Miami-based DJ and Air Force veteran Rodrigo Arana – AKA DJ KA5 – is cooking up something special for his featured guest appearance in the USAA Lounge at BaseFEST this weekend. But don’t expect him to just cue up a list of Top 40 hits and fire them off, one after another. He approaches deejaying the way a trained specialist approaches a mission: he plans, he prepares, he drills, and then, when he’s got you captive on the dance floor, he executes.
Result: the beat drops and you lose your mind.
“I’m always about bringing those vibes that are taking you back to that certain time that was good for you [and] I’m always about trying to perfect my craft. That’s something that the military taught me: you can always do better.”
BaseFEST Powered by USAA kicked off in 2017 with two huge festival dates at Camp Lejune and NAS Pensacola, gathering over 20,000+ fans for each and creating a fun atmosphere of appreciation and support for servicemembers, their families, and friends.
(Photo by USAA)
The mission of the festival is “to provide a platform to give back to family programs on base, boost morale for troops and their families, and build strong base communities that are the backbone of our military.” Musical acts like DNCE, Dustin Lynch, Ha Ha Tonka, and DJ KA5 provide a live and lively soundtrack to a wide variety of activities, games, exhibits, and dining.
For Arana, playing BaseFEST is a chance to reconnect with his veteran family, to celebrate the military education that helped set him on the path to doing what he loves.
“Deejaying is about creating a vibe and creating a feeling. You’re painting. A different song is a different color and you’re creating a masterpiece. So by the end of the night, you step back and you look at the whole paining and you realize how you did this for somebody else.”
The Navy’s largest shipyard maintained a private, off-the-books, and illegal security force for more than a decade after the 9/11 terror attacks, costing taxpayers $21 million, the Navy inspector general reports.
The Norfolk ship yard in Portsmouth, VA established an unsanctioned security force with a glut of funding in the early 2000s, then purchased millions of dollars of high-tech security equipment and hid it from the Navy authorities for years, the IG said.
“These folks are not law enforcement, but they wanted to be, and all of their actions were done to become a law enforcement organization,” Peter Lintner, deputy director of investigations at Naval Sea Systems Command, told Federal News Radio. “The stunning thing is that this happened over the course of seven commanding officers, and not a single one of them put a stop to it or really even had any visibility on it. Everybody just thought, ‘Well, they’re the good guys. They’re the security department. They’re not going to do anything wrong.’ In actuality, they were doing everything wrong, and they knew it.”
The IG conducted the the investigation in 2014 after following a tip to the NAVSEA whistleblower hotline, but the report was only recently made available.
The security force acquired surplus equipment — including Berettas, ammunition, scopes, patrol boats, and vehicles — from the Defense Logistics Agency. Government Accountability Office investigators were able to purchase surplus military equipment for a fake law enforcement agency recently, proving that the process for purchasing military equipment is not very rigorous.
The IG estimates that the Navy spent $10.6 million on labor and payroll for the unsanctioned security force, and $10.4 million on the excess equipment.
The Norfolk security crews went to extreme lengths to keep their stockpile of equipment a secret. They created fake license plates for their vehicles, and would move their cache of weapons and tech off-base whenever the Navy’s asset manager came around to take inventory.
“They drove all the vehicles out, loaded everything on the flatbed and stashed it in one of the back parking lots on the local naval base,” Lintner said. “When the asset manager got there, it was literally an empty warehouse, but the day before it had been packed full of tools, vehicles, all types of material.”
When investigators confronted those in charge, “they admitted they hid it deliberately,” Lintner said. “That’s what they said every time: ‘If anybody found out what we had, they would have taken it away from us and we wanted to be ready for any contingency.’ Their motto was, ‘It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.'”
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.
BAE Systems showed off its new 40mm cannon at Fort Benning in Georgia late March 2018, as the US Army looks to add more fire power to its Strykers, Bradleys, and perhaps other combat vehicles, according to Defense News.
“Everything went perfectly,” Rory Chamberlain, a business development manager at BAE Systems, told reporters after the cannon was fired, Defense News reported. BAE Systems is one of the largest defense companies in the world.
CTA International, a joint venture between BAE Systems and Nexter, began developing the weapon in 1994, and the gun was recently chosen by the UK and France for their new Ajax and EBRC Jaguar armored vehicles, according to The War Zone.
The cannon has six kinds of cased telescoped ammunition (meaning the projectile is in the cartridge with the charge), including aerial airbust rounds, airbust rounds, armor piercing rounds, point detonating rounds, and two more designated for training.
(Photo by BAE Systems)
The 40mm rounds are up to four times stronger than 30mm rounds, according to BAE Systems.
Depending on which round is used, the cannon can take out a variety of armored vehicles and even older tanks, like the Russian T-55, The War Zone reported.
One of the most benefitial features of the gun is that it can fire at a high angle, making urban fighting easier, according to Defense News.
Chamberlain told Defense News that “Stryker lethality is open, as much as they got the Dragoon, that is a fat turret and it’s doing its job and it’s what they wanted,” adding that the lethality and requirements for the upgrade are still to be decided.
He said the same is possible for the Bradley, but Maj. Gen. David Bassett told Defense News in late 2017 that the Army is looking to replace its 25mm Bushmaster with a 30mm cannon.
On Dec. 30, 1968, Robert Howard was the platoon sergeant for a joint unit of U.S. Army Special Forces and South Vietnamese forces. Their mission was to rescue soldiers who were missing in action behind enemy lines. As they moved out onto their objective, they were attacked by what had to be two companies of enemy troops. 1st. Lt. Howard was wounded by an enemy grenade almost immediately. He lost his weapon to the explosion, and his platoon leader was down.
His luck only got worse from there.
This is how Robert Howard earned his Medal of Honor. It was one of three for which he was nominated. The men who fought with him fervently believed he deserved all three. The battle for which he received the nation’s highest military honor was one hell of a slugfest.
At Kon Tum, South Vietnam, that day in 1968, things went awry from the get-go.
“We took casualties on the insert,” Howard said. “I finally got with the platoon leader and said we need to secure this LZ… I got three men behind me, I remember being fired at and I fell backward and they killed three men behind me.”
One of the helicopters had even been shot down with troops still aboard it. The platoon began taking fire from the flanks, and Howard knew he had to tell his lieutenant the landing zone was hotter than they thought. Just as he got close to his officer, however, the unit was ambushed.
“When I come to, I was blown up in a crump on the ground,” Howard recalled. “My weapon was blown out of may hand, I remember seeing red, and saying a prayer hoping I wasn’t blind. I couldn’t see and I was in a lot of pain.”
When he got his vision back, he realized he was seeing blood. All he could see was flames, and all he could hear was people screaming. He realized the enemy was burning his friends with a flamethrower. His lieutenant was down. For reasons unknown, the flamethrower didn’t burn Howard or his platoon leader, he just walked away.
His hands hurting and bleeding, Howard moved to help get his leader out of there. As he drug his platoon leader out, a round struck his ammo pouch, detonating it. He was hit 15-20 times as he worked to get his lieutenant out. He fought off charging Vietnamese soldiers, dodging bullets and bayonets while protecting his leader.
His platoon was in complete disarray, and he knew he had to get everyone back in order, lest they be overrun and killed.
He dragged his officer out of the area, and once under cover, reorganized the whole unit. Once a firing line was set up, he bounded from position to position, aiding the wounded and directing their fire. For four hours, his effort kept them from being surrounded and killed.
Soon, friendly aircraft were able to join the fight and rescue the wounded. Then the Americans were hit with another wave of attackers. Robert Howard had to direct the U.S. Air Force to strike his own position. As the Air Force hit his position, Howard watched as the aircraft rounds hit the area around him. Thankfully, the attack craft eventually faded into rescue helicopters.
Lieutenant Howard personally kept overwatch until everyone else was aboard. Out of 37 friendly troops, only six survived unharmed.
In all, Robert Howard fought in Vietnam for 54 months, where he was wounded 14 times. For eight of those wounds, he received a Purple Heart. He also earned the Distinguished Service Cross, a Silver Star, and four Bronze Stars. When he retired, he was the most decorated soldier in the Army and was the most decorated of the entire Vietnam War. He remains the only soldier to be nominated for the Medal of Honor three times for three separate actions, all in a 13-month span.
The only thing that could kill Robert Howard was pancreatic cancer, to which he succumbed in 2009, one of the lesser-known heroes of the war in Vietnam.
It might seem that women would have it easy when it comes to regulations in the military — I mean, how hard is it to stick your hair in a bun, slip on your boots, and head out the door?
It’s actually pretty restricting once you realize how many regulations are placed on women in the military.
Granted, regulations are nothing new, and everyone has to follow them, but let’s take a look at a few that women in all branches of service have to abide by on a daily basis.
Women’s hair must be professional and steer clear of unnatural colors and eccentric styles. Yes, this means no fad hairstyles, no blinged out barrettes and bobby pins, which makes sense, to an extent. This regulation might be the hardest for women to comply with because the description is so broad and is ultimately up to the interpretation of supervisors to potentially escalate a breach of regulation (“No sir, my hair is not red — it’s Auburn”).
Heck, sometimes it might just be easier to chop it all off like GI Jane (newsflash that’s against regs too, no buzz cuts for women!). Looks like a bun it is!
Nails might seem like a menial regulation to gripe about, but it becomes tedious when supervisors are out to get you for anything that they can. Regulations call for natural nail polish, and the length must be no longer than ¼ of an inch. Imagine being called into a supervisor’s office for your nails being too long or wearing too pink of a polish. It happens to women in the military more often than you would think.
Women must not wear makeup that isn’t flattering to their skin tone or unnatural. Again, this regulation is so broad that it allows for misinterpretation or someone to deem others choice in makeup “unnatural.” Everyone has his or her own opinion of what natural and unnatural makeup looks like, and it’s hard to pin this one down.
Of course, there’s no blue eye shadow or purple eyeliner (duh), but there are many shades that are open to interpretation. Women usually adapt and figure out that no makeup, or close to no makeup, is the best way to stay out of trouble in this area.
1. Nametag/ Ribbon Rack Alignment
Nametag and ribbon rack alignment might be one of the most annoying regulations of them all. Men have pockets on their formal shirts to align their nametag and ribbon rack perfectly. Women don’t get pockets on their formal button-down shirts, and it makes it almost impossible to align because of the nuisance of, well, boobs.
Every woman has them and some more than others, which makes uniform wear, and abiding by small details frustrating. Women usually go to the lengths of sewing dots onto their shirts once they find the perfect alignment, because who knows if they’ll ever find that sweet spot again!
Props to all the women in the military who put up with these regulations and don’t let the details impede on their work performance, even though they might want to say shove it to their supervisors when they get called out for their eyelash extensions or the length of their fingernails.
“I guess no one wants to talk to me,” Lee told his wife.
Lee Hernandez has trouble with speaking, so Ernestine figured that’s why people don’t take much time to attempt a conversation. So she reached out to a group called “Caregivers of Wounded Warriors” to get more texts and call pouring in.
He is a veteran of the Iraq War who served 18 and half years in the Army. He’s been fighting for his life for the last five years.
If you want to send Lee a message of support or just see how he is, be sure to reach out between 2 pm and 6pm Arizona time. Lee is now blind, but Ernestine will read your texts to him.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo on Monday said it was “fair to say” that North Korea, which has a history of sharing its nuclear capabilities, could be approached by potential customers, such as Iran, to sell secrets about its missile programs.
“The North Koreans have a long history of being proliferators and sharing their knowledge, their technology, their capacities around the world,” Pompeo said in a Fox News interview on Monday.
“As North Korea continues to improve its ability to do longer-range missiles and to put nuclear weapons on those missiles, it is very unlikely, if they get that capability, that they wouldn’t share it with lots of folks, and Iran would certainly be someone who would be willing to pay them for it,” Pompeo said.
Though the US believes it has solid information on North Korea’s capabilities, the reclusive nation’s ultimate intent in ramping up its weapons program remains an “incredibly difficult intelligence problem,” Pompeo added.
“We think we have an understanding,” Pompeo said. “We think Kim Jong Un wants these weapons for protecting his regime and then, ultimately, the reunification of the peninsula. But there’s still a lot that the intelligence community needs to learn.”
In August, The Washington Post reported that North Korea unexpectedly broke through a major hurdle in its nuclear-missile program after it was able to marry a miniaturized nuclear warhead with a missile. The report led to an increasingly bellicose verbal exchange between President Donald Trump and North Korea, with the hermit kingdom threatening the US territory of Guam.
On September 3, North Korea continued to rattle its global neighbors, conducting its sixth and most powerful nuclear test. Following the test, the UN Security Council unanimously increased sanctions on North Korea — albeit a watered-down version to appease China and Russia — by imposing a cap on crude-oil imports and banning exports of textiles, according to Reuters.
“Look, I worry first and foremost about the threat from North Korea, in the sense that we have a place that is now in the cusp of having the capacity we’d hope they’d never have,” Pompeo continued, “with a leader who makes decisions, at the very least, in a very, very tight circle, in which we have limited access.”
We first learned of the Yautja when Arnold Schwarzenegger went toe-to-toe with one in a South American jungle in the 1987 sci-fi action-thriller, Predator. Since then, these aliens have become a lauded piece of nerdy pop-culture. The latest installment in the franchise is coming out later this year, so now’s the time to learn as much about these interstellar hunters as possible.
You might know that these aliens are efficient trackers and killers — hence the name Predator. You might even know about their active camouflage, energy blasters, and cool nuke wristbands. But if you didn’t know the proper name for this species before now, then you’ve got a lot to learn.
We’re here to lead you down the rabbit hole. Here are a few things you should know about these badasses before checking out The Predator later this year.
There are two main tribes of Yautja — who are at constant war with each other.
(Twentieth Century Fox)
They have a warrior culture
Despite being capable of interstellar travel, the Yautja’s civilization is built around a tribal structure and a warrior culture. They value experienced warriors and the only way to earn respect is through battle.
They hunt for sport
You may have picked up on this in the original Predator when the mercenaries come across skinned corpses and shrines made of skulls. They don’t hunt for survival, they hunt for trophies. We mentioned above that the Yautja earn respect in battle — what better way to command respect than by weaving a vest of your enemies’ skulls?
They respect opponents who choose to face them head on.
(Twentieth Century Fox)
They only hunt formidable prey
They don’t just hunt something easy and say, “I killed a cricket, respect me.” No, they only target opponents who present a real threat to them, like Dutch’s mercenary team in the original film.
Any human who defeats one in single combat earns their respect
Compared to the Yautja, that humans are weak, fragile creatures. So, it’s pretty obvious why an alien race that prides itself on hunting and killing extremely dangerous creatures would respect a human who can survive a one-on-one fight.
Comrades of a fallen Yautja have been known to even award the human with a rare weapon as a sign of respect.
Humans can only hope they hunt each other into mutual extinction…
(Twentieth Century Fox)
They hunt Xenomorphs as a rite of passage
Remember the aliens from, well, Alien? When a Yautja is coming of age, they must endure a ritual in which they hunt a Xenomorph, which are considered the ultimate prey in their culture. If one can defeat a Xenomorph, they earn the respect of their tribe.
To signify their success in hunting a Xenomorph, a Yautja will mark their helmets using the alien’s acidic blood.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis yesterday completed his first trip to the Middle East, where he gained valuable insight as he prepares to make key policy decisions, including submitting the results of a review of the department’s strategy to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria to the White House, Pentagon press operations director Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters this morning.
In a memorandum signed Jan. 28, President Donald Trump ordered the Defense Department to come up with a new plan within 30 days to defeat ISIS. Davis said the review is due early next week, and added, “we’re on track to deliver it on time.”
The captain called the review a comprehensive, whole-of-government plan.
“It will address ISIS globally, and it is not just a DoD plan,” he said. “We’re charged with leading the development of the plan, but it absolutely calls upon the capabilities of other departments.”
Davis said the White House memorandum “puts the bull’s eye of the target squarely on DoD to lead it, but it is absolutely being done with the input of other agencies. We chair it. We’re developing the strategy, but we’re doing it together with other departments.”
Review Involves Many Countries
The review will be an outline of a strategy that encompasses numerous issues surrounding the defeat of ISIS, he said. “We have been working diligently with our interagency partners to develop it with the intelligence community, our military commanders on the ground, the Joint Staff and our policy team here, and it represents the input of a number of other departments.”
The captain said that the proposed plan will go to the president, who will make decisions based on the recommendations contained in the review.
Countries such as Afghanistan, Yemen, and Libya and others in the Southeast Asia region are included in the review, he said, “in the sense that this is going to explore the strategy for how we combat ISIS outside of Iraq and Syria, where we’ve seen ISIS spring up in other places.”
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)
Just as the Army has been saying for almost thirty years, they are finally working out the details of what will be the replacement for the current push-ups/sit-ups/2-mile-run version of the Army Physical Fitness Test. For a quick primer on what the new test will entail, read our previous article — but know that, if implemented, this new test is going to fundamentally change how the Army operates.
Obviously, the Army Combat Readiness Test (this is what they’re calling the new test) will demand new capability from troops, but it’s more than that. Everything from how the test is conducted to the way it’s graded and the overall logistical nightmares that it will bring are going to have wide-reaching ramifications.
Now, that’s not to say that the new test is a bad thing — but this one small change will ripple into the rest of life in the Army. Here’s how:
Fridays will always be run days. How else is the commander going to listen to ‘Thunderstruck’ by AC/DC?
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Steven Lopez)
New PT schedules
The current APFT makes sure that three elements of a soldier’s fitness are up to standard: upper body, core, and endurance. Morning PT schedules created by NCOs reflect these requirements. Regardless of your unit, you’ll almost always go on a long run on Mondays, work your upper body on Tuesdays, do sprints on Wednesdays, enjoy core or leg days on Thursdays, and finally, have unit “fun runs” on Fridays.
The new test will include a two-mile run, so you can expect to keep logging the “fun run” alongside the officers who want to claim they work out with their guys. The other five events required by the ACRT, however, will have to be worked into the other four days, which may mean cutting down on Monday runs.
Let’s play a game: Spot all the problems in this picture that make it unsafe…
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Hull)
A considerable amount of training
Mark my words: This new PT test is going to be the sole cause of some serious injuries to good soldiers.
Soldiers will likely blow out their backs by improperly deadlifting, toss a medicine ball on someone’s head, jack up their wrists by doing the “hand release push-up” wrong, or incur some type of injury during sprint-drag-carry mishaps — with so many technically demanding events, it’s going to be impossible to ensure that nobody gets hurt.
The fact is that deadlifts aren’t something that beginners or overly cocky soldiers can just pick up. If the powers that be insist on inserting deadlifts into the PT test and younger soldiers aren’t given the training required to do them properly, well… Expect many more visits to sick call among soldiers with bad backs.
Motrin and a bottle of water isn’t going to solve this problem, doc.
(U.S. Army photo)
How we view sick call
That being said, there is no way to mitigate the risk of injury entirely. No amount of training can eliminate the possibility ofunintentionally harming oneself. Training and the initialadjustment period will likelysee most of the accidents,but there will be soldiers years from now who bend in a way the human body isn’t meant to be bent.
The Army is fairly good at putting precautions in placeto mitigate risks,but there will need to be an overhaul in the way that aid stations see and treatsoldiers. As of rightnow, countless soldiers “suck it up” and deal with the pain instead of visiting sick call, but one can only stoically endure so much before beingtruly broken.
A major problem thatvetsruninto when theyseekhelp from the VA stems from alack of kept records. In the absence ofdocumentation specifically referencing an ailment, the VA often assertsthat a givenproblem “wasn’t military related.” Unless there’s a major change in how sick call is viewedby soldiers, the many accidents that will likely befall takers of the new ACRT will cause unaddressed problems down the line.
Supply NCOs are wizards, but you can’t expect the impossible from them all the time.
(U.S. Army photo by Cpt. Kristoffer Sibbaluca)
Logistics behind the equipment
The new test makes use of plenty of specialized equipment. To successfully administer a PT test, units will need:
Deadlift bars plus weights,
10-lbs medicine balls,
40-lbs kettle bells,
and a steady track on which to do the run.
From here, things will go one of two ways: Either the Army is going to have to shell out a load of cash to get every unit enough equipment to facilitate the test in an organized manner (and pay for somewhere to store all that equipment and someone to maintain it) or there will be a dedicated gym for every Brigade-level that contains the equipment and sends it out on request.
In either case, there will be an entirely new level of logistics involved in connecting troops with the gear.
There are some running tracks on bigger installations in the Kuwait and Afghanistan, but installing one on FOB Out-in-the-middle-of-f*ck-nowhere just won’t happen.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Angela Lorden)
PT on deployments
As it stands at this instant, PT tests are a required for active duty soldiers twice per year. There are rare exceptions, but in most cases, your commander will insist that tests be administered, even if you’re overseas. All you need is ground to do the test on.
Much to the dismay of that sergeant with muscles so big that he can’t stand at parade rest, this, too, will change. All that equipment won’t be making its way into a shipping container since the Army needs to send mission-relevant gear (and the test would be null and void without the previously-mentioned steady track anyway).
Without the need to maintain fitness standards in order to pass PT tests administered during deployments, soldiers just won’t. That negates the entire purpose of fielding a “combat-oriented” PT test — unless, you know, the Army is willing to stubbornly handle that insane logistical nightmare just to prove a point.
Which basically means the only way lower-demand MOS’s will get close to 798 points is if they spend all their time outside work doing college courses.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Raquel Villalona)
The current version of the PT test is simple. Your performance in each event gives you a certain amount of points. Max out at a perfect 300 and you’ve netted yourself 180 promotion points — which comes in handy if you’re looking to be a sergeant. It’s stupid simple math that can be easily printed out and posted in any training room.
But the new test isn’t like that at all. It’s now a “Go/No Go” system. Each event is simply measured: You can either do it or you can’t. You can either run a 2-mile in 20 minutes or you can’t (which, by today’s standards, would award just 3 points to a 17-year-old male but 85 points to a 47-year-old female). Ripping these potential 180 points out of the current promotion system means that soldiers in a lower-demand MOS will lose the easiest way to pad their points.
“I have no idea why I joined the Army,” said Spc. Ken Park, a soldier with the 414th Civil Affairs Battalion, based out of Southfield, Michigan. “My parents were extremely against it. I was a spoiled brat. I was fat.”
Park came from what he considered to be a privileged life. He was constantly told that he was special by his parents and his teachers. But Spc Park never really felt like that was a life for him. “Coming from that sort of privileged background, joining the Army, being told that I was the same as everyone else sort of put me in my place.”
“My recruiter even told me I couldn’t join, the first time. He said I should go to school instead, and I could join later” said Park. He was about 60 pounds overweight at the time, so he joined a gym and, through hard work and discipline, ended up losing 70 pounds. Park was, perhaps unknowingly, starting to re-program himself into the Army life even before he officially enlisted.
By being in the Army, Park said, he has learned life skills that he may not have learned otherwise. “I didn’t know how to do laundry until the first or second day of basic. Actually, my battle buddy looked at me weird. He said, ‘How do you not know how to do laundry as an 18 year old?’ I had someone do that for me my whole life” said Park. “But now I know the value of a dollar. How hard you have to work to be something. And how to do laundry,” he said with a chuckle.
Spc. Ken Parks, a soldier with the 414th Civil Affairs Battalion listens to the range safety officer issue commands targets during a qualification table at his unit’s November drill weekend at Fort Custer, Mich. on Nov. 16th, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Bob Yarbrough)
Park went on to say that his Army experience has only gotten better. “In AIT (Advanced Individual Training) I had a case of bronchitis, but I kept going. We had a PT test and I had to pass. “There was [harsh winter] weather like this. And I had to go on. The fast guys came back, because they knew I had bronchitis, but I had to pass. I made it and it was hard, but I don’t know that I would have made it without them.”
Spc. Park isn’t new to the U.S. Army Reserve, but he is new to the Civil Affairs Community, and the 414th, first drilling with the unit in September. He says his time in the 414th has been eye-opeing. “There aren’t many places you can go, in the Army or in normal life, where someone will see you struggling, and say ‘Hey, I know you’re tired, I got you’ and they take care of you so the mission still gets done.”
Park came to the 414th after being contacted by an Officer in the unit. “Cpt. Babcock actually reached out to me on LinkedIn,” said Park, “because I’m fluent in Korean and Japanese. Now I feel proud to be part of the unit, and I hope to live up to the expectations of the Commander and the First Sergeant.”
“Despite being told that I shouldn’t, and couldn’t, join the Army, I’m glad I did,” said Park. “It gave me a higher value, a better reason for doing what I do.”