NASA space camp goes virtual - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

NASA space camp goes virtual

It’s been more than 50 years since Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, taking those famous first steps. When Kennedy Space Center’s (KSC) Education Manager Dee Maynard envisions an astronaut walking on the planet Mars for the first time, she hopes that the first words spoken will be: “I took the first step of this journey at Camp KSC®!”  

“We hope that kids who enroll in camp want to pursue a career that’s going to be part of the space program,” Maynard said. The feedback staff receives is that the camps do just that. 

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, known worldwide as the epicenter of America’s space program, is located in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The center offers a variety of STEM educational initiatives, including field trips, educational programs, overnight adventures, and camps to inspire the next generation. 

NASA space camp goes virtual

In a typical year, KSC runs 10 camps and sees nearly 2,000 student-participants over the summer. Due to the pandemic, for the first time since the camp’s inception in 2003, in-person educational activities were halted. Rather than be deterred, Maynard and her team did what NASA does best. They improvised. 

As a result, two virtual experiences for kids ages 7 through 12, the three-day Virtual Camp KSC® and five-day Space After School, were born. 

Typically, NASA staff spend nine months crafting their in-person curriculum, which includes a heavy emphasis on tactile experiences and technology. Maynard says that there have been numerous challenges, including retooling the curriculum and deciding which materials would be both age-appropriate and practical for in-home use. 

A large part of in-person camp includes exploring the space center complex. In the virtual environment, the staff has made a point to host the sessions at a different location each day, including The Apollo/Saturn 5 Center, Space Shuttle Atlantis, and Planet Play, KSC’s newest facility, a high-tech indoor playground that explores deep space, to ensure that campers get the best experience possible.

“It’s still camp and we want them to learn but have fun in the process,” she said.

One of Maynard’s favorite experiments is called packing the payload bay. Campers use a toilet paper tube to make a model of a payload bay with doors that open and shut. For an engineering and design challenge, campers have to design a satellite that will fit in the bay, but when you deploy it, it is bigger than the bay. 

“As we are cutting up the toilet paper tube, we are doing math. We are doing fractions and, kids you didn’t even know it! They are just having fun,” she said. 

NASA space camp goes virtual
Dee Maynard, of Camp KSC, demonstrates an experiment as part of virtual camp.

Plans are underway for in-person camp this summer but, according to Maynard, the virtual camp is here to stay. Families from all over the country, and even a few international locations, have been able to participate. 

“We have not had a camp yet where we didn’t have kids asking: ‘How do I become an astronaut?’ How do I become an engineer?’ That is our big thing, watching kids decide that this is worth pursuing. Because even if they decide that they don’t want to be an astronaut, they still have gotten involved in those STEM fields and gotten excited about it. 

“As a classroom teacher for many years, one of the things that I always heard was: ‘Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand.’ And that’s how we want to tell the NASA story. We want to involve them in the NASA story,” Maynard concluded. 


Our experience at virtual camp

As part of writing this story, my children and I were so excited about Virtual Camp KSC®  that we decided to try it out for ourselves. 

Process: 

We enrolled online and paid our fee of $65. The week before camp, a kit arrived containing camp supplies and our instruction manuals. Note: families with more than one child can purchase additional kits for $25. We received a Zoom link and instructions, including a list of household materials needed for each lesson. 

Activities:

Our sessions included: Launching and Landing, where we built and launched a tube rocket, a chemical rocket with a parachute, a foam glider, and a lunar lander; Exploring Deep Space, where we used chemistry and physics to build different models of the solar system; and Living and Working in Space, where we performed experiments to gain a better understanding of the challenges of living on another planet.

Highlights:

What can you build with a paper towel tube, cardboard, scissors, tape, rubber bands, and a yardstick? A NASA rocket that you can fly across your living room. I’d advise shooting it across your yard instead. 

My children particularly loved mixing vinegar and baking soda in a film canister and watching it explode. We were smart enough to follow instructions and do this experiment outside. Another favorite was crafting our own galaxy by mixing glue, water, and glitter. The three days flew by, and while I won’t be headed to space anytime soon, who knows, maybe one day my kids will. 

More information: 

To learn more about camps and education at Kennedy Space Center, visit https://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/camps-and-education

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

This 9-11 memorial hosts a unique survivor

On September 11, 2001, America was attacked. Thousands of innocent people lost their lives at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. From the ashes of that horrible day rose a wave of patriotism that unified a nation to say in one voice, “We will never forget.”


Across the country, and especially in the state of New York, monuments and memorials to the people we lost that September day stand in keeping that promise. Of course, the most prominent of these is the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in Manhattan which is located at the World Trade Center. The memorial fountains bear the names of the people that perished there nearly two decades ago and the museum houses incredible artifacts and stories collected from that day. However, remnants of that day can be found elsewhere too.

NASA space camp goes virtual

One of the reflecting pools (9/11 Memorial Museum)

Roughly 190 miles north of the World Trade Center lies the city of Saratoga Springs, NY. Just over 30 miles north of the state capital of Albany, Saratoga Springs is a hub for thoroughbred horse racing as the home to the Saratoga Race Course as well as the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. The city is also in close proximity to the Saratoga National Park which preserves the Revolutionary War site of the Battles of Saratoga. Nestled among some of the town’s famous natural mineral springs stands a sculpted metal structure paying tribute to the tragedies that took place on 9/11.

NASA space camp goes virtual

Tempered By Memory (Author)

Crafted from World Trade Center steel, Tempered By Memory serves as the focal point of the town’s 9/11 Memorial Monument. A plaque at the memorial explains to visitors that the Saratoga Springs community lost residents in the attack and how first responders, ironworkers, and humanitarians from the area assisted with response and recovery efforts in the aftermath. In 2002, Saratoga Springs residents and businesses created a respite program which granted retreats to 178 NYC firefighters, policemen, and their families.

In 2010, the Saratoga Arts Center Council, Saratoga Springs City Council, and the Saratoga Springs Naval Support Unit entered into a collaboration to bring steel artifacts from the World Trade Center to the community. After a year of work by local sculptors and a volunteer team of ironworkers, crane operators, and community-wide support, Tempered By Memory was completed in 2011. On the eleventh anniversary of the attack, the sculpture was donated by Saratoga Arts to the City of Saratoga Springs. Reinforced by the healing and restorative properties of the natural mineral springs that surround it, Tempered By Memory invites visitors to quietly reflect on the history of the site and transcend the tragedy.

However, if the sculpture brings more pain than healing and a visitor finds themself in need of further inspiration of hope, they need only look off to the side. Planted a few yards away from the center of the memorial is a rather unassuming tree. Compared to the large and lush trees in the park, this diminutive Callery Pear Tree appears to be out of place.

In fact, the tree is called the Survivor Tree and was grown from a seedling of the last standing Callery Pear Tree that once stood on the site of the original World Trade Center. The attack on 9/11 nearly destroyed the original tree which now stands at the 9/11 Memorial Museum. Since its return to the site in 2010, the original Survivor Tree has spawned seedlings which have been gifted to communities that have endured tragedy. In addition to Saratoga Springs, recipients of Survivor Tree seedlings include Las Vegas, Parkland, Boston, Manchester, and Paris. The trees serve as a reminder of hope, strength, and unity through adversity.

NASA space camp goes virtual

Saratoga Springs Survivor Tree (Author)

Though memorial events for the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attack will look different compared to previous years as a result of COVID, tributes like Tempered By Memory and Survivor Trees across the country and around the world stand as monuments to the memory of the people lost on that terrible day and the loved ones that they left behind.

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 ways to help your kids through deployment

Training away from home is part of the military way. Schools, deployments, overnight sessions — all of these and more are a regular occurrence for military members. And then, on the other side of things, are their families, left to hold down the fort at home.


Over time it’s a schedule that everyone becomes used to … that is, until young kids are involved. While older kids can certainly understand the logistics of a parent being away (even if they don’t like it), with toddlers or babies, it’s another story. They simply aren’t old enough to grasp what’s taking place. They cry, they act out, and they’re confused as to why mom or dad disappears for days, weeks, or even months at a time.

Teaching these training schedules to kids is certainly hard, but it’s also one that can leave them better emotionally equipped in years to come.

Talk about it

When parents are away at training, it’s ok to tell your kids — in fact, you should tell your kids that, “Daddy’s at work” or “Mommy had to go on a work trip.” These explanations might not make sense in the status quo, but they will teach them that sometimes parents are gone, but it’s nothing to worry about. We know they will come back, and in the meantime, it’s ok to miss them and talk about what they’re doing.

Adjust the conversation in a way that’s age-appropriate, so your kids can still remain informed without being confused or overwhelmed with military training schedules.

Keep it busy

When a parent is in the field, it’s a good time to bring out the fun distractions. Not only will this make it easier for the parent at home, but the kids will have an easier time with the transition. This is true for kids of all ages, not just the littles! Check out local family-friendly events. Get out the “messy” or “outside only” toys and share some new family fun. Make crafts, cook together, or try something new. It’ll give the kids something to talk about once the other parent comes home, and it will speed up everything else in the meantime.

Did we mention this helps the time go faster?

NASA space camp goes virtual

Learn about the process

What’s mom or dad off doing, anyway? Sounds like the perfect time for a lesson. Use this time to talk about what’s being accomplished during this time away. Talk about the history of the armed forces, look into camping gear to talk about field stays, and help your kids find your spouse’s location on a globe or map. When at a school, discuss new jobs and how the training will help mom or dad learn.

Sure, the kids might get bored (and probably will), but keeping this info handy will help them become smarter individuals.

Have them help

Technically, this takes place before your loved one ever leaves. Allow your kids to be involved in the getting-ready-to-leave process. Plan and wash laundry, fold clothes, get out the suitcase and start packing. Older kids can be in charge of a checklist and ensure everything has been added to the luggage.

No one likes training schedules or time away, but making your children a part of the process can ease their fears about mom or dad being away. Help your little ones add this coping mechanism to their toolbox of growing emotions.

When it’s time for travel or days away for your military member, don’t worry about the kids! They are smarter and more adaptable than we realize. Talking about what’s ahead and staying busy in the meantime will help the time pass in a way that’s healthy rather than taboo.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Military spouse led Instant Teams embarks on $1.5M investment partnership with Squadra Ventures

A military spouse owned business has big news this week with an impressive $1.5 million raise. Instant Teams is a remote workforce supplier and management business. It was founded in 2017 by two military spouses, CEO Liza Rodewald and COO Erica McMannes. Rodewald was a software developer for multimillion-dollar government contracts, and McMannes is experienced in building small teams for businesses. Together, they combined their skills and passion to create Instant Teams.


They created the company for the sole purpose of creating more employment opportunities for the untapped and underemployed military spouse community. A 2018 report from the White House found that 40% of military spouses held a degree, compared to only 29.7% of the civilian population. That same report showed that military spouses that were able to work – were underpaid compared to their civilian counterparts.

McMannes shared that they just knew that the market for military spouse employment was something that needed strong advocates.

When asked what sparked the creation of Instant Teams, McMannes laughed. She said that she and Rodewald had originally met in 2014 when they were both stationed in Virginia, but she never dreamed they would develop and create a business together. They had an idea, and one day after talking about the concept, they were all in. An idea borne out of passion to help military spouses has now grown 125% in size each year.

The need for more employment options for military spouses has been proven and is a current hot topic in the news and current legislation. A 2018 Blue Star Families survey found that 70% of Millennial military families reported needing two incomes to support their families. Frequent moves put the military spouse at a great disadvantage for maintaining gainful employment to support their families. A 2017 Department of Defense report showed that nearly 25% of military spouses were unemployed — something Rodewald and McMannes sought to change.

On Feb. 11, Instant Teams put out a press release announcing a id=”listicle-2645127874″.5M investment partnership with Squadra Ventures.

“I always say, it takes a village and I am just lucky that my village is the military spouse community,” said McMannes. She continued, “We knew military spouses needed it. We wanted to develop this concrete and sound business model that allowed companies to see the value immediately and where spouses knew they could come directly for remote work. Now three years later, it’s happening, and it’s an amazing feeling. So much work and time has been put into it and that’s only going to amplify now with this investment.”

What it means, according to McMannes, is that there will be more opportunities for the spouse community, more growth for their internal team which then allows Instant Teams to be able to hire even more military spouses. McMannes shared that conversations with Squadra Ventures began over the summer and continued into the fall with the deal solidified in January.

NASA space camp goes virtual

Erica McMannes, Instant Teams founder and COO.

MIC

McMannes said that she believes this is just the beginning. “There is a whole movement in advocacy in the federal, state, and international space on what the future of work looks like. Remote work is right on the leading edge of that,” she said.

When asked how it felt to get the news that it was a signed and done deal, she shared that it was even more meaningful because they were together when they got the word. McMannes is currently located in California, and Rodewald’s husband is stationed in Hawaii. As luck would have it, they happened to be together on the East Coast when the news came in – and they celebrated with cupcakes.

McMannes said that military spouses were the original “digital nomads,” meaning you could essentially travel the globe and bring your job with you. “Spouses were forced to be digital nomads, but the actual job component was always the struggle. To be a part of the future of work, we are really excited about,” said McMannes. She shared a story of a spouse that was recently able to keep her job because of Instant Teams through a PCS from North Carolina to Guam. McMannes said it’s stories like those that keep her and Rodewald fueled to continue working hard and committing to doing more. Thanks to the recent id=”listicle-2645127874″.5M investment of Squadra Ventures – they are well on their way.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Military fathers are our daughters’ heroes

My daughter is six, an only child, a military child, and a true Daddy’s girl. I recently asked her the following:


  • Q. What makes Daddy a good daddy?
  • He takes me on bike rides and fishes with me.
  • Q. Why is Daddy important to you?
  • Because he works in the Coast Guard.
  • Q. What do you like about Daddy being in the U.S. Coast Guard?
  • He flies airplanes.
  • Q. What do you dislike about Daddy being in the U.S. Coast Guard?
  • He has to work a lot and has a lot of long work trips.

My daughter’s answers to these questions made me think about how she sees, loves, and respects her father as a hero. Every little girl deserves a father figure who is a hero in their eyes. How are military fathers equipped to be heroes to our daughters?

Military Fathers are Leaders

Serving in the military requires courage, strength, selflessness, resilience, and confidence. Leaders in the military are those whom subordinates rely upon for wisdom, direction, sound judgment, and guidance. Leaders must be determined, confident, able to delegate authority, and thoughtful. Daughters need leaders with similar qualities. The skills learned within the military are transferrable to parenting. Military fathers have a unique skill set that can help lead and guide our daughters.

There are many different types of families, extended families, relationships, and dynamics that may surround any daughter. However, fathers are often the first man in a girl’s life. Military fathers are well-equipped to excel in this role despite the time they are required to spend away from family. Leaders and mentors in the military can help shape lives, influence the decision-making skills of others, and help subordinates find their way. Couldn’t the same be said for fathers leading daughters at home?

Military Fathers Know How to Defend

When joining the military, one chooses to defend, protect, and fight for our country and our freedom. How do we teach our daughters to defend themselves both figuratively and literally? How do we, as parents, encourage them to protect their rights, health, safety, values, morals, and beliefs?

The military is rich with honor and codes of conduct, outlining what members can and cannot do. Dedication to duty, honor, service, and respect are of the highest importance. Military fathers can use these codes as moral and ethical roadmaps for our daughters.

From the first day of basic training until a member of the armed forces leaves the service, they are training for the next mission, preparing for future roles, and learning new skills. Military members are always ready. Training in this manner equips military fathers to teach our daughters to be prepared for challenges, face adversity, choose right over wrong, and take responsibility for their actions.

Military Fathers Are Heroes

The definition of a hero is a person admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. We certainly have endless examples of heroism and ultimate sacrifice in the military. Look at any Medal of Honor, Purple Heart, or Distinguished Service Cross recipient, and you will find a hero. Military members are heroes for serving their country.

Daughters need heroes as strong role models to show them leadership, perseverance, and courage. If any father can fulfill this role and do it well, it is one in the military. Military fathers might not realize it, but they are superheroes in our daughters’ eyes.

Heroes protect others and know how to do the right thing. What better way to set an example and express love to a daughter than by being a hero for your country and family? Happy Father’s Day to all of our military heroes. May you never forget just how heroic you are to our daughters.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

VA nurse takes charge at fatal highway accident

When faced with trauma in a hospital emergency department, nurses have a myriad of tools and resources available to tackle whatever challenges come their way. But imagine being faced with a situation as the only lifesaver at the scene of a horrific accident in a remote location, dealing with 10 patients and a lack of necessary equipment. Add a language barrier, cultural sensitivities, and sweltering heat and even the most experienced nurse can be challenged.

That was the scenario that a VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System nurse faced recently.


On the afternoon of June 20, an SUV traveling a lonely stretch of highway between Las Vegas and St. George, Utah, experienced a sudden tire blow-out, overturning and flipping off the road. The event threw several passengers from the vehicle and trapped others inside.

Maria VanHart, a VASNHS emergency department nurse, was heading home to Utah after her shift at the North Las Vegas Medical Center. Nearly 30 minutes into her commute, she happened upon the single-vehicle accident. While a few onlookers had stopped to assist the victims, none of them were trained to manage the scene.

VanHart assessed the situation, and then quickly acted. “I did what I was trained to do,” she said. “I didn’t panic… just immediately did what needed to be done.”

10-year-old was her translator

One of VanHart’ s first challenges was communicating with the victims. She soon learned that the family had travelled to the United States from Syria for a wedding. Of the 10 passengers, only a 10-year-old boy was able to speak English. “He was walking around with some minor bumps and bruises, but overall looked OK,” said VanHart. He would serve as translator for all her patient care questions. “The first thing I told him was ‘I need you to show me everyone who was in the vehicle.'”

The driver of the vehicle was the father, who had suffered only minor bruises. An older teenage girl holding a baby were walking around the scene, both seemingly unscathed. The boy’s immediate concern was for his brother, a 14-year-old who was trapped inside the overturned vehicle.

“He was not breathing and (based on his condition) I knew immediately that he was dead.”

VanHart quickly turned her attention to others who needed immediate care. The mother of the family was thrown from the vehicle during the accident and was laying 10 feet behind the wreckage. VanHart concluded that she had suffered a severe pelvic injury and had potential internal bleeding.

Needed helicopter for mother and infant

At the front of the vehicle were two more victims on the ground: a boy in his late teens who had a broken leg and an infant girl who didn’t initially appear to have any injuries. While bystanders told VanHart that the infant was fine, she wanted to examine her just in case. “When I did my assessment on her, I could see some facial bruising, agonal breathing, and one of her pupils was blown, so I knew she had a head injury. She may have been having some seizure activity because her eyes were fluttering. She and the mother needed to be flown to a hospital immediately.”

Soon after, the Moapa Police Department arrived on site. “The scene was very active,” said Officer Alex Cruz. “Between attempting to stop traffic, rendering first aid and requesting additional units, it was hectic to say the least. Maria was calm and knew what she was doing. She was directing people on what to do while rendering aid herself. She was like an orchestra conductor.”

Based on the severity of the victim’s injuries, VanHart asked Cruz to request immediate evacuation. “I trusted her expertise and ended calling three helicopters and four ambulances due to her triaging the scene,” he said. “You could tell that she knew what she was doing and there was no time to question her capabilities.”

Calming Syrian father with familiar greeting

Another challenge facing the responders was more difficult to navigate. When paramedics removed the clothing from the woman who VanHart believed suffered internal injuries, her husband became enraged. “I know that as a Muslim, he believed it was inappropriate for men to see his wife without clothing,” VanHart said. “He was still in shock and needed someone to understand him, so I did my best to do that.”

After years of working with doctors of various nationalities, VanHart has picked up phrases in many languages. “One of the things that I learned from working with doctors from the Middle East was a common greeting, ‘As-salamu alaykum,’ which means ‘peace be upon you,'” she said. “So, I sat with the husband and I told him that and he seemed to calm down.'”

Her own emotional crash

After the helicopters were loaded with patients and VanHart had briefed the receiving medical teams at University Medical Center in Las Vegas, she finally took a step back and realized what had happened. She had been on the scene for two hours in 105-degree heat and was exhausted. “When the adrenaline goes away, there’s a crash. It’s an emotional and physical crash. I was dehydrated and physically shaky afterwards. I sat down, drank some water and called my friends for reassurance.”

Breast cancer survivor

VanHart is a breast cancer survivor. She also had lost most of her family to illness at a young age and is married to the former head of a hospital’s trauma nursing department. Health care has always played a big role in her life.

VanHart has a unique philosophy when it comes to assessing her work:

“At the end of the day, there are two things that let me know if I have done my job that day. One is ‘what was my patient-to-hug ratio?’ And the other one is ‘had my mother been the last person I had cared for, would I have done anything differently?’ Everyone out there is someone’s parent or child and they all deserve to be cared for as if they were my own.”

In the photo above, VanHart provides care to a Veteran at the North Las Vegas Medical Center.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

This year’s ‘Best Warrior’ tests will be based on actual combat incidents

New events for this year’s Best Warrior Competition will come from the experiences of operational advisors deployed around the world by the Asymmetric Warfare Group, the lead organizer said Sept. 25, 2019.

The competition will take place Oct. 6-11, 2019, at Forts Lee and A.P. Hill, Virginia, with 22 competitors from the Army’s major commands and components vying for Soldier of the Year and NCO of the Year. Winners will be announced at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C., Oct. 14, 2019.

A small Asymmetric Warfare Group detachment at Fort A.P. Hill has been preparing for the competition since February 2019 under the leadership of 1st Sgt. Hunter Conrad.


Conrad served as an AWG operational advisor for three years, undergoing half a dozen deployments to nations such as Senegal, Uganda, Somalia and Tunisia. He also served for a year on AWG’s Leadership Development Troop, teaching brigade combat teams how to operate in a subterranean environment.

The competition’s events, though, don’t just come from his experiences; they’re based on real-world situations observed by operational advisors across all combatant commands, he said.

NASA space camp goes virtual

Spc. Hunter Olson, Maryland National Guard, dominates a water survival event involving a 100-meter swim in full uniform at the 2019 Region II Best Warrior Competition.

(Photo by aj. Kurt M. Rauschenberg)

“It’s been a team effort,” Conrad said, and that doesn’t just stop with the preparations. A team of about 15 soldiers from First U.S. Army at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois, will be joining his detachment to conduct the competition.

Another 20 or so soldiers from AWG at Fort Meade, Maryland, will be going to A.P. Hill to help run the competition, he said, and a handful from the Army Medical Command will also be there.

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael A. Grinston went to Fort A.P. Hill September 2019 for a validation and mission rehearsal of the competition. He made minor course corrections, Conrad said, based on his preference for enhanced, realistic training.

“The Best Warrior Competition is the essence of what we want to accomplish,” Grinston said. “We want to enhance Army readiness by building cohesive teams who are highly trained, disciplined and physically fit. Cohesive teams are the key to winning on any battlefield.”​

In order to enhance the realism, Conrad spent hours studying after-action reports that describe recent incidents around the world that tested the combat proficiency of soldiers. Many of those incidents will be re-created for the competition.

The competition actually begins at Fort Lee with the new Army Combat Fitness Test. Then competitors depart for the operational phase of Best Warrior at Fort A.P. Hill. There they will be tested on various soldier skills as part of a fictional combatant command scenario, Conrad said.

Every year, different skill level 1 tasks are tested, he said, in order to keep competitors guessing. They don’t know ahead of time what skills will be assessed, or in what order, so Conrad said they must be proficient in all of them.

Competitors won’t be able to “just memorize the sequence of events and perform them in a sterile environment,” like they do in warrior task testing lanes at many units, he said.

NASA space camp goes virtual

Spc. Collin George, U.S. Army Reserve Soldier of the Year, reassebles an M240B machine gun with his eyes covered during a crew-served weapons class at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, Aug. 14, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Kevin Long)

“We actually try to place them in a real-world scenario and grade them on their ability to execute the same tasks in a more stressful, realistically-simulated environment,” he said.

Last year the operational phase of the competition began with a ruck march in the dark carrying 50 pounds of gear. The initial event will be different this year, but Conrad added competitors “can expect to exert themselves physically.”

Additionally, Grinston noted, as the Army continues to study ways to enhance readiness, it must better understand biomechanics and cognitive performance to quantify soldier lethality.

“We need to establish a baseline for soldier performance through the Soldier Performance Model,” he said. “We have a team who will place sensors on each competitor to measure everything from stress and fatigue, to how their bodies process nutrition during the competition.”

“This will help us collect data to evaluate the impact of those factors, and others, on soldiers, and what we can do to help them perform better,” Grinston said.

Last year, Cpl. Matthew Hagensick from the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning, Georgia, earned the Soldier of the Year title. Sgt. 1st Class Sean Acosta, a civil affairs specialist with the 1st Special Warfare Training Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, became NCO of the Year.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Updates to Post-9/11 Gi Bill transfers are coming

The transferability option under the Post-9/11 GI Bill allows service members to transfer all or some unused benefits to their spouse or dependent children. The request to transfer unused GI Bill benefits to eligible dependents must be completed while serving as an active member of the Armed Forces. The Department of Defense determines whether or not you can transfer benefits to your family. Once the DoD approves benefits for transfer, the new beneficiaries apply for them at Veterans Affairs.

The option to transfer is open to any member of the armed forces active duty or Selected Reserve, officer or enlisted who is eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill and meets the following criteria:


  • Has at least six years of service in the armed forces (active duty and/or Selected Reserve) on the date of approval and agrees to serve four additional years in the armed forces from the date of election.
NASA space camp goes virtual

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Jorge Intriago)

  • Has at least 10 years of service in the armed forces (active duty and/or Selected Reserve) on the date of approval, is precluded by either standard policy (by service branch or DoD) or statute from committing to four additional years and agrees to serve for the maximum amount of time allowed by such policy or statute.
  • Transfer requests are submitted and approved while the member is in the armed forces.
  • Effective July 12, 2019, eligibility to transfer benefits will be limited to service members with at least 6 years but not more than 16 years of active duty or selected reserve service. So service members with more than 16 years of service should transfer benefits before July 12, 2019.

For more information, go to https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/post911_transfer.asp.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Family time is overrated—parents need to divide and conquer

Right now I’m faced with a harsh truth that, day-by-day, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute is becoming ever more clear: Family time is bullshit. Honestly, this is a line of thinking among experts — usually one put in less crude, more nuanced terms — that I’ve been following for a while. But, as it has done with so many things, COVID-19 has made spending time with family come to a head for me, and I can only assume it’s the same for millions of other parents locked at home struggling together.

The problems for any two-parent household are there in plain sight. Simply put, some of the more important lessons that a child learns from parents suffer when both parents are present. These include:


Discipline. Expressions of love.

Bonding.

Play.

The truth is, when your partner is there, it’s harder to discipline effectively, show love in a way that is meaningful, bond in a way that is believable, and play in a way that doesn’t lead to battles. The quarantine has shone a great bright spotlight on the fact that good child-rearing rests on one-on-one time. There are plenty of experts who are on board with the notion.

“You are often modifying your approach to discipline and behavior to integrate with your partner,” says Dr. Kyle D. Pruett, author of Partnership Parenting and a professor of child psychiatry at Yale University. “You might also defer to your partner on topics that your child might be more responsive to you, not them.”

I’ve been experiencing this first-hand throughout the pandemic. Take the other day when, like most days, my family — my wife and I, a 2-year-old, and 8-year-old — was hard at work on a puzzle. My wife and I coordinated the piecing together (“let’s look for the duck butt”), and tried to make sure everyone had a task and was happy. At first, they were. The 2-year-old was naming animals, the 8-year-old was crushing the borders. We were pulling off some seemingly successful family time.

But then, the 8-year-old started helping the 2-year-old and it was heart-warming, except that she was doing all the work for him and he was starting to get restless. My wife and I tried to gently pull her away. He needs to learn on his own. You need to lead by example. “I’m helping him!” she cried, and then she actually cried. We unsuccessfully tried to console her while also explaining what it meant to play with a 2-year-old. For her sake, we gave her the illusion of freedom and then yanked it back. For our sake, we prevented a toddler meltdown that was coming. To be fair, the situation was untenable from the start.

The problem here is the fact that there are two parents. As Pruett would point out, we’re “on a different trajectory” than our kids. “It’s a diad instead of a triangle — you need to play tennis with one instead of two.” Parenting is tough. Being a great partner is tough. Being a great partner and parent at the same time requires deft maneuvering that borders on impossible and quite frankly seems unnecessary. There’s an easy solution to all this: Hang out with your kid, on your own. They’ll love the attention, you’ll take the teeth out of the power dynamics between parent and child, and you’ll get through to them more easily.

When I am there in the very same situation just a few days later, sans mom, this plays out. My daughter puts together the piece for the toddler. “Let him do it on his own,” I say to her. “Dad, I did! But then he was, like, ‘I can’t do it,’ so I showed him how to do it.'”

No tears. No yelling. Just a rational, and rather articulate explanation of the situation. My 8-year-old was not threatened by a power dynamic — one parent’s world, in this household, is negotiable — and thus offered insight. I took it. Puzzle time was a blast.

There is a commonly-cited sociological principle of coalitions that helps shed light on what’s going on here. The textbook, Learning Group Leadership, a group dynamics book written for counselors, explains the idea of a coalition in a family as a set of groups that, to me, sound more like an explanation of tribal warfare than a happy family dynamic:

“In a family, this phenomenon might be readily observed as a father-mother subsystem; another between two of the three siblings; and another composed of the mother, her mother, and the third child. In a group, you might see this when there is a popular and powerful group—a couple members who have become close compared with those who are shy and not too confident. You can therefore appreciate that these coalitions are organized around mutual needs, loyalties, and control of power. When these subsystems are dysfunctional and destructive, such as when a parent is aligned with a child against his spouse or a child is in coalition with a grandparent against her parents, the counselor’s job is to initiate realignments in the structure and power, creating a new set of subsystems that are more functional.

Perhaps a family dynamic really is a little like tribal warfare, or warring nations, or, better yet, a game of Risk in which every family member wants to get the most out of the family time. There are front channel diplomatic connections between father and son, daughter and mother, sister and brother. These are what we see on the board, the dynamics that play out in open air.

Then there are the backchannel dealings: Mom and dad are trying to take power away from the younger players; the youngest trying to wrest mom away from the family (with some tears and a need to be consoled, perhaps); the older kid trying to get the younger one in trouble to expose the unfairness of all the attention. The joy of Risk lies in the behind-the-scenes strategies and public lies. These are the kinds of things that can tear a family dynamics apart — that make family time so stressful.

Importantly, such power structures also take away deep connections formed during one-on-one time. When my daughter reveals her affinity to Lyra in The Golden Compass to me; when my son, rolls laughing on the floor at the block tower we just knocked down; when my wife and I sit reading on the couch, her legs on me or our shoulders touching, exchanging ideas between the silences, these deep moments, when they come, come naturally, and alone. They rarely happen during family time.

Individual bonds in families are essential, but they also don’t necessarily come naturally. “You have to organize yourself to have time alone with the child,” says Pruett. “It should be part of what you believe in fostering. You each related to your child differently, but the unique moments are something parents need to plan for.” It takes work to get this dynamic going. But the result is quiet one-on-one moments that cut through the chaos of a family in quarantine. Right now that sound pretty damn good.

How to Better Bond With Your Kid, One-On-One

Getting solo time with your child is half the battle (in time of quarantine, maybe more like two-thirds of the battle). Here’s how to find the time — and make the most of it.

  • Schedule Everything
    Put it on a calendar or have a set time every week — or day — where you get face time with one kid. This is the hardest part — whether due to quarantine or just busy schedules. But it’s the essential work that is necessary to make the habit stick.
  • Make It Enjoyable
    “Give the child a moment where they are not sat on by the have tos but have a get to,” says Pruett. This doesn’t mean that you need to plan something exotic all the time. You just need to take the child’s interests into consideration. This could mean a walk, sitting on the porch with lemonade, or taking out the recycling together (if this isn’t an embattled chore). Keep it as simple as you can.
  • Tailor the Time to the Kid
    “If you give a first grader the afternoon to do whatever they want, less structure isn’t going to be that much fun,” says Dr. Robert Zeitlin, author of Laugh More, Yell Less. “You’re going to have to explain why you can’t do things that are expensive. As much structure as is necessary for choice and being able to do the time. For older kids, as little structure as necessary so they can figure time management and the realities of what’s financially possible to do?”
  • This Isn’t Time For Lessons
    One-on-one time is for support and listening — not being critical of anything in the kid’s life (including not paying ball in this alone time). This time belongs to you and the kid. Own it. This is the work you put in for later years — read, a healthy relationship with your teen.
  • Follow the 5-to-1 Listening Rule
    For every five minutes of talking, you should devote as many minutes to listen. It’s that simple — and also that tough. “For kids that don’t talk much, you just be patient and don’t bug them,” says Pruett.
  • Go Deep
    Once you’ve established the bond, know that one-on-one time is the time to give them a sense of who you are. What worries you? What do you believe? What are your failures? What are your successes? Why were you angry at the checkout? Why do you love country music? “These are all great questions and the answers are very important for how children will function,” says Pruett. “These are how you solve the problems of life and they need to see what you’re up to. If not, to whom do they turn?”

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Navy carrier Ford’s high-tech EMALS Catapult System breaks during sea trials

Flight operations on the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier were cut back during recent at-sea trials after the new high-tech system that launches aircraft from the flattop’s flight deck went down.

The aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford‘s Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, known as EMALS, broke June 2 during the ship’s biggest carrier air wing embark to date. The Ford’s leaders had just announced the carrier was underway when EMALS went down.


There were about 1,000 members of Carrier Air Wing 8 aboard the ship as the Ford ran post-delivery test and trials operations in the Atlantic. In a call with reporters the day before the EMALS went down, Capt. J.J. Cummings, the ship’s commanding officer, called the air wing embark a historic moment for the Ford.

The air wing qualified more than 50 fleet and student pilots, he said, and launched and trapped hundreds of flights from the flattop while operating at sea.

But the next day, the EMALS went down, according to a Navy news release that was issued late Sunday night. That “curtailed flight operations to some extent.”

“But the Strike Group, ship, and air wing team still accomplished significant goals scheduled for the Ford-class aircraft carrier,” the release added.

The root cause of the EMALS failure remains under review, said Capt. Danny Hernandez, a Navy spokesman at the Pentagon.

“The fault appeared in the power handling system, during a manual reset of the system,” he said. “This section is independent of the high pulsed power section to launch aircraft and is not a safety of flight risk. The Navy is reviewing procedures and any impacts on the system.”

Any findings and corrective actions they take will be key to ensuring the Ford is ready to support the warfighter when it enters the fleet, Hernandez added.

The Navy has faced pressure from politicians — on Capitol Hill and the White House — on delays in getting several new systems running smoothly, including the EMALS. President Donald Trump once called the system the “crazy electric catapult” and said sailors he spoke to on the Ford complained it wasn’t reliable.

NASA space camp goes virtual

media.defense.gov

“I’m just going to put out an order — we’re going to use steam,” Trump said last year, referring to the legacy system used to launch aircraft on older carriers.

The Ford returned to port Sunday, and Hernandez said the crew was supported by a team of experts who developed an “alternative method to launching the air wing off” the ship.

The Ford has completed nearly 3,500 launches and recoveries using the EMALS. Hernandez called that quite an achievement, but added that it’s an insufficient number to draw conclusions about the system’s reliability.

“As flight operations on [the new carrier] continue, interruptions will be tracked, systematically reviewed and addressed with design and procedural changes aimed at achieving operational requirements for the rest of the Ford class,” he said.

James Geurts, assistant Navy secretary for research, development and acquisition, said shipbuilders remain on the Ford, working to resolve problems with new systems. That includes getting all the Ford’s 11 weapons elevators up and running. Five are now working.

The Government Accountability Office noted the Navy’s struggles to demonstrate reliability of the Ford’s key systems, including the EMALS, in a recent report.

“Although the Navy is testing EMALS and [the advanced arresting gear] on the ship with aircraft, the reliability of those systems remains a concern,” the report states. “If these systems cannot function safely by the time operational testing begins, [the Ford] will not be able to demonstrate it can rapidly deploy aircraft — a key requirement for these carriers.”

— Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How to connect grandparents and family through story time

As we settle into the new normal of our kids distance learning and all of us staying home as much as possible, it’s important to stay connected to our family members and friends around the world. One great way to stay connected is through the power of shared storytime.

For 30 years, United Through Reading has helped military families stay connected through deployments, drill weekends, TDYs, and irregular work hours. Now with shelter in place orders across the country, their app is a great way to stay connected to extended family members in the military.


With the free United Through Reading App military families are able to record and enjoy storytime on demand and also receive complimentary books!

The app launched in May 2019 and uses TroopID to verify military affiliation.

“By using TroopID, retirees, veterans, service members, and their immediate family members have a United Through Reading story station in their pocket – opening up endless possibilities to connect with their families over storytime,” said Dr. Sally Ann Zoll, CEO of United Through Reading.

CMSgt (Ret) Denise M. Jelinski-Hall reads everyday to her one year old grandchildren Dakota and Hunter, but last year when she found herself traveling away from their home in Colorado, she turned to United Through Reading.

“Reading their favorite stories provides consistency in their little lives. When Grandma can’t physically be there – the recordings are the next best thing. They get to hear Grandma’s voice, see my face and all the silly things they love. The recordings also are available on ‘their time’ as I’m not always available at the right time to read a story but the recordings are always there.”

The babies loved it, crawling right up to the laptop their mom Ashley set up for them to have storytime with Grandma, giggling and following along.

NASA space camp goes virtual

Photo courtesy of CMSgt (Ret) Denise M. Jelinski-Hall

For Caitlin Sommer, United Through Reading helps her kids connect with her brother Jesse who is in the Army. Jesse sent a number of books and recordings to his sisters ahead of a deployment and Caitlin’s two sons watch them two to three times a week.

“The sappy side of me – I want them to know Jesse, their brain spans are goldfish, for me when he comes back they can pick up where they left off,” she said. “As video chat becomes more common, even today with social distancing, it’s a wonderful way to stay in touch with people. Reading is really important to kids; it’s wonderful they have a personalized video from their uncle.”

Whether you want to connect with your niece or nephew, grandchild, or godchild, United Through Reading is a way to stay connected no matter the distance. To learn how to use the app check out this video:


www.facebook.com

And the best part about the app? You can send a book to the child for free! So start reading along with all of the kids in your life today – for now and future times away from home. Download it today at utr.org/app.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

WATCH: MilSpouse in quarantine performs hilarious coronavirus balcony concert

Emily Krieger Cabana is the military spouse hero we need right now and don’t deserve. Her impromptu balcony performance of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s ‘Think of Me’ from Phantom of the Opera is quite simply put: magical. Oh, and also, incredible. Emily has a musical theater degree and was working professionally in New York City before she met her husband, a Marine pilot, during Fleet Week.

Emily rewrote many of the lyrics to reflect her family’s mandatory quarantine and how they’re handling it: “Remember me, once in a while, please promise me you’ll try. When you find that once again you long to share your wine or booze with me, if you ever find a moment, to share a glass with me.”


We saw this video and knew we needed to talk to this woman. When we reached out to Emily to talk about her incredible performance, Emily laughed and said she couldn’t believe that this many people were interested. She gave us the scoop on how it all transpired from base housing stairwell apartments at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, where their family has been stationed for almost three years.

WATM: What prompted this?

Emily: My family is actually in quarantine because we came in direct contact with someone who tested positive for the virus. So we can’t leave our apartment until next Friday at 2:00, not that I’m counting!

I was informing my moms on the street in our group message [that we were quarantined] and one of them happens to know I am a singer and she said they now expected balcony performances, after seeing all the posts from other countries.

Well, with lots of moms agreeing and a bit of pressure put on, I said ‘why not!’ So, I couldn’t do just any song … I had to make it humorous and relatable to our situation.

One of my mom friends on the street was so excited to go and see Phantom of the Opera in London. She was so excited. And since everything is cancelled, I kind of got the idea of using one of those songs and making it humorous to lift our spirits. I believe laughter and music are incredible healing tools!

So I got on a ball gown, gave my moms message thread a 15 minute warning, and never ever expected it to be appreciated as much as it was.

And better yet, I got beer and booze delivered and placed outside our door!

NASA space camp goes virtual

Photo courtesy of Emily Krieger Cabana

WATM: You have an incredible voice. Tell us about your background in music.

Emily: I have a Musical Theatre degree and was working professionally in New York when Fleet Week happened. That’s how I met my Marine pilot. Yes, an actual Fleet Week success story!

So I put my career on hold and focused on family life and Marine Corps spouse life. I still teach voice lessons and help direct shows whenever the time allowed in whatever duty station we were at.

NASA space camp goes virtual

Photo courtesy of Emily Krieger Cabana

WATM: You are amazing! How is quarantine going?

Emily: Hearing we were in direct contact actually wasn’t super surprising to us. This is such a small community and we figured it was going to happen to quite a lot of people we knew. No need for us to worry as nobody has any underlying conditions. We are just trying to stick with the guidelines of sanitizing and also trying to be as healthy as can be. We tend to live our lives more in the moment and try not to stress about what could be. Stress doesn’t help anyone!

Our neighbors and friends have completely gone out of their ways to help with shopping or just dropping off meals or treats for us. The military community takes care of each other and they are coming out in full force during this time. It’s really humbling. And makes us proud to be a military family in such a supportive community.

WATM: Any advice for other military spouses facing quarantine life?

Emily: Well, I think the booze and wine requests speak for themselves.

NASA space camp goes virtual

Photo courtesy of Emily Krieger Cabana

Do Not Sell My Personal Information