Passion for serving Veterans. Support from colleagues. Opportunities to learn and advance in a career. For VA newbies Nicole Locker and Jennifer McFarland, these are among the most appealing aspects of their positions.
Mission aside, what makes a VA career different when you’re a military spouse is the sense of security that comes with knowing you will still have a job the next time you have to move. That’s because we appreciate the transient nature of military service and offer remote work options and many varied job opportunities across the country.
We understand that one of the challenges you face as a military spouse is frequent relocation and the impact it has on finding and maintaining permanent employment. Of the more than 600,000 military spouses worldwide who are actively seeking employment, 30% are unemployed and 56% are underemployed. Yet military spouses are well-educated and highly qualified for a wide range of careers.
Locker, now a vocational rehabilitation counselor with VA’s Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), had shared her concerns about moving with a neighbor, a Veteran who also works at VA.
“I told her I was worried about finding a job when my active-duty husband gets orders to move for the military,” said Locker, who had been employed at a private university. “She was persistent in encouraging me to apply and apply and apply [to VA]. I finally completed the paperwork as a military spouse applicant and included supervisor experience I had gained from working in academia. I also mentioned how passionate I was about serving the military community, and somehow I got lucky and got my shot.”
McFarland, a Veterans Service Representative with VBA, was also concerned about job loss until she came to VA.
“As an active-duty spouse, the number one benefit is the job security,” McFarland said.
Other benefits Locker appreciates are the opportunities for professional growth and the collegial environment she works in, where a good portion of her team is either a Veteran or a military spouse.
“I’m now on a team of people with so much experience that you can get help at a moment’s notice if you need it,” said Locker. “There also are career growth opportunities and chances to find your specialty and grow more in that area, like supporting Veterans on campus or working on suicide prevention.”
The military spouse advantage
Both McFarland and Locker said their experiences as military spouses are invaluable in their VA careers. “Having the familiarity of military culture as a spouse helps me relate to the Veterans we serve,” said McFarland. “I feel like we are part of the same community, and Veterans sense the genuineness of my passion to help them as if they were my family.”
For Locker, being able to multitask and think on her feet are real career assets. “Adapt and overcome is the motto, right? We figure things out. We learn, we take notes, we ask questions – but we also understand chain of command and how to do that in a respectful way to be most effective,” she said. “While our family members are out deploying, we are managing the home front while also maintaining family responsibilities and our own career path and aspirations.”
A VA priority
Because we value military spouses, we make recruiting and hiring you a priority:
We highlight key information – remote work opportunities, flexible work schedules, child care and health benefits – in our job announcements.
We use noncompetitive procedures approved by the federal government for positions covered under Title 5 hiring authority. That means when you apply to become a VA accountant, police officer or human resource specialist and meet the minimum qualifications, you’re hired.
We work with the Department of Defense to identify spouses with health care experience or training as a physician, nurse, social worker or occupational therapist. These positions do not require a USAJobs application.
“There are an incredible number of paths to choose once you get your foot in the door,” McFarland continued. “I have seen numerous internal-to-agency-only job postings, which greatly improves our chances for new opportunities. I have only good things to say about my experience here so far. I look forward to learning more.”
Work at VA today
A career at VA relieved the job stress related to frequent moves for Locker and McFarland. See if a VA career is right for you, too.
It’s June! Soon we will be honoring our dads and reminding them how much we care this Father’s Day. While it can be tricky to get the perfect gift for your spouse “from your kids,” we have put together some sure-fire, military-themed gift ideas for the military dad in your life. AND they are SUPER reasonably priced for as awesome as they are… Order now and get them delivered in time for June 21st. Check it out!
1. Grenade Cufflinks
Yes, these really are as bad@$ as they look…class up any outfit. Grenades.
Who says gifts have to be serious?! This pistol is so detailed no one would ever guess it’s made out of soap! Whether it’s used as decoration at a party or gathering or in the shower, these are sure to be a great conversation starter (maybe not in the shower…) Be sure to check out this entire store of military replicated soaps and candles!
This company offers military tie clips to the max! You can choose from various types of aircraft, nautical replicas, ammunition and weapons. No matter what their branch or specialty, you’re sure to find the perfect addition to their suit and tie. At such great price points, you can buy a few!
4. Personalized Engraved .50 Cal or .30 Cal Caliber Ammo Can
“These mil-spec ammo-cans are tough, steel constructed and 100% brand new. Great for storing ammunition or other items. The lid features rubber gaskets to form a tight moisture proof seal that keeps water and dust out. These cases are also stackable.”
This is by far one of the coolest things we’ve ever seen. These are CAT scan images of actual weapons. After two years of effort and tweaking, they were finally able to take high-res, detailed images of over 40 different guns. With statements assuring you no one else in the world has perfected this technology, you can be positive this will be a one-of-a-kind man cave gift!
This is a bottle opener is handmade from a real expended .50 caliber round. They measure 5.5 inches long and 0.75 inches in diameter. It is guaranteed to look good while opening the service member’s beverage of choice. Made in the good ol’ US of A. Be sure to check out the different shell options!
It seems pocket knives are a dime a dozen these days. But pocket knives shaped like Beretta shotgun shells? Now those are a rarity. With a 2-inch stainless steel blade, it’s just as functional as it is esthetic.
“The paracord cord bracelet is made with 550 rope and one fish hook closure. The bracelet is also accented with customizable wrapped bands that secure the bracelet on your wrist. Leather (Leather available in black and brown only). The picture shows black leather accent wrap near the fish hook and near the opposite end of the loop.”
This company offers customization to the max! They have every branch to choose from in addition to branch neutral/American themes as well. Handmade from the best materials out there, these cornhole sets are perfect for a little RR in the backyard! Contact them today to customize names, logos, colors, bags, etc…they have every add-on imaginable!
These custom made, personalized lighters are available to be engraved with the military rank insignia of your choice. Each lighter comes in a case which can be laser engraved on the lid or even the bottom. Whatever satisfies your desires.
Service members lead strong, full-bodied lives…they don’t need watered down whiskey. These stones are made out of cubes of solid soapstone. They retain their temperature much longer than ice, so they will cool the whiskey or liquor of choice and provide a more sustained chill.
Elijah Riley lines up to defend Chance Warren during the 120th Army-Navy Game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa., Dec. 14, 2019. The United States Naval Academy defeated the United States Military Academy this year. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. James Harvey)
After months filled with as much uncertainty as tomorrow, Army and Navy are about to begin their respective football schedules.
Air Force will have to wait.
Army is set to kick off against Middle Tennessee State at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 5, at West Point, New York. Navy is expected to open its season when it hosts BYU at 8 p.m. on Sept. 7 on ESPN in Annapolis, Maryland.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced college football programs to be flexible in myriad ways, none more so than with their schedules. Some conferences and teams will forgo playing this fall, with hopes of returning in the spring, while other schools lost appealing non-conference matchups.
Then there is Air Force, whose schedule consists of two games: Oct. 3 against Navy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Nov. 7 at Army. Air Force belongs to the Mountain West Conference, which postponed fall sports in August.
“We were allowed to look at the possibility to play Army and Navy since we all have similar 47-month physical requirements for graduation, have similar testing protocols and have a cadet population that is secured from the public,” Air Force athletic spokesman Troy Garnhart said in an email.
The Falcons are not looking to add other games, Garnhart said.
Regardless of the pandemic, the service academies have said they plan to play each other this year.
Army and Navy are scheduled to meet for the 121st time on Dec. 12 in Philadelphia. They first met in 1890, when Benjamin Harrison was president, and have played every year since 1930.
Army is scheduled to host eight games at Michie Stadium in 2020, but the Black Knights lost a marquee home matchup against Oklahoma when its conference, the Big 12, canceled non-league road games. The Sooners were scheduled to visit West Point on Sept. 26.
Attendance at Army’s first two home games, the opener against Middle Tennessee State and Sept. 12 against Louisiana-Monroe, will be limited to the corps of approximately 4,400 cadets, athletic spokeswoman Rachel Caton said.
“Attendance at games is typically mandatory for the corps, so all should be expected to be in attendance,” Caton said in an email. “They will just be sitting in a different area of the stadium than usual and will be socially distanced.”
Decisions about fans for the Black Knights’ other home games have not been determined, Caton said.
Unlike Army’s on-campus stadium, Navy does not play its home games on federal land. Because Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium is off campus, the Midshipmen are subject to regulations imposed by the Maryland Department of Health, which banned fans from outdoor sports events in June, Navy spokesman Scott Strasemeier said in an email.
“We are still optimistic there will be home football games this season where our season-ticket holders will be extended the opportunity to personally attend,” Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said in a statement. “Improving conditions may dictate justification to open our gates in a setting with extensive safety protocols being appropriately administered.”
Whether fans will be allowed at Air Force’s home game against Navy is not expected to be decided until mid-September, Garnhart said.
While Navy intends to play a full American Athletic Conference schedule and didn’t lose its games against Army or Air Force, the Midshipmen won’t face Notre Dame because of the pandemic. Navy originally was scheduled to open the season with that matchup in Dublin, Ireland, then it was moved to Annapolis before being canceled.
Navy and Notre Dame had met in football every year since 1927.
Navy and Air Force finished 11-2 in 2019. Army, whose football program does not belong to a conference, went 5-8 last season.
“The military community just gets me. It’s like no other. Military spouses have a special bond. You don’t get it unless you’re a part of it.” I’m sure we’ve all heard these statements before, and some of us may have even said them. Yes, the military community is special, but there are other communities out there who do understand us, who do get us, who do have a similar sister/brotherhood.
One of those communities is CrossFit. Yes, please keep reading, I promise this is not all about the workout of the day and how much we can lift. CrossFit has a community; it’s one of the things people like most about it. The CrossFit community and the military community have so much in common that you find a lot of the same people in both. Here are some of the ways they’re the same.
When you show up to a new duty station as a military spouse, you start making friends before the boxes are unpacked. Within the first week, you have a hairdresser, a babysitter, at least one invitation for Thanksgiving, and some emergency contacts. When you walk into a CrossFit gym, you receive a similar welcome. You’ll meet new people immediately, they’ll start asking you questions, figure out what else you have in common, what mutual friends you have and you’ll be part of the group before the workout starts.
2. They show up for each other.
In the military community, we show up for each other day in and day out. Your neighbor will snag your kids off the bus if you’re not home or show up with dinner that night you are going to lose it. CrossFit friends are the same. One CrossFit friend, who works as a labor and delivery nurse, showed up to deliver her fellow athlete’s baby because of the bond they created at the gym. Sounds a lot like that military spouse who drove you to the hospital and held the camera so your spouse could watch the delivery downrange, right?
3. They cheer you on, even when they’re suffering.
There is nothing as heartwarming as watching a military spouse who just sent their spouse off on deployment excitedly holding the hand of their friend who is welcoming their spouse home. Being happy for our friends is what makes friendships rock-solid. In CrossFit, we can do the same. We cheer on new personal bests while we beat ourselves up for not going harder. We celebrate wins as a team, always.
Everyone needs that friend who tells you when you have spinach dip in your teeth, and you’ll find that friend in a CrossFit gym and the military spouse community. The one who texts you at 4:45 a.m. and says they’re picking you up on the way to the gym. It may even be the same one who comes over and sits you down on the couch with your six-month-old while they fold your laundry, so you finally rest. They know what you need, and they make sure you do it.
5. They are truly a family.
From coffee groups to impromptu backyard barbeques, military spouses cling to each other when they live far from family. They put up with the good, the bad, and the screaming toddler while you’re trying to finish book club. CrossFit friends do the same thing. They hold your toddler so you can finish the workout, they tell you when to take a break and rest, they support you in every part of your life. Family comes first, and if you are a military spouse who CrossFits, you have two awesome families.
We see this in CrossFit affiliates and among the top athletes. Just like we see military spouses rally around the brand-new spouse while simultaneously showing up for the seasoned spouse. In the past few weeks, we’ve seen athletes cross goals off their list while competing against each other on an international level. We’ve seen tears of joy and frustration. We’ve seen pranks and fun head-to-head matchups, even one that took place at the US Army Warrior Fitness Center at Fort Knox.
BLUF: Community is everything. Find your people. Hold on tight.
Capt. Stephen Scott (left), and Chief Warrant Officer 4 Eric Carver receive the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor award at the North Carolina National Guard Joint Force Headquarters in Raleigh, North Carolina on August 18, 2020. (North Carolina National Guard/Lt. Col. Matthew Devivo)
Two North Carolina National GuardAH-64Apache 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.
After nearly two decades of counter-terror operations the world over, the United States military is now shifting its focus back toward great power competition with the likes of China and Russia. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the past two decades have left the U.S. military particularly well suited for the war at hand, but not very well positioned for the wars that are feasibly to come.
During this era of counter-terror operations, China has had the opportunity to seek higher degrees of technological and tactical parity, while having the benefit of not being actively engaged in expensive combat operations on the same scale. That has allowed China’s sea-faring power to grow at an exponential rate in recent years, with an active fleet of more than 770 vessels sailing under the banners of the People’s Liberation Army-Navy, their militarized Coast Guard, and a maritime miitia that takes its orders from the Chinese military as well.
Chinese Navy on parade (Chinese state television)
The addition of China’s massive ballistic missile stockpile, including hypersonic anti-ship platforms the U.S. Navy currently has no means to defend against, has further established China’s advantage in the Pacific. Even if the U.S. Navy leveraged every vessel in its 293-ship fleet, American forces would still be outnumbered by Chinese ships by more than two to one. Importantly, however, the United States likely couldn’t devote its entire fleet to any single conflict due to its global commitments to security and stability, especially regarding essential shipping lanes.
Today, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are both actively seeking ways to mitigate China’s numbers advantage, as well as the area-denial bubble created by China’s anti-ship platforms. Multiple possible solutions are being explored, ranging from hot-loading Marine Corps F-35Bs on austere airstrips on captured islands in the case of the Marines, to the Navy’s ongoing development of the MQ-25 aerial refueling drone that aims to extend the reach of America’s carrier-based fighters. Still, thus far, there has been no magic bullet. In fact, concerns about a near-peer conflict with China has even prompted several high-ranking defense officials to question the practicality of America’s fleet of super-carriers, both because of their immense cost, and because of the likelihood that they could be sunk by China’s hypersonic missiles long before they could get close enough to Chinese shores to begin launching sorties of F-35Cs and F/A-18 Super Hornets.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Mohamed Labanieh/Released)
The fundamental challenges a war with China would present are clear: Finding a way to mitigate the risks posed by advanced anti-ship missiles and offsetting the significant numbers advantage Chinese forces would have within the region. In the past, we’ve discussed the possibility of arming commercial cargo ships with modular weapons systems in a “missile barge” fleet as a means to bolster American numbers and capabilities. Another feasible option that could even work in conjunction with this strategy would be issuing “letters of marque” to private operations, effectively allowing non-military forces to serve as privateers for the U.S. government.
The Capture of a French Ship by Royal Family Privateers by Charles Brooking
American Privateers or Pirates?
The concept of issuing letters of marque to American privateers was recently discussed by retired Marine Colonel Mark Cancian and Brandon Schwartz in the U.S. Naval Institute’s publication, “Proceedings.” Although the idea seems almost ridiculous in the 21st Century, the legal framework outlined by Cancian and Schwartz is sound, and one could argue that their assertions about the viability and strategic value of privateer fleets are as well.
Cancian and Schwartz argue that privateering is not piracy, as there are laws governing it and precedent for the practice established in past U.S. conflicts, including the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
“Privateering is not piracy—there are rules and commissions, called letters of marque, that governments issue to civilians, allowing them to capture or destroy enemy ships. The U.S. Constitution expressly grants Congress the power to issue them (Article I, section 8, clause 11).” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
However, despite their argument being technically right, it’s difficult to dismiss how the piracy narrative would almost certainly affect public perception of the use of privateers, and potentially even the conflict at large.
While the United States could argue that privateers operate with specifically outlined rules and commissions, even the American public would likely see American privateers as pirates. And because America has found itself trailing behind nations like China and Russia in terms of manipulating public narratives, that narrative could indeed hurt not only public support for the conflict; it could even jeopardize some international relationships.
The Pride of Baltimore, left, and the Lynx, two privateer vessels, reenact a battle of the War of 1812 in Boston Harbor during Boston Navy Week 2012. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elisandro T. Diaz/Released)
Privateers are not pirates in the literal sense only because a government is sanctioning their piracy. In the eyes of those who don’t recognize America’s authority to grant such permissions in far-flung waterways, the two terms would be interchangeable.
Regardless of vernacular, the United States has used this approach to great success in the past. Although the last time American privateers set sale was more than 200 years ago, their approach was modern enough to set precedent for a return to the concept.
“The privateering business was thoroughly modern and capitalistic, with ownership consortiums to split investment costs and profits or losses, and a group contract to incentivize the crew, who were paid only if their ship made profits. A sophisticated set of laws ensured that the capture was ‘good prize,’ and not fraud or robbery. After the courts determined that a merchant ship was a legitimate capture, auctioneers sold off her cargo of coffee, rum, wine, food, hardware, china, or similar consumer goods, which ultimately were bought and consumed by Americans.” -Frederick C. Leiner in “Yes, Privateers Mattered“
In the event of a large-scale conflict with a nation like China, that potential narrative blowback may be a necessary evil. However, the ramifications of that evil could be mitigated through a concerted narrative effort to frame privateer actions in the minds of the populous as an essential part of a broader war effort that has the American people’s best interests in mind.
In the War of 1812, privateering saw such public support (in large part thanks to the profits it drove) that some took to calling the conflict the “War of the People.” Managing the narrative surrounding American privateers could make the concept far more palatable to the American people.
As for the legal aspects of privateering, you can read a thorough legal justification for the practice in a separate piece written by Schwartz called “U.S. Privateering is legal.”
(Italian Center for International Studies)
The role of American privateers at war
China’s massive fleet of vessels in the Pacific can be broken down into their three command groups, all of which ultimately answer to China’s People’s Liberation Army. China’s maritime militia accounts for approximately 300 vessels, the militarized Coast Guard has 135 more, and the PLA-Navy itself boasts an ever-growing roster expected to reach 450 surface vessels by the end of the decade.
In the event of a war with China, the American Navy would have more than its hands full engaging with such a massive force, limiting its ability to cut China off from one of its most significant revenue sources, overseas trade. China’s reliance on shipping products to other nations has helped its economy grow rapidly, but it also represents a strategic disadvantage, as Cancian and Schwartz point out, if America can find the means to disrupt this exchange.
“Thirty-eight percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) comes from trade, against only 9 percent of U.S. GDP. Chinese social stability is built on a trade-off: The Chinese Communist Party has told the people they will not have democratic institutions, but they will receive economic prosperity.” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
In 2018, China’s merchant fleet was already approaching 2,200 total vessels, thanks to massive external demand for inexpensive Chinese exports. America’s Navy would likely be stretched too thin to actually blockade such an expansive merchant fleet. Like with aircraft, America’s preference for large and expensive ships that are capable of fulfilling multiple roles has offered increased capability but significantly decreased numbers. At its peak during World War II, the U.S. Navy boasted more than 6,000 ships. Today, the Navy has 293 far more capable vessels, but none can be in more than one place at a time.
American Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, for instance, are too big and expensive to task with waiting out Chinese ships hiding in foreign ports, and would likely largely be assigned to Aegis missile defense operations. This is where American privateers could offer an important service.
American privateers wouldn’t be tasked with engaging the Chinese Navy or even with sinking merchant ships. Instead, they would be tasked with capturing Chinese cargo vessels, offering them a multi-million dollar bounty on each, and quickly compromising China’s ability to sustain its export sales.
“Since the goal is to capture the hulls and cargo, privateers do not want to sink the vessel, just convince the crew to surrender. How many merchant crews would be inclined to fight rather than surrender and spend the war in comfortable internment?” -“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings
Of course, despite Cancian and Schwartz’ dismissive take on how apt Chinese crews would be to fight to maintain control of their ships, it’s important to remember that these privateers would likely be engaging in close quarters fighting with Chinese crews or security on board. As American privateers proved more costly to the Chinese government, an increased emphasis on protecting these cargo ships would almost certainly follow.
This begs an essential question: Where do you find privateer crews?
Private security contractors in Iraq (DoD photo)
Private infrastructure already exists
While the concept of American privateers seems borderline fantastical, the truth is, the United States has already leveraged the premise of using non-military personnel for security and defensive operations the world over. American security firm Blackwater (now Academi) is perhaps the highest-profile example of America’s use of private military contractors. In fact, contractors in Iraq have reached numbers as high as 160,000 at some points, nearly equaling the total number of U.S. military personnel in the region. At least 20,000 of those private contractors filled armed security roles.
So while the term “privateer” or even pirate suggests an entirely unconventional approach to modern warfare, the premise is already in play. Terminology may dictate perception to a significant degree, but in practice, privateering wouldn’t be all that different from existing relationships the United States maintains with private security outfits. Further, private security firms, including Blackwater, have already operated at sea in a similar manner to privateers, from Blackwater’s armed patrol craft policing Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa to countless armed and privately owned boats patrolling the Indian Ocean today.
In 2007, Blackwater acquired the McArther from the NOAAS. (WikiMedia Commons)
Many such organizations, with existing infrastructure and established relationships with the U.S. government, would likely seek and win contracts, or letters of marque, in the early days of a burgeoning Sino-American war, and stand up their own forces far more quickly than the United States could expand its naval force in the same volume. Rather than building ships and enlisting crews, the United States could simply authorize existing ships with existing crews to go on the offensive against China’s commercial fleets.
The American government’s experience with military contractors throughout the War on Terror means these relationships would not be as without precedent as they may seem, and the existing private military industry would make American privateers a quick and effective means to grow America’s offensive capabilities.
China claims sovereignty over much of the South China Sea (shown in red). A conflict with China would undoubtedly play out here. (WikiMedia Commons)
A complicated solution to a complex problem
Of course, there are many variables at play when discussing a future conflict with China. Incorporating privateers into such a strategy admittedly seems rather extreme from our vantage point in 2020, but it’s important to note that there is no precedent for what something like a 21st Century Sino-American war might look like. The massive sea battles of World War II may offer some sense of scale, but the rapid advancement of technology in the intervening decades creates a hypothetical war that is simply incongruous with the World War II models.
America does boast the largest and most powerful military in the world, but China’s rapidly expanding and modernizing force has not been growing in a vacuum. From space operations to warship construction, China has been developing its war-fighting apparatus with America specifically in mind. China isn’t interested in competing with the United States on its terms and instead has been focused on identifying potential American vulnerabilities and tailoring new capabilities to leverage those flaws.
China’s Type 002 Aircraft carrier (Tyg728 on WikiMedia Commons)
Large scale warfare between technological and economic giants would play out differently than any conflict we’ve ever seen. In order to emerge from such a conflict successfully, America has to do much more than win. Once the price of victory begins to compromise America’s ability to sustain its way of life thereafter, that victory becomes less pronounced.
In order to win in such a conflict, the United States will need to dig deep into its bag of tricks. On the home front, it would mean finding ways to rapidly expand America’s industrial base to replenish vehicles, supplies, and equipment as they’re expended or destroyed on the front lines. The U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, and Space Force will all be required to communicate and rely on one another in ways never before accomplished on a battlefield.
And China’s massive numbers advantage would have to be mitigated somehow. American privateers, or pirates as the press would surely call them, might just do the trick.
I’m sure you’ve had a conversation with someone and asked, “Where are you from?” and the response was “Everywhere. I’m a military brat.”
At one time this response made me feel bad for them. I felt they didn’t have a real home or real friends because they never stayed put long enough. That was just my ignorance before I joined the military world.
Now I see all the amazing opportunities and environments that military children are exposed to.
Here’s 10 practical and healthy things we can teach our kids so that this lifestyle can benefit them in the long run!
1. Be open to friendships
Some kids have no problem making friends. And the other ones may need a bit of a push from us (parents). This is an excellent trait that will help your child throughout life, whether they are going to college, starting a new job, or relocating. You can grow this skill by simply teaching them conversations starters.
(115th Fighter Wing photo by MSgt Paul Gorman)
2. Try NEW foods
Keeping your palate flexible is the equivalent of keeping an open mind. Try a new restaurant once a month as a family, or let your child pick a new fruit or veggie when you go to the grocery store. I’ve experienced some of the best meals while traveling and eating outside of my comfort zone.
3. Learn a second language
What do you call someone who speaks one language? AMERICAN. It’s funny because for most of us, it’s true. Benefits our children can have from learning a second language can include a sharper mind, better job opportunities, and expanded connection to other cultures.
I grew up in Florida so it’s second nature to wear a light sweater with my clothes that I can peel off when the day warms. This valuable lesson will help your kids not to dress in thick sweaters for the day and then the weather goes from 55 to 80 within a few hours. It does that in certain places you know…
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin Smelley)
5. Embrace other cultures
More than learning about other cultures, our kids get to experience them. Teach them to enjoy the differences. They might even want to start incorporating some into everyday life.
Everyone needs a private place to SAY IT ALL! Journaling is not only an excellent way of expression and getting your thoughts out, but it’s also a nice thing to look back on and reflect on how certain moments felt. The good, the bad, and the funny.
7. Take a piece of life to remember from wherever you go
There’s an interesting idea called a travel corner. It’s a spot that has photos of different places you’ve traveled and items/souvenirs gathered along the way. Not gift shop souvenirs, but shells, feathers, stones, and branches.
(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Aimee Fujikawa, 29th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)
8. Don’t forget your friends
When your kids find a good friend who becomes a bestie, find ways for them to stay in touch. You can FaceTime every now and then. You can also have them create gifts for their friend’s birthday. How cool is it if they become pen pals and write each other letters? It’s quite possible that they may cross paths again.
9. Home is what you make it
It can be difficult to feel at home when every few years you’re packing up and moving again. This is an opportunity to teach your child how to create happiness. What types of things do they like? They can get creative with making their space reflect their personality and if this changes with every move, that’s fine. Let them take the lead on what type of vibe they want to surround them.
10. Find the “takeaway” in every experience
Teach kids to adapt to their situation rather its an unwanted duty station, or new school. Find the good because ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING!
If you’re a “military brat” what’s a practical lesson you learned growing up?
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
COVID-19 is here and schools have been cancelled across the country for weeks, even months. No matter if you are a working parent who is now teleworking or a stay at home parent with an unexpected long Spring Break, this list will help you get things done around the house without using copious amounts of screen time. All while saying screen time, especially education-focused learning, is important and a great tool to use within moderation.
Legos are a useful tool. When I give my boys a box of Legosand minimal direction they can play for hours. But when I can channel their energy into learning while playing, Legos become worth their weight in gold. Check out these 20 educational ways to use Legos. Even with all of these, the best way to use Legos is through free-play and imagination.
Depending on where you live the weather might not be ideal for going outside, but luckily Spring is almost here to stay, and even a 10-minute walk in the rain is a way to break up the schedule. On nicer days, send the kids outside to play. Some of my favorite games are race around the house, tag, sending the kids to find various objects in nature and puddle jumping in the rain. Make it a point to spend at least an hour outside each day. It will be good for you and the kids. Bonus if you can bring your laptop so you can get work done too.
Similar to Legos, but not as sturdy. One of my favorite things about Magna-tiles is that you can use them on the fridge to practice learning shapes and colors, but they are also great for building. Give your kids a theme and watch them use their imaginations. My boys especially love building rockets that we count down to blast off (aka total destruction of the said rocket).
Read Books Alone or Together
Even with a six and four year old, my boys can sit and read books for at least 30 minutes on their own. Sometimes longer. I often set a timer for the boys to read and then reward their independent time by me reading them a story. It gives them something constructive to do and allows me to get work done. And having a reward at the end of the time is an added bonus for them.
To be fair, not all art projects are created equally, but drawing with markers and crayons is a great way for kids to use their imaginations and keep them focused on a project for an extended period of time. You can leave it basic with coloring or go on Pinterest and become the art queen or king.
Last summer we had every intention of doing school work during the break, but life happened and the school workbooks we bought went unused. Luckily for us we still have them and each day we will be working through the workbook.
What ways are you finding to keep your kids entertained with this sudden life interruption? Has there been something that you have felt has helped you the most or are any of these suggestions something you want to try at home this week?
When you think of joining the military, a ton of images shoot through your mind. You think of that badass grunt running toward some unnamed, burning city, rifle in hand as aircraft rip through the skies above. When you actually start your service, you’ll quickly realize that reality is a far cry from your fantasy. In fact, grunts don’t even spend all of their time fighting wars.
Some things might surprise you, but then there are a ton of things you never saw coming.
It’s not even that your recruiter lied to you, it’s just that much of life in the military isn’t as advertised on posters or in TV ads. Some of thee surprises are cool, many of them suck, but at the end of the day, they’re what keeps the machine running.
You probably didn’t expect the following when you signed on the dotted line:
It’s hard to lie about getting hit when you have paint splattered on you.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Leon M. Branchaud)
If you’re a prospective Marine, then you’ve probably seen Jarhead (maybe one too many times). You know that one part where they train with paintball rounds? Most of us thought it was Hollywood bullsh*t — until we got to do the same. Granted, it doesn’t hurt as bad as they make it seem in the movie, but it’s actually a lot of fun. Hell, it’s probably some of the best training you can get.
You see what the aircraft does with the ammo, though.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade)
Loading ammo onto an aircraft
We’ve all seen videos of jets flying overhead and raining pain onto the ground below. In those moments, with our jaws dropped, we’re thinking, “whoa… that’s so cool.” That is, of course, before you’re the one loading the ammo.
Remember, there are a lot of people behind every dropped bomb.
Some may use their anger more than others.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Aaron Bolser)
Feeling emotional extremes of every type
Troops are tough bad*sses — but we’re definitely not emotionless. In fact, what makes veterans so stoic is that they’ve already felt every emotion in its most extreme form. You’ll never be more happy than when you get to sleep in an actual bed after months of sleeping in dirt, you’ll never be as angry as you were in a firefight, and you’ll never be more sad than when you lose a dear friend.
You might even earn their accolades.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alexander Mitchell)
Hanging with another country’s troops
You might expect to go to another country and train with their military, but you can’t really foresee the time you’ll spend hanging out with the Germans, Aussies, Koreans — you name it. You’ll quickly realize that you have a lot in common; you share a lot of the same, bullsh*t experiences.
And you all have that one a**hole in your chain of command.
If you’ve got time and you’ll be using that model for a while, why not go all out?
Building a terrain model
Did you ever think that a squad leader would tell you to go out and buy a pack of plastic army men? Probably not.
You also probably didn’t expect to build a terrain model to plan a mission and yet here you are. If you don’t mind spending a little extra time, you can actually have fun with this one.
The best backyardgames, the ones that earn a coveted spot in your warm weather rotation, are casual activities that work as well for crowds as they do for one-on-one matchups. While we won’t ever turn down a game of cornhole, kanjam, ladder toss, and horseshoes, the best backyard games and lawn games come from Scandinavia. Why? Simple. Because of their soul-witheringly long winters, Scandinavians know how to celebrate summer. That celebration often includes participation in simple, fun games that lend themselves to hours of time on that oh-so-important sunlight. The games on this list exist are those that require you to throw one thing at a set of other things. They’re easy to pick up but still require skill and, when the time is right, lend themselves to serious competition. Think cornhole gets competitive? Try a game of Kubb or Mölkky and get back to us. Here are a few games to consider adding to your backyard this summer.
Yard Games Kubb
The Swedish game Kubb dates back more than 1,000 years, when Vikings first conceived of the game as a pastime during those, long light-filled summer nights when they were finished sinking Skeggøx into the chests of their enemies. Legend has it, they’d lob the skulls and limbs of their slain foes across a decreed playing area; eventually, over centuries, it evolved into a more civilized game. In recent years, its exploded in popularity. Modern Kubb sets are, thankfully, made of carved wood instead of cadavers. Each contains 10 wooden blocks, called kubbs, as well as a foot-tall king (marked by a set of points to designate a crown) six tall blocks, and six skittles, the latter of which are used to demarcate a playing field. Once the field is set up properly, the object of the game is to lob kubbs in an attempt to knock down an opponent’s pins and, finally, their king. Accidentally knock down the king before the other pins results in an automatic loss. Simple, but good for hours of warm weather entertainment.
More or less a mash-up of cornhole and bowling, Mölkky is a Finnish lawn game similar to Kubb. Twelve slim, numbered pins called “skittles” are set up on the grass. Teams take turns throwing a wooden block, or karttus, at said pins in an attempt to knock them down. The team who is first to knock down 50 points worth of pins wins. As is the case with games that have been around for a very long time, the rules vary and some are more complicated than others. Regardless of which you follow, the outcome is the same: fun.
A board game that can be played anywhere but is best befitting of the backyard, Sjoelbak is the Dutch version of shuffleboard. It consists of a 16-inch wide, 79-inch long wooden board and 30 wooden pucks. Each side of the board has four wooden channels; players take turns sliding pucks, trying to get them in appropriate lanes. After three rounds, the pucks are totaled (scoring is a bit confusing, but the rules are explained here) and the winner is decided. Again, it’s quite simple. But set up the board on a back table and don’t be surprised if it’s played long into the evening.
Whether your partner was already in the military when you met or just finished basic training yesterday, raising kids with a parent in the armed forces is a daunting task. You can have the best partner in the world and still feel like you’re going it alone. There are bound to be plenty of challenges along the way, but that’s what you sign up for when you become a parent- military spouse or not. Here’s how to navigate the military parenting world and come out unscathed. (Well, mostly!)
Come to peace with semi-solo parenting
The tricky truth of being a military spouse is that most of the parenting will fall to you. You might have to celebrate birthdays and holidays alone. Make big decisions alone. Take care of a houseful of kids with the flu alone. In some cases, you might even have to give birth alone! While you have the financial support of a partner, you’ll also have to deal with the loneliness of a partner who you love and respect, but isn’t physically there.
Once you embrace that reality, come up with a system that works. While your partner is home, prepare for as many future milestones as possible. Are you going to work or stay home with the kids? Where will they go to preschool? What traditions can you create to ensure Mom or Dad is still a central part of the family unit? By planning ahead, you can avoid future conflict and show your kids that you parent together- even when you’re apart!
…and putting a career on hold
The biggest obstacle to having a career as a military spouse isn’t raising kids while holding down a job. It’s navigating long-distance moves while trying to settle into a new job. You might just get that big promotion you wanted, only to get uprooted again. If you work from home, that’s one thing. If your career requires making a long-term commitment to stay in one place, it might have to wait. See if you can find ways to gain experience in the meantime. Then, you’ll be ready to climb the ladder when time is right.
Help kids cope with frequent moves
Moving isn’t any easier for kids than it is for adults. To help them adjust, do your best to establish constants. Having weekly routines, including quality family time, nightly dinners, a consistent bedtime routine and special days out together can make all the difference.
Being a solo parent has a few benefits. While you’ll still try to get your partner’s input on the important stuff, you don’t have to agree on every little thing. You’ll develop your own routine, get the kids to bed without someone igniting a 9 p.m. wrestling match, and won’t have to argue about whose turn it is to take the trash out. You’re doing a lot of the work yourself, but in some ways, it’s easier than trying to get someone else to pitch in!
Fewer fights are great, but sometimes you’ll want nothing more than to have your partner home safe. Deployment is scary, and it will never stop being scary. When your partner is in potential danger, the added stress makes it harder to handle the rigors of life on the homefront. Don’t hesitate to ask for help.
Have a friend, family member, or close neighbor keep an eye on the kids while you take some time for yourself. Have a girls night in. Hire a sitter to handle after school pick-up, or a housekeeper to lighten your load. Being strong for your family doesn’t mean you don’t need to take care of yourself, too.
Find your village
If you’re far from family, have few friends, or just moved, finding a network of people who get it makes a huge difference. The best place to find that sense of camaraderie is with other military families. They’ve been through the same struggles, and many of them are more than happy to go the extra mile to make a new family feel at home. Military families are some of the warmest you’ll meet, so don’t be a stranger! When your partner finally comes home, he or she will get to be a part of a close-knit community, too.
The holidays are great occasions to build family memories and connect with loved ones. The foods served often connect us to special memories from the past. But, did you know that people over 65, children, and pregnant women are at higher risk for food borne illness? To ensure that your holidays are merry, here are some tips to help prevent food borne illness from crashing your party:
Wash your hands prior to starting food preparation, making sure to wash all surfaces of the hands and nails for at least 20 seconds. Singing “Happy Birthday” is a good way to ensure you have washed long enough.
Rinse fresh produce under running water prior to prepping these items.
Use separate cutting boards for produce, meat, shellfish and eggs to prevent cross-contamination. Wash cutting boards in warm soapy water after prepping each food item.
(Photo by Caroline Attwood)
When baking with little kitchen helpers, teach children not to eat batter or dough with raw eggs.
Reused sponges and towels are a harbor for harmful bacteria. When you have multiple hands in the kitchen, paper towels can be safer.
Avoid leaving food out on the counter to defrost. The only safe ways to defrost foods are in the refrigerator, cold water, or the microwave. Food thawed in cold water or the microwave should be cooked immediately.
A thermometer is a great tool to make sure you fully cook hot items. Be careful not to place cooked meat on the same plate that previously held raw meat.
Avoid rinsing meat or poultry, as this can spread harmful bacteria.
Don’t stuff your bird! Instead, cook your stuffing separately. If you choose to stuff your bird, the stuffing must meet an internal temperature of 165°.
When sending family members home with leftovers, keep the following tips in mind:
Discard perishable food items that have been at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. Remember, you can’t tell if an item is bad by taste, smell, or appearance.
Use shallow containers to store leftovers to allow for quick cooling.
Reheat any leftovers to a minimum temperature of 165°.
For additional information check out the CDC’s information on food safety and this advice for holiday cooks. If you are interested in learning more about preparing healthy and safe holiday foods this season, contact your local VA to learn more about the Healthy Teaching Kitchen program, or to meet with a PACT dietitian to help adjust some of your family’s favorite recipes to meet your health goals.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Having been married to someone in the military for almost a decade at this point, there are two things I learned quickly that will almost always be true. The first is that no matter what, there will always be at least one MRE somewhere in your house. The second, is that you will have to move. You will move a lot, you will move often, and there is a high likelihood you will have to move somewhere unfamiliar. While PCS and other forms of military travel are put on temporary hold right now, it can still be helpful to think of ways to make some of the more stressful, and sometimes more time consuming aspects, work for you.
Any move, military or otherwise, comes with obvious stressors and things to consider. From prospective jobs, future school districts, housing, and arguably the most stressful: trying to convince your friends to help pack the moving truck. While there are options in the military to have your things professionally packed and moved, my husband and I have always taken the more hands-on approach. Albeit more tedious, it has kind of become tradition for us. It gives us one last chance to say goodbye to friends we’ve made, pay them in pizza and beer and convince them that we really didn’t mean to pack some of those boxes so heavy.
I’ve gotten a lot of great advice from people over the years about the best way to adjust to a new duty station. It’s easier when you have built in ice breakers like school aged kids or more social hobbies, but overall, everyone learns to adjust in their own way. Something else that seemingly less significant or explored is the actual act of getting from point A to point B.
Even during the anxiety and uncertainty of our very first move, my favorite part of a PCS has always been hitting the road and making conscious efforts to plan our route in a memorable way. Our duty stations have been all over the country, so we’ve been able to cover some significant ground in a relatively short amount of time. There’s something about taking what is typically deemed more utilitarian and turning it into its own experience that really seems to feed the soul.
When I think about some of my favorite memories with my husband and kids, I think about our PCS roadtrips. Our oldest son visited the Grand Canyon and traveled through 23 states before his first birthday. We spent an entire day driving around Albuquerque, NM visiting filming locations from Breaking Bad, which admittedly was more of a personal bucket list item, but my husband had control of the radio that day, so we found a happy compromise.
Our youngest son travelled from Oregon to Louisiana before he was even born (nothing goes better with being seven months pregnant than driving 7 hours a day for a week straight). Both of our boys have managed to get really close to crossing off all 50 states since they’ve been our roadies. We’ve made our way through the good, the bad and the ugly of truck stops, hotels and roadside attractions–few things compare to some of those alien museums in Roswell, which really have the potential to encompass all three traits seamlessly.
We take the time before our move to look at a map and see what’s out there. Sure, there are days where it really is about getting up early and putting in those long hours to get some mileage under our belt, but we always try to counter that with something fun. Sometimes it can feel like “making the best out of a bad situation” if the move comes at an inopportune time, or there are outside factors at play.
One of the realities of being a military family is having a lot of things decided for you. That can seem like a daunting thing, and I would be lying if I said there weren’t times where it was really hard for us in one way or another.
At the end of the day it’s about looking for those silver linings in the inevitable. Taking stock in the situation and being able to make it into something you can look back on and appreciate having been in that place at that time. So many things in life are done with the outcome in mind, not the process. Military members and military families will undoubtedly spend a lot of time going from point A to point B, it comes with the territory. What that does however, is offer up the opportunity for adventure. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but sometimes it’s worth taking a detour.