If you received an email advertising a new vaccine for the coronavirus, would you open it? If a doctor called you requesting payment to treat your family member for COVID-19, would you share your information?
While the world is focused on the coronavirus (COVID-19), criminals are taking advantage of the situation.
“We are seeing coronavirus-related phishing attacks and we are seeing them at USAA,” warns Michael Stewart, assistant vice president of information security at USAA. “We are seeing emails advertising alleged coronavirus-related benefits and others from a healthcare perspective.”
Other potential scams include fraudsters pretending to be members of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or World Health Organization to obtain personal information or selling fake coronavirus test kits and vaccines that do not exist.
“Fraudsters like to take advantage of these situations,” explains Stewart. “They will leverage the coronavirus and urgency around it to get people to click on things or give up information that they might not otherwise disclose.”
Some additional scams during this pandemic period to be aware of include:
Charity scams: Stay alert of scammers contacting you to donate to fake charities. Research the organization you desire to sponsor to ensure your information is protected.
Product or services scams: Items like hand sanitizers, disinfectants and household cleaning supplies are often offered by scammers who will keep your money. Scammers also offer cures, coronavirus test kits and vaccines that do not exist. Services can range from house cleaning to doctor visits.
Employment scams: Scammers create job ads to lure unemployed consumers to fake jobs. The scammers will wire money or send a fake check to you, asking to send a portion back or use the funds to purchase goods, which are directed back to the scammer
Tips to protect your information include:
Secure your accounts: use multifactor authentication everywhere, especially with banks, phone and email providers. This extra layer of security helps keep you safe.
Stay vigilant: scammers will contact you by phone, email or text offering products, services or humanitarian opportunities. They often pose as credible companies “phishing” for login or personal information Pause to confirm it’s a credible company before proceeding.
Monitor your accounts: stay close to your personal bank accounts, report suspicious behavior and respond to alerts.
Use trusted Wi-Fi networks: as more people transition to work from home, ensuring your Wi-Fi network is password protected is critical to safeguard your information.
Dean Ivan Lamb was many things in his life, but first and foremost, he was an accomplished aviator. Having (more or less) dueled one of his best friends in the world’s first-ever dogfight during the Mexican Revolution, he went on to serve in many more air forces in his time behind the stick.
But his most lasting contribution to the world has a little more kick – the Pisco Sour.
Dogfighting in these would make anyone thirsty.
Lamb had been flying almost as long as men had invented heavier-than-air flying machines, attending an aviation school in 1912, less than a decade after the Wright Brothers’ first flight. Before he even graduated, he made his way down to Mexico as an airman for hire, coming into the employ of Mexican General Benjamin G. Hill. He was ordered to take down the opposing pilot, another American mercenary airman named Phil Rader. This was the first-ever dogfight between planes, but the men didn’t really try too hard to kill each other, eventually both made their ways back home. But Lamb continued the aviator-for-hire business, making his way to England in time for World War I.
In the Great War, Lamb allegedly performed wonders for Britain’s Royal Flying Corps, becoming an ace before the war’s end. After the war, he started running letters for the post office by airmail. But postwar life was a little boring for Lamb, as it can be for many veterans, so he went down south. Way down south. To South America.
Dean Lamb traveled around the continent, helping establish the Air Force of Honduras and flying missions in conflicts in Paraguay, Brazil, and Uruguay in his time there. From Panama to Bolivia, the southern hemisphere knew the name of Dean Ivan Lamb. But his most enduring accomplishment has nothing to do with war or death, unless you have too much. Lamb, it turns out, was an avid drinker.
The pilot enjoyed good ol’ American whiskey and fine French champagne when it was available in mass quantities. He loved rum and cokes at a time when Coke was something entirely new, and he always sampled the local liquors. Ten-year-old tequila was his favorite in Mexico, in Brazil it was cachaça, and in Lima, he drank Pisco. He may not have created the Pisco Sour, but he certainly helped it find an audience in the United States.
Which should include everyone.
When the skies were too overcast to take to the air, Lamb would take to the bar. The bar serving the strongest Pisco Sours in Peru, the honor of which belonged to a place called Morris’ Bar in the Hotel Maury, according to Lamb’s autobiography, The Incurable Filibuster: Adventures of Col. Dean Ivan Lamb. The cocktails at the Hotel Maury – especially the Pisco Sour, where the drink was first created – were allegedly so strong the bartenders weren’t allowed to pour more than one for anybody. When Lamb argued his way to another round, he got so belligerent he had to leave Peru the next day.
“I have hazy recollections of an argument about another one, something of a fight in a Chinese restaurant, police, soldiers, more battles and crowds of people waking in the hotel with a guard of soldiers holding off people with bills for damages,” he wrote.
And with that, Lamb was on his way back to the United States, fueled by a drink that can only get you kicked out of the Peruvian Air Force.
Four spouses and two fiancées of veterans eligible for the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ family caregiver program have filed a lawsuit against the VA for denying or improperly revoking their benefits.
In a suit filed Jan. 22, 2018, in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, the plaintiffs, led by Florida resident Zamantha Tapia, fiancée of Army veteran Cesar Silva, allege that the VA did not follow the laws and regulations governing the department’s Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program, which provides compensation and health benefits to those who provide care for seriously injured post-9/11 veterans.
According to the suit, Silva and Tapia’s application was denied, and the benefits of the other plaintiffs were inappropriately downgraded or terminated without proper investigation or determination.
In 2017, veterans and their caregivers enrolled in the program began seeing their benefits curtailed or terminated — often with no reason given, other than that their VA providers determined they no longer needed help with their daily activities.
In August 2018, the VA Office of Inspector General found that across the VA, facilities didn’t adequately manage the program, failing to provide consistent access to it, improperly accepting ineligible veterans and declining to monitor the health statuses of nearly half the veterans it discharged from the program.
The IG also learned that the department paid out .8 million to caregivers of veterans who weren’t eligible for the program, and the VA “failed to manage the program effectively because it did not establish governance that promoted accountability for program management,” staff members wrote in the report.
In 2015, plaintiff Jennifer Wilmot and her husband George Wilmot, an Army National Guard veteran who served from October 2007 to May 2013, were booted from the program.
The Wilmots were accepted into the caregiver program in 2013 but should have received the highest level of compensation rather than the level they were awarded, according to attorneys Jason Perry and Luke Miller.
Then came the dismissal.
“After completing a comprehensive review of your medical records, it appears that you have met the intention of the program and your participation will be discontinued,” VA officials wrote to the Wilmots.
The lawsuit calls the termination “arbitrary and capricious.”
Silva was deployed to Iraq from November 2003 to August 2004, sustaining shrapnel injuries in an attack. According to the lawsuit, he received a VA disability rating of 70 percent in 2009 for rotator cuff strain and impingement and suffers from chronic headaches, degenerative joint disease, back pain and neuropathy. He also has PTSD, TBI, memory loss, depression and irritable bowel syndrome.
Tapia and Silva applied for the family caregiver program in 2014 but were denied. According to the suit, the VA found that Silva did not need assistance for physical injuries and said his mental health conditions were not service-connected. They reapplied in 2017, but following a phone assessment, VA officials said that Silva was not “receiving medical treatment” — an error, the lawsuit alleges — and that Tapia was “an enabler.”
According to Perry, an attorney in Wellington, Florida, and Miller, of Military Disability Lawyer LLC in Salem, Oregon, the plaintiffs have asked the court to certify the suit as a class action, meaning that other affected caregivers could sign on if it is approved.
They estimate that the VA received more than 100,000 applications for the family caregiver program between May 2011 and September 2018 and, therefore, thousands may be able to sign on to the possible class action.
The plaintiffs also are requesting that the VA stop what they perceive as arbitrary dismissals from the program and are seeking monetary compensation in an amount “to be determined at trial,” according to the suit.
The federal government has until March 25, 2019, to file a response in the case, and a status conference is scheduled for March 29, 2019, according to court documents.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
There’s nothing more irritating to troops and veterans than sitting down and watching a military film only to be distracted by inaccuracies. We’re not just talking about uniform infractions or other minor goofs — everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes, however, the scripts are just so fundamentally flawed that us veterans can’t help but start chucking things at the screen.
Thankfully, for every stinker that insists on ignoring the on-set military advisor, there’s a great film that gets it right.
The team here at We Are The Mighty recently got a chance to sit down with Gerard Butler, star and producer of the film Hunter Killer, to discuss the production crew’s commitment to portraying the lives of U.S. sailors as accurately as possible in the upcoming thriller.
The wardrobe department pulled off some outstanding attention to detail. From the bottom of our hearts at We Are The Mighty, BZ, ‘Hunter Killer’ wardrobe department! BZ!
There really isn’t any better way for filmmakers to faithfully capture the essence of military life than by deferring to those who serve — and that’s exactly what Gerard Butler and the crew of Hunter Killer did throughout pre-production and rehearsal.
Butler spent three days aboard a real Virginia-class submarine, carefully watching every detail and nuance of actual submariner life to better tell their story. Even the tiny details — like the order in which commands are given — were analyzed, written down, and implemented when it came time to shoot. And when they put theory into practice, the authenticity was immediately apparent.
That extra step helped put all the actors into the frame of mind they needed to truly portray submariners in the heat of combat. Butler told us,
“We actually wrote [the details of submariner life] into the script and we realized it was a whole other character in the story. And when we started — the difference that it made!”
Butler knows full-well that the devil’s in the details when it comes to military movies. He told us about his time aboard the USS Houston, when he sat down to watch a much-beloved naval film with the sailors. It was the eye-opener to say the least.
“When I sat to watch… with the submarine crew, and they’re all like taking ownership of the movie and they’re like, ‘that’s bullsh*t!’ while the captain is like, ‘That’s sh*t! You think that’s good, but that’s bullsh*t! He’d never wear that hat! What are those stripes? He wouldn’t say that!'”
Needless to say, Butler and the rest of the Hunter Killer crew recognized how important these details are for us and our community.
Be sure to check out Hunter Killer when it’s released on October 26th.
The profession of arms deals in death, no matter how we like to think of our daily military lives. No matter what your military speciality is, you’re helping that end. If you’re a cook, you feed warfighters who are out there dealing death. If you work in finance, you’re reimbursing travel vouchers for troops who likely dealt some death. Combat cameramen, you’re documenting the history of dealing death and inspiring others to join in.
I’m not passing moral judgement — I was in the military, too. That’s just the reality of what’s happening.
In that respect, not only does it make sense that some military installations, vehicles, and battlefields would be haunted (if you believe in that sort of thing) – it should actually make us wonder how military installations, vehicles, and battlefields aren’t more haunted.
No where else is that more apparent than Kadena Air Base, Japan.
Do you like ghost anime? Have I got a story for you…
Rumor has it the house was demolished in 2009, but Building 2283 on Kadena’s base housing was notorious for being the single most haunted house in the entire U.S. military. No one lived there for a long time and the building was reportedly used for storage — because no one could stand to stay there.
It was said that an Air Force officer murdered his entire family there before killing himself some time in the 1970s. The next military family to move in to the house experienced feelings of unrest and paranoia — until the father of the family stabbed everyone. So, it became a storage shed. But that didn’t stop the house from haunting people. Passersby reported hearing sounds of children crying, strange laughter, and, in one instance, a report of a woman washing her hair in the abandoned house’s sink.
“I don’t have time to wait for CE to come fix the shower, okay?”
You might ask what took the Air Force so long to tear the house down, which is a valid question. Kadena reportedly attempted to tear it down, but workers attempting to destroy the building reported headaches, hallucinations, and suffered from a high rate of on-the-job injuries.
Teachers at the daycare next door (yeah, there was a daycare next door thiswhole time) complained of children on the playground throwing toys over the fence because “the little kids on the other side ask them to.”
Kids are creepy.
Other reports have cited ghostly phone rings (despite there being no phone line attached to the house), faucets turning on by themselves, curtains opening, and even a sighting of the house glowing.
If the hallucinations and urges to kill your family weren’t enough to dissuade anyone from living in the house, the worst selling point for moving in might have been the goddamn Samurai warrior that rides his horse through the living room every once in a while, for reasons unknown.
“I’M HERE TO CATCH THE FINALE OF THE BACHELOR”
That’s not the only sighting of a Samurai warrior. A similar Samurai warrior is said to ride the road to Camp Foster up Stillwell Drive, reportedly headed to base housing.
Spectral gate guards
There’s nothing creepy about Security Forces. Not inherently, anyway. Those guys look sharp. But when you’re pulling up to a gate at 3am and encounter a World War II-era Marine covered in blood and asking for a match, things take a turn for the creepy.
That’s what happened at Camp Hansen’s old Gate 3 — more than once. In a weird way, it’s a good thing the ghostly Marine was hanging out at the gate, defending living American troops because ghosts of World War II Japanese soldiers were reportedly at the same gate all the time.
Eternally defending Flavor Country from the Japanese.
The haunting happened so often (some say every weekend) that Marine guards began to refuse to stand guard at Gate 3 and the entry control point was eventually closed. Closing the gate seemed a little unnecessary since the soldier would disappear once his cigarette was lit.
Even if I didn’t know this place was haunted, I would assume it was.
Kadena’s Banyan Tree Golf Course cave
During World War II, the Japanese maintained a field hospital on the site where Kadena’s golf course was built. After U.S. troops took the airfields on Okinawa in 1945, Japanese nurses, terrified of Americans due to Japanese propaganda, committed suicide in a nearby cave.
These days, Okinawans won’t go near the cave because the women are said to still haunt the cave and the nearby land – but it’s part of Kadena’s annual Halloween ghost tour.
“Listen, bro, I’m telling you…”
Maeda Point’s prophet of doom.
If you’re around Maeda Point on Okinawa and you see an elderly man walking around a tomb near the water, just go ahead and row to shore, go right to Personnel, retire, and fly home. It’s not worth sticking around, because rumor has it that old man is a ghost and every time someone sees him, there’s a body washing ashore on a beach nearby in a just a few days.
The point is apparently the site of many, many suicide jumpers who ended their lives by throwing themselves off the cliff. Not only that, this was also the site of another field hospital used by the Imperial Japanese Army in World War II. If an old man foretelling doom wasn’t enough, scuba divers even report seeing ghosts underwater. Some of these end up jumping off the haunted cliff for the rest of eternity, as ghost jumper reports are as ubiquitous as Taco Rice.
Grunts everywhere are always searching for new ways to make their lives easier and more convenient. From buying lighter body armor to buying an original Magpul, we always want to improve our effectiveness on the battlefield. There are certain adopted rituals, however, that are actually more inconvenient than they are improvements. One such ritual is wrapping a single piece of duct tape around the pin of an M67 frag grenade.
This ritual stems from a fear that the pin might get snagged on a tree branch and get accidentally pulled, initiating the fuse countdown. Anyone who has pulled the pin on a grenade can tell you, though, it’s not that simple. Any Marines will tell you that the process is actually, “twist pull pin” because if you try to just pull it straight out, it ain’t happening.
Here’s why it’s a bad idea to tape your grenades:
The training grenades have all those safeties for a good reason…
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Justin J. Shemanski)
The pin is not the only safety
Hollywood would have you believe that all you have to do to use a grenade is pull that pin, but it’s not so simple. There’re three safeties on the M67: the thumb clip, the pin, and the safety lever (a.k.a. the “spoon”). The entire purpose of the thumb clip is to ensure the fuse isn’t triggered if the pin is pulled first.
We all know that one guy who pulled the pin before sweeping the safety clip and threw it into a room, waiting hopelessly for the grenade to go off… How embarrassing.
When you think about it, you’re going through an unnecessary amount of effort for just a four second delayed explosion.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Akeel Austin)
You don’t have time
According to the Marine Corps Squad Weapons Student Handout for the Basic School, the average individual can throw a frag 30 to 40 meters. Why is this important? It means that if you’re using that glorious ‘Merica ball, it means you’re in close-quarters.
Do you have time to rip that tape off during a close encounter? No, you don’t.
It’s not easy enough for you to pull it out with your teeth. Just take our word on that.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Chelsea Baker)
The pin is already difficult enough to pull
The pin is in there just tightly enough so that you can rip it out quickly with the right amount of force, but it’s not so easy that it slips out when snagged on an inanimate object.
Notice how the pins are safely tucked inside.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ashley McLaughlin)
Experts say you shouldn’t
In an Army.mil article, Larry Baker, then-FORSCOM explosives safety and range manager, is quoted as saying.
“…to the best of my knowledge, there is no evidence in the history of the M67 hand grenade to suggest that it requires taping and there is no evidence that a Soldier needs to tape it because of inherent safety issues.”
Larry Baker, a Vietnam veteran, had nearly thirty years of experience at the time the article was written. He goes on to state that grenade pouches exist for the purpose of safely transporting grenades to your objective.
The I Am Not Invisible (IANI) campaign began in February 2017 in Portland, Oregon. The vision was to bring awareness to the barriers and challenges that women Veterans face in obtaining health care and other services. The program, started by then-Oregon Woman Veterans Coordinator and Army Veteran Elizabeth Estabrooks, also helped recognize Women Veterans.
With support from the Center for Women Veterans this project has crossed 50 States, 75 cities, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and 27 Indian Tribes and Nations to capture more than 3,053 women Veteran images.
This initiative means different things to different women Veterans. Often, women Veterans express that they are not a Veteran. In recognizing this, and to change cultural mindset, the Center has changed how we ask the question, “Did you serve?” To further change the culture, Center for Women Veterans is sharing the message with as many women Veterans as possible. This includes I Am Not Invisible to #BringWomenVeteransHome2VA, so that all women Veterans can receive the benefits and services they have earned.
In December 2020, photographer Gene Russell took the last IANI photograph in Oahu, Hawaii.
“It is one thing to honor Women Veterans, something completely different and inspiring to show them in the light they so richly deserve,” Russell said.
“How very fortunate am I?”
With the completion of the photography, it is not the end of IANI. The I Am Not Invisible Campaign 2.0 kicked off in December 2020. The overarching goal is to change the culture of gender-based harassment by strategically placing them in VA medical facilities. This will help ensure women Veterans feel welcome in their own spaces. IANI 2.0 supports the center’s ongoing mission of recognizing the service and contributions of women Veterans and women in the military, raising awareness of the responsibility to treat women Veterans with dignity and respect, and helping to advocate for positive cultural transformation.
Photos will be in facilities VA-wide soon. Veterans can take a picture and tag @VAWomenVets on FB and Twitter. Also, the library of IANI pictures is available here.
Communications troops don’t get nearly the amount of love that they deserve. Sure, the job description is very attractive to the more nerdy troops in formation and they’re far more likely to be in supporting roles than kicking in doors with the grunts, but they’re constantly working.
In Afghanistan, while everyone else is still asleep, the S-6 shop is up at 0430 doing radio work. This is just one of the many tasks the commo world is gifted with having.
(U.S. Army Photo)
The reason they’re up so early is because they need to change the communications security (or COMSEC) regularly. In order to ensure that no enemy force is able to hack their way into the military’s secure radio systems, the crypto-key that is encoded onto the radio is changed out.
Those keys are changed out at exactly the same moment everywhere around the world for all active radio systems. Because it would be impractical to set the time that COMSEC changes over at, the global time for radio systems is set in Zulu time, which is the current time in London’s GMT/UTC +0 time zone.
For troops stationed in Korea or Japan, this gives them a pleasant 0900 to change the COMSEC. Troops on America’s west coast have 1600 (which is great because it’s right before closeout formation.) If they’re stationed in Afghanistan however, they get the unarguably terrible time of 0430.
Each and every radio system that will be used needs to be refilled by the appropriate radio operator. When this is just before a patrol, the sole radio operator with the SKL (the device used to encrypt radios) will usually be jokingly heckled to move faster. The process usually takes a few minutes per radio, which could take a while.
This is also why the radios themselves are set to Zulu time. If the radio is not programmed to Zulu time — or if it’s slightly off —it won’t read the encryption right and radio transmissions won’t be effective. This goes to the exact second.
So maybe cut your radio guy some slack. The only time they could be spending sleeping is used to program radios.
The days following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 were a strange time for Americans. For the first time in most people’s lives, political divisions disappeared. Daily life became anything but routine, even if you lived far from Ground Zero. Even American pop culture was deeply affected by the events, unsure of when it would be acceptable to laugh again.
Leave it to America’s foremost experts in drama and onscreen conflict to show everyone it was okay to gather once more.
On Sept. 13, just two days after the attacks that shook the world, it was the WWE who gathered people together in (where else but) Texas. Houston, to be exact. Emotions were still riding high, not only among the people who create the WWE’s show twice a week, but the nation as a whole. Just like the rest of America, Vince McMahon and his staff had watched helplessly as planes flew into the Twin Towers, not once but twice.
But the WWE – its producers as well as its staff and the “Superstar” wrestlers who make the show happen – considered themselves lucky, lucky to be with the people with whom they spent a majority of their time anyway. They were with the people who were as close to family as they could get in those stressful hours.
The show that night, just two days after the attacks, was supposed to be a Smackdown! taping in America’s third largest city. The WWE initially felt the taping should be postponed, that America had other things to worry about. They weren’t alone. Many shows, especially live-taped shows, were airing reruns instead of new episodes. No one knew exactly what to say.
New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani appeared with the cast of Saturday Night Live and told America is was okay to laugh again. Jon Stewart used his time on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to remind Americans that life had to go on, and that it was okay. But people and entertainers were still wary of getting together in large crowds.
Not the WWE.
After Vince McMahon was assured by government officials that regular WWE programming would actually be more helpful in getting people’s minds off the tragedy, they went ahead with the show. WWE Superstars crowded the ringside as their boss, the wrestling mogul, entered the ring to an enthusiastic crowd, chanting “U-S-A! U-S-A!”It was McMahon giving a speech just like the ones a WWE Superstar would give as part of the plot of any given Raw or Smackdown! episode, challenging a rival to a grudge match.
“The spirit of America lives here in Houston, Texas,” McMahon said, as he began a speech that sent condolences to the victims and families of 9/11 and condemned the terrorists. “Our nation’s leaders have encouraged us to return to living our lives the way we normally do… the American way… Make no mistake about the message this public assembly is sending to terrorism tonight. That message is simply we will not live our lives in fear.”
“America’s heart has been wounded but her spirit shines as a beacon of freedom,” he said, “that will never be extinguished.”
St. Patrick’s Day is nearly upon us and so is the flavorless onslaught of cheap, green beer dully visible through red solo cups. Midwestern brewed pilsner paired with a few drops of food coloring seems a poor way to celebrate the Irish. We prefer to toast old St. Pat with uisce beatha, also known as whiskey.
There is no shortage of good Irish whiskey. But while most are familiar with the traditional, big name blended varieties like Jameson and Bushmills, few are familiar with the Emerald Isle’s fantastic single malts. That’s a shame because single malts are much more flavorful and there are numerous stellar bottles worth sipping. Take this as an opportunity to celebrate some Irish single malts and try one of these five excellent options.
Dingle Batch No. 3
Out on the island’s west coast, independent maker Dingle only started producing spirits a few short years ago in 2012. Their Batch No. 3 can be a little hard to find but its worth the search. Aged in ex-bourbon and port barrels, it’s is a sweet sipper with elegant notes of honey, berries, citrus, and wood.
Peated whiskey is a rarity on the emerald isle. In fact, there is only one Irish peated single malt on the market. But if you enjoy a healthy dose of smoke in your dram you’re going to love Connemara 12. Nutty and peppery, notes of vanilla, grass, honey, and wood play off the smoke and a lingering brine to create a lovely mouthful.
Fruity and rich, West Cork’s ten-year-old single malt is an easy sipper and even easier on the wallet. Delicious with notes of apples, sugar and toffee with a hint of pepper, it’s an approachable and satisfying for whiskey lovers of all stripes.
A fusion of two 14-year-old single malts, one aged in ex-bourbon barrels, the other in Oloroso sherry, the result is a rich and tasty dram. Honey, coconut, and fruit notes play off a subtle touch of oak.
Made from the mountain-fed waters of the Slieve na gCloc river, this ten-year-old malt gets a finish in Madeira wine barrels from the Portuguese islands. Light in the mouth, cocoa and honey play off oak, cinnamon and salt.
Army Sgt. Tyler Waters, a motor transport operator with the 337th Engineer Battalion, 55th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, 28th Infantry Division, placed 17th in the competition.
“I’ve been a fan of the show for years and I’ve always felt that I had the combination of strength and athleticism to excel on any of the ever-changing courses,” Waters said.
Waters came within seconds of advancing to the national competition held in Las Vegas, which would have required finishing in the top 15.
‘The experience was great’
“The experience was great,” he said. “It was interesting to see the different competitors from different walks of life that excelled in the course. Simply being physically fit, as some of the competitors appeared to be sculpted from stone, wasn’t enough.”
Sgt. Tyler Waters.
Waters credits both his family and his unit for supporting him through the competition.
“Being in the Army definitely helped to sharpen what I already envisioned as a strength of mine; my mental focus and toughness,” he said.
In his civilian life, Waters is a Pennsylvania State Trooper, which he said has many similarities to a military career and allows him to carry the same mindset he’s cultivated as a soldier at all times.
This mentality enabled Waters’ success in the American Ninja Warrior contest, and he said he hopes to compete again and reach the finals.
Lt. Gen. Brian T. Kelly is the deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, the Pentagon, Arlington, Virginia. He serves as the senior Air Force officer responsible for comprehensive plans and policies covering all life cycles of military and civilian personnel management, which includes military and civilian end strength management, education and training, compensation, resource allocation and the worldwide U.S. Air Force services program.
During an interview with Airman Magazine, Kelly discussed his mission and the Air Force’s responsibilities of managing talent, identifying toxic leadership and the role of emotional intelligence in readiness and lethality.
Airman Magazine: As the AF/A1 (manpower and personnel), what are your priorities for 2020?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: There are lots of things going on, but there are three big priorities. Number one, it’s exciting times and we’ve got to help and make sure we have a successful stand up of the United States Space Force and our resource allocation team will have a big role to help and make sure we get that on track.
Number two for us, we’ve got to ensure that we continue to make sure the right number of the right types and the right skill sets of Airman exists in our Air Force. So, the size and shape of the force has to be what it needs to be in order for us to meet our requirements in the National Defense Strategy.
Number three for us is we want to continue to transform and work on our talent management system so we can make sure we’re attracting, recruiting, developing and retaining the Airmen we need to do what the country needs to do. So those will be our three big priorities for 2020
Airman Magazine: Can you talk about the Air Force’s philosophy on managing talent and why it’s important?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: First and foremost, we’ve got to recognize that we’ve got some incredible talent in the United States Air Force and in our Space Force that we are standing up as well. But, it’s an all-volunteer force and so the talent management system we have has to be able to recognize that we’ve got to have a system that is attractive for people to be in. It also has to be agile to meet our requirements as requirements and threats change. It’s got to know what’s going on with those requirements that are out there. The talent management system has to understand – what does the talent market look like? What does the market for talent in the United States look like? And if you have an all-volunteer force, how do you become an attractive employer? How do you make sure that you are an employer of choice? If people have a way to choose between going to work for Google or coming to work for the United States Air Force or United States Space Force? The talent management system has a role to play in that and so that’s what we’re trying to do.
The Ground-Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance System is responsible for tracking thousands of objects in space. The telescopes fall under the 21st Space Wing and is positioned at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. Here, 216 photos captured over a 90 minute period are layered over one another, making the star trails come to life.
Airman Magazine: Have there been any changes to your talent management philosophy, and what drove those changes?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: I’d say a talent management system always has to evolve as requirements change, as threats change, as the talent market pool of eligible people changes and as skill sets change. And then there’s technology. You know, when I first came into the Air Force in 1989, the technology then was not what it is in 2020, right? And so, whether it’s artificial intelligence, machine learning, all these different things have changed the way we look at our talent management system. It’s also changed how we communicate with our Airman and how we’re able to get information out and how we’re able to get feedback. All these things have led to and sort of influence the changes in the talent management system from when I first came in to where we are now.
I would say to you the system today is driving to be more agile than it was before. It was a one size fits all discussion before, but now it’s trying to be more agile and it’s certainly more collaborative. I hope the system is becoming more transparent so that all of our Airmen understand what’s going on and that they have a say in what happens to them in the talent management system and they have an insight to what happens.
Airman Magazine: What has changed throughout your career pertaining to talent management and your leadership development?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: We (Air Force leadership) always talk about situational leadership and being able to adjust your leadership styles and that has to continually happen. We’ve seen the advent of different leadership styles needed for the population of the all-volunteer force we have today and one of the key things I think we need to touch on is our leaders need to have the right balance of emotional intelligence to be successful. So, what does that mean? I would start by saying, emotional intelligence is first and foremost the skill set to know yourself, to understand your own behaviors and to control your own emotions so that you then can have good interpersonal relationships and be able to lead others. And that’s the important part for us and I think we’ve become more cognizant and we’re trying to understand and teach that in ways that will make our leaders more effective.
As we move into the modern discussions of the national defense strategy, we’re in wars of cognition and wars of thinking, wars of understanding and wars of information and so we have to be able to develop and lead our skills in that same direction.
Capt. Taiwan Veney, cyber warfare operations officer, watches members of the 175th Cyberspace Operations Group, from left, Capt. Adelia McClain, Staff Sgt. Wendell Myler, Senior Airman Paul Pearson and Staff Sgt. Thacious Freeman, analyze log files and provide a cyber threat update utilizing a Kibana visualization on the large data wall in the Hunter’s Den at Warfield Air National Guard Base, Middle River, Md., June 3, 2017.
Airman Magazine: You’ve previously said “We must be responsive to the Air Force’s needs, must be agile with our talent, focused on rewarding Airmen on performance and be transparent on how the system works.” What’s the plan to meet those attributes for a talent management system?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: I think those four attributes are where we’re trying to drive and trying to make sure our talent management system is so let me cover those a little bit and I’ll tell you how our strategy fits against that.
So, first and foremost the talent management system has to deliver and has to be responsive to the requirements of the organization. I mentioned for 2020 one of our priorities is to have the right size and shape of the force and that’s what it’s about, whatever the Air Force requires us to be, whatever the Space Force will require, the talent management system has to be responsive and it has to be agile for responding to new technologies, new threats, but it’s also going to be agile for individual Airman.
We are a military organization, but we have to understand agility and we want performance to shine. We want people’s performance to be the deciding factor in our meritocracy, if you will, for when we decide who gets promoted, who gets what key jobs.
Those Airmen who distinguish themselves by performance, that performance needs to be driven forward and incentivized and rewarded.
Lastly, I think it’s important to make sure with the communication within our force that we are transparent, open in what we do and simple.
All the things that we’ve been doing on the officer side, enlisted side and civilian side are sort of wrapped around those areas.
I’ll give you some examples, on our enlisted side, we made a change in our senior noncommissioned officer’s promotion selection process where we no longer use testing as part of that process. We did that to drive and empower performance, where performance becomes the driving factor for us being able to select our senior noncommissioned officers and it’s no longer test taking or some other skill set that might have been augmenting that decision. Now, it’s performance based.
On the officer side, we recently went to new developmental categories for our line of the Air Force system, the same system that we had in place since 1947 and we made some changes. Those changes were to help us with development to become more agile, to drive our agility and drive our responsiveness.
We had to recognize not all officers need to develop in the same way. The way that we develop and the opportunities we have for our pilots are different than what we have for our space operators, were different than what we have for our cyber operators, our support personnel, like my career field and so we had to develop the agility if you will, to be able to develop in different ways so that we can maximize everybody’s potential, while at the same time driving ourselves to be more responsive to requirements.
We can help ourselves develop the right size, the right shape and the right skill sets we need to meet the requirements for the Air Force. So, all the things we’ve been doing are all really designed around those four attributes to build the talent management system that we need.
Airman Magazine: How does the AF identify leadership potential?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: There are lots of ways to identify potential throughout someone’s career to recognize different traits and characteristics. I think there’s testing factors. I think there’s observation factors. Certainly, there’s evaluation factors at some point in time you are observed in different time phases, different jobs. You look at how did they do? How did they respond? We try to identify those people who have the skill sets to be leaders.
One of the important things we’re working on is, can we get better in identifying who’s going to be a good leader? Is it just the born characteristic or can you actually teach it and develop it and go forward? We (Air Force) say you can teach leadership, develop it and be better at it. So, we’re working on how to identify it more accurately early. It’s not just to screen people out, because I think people often think you’re trying to identify who’s not a good leader, so that you can screen them out. There’s part of that, but it’s even more important to identify where people have some shortcomings in their leadership capabilities so that we can help them and give them an opportunity to develop into the leaders we need, because we need a lot of leaders in our Air Force.
Airman Magazine: Revolutionary changes to how officers are developed and selected for promotion have been made, like the creation of developmental categories and transitioning from Below the Zone to merit-based timing for promotions. How will this help with officer development and getting the right people in key leadership positions?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: Sometimes the Air Force had the tendency in the past to rush some of our folks through key developmental opportunities and not fully immerse them and give them a chance to learn all the competencies and all the experiences they needed. At the same time, when we did that, we added the below the zone piece that gave us a chance to incentivize performance. What we’ve transformed that to now is with merit-based promotion, I can still incentivize performance, I can give people a chance to let their performance shine and let their performance advance them among their peers, but at the same time, I make sure I balance that with the developmental time that’s needed to truly get the skill sets that we’re going to require.
Airman Magazine: Can enlisted personnel expect similar changes to their promotion system in the near future?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: We made some adjustments and changes to our enlisted system, even prior to the work and transformation that we’re doing the officer system. I think you’ll see similar things. When we talk about, what do we value as an Air Force and how we’re going to evaluate you, for the officer corps, we talk about now four things. We talk about how do you execute your mission? Whatever mission you are assigned to do. How do you lead people? Whether that’s an informal way where you’re actually a supervisor or a squadron commander or even informal as part of a squadron or group. How do you manage the resources you’ve been put in charge of? Whether they be dollars and equipment or even Airmen’s time? You know Airmen’s time is a resource. And then how do you improve whatever unit you’ve been put in charge of? Those four factors are probably pretty familiar to a lot of people. Those are the same four factors we use to evaluate units, that’s the unit effectiveness inspection, the UEI that our inspector general uses to evaluate. So we said, look, let’s line those up. Let’s have those four factors be the same way we evaluate performance in our officers. I think we’re going to see the enlisted system transition towards those same four factors. Let’s evaluate our airmen as a whole on those four factors. How do I execute my mission? How do I lead people? How do I manage resources? And what did I do to improve whatever unit I’m assigned to? So, I think you’ll see commonalities. I think they’ll also be some differences. It won’t be exactly the same system because we look for different things from our officer enlisted corps. I don’t think we want them to be exactly the same to accomplish the things that we need, but there’s going to be a lot of overlap and I think there is already a lot of overlap and you’ll see some more.
Air Force Basic Military Training trainees work to complete an obstacle during the Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training, a weeklong training simulation at Air Force Basic Military Training (AFBMT). The BEAST is where trainees get to put everything they’ve learned about combat skills into practice in a simulated environment.
Airman Magazine: Toxic has been this year’s buzzword. Do you think the Air Force has a toxic leader problem or is it something different that can be fixed?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: I agree with you toxic gets used a lot and I’m not always sure everybody has a framework of what toxic leadership means, because the term gets used in a lot of different ways. Sometimes it’s really appropriate and other times I’m left wondering if people understand what they refer to as toxic.
The Air Force is working on developing a definition of toxic leadership, so we can all understand.
I would say in a working definition right now on toxic leadership for us is a series of adverse behaviors that have an adverse impact on the unit or individuals. So, it’s not a one time series of negative behaviors, but it’s a continuous series of negative behaviors, that an individual would manifest that has a negative impact on a unit or on individuals, that’s toxic leadership for us.
I think that exists in our force from time to time, and it’s sometimes it’s a result of individuals who don’t have all the leadership tool sets that they need to handle the situations that they’ve been put in.
We are working to identify early what people’s shortcomings might be and give them an insight to that. It’s not to not allow them to become commanders, although that will be part of the discussion, but if we identify them in the right ways, can we give people the ways to develop and overcome those shortcomings?
There’s a fantastic course down at the Air University called the Leadership Development Course or LDC, the course sprung out of Gen. Goldfein’s work in revitalizing squadrons. They’re working to teach emotional intelligence and to teach understanding of interpersonal relationships and understanding how to lead in a positive way and inspiring way without having to revert to any of those adverse behaviors that might be characterized or seen as toxic.
I’m excited about that work. I wish that was available when I was going to go be a squadron commander. I learned a lot of things from watching other people. And luckily, I had some really good role models, but I would have loved to have some of that training and insight, so I could have known more about myself to help myself and to lead my organization in a better way.
Airman Magazine: Can you explain how changes in the talent management system might combat toxic leadership? Do you believe these changes will benefit all officers, regardless of when they peak in their careers?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: It starts with developing people the right way. The talent management system is going to identify short shortcomings in and where you’re missing a skill set, and hopefully give people a chance to correct course going forward. If I’m evaluating you on how you execute the mission, how you lead people and I’m grading that in the in the environment that we’re talking about it will help combat toxic leadership traits.
We’re driving the talent management system to reward the right behaviors in terms of leading people so that those people who are leading people in an inspirational way, in a positive way, are going to be the right people that we reward and move forward.
As a military organization we have some tough things to do. We’re going to ask people to go in harm’s way and put themselves in harm’s way from time to time. Positive leadership doesn’t mean it’s easy; it’s demanding. There are high standards and there needs to be high standards. We need to be a high standard, high performing organization, but we can do it in a positive way so that the leadership we get out is inspiring and caring leadership and that’s what we’re looking for.
Airman Magazine: What is your definition of emotional intelligence and what role does it play in the development of our leaders and what role has it had in your career?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: I think emotional intelligence is the ability first and foremost, to know yourself, your emotions and to control your emotions. So that you can use that understanding to have better interpersonal relationships and have a better understanding of others and your interaction with others.
When I first came into the Air Force, I don’t think I ever heard this terminology. I think it was there, we just didn’t know what it was. We used to talk about your ability to communicate effectively speaking, writing, leading, different things that we would focus on as leadership attributes. The idea of being able to understand yourself and understand others was always there. I just don’t know that we were as sophisticated and understood exactly what it meant. Labeling it as emotional intelligence and consciously understanding how to train it and how to get better at it and that’s where we’re going now, which is really exciting.
We have this great strength in our Air Force. We have people from all kinds of diverse backgrounds and ways of thinking. It’s difficult for you to lead diverse groups of people to be a high performing organization if you can’t understand and recognize where people are coming from or understanding yourself.
Air Force Basic Military Training trainees walk across a completed obstacle of bridge making during the Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training, a weeklong training simulation at Air Force Basic Military Training (AFBMT). The BEAST is where trainees get to put everything they’ve learned about combat skills into practice in a simulated deployed environment.
Airman Magazine: Air University is developing an augmented reality exercise helping young officers shape their ability to interact effectively in social situations and to recognize and manage their emotions. How could programs like this have helped you in your career?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: I would have loved to have some of those programs and the idea of what they’re doing right now at the leadership development course at our air university is fantastic, because it’s a free training gym without any worries or any risk of failure.
You can train in a virtual training gym in what most of us learned from our actual experiences, whether it was purposeful or just un-purposeful trial and error. If I did something it didn’t work very well, if it didn’t feel so good, I learned and tried to do better. I modeled myself around the people I was lucky enough to observe and gain mentorship from. Now to have a place for us to try things, to fail and learn and learn about yourself in the process so that you have a much better opportunity to apply that in your interactions in a leadership role. Knowing what already works and doesn’t work for you, that’s a really powerful concept.
Airman Magazine: The Chief of Staff talks about the power of Failing Forward, not just with programs and ideas, but also with individuals. Can recall a specific time when you failed or took a calculated risk and failed which ultimately propelled you forward, either personally or in a specific mission?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: First, I failed a bunch of times. It wasn’t just once I failed, I failed quite often and I make mistakes a lot. I think all of us do. First and foremost, I think as an Airmen and leaders, we all have to recognize and understand that.
I can recall when I was a captain and I had a program I was in charge of, I was sort of a section chief of a program. And I had I had a three-star general stand in front of me, asking me questions. I was really excited about my program and I was really proud and convinced that everything I was saying was true. In the middle of me explaining, the general kept asking me questions and I felt like I could never get my answer out. So, I think I said, “Sir, if you’d let me finish, I’ll be able to tell you,” to which he turned and looked at me and said, “You don’t understand the questions I’m asking. You need to listen before you respond.” I felt like a big failure. It was a dressing down in front of everybody, but he was right. I was so sure that I knew what I was doing that I wasn’t listening. I was already thinking about my answer before he finished his questions.
It hurt for a couple of weeks, I had a little sore spot in my brain and my soul. But, you know, it made me understand that I needed to listen better and to know that I wasn’t going to be the only one with good ideas. It served me well as I went forward. I was lucky that particular general took it well and didn’t use it as a permanent failure experience for me.
Airman Magazine: What did that experience teach you or influence how guided other Airmen through failures?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: It made me double down on the idea that failure is not the end. You can recover from failure and that failure is probably a good thing periodically. If we never fail, we probably don’t push the envelope far enough forward to be better than what we can be.
That certainly influenced me to say, look, others around you are going to fail, how you respond to their failures and what you do with their failures is going to help shape them. So, I make sure they get the same opportunities I had to learn and grow. That’s really what became important for me out of that situation.
There’s been other times when I failed and that’s okay. I know we pushed the envelope and we got to where we needed to be and it didn’t quite work out, but we enjoyed the experience. It wasn’t very enjoyable for me when I had that first experience, but there have been other cases since then.
Airman Magazine: We have an intelligent force of high achievers who are afraid to fail and tend to try and solve problems on their own and believe failure can be a career killer. How do we move to a fail forward culture? Are the days of the one mistake Air Force behind us?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: I challenge that assertion. I don’t think we have a force of people who are afraid to fail or are risk averse. We are really blessed to have great talented Americans volunteer to come serve in our United States Air Force and in our Space Force. When we get them and they have that enthusiasm and they’re being innovative and they’re going forward and they’re failing, how we react to their failure will tell us whether they’re going to be risk averse or not.
If little mistakes are treated the same way as crimes or large mistakes, then I think you’re going to get a risk averse force. Periodically, we’ve probably had ourselves there. I don’t think we’re one mistake Air Force, I think we’re pretty mature in understanding that. But at the same token, I think we’re a force that says you have to learn from the mistakes you’ve made. Repeated failures or repeated mistakes for the same things isn’t something we can have. Because eventually, those repeated mistakes are going to translate to actual combat and an actual battlefield.
Airman Magazine: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Maj. Gen. Kelly: It’s an exciting time for the Air Force. This idea that we have to make the force as a whole raise our acumen if you will, on what does it mean to be an Airman? What does it mean to be in the United States Air Force or United States Space Force? How do we build better leaders? How do we build a more lethal force for what is going to be required in the future? It’s an exciting time for us. I believe there’s lots of good thinking going on, there’s some great innovation and it’s a time to make a difference, so I’m excited to be part of it.
Anyone who’s been hip to military media for the past few years probably knows the second largest air force in the world is the U.S. Navy’s air forces. What people may not know about is the old fleet of United States ships floating around out there with the prefix USAF instead of USS.
The U.S. Air Force has its own navy – but no, it is not the second largest navy in the world. The U.S. Navy isn’t even the second largest, by the way. More on that some other time.
“Bigger” doesn’t translate into “better” by any means.
Now, does the Air Force field anything that could actually rival the naval forces of another country? No, of course not. The Air Force Navy is a very specific fleet with very specific missions. For example the USAF Rising Star is the air service’s lone tugboat, used for the two months of the year that ships near Greenland’s Thule Air Force Base can access the port there – 750 miles north of the Arctic Circle, Thule is the northernmost deepwater port in the world.
The tugboat is needed during the critical summer resupply period on Greenland, aligning huge cargo ships, moving tankers into position, and helping pump fuel to the base. It also pushed icebergs away from the area in which these big ships operate.
The USAF Rising Star tugboat.
The rest of the USAF’s current fleet operates in the Gulf of Mexico out of Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. Tyndall is home to the 82d Aerial Targets Squadron, a unit that still flies the F-4E Phantom fighter plane. Only these converted F-4s have a special mission. Flying in groups of three, one acts as a chase plane and another two, unmanned drone planes flying with advanced countermeasures. These two are actually converted into drones and destined to be full-scale aerial targets for the Air Force. That’s where the ships of the USAF “Tyndall Navy” come in.
Tyndall’s three 120-foot drone recovery vessels are used in the Gulf of Mexico to recover the wrecks and assorted bits and pieces from the waters below the Air Force’s “Combat Archer” aerial target practice training area. At its peak, the USAF had a dozen or so ships in the water, each with a designated role in supporting Air Force operations. At one point, the Air Force had so many ships, the Coast Guard might have been envious.