us to be friends. Let’s get to it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons military entrepreneurs make the best friends

Those who know the power of “who you know” are all in on the best-kept friendship secret- networking is everything. Connections are opportunities, and opportunities always come in handy. No one does friendship better than entrepreneurs, and no one knows the growing pains of fluctuating friendships better than the military community. Tough, tenacious, and driven, military entrepreneurs are friendship masters.


Adult friendships are difficult to forge, and even harder to sustain, because like everything in the real world, it takes work. Working on the relationships in your life with the same mindset as landing the next interview is exactly the tactics this community needs to forge together and keep connections strong.

Here are your top lessons to be learned and how to make friends like an entrepreneur.

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?

archive.defense.gov

They maintain their contacts

Entrepreneurs see the untapped potential in all of us. They weave a network consisting of both an inner and outer circle. The inner circle, where core friendships and frequent interactions occur is reserved for just a few. The outer circle, where acquaintances and underdeveloped relationships live, is far more alive than most of our own contact lists.

In business, it is abundantly clear when a line of contact dries up. Keeping the relationship open, with reciprocal attention makes the difference in using someone and tapping in. No matter what circle you’re in, you’re more likely to feel better maintained by an entrepreneur than anyone else.

 They get the ups and downs

Businesses all experience highs and lows, much like friendships. Entrepreneurial friends are more likely to understand the six-month gap since your last coffee together because they too have been busy hustling. No attachment issues here, only professionals who understand the dynamics of scheduling.

 They know the value of their, and your contributions

Relationships are all about give and take, yet the currency exchanged is not always equal. Becoming aware of the amount you’re giving to a person, versus the takeaway for personal gain is key. Mentoring a friend or soldier through processes or progressions they are facing is like investing stock into a growing company. When and if it’s needed, asking for a favor becomes much more comfortable than if no prior investment was made.

Are the feelings mutual to trade babysitting for a lesson on web design? Understanding how time, effort, and wisdom are valued makes it a whole lot easier to avoid running the friendship into the ground with frustration. Entrepreneurs are successful because they know how, when, and what to ask to succeed.

Is COVID-19 the slow death of MilSpouse clubs?

They lean on each other

It’s already been established that it is about who you know. One major plus within the military is how expansive each of our networks is. Chances are, your friends know all the best places, people, and things to do in the area. Leaning in can not only land you in the right mom group but into the good graces of the Major who heard nothing but great news about you.

They’re always learning

If you’ve ever attended a conference, where good conversation is the make or break entrance ticket into a potential business relationship, you get the value of learning something new. Gaining professional insight, perspective, or a sweet party trick to entertain all play a vital role in successfully adapting to new environments. The same goes for friendship, the more tricks, and skills you have, the more interesting you become. Having multidimensional, talented friends makes your world a brighter, more upbeat place. Tap your entrepreneurial friends, putting new skills into your back pocket.

Take the time to review your circles and relationships. Evaluate who within the deck seems to deploy these or other skillful tactics in and out of the office. Invest in what you have and seek out new contacts with an entrepreneurial mindset. Growing your military call deck into a strong and mighty networking force to be reckoned with is the definition of resilience.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet the moms overcoming challenges of breastfeeding in the military

Breastfeeding moms who also work face plenty of challenges, from a lack of dedicated pumping areas to unsupportive supervisors and colleagues. Things can be even tougher if your job is as a member of the armed forces, as Robyn Roche-Paull learned firsthand.

Per Romper, Roche-Paull was in the Navy when she had her baby in the 1990s, an era in which there were no breastfeeding policies, no deployment deferments, and just six weeks of maternity leave. When she returned to work, she had no time or place to pump, and she resorted to using dirty, chemical-filled supply closets that often didn’t lock.

A female supervisor even told here that she was “making all the women look bad with me asking for time to pump every three to four hours.” Yikes.


“There were no books on this subject, and no one to talk to about the questions and struggles I was facing,” she recalls, so when she left the Navy in 1997 she decided to fix that. She became a lactation consultant and created a Facebook group to collect stories from military moms that eventually became a book, Breastfeeding in Combat Boots.

“The page was way more successful than I ever dreamed, which in turn made me realize that I could have a website with all this information freely available to the public.”

The project morphed into a non-profit organization, also called Breastfeeding in Combat Boots, that provides resources to moms struggling to breastfeed while enlisted.

“Being successful with breastfeeding is a challenge. They have to overcome not only cultural issues, but finding time and place to pump, how to ship milk home from overseas, travel, deployments, and possibly exposure to hazardous materials, not to mention maintaining weight and physical fitness standards.”

And just as importantly, it’s a supportive community that can help moms realize that it is possible to balance the obligations of military service and motherhood, often through simply sharing photos of breastfeeding or pumping in uniform.

“These are moms who have decided that serving their country — a sacrifice in itself — is very important, but so is making sure that their babies receive their breast milk even if that means shipping their milk home from Afghanistan for six months,” Roche-Paull says.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Army Guard pilots get Distinguished Flying Cross for engaging Taliban at close range

Two North Carolina National Guard AH-64 Apache pilots received the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor last week for providing cover to Army special forces in a remote Afghanistan village in 2018.

Army Capt. Stephen Scott and Chief Warrant Officer 4 Eric Carver, both of the 1-130th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, received the medals for their support of the 7th Special Forces Group’s Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 7225 during Task Force Panther, according to a release.


In November 2018, troops from ODA 7225 were dropped off in a remote area of Afghanistan’s Uruzgan Province when they began taking heavy enemy fire, the release said. Scott and Carver, flying in an Apache, quickly identified enemy positions and “engaged them after permission was given,” it said.

One of the objectives during the night raid was to capture a senior Taliban Leader in Deh Rawud District, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brandon P. Faia, ground force commander for Special Forces ODA 7225, said in the release.

Acting as co-pilots and gunners, Scott and Carver were “repeatedly engaging a robust enemy force at … close range to friendly forces,” according to their award citations, obtained by The Fayetteville Observer.

Their steadfast reaction “resulted in a successful mission for ODA 7225 without injuries or loss of lives,” the release said.

Faia hailed their achievement, and said the two were consistently reliable in risky situations.

“Pilots and Green Berets have their own languages,” Faia said. “We could always count on Carver and Scott to chime in and say, ‘Oh yeah, the place you are going to is not safe, but you can count us in.'”

He added, “Immediately we became friends.”

Three months earlier that year, Taliban fighters launched an offensive assault in Ghazni province that spilled over into neighboring districts. Insurgent assaults continued weeks following, with many Afghans fleeing to southwest regions like Uruzgan and where Afghan forces faced off against Taliban fighters, according to the Washington Post.

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