The latest jobs report shows 21 million Americans out of work, largely attributed to the effects of the coronavirus and efforts to contain it, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Double-digit unemployment rates are nothing new for spouses who have seen increased efforts over the years to elevate the plight of a demographic working to establish a career around military life. But is there a career field immune from PCS moves and pandemics? The CEO of Squared Away thinks so.
Michelle Penczak, a Marine spouse, co-founded Squared Away in 2017 to give military spouses opportunities that demand a range of skills, like social media, project management, and human resources. The company has now grown to 95 and she says the field is “extremely sustainable” even with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“Most of our clients are taking their businesses remotely and are leaning on us to make the transition as smooth as possible. We also add a great amount of value to teams who have been forced to downsize but still have the need of an assistant,” Penczak said in an email interview.
Squared Away was inspired by Penczak’s own challenges in maintaining employment as her husband, a Marine officer, received orders to different duty stations around the U.S. She initially worked as a personal assistant to a lobbyist in Washington, DC. until relocating to Jacksonville, North Carolina, near Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. The transition from a large city to a small military town was difficult in terms of finding comparable employment.
“No one would hire me … it was so defeating and I didn’t want anyone to ever feel that way,” she said.
Eventually, after many interviews and rejections, she found employment as a virtual assistant with Zirtual. However, it was not long after the business closed, but lingering clients wanted her to remain with their companies. Then her husband received orders to Hawaii.
“I was terrified I would lose my clients,” Penczak said because her clients operated on Eastern time. “So, I got up at 3 am to work with my East Coast clients.”
She said she told herself it would never work, but six months into it her husband encouraged her to change her thinking.
“He said, ‘It’s working.’ I would drive myself out of bed [at 3am PCT] and do my stuff. Then I’d have all the rest of the day to hang out in Hawaii which wasn’t a bad deal. I became more productive and it worked better for me. My co-founder [Shane Mac] told me, ‘I need you to build a company.’ I told him he was crazy. I had no idea how to run a company,” she said. “I thought about it for a couple of days and said let’s do this.”
Squared Away places virtual assistants with a myriad of companies to include venture capital firms, startup companies, and marketing firms. Penzcak added that the company does not invest in marketing. She notes her client base has grown exponentially over the past year strictly from a referral base.
“Anyone who needs extra supports … They become their righthand man … All of our clients are saying how much they love us, working with amazing people who believe in our mission. I’ve never felt more blessed in my life. My team is amazing,” she said.
Squared Away employs military spouses stationed within the U.S., along with remote assistants in Germany as well.
“Nothing feels better than one of my girls coming to say … you are making such a big difference to me and my family,” Penczak said.
The company’s structure also allows its team members to balance personal and professional responsibilities.
“All of our spouses have a unique story … We can be dedicated to our clients, but also be flexible to be there for our kids. Currently, we have 110 clients … it’s growing steadily. The more clients the more assistants we can hire,” she said.
Penczak’s 2020 goals include expansion of her team.
Three of Australia’s warships were “challenged” by the Chinese navy in the South China Sea early April, 2018, according to an ABC report.
Defense sources told ABC that Australia’s navy was en route to Vietnam when it encountered polite but “robust” challenges from the People’s Liberation Army, but the specific nature of the challenges is not described. HMAS Toowoomba had departed from Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, while HMAS Anzac and HMAS Success travelled through the South China Sea after leaving the Philippines.
It’s believed the interaction happened around the same time China was conducting its largest-ever naval parade on April 12, 2018. The massive show of force involved 10,000 naval officers, 48 naval vessels, submarines, the country’s only aircraft carrier.
During the event President Xi Jinping was on board one of the destroyers, overseeing the parade.
When questioned about the incident, Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull wouldn’t reveal any details.
“All I can say to you is we maintain and practice the right of freedom of navigation and overflight throughout the world,” Turnbull said. “In this context, you’re talking about naval vessels on the world’s oceans including the South China Sea, as is our perfect right in accordance with international law.”
Numerous countries — including China, Brunei, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines — have territorial claims, making the South China Sea one of the most disputed places on the planet. For its part, China has been criticized for building artificial islands in the region and militarizing them with missile sites and air bases.
This isn’t the only problem Turnbull has faced with China of late.
Do you still love fitness? Are you transitioning out of the military and thinking about what the next steps of your future career will be?
Think about a hobby you love. Can you make your hobby into a job or even just a part-time position for starters?
How about a job in the fitness industry? There are many veterans in the fitness industry, including myself, a tactical fitness writer. But writing is far from the only option in the multibillion-dollar fitness business. From personal trainers, gym owners, strength coaches, supplement affiliates, inventors and program developers to athletes who compete in all types of competitions, there are plenty of fitness-related career paths.
If fitness is part of your life or used to be, consider finding that love again. You might find something inside you that reconnects with the world you left behind when you first joined the military.
Here are some of the many fitness career paths that can help you get moving again, fine-tune your fitness knowledge and skills, and teach people who need your motivation, passion and example.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman David Carbajal)
1. Group Trainer
One of the easier ways to get involved in training people is to lead a group at an established fitness center. Or you could build your own outdoor fitness boot camp program, especially if the weather permits most of the year. A group training instructor could be as basic as a boot camp fitness class or a learned training program on spin bikes, yoga, kickboxing, Zumba, barre, aquatic fitness or CrossFit. No matter what you pick, these are fun ways not only to teach others, but to get your own workout accomplished with a group of people who need your leadership. It can also be a good supplemental income if you can spare an hour or two a few days a week.
2. Personal Trainer
Like the title suggests, this business model is more personal, and you get to really know and develop training programs for the goals, needs and abilities of a client. Personal training is also better paying than group fitness. You can offer personal training as part of an existing fitness center or set up your own hustle and train people at their own homes or in an outdoor area.
3. Online Fitness Business
If you like to create content for people to read or view, you may find a promising business model with a website store and social media. Whether it is through your own products, articles and videos or using an affiliate model, you can make significant income online with just a little bit of technology skill.
(U.S. Marine Corps photos by Lance Cpl. Bridget M. Keane)
4. Invent a Fitness Device
Two friends of mine created companies around their inventions. Randy Hetrick of TRX and Alden Mill of Perfect Pushup fame both created products that fit into the fitness industry very nicely and maybe even revolutionized it to some degree.
5. Can You Still Compete?
Many veterans are still going hard-core after service and compete in professional racing and sports from CrossFit Games, to the Olympics and Paralympic Games, to becoming sponsored and professional athletes in the racing world. Moving that athletic fame into social media and internet fitness businesses is a great way to continue training and helping others, as well as earning a living.
Fitness is important for the transitioning veteran. Whether you decide to make fitness part of a way to make extra income, or you just get involved in volunteer coaching in your community, you will find that the physical activity you do and the coaching and teaching you provide are helpful to you and others.
Find the Right veteran Job
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
‘Tis the season for yuletide carols, family, gifts, entirely too much food, and, of course, some much-needed downtime. Somewhere between “I swear to defend….” and getting that sacred DD-214, many of us developed quite the affinity for film and television.
So, it’s only natural that we spend our downtime getting together on the nostalgia train to binge watch a few of our favorites. Christmas might be over, but there’s still time to enjoy these must-see holiday films. So, grab your spiked eggnog, a warm blanket, and snuggle up for a day’s worth of cinema magic as you pretend the break isn’t rapidly coming to an end.
Tim Allen is comedic greatness in this role.
(Walt Disney Pictures)
‘The Santa Clause’
The greatness of this film lies in two words: Tim Allen. His comedic timing is great here, and it really serves the premise of the movie: a dad kills Santa Claus and is forced to become Santa himself.
I mean, it’s a completely impossible narrative (Santa Claus is immortal, duh), but it’s fun all the way through.
This one is for all the dads
(20th Century Fox)
‘Jingle All The Way’
This one’s another movie about a dad and holiday hijinks. Arnold Schwarzenegger is on the search for a near-impossible-to-find toy in a quest to buy the affections of his son. In a lot of ways, this movie from the ’90’s has proven to be prophetic for its time. Much of the shenanigans that Schwarzenegger’s character experiences have become the standard holiday shopping experience.
No holiday season is complete without Kevin.
(20th Century Fox)
By now, you’ve probably noticed that parental neglect and aloofness is a bit of theme among the items on this list — but Home Alone cranks it up to full blast.
Kevin McCallister, as played by the immortal Macaulay Culkin, became the iconic ’90s smartass that indirectly shaped a generation. In the film, Kevin proves to be more than capable when he defends his family home against would-be invaders using nothing but wit and a closet full of toys.
It’s sheer conjecture, but we’re sure Kevin McCallister grew up and served — that resourcefulness says “veteran.”
Yippee ki yay, MF.
John. Mc. Clane.
Die Hard is definitely the most non-holiday movie on this list but, make no mistake, it is absolutely a holiday flick! It’s got a Christmas tree and a happy, warm and fuzzy ending.
Close enough for me!
It is, literally, a Christmas story.
‘A Christmas Story’
“You’ll shoot your eye out!”
It’s one of the most iconic lines in cinema history, but it’s not even the best in the film. A Christmas Story is brilliantly written, fantastically acted, and features some of the best narration in film.
This one is to be viewed, preferably, on Christmas Day, but as long as there’s snow on the ground, it’s still good.
Waltz explained that, while US Special Forces were trained and prepared as combat warriors, much of their work involved training, cultural understanding and psychological efforts to explain the messages of US freedom and humanity.
“Until America is prepared to have its grandchildren stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our grandchildren, we won’t be successful,” — Mullah Ghafoordai – tribal elder in Eastern Afghanistan
It was a profound and decisive moment – which seemed to reverberate throughout mountain villages in Eastern Afghanistan…… an anti-Taliban Afghan tribal elder told Green Beret Michael Waltz he could no longer cooperate with US Special Forces in the fight against insurgents in his country.
Waltz had spent months having tea with friendly Afghans and tribal leaders in the area and, he reports, made great progress with efforts to collaborate against the Taliban. They shared information, allowed US allied Afghan fighters to be trained by Green Berets and, in many cases, joined US forces in the fight.
The tribal elder’s comments were quite a disappointment for Waltz, who vigorously argues that the fight against the Taliban, terrorists and many insurgent groups around the world – will take 100 years to win.
Waltz recalled that President Obama’s 2009 announcement that the US would be withdrawing from Afghanistan by 2011, engendered new risk and danger for Afghans cooperating with US forces.
Although, in the same speech, Obama announced US troop numbers would increase by thousands in the near term, a declaration of an ultimate withdrawal created a strong impact upon friendly Afghans, Waltz said.
Obama’s announcement, which has been followed by subsequent efforts to further draw-down the US presence, changed the equation on the ground in Afghanistan, compromising the long-standing cooperation between the friendly Afghan tribal elder and Waltz’s team of Green Berets in fight against the Taliban, Waltz argued.
“It is going to take multiple generations of winning hearts and minds,” Waltz recalled, explaining his frustration and disappointment upon seeing a long-standing collaborative partnership collapse amid fear of Taliban retribution.
Although much has happened regarding permutation of the US-Afghan strategy since that time, and specifics of Obama’s intended withdrawal date subsequently changed, there has been an overall systematic reduction of US troops in recent years.
During July 6, 2016 U.S. President Obama said he would draw down troops to 8,400 by the end of his administration in December 2016; this approach greatly increased pressure on US Special Forces, relying even more intensely upon their role as trainers and advisors.
Green Berets had already been among the most-deployed US military units, often deploying as many as 10-times throughout the course of their career.
“Green Berets don’t easily ask for help and do not easily identify themselves as having an issue, but it is OK to say you have a problem. The Green Beret Foundation understands the mindset of “America’s Quiet Professionals”, and because of this, we are in a good position to help identify needs and render assistance,” Ret. Maj. Gen. David Morris, Chairman of the Board of the Green Beret Foundation, told Scout Warrior.
While there have been many who both supported and opposed Obama’s Afghanistan strategy, sparking years of ongoing debate, Waltz maintains that impact of the 2009 announcement upon the US Special Forces’ effort in Afghanistan brought lasting implications and spoke to a larger issue regarding US-Afghan policy.
“We are in a war of ideas and we are fighting an ideology. It is easy to bomb a tank, but incredibly difficult to bomb an idea. We need a long-term strategy that discredits the ideology of Islamic extremism,” Waltz added. “We are in a multi-decade war and we are only 15-years in.”
Waltz explained that, while US Special Forces were trained and prepared as combat warriors, much of their work involved training, cultural understanding and psychological efforts to explain the messages of US freedom and humanity.
“This was kind of the premise behind George W. Bush’s freedom agenda. These ideologies have narratives that specifically target disaffected young men who see no future for themselves or their families,” Waltz explained.
Some of the many nuances behind this approached were, quite naturally, woven into a broader, long-term vision for the country including the education of girls and economic initiatives aimed at cultivating mechanisms for sustainable Afghan prosperity.
The reality of a multi-faceted, broadly oriented counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan is the premise of Waltz’s book – “Warrior Diplomat,” which seeks to delineate key aspects of his time as a Green Beret.
The book chronicles this effort to attack Taliban fighters with so-called “kinetic” or intense combat techniques – alongside an equally intense commensurate effort to launch an entirely different type of attack.
Diplomatic or “non-kinetic” elements of the war effort involved what could be referred to as war-zone diplomacy, making friends with anti-Taliban fighters, learning and respecting Afghan culture, and teaching them how to succeed in combat.
“While Green Berets perform direct combat missions, their core mission as the only Unconventional Warfare unit in the US inventory, is to train, coach, teach and mentor others. A 12-man A-Team can train a force of 1,000 – 2,000 fighters and bring them up to an acceptable measure of combat readiness. If you stop and think about it, that is 1,000 to 2,000 of our sons and daughters who do not have to go to war because of this training,” Morris said.
Addressing the issue of cultural sophistication, Morris explained how Green Berets are required to demonstrate proficiency in at least one foreign language.
Citing the Taliban, ISIS and historic insurgent groups such as Peru’s Shining Path – and even the decades-long Cold War effort to discredit communism, Waltz emphasizes that the need for a trans-generational, wide-ranging approach of this kind is by no means unprecedented.
Pugh was working as a commercial airplane mechanic in Kuwait, but was fired in December 2014. The next month, authorities say he purchased a one-way ticket to Istanbul through Cairo, where Pugh refused to let Turkish authorities search his laptop. The Turks sent him packing back to Egypt. Once back in Egypt, security officers found a number of damaged electronics. The Egyptians deported Pugh back to the United States.
Once there, Pugh told an undercover law enforcement agent he was indeed trying to join the terrorist group. Prosecutors say his laptop had Islamist propaganda videos on it, along with a letter to a woman he married in Egypt in 2014, where he vowed to “defend the ISIS.”
The FBI says Pugh converted to Islam in 1998 while living and working Texas. Former co-workers say he became radicalized, openly sympathizing with Osama bin Laden.
He was indicted by a grand jury in Brooklyn on two charges, including attempting to provide material support to a terror organization. Twenty-three Americans have been charged for trying to fight for ISIS. Pugh pled not guilty.
The fight continues in the Middle Euphrates River Valley to wrest the last 2 percent of land once controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria from the grasp of the terror group, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said in Washington.
“That fighting is on-going and as we forecasted, it’s been a tough fight and we are winning,” the secretary told reporters.
The secretary said Syrian leaders have to be well aware of the U.S. position on the regime using chemical weapons. He stressed “there is zero evidence” that any opposition groups possess chemical weapons or the technology to employ those weapons.
The U.S. goal in Syria remains to end the tragedy that would have ended years ago, if Russia and Iran had not intervened, Mattis said. “We want to support the Geneva process — the U.N.-mandated process. … In that scope what we want to do is make certain that ISIS does not come back and upset everything again.”
The U.S. and allies are training local security forces inside Syria. The United States is working with Turkey to launch joint patrols in Manbij. “I think we are close on that; it’s complex,” Mattis said. “Once we get those patrols going along the line of contact and we take out the rest of the [ISIS] caliphate, our goal would be to set up local security elements that prevent the return of ISIS while at the same time diplomatically supporting … the Geneva process.”
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis speaks to reporters during a news conference at the Pentagon, Sept. 24, 2018.
(DoD photo by Jim Garamone)
The secretary said Russia’s vetoes of United Nations resolutions early in the process with Syria, “kept the U.N. marginalized at a time when it might have been able to stop what unfolded. Iran then sent in their proxy forces.”
Iranians are in Syria. Iran is propping up the Assad regime with forces, money, weapons, and proxies. “Part of this overarching problem is we have to address Iran,” Mattis said. “Everywhere you go in the Middle East, where there is instability, you find Iran.”
Iran has a role to play in the peace process, the secretary said. And that “is to stop fomenting trouble,” he added.
Mattis condemned the terrorist attack inside Iran. “We condemn terrorist bombings anywhere they occur,” he said. “It’s ludicrous to allege that we had anything to do with it, and we stands with the Iranian people, but not the Iranian regime that has practiced this very sort of thing through proxies and all for too many years.”
And, the secretary praised the U.S. military response to Hurricane Florence.
“We rate ourselves as having done a good job so far,” he said. “The tactics were to surround it on the seaward side and the landward side, and keep people out of the area forecasted to be hit. So we had troops who were ready to go and follow the storm in from both directions, and we met all the requests from the Federal Emergency Management Agency … in a timely manner. We still have troops committed to it, but clearly it is winding down.”
Military equipment, to include deep water vehicles, boats and more, remain available if needed, he said.
The secretary announced he will travel to France and Belgium to take part in NATO’s Defense Ministerial Meeting.
Spend a little time around any military installation, and you’re bound to hear tell of ghosts and urban legends. Often, the local gossip is just that, mere myth and fabrication.
But sometimes, an area is beset with enough spooky evidence that is hard to ignore, as is the case with the following ten haunted military bases.
You might want to turn the lights on before reading this list.
10. West Point Military Academy, New York
With reports of a ghostly cavalry still reporting for duty, the academy often pops up on most haunted lists. In 2017, ‘Thrillist‘ named West Point the most haunted place in New York.
Of particular interest is Room 4714, where an opalescent figure is said to drift in and out of stone walls, terrifying first-year plebes as they settle into their new sleeping quarters.
Perhaps, not so coincidentally – Sleepy Hollow and West Point are a mere 42 minute drive apart. Maybe that’s also part of the reason Ed and Lorraine Warren – the famed ghost-hunters whose stories inspired films, “Annabelle,” “The Conjuring,” and “The Amityville Horror” – also lectured at the academy in the 1970’s.
9. Fort Leavenworth, Kansas
Fort Leavenworth’s Frontier Army Museum has documented nearly three dozen haunted houses, making Leavenworth one of the most haunted Army installations. The museum has dockets of stories captured throughout the base, and from the nearby correctional facilities of: U.S. Penitentiary Leavenworth, U.S. Disciplinary Barracks and Midwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility, where multiple inmates within the facilities are on death row.
F.E. Warren is old, having begun operations in 1867 as Fort D.A. Russell. Airmen stationed here have reported other-worldly screams so terrifying that they’ve called base Security Forces to report it. The responders understand, because in the Security Forces Group Building 34, K-9 units whimper and whine at the staircases. The building was once the base hospital, its basement, the morgue.
The base’s haunted reputation routinely fills seats on the Cheyenne Visitors Bureau “Haunted Halloween Trolley Tour,” and has attracted the Colorado Paranormal Investigation (CPI), a Denver-based team of ghost hunters, and the Rocky Mountain Paranormal Research Society. Both agencies have recorded unexplained paranormal activity.
On-base housing residents offer the following advice: “Want to know if your house is really haunted? Wait for Halloween, and see if the trolley tour pauses by your driveway.”
7. Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington
Under the shadow of Mt. Rainer, in what used to be mere uninhabited rugged wilderness, Joint Base Lewis-McChord has accumulated its share of the ephemeral. Once the site of a guest house called The Red Shield Inn, the Fort Lewis Military Museum has been a hub of paranormal activity with reports of hauntings dating back decades – including rumors of an exorcism to placate an actor’s restless spirit who was murdered in the inn.
Although records of the exorcism have not yet been officially substantiated by the Catholic Church, numerous accounts and reporting suggest the event might have indeed occurred.
6. Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana
When a state boasts tales of voodoo, spooky hotels, and ghost roads – it’s small wonder that when hospital and cemetery space is repurposed in Louisiana, the dead don’t get the message. Military members whose office space just happens to be along Davis Avenue, coincidentally the site of the former base hospital, have reported doors slamming shut, footsteps running down hallways, and objects thrown across the room. Even the Base Exchange and Commissary are haunted here, as both locations were built upon the former home of the Stonewall Cemetery.
As if the base hauntings weren’t scary enough, the nearby cities of Shreveport and Bossier-City are a hotbed of spookiness, including an eerie creek crossing called “Green Light Bridge” where unexplained green lights hover around the small, country bridge. Those who live near the area know, “green means go” and if you ever see the lights – run.
5. Warner Robins Air Force Base, Georgia
The ghost stories swirling throughout the misty Georgia landscape are many. As the 13th Colony, the state certainly makes a good case for itself as being one of the most haunted in the continental U.S.
Warner Robins is located 18 miles south of Macon, Georgia – a city home to many haunted legends itself, including the chilling Hay House, named one of the “13 Most Beautiful Haunted Destinations in the World” by Architectural Digest. It’s a house where wedding photographers have captured the wedding party, and ghosts, on camera.
And, if you fancy meeting a witch, just head a few miles outside of the base to “Gravity Hill.” Legend has it that locals were actually kind to the witch who lived here in the 1800’s, and interred her body in a grave upon her death. It’s believed she continues to repay the kindness by helping cars over the ridge. To see her work, place your car in neutral, and watch as it rolls…uphill, against gravity.
There is also plethora of unexplained phenomena that would send Mulder and Scully running, including multiple UFO sightings, and a strange incident from 1954. Still not completely understood, over 50,000 birds, representing 53 species flew straight into the base’s runway flood lights, and careened like projectiles into the ground. To date, the event remains one of the largest mass bird mortality incidents in recorded U.S. history.
4. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio
Dubbed the “Birthplace of Aviation,” Wright-Patterson is one of the largest Air Force bases and also home to the USAF Aviation Museum – full of historic planes, where some of the former air crews…haven’t quite left.
But it’s Building 219 in particular that has presented the most paranormal activity. The three-story brick building was also the site of a hospital, the basement level of course serving as the morgue.
Hauntings there are so well known that the base featured on the SyFy Channel’s “Ghost Hunters” series. The production team actually received DoD permission to be escorted onto the base for an investigation, which heavily focused on Building 219. Several phenomena were recorded, including footsteps and incessant tapping.
When one of the ghost hunters asked the dark, empty air, “Give us two taps if you want us to leave,” and two taps quickly sounded – he said he felt obligated to honor his word and the team quickly left. Only later, while investigating their digital recordings did they hear women’s laughter following the taps.
3. Fort McNair, Washington D.C.
Following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in April 1865, the arms of justice moved swiftly. After a 12-day manhunt, John Wilkes Booth was shot and killed by police, while his co-conspirators were quickly apprehended and imprisoned in the Washington Arsenal awaiting trial. Four would be sentenced to death by hanging, two others given life sentences.
One of the guilty sentenced to die included Mary Surratt, the proprietress of the boarding house where Booth and his associates developed the assassination plot. Although Surratt adamantly maintained her innocence, she was found guilty – and became the first woman executed by the U.S. federal government, with President Andrew Johnson himself signing the orders for execution.
The guilty watched from their jail cell windows as their own gallows were constructed in front of them, in the south part of the Washington Arsenal Courtyard.
The Washington Arsenal is now…none other than Fort McNair, where it is said an angry, restless spirit roams the grounds, shrouded in a dark bonnet and long black dress, melting snow in a path, as if still retracing her steps to the gallows…
2. Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam
In a place that has experienced intense emotion and devastating tragedy, something is bound to be left behind.
Even before enduring one of the most tragic military attacks on U.S. soil, the Hawaiian Islands teem with stories of the supernatural. Locals warn to watch out for Pele – the goddess of fire who also has a proclivity for hitchhiking as the “White Lady.” There are the ghosts of ancient Hawaiian warriors called “Night Marchers” who drum their way across the sky during full moons, and of course, deities who guard the volcanoes, placing a curse on anyone foolish enough to take lava rocks from the Islands.
Bookended alongside the Islands’ own haunted history is the tragedy of Pearl Harbor. A total of 2,403 Americans were killed in the attack, the majority of deaths occurring in Pearl Harbor, while others occurred on neighboring installations, Schofield Barracks, and Wheeler Army Air Field. The torpedoed USS Arizona took 1,177 souls with her as she sank to the ocean floor, and still lies in memoriam.
Numerous military members have reported eerie noises from the harbor, disembodied screams, and appliances that seem to have a mind of their own. Those living in base housing have also reported mumbling voices, footsteps, and laughter, doors and cabinets that open…and close, on their own, and flickering lights, just to name a few encounters.
1. Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan
Japan frequently tops the most haunted lists in horror film and literature, and the notoriety is warranted. Tales of terror stretch back in Japanese literature to the Heian period (794-1185), in a time so ancient that stories were inked onto scrolls, known as Gaki-zoshi, or “Scrolls of the Hungry Ghosts.”
Unsurprisingly, Kadena Air Base and the surrounding military community have reported all manner of terrifying activity. Ghosts have approached one installation gate so many times, that the activity has been captured in multiple videos.
Building 2283 on Kadena was once a tranquil single-family base housing unit built next to a daycare center, until an alleged family murder took place in the home. The USO used to hold ghost tours here, until curtains parted by themselves and a landline phone – long disconnected, rang in the house in front of terrified tour groups. Before the building was demolished in 2009, the next-door daycare teachers complained that their students kept throwing their toys over the fence. When questioned, the children replied, “the little kids on the other side asked us to.”
And the hair-raising terror continues in the Kadena Hospital Caves on the Banyan Tree Golf Course. The caves were once a former bomb shelter and hospital where 350 medical staff, and 222 nursing students from Japanese military units were assigned in WWII. When U.S. Forces came ashore, the caves were…evacuated. Some evacuated by ingesting potassium cyanide pills, others jumped to their death from nearby Maeda Point.
To this day, off the cliffs of Cape Maeda, scuba divers report seeing ghosts…underwater.
Everybody does dumb stuff, and military spouses are no exception. (Example: eating Ben & Jerry’s for dinner every night during a deployment and then wondering why we didn’t hit our goal weight.)
But there are a few dumb things that only military spouses do, such as:
Hey, I just met you. And this is crazy. But give me your number. And be the emergency contact for my baby.
Every PCS means starting over, in every way. We get three to five weeks to unpack and arrange everything, get everyone registered for school, find a doctor, find a dentist, find a … oh yeah, find a place to live. Wonder of wonder, during that mad dash, what we didn’t manage to find was a friend we would trust with our child’s life.
For military spouses, emergency contacts are the proverbial Canadian girlfriend/boyfriend from summer camp. “I swear I know people, and they like me enough to take my kid to the ER, but they just don’t live here.” So, we list the name of, literally, the very first person we meet, cross our fingers and hope no one gets hurt this year.
Ooh! PCS stickers! I can craft with those!
When the ever-lengthening “Home is Where” plaque in the entryway doesn’t make the point loudly enough, we peel those little PCS stickers off the backs of our furniture and use them to make Christmas ornaments, maps, and other crafts.
Because nothing says “holiday spirit” and “welcome home after a hard day,” like a passive-aggressive homespun visual that basically means “remember that time your job forced the whole family to move to Ft. Huachuca? Where there are TARANTULAS! Good times…”
As if we don’t see enough camo…
Make a purse out of a uniform.
Why, and I mean why, do we do this? The ACU pattern was ugly and impractical when soldiers wore it. Multi-cam and MARPAT look like a pigeon flew over after an all-night sugar binge. Basically, anything that ends in “uniform” was not designed to be stylish, except for maybe the Navy blueberries (Why did they want sailors to blend in with the OCEAN? If a sailor is in the water, don’t we need to see him so we can fish him out? I digress.) None of these handbags are cute.
But that doesn’t even touch on the real issue, which is – these are old clothes. Worn by people who get paid to do dirty, sweaty, disgusting things. You don’t see the wives of garbage collectors making diaper bags out of threadbare, bright orange coveralls for a reason. Why are you putting your baby’s bottle and snack pack of Cheerios into something your husband wore on the Darby Queen, Kayla? It’s not even hygienic.
Gauge life events by location and childbirth.
Forget journals and Facebook memories, we can tell you what was going on in the world in any particular year by recalling where we lived and which child was born there. “Let’s see, we were at Camp LeJeune, and Jackson was a newborn … he had the worst colic, you know … so that must have been 2016 and Hurricane Matthew.”
Get itchy every three years.
Fish and houseguests start to smell after three days. For duty stations, it’s more like three years. Three years into each move, the grass starts looking greener elsewhere, and the luster of our current location begins to wear off. We’ve eaten in all the good restaurants, visited all the local sites, shopped in all the cute boutiques, and now all we notice is what this duty station doesn’t have.
At the first rumor of a new base, we start googling, joining Facebook groups, and surfing real estate apps. If Uncle Sam wanted us to be settled and content, he wouldn’t keep moving us all over the planet.
Prom photo? Military ball? What’s the difference?
Go to Prom every year until menopause.
Okay, so it’s not really prom, but it’s the same rubbery chicken, the same DJ, the same up-do and mani-pedi, and the same expensive dress we’ll never wear again (or at least not until we PCS). Military balls feel a lot like prom, except there’s alcohol, uniforms, symbolism, and patriotism.
Well, even if it isn’t prom, we still feel like Cinderella getting ready for the ball, just like we did in high school.
Over the weekend, two videos emerged that made their rounds — not just in the military community, but all over the world. In Portland, Oregon, where civil rights protests have occurred daily since the murder of George Floyd, there has been a mix of mostly peaceful demonstrations with some outbreaks of violence and destruction.
In the midst of this, the first video shows presumed law enforcement officials in military fatigues without any sort of identification yanking protestors off the street into unmarked cars. This drew a furious reaction from lawmakers on both sides, lawsuits from the state or Oregon to civil rights groups, and drew out even more protestors who were not very happy that federal officials would resort to such tactics.
One of those men was Christopher David, a Navy veteran, who showed up to make his voice heard. David’s interaction with the police was recorded and immediately went viral after he was attacked, beaten and maimed — but not broken in spirit.
David, age 53, spoke to the Associated Press about the incident, why he went out there and what he hopes happens now.
“It isn’t about me getting beat up. It’s about focusing back on the original intention of all of these protests, which is Black Lives Matter,” David told the AP.
David said he was hanging back as this was the first time he ever protested anything. He also wore his Naval Academy sweatshirt to show the police that he wasn’t some crazy anarchist. He said the protest started as a bunch of pregnant women standing with linked arms. He said he was trying to talk to the men in fatigues. He said he told them, “You take the oath to the Constitution; you don’t take the oath to a particular person,” when one officer pointed a weapon at David’s chest. Another pushed him back and he stood there with his hands at this side. That is when the video shows a law enforcement officer strike David five times with a baton. The attack seems to not faze David at all, but then he gets pepper sprayed in the face. Only then does he fall back, but not before giving the officials a hand gesture to show his displeasure.
While various people on Twitter spoke of him standing tall like a mountain and not being hurt, David says he actually has two broken bones in his hand which will require surgery to fix.
David is a 1988 graduate of the Naval Academy and served in the Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps before getting out. He doesn’t plan on going back out to protest anytime soon. “My ex-wife and my daughter would kill me if I did that. They’re so angry at me for doing it in the first place because I got beat up,” he said. “I’m not a redwood tree. I’m an overweight, 53-year-old man.”
According to CNN, the Portland Police and Customs and Border Protection have denied the officers belonged to their respective departments. So far, Homeland Security and the U.S. Marshals have refused to acknowledge if the men belong to their departments.
United States Special Forces have been deployed on several fronts around the Syrian city of al-Raqqa, supporting the offensive of the Kurdish militias and other allied factions laying siege to the city, according to a British war monitor.
US troops are deployed to the north, east, and west of al-Raqqa, considered the capital of the caliphate of the Islamic State, and includes US special ops units, US Marines artillery (155mm/M-777’s), and US Apache helicopter gunships supporting the advance of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the Kurdish-led armed alliance that launched an offensive to retake the city, according to the UK’s Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The US-led coalition’s aircraft are also providing the Kurdish fighters with intensive air support.
Currently, there are clashes between the SDF and the US Special Forces on one side against IS, on the other, at the former base of Division 17, North of al-Raqqa; also on the outskirts of the Haraqala area and around the neighborhood of al-Jazra in the West.
SOHR said the SDF controls 70 percent of the al-Meshlab area, on the eastern side of al-Raqqa, where progress is being hampered by IS snipers and mines, although the Kurdish militia stated on Wednesday it completely controlled the area.
There are no civilians left in this district since they were evacuated days ago by the radical fighters, who have dug trenches and tunnels to defend the area, the NGO said.
For their part, the SDF reported in their Telegram account that they have managed to break into the neighborhood of al-Jazra in the western part of al-Raqqa.
On June 5th, this force launched an offensive on the city.
This offensive comes on the third anniversary of the proclamation of its caliphate on June 29, 2014, by IS in Syria and Iraq.
Currently, there are some 500 US troops deployed in Syria.
The Trump administration is trying to facilitate the release of a Pakistani doctor who was jailed for helping the CIA locate Osama Bin-Laden, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The doctor, Shakil Afridi, started a fake vaccination program to both locate bin Laden and attempt to get his DNA. The Pakistani government was particularly displeased with the U.S. for not notifying them of the Navy SEAL raid which killed bin Laden, and jailed Afridi a month after the May 2, 2011, raid. He has been held and sentenced on a series of dubiously legal charges since.
Pakistani officials reportedly want better relations with the U.S. and may even consider giving Afridi a presidential pardon.
“We are trying to accelerate the legal processes,” one official said. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster reportedly raised the matter during a late April visit to Pakistan where Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S. expressed the country’s desire “to find a solution.”
Afridi’s lawyer told reporters in 2016 the best hope for his release was U.S. pressure, but that the Obama administration had not shown their support. His lawyer continued that Afridi has languished for much of his sentence in solitary confinement.
“I have no hope of meeting him, no expectation for justice,” he said.
Congress has voted every year since 2011 to withhold millions of dollars in badly needed U.S. aid to Pakistan.
Trump pledged on the five year anniversary of bin Laden’s death that he would get the doctor released “in two minutes,” which drew sharp Pakistani criticism. “Contrary to Mr. Trump’s misconception, Pakistan is not a colony of the United States of America,” Pakistan’s interior minister said in a statement after Trump’s comments. He continued that Afridi’s future would be decided “by the Pakistani courts and the government of Pakistan and not by Mr. Donald Trump, even if he becomes the president of the United States.”
Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the United States led a coalition of forces to invade Afghanistan. The mission, known officially as Operation Enduring Freedom, was intended to destroy the al-Qaeda terrorist organization that had masterminded the 9/11 attacks and to topple the Taliban regime that had sheltered Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda within its fundamentalist stronghold. The Taliban had held most of Afghanistan in thrall since 1996, imposing its extreme version of Islam on the populace and perpetrating a well-documented list of human rights abuses.
The invasion began on Oct. 7, 2001 with air strikes against Taliban defensive positions and al-Qaeda training grounds in Kabul, Kandahar, and Jalalabad. Most of the Taliban’s outdated surface-to-air missiles, radar, and command units were destroyed on the first pass, along with its modest fleet of MIG-21 and Su-22 fighters. Having crippled the Taliban defensive response, the Coalition Forces Command gave the Afghan Northern Alliance the go-ahead to begin a ground invasion, with U.S.-led coalition forces providing air and ground support.
The groundwork for large-scale military action in Afghanistan had been laid in secret in the weeks following 9/11 by a small CIA liaison team codenamed ‘Jawbreaker.’ The team had staged covertly in the Panjshir Valley, north of Kabul, in order to coordinate with the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. During the same period, President George W. Bush formally demanded that the Taliban relinquish bin Laden to the U.S. for prosecution and destroy al-Qaeda bases, brooking no discussion nor negotiation of terms.
They will hand over the terrorists, or they will share in their fate.
By November 12th, the Taliban was routed in Kabul. Three weeks later, Kandahar, the last Taliban stronghold, was captured, driving Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar into hiding and the remaining al-Qaeda forces into the mountains of the Tora Bora region. Skirmishes continued between al-Qaeda and anti-Taliban indigenous forces, as U.S. Special Forces teams worked to locate the mountain caves into which al-Qaeda leadership had retreated. However, by the time the caves were captured, Osama bin Laden had escaped into neighboring Pakistan. He would remain at large until 2011, when he was finally apprehended and killed by SEAL Team 6.
In the vacuum of governance left by the expelled Taliban, a grand council of Afghan tribal leaders was assembled under the leadership of Hamid Karzai. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was established by the U.N. Security Council to handle security in the region. Karzai was elected President in 2004 in Afghanistan’s first ever democratic elections. But even as Afghanistan began to take its first wobbly steps as a young democratic nation, the Taliban was regrouping on the Pakistan border. Soon they launched a wide-ranging insurgency, conducting guerilla-style attacks on Afghan Security Forces and targeting members of the new administration. Despite the continued intervention of U.S. military might in the region, the insurgency continues.