The Coast Guard disrupted this year's 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust

The only constant in the military world is chaos. No two weeks are alike, and you’ve got to roll with the punches — but that doesn’t mean you need to roll blindly. Each week, we put together a collection of the most interesting stories to come from the military world, and we put them here for your learning pleasure.

Here’s what you missed while you were busy watching all of your civilian friends 4/20 Instagram stories.


The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust

Crew-members with the interdicted drugs at Port Everglades, FA

(US Coast Guard photo by Brandon Murray)

The coast guard unloads .5 million dollars worth of drugs

The U.S. Coast Guard unloaded literal tons of cocaine and marijuana at Florida’s Port Everglades. The haul has a whopping .5 million dollar estimated street value (also known as “the weekly budget for Charlie Sheen”). The drugs were seized in international waters somewhere in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. The haul includes seven tons of marijuana and 1.83 tons of cocaine.

Officials say the operation involved two Coast Guard cutters and a Navy ship off the coasts of Mexico and Central and South America.

The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust

The Pentagon is investing in space robots to repair satellites

The U.S. has more than 400 satellites orbiting the earth at any given time. They have commercial, military, and government uses—but when something goes wrong, they have no use at all, and fixing them can be insanely difficult.

However, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) believe space robots could be a viable long-term solution for repairing the ever-growing number of satellites. The program is scheduled to last roughly five years.

The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust

Washington Nationals execs team up with military personnel

Jessica Cicchetto/U.S. Air Force

MLB executives and USAF personnel swap leadership tips and experiences

Higher-ups from the Washington Nationals and Air Force personnel met up for the 2nd annual “Nats on Base” conference to discuss leadership similarities between the two organizations. The gathering was during the “2019 Air Force District of Washington’s Squadron Command and Spouse Orientation Course.”

During the panel, 40 new commanders and their spouses focused on leadership methods with representatives from the Washington Nationals and Washington Redskins.

No word on whether or not USAF leadership learned how to lose the most prolific baseball talent to the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust

The current one-piece flight suit

(U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Dallas Edwards)

Air Force toying with the idea of two-piece flight suits for all pilots and aircrew

The USAF seems to change uniforms more than any other branch. Much like a sorority girl before a night out — they are now deciding between going with the tried-and-true one piece or an exciting, new two-piece. Only these are made to withstand more than a spilled vodka cranberry.

The benefits of the two-piece flight suit are, supposedly, ease of bathroom use and “improved overall comfort.” So far, initial feedback has been positive. The Army is also considering more distant plans of adopting a two-piece suit.

The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust

photo by Senior Airman Ian Dudley/ USAF

Cost of new ICBMs are rising: why the Air Force isn’t concerned

Next generation intercontinental ballistic missiles are expected to rise in price soon, but the Air Force is unconcerned about this short term price hop. Gen. Timothy Ray expects the total estimated cost to drop after the Air Force makes a decision on which competitor—Boeing or Northrop Grumman—will be able to offer the best price.

Ray continued on to state, “Between the acquisition and the deal that we have from a competitive environment, from our ability to drive sustainment, the value proposition that I’m looking at is a two-thirds reduction in the number of times we have to go and open the site.”

The Ground Based Strategic Deterrent Program will reuse much of the infrastructure where the missiles are housed, as well as invest in those facilities—effectively giving the Air Force the ability to maintain new missiles easily and less expensively over time. “Our estimates are in the billions of savings over the lifespan of the weapon, based on the insights,” Ray said.

The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust

Defense News

Army scraps plans to demo next-gen unmanned aircraft

The Army’s plans to demonstrate the capabilities and designs for a next-generation unmanned aircraft have been abandoned. The decision was made in favor of two future manned helicopter procurement programs, according to the head of the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Aviation and Missile Center’s Aviation Development Directorate.

With current plans to build a future attack reconnaissance aircraft and a future long-range assault aircraft, Layne Merritt told Defense News, “another major acquisition is probably too much for the Army at one time.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers

The Air Force’s protracted pilot shortage has garnered considerable attention.


Air Force officials said this spring that the force was 1,555 pilots short — about 1,000 of them fighter pilots. But the shortage of pilots continued to grow during the 2017 fiscal year, which ended in September.

At that point, it had expanded to 2,000 total force pilots — active duty, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve. That includes nearly 1,300 fighter pilots, and the greatest negative trends over the past two fiscal years have been among bomber and mobility pilots, Air Force spokeswoman Erika Yepsen told Business Insider.

Read More: This is why the Air Force pilot shortage is only getting worse

But fliers aren’t the only ones absent in significant numbers

According to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, the lack of maintainers to keep planes flying has also become a hindrance on the service’s operations.

“When I started flying airplanes as a young F-16 pilot, I would meet my crew chief … and a secondary crew chief at the plane,” said Goldfein, who received his commission from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1983, in a briefing in early November, adding:

We’d walk around the airplane. I’d taxi out. I’d meet a crew that was in the runway, and they’d pull the pins and arm the weapons and give me a last-chance check. I’d take off. I’d fly to a destination [where] different crew would meet me. Here’s what often happens today: You taxi slow, because the same single crew chief that you met has to get in the van and drive to the end of the runway to pull the pins and arm the weapons. And then you sit on the runway before you take off and you wait, because that crew chief has to go jump on a C-17 with his tools to fly ahead to meet you at the other end. This is the level of numbers that we’re dealing with here.

The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust
U.S. Air Force Senior Airmen Krystalane Laird (front) and Helena Palazio, weapons loaders with the 169th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, download munitions from an F-16 fighter jet that was just landed after a month-long deployment to Łask Air Base, Poland. (South Carolina Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson)

‘The tension on the force right now is significant’

The pilot and maintainer shortages are part of what Air Force officials have called a “national air-crew crisis” that has been stoked by nearly 30 years of ongoing operations, hiring by commercial airlines, as well as quality-of-life and cultural issues within the force that drive airmen away. In recent years, pressure from budget sequestration has also had a impact on Air Force personnel training and retention.

The maintainer shortage has been a problem for some time. In 2013, the total shortage was 2,538. But the force’s drawdown in 2014 — during which the Air Force shed more than 19,800 airmen — added to the deficit. Between 2013 and 2015, the shortage of maintainers grew by 1,217, according to Air Force Times.

By the end of fiscal year 2015, the service was short some 4,000 maintainers, Yepsen told Business Insider.

The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust
Blue Angels pilots greet Thunderbirds maintainers.

The shortage of maintainers created hardship for the ones who have remained.

The commander of the 52nd Maintenance Group at Spangdahlem Air Force Base in Germany told Air Force Magazine in late 2016 that workdays had stretched to 13 or 14 hours, with possible weekend duty meaning air crews could work up to 12 days straight. In the wake of the 2014 drawdown, maintainers at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina saw their workdays extend to 12 hours or more, with weekend duties at least twice a month.

“There comes a point where people stop and say it isn’t worth it anymore,” Staff Sgt. Stephen Lamb, an avionics craftsman from the 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Shaw, told Air Force Times in March. “I’ve seen, in the past few years, a lot of good friends walk out the door.”

As with pilots, the Air Force has made a concerted effort to improve its maintainer situation. In 2016, the force quadrupled the number of jobs eligible for initial enlistment bonuses — among them 10 aircraft maintenance and avionics career fields.

The Air Force has also offered senior crew chiefs and avionics airmen perks, such as reenlistment bonuses and high-year tenure extensions. At the end of 2016, 43 Air Force specialty codes, many of them flight-line maintainers, were being offered bonuses averaging $50,000 to remain in uniform for four to six more years.

The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust
Air Force Airman 1st Class Nathan Kosters, a crew chief with the 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, prepares to launch an F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter during Red Flag 17-1 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Feb. 7, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for manpower and personnel services, said earlier this year that the service closed 2016 with a shortage of 3,400 maintainers, warning that the ongoing shortage held back personnel development.

“Because of this shortage, we cannot generate the sorties needed to fully train our aircrews,” Grosso told the House Armed Services’ personnel subcommittee at the end of March.

According to Yepsen, the Air Force spokeswoman, that shortage has continued to decline, falling to 400 personnel at the end of fiscal year 2017. Several Air Force officials have said they hope to eliminate the maintainer shortage entirely by 2019.

But the health of the Air Force maintainer force won’t be solved by simply restoring its ranks. The complex aircraft the Air Force operates — not to mention the high operational tempo it looks set to continue for some time — require maintainers with extensive training. Air Force units can only absorb and train so many recruits at one time.

Read Now: If you’re a retired military pilot, the Air Force wants you back

“We have to have time to develop the force to ensure that we have experienced maintainers to support our complex weapons systems,” then-Col. Patrick Kumashiro, chief of the Air Force staff’s maintenance division, told Air Force Magazine in late 2016. “We cannot solve it in one year.”

Heftier bonuses for senior air-crew members are also a means to keep experienced maintainers on hand for upkeep of legacy aircraft and to train new maintainers, with the addition of those new maintainers allowing experienced crew members to shift their focus to new platforms, like the F-35 fighter and the KC-46 tanker.

“While our manning numbers have improved, it will take 5-7 years to get them seasoned and experienced,” Yepsen told Business Insider. “We are continuously evaluating opportunities to improve our readiness as quickly and effectively as possible.”

“We’re making the mission happen, but we’re having to do it very often on the backs of our airmen,” Goldfein said during the November 9 briefing. “The tension on the force right now is significant, and so we’re looking for all these different ways to not only retain those that we’ve invested in, but increase production so we can provide some reduction in the tension on the force.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Soldier convert to become highest-ever Muslim chaplain

Shortly after converting to Islam, then-Sgt. Khallid Shabazz struggled to find his way while his devout Lutheran family and fellow soldiers questioned his move.

And with a few Article 15s for insubordination on his record, Shabazz, a field artilleryman at the time, wanted out of the military.

Then, one day while training out in the field, an Army chaplain approached him and struck up a conversation.


“Honestly, it was like a revelation from God,” Shabazz said. “When it hit my ears, I knew that was what I was going to do in life. It was incredible.”

The Christian chaplain had told Shabazz, who was a teacher before he joined the Army, that he should consider being a Muslim chaplain. That way, the chaplain said, he could help other Muslim soldiers in need of guidance.

Shabazz later became a chaplain, and proudly wore his uniform with the Islamic crescent moon stitched onto it. The career change was a catalyst for him, as he went on to achieve several other goals.

The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust

Lt. Col. Khallid Shabazz, the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command’s chaplain, delivers a sermon during a Jummah prayer service, which is held on Fridays, at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, Sept. 21, 2018.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Claudio R. Tejada)

Currently a lieutenant colonel, Shabazz holds two doctorate degrees on top of four master’s degrees. He has written three books and teaches online courses at four colleges. This fall, he plans to teach at a fifth one, the University of Hawaii.

He recently was chosen to study at the National War College, a rare feat for chaplains — only three of them are accepted each year.

And in 2017, Shabazz became the U.S. military’s first Muslim division-level chaplain, a position he held with the 7th Infantry Division.

Now the lead chaplain of the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command here, he plans to surpass yet another milestone. That’s when he is slated to be promoted to colonel, which will be the highest rank ever attained by a Muslim chaplain.

“It’s phenomenal first, but it’s unbelievable second,” Shabazz said of his pending promotion.

Becoming Muslim

Born as Michael Barnes, Shabazz grew up in a large Lutheran family in Alexandria, Louisiana.

Once a faithful Lutheran himself, Shabazz often attended church and even graduated from a Christian college.

His religious views changed in the Army when he decided to debate a Muslim soldier on the merits of both religions. He admits he was ill-prepared for the debate and had misinformation about what Muslim people actually believed in.

The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust

Lt. Col. Khallid Shabazz, the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command’s chaplain, delivers a sermon during a Jummah prayer service.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Claudio R. Tejada)

Afterward, he became curious about Islam and began to study the Quran.

“I didn’t want to convert; I was happy where I was,” he said. “I’m a very inquisitive person. If I don’t know something, I’m going to get to know it.”

While Shabazz found more peace and solace by switching faiths, which included the Islamic custom of changing his name, many people in his life stopped talking to him.

His commander at the time, Shabazz said, even asked why he sided with the enemy.

“I was so hurt by those statements,” he said.

He eventually came to realize it was a lack of understanding some people had with Islam, which he was also guilty of until he studied it.

Islam is sometimes distorted by extremist groups, he said, similar to how other religions can be twisted to incite violent acts.

“Whether it’s the Bible, Quran, or the Torah, I want people to understand that religion really has nothing to do with violence,” he said. “99.9 percent of the people in religion are good people.”

Problem solver

As a whole, he said, the Army has improved its inclusiveness of Islamic culture. Religious accommodations allow Muslim soldiers to worship on Fridays and now give female soldiers the option to wear a hijab and males to have a beard.

He also educates leaders and soldiers about Muslim holidays and other traditions.

For those struggling as he once did, he encourages them to pursue knowledge, too. Often, he receives calls from Muslims across the Army asking for help on issues or how to deal with blowback from others in their unit.

“What I ask you to do is, keep doing your job and keep working hard,” he said he tells them. “Go to school at night and stay focused on everything else besides the treatment.

“That’s coming from a person like me who went through that type of turmoil. I was an E-5 and I received some pretty tough treatment back then. I can tell them those stories and I think it helps.”

As a chaplain, he strives to inspire soldiers to be successful, no matter their religious preference. To date, he has helped at least 70 soldiers become officers and many other NCOs gain promotion points by taking college courses.

The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust

Lt. Col. Khallid Shabazz speaks during his Change of Stole ceremony inside the Lewis Main Chapel at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., May 23, 2017.

“I’m like a chaplain life coach,” he said, laughing. “I’m telling them don’t quit.”

While proud of his faith, he does not want to be known only as the Muslim chaplain — he is one of five currently in the Army. Unless a soldier wants to talk about religion, he will leave those types of discussions at the door.

“I meet soldiers where they’re at. I attack problems,” he said. “My job is not to be your spiritual advisor, your religious guru. I want to help soldiers with school, with their family, their marital problems, and be almost like an arbitrator or a mediator.”

Life changer

Years before, he had to overcome many of his own issues.

In high school, he failed the 9th and 12th grades. He was not able to graduate with his class and had to go to summer school. His destructive behavior continued throughout his first stint of college, he said.

When he was later able to get a job as a teacher, he made just under ,000 per year.

So, he decided to join the Army as a 23-year-old private to take care of his wife and children.

He also sought discipline and stability, which the Army could provide. As he initially thought it was a good idea to sign up, he admits it was a difficult change.

“I found myself getting into a lot of trouble. Having a 19-year-old sergeant cussing at you and telling you what to do didn’t go over very well with me,” he said, laughing.

Then that chaplain decided to stop and take the time to chat with Shabazz, who had just turned Muslim but still wrestled with his identity.

“I was at my lowest level and the chaplain came by and gave me what I needed at that point,” he said. “I wanted to dedicate my life, and I have, to helping people who are in that position. Not by converting them, but by being a person who can put their arm around them and try to help them get to the other side.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 Army jobs that civilians get all wrong

Civilians sometimes try to understand the military, but between media depictions, the stories of bygone eras, and common misconceptions, there are a lot of jobs within the service that the public just doesn’t understand at all.

Here’s a list of just six jobs from the Army that civilians don’t understand:


The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust

This guy has to be able to provide emergency first aid under fire, read a battlefield to exploit enemy missteps, and call in helicopters and supporting fire when necessary, all while dodging bullets and attempting to outmaneuver an enemy who likely grew up in the fields he’s fighting in.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kenneth Pawlak)

Infantry

It’s easy to understand the infantry stereotypes of dumb grunts. In the old draft Army, lots of guys were shucked into the infantry and other combat arms branches to simply fill uniforms and foxholes. If they were dumb — oh well, their draft would end soon anyway.

Modern infantry is very different. While grunts today have a well-earned reputation for being occasionally immature and often crude, they also have a well-earned reputation for precision and tactical and strategic foresight.

Today, we expect 19- and 20-year-old specialists and corporals to lead small teams, positioning themselves and two other soldiers in the exact right position to have the maximum impact, sometimes without guidance from squad and platoon sergeants too busy with other tasks. It’s the age of the “strategic corporal,” and we simply can’t afford dumb grunts.

The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust

Soldiers bow their head in prayer during a Memorial Day Ceremony while deployed to Afghanistan.

(U.S. Army photo by Maj. Richard Barker)

Chaplain’s assistant

People imagine the nerdiest kid from their Bible study class — and those kids do join as chaplain’s assistants sometimes — but the mission they’re required to do is less, “badly sing songs on guitar” and more “kill any threats to the chaplain while providing religious support to members of your faith, as well as Christians, Jews, Wiccans, Pagans, and members of any other faith who happen to be in your unit.”

See, chaplains and their assistants are tasked with tending to the spiritual needs of all members of the unit, even the atheists. The chaplain can only fire a weapon in a purely defensive way — and that very, very rarely happens. So that means the assistant, who also helps everyone, has to eliminate any threats to the chaplain when they’re working near the front.

Meanwhile, the chaplains and their assistants also provide counseling services to soldiers with various issues, from marital infidelity to survivor’s guilt to suicidal thoughts or actions.

The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust

That’s an Army tug, one of the service’s smaller watercraft. Larger vessels are big enough to carry multiple tanks and trucks at once.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Thomas Belton)

Watercraft operator

Most people assume that the Army has no ships or boats and, if they do, it must just be a couple of jet skis or landing crafts for hitting beaches. Well, the Army doesn’t have any ships, but they do have quite a few boats that are key logistical assets, moving massive amounts of much-needed supplies between ports and beaches. The vessels are both larger than people think and more capable than they appear.

Some of the vessels can carry everything from humvees to tanks. The larger vehicles can carry trucks, armor, and literal tons of ammunition, weapons, or food. The Army also has tugs and dredges to keep rivers and ports open. Some of the ships can cross the ocean, but typically operate near the shore or on rivers. And yes, watercraft operators deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, where they provided a key logistical service on rivers and canals.

The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust

These are military police. That is not a radar gun.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jameson Crabtree)

Military police

Yes, military police break up bar brawls and issue speeding tickets like you see in the movies. But many of them are also trained in maneuver warfare and have that as their primary role, meaning that they’re much more focused on defending American convoys from determined Taliban attacks — complete with machine guns, rockets, and IEDs — than whether you’re driving 22 in a 20-mph zone.

They’re equipped and trained for the maneuver mission with Mk. 19 automatic grenade launchers, M2 .50-cal. machine guns, and AT-4 anti-tank recoilless-rifles. The military police branch also includes investigators who serve as true detectives on base, solving crimes from petty theft to sexual assault to murder.

The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust

Truck drivers load ammo during an exercise.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Joshua Boisvert)

Truck driver

Like infantry, these guys have a reputation for being dumb. Worse, they’re also assumed to be “in the rear with the gear.” But there’s an old strategy that states tactics win battles and logistics wins wars — and smart enemies know to attack the supply chains.

There’s a reason that so many images from Iraq and Afghanistan are of burning trucks. The insurgents were smart enough to target the fuel trucks and supply convoys to starve out remote outposts, putting the truck drivers in the crosshairs. Meanwhile, training the drivers takes a long time since most of them have to learn to drive everything from humvees to armored semi-trucks with loads ranging from two tons to over five.

The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust

An Iraqi-American soldier refuels vehicles during a drivers training class.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jessica DuVernay)

Fuelers

Notice that mention of fuel trucks above? Yeah, Army petroleum supply specialist may sound like a glorified gas attendant, but these guys have to build and maintain fuel points across the battlefield, sometimes within range of enemy artillery or mortars.

Imagine a gas attendant who’s willing to stay at their post as enemy shells are blowing up the huge bags of fuel surrounding them, trying desperately to get a final few, crucial gallons of fuel into the helicopter before it takes off the beat back the attack.

It’s more intense than you think.

popular

7 undeniable signs you’re a super POG

Look, not everyone can be a hardcore, red-blooded meat eater. Someone has to man the phones at the big bases and that’s just the job for you. You’re a vital part of the American war machine, and you should be proud of yourself.


But there are some things you’re doing that open you up to a bit of ridicule. Sure, not everyone is going to be a combat arms bubba, embracing the suck and praying they’ll get stomped on by the Army just one more time today. But some of us POGs are taking our personal comfort a little too far and failing to to properly embrace the Army lifestyle.

Here are seven signs that you’re not only a POG but a super POG:

1. You’re more likely to bring your “luggage” than a duffel bag and rucksack

 

The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust
(via NavyMemes.com)

There are some semi-famous photos of this phenomenon that show support soldiers laughing in frustration as they try to roll wheeled bags across the crushed gravel and thick mud of Kandahar and other major bases.

This is a uniquely POG problem, as any infantryman — and most support soldiers worth their salt — know that they’re going to be on unforgiving terrain and that they’ll need their hands free to use their weapon while carrying weight at some point. Both of those factors make rolling bags a ridiculous choice.

2. You actually enjoy collecting command coins

The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust
(Photo: WATM)

Seriously, what is it about these cheap pieces of unit “swag” that makes them so coveted. I mean, sure, back when those coins could get you free drinks, it made some sense. But now? It’s the military version of crappy tourist trinkets.

Anyone who wants to remember the unit instead of their squad mates was clearly doing the whole “deployment” thing wrong. And challenge coins don’t help you remember your squad; selfies while drunk in the barracks or photos of the whole platoon making stupid faces while pointing their weapons in the air do.

3. You don’t understand why everyone makes such a big deal about MREs (just go to TGI Fridays if you’re tired of them!)

The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust
(via Valhalla Wear)

More than once I’ve heard POGs say that MREs aren’t that bad and you can always go to the DFAC or Green Beans or, according to one POG on Kandahar Air Field, down to TGI Friday’s when you’re tired of MREs. And I’m going to need those people to check their POG privilege.

Look, not every base can get an American restaurant. Not every base has a DFAC. A few bases couldn’t even get regular mermite deliveries. Those soldiers, unfortunately, were restricted to MREs and their big brother, UGRs (Unitized Group Rations), both of which have limited, repetitive menus and are not great for one meal, let alone meals for a year.

So please, send care packages.

4. You think of jet engines as those things that interrupt your sleep

The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust
Afterburners lit while an F-22 of the 95th Fighter Squadron takes off. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

I know, it’s super annoying when you’re settling into a warm bed on one of the airfields and, just as you drift off, an ear-splitting roar announces that a jet is taking off, filling your belly with adrenaline and guaranteeing that you’ll be awake another hour.

But please remember that those jets are headed to help troops in contact who won’t be getting any sleep until their enemies retreat or are rooted out. A fast, low flyover by a loud jet sometimes gets the job done, and a JDAM strike usually does.

So let the jets fly and invest in a white noise machine. The multiple 120-volt outlets in your room aren’t just for show.

5. You’ve broken in more office chairs than combat boots

The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust

Pretty obvious. POGs spend hours per day in office chairs, protecting their boots from any serious work, while infantryman are more likely to be laying out equipment in the motor pool, marching, or conducting field problems, all of which get their boots covered in grease and mud while wearing out the soles and seams.

6. You still handle your rifle like it’s a dead fish or a live snake

The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust
No, POGs, you don’t.

While most troops work with their weapons a few times a year and combat arms soldiers are likely to carry it at least a few times a month on some kind of an exercise, true super POGs MIGHT see their M4 or M16 once a year. And many of them are too lazy to even name it. (I miss you, Rachel.)

Because of this, they still treat their weapon as some sort of foreign object, holding it at arms length like it’s a smelly fish that could get them dirty or a live snake that could bite them. Seriously, go cuddle up to the thing and get used to it. It’ll only kill the things you point it at, and only if you learn to actually use it.

7. You’re offended by the word “POG”

The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust

 

Yes, it’s rude for the mean old infantry to call you names, but come on. All military service is important, and it’s perfectly honorable to be a POG (seriously, I wrote a column all about that), but the infantry is usually calling you a POG to tease you or to pat themselves on the back.

And why shouldn’t they? Yes, all service counts, but the burdens of service aren’t shared evenly. While the combat arms guys are likely to sleep in the dirt many nights and are almost assured that they’ll have to engage in combat at some point, the troops who network satellites will rarely experience a day without air conditioning.

Is it too much to let the grunts lob a cheap insult every once in a while?

Articles

Here’s when vets should NOT buy franchises

The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust


“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.

Articles

The US may have just droned the top 2 al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan

Precision U.S. strikes conducted Oct. 23 targeted two of al-Qaida’s most senior leaders in Afghanistan, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook announced last night.


The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust
(Photo from DoD)

In a statement, Cook said officials are still assessing the results of the strikes, which targeted Faruq al-Qatani and Bilal al-Utabi.

“Their demise would represent a significant blow to the terrorist group’s presence in Afghanistan, which remains committed to facilitating attacks against the United States, our allies and partners,” the press secretary said.

Qatani served as al-Qaida’s emir for northeastern Afghanistan, assigned by the group’s leadership to re-establish safe havens for the terrorist organization, Cook said. “He was a senior planner for attacks against the United States, and has a long history of directing deadly attacks against U.S. forces and our coalition allies,” he added.

Utabi is assessed to have been involved in efforts to re-establish a safe haven in Afghanistan from which to threaten the West, Cook said, and in efforts to recruit and train foreign fighters.

After an extensive period of surveillance, the United States targeted the al-Qaida leaders at what was assessed as command-and-control locations in remote areas of Afghanistan’s Kunar province, Cook said.

“If these strikes are determined to be successful,” he added, “eliminating these core leaders of al-Qaida will disrupt efforts to plot against the United States and our allies and partners around the world, reduce the threat to our Afghan partners, and assist their efforts to deny al-Qaida safe haven in Afghanistan.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veteran uses artistic expression to cope with PTSD

Thirteen years after a medical discharge from the Air Force, photographer Omar Columbus received an assignment that was the stuff of dreams: to shoot for a hip fashion and culture magazine filled with models and feature-length stories.

It was a long road for Columbus to travel, to use photography and writing to cope with PTSD, to suddenly shooting fashion in New York City. But it wasn’t always this way.

Columbus grew up in Washington, North Carolina, raised by a single mom. Feeling that he did not have much opportunity, he enlisted into the Air Force, serving from 1994 to 2006. In that time, Columbus served in South Korea, Colorado Springs, and to Saudi Arabia in 2003 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.


After exiting service, Columbus moved to New York City, where he found art and community in veterans’ writing groups around the city. He found his voice through writing poetry and performing with Warrior Writers, Craft of War Writing, and Voices from War.

The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust

Veteran Omar Columbus and Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Marion Creasap.

“My PTSD is related to specific things I experienced on deployment, as well as a general feeling of guilt,” says Columbus. Writing poetry gave him a sense of confidence, a way to express traumas of his military experience through art. The chance to perform in front of civilians is powerful. “Words like desert, combat, and bomb become part of artistic expression rather than just association with personal guilt and doubt or shame.”

Columbus also recognized that photography gave him a way to manage his anxiety in public. Through the imaginary barrier created with his camera lens, he chooses if he wants to interact with his subjects or just photograph the streets from a distance. Featured in a group gallery show at the legendary Salmagundi Club in Manhattan, Columbus recently sold a photo collage called “New Yawk State of Mind.”

Columbus found help at the VA NY Harbor, with his psychiatric nurse practitioner, mentor and counselor, Marion Creasap, who has been a steadying and stabilizing influence. “She’s been a rock for me to hold on to when I was down and wanted to give up.”

The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust

“Eye on Brooklyn” collage by Omar Columbus.

Recently, celebrity fashion photographer and TV personality, Mike Ruiz, called Columbus and made him an extraordinary offer. He wanted Columbus to photograph a project. “The photoshoot was over-the-top and such an exhilarating experience,” Columbus recalled.

Now, Columbus is giving back, to help others as he has been helped. Later this year, he will be sending disposable cameras to service members deployed to Afghanistan, to capture the good times with their friends. He raised id=”listicle-2639096820″,000 to purchase boxes of Girl Scout Cookies and sent them to military personnel serving on the front lines to remind them of home.

“The biggest reward was the photos they sent back holding up the boxes of cookies and the joy on their faces,” said Columbus. “I want to do more of that.”

The taste of acknowledgment has helped Columbus feel optimistic. “I want to be a healer and advocate for veterans through art. Hear my story, hear my words.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Everyone lost their minds when a Marine general relieved an Army general

If it weren’t for the Japanese, the Marine Corps’ biggest enemy in the Pacific theater of World War II might well have been the U.S. Army. On at least five occasions, Army commanders were relieved of command for what the Corps deemed was a lack of proper aggression. Those commanders were given the benefit of being relieved by their Army commander. When one brigadier was relieved by his Marine commander, it caused a grudge the branches held on to for years.


Gen. Ralph Smith began World War II with a promotion to brigadier general and a command of American soldiers in the Pacific. With Smith came his experience in previous American conflicts. He served under Gen. John J. Pershing in Mexico, during the Punitive Expedition. He also fought on the Western Front of World War I and was among the first American troops to land in France. He earned two Silver Stars in combat during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive of 1918. His bravery and combat credentials were without question.

When he earned his second star, he also took command of the 27th Infantry Division, an Army unit that was soon folded into the 2nd Marine Division. The new mixed unit formed the V Amphibious Corps under Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Holland M. “Howlin’ Mad” Smith and its target was the Gilbert Islands. The Marines would attack and capture Tarawa while the Army did the same on Makin. The Marine Corps’ Smith thought the Army’s 6,400-plus troops should be able to overwhelm the 400 defenders and 400 laborers who held the reinforced island.

But it didn’t happen as quickly as “Howlin’ Mad” Smith though it should. This would build tensions when it came to take Saipan.

The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust

As if Saipan wasn’t tense enough.

On Saipan, the Marines and the Army would fight side-by-side on a dream team that would not be matched until the USA Men’s Olympic Basketball Team in 1992. When the U.S. began its assault on Mt. Tapochau in the middle of the island, the Marines found themselves advancing much further, much faster than their Army counterparts. The soldiers at Mt. Tapochau were tasked with taking an area known as “Hell’s Pocket.” The Army was expected to go into a valley surrounded by hills and cliffs under enemy control.

Now, if terrain is given a nickname by the Americans tasked to take it, that’s a pretty good indication of some intense fighting. But Holland Smith didn’t know that because he hadn’t inspected the terrain. The Army commander devised a plan to split his forces, using one battalion to hold the pocket while the other outflanked the Japanese defenders. Unfortunately, he would not be in command to implement it. It turns out “Howlin’ Mad” Smith was about to live up to his nickname.

The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust

The U.S. Army’s 27th Infantry Division marches to the front on Saipan.

With what he saw as a lack of aggression on Makin fresh in his mind, the inability of the Army to advance on Saipan made the Marine Corps’ Maj. Gen. Smith furious. He not only relieved the Army’s Maj. Gen. Smith of command of the Army on Saipan, he ordered Ralph C. Smith off the island. It would be the only time an Army commander would be relieved of command by a superior from another branch, and the Army wouldn’t forget it for years. The firing was so public that Smith could no longer command a unit in the Pacific and spent the rest of the war in Arkansas.

After the war, a panel of inquiry was convened. Known as the Buckner Board, it was staffed entirely by Army brass. When it looked into the Saipan incident, it found that Holland Smith had not looked at the terrain facing the Army on the island and was not in possession of all the facts. The plan hatched by the Army’s Maj. Gen. Smith to take Hell’s Pocket worked, and the Army was able to catch up to the Marines.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Into the Wild bus was airlifted by the Alaska National Guard for safety concerns

In 1990, Chris McCandless graduated from Emory University and set to begin an itinerant life traveling across America. He moved from California to Arizona, and eventually South Dakota where his car was disabled in a flash flood. McCandless packed up what he could carry and continued his journey on foot. In April 1992, he hitchhiked from South Dakota to Fairbanks, Alaska, where he set out on an old mining road called the Stampede Trail.

After hiking roughly 28 miles through the snow, McCandless came upon an abandoned bus, Fairbanks Bus 142. With thick vegetation deterring further progress, he set up camp in the bus and attempted to live off of the land. His journal documents that he spent 113 days in the area where he foraged for food and hunted animals. In July, after a little over two months of living in the bus, McCandless decided to return to civilization. Unfortunately, the trail was blocked by a swollen river, trapping McCandless in the wild.

On September 6, 1992, a group of hunters came upon McCandless’ bus and discovered his decomposing body in his sleeping bag. The prevailing theory regarding his death is that he died of starvation about two weeks before his body was discovered. McCandless’ story has been immortalized in Jon Krakauer’s 1996 book Into the Wild and its 2007 film adaption of the same name directed by Sean Penn.


The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust

McCandless in front of Bus 142 (Photo by Chris McCandless)

The 1940’s-era bus that McCandless took shelter in has since become an object of intrigue, attracting tourists from around the world. However, the trek to reach the bus and the surrounding wilderness is notoriously perilous and many tourists have taken unnecessary risks to see the famous bus. Last year, a woman from Belarus drowned trying to cross the river that prevented McCandless’ return. In February of this year, five Italian tourists had to be rescued on their pilgrimage to the bus, one of them suffering from severe frostbite. As recently as April, a stranded Brazilian tourist had to be rescued after he became stranded trying to return from seeing the bus. Between 2009 and 2017, the state has carried out 15 bus-related search and rescue operations.

Out of growing safety concerns, Alaska state officials decided to remove the bus from its location on the trail outside of Denali National Park. In a joint effort between the Alaska Department of Natural Resources and the Alaska Army National Guard, Bus 142 was airlifted on June 18, 2020 by a CH-47 Chinook of the 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment. Bus 142 was flown to Healy where it was loaded onto a flatbed truck and taken to a secure location for storage. Officials have not yet decided the bus’s fate, but it may be put on public display in the future.

The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust

Bus 142 rigged and ready to be airlifted (Alaska National Guard photo by Sgt. Seth Lacount)

The removal of the bus is sad for many people who had hoped to one day make the trek out to see it. However, the safety concerns and the costly search and rescue operations it created made Bus 142 “a perilous attraction” in the words of Denali Borough Mayor Clay Walker. “For public safety, we know it’s the right thing,” Mayor Walker said. “At the same time, it is part of our history and it does feel a little bittersweet to see a piece of our history go down the road.”


MIGHTY CULTURE

4 big reasons why the military should do a battle royale event

The branch rivalry can be mind-numbing at times. Each branch believes they’re the best while each has a unique role, making it impossible to objectively determine which is truly king. That’s where a battle royale comes in.

If you’re not living under a digital rock, then you know that “battle royales” are extremely popular in video games right now. In short, these types of games pit several players (or teams of players) against one another in a fight to scavenge, survive, and outlast the competition. And it got us thinking – what if the military hosted its own?

Imagine this: Each branch puts forth a five-person team (including a medic or corpsman) to compete against each other in a large, miserable training area. The teams must survive and fight against each other in a battle to earn the ultimate bragging rights for their respective branch.


Keep in mind, this is not a squad competition — each team would be given a certain amount of time, an area of operations, a number of MREs (with the ability to find resupply points), and either blanks or sesam rounds. There would be referees following or monitoring teams to keep battles fair.

But enough about the finer points, here’s why it should happen:

The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust

There could even be an award for the winning branch.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman Cameron Lewis)

Determine the best branch

The most obvious reason we should do this is because it would finally silence the pissing content. One branch would beat the others in competition, fair and square. Each branch put forth a team on a level playing field with an equal chance at winning — there’d be no room for excuses. Better luck next year.

The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust

Things like this build unique bonds.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kate Thornton)

Cohesion

It goes without saying that the members of a unit would form stronger bonds. But even in defeat, you can respect your opponent’s strengths. An activity like this would give each branch a chance to see the skills of each. Seeing what each branch is capable of could really help us acknowledge each other’s strengths.

The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust

This would bring everyone together in a way that is fun and interesting.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William Sykes)

Friendly competition

In the Marine Corps, you build unit cohesion by having teams or squads compete against each other. No matter the activity, the real goal is to bring your troops closer together so they can build mutual trust. This would be the same idea — but on a much larger scale.

As it stands now, branches don’t really trust one another — mostly because they’re not sure if the others are as tough.

The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust

You can bring those lessons back to your unit so everyone can learn something.

(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Hailey D. Clay)

It could have great training value

When you’re forced into a situation, you have to improvise, adapt, and overcome. In learning how to best compete, you’ll learn about yourself.

MIGHTY TRENDING

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020

Veterans will continue to see improvements in VA services, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said at “State of the VA” speech Feb. 5 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.


These improvements for Veterans include increased innovation—including the VA’s first 5G hospital—along with decreased wait times for appointments and better overall care.

Increased innovation

The secretary pointed to several programs designed to provide better Veteran care.

The VA hospital in Palo Alto, California, is about to become one of the first 5G enabled health facilities in the world, with portions becoming operational this week. The secretary said will deliver is richer, more detailed three-dimensional images of patients’ anatomy. He added the resolution is so clear and consistent that it will give VA a reliable means of delivering telesurgery services to Veterans.

“That means we will have the capacity to allow VA’s best physicians to consult during surgery even if they’re not in the same room and are halfway across the country,” he said.

Wilkie also pointed to VA’s work on exoskeletons, which do the work patients can’t do on their own. The VA currently has a pilot program to develop exoskeletons that stimulate the spinal cord.

“Instead of the exoskeleton moving the patient around, the patient can increasingly control the exoskeleton as their own muscles are reactivated,” he said. With further research at VA, we are hoping to turn the exoskeleton from a mobility device into something that trains injured people to walk again under their own power.”

Other innovation

The secretary also pointed to a VA partnership to help Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and pain management.

The partnership is with the University of Southern California, a non-profit called Soldier Strong, and AppliedVR. Veterans with PTSD use virtual reality relive and reimagine traumatic events in a controlled setting, under the care of a clinician. The program gives Veterans a chance to process these emotions, which can be an effective treatment for PTSD. He said virtual reality can also help block pain signals from reaching the brain, and thus is a drug-free supplement to traditional pain therapies.

Veterans also see improved care through innovations such as telehealth, a new technology to identify potential diabetic foot ulcers and the precision oncology program. All these innovations help increase Veteran care, he said.

The secretary said this innovation carries on VA’s previous innovation, which includes inventing the cardiac pacemaker, inventing the nicotine patch, performing the first liver transplant and introducing a powered ankle-foot prosthesis. He said all these innovations have a direct impact on Veterans’ well being.

Better Veteran care

Veteran wait time is shorter at VA than compared to private sector. This decreased wait time is for primary care and two of three specialty areas. Wilkie said that’s coupled with a record-high 59.9 million Veteran visits in fiscal year 2019. That’s 1.7 million more appointments for Veterans than ever before. He added 90 percent of Veterans surveyed trust the care they get at VA.

When Wilkie took over, only 25% women vets were enrolled in VA care. Now, he said 41% receive VA care.

Overall Veteran care is improving, Wilkie said. He said VA will implement a provision of the MISSION Act in 2020. This will extend Caregiver benefits to Veterans who served before 1975.

Veterans also receive better mental health care, Wilkie said. This includes same-day mental health care and a universal screening process to identify Veterans who may be at risk. Since late 2018, VA screened more than 4 million Veterans. He said the Veterans Crisis Line is taking more than 1,700 calls each day, and VA takes emergency action on about 100 of those calls.

“I believe that Veterans can show the country the way on how to deal with this terrible problem,” Wilkie said.

Different approaches

Wilkie said the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End the National Tragedy of Suicide, or PREVENTS, task force is weeks away from releasing recommendations. The task force will include a community integration and collaboration proposal, a national research strategy and an implementation strategy. Wilkie said he will recommend that VA opens up financial support. This includes charities, local governments and non-governmental organizations to help Veterans.

Overall, the MISSION Act gives Veterans choice, Wilkie said. In the first six months, VA approved nearly 2.8 million referrals to private sector care for 1.5 million Veterans. Wilkie said just like the MISSION Act rollout, he expects the upcoming Electronic Health Records Modernization will improve Veteran care.

Veterans also see changes in how VA uses Whole Health, setting a standard for care. Wilkie said programs like yoga, aqua therapy, music therapy and art therapy were unheard of decades ago. Now, he said VA uses a Whole Health approach to develop a personalized health plan.

Wilkie also addressed Veterans stationed at Karshi-Khanabad base in Uzbekistan, better known as K2. U.S. forces occupied the old Soviet base shortly after 9/11. Wilkie had candid advice for any Veteran who served there.

“I want all Veterans who have been there and who feel they need to see us to come forward,” he said. He added all Veterans should seek out VA to use the benefits they’ve earned.

“Come see us. File the claims. Come speak to us. This is not your grandfather’s VA where the paperwork is going to take 10 years.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This airman gave his life to protect his daughter

As a tornado demolished Master Sgt. Dan Wassom’s house, he and his wife, Suzanne, tried to protect their 5- and 7-year-old daughters by using their own bodies as shields.  It worked.  Their children survived, but Dan didn’t make it.


With winds reaching nearly 200 miles per hour, the devastating EF-4 tornado smashed into Vilonia, Arkansas, April 27, 2014, killing 16 people.  The twister demolished 50 of 56 homes in the Wassom’s subdivision, as well as nearly half the businesses in the town of 3,800.  Known as “Bud” to his family and close friends, 31-year-old Wassom died while hovering over his 5-year-old daughter, Lorelai.

Also Read: This Airman and his wife rushed to help wildfire victims

Wassom was a C-130 Hercules loadmaster evaluator with the Air National Guard’s 189th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas. Joining the Air Force as a patriotic calling shortly after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, he followed in his dad’s footsteps. The senior Dan Wassom was a C-130 Hercules maintenance crew chief at Little Rock AFB before retiring from active duty.  He still works at the base as a civilian in the 19th Maintenance Group, just minutes from his son’s unit.

A decorated Airman, Wassom earned an Air Medal during his deployment to Kuwait – a combat tour he volunteered to do.  He was supporting Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom in 2010.  According to his award citation, Wassom flew 16 successful combat missions — conducted day and night under the threat of enemy anti-aircraft artillery and surface-to-air missiles — over the war-torn countries of Iraq and Afghanistan, executing multiple, flawless contingency airdrops.

According to his parents, the only thing Wassom treasured more than his Air Force career was his family.  So while his death came as a shock to those who knew and loved him, the way he died – protecting his family – surprised no one.

Wassom’s wife told his parents that he remained calm, cool and collected even as the monster twister began to consume their 2,300-square-foot home.  As Wassom bent his 6-foot-2 frame over his youngest daughter, forming a semi-protective cocoon over her, a heavy structural beam struck the back of his neck and a one-by-four impaled his chest. Lorelai lost a toe on her left foot and suffered a serious injury to her right shoulder, but she, along with her mother and sister, Sydney, survived.

Wassom’s last mission … accomplished.

The Coast Guard disrupted this year’s 4/20 with a multimillion-dollar drug bust
Master Sgt. Daniel Wassom, a 189th Airlift Wing evaluator loadmaster killed in a recent tornado, will be remembered with a 5K run in his honor. Wassom served in the 189th for 12 years. (189th Airlift Wing courtesy photo)

“He was the best daddy I’d ever seen, and he loved his wife with all his heart,” said his mom, Pam Wassom, who along with Dan Sr. resides in Cabot, Arkansas, only 20 minutes from where their son’s home used to stand before being reduced to a pile of rubble.

“He took to parenthood as naturally as breathing air,” she said. “He was involved in every aspect of those girls’ lives.  He was their hero, and he proved it with his last breath.”

Wassom was posthumously awarded the Airman’s Medal, along with a Meritorious Service Medal and the Arkansas Distinguished Service Medal from the governor of Arkansas.  Additionally, a Little Rock AFB street now bears his name. — MSGT DAN WASSOM ROAD.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information