Last week the U.S. Air Force tweeted to the world that it needs help naming its newest bomber, the B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber. (What could possibly go wrong?) Well … we discuss the possibilities and provide examples where crowdsourcing failed. We also discuss the OV-10 Bronco’s comeback and what it means in the fight against ISIS. And on a lighter note, we talk about which service branch we’d join knowing what we know about the military today.
A Hawaii lawmaker and Army officer who was serving his first term in the U.S. Congress died July 20 after a nearly year-long battle with cancer.
Congressman and Army National Guard Lt. Col. Mark Takai succumbed to pancreatic cancer at his home in Aiea surrounded by his family, USA Today reported. He was 49.
Takai was born and raised in Oahu, Hawaii. Before being elected to Congress, Takai represented his home district in the Hawaii state House of Representatives for 20 years. He joined the Hawaii Army National Guard in 1999 and was commissioned as a 1st Lieutenant.
The first-term Democrat announced earlier in 2016 that he would not seek re-election due to his condition.
His military service took him to Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He first served as a company commander for the 29th Brigade Support Battalion and then as the Camp Mayor for Camp Patriot, Kuwait. He not only served in the military in Hawaii, he also represented the military in Hawaii, as his district included Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and Fort Shafter.
“To honor those that gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country, we must renew our commitments to those currently serving our nation, many currently in harm’s way around the world,” Takai said in a statement on Memorial Day. “Their willingness to answer the call of duty deserves our unwavering gratitude every day.”
Takai served on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Committee on Small Business. In November 2015, he introduced the Atomic Veterans Healthcare Parity Act, extending government compensation to those affected by cleanup operations after bomb tests on Pacific islands.
Takai’s military awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster, the Army Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
“Today, the people of Hawai’i mourn the passing of U.S. Rep. Mark Takai,” Hawaii Gov. David Ige said in a statement. “He proudly served his country in uniform, including 17 years with the Hawai’i Army National Guard. Mark humbly and effectively served the people of his state House and Congressional districts. In the often tumultuous world of politics, he has been a shining example of what it means to be a public servant.”
President Donald Trump’s national security adviser is calling on Russia to re-evaluate its support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, leaving open the possibility of additional U.S. military action against Syria.
In his first televised interview, H.R. McMaster pointed to dual U.S. goals of defeating the Islamic State group and removing Assad from power.
As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was making the Trump administration’s first official trip this week to Russia, McMaster said Russia will have to decide whether it wanted to continue backing a “murderous regime.” Trump is weighing next steps after ordering airstrikes on April 6.
“It’s very difficult to understand how a political solution could result from the continuation of the Assad regime,” McMaster said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“Now, we are not saying that we are the ones who are going to affect that change. What we are saying is, other countries have to ask themselves some hard questions. Russia should ask themselves [why they are] supporting this murderous regime that is committing mass murder of its own population?”
He said Russia should also be asked how it didn’t know that Syria was planning a chemical attack since it had advisers at the Syrian airfield.
“Right now, I think everyone in the world sees Russia as part of the problem,” McMaster said.
After the chemical attack in Syria on April 4, Trump said his attitude toward Assad “has changed very much” and Tillerson said “steps are underway” to organize a coalition to remove him from power.
But as lawmakers called on Trump to consult with Congress, Trump administration officials sent mixed signals on the scope of future U.S. involvement.
While Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, described regime change in Syria as a U.S. priority and inevitable, Tillerson suggested that the April 6 American airstrikes in retaliation for the chemical attack hadn’t really changed U.S. priorities toward ousting Assad.
Pressed to clarify, McMaster said the goals of fighting IS and ousting Syria’s president were somewhat “simultaneous” and that the objective of the missile strike was to send a “strong political message to Assad” to stop using chemical weapons.
He did not rule out additional strikes if Assad continued to engage in atrocities against rebel forces with either chemical or conventional weapons.
“We are prepared to do more,” he said. “The president will make whatever decision he thinks is in the best interest of the American people.”
Reluctant to put significant troops on the ground in Syria, the U.S. for years has struggled to prevent Assad from strengthening his hold on power.
U.S.-backed rebels groups have long pleaded for more U.S. intervention and complained that Washington has only fought the Islamic State group. So Trump’s decision to launch the strikes — an action President Barack Obama declined to take after a 2013 chemical attack — has raised optimism among rebels that Trump will more directly confront Assad.
Several lawmakers said on April 9 that decision shouldn’t entirely be up to Trump.
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, praised Trump’s initial missile strike for sending a message to Assad, Russia, Iran, and North Korea that “there’s a new administration in charge.” But he said Trump now needed to work with Congress to set a future course.
“Congress needs to work with the president to try and deal with this long-term strategy, lack of strategy, really, in Syria,” he said. “We haven’t had one for six years during the Obama administration, and 400,000 civilians have died and millions of people have been displaced internally and externally in Europe and elsewhere.”
Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, agreed.
“What we saw was a reaction to the use of chemical weapons, something I think many of us supported,” he said. “But what we did not see is a coherent policy on how we’re going to deal with the civil war and also deal with ISIS.”
Still, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R- S.C., said he believed that Trump didn’t need to consult with Congress.
“I think the president has authorization to use force,” he said. “Assad signed the chemical weapons treaty ban. There’s an agreement with him not to use chemical weapons.”
Their comments came as Tillerson planned to meet with Russian officials. Russia had its own military personnel at the Syrian military airport that the U.S. struck with cruise missiles. But in interviews broadcast April 9, Tillerson said he sees no reason for retaliation from Moscow because Russia wasn’t targeted.
Russian forces were notified in advance of the strike against the Shayrat Airfield in Syria using the established deconfliction line. U.S. military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield. (Photo from DVIDSHub.net)
“We do not have any information that suggests that Russia was part of the military attack undertaken using the chemical weapons,” Tillerson said. Earlier, U.S. military officials had said they were looking into whether Russia participated, possibly by using a drone to help eliminate evidence afterward.
“We’re hopeful that we can prevent a continuation of the civil war and that we can bring the parties to the table to begin the process of political discussions” between the Assad government and various rebel groups, he said.
Haley said “getting Assad out is not the only priority” and that countering Iran’s influence in Syria was another. Still, Haley said the U.S. didn’t see a peaceful future for Syria with Assad in power.
McMaster, Cornyn, and Cardin spoke on “Fox News Sunday,” Tillerson appeared on ABC’s “This Week” and CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Haley and Graham were on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and Haley also appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Associated Press writer Josh Lederman contributed to this report.
The Army is engineering high-tech autonomy kits designed to give “robot” tanks and other armored combat vehicles an ability to operate with little or no human intervention, bringing new tactical and operational dimensions to the future of ground combat.
Unmanned systems, utilized in a fast-evolving, high-threat ground combat operation, could enable robot vehicles to carry supplies, test enemy defenses and even fire weapons — all while manned vehicles operate at a safer distance.
“A kit of hardware and software can be installed into different ground platforms to increase the level of autonomy,” Osie David, Chief Engineer for Mission Command, Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, told Warrior Maven in an early 2018 interview.
The technology kits, which can integrate on a small unmanned ground vehicle or a wide range of larger combat vehicles, use emerging computer algorithms, on-board processing, and artificial intelligence to gather and organize sensor information.
Robot vehicles, often referred to by Army weapons developers in the context of “manned-unmanned” teaming, are a fast-growing element of the developmental calculus when it comes to future combat platforms.
Having unmanned assets operating in tandem with manned assets in combat introduces a range of new tactics available to commanders. If robot “scout” vehicles could operate in a forward position to identify enemy threats or test defenses, manned tanks might be able to operate at lighter weights, making them faster and more maneuverable in combat.
(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. James Avery, 16th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)
In fact, senior Army weapons developers have told Warrior Maven that virtually all future combat vehicles now in development will likely be engineered with various new levels of autonomy.
Using things like embedded infrared optical payloads, unmanned vehicles can use machine-learning technology to process key combat details, independently organize them and then send information to a human in the role of command and control, David explained.
AI enables computers to instantly draw upon vast data-bases with millions of pieces of information to perform real-time data analytics before sending useful information to combat commanders.
The advantage is that combatant commanders can quickly receive integrated intelligence or sensor information from a range of sources, analyzed and condensed to enable faster decision-making.
“Instead of sending bits of information back up to a command post, the autonomy kits can enable sensors to perform detection and object identification in real time…and then push that information up to a human,” David said.
Also, advanced integrated sensors, fortified by AI and greater levels of autonomy, can connect aerial and ground assets to one another — to ID and hand off-targets, send real-time video of nearby enemy activity or pass other intelligence data to vehicle crews.
It is certainly within the realm of the technically feasible for a future tank to simultaneously control a small fleet of unmanned robotic “wing man” vehicles designed to penetrate enemy lines while minimizing risk to soldiers, transport ammunition or perform long-range reconnaissance and scout missions.
In fact, Army modernization strategy documents specifically cite autonomy enabled platforms, speed and maneuverability as fundamental to future armored warfare.
An Iraqi M1A1 Abrams tank
(Photo by Spc. Timothy Koster)
“As the armored BCT fields new systems, it will replace main battle tanks, howitzers, and mortar indirect fire platforms. Far-term initiatives aim to solve the absence of the armored BCT’s ability to deploy rapidly. The Army assesses the feasibility and application of autonomous or semi-autonomous sub-systems, manned and unmanned teaming, and autonomy enabled combat platforms,” the Army documents read.
CERDEC and other Army entities are working on these projects with the Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center to prototype, test and advance these technologies. The current effort is an extension, or next-generation iteration, of a previous TARDEC effort described as “leader-follower” algorithms. This technology, evolved and successfully tested in recent years, enables an unmanned tactical truck or vehicle to precisely follow a manned vehicle in front of it.
The concept with “leader-follower” algorithms is to free up vehicle crew members such that they can focus on other pressing, threat-conscious tasks without needing to expend all their energy navigating the vehicle. These newer kits, however, bring the concept of autonomy to an entirely new level, enabling unmanned systems to maneuver quickly in response to fast-changing ground combat circumstances — without needing human intervention.
The current “autonomy kits” effort is a new Army program, slated to gain traction and begin testing in 2018, Army developers said.
“TARDEC will decide which platforms are used. Some sort of tank is being evaluated, as well as smaller platforms,” David explained.
David explained that the autonomy kits are now being worked on for the Army’s Next-Generation Combat Vehicle program — a future combat vehicle effort planning to engineer new platforms for the 2030s and beyond.
“We are closely tied with them (NGCV program) and we are looking to see how we can insert this kit onto these future platforms,” he explained.
The kits are also being engineered to help ensure that combat vehicles can continue to function in the event that GPS communications are jammed or destroyed by enemy forces. Gyroscopes and accelerometers, for instance, can help ground forces navigate in the absence of GPS, David explained.
“These technologies are focused on how you actually navigate and detect your position in a GPS denied environment where there is challenging terrain or an enemy is jamming you,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
Her work with amputees brought up the phenomenon of phantom limb pain, where patients experience pain sensations in limbs that no longer exist. Idris explained that the nerves are still there, but they’ve been snipped, so they continue to send mixed signals to the brain.
She got to work on a prototype to combat that pain.
She developed a product that stimulates the nerves with vibration therapy, which not only helps with nerve pain management, but increases blood circulation and reduces symptoms of arthritis or restless leg syndrome as well.
Her work led her to the creation of the ELIX, a patent-pending socially conscious wearable device that has been proven to help amputees with phantom limb pain.
But that’s only the beginning. Now she is on a campaign to donate 100 devices to veterans. She’s running a GoFundMe campaign to raise money that will directly go towards materials and supplies, product development, and manufacturing of the ELIX specifically to give to veterans suffering from phantom limb pain.
She wants veterans to know that they can sign up on her website to get the device, and is adamant about spreading the message that amputation doesn’t have to mean losing quality of life.
An opera titled “Fallujah” opened among critical acclaim Nov. 17 in New York City, stunning audiences composed of civilians, veterans, and active duty alike.
One of the active duty service members in attendance was this writer’s husband, Marine 2nd Lt James Foley, now a student naval aviator.
Foley is a former enlisted infantryman with three deployments to Iraq with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines and one deployment to Sangin, Afghanistan, with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines under his belt.
Let me start off by saying that I am biased. I have spent 14 plus years in the Marine Corps, so naturally I had my reservations about an opera that is about Marines in Fallujah.
It turned out to not be as much about the battle in the city, but the battle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that a Marine had as a result of the war.
I found myself captivated with the message.
Philip (played by LaMarcus Miller) wants to be a good person, but the war has made him numb.
He keeps reliving the gruesome images he went through in Fallujah and it is tearing him apart. He feels alienated from all those that love him.
I served in four combat deployments, to include a deployment to Fallujah. I can relate to Philip and all the emotions he is dealing with.
It is a moving story that highlights the struggles our veterans go through. They are separated from their families to fight a war, and when they come home, they start fighting new battles.
None of their friends from before the military understand what they have been through. Their families don’t understand either.
When they finally fulfill their obligation and leave the military, there is no one there that understands their struggles.
“Fallujah” isn’t just about the military service members struggles, it also addresses the struggle of the Iraqi people in that city.
It explains the impact that this battle had on those that lived there. It shows the frustration of the Iraqi people.
This opera also shows the struggles that families deal with trying to love and support their veterans when they do not know how to.
War is ugly, and whether or not you agree with the Iraq war, it happened.
Some of these men and women who served may not have agreed with the war, but they went and served. This brilliant production captures the emotions of that war and what those who have experienced it are going through.
I have never been a fan of opera, I can remember telling myself that I would never go to one.
I went to see “Fallujah” twice and I would go again.
I strongly recommend that everyone see this opera. It can shed some light on what war can do to military members, their families who support them at home, as well as the innocent civilians caught in the middle.
The US has told Turkey that it will take back weapons supplied to the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria after the Islamic State group is defeated, Turkish defense sources said.
The United States has told Turkey that it will take back weapons it supplied to the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria after the Islamic State group is defeated, Turkish defense sources said.
President Donald Trump approved arming fighters from the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units in May – which is part of the Syrian Democratic Forces – drawing strong condemnation from Turkey.
Ankara said on June 22nd that US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis promised to provide his Turkish counterpart with a monthly list of weapons handed to the YPG, with the first such inventory already sent.
In a letter to Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik, Mattis said that a detailed record of all equipment provided to the YPG was being kept and that all the weapons would be taken back after Islamic State was defeated, according to Turkish defense.
Once the mainly Sunni Arab city is taken, it will be held by Arab forces, the defence sources said he told Isik.
Washington and Ankara are bitterly at odds over US support for the YPG, a Syrian armed faction that acts as the main ground force in the Pentagon’s plan to defeat the Islamic State group but that Turkey deems a front for the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party.
Turkey’s concerns about the YPG were significant enough for Ankara to launch its own military operation inside Syria in August 2016, dubbed Euphrates Shield.
The operation had the dual goals of targeting IS and the Kurdish militia, particularly to prevent the YPG from controlling a contiguous strip of territory along the Syria- Turkey border.
The SDF – an Arab-Kurdish alliance formed in 2015 – spent seven months tightening the noose on Raqqa city before finally entering it last week.
An estimated 300,000 civilians were believed to have been living under IS rule in Raqqa, including 80,000 displaced from other parts of Syria.
Thousands have fled in recent months, and the UN humanitarian office estimates about 160,000 people remain in the city.
The Army is officially closing down the last of its long-range surveillance companies with the three active duty units slated for closures in January and the four National Guard companies shutting down in 2018.
The move comes amid changing Army priorities and a series of computer simulations that decided the units were high-risk, low-reward.
This is the second time the Army has deactivated all of its company-sized, long-range reconnaissance units. It previously removed LRRP companies in 1974 before bringing them back as LRS units in 1981.
According to a Stars and Stripes article, the current deactivations came after Total Army Analysis computer models said that LRS units weren’t in high demand by command teams.
But not everyone is happy with the Army’s decision.
Retired Army Special Forces Brig. Gen. John Scales protested an earlier LRS drawdown when he found that computer models claiming that LRS units were at high risk in combat were improperly written. The model unrealistically assumed that any infantry unit that spotted the enemy would engage that enemy force, pitting six-man LRS teams against entire enemy formations.
While the new assessments use different coding that Scales was not privy to, he has voiced concerns that getting rid of LRS units isn’t the best idea.
Scales told the Stars and Stripes about the current LRS drawdowns that, “I worry based on my experience with the model that [long-range surveillance units are] getting shortchanged, and the Army is getting shortchanged.”
This isn’t the first time that the Army has tackled this question, and an earlier batch of LRS deactivations that also resulted from a Total Army Analysis were done against the protest of ground commanders.
The decision to deactivate these intelligence collection units was not based on a change of doctrine or a change in the mission requirements for LRS. The decisions were not made by one of the two proponents of LRS in order to protect another unit or asset. Quite the contrary, both proponents recognize the importance of HUMINT on the battlefield and support LRS employment and training. As discussed in chapter two, the decision to deactivate all heavy division LRSDs and two of four LRSCs was made over the objection of both proponents and units, by the office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations as a result of the Total Army Analysis (TAA) process. Consequently, under the current force structure, there are not adequate numbers of LRS units to effectively execute the potential future missions the Army will face.
While satellites and drones can cheaply provide detailed imagery in an open desert, they struggle to watch the movements of enemy forces through heavily forested and urban areas like those troops would face in a war with China or Russia where enemy units could be dispersed under cover and camouflage.
This is something that Eastern Europe armies know well, leading them to invest in the types of reconnaissance units that the U.S. Army is backing away from.
This wouldn’t be the first time the Army got rid of its dedicated long-range reconnaissance companies. In 1974, it deactivated the last of the old Long-Range Reconnaissance Patrol companies. Just four years later, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans, Lt. Gen. Edward C. Meyer, ordered a classified study to ascertain, among other things, who could conduct the LRRP mission moving forward.
By 1979, the Army was writing doctrine for the new “Long-Range Surveillance Units” which were nearly identical to the extinct LRRP companies. But some division commanders saw the need for human eyes on the battlefield as too vital to wait for Department of the Army.
The 9th and 3rd infantry divisions and the 82nd Airborne Division all stood up LRRP units to provide critical intelligence to battlefield commanders. The 82nd divisional LRRP platoon was deployed to Operation Urgent Fury.
Operational commanders may find that they have to again construct their own long-range surveillance units if they still want the capability. The last of the LRS companies are scheduled to deactivate in August 2018.
The US-led coalition said July 12 that an Amnesty International report accusing its forces of violating international law during the fight against the Islamic State group in Mosul is “irresponsible.”
The report released July 11 said Iraqi civilians were subjected to “relentless and unlawful attacks” by the coalition and Iraqi forces during the grueling nine-month battle to drive IS from Iraq’s second largest city. It said IS militants had carried out mass killings and forcibly displaced civilians to use them as human shields.
“War is not pleasant, and pretending that it should be is foolish and places the lives of civilians and soldiers alike at risk,” Col. Joe Scrocca, a coalition spokesman, told The Associated Press.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared “total victory” in Mosul on July 10, but clashes along the edge of the Old City continued into the following evening.
In all, 5,805 civilians may have been killed in the fight for western Mosul by coalition attacks, Amnesty said, citing data from Airwars, an organization monitoring civilian deaths caused by the anti-IS coalition in Iraq and Syria.
Amnesty said the fighting generated a “civilian catastrophe.”
IS swept into Mosul in the summer of 2014 when it conquered much of northern and western Iraq. The extremists declared a caliphate and governed according to a harsh and violent interpretation of Islamic law. The militants rounded up their opponents and killed them en masse, often documenting the massacres with video and photos.
US-backed Iraqi forces have gradually retaken much of that territory, but at a staggering cost, with hundreds of thousands of people displaced and entire neighborhoods reduced to rubble.
Okay, maybe not entirely. But the first written use of the acronym “OMG” — meaning Oh My God, for those not hip with the kids’ lingo — came from an admiral in the Royal Navy.
In 1917, Lord John Fisher, who resigned his commission in 1915 over Churchill’s Gallipoli Campaign during the First World War, wrote to Churchill who was then Minister of Munitions about his concerns regarding the Navy’s ability to conduct a major campaign to keep the Germans from flanking the Russians via the Baltic Sea.
Also, a tapis was a kind of tablecloth, and the phrase on the tapis meant the idea was under consideration. As for Shower it on the Admiralty, I think we can all figure out what that means.
When you think about it, it makes sense an acronym would come from the military, because no one produces TLAs like the armed forces.
North Korea’s 25 million citizens live under an oppressive, totalitarian government that freely detains or even puts to death citizens that stray from official messaging in any way. Simply listening to outside media not sanctioned by the state can result in death.
But the small survey, which gives a voice to those living under unimaginable scrutiny, reveals what many in the international community believe to be true — North Koreans are unhappy with their state and risk severe punishments to cope with it in their personal lives.
“This is the first time we’re hearing directly from people inside the country,” Dr. Victor Cha, head of Korea studies at CSIS, told The Washington Post.
Beyond Parallel carried out the survey so that it would present minimal risk to those involved. Ultimately, they wound up with a small sample size that nonetheless conveyed a sentiment with near unanimity: North Koreans know that their government does not work, and they criticize it privately at extreme personal peril.
Out of the 36, only one said they do not joke in private about the government.
While it may not seem like a big deal to those in the West who enjoy free speech and can readily make jokes about their government, consider this 2014 finding from the United Nations on the state of free speech in North Korea:
State surveillance permeates the private lives of all citizens to ensure that virtually no expression critical of the political system or of its leadership goes undetected. Citizens are punished for any “anti-State” activities or expressions of dissent. They are rewarded for reporting on fellow citizens suspected of committing such “crimes”.
Beyond Parallel reports that formal state-organized neighborhood watches “regularly monitor their members” and report any behavior that deviates from what the state deems appropriate.
The picture painted by Beyond Parallel’s research paints a picture starkly in contrast with the images we see flowing out of North Korea’s state media, which usually feature Kim Jong Un smiling broadly while touring military or commercial facilities.
This “how to” guide is for veterans who are interested in working on the Hill. Staffers are the most common Hill positions in both the House and Senate. Personal staffers work for members and professional staffers work on committees. Most offices separate policy topics into portfolios and oftentimes veterans are most qualified to cover the Department of Veterans Affairs, foreign affairs and/or DoD/military. However, based upon the veterans’ education and career field they may be qualified for other portfolios.
How to Search for the Perfect Hill Position
Sign up for HillVets Insider
HillVets Insider often posts positions that are being exclusively offered to veterans via HillVets
HillVets also proactively sends resumes to positions and postings as an official “HillVets Recommended Candidate” when we come across members that we believe are good fits for open positions.
As such be sure to provide HillVets Insider with your latest resume even after you land your first job!
Get on a job list
Tom Manatos (free for Veterans participating in the Veterans Congressional Fellowship, costs $5 per month)-best resource, stays up to date on new jobs and takes down positions that were filled. Updated daily. Register at http://www.tommanatosjobs.com/
Scott Baker (free)—good place to start but is not always up to date and positions that are filled may stay on the list for weeks. Emails sent out weekly. Email Scott Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask him to add you to his job lists.
Brad Traverse. Is another Capitol Hill job board that requires a subscription. $10 registration, $5 monthly dues. Traverse and Manatos are generally accepted as the lead job posting subscriptions; Manatos started in the democratic space, Traverse in the Republican space, both have moved towards posting jobs for both parties. http://www.bradtraverse.com/joblistings.cfm
Network through HillVets and build a team to help you with your job search. This is key as staffers know each other and if there is a position open in an office a staffer friend can inquire and pass your resume on to the office of interest. Offices receive hundreds of resumes for positions and any way to get yours noticed is a plus.
Compile an email list of staff, or people that know staffers, that you have met with.
When you apply for an open position let them know that you did so and ask if they know anyone in that office. Recommend your emails subject lead with your name and the member office as these emails can be easily screened if the busy staffer does not know anyone in the said office. For example John Doe (you)/Rep. John Doe
Never assume that staffers from the opposite party can or will not be helpful in your hunt! This is a common mistake that we have seen over and over again. We have had young veterans insinuate we could not help them because we were on one side of the aisle or the other when in fact we have hundreds of friends on both sides many of which may be close friends. The reality in Washington, if you are going to be good, or have been here for any period of time, you not only have a few contacts on the other side, but a lot, so keep this in mind as you network!
Questions to ask yourself—
What states do I have a connection to?—Offices like to hire people from their state. Start with your home of record but also explore states where you were assigned to in the military, or where you went to school.
What kind of job do I want on the Hill?
Policy—legislative assistants (LAs) are assigned portfolios and work on legislation in those areas. For most separating military personnel interested in policy work, this is the most appropriate position for you but may be very difficult to land out of the gate.
Legislative Correspondents—work for LAs by handling mail, taking meetings, and assisting with research. Some offices have LCs doing LA work, which is great but the LC is most likely being paid less than an LA.
Communications—All offices have communication directors and assistants.
When can I start work?—If you are coming off of active duty think about when you will be taking terminal leave and when you can actually start a new position. Networking and applying for positions is important but create a timeline for yourself from the earliest you can begin a position.
Who do I know that is currently or previously worked on the Hill?—these people are your new best friends. Talk to them about your interest in the Hill and get their advice and perspectives. Congressional offices all work a little differently and you want to know if there are offices to avoid.
Do I have a preference for House or Senate positions?—the House and Senate operate differently and have different cultures. There is much to be learned in both chambers and people often work or intern in both. As you network ask people how they like the Senate or House and the differences that they perceive in each.
Getting the First Job: So you are on a couple of job lists, you have some hill buddies, and you are actively looking for a position…now what!!!
Create a phenomenal resume and cover letter.
The Resume—Almost always 1 page, rarely 2. The only purpose of the resume is to get you an interview. The resumes purpose is not to tell your life story and highlight things that only you will care about, it should tell the employer what your value is to them if they hire you. You are not applying for a military awards package OR a GS federal job. Your resume should be something in between. Offices get hundreds of resumes for positions and do not have time to read 10 page resumes and will not understand 20 acronyms.
If printing, use high quality, heavier weight, and off-white paper. This will set you apart in a stack of hundreds and shows attention to detail
Ask people on the Hill if you can review their resumes
Look at how Hill staffers place their resumes on LinkedIn
Ask other HillVets members to review your resume
Highlight your military experiences, particularly deployments
The Cover Letter—You can use general language for the cover letter and then tailor for specific positions and offices. Do not make your letter longer than 1 page, and relate your military experiences to what you want to do on the Hill. Generally these should explain why you are interested in the position, the skills you have to offer, and what makes you a unique/best fit for the position.
Ask at least 5 people to closely review your cover letter and resume for grammar mistakes and advice on how to make both stronger.
You Got an Interview!
Reach out to your Hill network (previously highlighted) and ask if they know anything about the office or member.
If you are interviewing with a personal office you will most likely interview with the Legislative Director and/or Chief of Staff. Most offices will prefer someone with Hill experience, which includes internships and fellowships. This is where you have to sell your military experience and overcome lack of prior Hill experience (if that is your situation).
Be likable, warm and friendly to everyone in the office. Offices have too many candidates to choose from to not select someone that feels like a good fit for their office and culture. Smile!
Inspection ready is the dress code of the day, seems obvious but we have had to address this before…
Think about general skills that you obtained from being a military officer or NCO such as: leadership, responsibility, general understanding of the military, experience working with all kinds of people, communication skills, professionalism.
Think about what your career field experiences bring to the position. Remember that you have the advantage of serving in the military and try to think of your understanding of the military prior to your service. A majority of staffers have NO military experience and limited understanding of how DoD works. That is a huge selling point.
If you have connections to the state make sure to explain your connection. Did you grow up in the state? Go to school there? Were you assigned to an installation in the state? If you are applying for a military portfolio position, know the military installations in the state. Explain why you care about the state.
Do your research! Know a bit about the member, their issues, what committee the member sits on and explain what you can bring to the table. Know if the member is a veteran, which branch did they serve; do you have anything in common?
You did great on your first interview and now you are called back to meet the member! Very exciting and means that you get to meet a member of Congress and are shortlisted for a staff position.
Think about your first interview and topics that you spent time discussing. What points do you feel made you strong? Emphasize those in the interview with the member.
Do more research on the member. Be familiar with legislation they have introduced. Be ready to talk about the stuff they care about (which is germane to the position you are applying). Be personable and the job is yours!
You are likely going to make less money as a Hill staffer than you did on active duty.
Again personal offices vary on pay. Legistorm (legistorm.com) is a service that provides information on Hill staffers, including their income. You can view the most recent salaries of staffers for free on the site to get a sense of how much you can expect to make in a given office for a given position. The salary of the recently departed staffer is likely listed if you know who that is or you can compare the pay rates of the various staffers in the current position you are interviewing for.
Some negotiation of salary is normal but remember these jobs are very competitive and the office may refuse to increase the salary offer. Then you must decide if this is a position you want.
Health Insurance: Currently Hill staffers must buy their health insurance off of the insurance exchange unless they are in a Committee office, then they may be eligible for the same insurance held by federal employees.
Leave days: Varies by offices. Some offices will take into account your federal service and give you more days. The good news is that you will never be charged leave on weekends or federal holidays!
Conclusion: Working on the Hill is an amazing experience and if you get the opportunity to do it…Do IT! However, it is high tempo, intense, and tough work. Be ready to experience a learning curve and accept that you are starting a new career in a new environment. HillVets is here to help you move into this realm. We believe that more veteran voices are needed on the Hill to provide our experiences and perspectives to members and staffs for the good of our Nation. The right job is out there and we are ready to help you find it. Stay Positive, these are not easy jobs to land and competition is fierce. Typical timeframes to find your first job is months, so keep that in mind. Keep piling through the “no’s” to get to your first “yes.” The first one is the hardest one by far.
Jennifer Mitchell is the Military/Veterans’ Affairs Legislative Assistant for Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL). As a Military Legislative Assistant, Jennifer advises Senator Kirk and his staff on military and VA appropriations and policy issues. She also works to address Illinois veteran issues including access to healthcare. Jennifer is a licensed attorney and attended law school at Chicago-Kent College of Law.
Prior to her current position in Sen. Kirk’s office, Jennifer was an active duty Air Force Judge Advocate General (JAG) officer and is currently an Air Force Reserve officer. As a JAG, Jennifer assisted hundreds of military members, retirees, and their family members on a variety of legal issues ranging from bankruptcy to family law to will preparation. She practiced military justice by administratively disciplining and prosecuting military members for violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Jennifer also specialized in federal labor and employment law where she negotiated union contracts and defended the Air Force against discrimination and wrongful employment cases.
Turning conventional wisdom on its ear, one former Army Drill Sergeant has built a multi-million dollar apparel business by uniquely applying military operational techniques and culture.
During his time on active duty, Dan Alarik was deployed to Bosnia and Kosovo. Following his overseas duty, he served as a drill instructor at Fort Benning — a tour that changed his life in a very unorthodox way. Alarik pooled money with a few of his friends and they started to make t-shirts for the various units stationed there. In 2009 he had enough success that he decided to separate from the Army after 13 years and move back to his hometown of Chicago to start a t-shirt company.
Alarik’s vision for what he called “Grunt Style” was very clear. He wanted to bring the best parts of his Army experience — especially the elements of patriotism and service — to the rest of the nation.
As the company grew, Alarik took two bold steps: He moved the business out of his apartment and into an office space and he hired an employee — a fellow vet. From there growth was rapid. The company outgrew the office within five months and moved to a bigger space that they, in turn, outgrew five months after that.
But, as any entrepreneur knows, rapid growth can hobble a startup as much as the absence of it unless there’s a sound strategy behind it. And that’s where Alarik leveraged his military pedigree.
He modeled Grunt Style after the most effective military units he’d been part of during his time on active duty. The company is organized into two platoons: Maneuvers (marketing sales, and design) and Support By Fire (production and fulfillment).
And, more importantly in terms of being true to his business vision, Alarik has populated that military-themed organization with veterans. Seventy percent of his 100-plus employees are vets. (Also of note, manpower-wise, is that his wife, Elizabeth, is the chief financial officer.)
“I had my own challenges with fitting into office culture right out of the Army,” Alarik said. “From the beginning, one of my goals was to make Grunt Style feel familiar to vet employees. Not only do I love working with people who are patriotic and proud, there’s a strong business case behind that idea.”
Another military best practice that Alarik has put in place is pushing responsibility and authority to the lowest level possible. For instance, on the shop floor, “sew leaders” (the title given to front-line manufacturing personnel) work with very little oversight. He also instituted a “battle buddy” program for new hires that ensures the onboarding process is smooth and tackles any issues quickly.
“A paycheck is important, but for vets a job is more than that,” Alarik said. “They joined the military, for the most part, to be part of something bigger than themselves, something of consequence. That’s how we want them to feel about Grunt Style.”
“I knew when I met Dan that I wanted to be part of Grunt Style,” said Tim Jenson, COO and first sergeant. “It feels like ‘home’ working alongside people that get each other and work towards a common goal.”
The result of Alarik’s strategy is a $36 million business with a large facility complete with multiple warehouses for designing, printing, and packaging product. And every shirt comes with what the company calls a “beer guarantee.”
“What that means is if you’re not satisfied you can return a shirt for whatever reason — even if it’s soaked in beer — and we’ll give you a refund,” Alarik said.
And Alarik isn’t done yet. He recently launched “Alpha Outpost,” billed as “the best monthly subscription box for men.” Each month subscribers are mailed a box of interesting items around a specific theme. Previous themes have included “BBQ and Chill” (knives, grill gloves, spices, cookbook), “The Medic” (first aid equipment), and “The Gentlemen” (silk tie, flask, leaded glass).
Companies that struggle with hiring and retaining veterans can learn from Grunt Style’s approach. Alarik has found that the best way to get the most from veterans is not trying to force them into a corporate culture but rather to create a military-friendly environment where they can quickly assimilate and immediately make meaningful contributions to the company.