For the more than 19 million veterans currently living in the United States, where you live can be essential to your access to healthcare, good employment, and a strong quality of life.
WalletHub recently conducted a report of the best US cities for veterans, analyzing 20 key indicators of livability, affordability, and veteran-friendliness. The study then provided rankings — out of 100 — for each category.
Employment rankings took into account the number of veteran-owned businesses per veteran population and opportunities for job growth, as well as the availability of jobs that utilize military-learned skills. Economy rankings considered factors such as the median veteran income and veteran homelessness rates, while quality of life was determined by analyzing veteran population, restaurants with military discounts, and more.
The study found that Tampa, Florida, triumphed as the best major US city for veterans, earning a total score of 72.44 out of a possible 100. Boston, Massachusetts, despite ranking at No. 68 overall, earned the highest ranking for veteran employment.
Keep reading to find out the top 25 best US cities for veterans.
In the United States, you don’t need to get dressed in your best formal attire to carry an umbrella. But you do need a permit to carry a weapon in many areas, if you’re allowed to carry one at all. For those who are worried about self-defense but won’t or can’t carry an equalizer, you’re in luck.
Would-be attackers, however, are not.
Unbreakable® Umbrella vs. Coconuts – Le Parapluie Incassable – Der Unzerbrechliche Regenschirm
The Unbreakable Umbrella is elegant enough not to attract unwanted attention and is legal to carry anywhere. The best part is that it really is also a durable umbrella that won’t fall short in that area either.
It’s the brainchild of Thomas Kurz, a leading expert on athletic flexibility training and stretching. A Polish immigrant, Kurz studied physical education at Warsaw’s University School of Physical Education, then coached Judo and a number of other olympic-level sports.
Kurz is also an expert on self-defense instruction. He created the Unbreakable Umbrella in 2004 as a means for an individual to defend themself against an armed attacker, even when no other weapon is available.
The umbrella is as strong and sturdy as a steel pipe but weighs just short of two pounds. The secret is in its “unbreakable” construction, made of aluminum alloys and steel or a proprietary fiberglass-polyester composite, depending on the type of umbrella purchased.
The best part is that no matter what kind of umbrella you prefer there’s an Unbreakable Umbrella for you. Be it the compact, telescoping kind seen on the streets of cities everywhere or the more elegant walking-stick model with or without a curved handle (the kind that would give you that “Kingsmen” look), they have you covered.
Kurz and the crew at Unbreakable Umbrellas have many, many instructional and demonstrative videos on YouTube and the Unbreakable Umbrella website. They range from keeping an assailant from attempting to take your new umbrella to fending off attackers who bring double-fisted knives to the fight.
While most people aren’t going to have to fight off a dual-wielding knife attack, it’s good to know that you could if you wanted to. To learn more about Unbreakable Umbrellas, visit the website.
It’s that wonderful time of year when veterans, their friends, and their families go out to enjoy a little spooky fun around town. They’ll have fun with the decorations, getting into goofy costumes, and, overall, just enjoying the spirit of the season — but there’s just one place veterans tend to avoid: haunted houses.
We don’t avoid these because of their intended scariness — far from it. Veterans just don’t seem to have the same reaction as most civilians. We tend to have one of three reactions to being put in what is, essentially, a guided maze filled with actors dressed like our favorite monsters: Either we’re way too in to how cool what’s going on around us is, we just can’t suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy it, or, well, we’ll get to the last one in a minute.
Perfect for war! Terrible for Halloween fun…
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Justis Beauregard)
1. We aren’t scared the same way
Once you’ve spent some time in the military, certain things just don’t scare you the same way. I’m not saying that seeing someone dressed as a distressed clown brandishing a chainsaw (with the teeth taken out for safety) isn’t objectively terrifying — it definitely is.
But veterans spent years learning how to always switch their “fight or flight” response in one direction. Once you’ve done your time, that response never really shuts off. You may not be fighting every monster you see, but you’re not going to run through the haunted house like most guests.
Then again, having attention to detail is never fun…
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Ronald Bailey, 100th Missile Defense Brigade Public Affairs)
2. Our attention to detail overshadows the rest of the “fun”
We keep level heads and analyze every tiny detail of what’s going on while others are cowering. We notice the tiny things. This works absolute wonders in haunted escape rooms — but that same cannot be said for haunted houses.
You’ll look for and find things that break the immersion. You’ll stop admiring/being spooked out by all of the scary stuff and simply get through the thing like there’s some kind of reward at the end — there isn’t. The experience of the haunted house was the reward.
You might also get asked to leave if you stack your family by sector of fire they’d take as they enter the room.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Devon Tindle)
3. We will use room-clearing techniques as we go through
There’re only so many spots for actors to hide throughout a maze: behind that door, at the end of the hallway, behind all those curtains. Coincidentally, these are the exact same spots that most veterans remember from room-clearing drills.
The ideology is the same, but instead of jumping out to attack a squad of infantrymen, the haunted house actors are just trying to help you celebrate the Halloween spirit. It actually gets a bit disappointing when the veteran thinks to themselves, “if I were them, I’d totally set up an ambush point here at the funnel of death,” only to realize the actors didn’t get your memo.
“Want to see a real horror monster? You should see my old drill instructor when faced with an unsecured wall locker.”
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Pedro Cardenas)
4. We will one-up creepy moments with real-life stuff
There’s a certain expectation that guests at haunted houses will suspend disbelief enough to allow themselves to be scared and enjoy the experience. That kind of goes out the window when you can’t help but notice that the “blood” splotches on the walls don’t really line up with how arterial blood would actually spew out of that “zombie’s” neck.
That’s fine and all, but it ruins the fun for the other people in your party. Nobody really wants to hear us say, “oh, you think this is scary? Try losing your weapon in a porta-sh*tty as your FOB is getting indirect fire! Now that’s scary!”
We know, bro. We know.
What’s actually a scary thought is that your MACP Level 1 isn’t going to do jack sh*t against a security guard who likes tasing people.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jensen Stidham)
5. We tend to get a bit… punchy… around the actors
You knew this one was coming. No, you can’t punch the actors that jump out at guests. They’re not allowed to touch you and you’re not allowed to feed them their teeth.
In fact, it’s against the law — and everyone will laugh at you if you try to say that some minimum-wage-earning teenager in a cheap costume at a haunted house that you knowingly and willingly paid money to visit is actually some monster.
Plus, most haunted houses have cameras and security guards in place for just such occasions. So, uh, just don’t do it.
While deployed to East Africa as a member of the 4th Combat Camera Squadron, US Air Force Staff Sgt. Corban Lundborg sought to create a unique illustration series inspired by his time in the region. Looking around the combat camera office, he found an old box of Meals, Ready to Eat. He mined the MREs for their instant coffee packets and used the supplies in the pack to mix up his “paint.”
“Coffee works pretty similar to watercolor,” Lundborg said. “It uses a value system to get different tones, so you just saturate the water more or less to achieve the tones you want.”
Air Force Staff Sgt. Corban Lundborg works on MRE-coffee paintings in 2019 outside his combat camera unit’s headquarters in East Africa. Photo courtesy of Corban Lundborg
Lundborg said he started experimenting with how the coffee took to paper and ink, and after some time, he came up with a series of works inspired by his environment and experiences in East Africa.
Most of the paintings are scenes or equipment Lundborg used or traveled in. He painted some of the aircraft that flew him to and from different locations and missions and gifted the works to members of the aviation units. Among his subjects were a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, a lion, a Nikon film camera, a skull, and a calligraphed “Merry Christmas” card.
Lundborg painted this “Merry Christmas” card in December 2018 and sent a photograph of the piece home to his mom and dad in Minneapolis. He later gave the original away in a raffle at an art party at Amp Rehearsal in Hollywood. Photo courtesy of Corban Lundborg
The sepia tones of the paintings and their ragged, burnt edges tell a story of the conflict and the creative necessity from which they were born. Central to the works is Lundborg’s impulse to create and the austere conditions that inspired him to experiment with a new medium.
“For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been drawing on stuff and making art,” said the Minneapolis native. “I think just about every day of the week, I’m doing something creative. I try not to go a day without doing some kind of art.”
Lundborg gifted this painting of an HH-60 Pave Hawk to the aviation squadron that supported operations during his East Africa deployment. Photo courtesy of Corban Lundborg
Lundborg said his parents were supportive of his artistic inclinations and creative adventures. He started out as a graffiti artist back in Minneapolis.
“I was kind of an angsty teen and was always looking to get into trouble,” he said. “I kind of ran with a bad group of friends and got into some legal trouble for vandalism and other minor crimes. The military provided the means I was looking for to get out of the city.”
Lundborg surrounded by his work at Amp Rehearsal in Hollywood, where he was commissioned to paint works throughout the building. Photo courtesy of Corban Lundborg
As a young airman working in supply and logistics, Lundborg was assigned to Osan Air Base in South Korea. He found his way into a tattoo apprenticeship and picked up another means of artistic expression.
“When I got to Korea and got the apprenticeship, the Korean artists took me in and showed me what art life was all about,” he said. “I started doing tattoos for other service members in the dorms overseas. These days, I mostly just kind of tattoo myself.”
Lundborg works on a Bob Marley mural at Amp Rehearsal in November 2019. Photo courtesy of Corban Lundborg
After a year in Korea, he was sent to Aviano Air Base in Italy, where he spent his days “counting aircraft screws, doing inventories, snowboarding in the Alps every weekend, and hitting all the major cities in Europe.”
After four years in an active-duty job he didn’t care for, Lundborg transferred to the Air Force Reserves and went home to Minneapolis, where he attended the Minneapolis College of Art and Design for a year before dropping out.
A lion and a Nikon film camera were among Lundborg’s subjects. Photo courtesy of Corban Lundborg
“In college I discovered I don’t really like art theory and history,” he said. “I just like making art, and I still consider myself mostly self-taught.”
When a slot for a photographer opened up on his reserve base, Lundborg jumped at the chance to retrain into a new specialty. After six months of on-the-job training, the Air Force sent Lundborg to the Basic Photojournalist Course at the Defense Information School at Fort Meade, Maryland, in 2015.
Lundborg exits a C-130 during his deployment to East Africa in January 2019. Photo courtesy of Corban Lundborg
He was later assigned to the 4th Combat Camera Squadron and deployed to East Africa in 2018 for eight months.
“I took a few brushes with me, but I had to get everything else from the accessory packets in the MREs,” he said of his time in Africa. “I used the plastic spoon to mix the coffee and hold some grounds, and I used matches to burn the edges of the paper and TP to clean the brushes.”
Lundborg self-produced a video of himself working on the MRE-coffee paintings.
He said he picked up a cheap set of watercolors and taught himself to paint with the medium while living in South Africa a few years before his deployment to the continent.
He tends to pick up new mediums with relative ease and excels in whatever creative endeavors he pursues. He earned recognition as Air Force Reserve Photographer of the Year three years in a row, and was selected as Air Force Photographer of the year in 2018.
Acrylic and spray paint are his favorite media, and he often uses them together interchangeably.
A prolific creator, Lundborg is looking ahead to a bright future of doing what he loves. He plans to expand his work in cinema and film production.
“Ideally, I would like to produce, direct, and shoot films,” he said. “But painting is something I will do until the day I die.”
“Worry about the dollars and the pennies take care of themselves.” — anonymous
It’s worthwhile to keep that adage above in mind when you are being pitched to buy a franchise business.
One of the most costly mistakes veterans can make is paying too much upfront for a franchise that you can’t sell for the same price the next day. It’s the venture equivalent of buying a used Chevy for the price of new BMW.
I hate it when I receive letters from veterans who “want out” of a franchise they just bought. They feel snookered, trapped, and annoyed at themselves for not looking at the details before signing on the dotted line.
The best way to avoid buyer’s remorse is to become a smart shopper of franchise opportunities. Here are five tips to help you assess if you are more likely to make money or lose money in the franchise world.
1. Set higher standards
If your objective is to merely “go into business for yourself” or “own a franchise” then your aspirations are not high enough to be a successful business owner. After all, you will achieve your goal of business ownership the day you sign the franchise contract! Then what?
A more purposeful objective is to own a franchise that will make money for you. When you set high standards for your financial return on your invested time and savings your tire-kicking “due diligence” questions become more precise and purposeful.
2. Understand sales rep motivations
When you start to explore different franchise opportunities, you will come in contact with franchisor representatives and business brokers who have just one purpose—to sell you a franchise as fast as possible. These individuals are not your trusted friends or unbiased financial advisors. Certainly don’t sign any franchise agreement without prior review from an experienced corporate attorney who understands franchise valuations and royalty obligations.
3. Add up cost of acquisition
Sneaky franchise brokers are adept at hiding the true investment cost of a franchise purchase. If you sign up to buy a franchise, your cost of acquisition is more than the down payment. Include the amount you have to borrow to acquire the franchise plus other savings you may have to apply to the business until it achieves at least cash flow breakeven. (when net sales revenues exceed expenses every month) This is the total amount you will have at risk in your new business. How comfortable are you with this amount? What would happen if you lost it all?
4. Evaluate owner’s compensation
Another trick of franchise sales reps is to present impressive financial projections of average franchise unit performance. Look closely at these projections. Do they include a budget allocation for the owner’s salary, healthcare, adequate insurance and other real world expenses associated with running a business? If there is no allocation for an owner’s salary and benefits and you intend to work full time in the business, beware!
Remember, year-end profits should be your financial return on your invested capital, not your sole source of compensation for working 40 to 70 hours a week to keep the franchise alive! Of course, the business could fail to generate a profit too which means you as the founder earns nothing for a lot of work.
5. Understand market value
Buy low, then sell high. If you pay $25,000, $50,000, or $100,000 to buy into a franchise, then you should find evidence that other franchises can be sold at least for that much or more. Unfortunately, the opposite is often true.
Research the market for this brand of franchise. What are the average resale purchase prices in your state? Who buys up franchises when the owner wants out? Does the corporate office buy back franchises? What does the franchise agreement call for? Frequently, one regional franchise operator buys distressed properties at deep discounts.
Given all the risks associated with owning a business and personal obligation to repay debt, you should walk away from any franchise that cannot eventually be sold for at least two times your invested capital.
Unfortunately, I get too many letters from franchise buyers who are desperate to get out of a money-losing franchise. They realize they overpaid for a franchise usually within a year of purchase. They didn’t pay attention to the quantitative issues where they could lose hard cash because the sales reps kept their attention on how great it will be to at last be the boss of a money making business. At the end of the day, they didn’t make any money and didn’t have any fun as a business owner.
Now you know better.
Susan Schreter is a devoted Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program workshop presenter and founder of Start on Purpose, a service organization that empowers business owners anywhere in America to find and manage business funding with confidence. Connect with her at Susan@StartonPurpose.
Kim Jong Un may enjoy being photographed frequently, but his desire to be at the center of state media attention may be irritating ordinary North Koreans.
Kim’s recurring presence in North Korean newspapers, like the Rodong Sinmun, now means major state visits must be commemorated with dozens of Kim photographs per issue, Daily NK reported Dec. 18.
On Dec. 9, Kim’s visit to Samjiyon in Yanggang Province was announced in the newspaper with 60 photographs from the location, with 50 out of the 60 pictures including Kim.
The attention-seeking Kim is drawing criticism from North Koreans, who say he is trying to repair his image following the execution of his uncle-in-law Jang Song Taek.
One North Korea source told Daily NK the “very common” photographs are a problem for smokers.
“People don’t like it,” the source said. “Among workers, who are looking for spare newspaper to roll up a cigarette, it is becoming increasingly hard to find a fragment without a portrait of Kim Jong Un.”
North Korea law forbids people from using pictures of Kim in derogatory ways, and travelers to North Korea have previously told UPI they are not allowed to fold a crease across a picture of Kim’s face or damage an image of him in newspapers.
Kim may be tightening his grip as he concludes his fifth full year in power.
Analysts at Seoul’s Institute for National Security Strategy said Dec. 18 that Kim has purged top officials Hwang Pyong So and Kim Won Hong, less than a week after a South Korean newspaper reported Hwang may have been expelled from the Workers’ Party for taking bribes.
The INSS also said economic sanctions could hit the elites, and Kim could purge more economic officials to assign blame as conditions worsen in the country, Yonhap reported.
When troops deploy overseas to places like Iraq and Afghanistan, they usually get a pay increase thanks to combat and hazardous pay bonuses. And given that they are working longer days and away from most of the comforts of home, they usually save a bunch of money in that time.
Usually returning with a large balance in their bank account, they are what some would call “post-deployment rich.”
But that wealth usually doesn’t last forever. Some troops save their money for the future, while others making big purchases soon after they are home. These are the six things they are usually buying.
1. A new car or motorcycle
The barracks parking lot is guaranteed to be filled with new cars and bikes shortly after a unit returns from deployment. The vehicular staple of the returning Marine, soldier, sailor, or airman usually spans the gamut of Ford Mustang to Jeep Wrangler.
That’s it. The barracks parking lot is just filled with Mustangs and Wranglers. That and a ton of crotch rockets.
2. Post-deployment booze
I’m not going to lie. When I came back after a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan, I drank a lot. Think—drinking at a minimum a six-pack of beer every night for months—a lot. Was it healthy? No. A good idea? No. Helpful during morning PT? Oh, good lord no.
But hey, I hadn’t drank in a long time and I had to make up for lost time. At least that made sense in my then-21-year-old brain. My story is not unique, however. While the military tries to crack down on binge-drinking, for many troops, it’s still a big part of the lifestyle.
3. Epic parties in Vegas (or some other awesome place)
When you are post-deployment rich, it’s no problem picking up the tab at the bar. “Oh yeah! I got this,” the young private says. “Drinks are on me!” Come back to this same young private about two months later and he probably won’t be saying this one again.
That’s definitely true of throwing big parties. While they initially start out in the barracks and involve kegs, beer pong, and midget-tossing (no? that’s not allowed Sergeant Major?), the parties eventually head off base to a better location. Sometimes this means the strip club, but let it be known: Las Vegas is always the best option.
Just don’t buy the next item while you are drinking.
4. Engagement rings
Spending seven to 12 months (or more) overseas can get some service members thinking about elevating their relationships to the next level of marriage. For some, that means saving up their deployment cash to buy an expensive engagement ring for their honey. Hopefully it all works out, because if it doesn’t, the post-deployment splurge may be spent on…
5. Divorce lawyers are, unfortunately, another common deployment side effect
Most service members have heard a horror story or two about a fellow soldier returning home with no greeting at the airport, a completely empty refrigerator (even sans ice cubes), and an empty bank account. The sad homecoming for some troops means one thing: Divorce.
There’s a good reason why tattoo parlors are strategically located near military bases. Troops love ink (including this writer). Whether it’s a simple U.S. Army or USMC on your arm to show pride in your service, or a listing of fallen friends, tattoos are a big part of the military culture.
Just make sure you get it spell-checked.
What did you buy right after deployment? Let us know in the comments.
Sit across the table from Spc. Sergo Dzamashvili for just a few seconds and you’ll see a basic outline emerge fairly quickly. His manners and easy smile, the way he leans forward when he talks, and — not least of all, of course — his affection for Starbucks Doubleshot energy drinks make him the typical — almost archetypal — 30-year-old soldier; busy, eager, and always ready for the next task, the next challenge. But dig a little deeper and you will see, quite clearly, the details that color the world inside that simple sketch. To map the entire terrain, however, you’ll need to travel some 15,000 miles.
“I always wanted to be a soldier,” says Dzamashvili, sitting in the offices of the 21st Signal Brigade on a warm September morning. “When I was a kid that was always something I thought would be cool, being a soldier for the American Army.”
Those words, and indeed his affinity for the Army and America as a whole, are repeated so often and with such calm conviction that he could almost double as a motivational speaker; one specializing, perhaps, in writing simple daily mantras for busy professionals to read on their daily commutes. Instead, Dzamashvili is a board-certified medical doctor who enlisted in the Army just last year, in early 2018. It’s a commitment, he says, that doubles as a gift to the country that gave him opportunities he never would have had in his native Georgia — a tiny, still-emerging country located at the intersection of Western Asia and Eastern Europe.
U.S. Army Spc. Sergo Dzamashvili speaks with a coworker at his desk located in the offices of the 21st Signal Brigade.
(Photo by Mr. Ramin A. Khalili)
“Honestly,” says Dzamashvili, “the reason I wanted to become an American soldier is because America has given my family everything.”
The first 5,000 miles
“When I was born in Georgia,” says Dzamashvili, reaching back to the late 1980s, “it was still part of the U.S.S.R. This was just before the U.S.S.R. split up, and so there was instability and there was upheaval … there was an ongoing fight for power.”
It was that atmosphere of decline that Dzamashvili’s father, Konstantin, sought to flee when he reached out to a friend living in Chicago for help in the early 1990s. Political and cultural strife in the country of — at the time — barely more than four million people had led to the breakdown of living conditions and, in some cases, the basic application of law. And so Konstantin, a neurologist by trade, was hoping America could provide safety for his wife, son, and young twin daughters.
“My father was waiting in breadlines for hours just to feed the family,” says Dzamashvili. “So when he came here, it was for a better life.”
But that opportunity came with a catch. In order to pay for his family’s move to America, Konstantin had to travel to the U.S. alone first in order to save up enough money. He wound up bunking with that same buddy in Chicago for a year —eventually re-starting his medical career at 40-years old — before bringing the rest of the family to Illinois.
Says Dzamashvili of his father, “He was out there for a year, alone, while we were still in Georgia, until he had passed all his boards and started his residency program, which would then fund us coming over here.”
And so at age five, Sergo was finally in the place he wanted to be all along … for a little while, at least.
Return to Georgia
For Sergo, it all started with his grandfather — his father’s father. He was the catalyst, the inception point. He passed away when Konstantin was in his late teens and so Sergo never got a chance to meet him, but he did have pictures — volumes of mementos from Georgia.
“I would always hear stories about his bravery,” says Sergo, “about what kind of man he was. From early on, I was always intrigued — the way he was standing there in his [military] uniform with all these medals.”
Those pictures, coupled with Sergo’s newfound affinity for the United States, stuck with him during his formative years and carried through to his entrance into medical school — which he ultimately chose to attend at David Tvildiani Medical University back in Georgia.
U.S. Army Spc. Sergo Dzamashvili (foreground, right) conducts Army Warrior Tasks (AWT) drills during the 21st Signal Brigade Best Warrior Competition 2019.
(US Army photo by Sgt. Raul Pacheco)
The decision to both leave home (to leave again, in a manner of speaking) and reconnect with family roots was daunting to say the least, as Georgia had been rife with the same political instability from Dzamashvili’s youth up until pro-democratic forces rose to power in the mid-2000s. The tiny, burgeoning country was still — much like Sergo at the time — moving through its adolescent years.
There was contrasting comfort, however, in the medical training itself. Turns out Dzamashvili’s chosen university not only came highly recommended from family friends practicing medicine in Chicago, it was designed specifically to cater to regional students who wanted to ultimately enter U.S.-based medical professions. To that end, all university textbooks were written in English and, further, the overall cost of schooling was substantially less than a U.S.-based medical education — all perks unavailable to his father just a decade-or-so earlier. Ironically, Georgia would eventually, in 2014, become home to the U.S. Army Medical Research Directorate-Georgia, a subordinate command of the USAMRDC’s Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.
“Going back to Georgia really brought me that perspective,” says Dzamashvili. “There was a long time where my family wouldn’t go back, even though we had a chance to go back in the 90s.”
Just twelve years after touching down in America’s Heartland — and just a few years after becoming an American citizen — Sergo was back on a plane at age 17 for a new and different journey.
Homecoming, part II
When you ask him how Georgians speak — ask about the language they use, the way they talk, the casual slang terms they use, even — Dzamashvili is quick to make it clear that Georgia is a singular and unique entity; a hard-fought identity that he clearly still respects.
“Georgians have their own language,” he says quickly, almost as a sly-but-gentle rebuke to those who think the country may still be hindered by its turbulent past in any way. “They have their own alphabet, everything — and so I had to re-learn how to read and write, essentially, when I went back for school.”
Dzamashvili’s university stay would last for six years until his graduation in 2013; at which point he’d not only navigated the rigors of initial medical training, but had reached a poignant understanding of the country of his birth (“people there are very hospitable,” he says), gained a greater understanding of the government’s democratic efforts (“I see hope,” he says), and, with regards to cultural differences, had also determined that Georgia had substantial culinary shortcomings as compared to the U.S. (“I did miss burritos over there,” he says).
U.S. Army Spc. Sergo Dzamashvili assigned to HHC, 21st Signal Brigade, conducts M9 weapons qualification as part of the 21st Signal Brigade Best Warrior Competition 2019.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Raul Pacheco)
Touching back down in Illinois, Dzamashvili eventually passed his medical board examinations, shadowed professional doctors, and even performed clinical research at Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital. But when it came time for residency training, instead of waiting a year to attend either Loyola University of Chicago or the University of Illinois at Chicago, he opted for a different path: the U.S. Army.
“Screw waiting,” says Dzamashvili of his mindset at the time. “I’m going to join the Army. I was always told the fastest way to get into the Army was to just go and enlist anyways, so that didn’t bother me to go enlist for a couple of years as long as I got into the medical field.”
Desire, meet destiny
Now, after thirty years and medical training efforts on two different continents, Sergo Dzamashvili is both a medical doctor and a member of the U.S. Army; his first assignment is here at Fort Detrick. His unique qualifications have bred an understandable eagerness to move forward — a chomping at the bit, of sorts — as, indeed, he’s already started the process of entering the Army’s medical occupation; taking the steps required to become a physician. But if you think the man who’s waited nearly three decades to realize his dream is put off by a little time in the waiting room, then you don’t know Sergo.
“My ultimate goal is to practice medicine in the Army,” says Dzamashvili. “That’s what I want, to give back. I’d like to serve for at least eight years, to give back that entire time in service.”
Just how long it will take to reach that goal is yet to be seen, though it should come as no surprise that Dzamashvili has already attempted to plot the arc of his military medical career even before his training has been completed. Even now, serving as a Human Resources Specialist in the S-1 Office until his next assignment, he finds in each day’s shift what so many others would gladly welcome into their own lives: a sense of purpose, the feeling of belonging, and the satisfaction of a job that truly has meaning.
In the end — if these kinds of stories can have an end — the service career of Sergo Dzamashvili is, in reality, just beginning. It would be an exaggeration, perhaps, to say that Dzamashvili has already lived multiple lives; though it wouldn’t be such a stretch to say that’s the truth, either. In any capacity, his life’s work as currently constructed already stands as an impressive feat; a soldier coupling the desire to serve America with the talent required to make a lasting impact.
Not too bad for a typical 30-year-old.
Says Dzamashvili, “If there’s nothing else I do in my life, I can always say I was a soldier. That’s the way I look at it. If there’s nothing else that I accomplish, I will always know that I served my country.”
Three Silver Stars were earned during a hard fight in Afghanistan last year. Two Army Special Forces soldiers and one Air Force Pararescueman received the nation’s third-highest award for extreme valor while under fire in Afghanistan.
The 7th Special Forces Group team fought against what Army officials described as an elite Taliban unit, which they encountered by accident in a small Afghan village. During the ensuing eight-hour engagement, the American team lost its contact with its supporting element, which operated the vehicles, and had to walk for almost a mile while under constant enemy fire before reaching relative safety. The three commandos who received the Silver Stars were pivotal in saving the lives of their teammates during the firefight.
The three Silver Stars weren’t the only medals awarded. Troops from the 7th SFG’s 1st Battalion also received six Bronze Stars for Valor, three Army Commendation Medals with Valor devices, and four Purple Hearts. The Battalion itself received the Meritorious Unit Citation for its contribution in the fight against the Taliban during that six-month deployment (July 2019-January 2020).
Command Sergeant Major Brock Buddies, the senior enlisted leader of 1st Battalion, said that “the event is humbling. Every year we remember the men and women of this formation, their legacy and acts of heroism.”
Lt. Gen. Francis Beaudette, commander of U.S. Army Special Operations Command, pins a medal on an unnamed member of 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), during a memorial and awards ceremony at 7th Group’s compound on Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., on Friday, Aug. 21, 2020. (US Army).
Congress established the Silver Star in the closing months of the First World War.
Don’t be surprised that and Air Force Pararescueman was on an Army Special Forces team. After Pararescuemen finish their selection and training pipeline – a more than two-years affair – they get assigned to either a Guardian Angel or Special Tactics/Warfare squadron. Guardian Angel squadrons primarily focus on combat search and rescue (CSAR) and personnel recovery (PR). Indeed, PJs are the only unit in the Department of Defense to be specifically trained and equipped for those mission sets. On the other hand, Pararescuemen who get assigned to a Special Tactics/Warfare squadron are often individually attached to other Special Operations units. PJs, being world-class combat medics, often fill out or complement the combat medic spot on Navy SEAL platoon, Ranger platoon, or, as in the case of this action, a Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA).
A Special Forces ODA getting ready to go outside the wire in Afghanistan (US Army).
The past year had been quite tough on the 7th SFG. In February, an ODA from the 7th SFG was ambushed, suffering two killed in action and several wounded. The action took place a few weeks before the signing of the peace treaty with the Taliban.
Lieutenant General Francis Beaudette, the commanding officer of the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) presented the awards.
“The actions of the warriors we are recognizing today speak volumes about them as individuals,” he said during the ceremony. “They also clearly reflect the families and communities that shaped these men,” he was quoted saying during the closed event. “Even if they cannot be here physically — thank you for what your families do to support you every day.”
The 7th SFG operates mainly in Central and South America. Green Berets assigned to the “Red Legion,” the nickname of the unit, become experts in the cultures and countries of their area of operations. This is key to mission success since Special Forces soldiers work with and through their partner forces.
Each Special Forces group, there are seven, is focused on a region. 1st SFG is responsible for East Asia; 3rd SFG is focused mainly on Africa; 5th SFG on the Middle East, Horn of Africa, and Central Asia; 7th SFG is dedicated on Latin America; 10th SFG is concentrated primarily on Europe; and the 19th SFG and 20th SFG, which are National Guard units, complement their active-duty counterparts around the world.
Despite the fan base not being filled to the brim with lovers of the game, Halo: Reach remains in the hearts of many of us gamers who dumped a considerable amount of time into the game itself. One thing that might stand out, especially for those of us in the veteran community, is how the game itself depicts war.
Halo: Reach was released nearly a decade this upcoming September, and this campaign still gets a lot of us excited. It had some good characters, each with unique qualities, and the story was amazing. The gameplay is another story, but what we’re focusing on here is the biggest thing that stood out: this game is about war.
Here’s why Halo: Reach was one of the best:
You were also, for the first time, surrounded by other Spartans.
Nerfed Spartan strength
Throughout the original Halo trilogy, you fight as Master Chief, the only Spartan in sight, which makes you an absolute force of nature on the battlefield. You’re essentially unstoppable, with your only purpose being to bring judgment down upon the Covenant that stands before you.
Reach took that and essentially made you just slightly weaker, but it was noticeable. Stronger than the average UNSC Marine but just on the same level as the best the Covenant has to offer. This made you feel more like you couldn’t just steamroll into battles, bringing death on a silver platter to the Covenant.
There are plenty of shots in the game that show the planet’s destruction.
Depicted a losing fight
Most of us who knew the lore of Reach before the game’s release knew it was a doomed mission. You were fighting a losing battle because the Covenant hits the planet’s under-manned military defenses with an all-out attack force with the intent to reap every last soul upon its surface. That didn’t stop you, though.
It really showed the tenacity that troops bring to the battlefield. Knowing you could lose doesn’t matter, you’ll fight to the death anyway and make the enemy work for every life they have to take – and suffer the consequences of taking it to begin with.
Prime example: Jorge.
Showed the tremendous sacrifices that were made
One thing that the original trilogy doesn’t take much time to do is to show the sacrifices of individual soldiers. Reach absolutely does that. With Noble Team, you see each of the team members die in some way or another, a couple of them choosing to die so that others may live.
Seeing mega cities like this getting torn apart was devastating.
Reach takes a lot of time to show us how destructive the Covenant is and the devastation of that destruction in context with what they do to the planet. Most of the other games you don’t get that sense, with Halo 3 being the obvious exception since part of it takes place on Earth.
But what we got in Reach was an entire game of trying to save a planet only to fail.
The Navy’s first newly built Ship-to-Shore Connector maritime warfare craft launched on the water in early 2018, paving the way for stepped up production and introducing a new era in modern amphibious warfare for the Marines.
Naval Sea Systems Command recently awarded a deal to Ship-to-Shore connector-maker Textron to acquire long-lead early procurement materials for the new fleet of watercraft. The new SSC mobile amphibious connectors are able to transport larger armored vehicles, such as an Abrams tank, from amphibious assault ships to combat ashore.
The new SSCs are designed to replace the existing fleet of Landing Craft Air Cushions (LCAC) able to move Marines, weapons and supplies from ship to shore for amphibious operations. The connectors will integrate emerging computer technology able to reduce the needed crew size and perform more functions independently.
The upgraded amphibious ship-to-shore craft includes lighter weight composite materials, Increased payload capacity, modernized engines, and computer automated flight controls, Textron Systems Vice President of Marine Systems Scott Allen told Warrior Maven in an interview in early 2018.
The SSC’s new Rolls Royce engines will have more horsepower and specialized aluminum to help prevent corrosion. The lighter weight be enable a better lift capacity, allowing the craft to transport up to 74-tons — enough to transport heavy armored vehicles from ship to shore for an amphibious assault, Allen said.
Textron Ship-to-Shore Connector.
The Navy’s 72 existing LCACs, in service since the 80s, can only transport up to 60-tons, reach speeds of 36-knots and travel ranges up to 200 nautical miles from amphibious vehicles, Navy officials explained.
Textron engineers also say the SSC is built with digital flight controls and computer automation to replace the traditional yoke and pedals used by current connectors. As a result, on-board computers will quickly calculate relevant details such as wind speed and navigational information, they explained.
The new SSC’s have also moved to a lower frequency for ship electronics, moving from 400 Hertz down to 60 Hertz in order to better synchronize ship systems with Navy common standards, Textron developers explained. Along with these properties, the new craft reduces the number of gear boxes from eight to two.
With some of the existing fleet of LCACs approaching 30-years of service, the Navy needs to begin replacing them with new ones, service officials have told Warrior Maven.
The new Rolls Royce engine is the same one currently used in an MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, Textron developers said. The new SSCs also increases the strength of the deck and improve the propellers when compared with existing LCACs.
An amphibious assault vehicle assigned to 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, embarks the well deck of the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20).
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chris Williamson)
LCACs can access over 70-percent of the shoreline across the world, something the new SSCs will be able to do as well, service officials said.
Designed with over-the-horizon high-speed and maneuverability, LCACs are able to travel long distances and land on rocky terrain — even driving right up onto the shore.
In order to bridge the gap from existing LCACs to the new SSCs, the Navy implemented a special service life extension program for the LCACs — many of which are now approaching three decades of service.
The LCACs were re-engined with new engines, given new rotating machinery, new command and control systems, new skirts and fixes to corrosion issues. The effort is designed to put another 10 years of life back into the LCAC, Navy officials described.
The idea with the service life extension is to bridge the time-lapse or gap until the new SSCs are ready to enter the force in larger numbers, senior Navy officials explained.
Some of the enhancements being engineered into the SSCs are designed to address the changing threat landscape in a modern environment, a scenario that is expected to change how amphibious operations will be conducted in the future.
Since potential adversaries now have longer-range weapons, better sensors and targeting technologies and computers with faster processing speeds, amphibious forces approaching the shore may need to disperse in order to make it harder for enemy forces to target them. This phenomenon, wherein potential adversaries have advanced weaponry designed to make it harder for U.S. forces to operate in certain areas such as closer to the shore, is described by Pentagon analysts as “anti-access/area-denial.”
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
Heading to supply — also known as Central Issue Facility — is one of the worst experiences troops go through during their career.
The experience is like a bad a roller coaster ride of emotions all while getting treated like sh*t. Since most service members can’t do their jobs without the proper gear supporting their mission, they must go to supply to get those necessary materials.
There are countless stories out there about the hell many of us have gone through during a visit to supply.
Check out our list of why troops hate going to supply.
1. Dealing with grumpy civilians
For the most part, heading to Central Issue Facility means you’re going to encounter a few civilians who may not be in the best of moods when you walk up to their counter. We’re not sure if they’re instructed to be d*cks or not, but it’s nearly impossible to put a smile on any one of their faces.
2. Long a** lines
Typically, from the moment you walked into the supply building, tensions are high. It’s not your fault. It’s just the way the military prefers it. Although you may have an appointment and you’re there on time — you can’t cut in front of anybody if there’s a long line (that’s not cool).
The long line might not be the civilian employee’s fault — for once. It could be because of a few new troops who are just freaking slow and holding everybody up.
Excuse me. Excuse me. Excuse me. (Image via Giphy)
3. Getting used crap
Canteens and warming layers are just some of the items you’re going to be issued that someone else either drank from or wore — probably naked.
Enjoy. (Image via Giphy)
4. Out of pocket costs
In some cases, troops have to pay out-of-pocket costs to replace broken gear. CIF doesn’t care where or how the item was broken, they just want it back so they can re-issue it to someone else. You may have to pay for the item or locate a replacement.
Damn. (Image via Giphy)
5. Neither rank nor reputation matters here
Things commonly go wrong at supply for various reasons. Having a high rank on your collar or telling the supply worker a story of why an item isn’t up to standard won’t get you anywhere.
That’s why the majority of all CIF workers are civilians. Military rank has virtually no power once you enter the building.
It’s because they don’t care. (Image via Giphy)
All you want to do is check in your gear so you can move on with your life, but you need supply’s signature to do so.
But guess what?
You have a small dirty spot on your canteen pouch, and they won’t let you complete your check-in until you clean it. Which means, no civilian life for you until they get everything back.
No one wants to see this. (Image via Giphy)Can you think of any others? Comment below.
Notorious former Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has held talks with government representatives in eastern Afghanistan after years outside the country, his first public meetings with officials from the Western-backed government since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.
The meetings on April 28 came after Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e Islami militant group signed a peace agreement with President Ashraf Ghani’s government in September. Under the deal, he was granted amnesty for past offenses in exchange for ending his violent 15-year insurgency against the government.
The controversial peace deal has been criticized by many Afghans and by Western rights groups, which accuse Hekmatyar’s forces of gross human rights violations during Afghanistan’s civil war in the 1990s and cite their deadly attacks on U.S. and Afghan forces since 2001.
The war in Afghanistan began in 2001 with the aim of removing the Taliban from power. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dexter S. Saulisbury/Released)
Hekmatyar met on April 28 with Laghman Province Governor Abdul Jabar Naimi and Ghani’s security adviser, Juma Khan Hamdard.
He arrived two days earlier in the province, which lies between Kabul and the border with Pakistan, where he is believed to have been in hiding.
Naimi said Hekmatyar had “promised full cooperation” with the government and added that he hoped the peace deal would “revive hopes for enduring peace in Afghanistan,” according to a statement.
Hekmatyar had been expected to make a public appearance in Laghman on April 28, marked in Afghanistan as the 25th anniversary of the defeat in 1992 of the formerly Soviet-backed government by armed insurgents known as the mujahedin.
But the event was canceled without explanation.
A Hezb-e Islami spokesman told RFE/RL that Hekmatyar’s appearance had been rescheduled for April 29.
Hekmatyar’s supporters have erected large billboards across Kabul in anticipation of his first public appearance.
Hekmatyar founded Hezb-e Islami in the mid-1970s. The group became one of the main mujahedin factions fighting against Soviet forces following their invasion in 1979, and then one of the most prominent groups in the bloody civil war for control of Kabul after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989.
Hekmatyar, a former prime minister under the mujahedin government, was one of the chief protagonists of the internecine 1992-96 war. Rights groups accuse Hekmatyar of responsibility for the shelling of residential areas of Kabul in the 1990s, as well as forced disappearances and covert jails where torture was commonplace.
He was designated as a terrorist by the U.S. State Department in 2003.
Under the peace agreement, Hekmatyar will be granted amnesty for past offenses and certain Hezb-e Islami prisoners will be released by the government. The deal also includes provisions for his security at government expense.
In February, the UN Security Council lifted sanctions on Hekmatyar, paving his way to return to Afghanistan.
The controversial peace deal was a breakthrough for Ghani, who so far has had little to show for his efforts at ending the country’s 16-year war.
While the military wing of the Hezb-e Islami led by Hekmatyar has been a largely dormant force in recent years and has little political relevance in Afghanistan, the deal with the government could be a template for any future deal with fundamentalist Taliban militants who have also fought Kabul’s authority.