This Combat Camera vet used his skills to launch a civilian career as a photojournalist - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MONEY

This Combat Camera vet used his skills to launch a civilian career as a photojournalist


CLEVELAND, Ohio — There was a bit of irony in Bill Putnam’s first job as a civilian who’d just transitioned out of the military: He was sent back to Iraq to cover the war, the same place where he’d honed his skills as a photographer for the U.S. Army.

“I knew before I got out of the Army that I wanted to specialize in news photojournalism,” Putnam says. “I happened to meet a lot of people along the way who saw my work and told me I had the drive and talent to do it in the civilian world. It was all about reaching out to people and meeting the right people at the right time.”

Among “the right people” that Putnam ran into along the way was Michael Ware, Time magazine’s bureau chief in Baghdad.

“When I was a soldier going home from Iraq I ran into Michael,” Putnam says. “I was getting out of the military, and I told him I was willing to go back to Iraq. He wrote a letter on my behalf and that helped make it happen.”

This Combat Camera vet used his skills to launch a civilian career as a photojournalist

Putnam explains: “This one was made fairly early in the morning after an all-night raid. The unit, Centurion Company, 2-1 Infantry, had been sent out with an SF team and bunch of Iraqi Army to hunt down a car bomb builder. They didn’t find him. This was early in the unit’s deployment (they were the guys who were extended in 2006 for three months during an early and not so effective ‘surge’ into northwest Baghdad). To me it says a lot, not really about that war, but just war in general, especially war down at the nasty end of the spear. Hunter, the guy pictured, just looks exhausted. War is exactly that – exhausting in every sense – but this is physical exhaustion. The kid waving the gun (it was unloaded) was actually playing with a newly-installed laser pointer.” (Photo: Bill Putnam)

After working in the war zone for nearly a year, he returned to the U.S. and freelanced his way from Washington, DC to Oregon, diversifying his portfolio and expanding his network. Eventually, he was picked up by Zuma Press Agency, and the assignments started coming in at a more regular clip.

To date, his photos have been published in The Washington Post, Boston Globe, Newsweek, Army Times, The Oregonian, Columbia Journalism Review, The New Republic, NPR.org, and digitaljournalist.org. His work also appeared in the Academy Award-nominated documentary “Operation Homecoming: Writing The Wartime Experience.”

He opened a 40-print solo exhibition of his Afghan work titled “Abu in Bermel: Faces of Battle” in February of 2011 at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa. That exhibition moved to Point Park University in Pittsburgh, Pa., in April 2011. His work has also been included in group shows at Glen Echo Photo Works in Glen Echo, Md., and Montgomery College in Rockville, Md. And in August 2013 Putnam opened a 60-image solo exhibition at Healthy Rhythm Gallery in Fairfield, Texas. Life as a civilian photographer was quite different than military life, but his hard work paid off.

This Combat Camera vet used his skills to launch a civilian career as a photojournalist

“It’s really all about hustle,” he says. “You gotta hustle to make that transition. You have to constantly be on the phone with people, you have to constantly think about new projects and what you want to do next.”

And that sort of proactive stance is what brought him to Cleveland to cover the Republican National Convention for Verify Media, a new agency that specializes in mobile device video. At the same time, Putnam has his classic 4-by-5 film camera, which he uses to capture the atmosphere surrounding the convention for Zuma.

Putnam is an imposing figure — tall and bearded — but he possesses a casual manner and calm demeanor that allow him to blend into the background — a very desirable attribute for a photojournalist. As he takes in the scene along Fourth Street, Cleveland’s famed walk lined with bars and restaurants, he’s barely noticed even though he’s a full head taller than the crush of delegates, pundits, TV personalities, protesters, and regular civilians around him.

Watching Putnam in action it’s obvious that he loves his work. He moves through the crowd with an easy gait, taking everything in, at once in the weeds and mindful of the big picture. But for all of his apparent satisfaction with his career choice, he’s quick to note that getting to where he is was a hard-fought series of rejections and missteps. He points out that — unlike the military — oft times pursuing an unorthodox civilian career is a non-linear proposition.

“When I got back from the war, I was dumbfounded that I had to find all of this on my own,” Putnam says. “I like going out and doing stuff, but to get from Point A to Point B, I had no idea how to do that.”

In the face of that reality, Putnam says, “You just do it and hope you find the right path.”

This Combat Camera vet used his skills to launch a civilian career as a photojournalist
Capt. Adam Lackey, Abu Company commander and a tribal sheikh at a meeting outside Bayji, Iraq, May 6, 2006. (Photo: Bill Putnam)

For more about Putnam’s work, visit his website here.

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Buzz kill: States might have legalized pot, but the feds still haven’t

This Combat Camera vet used his skills to launch a civilian career as a photojournalist
Marijuana, along with nine other substances, is specifically prohibited under Article 112a of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and penalties for its use can range from a general discharge to dishonorable discharge (for positive results of a urinalysis) and even imprisonment for possession.


During election week, four states legalized medicinal marijuana use, joining a list of 40 states and the District of Columbia in saying “Mary Jane is a friend of mine — in some form or another.”

The federal government, however, is saying “not if you value your 2nd amendment rights.”

Currently, marijuana is legal for recreational use in Alaska, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Washington D.C.

Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota all voted last week to allow medical marijuana use, joining 17 other states who acknowledge the medicinal value of cannabis.

Outside of those 29 states, limited medical marijuana use (which generally refers to cannabis extracts) is legal in 15 other states.

The states that don’t allow any type of marijuana use are Idaho, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Indiana, and West Virginia.

While the Veterans Administration admits that it hasn’t conducted any studies to determine if medical marijuana can successfully treat PTSD, they do admit that there seems to be anecdotal evidence to support that claim.

Use of “oral CBD [cannabidiol] has been shown to decrease anxiety in those with and without clinical anxiety” the VA notes.

The VA goes on to explain that an ongoing trial of THC, one of the compounds in cannabis, shows the compound to be “safe and well tolerated” among participants with PTSD, and that it results in “decreased hyperarousal symptoms.”

According to an investigation by PBS’s “Frontline,” marijuana’s “danger” label came about predominantly as a result of a smear campaign against immigrants between 1900 and the 1930s.

The network acknowledges a report from the New York Academy of Medicine that states that, despite popular opinion, marijuana does not “induce violence, insanity or sex crimes, or lead to addiction or other drug use.” That report has not been refuted by scientific research to date.

In 1972, President Nixon ordered the Shafer Commission to look at decriminalizing marijuana use, and the commission determined that the personal use of it should, in fact be decriminalized.

President Nixon, according to PBS, rejected that recommendation.

To this day, marijuana use and possession is a federal crime, despite being overwhelmingly accepted by nearly all of the country in some form or another.

So why does this matter to the military and veteran community?

It all comes down to federal law. While a majority of the country recognizes the benefits and harmlessness of cannabis, the federal government does not.

In fact, the feds say marijuana users immediately forfeit their Second Amendment rights by consuming cannabis.

On September 7th the Washington Post reported that the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that federal law “prohibits gun purchases by an ‘unlawful user and/or addict of any controlled substance.’ ”

The court claims that marijuana users “experience altered or impaired mental states that affect their judgement” and that this impaired judgement leads to “irrational” behavior, despite the findings by both the New York Academy of Medicine and the Shafer Commission to the contrary.

Background checks for firearms purchases require buyers to acknowledge whether they are a “habitual user” of marijuana and other illegal drugs. If they truthfully answer “yes,” they are barred from buying a gun. That means gun buyers in states that legalized marijuana use had better not indulge in the new right.

Will this change any time soon?

To answer that question, one needs to look at how legalization has impacted the finances in the states that have made pot kosher. After-all, money makes the world go ’round.

According to CheatSheet, Oregon banked $3.5 million in its first month of recreational marijuana sales. Washington State hit the jackpot with $70 million its first year, and Colorado rolled a fat one with $135 million in 2015 alone.

That was enough for the U.S. Congress to pause and say “let’s think about this.” Currently sitting in the Senate right now is S.683 , or the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act (CARES).

Introduced by Democrat New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker in March 2015, the act moves to transfer marijuana from a schedule I to a schedule II drug, protect marijuana dispensaries from being penalized for selling marijuana, and directs the VA to authorize medical providers to “provide veterans with recommendations and opinions regarding participation in state marijuana programs”, among other things.

To give an idea of what a schedule II drug is, the U.S. Department of Justice lists ADHD medication as a schedule II drug.

So when will marijuana use be decriminalized on a federal level? It’s too soon to tell.

Until then, veterans will have to choose between our pot and our guns.

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The 6 best pieces of military gear, according to Amazon

We all have our favorite gear, for whatever reason. Maybe it saved our asses, maybe it repaired a weapon, maybe it just made it possible to get a few hours sleep through a long, cold night. There’s nothing better than a reliable piece of gear to keep coming back to over and over. Often, troops will try to keep as much of their field gear as possible when they separate.


After reading through a few Amazon reviews, it’s easy to understand why. What’s your favorite?

1. 550 Cord – 5 Stars

Also known as parachute cord, the 550 comes from its breaking strength of at least 550 pounds. It’s made of nylon, wrapped around an internal core which increases strength and keeps the main rope from fraying. The cord was originally used in parachute suspension lines, but its use became widespread as paratroopers would cut the cord from the chutes as a useful tool for the future. These days, troops use it to secure packs to vehicles, set up camouflage nets, make lanyards, or tie up bracelets or belts that can be unraveled when needed.

2. Issue Anglehead Flashlight – 5 Stars

The anglehead design was first used by the U.S. military in World War II and has been a staple of all branches ever since. The chief supplier of these lights, Fulton, supplied them to the U.S. government since the Vietnam War. There are plenty of knockoff versions of it. If yours is a real one, it will have “MX-991/U” imprinted on the side of the light.

This Combat Camera vet used his skills to launch a civilian career as a photojournalist
The Big Red One appreciates it.

Here’s one review:

“I served in the Army over 20 years ago under SOCOM, so this flashlight has a minimum of that many years under its belt and all the action marks that comes with it… I clicked on the power button – not expecting anything special, and… IT TURNED ON.”

3. Woobie – 4.5 Stars

The “Woobie” is a nylon-polyester blanket, really the liner for the standard-issue poncho. It’s known as a Woobie because of the great affection troops have for it, the way a baby loves its blanket. Woobies are lightweight, easily packed, and do a great job of keeping troops warm in cooler temperatures.

This Combat Camera vet used his skills to launch a civilian career as a photojournalist
(U.S. Army Photo)

A reviewer writes:

“Of all the pieces of U.S. military kit I’ve ever seen (through 20+ years of military service), none equal the Wubbie [sic] for value for money, utility, and comfort.

I bought my first poncho liner in Vietnam in 1964. It was one of the old ones from back when they were made from parachute silk. Now, almost fifty years later, I’m still using it. I guess I’m a 65 year old man with a blankie!”

4. Chem-lights – 4.5 Stars

Chem-lights are designed for 360-degree visibility up to a mile away for up to 12 hours. There are, of course, some variances. They also need to be durable, waterproof, and flame retardant. They have a number of uses when a flashlight or fire isn’t the right tool, and the light gets brighter as the temperature gets warmer.

The reviews:
“In my decade and a half in the military I have probably gone through thousands of Cyalume ChemLight just myself. They have a million uses, both fun and functional. But most important the Cyalume models have proven to be utterly reliable and bright.”
They can also be used as flares to mark an area without worrying about fire or flame. The uses for them are only limited by imagination, from Christmas lights to Fourth of July ‘rockets’ there is a lot of fun and use to be had.”

5. Gerber MP600 Multi-Tool – 4.5 Stars

This Combat Camera vet used his skills to launch a civilian career as a photojournalist
Multiversatile.

This tool’s usefulness practically speaks for itself. With 14 components, providing knives with different edges, screwdrivers, a ruler, bottle and can openers, wire cutters, crimpers, and a file, all with a lanyard ring (perfect for 550 cord loops), the multitool is perfect for minimizing space and weight while providing myriad uses.

The reviews:

“It has all the tools I need as a soldier and it has done very nicely for me.

With a potential need to carry in a deployed environment, the matte black finish is certainly a plus.”

6. 100mph Tape (Duct Tape) – 4 Stars

Also known as “olive drab green reinforcement tape,” it covers shiny objects and tapes things down to reduce rattling noises when on patrol, but it’s so much more than that. Since supplies have historically been an issue in the large scale wars of the past, troops needed an all-purpose way to make quick fixes without all the necessary equipment.

This Combat Camera vet used his skills to launch a civilian career as a photojournalist
(U.S. Army Photo)

From one review:

“The only downside that I can find is that it is literally so strong that anything even touching the edge of the roll will stick to it just from the small amount of adhesive that comes in contact with it. All duct tape is not created equal
I always have a roll of this stuff, and 550 Cord in my Gear. I’ve used it for everything from quick repairs, marking my luggage, to camouflaging my gear for Patrols. Not sure about the 100 MPH thing, but I do know that once you tape it to your gear, you’ll need to cut it off.”
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Air Force approves incentive pay for airmen in Turkey

The Air Force recently approved incentive pay for Airmen assigned to Turkey, just months after a military coup prompted defense officials to suspend accompanied deployments there. The Pentagon had ordered Air Force dependents out of the country in March.


According to the Air Force Times, unaccompanied tours to Turkey will be reduced from 15 months to 12 months. Airmen will be given the option to extend their tours from 12 to 24 months with an incentive pay of $300 per month.

Air Force Personnel Command says that Airmen must apply for Turkey Assignment Incentive Pay either prior to leaving their current duty station, within 30 days of arriving in Turkey, or “during their date eligible for return overseas forecast and initial vulnerable to move list windows.”

Airmen who have been in Turkey over 30 days may elect to extend their date eligible for return overseas, or DEROS, for 24 months past their current DEROS. Airmen who elect to accept Turkey Assignment Incentive Pay under these conditions will begin to collect the incentive pay on the first month of the 24 month extension, the service said.

All other Airmen who are eligible for Turkey Assignment Incentive Pay, and accept it, will serve 24 months in Turkey and will begin receiving the incentive pay upon arrival in country.

The Air Force Times reports that civilians previously assigned in Turkey will automatically have their tours reduced from 24 months to 12 months, unless an extension is approved by the U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander.

Turkey, a NATO ally, has seen civil unrest progress in recent years, with terror attacks and a failed coup in July. The country is host to a key airbase at Incirlik, which is critical to the coalition fight against Islamic State terrorists in Syria and Iraq.

The Air Force Times reports that Airmen who find that this recent change in tour requirements presents a hardship for them may request a “home-base or follow-on assignment” and that the Air Force will consider cancellation requests on a case-by-case basis.

The changes to Turkey assignments do not impact personnel assigned to the U.S. Embassy or Security Cooperation Organizations in Turkey.

MIGHTY BRANDED

5 ways USAA is still the leading financial institution for veterans

There are a lot of choice for veterans to leverage their time in the military to get great financial services at a competitive cost. The fact that so many businesses and bank are geared towards veterans is a blessing but one institution stands out among the rest – and has for nearly a century.


The financial institution was founded in 1922 after a group of Army veterans took it upon themselves to secure their own need for auto insurance. In doing so, they provided for their fellow veterans. The USAA of today carries that tradition on, with 12.4 million members and offering auto insurance, along with insurance for homeowners and renters, retirement planning, and, of course, banking services. When other banks were teetering on the edge of failure during the financial crisis, USAA actually grew. This is an institution that is as solid as a dollar.


This Combat Camera vet used his skills to launch a civilian career as a photojournalist

Auto Insurance

USAA’s original purpose is still one of its best offerings – and one of the best offerings. Even in competition with the civilian world’s best insurers, going with USAA can save its membership at least 0 on their premiums, even for high risk drivers who may have a DUI or more on their records. JD Power even gave USAA a 5/5 rating on their customer service and satisfaction records.

They also offer a car buying service that can sometimes save their members money in buying any kind of vehicle.

This Combat Camera vet used his skills to launch a civilian career as a photojournalist

Credit Cards

Everyone knows too much credit debt is not a good thing, but having a card open with a low balance enlarges your purchasing power and is actually good for your credit report. Still, it’s important to be responsible with your credit. That being said, that kind of responsibility includes deciding which card is right for you. USAA offers a few credit cards designed to fit the lives of military members, veterans, and their families. The USAA Rewards American Express Card and Reward Visa offers the best cashback bonuses a military member can find. USAA’s credit cards also offer some of the lowest interest rates and APRs found anywhere.

This Combat Camera vet used his skills to launch a civilian career as a photojournalist

Easy banking services

Any bank or financial institution who says they offer the best interest rates on savings accounts may have a bridge to sell you. Most savings accounts can offer two percent at the most. While USAA doesn’t offer quite that much, its banking services are stellar. Since they have few physical locations or ATMs, the bank offers reimbursements on ATM fees and no monthly service fees. On top of that, there’s no minimum balance and their rates are still competitive. They also offer free funds transfers between accounts.

This Combat Camera vet used his skills to launch a civilian career as a photojournalist

Retirement services

If you’re planning for retirement and want a low-risk security, you could hardly do better than some of USAA’s mutual fund offerings. USAA manages its own mutual funds and, in the face of the 2008 financial crisis, the USAA Income Fund (USAIX) posted a 19 percent return while much of the rest of the market struggled to break even or even minimize their expected losses. The reason? While USAIX invests heavily in corporate debt, the fund’s mantra is still about minimizing risk.

This Combat Camera vet used his skills to launch a civilian career as a photojournalist

TV doctor pose!

Other services and support

There are a couple of life insurance options, including one for military members only if SGLI isn’t enough. On top of that, they can get great rates for health, dental, and vision insurance as well as umbrella insurance for protection against things not covered by other kinds of insurance, like legal judgements. For per month you can be protected from lawsuits up to id=”listicle-2640236181″ million. But this veteran-oriented financial institution does so much more

USAA sponsors amazing veteran-oriented events and organizations – like the Military Influencer Conference, a three-day conference of service members, veterans, and spouses who work to elevate the military veteran community. The 2019 Military Influencer Conference is sponsored by USAA and brings together the brightest stars in the military-veteran entrepreneurial community to learn and share their business-building knowledge.

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The Air Force is running out of pilots

While the Air Force has gotten the F-35A to its initial operating capability, the service is having a ton of other problems — problems that could place the ability of the United States to control the air in doubt.


According to a report by FoxNews.com, the service is short by about 700 pilots and 4,000 mechanics. This is not a small issue. A shortage of well-trained pilots can be costly.

This Combat Camera vet used his skills to launch a civilian career as a photojournalist
F-16s fly beside a KC-135 during a refueling mission over Ramstein Air Base, Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Preston Cherry)

In World War II, the United States had a strict policy of rotating experienced pilots back to the states. This is why John Thach, the inventor of the Thach Weave, had only seven kills in World War II, according to Air University’s ace pilots list.

He was sent back to train the pilots needed to fly the hundreds of F6F Hellcats and F4U Corsairs. By contrast, Japan kept pilots on the front line until they were shot down or badly wounded. It cost them experience.

Maintenance personnel also matter. A fighter on the flight line does no good if it can’t fly, and the mechanics are the folks who keep it functional. The thing is, no mechanic — no matter how good he or she is — can fix two planes at once.

This Combat Camera vet used his skills to launch a civilian career as a photojournalist
Senior Airman Clay Thomas, a 355th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron load crew member, loosens paneling screws from an A-10C at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Oct. 24, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ashley N. Steffen)

So why is the United States Air Force facing this much of a shortage? An Air Force release notes that the decline took place over the last ten years, but was exacerbated by the sequestration cuts of 2011.

“The risk of manpower shortage is masked and placed on the backs of Airmen,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said in that release. “Because if you go back and look at the data and the way we measure readiness, did we taxi? Yes. Did we launch? Yes. Did we make the deployed destination and accomplish the mission? Yes.”

But accomplishing the mission came at a price, Goldfein explained. “What’s masked is the fact that the shortage of people has fundamentally changed the way we do business in terms of the operational risk day to day.”

This Combat Camera vet used his skills to launch a civilian career as a photojournalist
Airman 1st Class Zachary Bradley (left) and Airman Joseph Glenn, 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft structural maintenance apprentices, remove leading edge tape prior to painting an F-16CM at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Dec. 14, 2016. Leading edge tape serves as a repellent against rain and prevents the F-16’s wing edges and tail flaps from rusting and corroding. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Christopher Maldonado)

When asked for a comment by the writer, Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness said,

“I’m not aware of an official survey to confirm what may be going on, but it appears that the mystique of being an [Air Force] pilot has been eroded by a combination of budget cuts and social agendas; e.g., Air Force Secretary Deborah James’ Diversity Initiative Fact Sheet. Mandates such as this clearly indicate that qualifications and high standards are not very important, and certain types of applicants need not apply.”

Donnelly also pointed to aircraft readiness issues in the Navy and Marine Corps, as well as the many aging airframes in the U.S. inventory.

Also of note – FoxNews.com noted that in 1991, the Air Force had 134 fighter squadrons. Today, there are only 55, marking a reduction of 59% in the number of fighter squadrons.

MIGHTY MONEY

Finance Friday: 4 reasons why talking to a lender should be your first move

The idea of relocating immediately sparks a desire to jump online and start looking at houses. It is a natural curiosity to start visualizing where home will be. One late night jump down the rabbit hole of internet home searching will have you falling in love with the stainless steel kitchens, shiny polished floors, and before you know it, you’ll be itching to book a realtor and make this possibility a reality! What I’m about to tell you goes against everything in your gut, but I promise it makes sense to press pause.


Four reasons you NEED to talk to a lender first:

    Time is valuable

    Any realtor that values their time and takes their jobs seriously is going to ask you if you are pre-approved. A realtor will want to make sure they get you in front of homes that are within your budget and not waste time researching and showing homes that are outside of this range. A realtor also wants to make sure you’re in a financial position where homeownership is the right choice for you.
    This Combat Camera vet used his skills to launch a civilian career as a photojournalist

    Be ready to jump on your dream home

    You want to have a solid pre-approval once you begin browsing homes. Some markets are more competitive than others. Especially here, you want to be financially ready to jump in with that solid pre-approval (and not a pre-qualification) to have your offer taken seriously.

    Solid financing=increased offer acceptance rate

    If you start a pre-approval before home shopping, you are better positioned for a quicker closing time, which makes for happier agents and sellers. Bonus points when your lender calls the listing agent when you make an offer to tell them that you have a full-document pre-approval, which is a reassuring sign that financing is not going to fall through.

    This Combat Camera vet used his skills to launch a civilian career as a photojournalist

    Expectation management

    Once you start looking at homes online, if your price range drops, nothing will meet the same expectations that you had when you started imagining moving into those larger, fancier homes. To set the right expectations up front, it’s best to have an honest conversation with a lender about short term and long term financial goals.

    Once you start home shopping, there is a lot coming your way between contracts, inspections, addendums, moving boxes, and more. Taking the time to understand various procedures and costs ahead of finding your dream home will leave you less stressed and more confident in your choice. Having the right lender to be your partner in the process is key!

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    Navy puts plans to buy more ships and planes on hold

    The Navy’s 2018 budget request is out – and it looks like more new ships and aircraft are going to be on hold for at least a year. However, if this proposal holds up, the recent trend of short-changing training and maintenance will be reversed.


    According to a report by BreakingDefense.com, the Navy will get eight ships: A Ford-class aircraft carrier (CVN 80, the new USS Enterprise), two Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, a littoral combat ship (or frigate), two Virginia-class submarines, a salvage tug, and an oiler.

    Aircraft procurement will include two dozen F-35B/C Lightning II multi-role fighters and 14 F/A-18E/F Hornets. Despite reducing the F-35C buy by two aircraft, the Navy still expects to be on pace to achieve initial operating capability with the carrier-based variant of the Joint Strike Fighter in 2019.

    This Combat Camera vet used his skills to launch a civilian career as a photojournalist
    The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) receives fuel from the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204) during a replenishment-at-sea in the western Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kelsey L. Adams/Released)

    The big focus on the fiscal 2018 budget, though, is restoring readiness. The Navy is getting a $1.9 billion increase in a category known as “Other Procurement, Navy.” This fund is used to purchase new electronic gear, and more importantly, spare parts for the Navy’s ships and aircraft.

    The biggest winner in the budget is the operations and maintenance account, which is getting a $9.1 billion boost to a total of $54.5 billion. This represents roughly a 20 percent increase, with no category getting less than 87 percent of the stated requirements. Most notable is that Navy and Marine Corps flight hours have been funded to “the maximum executable level” – breaking a cycle of shortchanging training.

    This Combat Camera vet used his skills to launch a civilian career as a photojournalist
    A F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 115 conducts a touch-and-go landing on Iwo To, Japan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. James A. Guillory)

    The Navy and Marines have been hard-hit with readiness issues, particularly in terms of aviation. Last year, the Marines had to pull a number of F/A-18 Hornets out of the boneyard to have enough airframes for training. The Marines also had to carry out a safety stand-down after a series of mishaps in the summer of 2016. Even after the stand-down, the Marines lost four Hornets from Oct. 1, 2016 to Dec. 7, 2016.

    “We tried to hold the line in our procurement accounts,” Rear Adm. Brian Luther, the Navy’s top budget officer, told BreakingDefense.com. He pointed out, though, that under Secretary of Defense James Mattis, “the direction was clear: fill the holes first.”

    MIGHTY MONEY

    These 3 steps are crucial if you want to transition into your own business

    Are you ready to start the business you’ve always wanted? Do you have a million dollar idea but are not sure what to do first, second and third? Are you excited to leave military service behind and earn a living through your own entrepreneurial drive? Military service is a wonderful background for business ownership.

    But there’s a difference between military service and startup business management.

    A key factor that affects startup viability is how fast entrepreneurs adapt to their new job description as a business owner.

    Many entrepreneurs say they started their companies for the opportunity to pursue their heart’s desire. New bakery owners like to bake. Fitness coaches like to train clients. Contractors like to build. But successful entrepreneurship is not defined just by how well you bake or coach, but how well you manage your overall business.

    You can direct a brilliant film, but if you don’t make money at it, you may not get a second chance to make another film. Besides your specific passion, other skills are required to succeed.

    Being the boss of a prosperous business involves focus and careful decision-making.

    New business owners who assume that entrepreneurship is all about the freedom to do “whatever I want, whenever I want,” are also at high risk of business failure. Too much managerial spontaneity and freewheeling fun cost more than a young company can typically handle.

    Here are three strategies to help you make the mental shift to money-making self-employment with precision.

    Joke about business management: The risk I took was calculated, but boy am I bad at math.

    1. Pay attention to cash.

    Businesses close when they run out of cash. It’s that simple. As the boss of your startup enterprise your top priority is to make sure your company always has enough cash to operate. This means that you have to embrace numbers and money issues; take full ownership of financial projections and understand what kinds of business decisions can drain cash faster than others.

    You don’t need an MBA to manage cash well, just a desire to do it. Check out some accounting books or take an accounting class to boost your money management skills.

    2. Plan to achieve

    It’s not enough to hope to succeed; you have to plan to succeed. Hoping for customers, won’t get them to your website. Hoping to raise money from investors won’t get you in front of top check writers. Hoping the check is really in the mail is not the best way to collect past due invoices. Successful startup entrepreneurs set specific goals and then lay out practical day-by-day strategies to secure their first paying customers and profits.

    3. Get help

    Just because you are the boss of your new enterprise doesn’t mean you will always have all the right answers. You will across a lot of issues and decisions that you never encountered before in your military career. It’s only natural that beginner’s mistakes will be made, sometimes costly ones.

    When you face business unexpected problems in product development, product packaging, sales, marketing, customer service, or finance, don’t guess the answer. Find someone who has already “been there and done that” and ask for help. Remember, every mistake you make now comes out of your pocket.

    Here’s one last tip. It’s not enough to just get by in business; your managerial objective is to get ahead in business by using your head. You have a background of excellence in your military career; now just apply it to your new business.

    You can do it!

    Susan Schreter is a devoted Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program workshop presenter and founder of Start on Purpose, a service organization that empowers business owners anywhere in America to find and manage business funding with confidence. Connect with her at Susan@StartonPurpose.

    Articles

    Feds allege business scammed $100 million in TRICARE drug fraud case

    This Combat Camera vet used his skills to launch a civilian career as a photojournalist
    An airman in the pharmacy at Ramstein Air Base in Germany mixes a compound drug. No military pharmacies were named in the fraud indictment.


    More than a dozen civilians are accused of scamming over $100 million dollars from TRICARE by writing prescriptions that weren’t medically necessary and then overcharging for them.

    Earlier this month the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced that they had added 10 people to an indictment originally handed down in February.

    Named in the updated indictment are two businessmen, three marketing specialists, two doctors, and five pharmacy owners.

    Also Read: TRICARE beneficiaries have one month to transfer prescriptions

    The 36 page indictment outlines a massive scheme to defraud the government through a series of kickbacks, money laundering, and medical malpractice.

    The feds allege the conspiracy began in 2014 when Richard Cesario and John Cooper founded CCMGRX, LLC (later renamed CMGRX). The premise of the company was to market compounded prescriptions to service members, retirees, and their dependents, documents show.

    Compound prescriptions are drugs which are mixed in an effort to provide a unique prescription that meets the specific needs of the patient. They are not approved by the FDA, but may be prescribed when a patient is unable to have a specific ingredient in a drug, or the drug is not available in a specific form, such as prescriptions for children who can’t swallow a pill and must have a liquid version of the medication.

    Cesario and Cooper enlisted the help of three marketers, Joe Straw, Luis Rios, and Michael Kiselak, to recruit pharmacies and patients, the indictment shows.

    The patients allegedly were oblivious to the scam, instead being told that they were taking part in a medical study being done by an independent non-profit organization, the Freedom From Pain Foundation. The company was operated by Cesario and Cooper, who used the company to launder the money they received from TRICARE, Justice says.

    Money was allegedly paid to five different pharmacy owners and two doctors.

    After paying beneficiaries for participating in the study, kickbacks were allegedly sent in the form of checks to the doctors, pharmacy owners, and marketers. The rest was pocketed by Cesario and Cooper, the feds say.

    More than 30 separate counts were filed against the men, including conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud.

    The indictment also outlines some of the punishment the men will face should they be found guilty, beginning with a list of properties in Texas, Florida, and Costa Rica that the men will have to turn over to the government.

    Additionally, 32 vehicles, including Ferraris; Maseratis; Aston Martins, Corvettes; Mercedes-Benz; Jaguars; Porsches; Hummers; Cadillacs; BMWs and several trucks and SUVs will be seized by the government upon conviction of any single offense.

    The indictment goes on to list multiple boats and recreational vehicles, bank accounts in the names of the men and family members, cash, investment accounts, firearms, jewelry, other property, and “working interest” in several oil companies, as well as a “money judgement” that could all be seized by the government in an effort to recoup the over $100 million scammed by the group.

    According to the press release regarding the indictment, Cesario and Cooper, who were placed in custody earlier this year, are being held until trial. The other 10 men all made bail until their trial.

    Each of the charges against the men is punishable by between 5 and 10 years, and a $250,000 fine.

    The FBI and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service helped investigate and breaking up the alleged conspiracy ring.

    MIGHTY MONEY

    How this US soldier is the new Nigerian Prince

    “Oh, beautiful friend,” begins an email from Nigeria, “I am in need of your help to move the sum of 30,987,544.36 out of my country but, alas, I cannot.” This email scam is old as email itself but is a spin on an even older scam, one that involves a man claiming to be a political prisoner during the Spanish-American War. Apparently, he’s hidden money away and is desperate to get it before the Spanish find it. Thankfully, through friends, he’s found you, a person of considerable trust. Now if you could just send him some money…

    Well, the Spanish-prisoner-turned-Nigerian-prince has transformed yet again. This time, he’s turned into an American soldier… In Nigeria.


    This letter con is actually even older than the Spanish-American War. The resurgence of the scam in 1898 was just a play on American anti-Spanish sentiment. In the 1700s, it was a different kind of Spanish prisoner who needed money to smuggle a wealthy family member into or out of a country. Then there’s the 1800s’ “Frenchman in Jerusalem,” or the 1920s’ “German Winemaker Investment.”

    These are all different flavors of the same scam. You pay a comparatively small amount up front for the promise of a great windfall down the road, but nothing ever comes. Like all of these schemes, the fraudster is taking advantage of a political situation, economic frustrations, or the recipient’s general lack of knowledge about the subject or region.

    This Combat Camera vet used his skills to launch a civilian career as a photojournalist

    This is the new Nigerian Prince.

    He’s back. 

    Now, schemers are looking to take advantage of all three of those weaknesses. Americans love their military, but don’t always know where the U.S. military is operating — sometimes because it’s undisclosed and sometimes because Americans don’t really care where U.S. combat troops are deployed (before anyone gets indignant about this statement, ask yourself if you really know).

    In reality, U.S. troops are deployed to anywhere between 177 and 195 countries in the world. And those are just the missions with 50 or more troops deployed. Meanwhile, as the U.S. economy has been more or less booming for the last 9 years, it really hasn’t translated into an increase in wages or quality of life for most middle-class and blue-collar Americans. And Americans, even American students, tend to be bad at geography.

    This Combat Camera vet used his skills to launch a civilian career as a photojournalist

    This is not a trick. That’s really where Nigeria is.

    But the latest scam isn’t coming from Nigeria. It’s coming from Syria. Well… it claims it’s coming from Syria.

    “How are you doing my friend, great I guess! Now I know this mail will definitely come to you as a huge surprise, but please kindly take your time to go through it carefully as the decision you make will probably go a long way to determine my future and continued existence. First, let me introduce myself. I am Capt. Christopher Townsend, assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force in Syria.”

    For civilians who may be susceptible to this scam, I hope you tried to show this to a military friend because there are many glaring irregularities between this first paragraph and the photo of the ID sent along with it.

    This Combat Camera vet used his skills to launch a civilian career as a photojournalist

    Blurring the edges of an ID photo is something no one does ever.

    Aside from a clearly photoshopped ID photo, the CAC card above was taken from a U.S. Army Sergeant Major, not a captain of Marines. Secondly, unless that captain was also a journalist, it’s unlikely that he would abbreviate his rank using the Associated Press style. Military personnel have many different ways of abbreviating ranks, but the Marines don’t use a period. Finally, no sergeant major or captain I have ever met talks or writes like that.

    And a Marine isn’t likely to make that kind of mistake, even in an informal email. Are the Marines in Syria really with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment? That doesn’t matter.

    This Combat Camera vet used his skills to launch a civilian career as a photojournalist

    It matters, but not for the purposes of deciding to send them money.

    (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Donald Holbert)

    “Some money in various currencies was discovered and concealed in barrels with piles of weapons and ammunition at a location near one of President Assad’s old Presidential Palaces during a rescue operation and it was agreed by all party present that the money be shared amongst us.”

    Do dictators just leave money around, hiding in barrels with arms caches? My guess is that President Assad probably keeps his money in a bank, like most of the world. Keeping illicit cash in barrels laying around one of your many houses is a surefire way to lose it. Besides, rich dictators don’t have to horde cash — they don’t care if people know they’re stealing.

    The Syrian Presidential Palaces are located in Damascus and if U.S. Marines are/were in Damascus, even on a rescue mission, we probably would have heard about it by now. Most importantly, Assad never lived there.

    This Combat Camera vet used his skills to launch a civilian career as a photojournalist

    It would not be this clean after a visit from United States Marines.

    (Flickr/Jacobdugo)

    Finally, this is something more akin to the plot of Three Kings than something U.S. Marines would really do. The Marine Corps is renowned for its discipline and adherence to its core values on the battlefield. If they came across a cache of million dollars in a Presidential palace, you’d see Marines posing with it and their small arms on Instagram right before you read about it in the New York Times. Then, they’d turn it in.

    If you ever have a question about something fishy sent from someone claiming to be a U.S. troop, just ask a veteran. We all need a good laugh.

    Articles

    Veterans clap back at those demanding Starbucks hire 10,000 vets

    Starbucks Armed Forces Network, a private group within the company of Starbucks, released a statement yesterday asking that those calling for Starbucks to hire 10,000 veterans instead of refugees check their facts.


    Recently, Starbucks came under fire for announcing that they would hire 10,000 refugees. The general reaction was anger and calls for boycotts of Starbucks until they vowed to also hire 10,000 veterans.

    This Combat Camera vet used his skills to launch a civilian career as a photojournalist
    Devin Craig (second from right), a district manager for Starbucks Coffee Company, Wash., and his team talk to Soldiers and Veterans during the Boots 2 Work Military Career Fair at Cheney Stadium, Tacoma, Wash., Aug. 27. The career fair gave Soldiers the opportunity to meet with local businesses and learn job hunting skills. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Cody Quinn, 28th Public Affairs Detachment/Released)

    The problem with that? Starbucks vowed to hire 10,000 veterans in 5 years way back in 2013. And they’re ahead of schedule.

    One of the many internal groups at the coffee giant, Starbucks Armed Forces Network, penned a note to their customers to explain why the anger at the refugee program was misdirected.

    The note, simply signed by The Men and Women of Starbucks Armed Forces Network (AFN), began, “We write to you today as representatives of the thousands of veterans and spouses who currently work for Starbucks Coffee Company.”

    The writers went on to express their gratitude to their customers and then they moved right into addressing the refugee and veteran initiatives.

    “The false and inaccurate statements [about the veteran hiring initiative were] deeply troubling to those of us who’ve served,” the group wrote.

    The statement described how the CEO and his wife, Howard and Sheri Schultz, had visited military installations around the country to learn more about how they could advocate better for veterans and military spouses after announcing the veteran hiring initiative in November 2013. The couple invested their own personal funds into “plans for transitioning service members,” according to the group.

    “We respect honest debate and freedom of expression,” the statement read. “But to those who would suggest Starbucks is not committed to hiring veterans, we are here to say: check your facts. Starbucks is already there.”

    The 5 year initiative has only used about 60 percent of its time, but has met 88 percent of its goal. This means that, if they continue at this rate, Starbucks will surpass their initial goal of hiring 10,000 veterans by 2018 by 4,600 veterans.

    Starbucks operates 32 Military Family Stores near several major installations. Owned by veterans, military spouses, or family members, the stores participate in “Military Mondays.” Weekly, Starbucks partners with local Veteran Service Organizations to provide space for the organizations to offer pro-bono legal support and other services to the military community.

    The company also offers Military Service Pay to employees who have to report for National Guard or Reserve assignments. Eligible partners can receive up to 80 hours of paid time to fulfill their reserve service obligations yearly.

    Starbucks provides a Military Allowance to eligible employees that are called to active duty, as well.

    Starbucks has made a name for themselves as a veteran friendly company, even being awarded Gold status by G.I. Jobs in this year’s annual “Military Friendly” list.

    Articles

    Filing for effect: some troops’ tax refunds may not come quickly

    Many taxpayers plan their holiday shopping and other purchases around getting their tax refunds from the Internal Revenue Service at the earliest possible date.


    This Combat Camera vet used his skills to launch a civilian career as a photojournalist

    In 2017, that may no longer be the case.

    The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act, signed into law in December 2015, requires the IRS to hold tax refunds for people claiming Earned Income Tax Credit and Additional Child Tax Credit until at least Feb. 15, 2017.

    Also, new identity theft and refund fraud safeguards by both the IRS and individual states may mean some tax returns and refunds face additional review.

    Beginning in 2017, the IRS must hold the entire refund — even the portion not associated with the EITC and ACTC. The IRS said the change helps ensure taxpayers get the refund they are owed by giving the agency more time to help detect and prevent fraud.

    “This is an important change, as some of these taxpayers are used to getting an early refund,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “We want people to be aware of the change for their planning purposes during the holidays. We don’t want anyone caught by surprise if they get their refund a few weeks later than in previous years.”

    As in past years, the IRS will begin accepting and processing tax returns once the filing season begins. All taxpayers should file as usual, and tax return preparers should submit returns as they normally do.

    Although the IRS cannot issue refunds for some early filers until at least Feb. 15, it reminds taxpayers that most refunds will be issued within the normal timeframe: less than 21 days after being accepted for processing by the IRS.

    The Where’s My Refund? tool on IRS.gov and the IRS2Go phone app remain the best way to check the status of a refund.

    Do Not Sell My Personal Information