The Air Force just announced its ballin' aviation bonus for 2019 - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MONEY

The Air Force just announced its ballin’ aviation bonus for 2019

The Air Force announced Jan. 23, 2019, the details of the fiscal year 2019 Aviation Bonus program.

The fiscal 2019 AvB program is designed to augment continuing aircrew retention efforts across the Air Force, by offering experienced aviators bonuses for signing tier-based contracts, ranging from three to 12 years of continued service.

Congress raised the annual maximum aviation bonus from $25,000 to $35,000 in the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act and required the Air Force to present aviation bonuses based on a business case analysis. The Air Force evaluates its rated inventory every year to ensure the AvB program is tailored to meet the service’s needs.


For the fiscal 2019 RegAF program, the following bonus amounts and contract lengths are being offered to active duty aviators whose initial undergraduate flying training service commitment expires in fiscal 2019:

Bomber pilots (11B), fighter pilots (11F) and mobility pilots (11M)

  • Annual payments of ,000 for contract lengths of three to 12 years
  • Lump-sum, up-front payment options of 0,000 exist for seven to nine year contracts and 0,000 for 10-12 year contracts
The Air Force just announced its ballin’ aviation bonus for 2019

Lt. Col. Benjamin Bishop completes preflight checks before his first sortie in an F-35A Lightning II.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

Remotely piloted aircraft pilots (18X/11U) and special operations forces pilots (11S)

  • o Annual payments of ,000 for contract lengths of three to twelve years

Command and control/intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance pilots (11R) and combat search and rescue fixed wing pilots (11H)

  • Annual payments of ,000 for contract lengths of three to nine years and ,000 for contract lengths of 10-12 years
  • A lump-sum, up-front payment option of 0,000 exists for seven to nine year contracts

Combat search and rescue rotary wing pilots (11H)

  • Annual payments of ,000 for contract lengths of three to nine years

Combat systems officers (12X) and air battle managers (13B)

  • Annual payments of ,000 for contract lengths of three to six years and ,000 for contract lengths of seven to nine years

For aviators whose contracts have expired or who have never signed a previous AvB agreement, the following bonus amounts and contract lengths are being offered:

Pilots (11X) and RPA pilots (11U/12U/13U/18X)

  • Annual payments of ,000 to ,000 based on the three to six year rates of the member’s core community identification as set above for contract lengths ranging from three to nine years
  • Contracts may not extend the airman beyond 24 years of aviation service

Combat systems officers (12X) and air battle managers (13B)

  • Annual payments of ,000 for contract lengths of three to five years
  • Eligible airmen must have 19 years or greater of total active federal military Service and contracts may not extend the airman beyond 24 years of aviation service

The application window for airmen interested in applying for the fiscal 2019 AvB program will be open until Aug. 30, 2019. For full eligibility requirements and details about program changes in fiscal 2019, airmen should visit the myPers website at https://mypers.af.mil.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

The six years of experience and hundreds of hours of flight time needed to become a pilot of the US Air Force’s oldest spy plane are no more, and now trainee pilots will be eligible to take the controls of the venerable Dragon Lady.

The new U-2 First Assignment Companion Trainer, or FACT, program will allow Air Force student pilots to jump directly into the U-2 pipeline and join the 9th Reconnaissance Wing.


“Our focus is modernizing and sustaining the U-2 well into the future to meet the needs of our nation at the speed of relevance,” Air Force Col. Andy Clark, commander of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, said in a release.

The Air Force just announced its ballin’ aviation bonus for 2019

Pilots from Beale Air Force Base go through pre-flight checks on a U-2 at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, Sept. 29, 2018

(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Schultze)

The new program is meant to create ” a new reconnaissance career path for young, highly qualified aviators eager to shape the next generation of [reconnaissance] warfighting capabilities,” Clark said. The first selection will be among fall 2018 undergraduate training pilots with the next round coming in about six months.

The change comes as the Air Force seeks to modernize the U-2 airframe and mission, as well as its pilot-acquisition and development process.

Once selected, pilots in the FACT program will go the T-38 pilot instructor training course at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph in Texas before a permanent change-of-station to Beale Air Force Base in California, where the U-2s are based.

The Air Force just announced its ballin’ aviation bonus for 2019

Airmen refuel a U-2 at Beale Air Force Base, California, Aug. 9, 2018.

(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Justin Parsons)

The selectee will then be a T-38 instructor pilot for the next two years, and once they have the requisite experience, they will undergo the standard two-week U-2 pilot interview process.

If hired, they’ll then start Basic Qualification Training.

“The well-established path to the U-2 has proven effective for over 60 years,” Lt. Col. Carl Maymi, commander of the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, said in a release.

“However, we need access to young, talented officers earlier in their careers. I believe we can do this while still maintaining the integrity of our selection process through the U-2 FACT program.”

The Air Force just announced its ballin’ aviation bonus for 2019

A U-2 prepares to land at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, Nov. 16, 2017.

(Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Colton Elliott)

‘An art, not a science’

The U-2 entered service during the Eisenhower administration, carrying out covert missions high above enemy territory during the height of the Cold War. The aircraft have been overhauled and the missions have changed in the decades since, but the Dragon Lady remains one of the most unique and challenging aircraft US pilots can fly.

Today’s U-2s are larger than the original versions and are made of slightly lighter material, as less weight translates into more altitude — about one extra foot for each pound shed, according to Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Phillips, who ventured up in a U-2 in 2018, accompanied by Jethro, one of the few pilots who’ve qualified to fly it.

Every six years, each U-2 is totally overhauled by Lockheed Martin, which takes the plane completely apart and goes through “every wire, every connector, every panel,” Jethro told Phillips.

“They’ll X-ray it … make sure there’s no cracks, replace anything that’s broken, put it back together, new coat of paint, and it looks like a brand-new airplane again, and it flies like a brand-new airplane again,” Jethro added.

The Air Force just announced its ballin’ aviation bonus for 2019

A U-2 is prepped for takeoff from Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, June 22, 2018.

(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kristin High)

The long, narrow wings allow the U-2 to quickly lift heavy payloads of cameras and sensors to high altitudes and stay there for extended periods. It’s capable of gathering an array of imagery, including multi-spectral electro-optic, infrared, and synthetic aperture radar products that can be stored aboard or transmitted to the ground.

Some parts of the preparation process are still low-tech, however.

The U-2 has a central fuel tank fed by tanks in each wing. Crews will fill up the wing tanks and then look to see which way the aircraft leans. They they transfer fuel from one side to the other until it balances out.

“So it’s really kind of an art, not a science,” Jethro said.

U-2 pilots work in two-man crews, but the pilots go up in the aircraft alone. Their pre-flight preparations begin with donning a full-pressure suit, like those worn by astronauts, that regulates the pilot’s pressure and temperature.

“If the cockpit lost pressure at 70,000 feet” — the usual cruising altitude — “and I weren’t wearing a space suit, my blood would boil,” Phillips said.

Once suited, pilots head to the aircraft, accompanied by a crew member carrying their oxygen supply.

Pilots give the U-2 a traditional pat on the nose, shake hands with each flight crew member, and clamber into the cockpit, where a team of technicians hooks them up to an array of regulators and sensors.

The Air Force just announced its ballin’ aviation bonus for 2019

A U-2 pilot prepares to board his aircraft at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, June 22, 2018.

(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kristin High)

“I’ve got crew chiefs. I’ve got electricians. I’ve got different civilians for each of the sensors … so there may be 40 people around the aircraft, who are all there just to get you in the air,” Jethro said. “We don’t call it a takeoff. We call it a launch.”

The U-2’s 103-foot wingspan and broad turning radius make it hard to maneuver, and the wings, laden with fuel, are supported by bicycle-like wheels that break away during takeoff.

To help deal with those hazards, the other member of the two-man pilot team trails behind the U-2 at the wheel of a muscle car — like a Pontiac GTO or Tesla Model S — that can keep up with the U-2.

Other U-2 pilots who aren’t flying may be in Beale’s control tower, overseeing their fellow pilots’ missions.

During takeoff, the pilot wrestles with the plane as it gets off the ground.

“As soon as you throw the power up, you’re pushing 18,000 pounds of thrust out of the backend. You have those big, long wings, and it just wants to accelerate so fast,” said one U-2 pilot, identified only as Nova. “You gotta pull it up to about 40 degrees nose high just to keep the airplane within limits, and that is just one of the coolest feelings ever.”

“When you get a chance to look and just see the earth just falling away behind you so quickly, it’s awesome,” he added.

Temporary wheels, called “pogos,” that hold up the wings during takeoff drop away as the plane leaves the ground.

The U-2 ascends to about 70,000 feet for a typical mission. Up there, the curvature of the earth allows pilots to see 270 nautical miles in each direction — a field of vision of about 500 miles. It can map all of Iraq in a single mission.

On the edge of space, the cockpit is silent except for the raspy hiss of the breathing system, which sucks pure oxygen into the pilot’s helmet.

“The air pressure inside the cockpit is the equivalent to standing on top of Mount Everest,” Phillips said.

“Without the oxygen I’d be gasping for breath, and I’d be in danger of getting the bends,” he added, referring to an illness that occurs when dissolved gases enter the bloodstream as the body experiences changes in pressure.

“A lot of times when we get up to altitude, you’ll be able to look down and see the airliners,” Jethro, the pilot, said during the flight.

“And you can see that very gentle curve of the earth from here,” Phillips added, “It’s an extraordinary view.”

“When you get up there and you think, like, ‘What makes these people different from these people?’ And you just don’t see it from up there,” Nova, the other pilot, said. “It’s one world. There’s one planet.”

The Air Force just announced its ballin’ aviation bonus for 2019

A U-2 lands at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, Nov. 16, 2017.

(Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Colton Elliott)

‘You’re in a small club’

The features that make the U-2 an exceptional high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft make it extremely difficult to land. Pilots have to perform a kind of controlled crash to bring the plane back to earth.

The two sets of wheels built into the plane are set up like bicycle wheels, with one set under the nose and the other under the tail. The massive wings, now relieved of their fuel, make the aircraft hard to control as it comes in.

The cars that saw the plane off zip in as it lands, their drivers giving the pilots a foot-by-foot countdown and alerting them to any problems. The cars can hit 140 mph while chasing an incoming U-2.

Once the plane has slowed down enough, one of the wings droops to the ground. Titanium skid plates on the bottoms of both wings help bring the plane to a full stop, at which point the temporary wheels are reattached. The plane then taxis off the runway.

Back on earth, technicians begin developing the imagery.

A flight can produce 10,500 feet of film, stored on a 250-pound spool, according to Phillips.

The U-2’s wet-film camera produces images that are clearer than digital images, which are analyzed with loupes or microscope-like optics that zoom in on the features captured on the film.

It’s an old-fashioned approach to aerial reconnaissance, Phillips noted. “But it works, and that’s why it’s still around,” one of the airmen overseeing the film-development process added.

After the first two undergraduate pilot training students are picked and enter the FACT program, the assignment process “will be assessed to determine the sustainability of this experimental pilot pipeline,” the Air Force said in its announcement.

For the time being, the Dragon Lady’s pilot corps will be a rare breed.

“A thousand pilots, [there are] way more Super Bowl rings out there. You’re in a small club,” Lt. Col. Matt Nussbaum, 99th Reconnaissance Squadron commander, told Phillips.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This carrier, a veteran of the Doolittle Raid, was just rediscovered after 76 years

In October of 1942, Charles Mason took one last look at the hulking gray warship the US Navy had entrusted to his command, ensuring that all other personnel had been accounted for and evacuated from its massive long decks. Seconds later, Mason jumped into the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean to be picked up by nearby American destroyers, leaving his now-empty and thoroughly damaged aircraft carrier — the USS Hornet — to its fate.


While Mason passed away in 1971, a retired Vice Admiral with numerous honors and service distinctions to his name, neither he nor the 2000-plus survivors of the Hornet would ever see their ship again, as they steamed away from an inbound Japanese flotilla on the destroyers and frigates which had picked them up.

Now, just over 76 years after its loss, a team of “ocean hunters” aboard the Research Vessel Petrel have rediscovered the Hornet relatively intact in its watery grave, deep in the shadows of the Pacific Ocean.

The Air Force just announced its ballin’ aviation bonus for 2019

An aircraft tug still chained to the flight deck of the Hornet (R/V Petrel photograph)


Last month, the Petrel’s remotely-operated vehicles (essentially underwater drones) found the lost ship — (the last American fleet carrier to have been sunk by enemy fire) — by triangulating its approximate location through researching and poring through old ships logs from the last Navy surface vessels to see her.

The R/V Petrel, owned by the estate of the deceased co-founder of Microsoft, Paul Allen, has led the way in rediscovering the wrecks of a number of warships once thought eternally lost to the depths of the world’s largest ocean. Among the many finds to its name are the USS Indianapolis, the USS Juneau, and the Japanese battleship Musashi — sister ship of the infamous behemoth Yamato.

The Hornet, one of the most beloved boats in the Navy at the time of its sinking, was a veteran of the Doolittle Raid, having participated in delivering a joint forces comeback punch to Japan in the wake of the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. It would quickly rearm and resupply for the Battle of Midway in May 1942, where it helped turn the tide of the war against the juggernaut Imperial Japanese Navy.

The Air Force just announced its ballin’ aviation bonus for 2019

One of the Hornet’s anti-aircraft guns (R/V Petrel photograph)

Then, just over five months after Midway, Hornet was lost during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. Alongside the USS Enterprise, Hornet’s fighters and bombers dished out a heavy beating to nearby Japanese warships, including the Shōkaku, one of several aircraft carriers which had participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor the previous year.

Japanese aircraft responded in kind, crippling the Hornet and preventing it from launching and recovering its aircraft. Attempts to repair the carrier and get it back in the fight proved to be futile against the Japanese onslaught, and the order was begrudgingly given to abandon ship. To prevent the carrier from falling into enemy hands, nearby American frigates and destroyers began shelling the Midway veteran after picking up its crew, but despite being considerably damaged, it refused to sink.

An advancing Japanese battle group engaged the Hornet, not knowing that it was emptied of its crew and aircraft, and sank it with a barrage of torpedoes. The ship would not to be seen again until early 2019 when the R/V Petrel rediscovered it not too far off the coast of the Solomon Islands. Of the 2200-strong crew aboard the Hornet, 140 were killed in action.

The Hornet currently sits at a depth of 17,000 feet in fairly decent condition. Pictures from the wreck site show barnacle-encrusted surfaces and hardware, rusting away in the salty and murky depths of the ocean.

Given that a number of the Hornet’s crew perished aboard the ship, it’s almost certain that the wreck is also their final resting site, making it a war grave. Thus, the Hornet will remain untouched and a protected site, as the Navy considers it hallowed ground. R/V Petrel is currently still operating in the South Pacific near the Solomon Islands as it continues its search for other lost warships in the area, including the Japanese battleship Hiei.

Articles

Commissary savings overhaul might cost shoppers extra

A recent overhaul of the defense commissary program aboard military installations will result in higher costs for its customers, according to a recent MilitaryTimes report.


New rules, which were put in place as part of the latest annual defense authorization act allow the defense commissaries, or DeCA, to up the prices on about 1,000 products in 10 stores. Additionally, all 238 commissaries were authorized to raise prices on national brand products.

According to MilitaryTimes, this will allow officials to explore how the overall impact of raising these prices might help them to reduce operating costs that taxpayers cover, which currently sits at about $1.3 billion annually.

Before the rollout of the overhaul, DeCA was able to sell items at the commissaries at cost plus 5 percent. Under the new system, DeCA is able to purchase items at a reduced rate, but sell them at their previous rates or higher.

For example, if DeCA purchases a product at $.10 cheaper than before, it might not sell that product for the reduced price at the commissary, MilitaryTimes explains.

That extra cash might go, instead, toward operating costs or toward lowering the price of a different product, or both.

One of the issues with this new system, according to MilitaryTimes, is that the consulting company who designed it may be benefitting financially. MilitaryTimes claims that “unofficial reports from members of industry” say that Boston Consulting Group (or BCG) stands to make between 50 and 60 percent of the amount prices are reduced.

So that dime savings per sale of a particular item might net BCG between a nickel and 6 cents per unit sold.

DeCA officials are unable to confirm those claims, saying instead that the details of extra awards, fees or incentives for BCG won’t be available until they are “determined at a later date”, MilitaryTimes says.

Chris Burns, the executive director of business transformation at DeCA, told MilitaryTimes that the money DeCA saves is going toward reducing product prices or toward operating costs, but MilitaryTimes could not determine if consulting fees were included in those operating costs.

The effects of the overhaul are being felt elsewhere, as well. Some national brands who are pressured to lower prices below cost are pulling their items from the commissary altogether, MilitaryTimes reports. They claim that “multiple sources” are saying that other programs, like scholarship donations, could be cut.

Some good news does come out of the overhaul, however. DeCA will begin rolling out store brand items later this month that should be cheaper than national name brands.

While Congress approved the Department of Defense’s DeCA program, they are keeping a close eye on it and on whether it actually saves anyone money, MilitaryTimes says.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time an admiral started a dairy in Antarctica

Domestic animals are rarely associated with Antarctica. However, before non-native species (bar humans) were excluded from the continent in the 1990s, many travelled to the far south. These animals included not only the obvious sledge dogs, but also ponies, sheep, pigs, hamsters, hedgehogs, and a goat. Perhaps the most curious case occurred in 1933, when US Admiral Richard E. Byrd’s second Antarctic expedition took with it three Guernsey cows.

The cows, named Klondike Gay Nira, Deerfoot Guernsey Maid and Foremost Southern Girl, plus a bull calf born en route, spent over a year in a working dairy on the Ross Ice Shelf. They returned home to the US in 1935 to considerable celebrity.


Keeping the animals healthy in Antarctica took a lot of doing — not least, hauling the materials for a barn, a huge amount of feed and a milking machine across the ocean and then the ice. What could have possessed Byrd to take cows to the icy south?

The Air Force just announced its ballin’ aviation bonus for 2019

Klondike the Guernsey cow waits on the dock in Norfolk, Virginia, alongside the alfafa, beet pulp and dairy feed that would keep them alive in the far south

(With permission of Wisconsin Historical Society, WHS-127998, contact for re-use, CC BY-ND)

The answer we suggest in our recently published paper is multi-layered and ultimately points to Antarctica’s complex geopolitical history.

Solving the “milk problem”

The cows’ ostensible purpose was to solve the expedition’s so-called “milk problem”. By the 1930s, fresh milk had become such an icon of health and vigour that it was easy to claim it was needed for the expeditioners’ well-being. Just as important, however, were the symbolic associations of fresh milk with purity, wholesomeness and US national identity.

Powdered or malted milk could have achieved the same nutritional results. Previous expeditions, including those of Ernest Shackleton and Roald Amundsen, had survived just fine with such products. What’s more, William Horlick of Horlick’s Malted Milk sponsored Byrd’s second Antarctic expedition; the seaplane Byrd used was named for this benefactor.

The Air Force just announced its ballin’ aviation bonus for 2019

Crates of Horlick’s Malted Milk destined for Byrd’s second expedition. With its carefully placed sledge, husky and sign, the shot seems posed for publicity purposes.

(With permission of Wisconsin Historical Society, WHS-23703, contact for re-use, CC BY-ND)

So if fresh milk was not actually a health requirement, and other forms were readily available, why go to the trouble of lugging three cows and their accoutrements across the ice?

Maximising publicity

The cows represented a first, and Byrd well knew that “firsts” in the polar regions translated into media coverage. The expedition was privately funded, and Byrd was adept at attracting media attention and hence sponsorship. His backers expected a return, whether in the form of photographs of their product on the ice or mentions in the regular radio updates by the expedition.

The novelty value that the cows brought to the expedition was a valuable asset in its own right, but Byrd hedged his bets by including a pregnant cow — Klondike was due to give birth just as the expedition ship sailed across the Antarctic Circle. The calf, named “Iceberg”, was a media darling and became better known than the expeditioners themselves.

The celebrity attached to the cows helped the expedition remain in the headlines throughout its time in Antarctica, and they received an enthusiastic welcome upon its return. Although the unfortunate Klondike, suffering from frostbite, had to be put down mid-expedition, her companions made it home in good condition. They were feted on their return, meeting politicians in Washington, enjoying “hay cocktails” at fancy hotels, and making the front page of The New York Times.

It would be easy, then, to conclude that the real reason Byrd took cows south was for the publicity he knew they would generate, but his interest in the animals may also have had a more politically motivated layer.

Eyeing a territorial claim

A third reason for taking cows to Antarctica relates to the geopolitics of the period and the resonances the cows had with colonial settlement. By the 1930s several nations had claimed sectors of Antarctica. Byrd wanted the US to make its own claim, but this was not as straightforward as just planting a flag on the ice.

According to the Hughes Doctrine, a claim had to be based on settlement, not just discovery. But how do you show settlement of a continent covered in ice? In this context, symbolic gestures such as running a post office — or farming livestock — are useful.

Domestic animals have long been used as colonial agents, and cattle in particular were a key component of settler colonialism in frontier America. The image of the explorer-hero Byrd, descended from one of the First Families of Virginia, bringing cows to a new land and successfully farming them evoked this history.

The Air Force just announced its ballin’ aviation bonus for 2019

Richard Byrd with Deerfoot in a publicity shot taken before departure.

(With permission of Wisconsin Historical Society WHS-130655, contact for re-use, CC BY-ND)

The cows’ presence in Antarctica helped symbolically to turn the expedition base — not coincidentally named “Little America” — into a frontier town. While the US did not end up making a claim to any sector of Antarctica, the polar dairy represented a novel way of demonstrating national interest in the frozen continent.

The Antarctic cows are not just a quirky story from the depths of history. As well as producing milk, they had promotional and geopolitical functions. On an ice continent, settlement is performed rather than enacted, and even Guernsey cows can be more than they first seem.

This article originally appeared on TheConversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

MightyScopes for the week of March 6th

Dear dumbass,

Even though I am a prophet, you can’t base your entire life off a horoscope, no matter how badass and totally true it is. You might have to make some decisions on your own. I know, that’s scary and you might make mistakes. I can’t be there to hold your hand. At least, not unless you pay me, a lot, cause you’re pretty f’ed up.

Anyway, don’t be such a soup sandwich. You’re embarrassing me.

Sincerely, Noadamus.


The Air Force just announced its ballin’ aviation bonus for 2019

Maybe live in the real world this week. For once.

(Giphy)

Pisces

Remember all those times you fantasized about how great your life would be if the universe provided the perfect opportunity? That time is here, and if you don’t go for your goals right now, you will have missed an incredibly powerful time for growth and achievement. Your perceived career and money problems seem to be looming over your head, but they’ll pass without consequence if you don’t do anything impulsively. You are positioned for incredible advancement, but all you can think of this weekend are lustful thoughts. Just don’t break the bank or do something in public your mom would find distasteful, because this week it will definitely end up on the internet.

The Air Force just announced its ballin’ aviation bonus for 2019

You only get rewarded if you actually do the right thing.

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Aries

Leaders don’t do the right thing because someone is watching. A real leader does the right thing all the time—when things are good and when things are sh!t. They also never stop improving, even when things are going great. Don’t get complacent; just because you hope everything you do will work out perfectly, doesn’t mean it will. If asked to work alone or in secret, do it and do your work to the higher standards. You will find yourself in unexpected leadership roles.

The Air Force just announced its ballin’ aviation bonus for 2019

Work before play…

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Taurus

This week finds you focused on friends and events, maybe planning to see some live music or something. Don’t plan a trip just yet. Remember that thing where you have to put on a uniform and play military? This week forces you to find balance between your increasing need for freedom and work which must be redone. The fact this mess was not your doing is inconsequential. You must fix the mistakes of others, and you must do so perfectly. Try to be a good leader and don’t cry about it while you work. Everyone else will be inspired by your example, and you may even enjoy yourself.

The Air Force just announced its ballin’ aviation bonus for 2019

Someone’s allllllways watching.

(Giphy)

Gemini

Okay Private, let’s do this again. Literally, you will be asked to return to something you believed was complete. Just got back from a deployment? The field? A float? You might have to go back. Do whatever the task requires and try not to tell too many lies this week. Your web of deceit is more likely to trap you than your prey. This weekend brings all the adult entertainment you could hope for, especially if you are traveling. Have fun, but be respectful—you never know who is lurking about watching.

The Air Force just announced its ballin’ aviation bonus for 2019

Maybe just… take a vow of silence this week.

(Giphy)

Cancer

This week finds you re-examining the past, again. On top of that nonsense, your decision-making ability concerning money is terribly flawed and emotionally driven. Don’t burn any bridges no matter how much you would like to this week; just focus on the little things and keep your head down. If you find yourself involved in a romance with someone other than your primary relationship, keep it on the DL, and you will probably get away with it this week. As long as you don’t leave a paper trail, anyway, so hide those receipts and don’t tell your friends about your illicit fling, that is.

The Air Force just announced its ballin’ aviation bonus for 2019

Whatever your go-to move is, your game is on point.

(Giphy)

Leo

Oh yeah, it’s about time us Leos got some love, pun intended. If you are single and looking for a friend, or relationship, or repeat from your past you are likely to find it. In fact, even if you are not looking for it, it will probably find you. Time with your friends will lead to romantic opportunities. Oh yeah, don’t forget about your oath of enlistment; this week it’s low on your priority list, but your relentless work ethic coupled with powerful aggression positions you for career advancement.

The Air Force just announced its ballin’ aviation bonus for 2019

Bring. It. On.

(Giphy)

Virgo

If you get the opportunity for advanced training this week, jump on it. Even if you have to forgo something you really want. It will not only pay off, it will be way more fun than you were expecting. If the training involves shooting, blowing stuff up, or punching people in the face, you will not only excel, but will probably end up as the honor grad. Have fun and remember the only person you should expect perfection from is yourself. As long as you remember—while perfection is the goal, it is an unreachable one.

The Air Force just announced its ballin’ aviation bonus for 2019

Come on, it’s just some desperately needed character building.

(Giphy)

Libra

Does a squad leader have to pull a midnight guard shift or is that the work of the lower enlisted swine? Trick question, but you might want to review the NCO’s creed. Anyway, I’ll tell you the answer: Yes, you do. There is a good chance it will feel like the only thing that exists this week is work, but that’s not totally true. This is a time to focus on your duties, but your pleasant attitude and willingness to do things you normally feel are beneath you will endear you to others and lead to all sorts of travel and romance opportunities.

The Air Force just announced its ballin’ aviation bonus for 2019

Just remember how you felt the first time you watched the Miracle of Life.

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Scorpio

Hey corporal, are you trying to make a baby? Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but didn’t they show you that video about where babies come from in Boot Camp? Let me know if you need me to send you a link so you can review it. Other than your sloppy finances and questionable morals, things are looking up for you. Your home and family life are pleasant and engaging. You may find a positive change in your daily duties. Lateral transfer, perhaps?

The Air Force just announced its ballin’ aviation bonus for 2019

Bad Sagittarius. Put it down.

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Sagittarius

You win a four-day pass for crushing the SGM’s PT event? Go visit your family. You will have a bunch of your favorite thing, Fun. Promise. You might even get someone to show you how to do your laundry. No matter where you find yourself this week, get out and explore the local area, even if you’ve been everywhere a million times before. Surprising excitement awaits you. Just don’t overdraft your account again while enjoying yourself.

The Air Force just announced its ballin’ aviation bonus for 2019

There, there, it’ll all be over soon. Uhhh… we hope.

(Giphy)

Capricorn

Remember how life has been kicking your ass recently? There is a light at the end of the tunnel. This week starts with no apparent end to the problems you have been dealing with, but by next week things start to improve, slowly at first, then gaining momentum rapidly. However, there will continue to be one thing hanging over your head through next week; just accept what you cannot control. Besides, it has to be resolved eventually. I think…..

The Air Force just announced its ballin’ aviation bonus for 2019

We both know you can’t help it, but for the love of God. Please skip the melodrama.

(Giphy)

Aquarius

This week, you might find your military duties getting in the way of your favorite hobby—going out and spending time in public with as many different people as possible. On top of that, you are forced to work in isolation and in secret. You’re not gonna die. I mean not from working by yourself, but eventually yes, you will die. To make it worse you will have an old friend, or maybe a new one, drop by this weekend to ‘catch up and stuff’ and come Monday they will not want to leave. We all know how you feel about ‘long term relationships,’ and it will restrict your freedom far too much.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Hate meetings? Maybe it’s your fault. Here are 3 steps to making meetings great again

Most people hate meetings –especially with large groups.

Sure, meetings are a great opportunity to get business done in the military, but many of the meetings I have attended and personally ran were squandered opportunities. I hate thinking about the hours of productivity lost sitting in meetings. Sometimes this was because of how they were structured; at other times, the people who called the meeting had no idea what they wanted to get out of it in the first place.


In my experience, most meetings fail because many of the participants don’t come to the meeting prepared, fail to read the room and end up sucking the productivity out of the room before any real work can get done. Yes. I’m pointing fingers, but one of them is pointing toward a mirror.

For me, meetings have been trial and error experiences, and it took me about 16 years before I came to the realization that I’ve been part of the problem. Below are three lessons I’ve learned over the years:

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1. Don’t shoot from the hip and have your top lines ready.

I’ve gone to way too many meetings unprepared, not sure of what I wanted to contribute prior to walking into the room. I don’t recommend ever bringing a script, but definitely figure out your topline message ahead of time. Your topline message is the idea that you want the boss or other people in the room to take with them when they walk away from the table. Once you figure this out, write down 3-4 key points that support your message and talk through them.

Even if you have your topline ready and your supporting points in hand, step back and ask, “So what?” If we identify a threat, what are we doing about it? If we identify a risk, how are we mitigating it? By asking, “so what” we not only ensure what we’re communicating is relevant to the listener, and not wasting our time or theirs, but we also ensure that we’re not presenting problems without solutions to our leaders.

2. Don’t go too deep.

I might know 1000 details on the topic I’m briefing in a meeting, but you have to ask yourself: Is it helpful? Maybe not. Therefore, it helps to know what is “above the line” or “below the line” in communication. Above the line is all the information the leader needs to know to make a decision or form a judgment about a topic. Below the line are all the details that aren’t necessary. These two characterizations change as you rise in the organization.

What’s above the line for a battalion commander is (hopefully) different than what’s above the line for a division commander. I’ve lost the attention of many leaders by mixing the two and going into too much detail in meetings, wasting minutes and confusing my messages.

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3. Listen. Read the room. Adjust as needed.

I can’t tell you how many times I failed to pay attention and either covered an issue that was already addressed or tried to push through with my prepared briefing even though I knew time was running out (because the major talking ahead of me wasn’t prepared and went into excruciating detail on his topic).

Nothing will take the energy out of a meeting faster than when someone fails to read the room. Even when I’ve sat there with my notecards and top lines ready to go, I’ve learned that I need to continue to edit based on the atmospherics in the room. Is the boss fidgeting in his chair? Did someone bring up a topic that dampened the mood of everyone else, therefore your good idea will fall on deaf ears? These are a few areas that we need to read when in meetings and adjust accordingly. Maybe my three-minute briefing can be shortened to one minute for the sake of everyone’s sanity.

One last thing. Don’t ever walk away from a meeting without understanding the due-outs and the next steps on the topics discussed. If you do, then the meeting was a waste. If there’s time at the end or before everyone leaves, do a quick check and make sure you heard and understood your obligations.

Meetings don’t have to be wasted time. We all have a responsibility to play a part. We need to come prepared, maybe even rehearse, so we aren’t reading a piece of paper. We need to understand what’s important to the people in the room and not show off our brilliance on a topic. And finally, we need to actually pay attention, read the room and adjust our contribution to the meeting as needed. I will probably never utter the words, “I can’t wait for this meeting,” but at least I can play my part not to make it a wasted opportunity.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Coast Guard addresses missed payday, how to get help

To the men and women of the Coast Guard,

As you are aware, much of the government, including the Department of Homeland Security, remains unfunded, and it is not clear when this lapse in appropriations will end. In the coming days, our service will begin to pass critical military and civilian pay-processing milestones necessary to meet regular pay cycles. Unfortunately, without an appropriation, a continuing resolution, or another legislative measure, the Coast Guard will not be able to meet the next payroll.

Let me assure you your leadership continues to do everything possible, both internal and external to the service, to ensure we can process your pay as soon as we receive an appropriation; however, I do not know when that will occur. Moreover, many of you may be aware of proposed congressional legislation that separately provides pay for the Coast Guard. I cannot predict what course that legislation may take.


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(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Matthew Masaschi)

I know you have many questions during this difficult time. As the commandant mentioned, please do not hesitate to reach out to your chain of command, the chief’s mess, the ombudsmen network, our chaplains, as well as other resources. In addition, I encourage you to visit the Coast Guard’s website that has the most up-to-date resource links and frequently asked questions at https://www.dcms.uscg.mil/budget/. I encourage you to frequently revisit this website as it will be updated as new information is learned and additional FAQs are developed.

I can announce the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance board just approved an increase to interest-free loans with a focus on the junior workforce. Now, E-5 and below, GS-6 and below, and wage grade equivalents are eligible for a loan up to a maximum of id=”listicle-2625970578″,000 for those with dependents and 0 for those without dependents. Personnel in other paygrades may also qualify if dire circumstances exist. If you require this assistance, please check with your CGMA representative to apply.

Please know that your entire senior leadership team is pursuing every possible avenue to mitigate the effects that this unprecedented event is having on you and your families. In similar fashion, I implore each of you to take an active role in caring for your fellow shipmates and their loved ones. Thank you for your continued dedicated service to our nation.

Semper Paratus,
Adm. Charles W. Ray
Vice Commandant

This article originally appeared on Coast Guard All Hands. Follow @USCG on Twitter.

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27 times the Commander-in-Chief visited a combat zone

Generally, American presidents feel an obligation to see situations firsthand when they commit troops to war. To wit, here are 27 times commanders-in-chief left the White House and headed for combat zones:


1. FDR visits Casablanca as Allied forces assault Tripoli, January 1943

 

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Franklin D. Roosevelt at the Casablanca Conference

2. FDR visits the Mediterranean island of Malta to confer with Winston Churchill, February 1945

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3. Roosevelt meets Stalin and Churchill at Yalta, February 1945

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4. Ike goes to Korea, December 1952

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5. LBJ stops in Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam, 1966

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(LBJ Library)

6. LBJ returns to Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam, 1967

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(LBJ Library)

7. Nixon visits in Saigon, South Vietnam, July 1969

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(Nixon Library Photo)

8. Reagan stops at the Korean DMZ for lunch, November 1983

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President Reagan in the food line during his trip to the Republic of Korea and a visit to the DMZ Camp Liberty Bell and lunch with the troops (Reagan Library photo)

9. Bush 41 drops in for Thanksgiving with U.S. troops during Desert Shield, 1990

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(Bush Library)

10. Clinton with U.S. troops at Camp Casey, South Korea, 1993

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(DoD photo)

11. Clinton visits U.S. troops in Bosnia, January 1996

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Bill Clinton visiting U.S. troops at Tuzla Air Base in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1996. (DoD photo)

12. Clinton returns to Bosnia in December 1997 to visit NATO and U.S. troops

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President Bill Clinton shakes hands with soldiers at the Tuzla Air Field, Bosnia and Herzegovina, on Dec. 22, 1997. The president was accompanied by his wife Hillary, their daughter Chelsea, former Senator Bob Dole and his wife Elizabeth, for the holiday visit with the troops. (DoD photo by Spc. Richard L. Branham, U.S. Army)

13. Bush 43 grabs chow with the troops in South Korea, 2002

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(White House Photo)

14. Bush 43 surprises troops in Iraq, November 2003

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President George W. Bush pays a surprise visit to Baghdad International Airport (BIAP). He gives an uplifting speech at the Bob Hope dining facility on Thanksgiving Day to all the troops stationed there. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Reynaldo Ramon)

15. Bush 43 returns to South Korea, Osan Air Base, 2005

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16. Bush 43 visits Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, March 2006

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President George Bush shakes hands with Sgt. Derek Kessler, 10th Mountain Division Headquarters Company driver. (U.S. Army photo)

17. Bush 43 visits troops in Baghdad, June 2006

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(White House photo)

18. Bush 43 visits Al-Anbar province, Iraq, September 2007

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President Bush: Visit Regimental Combat Team-2, Marine Wing Support Combat Patrol. Al Asad Airbase, Al Anbar Province, Iraq (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

19. Bush 43 returns to South Korea, August 2008

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20. Bush 43 makes one last stop in Iraq, December 2008

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21. Obama stops in Iraq to see the troops, April 2009

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(White House photo)

22. Obama stops into Osan Air Base, South Korea, November 2009

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23. Obama makes his first stop at Bagram Air Base, December 2010

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(U.S. Army photo)

24. Obama visits the DMZ, South Korea, March 2012

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(White House photo)

25. Obama makes his second trip to Afghanistan, May 2012

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President Barack Obama greets U.S. troops at Bagram Air Field after a surprise visit to Afghanistan, May 1, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

26. Obama visits Yongsan Garrison, South Korea 2014

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27. Obama makes what could be his last trip to Afghanistan, May 2014

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MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia says NATO’s new combat posture is a threat

Russia says that a new NATO plan to enhance its combat readiness in Europe would weaken security on the continent, and is warning that Moscow would take that into account in its own military planning.

Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Grushko criticized the initiative known as Four Thirties in comments on June 13, 2018. He said that Russia would take all necessary military measures to guarantee its own security.

The initiative “creates a threat to European security,” Grushko told journalists.


Four Thirties, the U.S.-proposed initiative that was supported by NATO defense ministers on June 7, 2018, is meant to protect allies against what NATO says are increased threats from Russia and to bolster combat-readiness by easing the transport of troops across Europe in the event of a crisis.

The plan, whose full details were not revealed, provides for the deployment of 30 troop battalions, 30 squadrons of aircraft, and 30 warships within 30 days. The plan is set to become operational in 2020.

Thousands of NATO troops are already stationed on standby in the Baltic states and Poland as a deterrent, and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg stressed on June 7, 2018, that the goals of Four Thirties are increased coordination and better mobility.

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NATO chiefu00a0Jens Stoltenberg

“This is not about setting up or deploying new forces. It is about boosting the readiness of existing forces across each and every ally,” Stoltenberg said.

“This is about establishing a culture of readiness and we need that because we have a more unpredictable security environment. We have to be prepared for the unforeseen,” he said.

Grushko said that Russia’s “views on the preparations made by the alliance on the eastern flank are well-known. We are acting based on the assumption that it substantially worsens military security in Europe.”

Asked whether Russia will factor Four Thirties into its own military planning, Grushko told journalists, “Without a doubt, we will take it into account.”

“If the need arises, we will take all military-technical measures that will guarantee our security and defense capability,” said Grushko, who is a former ambassador to NATO.

Separately, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on June 13 called on NATO to ensure that no state or group would strengthen their security at the expense of the security of others — the so-called “indivisible security” concept.

“We will continue to call on our NATO counterparts to respect all the agreements…which declare drawing new dividing lines to be unacceptable and emphasize the need to ensure indivisible security so that no one has to strengthen their security by damaging the security of others,” Lavrov said in Moscow after talks with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias.

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

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11 best-ever nicknames of military leaders

A lot of people get nicknames in the military, usually something derogatory. But not these guys. These 11 military leaders got awesome nicknames by doing awesome stuff.


Here’s what they are and how they got them:

1. Group Capt. Sir Douglas “Tin Legs” Bader

 

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(Photo: Royal Air Force photographer Devon S A)

Group Capt. Sir Douglas Bader was a Royal Air Force hero of the second World War known for his exploits in the air and frequent escape attempts as a prisoner of war in Nazi Germany. He did all of this despite the fact that he lost his legs in 1931 in an air show accident. He was drummed out of the service due to disability but returned when Britain entered World War II. He wore two prosthetic legs and earned his insensitive but inarguably awesome nickname.

2. Capt. Michael “Black Baron” Wittmann

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Capt. Michael Wittman was an evil Nazi with an awesome nickname. (Photo: German military archives)

Michael Wittman was an SS-Hauptsturmführer, the SS equivalent of an army captain, in command of a tank crew in World War II. From his time as a young enlisted man to his death as a captain, he was known for his skill in tanks and scout cars. As the war ground on, Wittman became one of the war’s greatest tank aces, scoring 138 tank kills and 132 anti-tank gun kills.

He was recognized with medals and a message of congratulations from Adolph Hitler. He was giving the nickname “The Black Baron” as an homage to the World War I flying ace, “The Red Baron,” Manfred Von Richtofen.

3. General of the Armies John “Black Jack” Pershing

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(Photo: US Army)

General of the Armies John “Black Jack” Pershing led the American Expeditionary Forces through World War I and became one of America’s highest ranked officers in history, second only to President George Washington.

Pershing’s nickname was originally a horrible epithet given to him by students while he instructed at West Point. They angrily called him “[N-word] Jack” in reference to his time commanding a segregated unit. The name was softened to “Black Jack” and has become a part of his legacy.

4. Gen. Norman “The Bear” Schwarzkopf

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(Photo: US Army)

Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf is probably best known for his leadership of Desert Storm. He sported two colorful nicknames. He didn’t like the most famous one, “Stormin’ Norman,” probably because it alluded to his volatile temper. But he seemed to have a fondness for his second, “The Bear,” an allusion to his 6ft., 4in. height and nearly 240-pound size.

In his autobiography, he described his wife as “Mrs. Bear” and he named one of his dogs “Bear” as well.

5. Lt. Gen. James “Jumpin’ Jim” Gavin

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Lt. Gen. James Gavin is probably best known for the same achievement that gave him his nickname, commanding one of America’s first airborne units and literally writing the book on airborne operations, FM 31-30: Tactics and Technique of the Air-Borne Troops.

Even after he rose to the rank of general officer ranks, he kept conducting combat jumps with his men. He landed in Normandy as a brigadier general and jumped in Operation Market Garden as a major general, earning him another nickname, “The Jumping General.”

6. Gen. Sir Frank “The Bearded Man” Messervy

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Gen. Sir Frank Messervy was a successful cavalry officer in the British Indian Army in both World Wars and later served as the first commander of the Pakistan Army. In garrison, he had the appearance of a stereotypical, well-groomed Englishman. But he famously neglected to shave during battles, leading to a thick beard when he was engaged for more than a few days.

7. Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller

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One of the greatest heroes of the Korean War, Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller tried to join World War I but the conflict ended just before he could ship out. Instead, he fought in anti-guerilla wars, World War II, and the Korean War. But for all of his battlefield exploits, he received a nickname for his physical appearance. His impeccable posture and large frame made him look “chesty,” so that became his name.

8. Maj. Gen. Smedley “The Fighting Quaker” Butler

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Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler was born into a Quaker family in Pennsylvania in 1881. Despite the Quakers’ aversion to violence, Butler lied about his age to become a Marine Corps second lieutenant in 1898, developed a reputation for being fierce in a fight, and made his way to major general while receiving two Medals of Honor in his career.

Butler also received a brevet promotion to captain when he was 19 for valorous action conducted before officers were eligible for the Medal of Honor. In recognition of his huge brass ones, his men started calling him “The Fighting Quaker.”

9. “The Constable” Gen. Charles de Gaulle

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Gen. Charles de Gaulle was the highest ranking member of France’s military in World War II and led Free French Forces against the Nazis after the fall of France.

De Gaulle gained the nickname “The Constable” on two occasions. First, in school where he was known as the “Grand Constable.” After the fall of France, the nickname was bestowed anew when British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called him “The Constable of France,” the job title of ancient French warriors who served Capetian Kings until the 10th century.

10. Staff Sgt. William “Wild Bill” Guarnere

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Photo: US Army

Staff Sgt. William Guarnere fought viciously against the Germans as a paratrooper in Europe and gained a reputation for it, leading to his nickname “Wild Bill” and his portrayal in Band of Brothers.

Because of his exotic last name, he also gained the unfortunate nickname of “gonorrhea.”

11. Francis “The Swamp Fox” Marion

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Brig. Gen. Francis Marion was best known for leading guerilla fighters through the woods and swamps of the southern colonies during the American Revolution. After repeatedly being harassed by Marion and his men, the British sent Col. Banastre Tarleton to hunt him down.

Marion evaded Tarleton over and over again. When a 26-mile chase through the swamps game up empty, Tarleton complained that he would never find that “swamp fox” and the name stuck.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Off the pods and into the cubicle: a Special Mission Unit Operator’s transition to civilian life

Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is now a master photographer, cartoonist, and storyteller.

Eyes roll at the sight of yet another transition story. We all get it; it’s hard to transition from military to civilian life. I have read many a story myself and note positively that everyone brings up a new eureka moment for me that I didn’t experience myself, but that I totally get. My transition story doesn’t boast any novel epiphany though it does come from the aspect of a career SMU pipe-hitter.

“You’re not on the pods anymore, Geo… you need to get off the pods and throttle back a bit. I mean not a bit but a whole, whole lot!” explained my boss, Conan, also from my same SMU in Fort Bragg, NC.


Pods refer to the two benches on the exterior of the MH-6 Little Bird helicopter on which two men on each side of the aircraft can ride into an assault scenario. To many of us, riding the pods into an assault objective hanging on with one arm and lighting up targets on the ground with the other arm was the penultimate of brash aggression and acute excitement of living life on the very edge.

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(A complex brown-water insertion of a Klepper kayak. Photo courtesy of the author)

“SMUs will always be around, because no amount of technology will ever replace raw unadulterated aggression.” (SMU Squadron Commander)

I stood tall in my new office cubicle at my new job as a civilian, having just separated from the Service. My job/title was Project Manager. This was my new life, this square. “This is going to be great!” I pallidly promised my psyche. I fervently thanked the creator for the “shower door” on my cube that I could slide closed to prove to the world that I was not really there.

It was plastic, but it was translucent rather than transparent; that is, you could see through it, but only gross shapes rather than defined detail like… a shower door does. If a body were to remain very quiet and still, nobody could detect your presence in the cube. This thing I did fancy.

Carol from HR then stood in my open doorway in her blue office dress to welcome me and list the ground rules — the corporate culture of life in office cube city. She recited those edicts as they appeared chiseled in granite:

• “No, singing or playing of music;

• no cooking food;

• avoid speaker phones

• watch your voice volume

• deal with gas in the restroom

• always knock before entering a cubicle

• no “prairie-dogging”

In fact, whatever it is you find yourself doing in your cube for the moment just stop it!

“Er… no prairie-dogging? Yeah, so… what might prairie dogging be?” I posed.

“Well Mr. Hand, prairie dogging involves the poking of ones head over the top of one’s cubicle walls and… and looking around!” Blue-dressed Carol from HR became a blurred and indistinct pattern from the other side of my show door as I closed it in her incredulous face.

“Well, I never… I AM NOT FINISHED MR. HAND!”

I popped one’s head up over the top of one’s cubicle and explained: “Yes, yes you are finished, Ms. Carol from HR… and please watch your voice volume — TSK!”

Within the hour my shower door flew open and there stood Conan, face awash with concern.

“Woah, now that is a great, big, fat, bulbous-assed no-go here in cube city—entering without knocking… tremendous transgression, Conan!” I warned.

“There was a complaint about you from HR, geo…”

We talked. Conan was right, and there was no dispelling that. I apologized and thanked him. We shook hands as we always did when we parted or met. So with a crappy first morning behind me, I vowed to make the best of the rest. I headed to the break room for a cup of coffee to calm myself down.

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(Low-profile office cubicles offer no substantial privacy)

I embraced the notion that there might be nobody in the break room, but my crest fell for there were a man and woman seated at a table enjoying lunch. The noon hour had crept up on me though I scarce remarked. I held my breath and went about for that cup of Joe.

Men are great around just each other, but they get stupid and inclined to comport themselves like jackasses whenever a woman is around too. This fellow saw that I was engaged in an action that was somewhat contrary to break room policy, and he began:

“Excuuuuse me there, partner… but you’re not supposed to…”

“SHUT UP; SHUT THE PHUQ UP, PARTNER!!” I delivered to the man without even turning to look at him, not fully knowing from whence my outburst came.

“I’m screwed!” I thought, “I didn’t check the volume of my voice!” unable to sort through the gravity of which coffee offense I had committed just then. It was not the volume that was the greater offense, rather the content of my delivery.

The woman left the break room immediately at a cantor. Partner remained for the mandatory tough-guy extra seconds, me leaning against the counter, staring at him all the while sipping my incorrect procedurally-obtained break room coffee. He then sauntered out with backless bravado.

My shower door flew open without a knock. Once more, I reeled at Conan’s blatant disregard for cube rules. I endured the pod speech strewn with constant “I’m sorry, Conan” interrupts. This time his speech contained a threat annex to it. I needed to take that seriously. We two shook hands, as we always did when we parted or met.

A few months ago I was riding on the pods doing 90 MPH hanging on with one arm like a rodeo rider, spitting jacketed lead at targets on the ground, sprinting from the touched-down chopper at full speed smashing through doors and lighting up all contents… now I was born again into a world where the penultimate cringe comes from the shrimp platter at the buffet not being chilled down to the proper 54-degrees (Fahrenheit).

I had to turn this thing around, but wasn’t sure how. I accepted my plight with this eight-word phrase, one that I came to lean on in countless occasions: “We’ll just have to figure it out tomorrow.” And so it went for the next 16 years there at that same job.

I didn’t have to re-invent myself as I feared, but I did develop a set of guidelines that would steer my path over the next more than a decade and a half. There were the company rules, and then there were my rules. My rules were better than the company rules. They were simple. Though I never formally wrote them down, I can list them still for the most part:

1. Don’t ever tell anybody what the real rules are

2. Don’t ever hurt anybody in the company or customer base

3. Don’t ever damage any company or customer property

4. Don’t ever wear corduroy pants on a day you might have to run many miles.

5. Don’t ever allow yourself to be stuck in a position with a boss who sucks.

6. Don’t ever cheat entering time into your pay invoice

7. Never litter

8. Never threaten another employee within earshot of a witness

9. Remotely bury any items that could get you fired or that you just don’t want to deal with

10. Never reveal the locations of buried items

11. Eventually, return all clandestinely-acquired tools and equipment

12. (most important of all rules) ALWAYS WORK ALONE!

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(The author on left and teammate on right, lift off with an MH-6 for more gun runs, not giving one-tenth of a rat’s ass about the temperature of the shrimp platter.

(Photo courtesy of SMU Operator MSG Gaetano Cutino, KIA)

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 signs that let troops know it’s about to get real

Veterans who have been in the service a while know that the exact dates and times of the biggest operations are typically classified until just before they pop off. But the troops have found ways of knowing what’s coming because the command can’t quite keep everything to “business as usual” while also preparing for a big push.

Here are six signs that sh*t’s about to get real:


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Lt. Col. Matthew Danner, battalion commander of Battalion Landing Team 3/1, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, inspects a rifle aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex during a regularly scheduled deployment of Essex Amphibious Ready Group and the 13th MEU, July 31, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Francisco J. Diaz Jr.)

The commander shows up to inspections

In theory, the commander cares about all inspections, but he or she typically leaves the actual inspecting to their noncommissioned officers and platoon leaders. After all, company commanders and above have a lot to keep track of.

But sometimes, the first sergeant and commander are involved in more inspections than normal, and are checking for more details than normal. It’s a sign that they’re worried weapons, vehicles, and troops will see combat soon, making an untreated rash or rust damage much more dangerous.

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Soldiers training at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, undergo a CS gas attack simulating an attack with a worse chemical agent.

(U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Hannah Baker)

Low-level, constant exercises or operations suddenly stop

When a force is built up for a potentially big fight, the commanders have to keep everyone razor sharp and focused. If the troops aren’t in regular combat, this is typically accomplished via small exercises and large drills.

But, if the fight is about to start, the higher-ups want to ensure that everyone gets a little rest before going into the big battle. So, leaders get word from their own bosses to cease unnecessary training and operations the days immediately preceding the fight, and troops may even get official confirmation 24 hours out along with orders to rest up.

All the headquarters pukes are suddenly mum, or are talking in whispers in corners

But of course, not every low-level soldier can be kept out of the loop. Someone has to look at where the moon will be on different nights, cloud cover, whether the locals will be outside or in their homes during normal patterns of life. Someone has to move the right equipment to the right spots, and someone runs the messages between all the majors making the plans.

So, those people are all low-ranking, yes, but they’re also in the know. They’ll respond in one of a few ways, usually spilling the beans to close friends or cutting themselves off from everyone — which are dead giveaways in their own right. If the intel guy who typically wants to talk to everyone is suddenly mum or will only talk in whispers to close friends, get ready for a fight.

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Marines deliver an M777 howitzer via MV-22 Osprey slingload during training in Australia in 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Wetzel)

A whole bunch of fresh supplies arrive

Here’s a little secret: For as much as all the troops complain about always having to deal with old, hand-me-down gear, the U.S. is actually one of the best-supplied militaries in the world, if not the best supplied (we’re certainly the most expensive). But all of those supplies are typically sent to top-tier units or units about to go into the fight.

So, if you’re not in a Special Forces unit but the supply guy shows up with a ton of useful, new gear — especially batteries —that your unit has been asking for — and failing to receive — then you might be going into combat. Get to know the equipment quick.

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Pizza Hut shows up at the Marines’ base just before the invasion of Iraq begins in ‘Generation Kill,” a mini-series based on a journalist’s account of the invasion.

(HBO)

A sudden, seemingly unprompted, nice meal

As odd as it sounds, an unexpected nice meal is a dead giveaway that troops are about to experience something rough. If you’re a soldier in the middle of a huge force, it’s a good bet that the “something rough” is the planned operation.

This sometimes comes up in movies and TV, like in Generation Kill, when 20 cars showed up at the wire filled with Pizza Hut while the Marines were waiting for the invasion of Iraq to begin. Driver and comedian Ray Person immediately calls it,

“Sh*t is on. Has to be.”
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Marines communicate with family and friends on new morale internet lines in 2011 in Kabul, Afghanistan.

(Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs)

Comms blackout

Of course, the officers typically want to tell all their troops what’s going on and get them mentally prepared for the fight, but there’s a big step they need to take to make sure word doesn’t leak out: a communications blackout. Internet and phone access to the outside world is cutoff so no one can send an errant text home and let the enemy know the invasion is coming.

So, if the morale lines suddenly cut off, go ahead and report to your platoon, because word is coming down that something has happened or is about to.

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