In the wake of World War I, hundreds of thousands of returning and separating American troops came home to a nation ill-prepared to support them. In 1920, DAV (Disabled American Veterans) was founded with the goal of helping these service members transition comfortably back into civilian life. Since then, DAV has been providing a lifetime of support for veterans of all generations and their families by helping them access benefits they earned—like health care, education and disability—and connecting them to meaningful employment opportunities.
The nonprofit charity was founded by an injured infantryman who rose to become a judge in the Superior Court of Ohio after The Great War. The organization was originally known as the Disabled American Veterans of the World War and, as its name suggests, it was focused on helping those who were disabled by the War.
DAV established the National Employment Program in 2014, which focuses on connecting veterans and their spouses with employers. Their goal is to improve the lives of veterans and their families by finding meaningful employment.
Today, DAV hosts a job board that has as many as 250,000 active job openings listed at once. They also help represent veterans to employers, explaining to decision-makers why it’s best to target veterans for open positions.
Navy announced Feb. 21, 2018 that Sailors serving on sea duty in Japan, Guam, and Spain now have an increased set of incentives available to them, in NAVADMIN 042/18.
According to the NAVADMIN, Sailors who voluntarily extend their sea duty at the listed locations to a minimum of 48 months, will have any remaining sea time left on their prescribed sea tour waived and be allowed to rotate to shore duty for their next assigned tour. Those who extend their tours by 12 months or more will be given preferential consideration for announced billets in Career Management System/Interactive Detailing (CMS/ID).
Eligible Sailors who extend their sea tours for at least 12 months still have the option of Sea Duty Incentive Pay. The Overseas Tour Extension Incentive Program also remains an option for eligible Sailors.
Additionally, with the release of this NAVADMIN, first-term Sailors in grades E-3 and below are now authorized accompanied orders to overseas locations where dependents are authorized.
“Our goal is to reward those Sailors who volunteer to extend to meet the demands from the fleet,” said Rear Adm. John Meier, director, Career Management Department, Navy Personnel Command (NPC). “In addition to the incentives already in place, which remain options for Sailors who meet extension criteria, these additional incentives should make it easier for Sailors who make the decision to extend.”
Sailors interested in taking advantage of these incentives must request an extension by submitting an Enlisted Personnel Action Request (NAVPERS 1070/7 Rev. 1/03) 18-14 months prior to their Projected Rotation Date. For assistance, Sailors should contact their command career counselor.
For more information, read NAVADMIN 042/18 at www.npc.navy.mil, or contact the NPC Customer Service Center at 1-866-U-ASK-NPC (827-5672) or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Just a few months after activating its elite Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade for the first time since World War II, Japan plans to send the crisis-response force modeled off the US Marine Corps on its first naval exercise before the end of 2018.
Japan disbanded its military after World War II, but it has grown its armed forces in recent years and established the ARDB in late March 2018 as part of an effort to counter increasing Chinese activity in the East China Sea and around the region.
Tokyo has not said where the naval exercise will take place, but analysts have said that the Senkaku Islands — which Japan administers but are claimed by China as the Diaoyu Islands and by Taiwan as the Diaoyutai Islands — may be an area of operations for the new, roughly 2,100-member ARDB, according to Taiwan News.
Service members with the Japanese Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade show their capabilities during the ARDB’s unit-activation ceremony at Camp Ainoura, Japan, April 7, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Amy Phan)
It’s also not yet known what the exercise will entail, though it may include approaching and securing an island or islands.
The unit, which is based in southwest Japan, specializes in operations involving AAV-7 amphibious vehicles, MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, and Chinook helicopters.
The unit was reportedly modeled after US Marine Corps Marine Expeditionary Units, which are deployed abroad for extended periods for training and for rapid response to crises, whether it’s a natural disaster or a conflict. Japanese officials received advice from US advisers about the ARDB’s formation.
“The Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade will show to the international society our firm resolve to defend our islands,” a senior Japanese Defense Ministry official said in April 2018.
The expanding role and capabilities of Japan’s military are controversial subjects. The country adopted a pacifist constitution after World War II, eschewing offensive military operations. Recent years have seen a push to strengthen the military, led by the hawkish government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The decision to reactivate the ARDB was a contentious one, as it gave Japan’s Self-Defense Force the ability to land in enemy territory. Such concerns are balanced against worries over China’s increasingly assertive actions in the region.
Japan’s Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade takes part in a drill at Camp Ainoura in Sasebo, on the southwest island of Kyushu, April 7, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Amy Phan)
The ARDB’s first naval exercise appears to be a response to Beijing’s recent naval exercises around Taiwan, including drills in the Yellow Sea between August 10 and 13, 2018, a window that overlapped with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s departure for a trip to the US and Latin America.
The formation of the ARDB is not the only move Japan has made to bolster its military or to counter China. The country has pursued external alliances and partnerships as part of that effort, but much of its focus has been on internal reforms.
It lifted a ban on military exports in 2014, and in 2015 the Japanese parliament approved a law allowing the country’s military to mobilize overseas under certain conditions. Japan’s 2017 military budget was its largest ever.
In March 2018, Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force carried out its largest reorganization since 1954, creating unified commands and launching the ARDB.
More recently, the government said it would raise the maximum age for military recruits from 26 to 32, hoping to expand the pool of potential soldiers that has shrunk due to low birth rates and an aging population.
“Other countries, like Japan, are really … reinvigorating their own military capability or reforming the constitution, like Abe has tried to do,” Hervé Lemahieu, a research fellow at Australian think tank the Lowy Institute, told Business Insider in May 2018. “That’s also been called internal rebalancing by the Japanese.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Republican majority on the House Veterans Affairs Committee pushed through a voice vote Wednesday to subpoena documents from the Department of Veterans Affairs on millions spent for artworks at VA facilities and huge cost overruns at a Denver-area hospital.
“It’s unfortunate that the VA’s continuing lack of transparency has led us to this decision” to move for the subpoenas, said Rep. Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican and the committee chairman.
“I am confident we are not receiving the whole picture from the department” on spending for art and ornamental furnishings, including $6.4 million at Palo Alto, California, facilities.
The committee also wants specifics on the costs for a new Aurora, Colorado, facility that ballooned to $1.7 billion, nearly three times the original estimate.
Rep. Mark Takano, a California Democrat and the ranking committee member, argued that the VA was already working to provide answers and warned that the subpoenas could expose whistleblowers. “Now you will be outing employees who were honest with investigators” on the artworks and the spending on the Aurora facility, Takano said.
In June, Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said, “We got a lot of things wrong” with construction of the Aurora facility, but releasing an internal VA investigation would be counterproductive.
“You end up chilling the whole investigative process,” Gibson said in a news conference at the construction site.
The subpoenas ask for all information on VA art and ornamental furniture purchases since 2010. The VA’s response in the inquiry thus far has been “wholly incomplete,” Miller charged.
“We will not accept VA trying to pull the wool over the eyes of this committee and the American people for poor decision-making and waste of funds made on the part of the department,” Miller said.
“VA claims to have spent approximately $4.7 million on art nationwide from January 2010 to July 2016, yet the committee has already substantiated over $6.4 million spent during this period in the Palo Alto health care system alone,” he said.
Miller again singled out artworks at the Palo Alto Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center, described by the VA as one of five facilities nationwide designed to provide intensive rehabilitative care to veterans and service members with severe injuries to more than one organ system. Miller made similar complaints about Palo Alto nearly a year ago in a House floor speech.
Miller took issue with “Harbor,” a huge rock sculpture in a pool that its designers said was intended to evoke “a sense of transformation, rebuilding and self-investigation.”
When installation was included, it cost nearly $1 million “to put the rock up,” Miller told the committee.
Miller also complained about an artwork called “Horizon” on the walls of the Palo Alto facility’s parking garage.
“Horizon” spells out in Morse code the “With malice toward none …” quote from President Abraham Lincoln’s famous Second Inaugural address and a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, which says in part, “You must do the things you think you cannot do.”
Today, the modern battlefield of Iraq and Afghanistan has prompted our military to change what our troops take with them. “SAPI” plates (Small Arms Protective Insert) were added to help protect the service members vital organs from small arms fire.
All that gear adds up. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago)
Travel back in time where medieval Knights wore several layers and different types of heavy body armor to protect themselves from sharp swinging swords to the accurately shot arrows. These fearless men would spend countless hours training while cloaked in their protective garments, acclimating their bodies for war.
Fast forward to the rice patties of Vietnam where Marines, Sailors, Airmen, and Soldiers bravely left the wire typically sporting only their thin layered green t-shirts due to the constant humidity of the jungle while still toting pounds of extras.
One 155-pound TV show host wanted to experience just how heavy the gear of an American GI in Vietnam was. So after donning the full Vietnam War style combat load — complete with ammo, an M-16 rifle, an individual medical bag, and 2 quarts of water — the TV show host’s total weight amounted to just under 235 solid pounds of gear. It was an 80-pound difference.
Check out the Smithsonian Channel‘s video below to see this TV show host play grunt for an afternoon.
The Marine Corps is getting ready to launch a test to determine if lighter footwear will improve the performance of Marines at boot camp.
According to a release from Marine Corps Systems Command, the test, to be run during a future recruit training cycle, will involve two lightweight boots designed for warmer climates: the Danner Reckoning Hot Weather Boot, currently available to Marines for optional wear; and the Rocky Tropical boot, which has participated and performed well in recent wear tests assessing jungle footwear for Marines.
The Marine Corps plans to order 700 pairs of each to issue to an equal number of male and female recruits at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. They will be compared to the standard Marine Corps combat boot during the test, according to the release.
During the three-month test, users will be monitored to determine if there is a decrease in lower extremity injuries for those wearing the lighter boots, according to the release.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Brianna Gaudi)
“The feedback we’ve received from Marines on the Reckoning boots, is positive,” Todd Towles, project officer for the Clothing and Equipment Team at Marine Corps Systems Command, said in a statement. “The boots are lightweight, durable, and there’s virtually no break-in period.”
While officials did not say when the test is set to take place, they have already begun to procure the boots it requires.
On March 22, 2018, the Marine Corps published an intent to sole source 700 pairs of the Reckoning boot. It published a request for a quote on the Rocky boot.
This most recent effort follows a series of wear tests in 2016 and 2017 involving tropical boot prototypes. The tests, which took place in Hawaii and Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, California, involved boots made by four different companies: Rocky Boots, Bates Footwear, Altama, and Danner.
While the Marine Corps has not publicized full results of those tests, they said the Rocky brand performed well during testing.
Sailing saved Ronnie Simpson’s life. He was an 18 year old high school senior in Atlanta, Georgia when the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq began in March 2003. Drawn to service by the events of September 11, Ronnie joined the Marine Corps Infantry the day after the war started.
Less than a year later in March 2004, he deployed to Iraq with the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines.
“I was a .50 cal gunner on top of a Humvee,” he recalls. “Four months into my deployment, we were ambushed during a night-time convoy, and an RPG hit the ground near my Humvee. The rocket bounced up and exploded in the air one meter from me. I had broken ribs, detached retinas, a bleeding brain which created sub-retinal fluid, a traumatic brain injury (TBI), a blown-out left lung and my tongue was blown into my airway. I was temporarily knocked unconscious. Because I wasn’t breathing and was unresponsive, Marines in my truck thought I was dead. It was actually a textbook blast injury. The Corpsman in my Humvee, Doc David Segundo, was injured too but he got up, cleared my airway, and saved my life.”
Simpson, now 30 years old, spent a lot of time recovering both physically and mentally. Most of his TBI symptoms weren’t permanent (he credits the helmet technology for that). Despite having burns over 10 percent of his body, many of those scars aren’t visible.
“It fucked me up pretty good,” he says. “Unless you knew me though, you’d never know I’m hurt. I have no visible scars unless I take my shirt off. Then I have many.”
Simpson is legally blind and can’t obtain a driver’s license. Though his body healed, his mental state took much longer. He reevaluated his life and experiences through a 9,000-mile bike trek across Europe and Asia in 2009 and more than 50,000 miles at sea, both healing counterpoints to his experiences in Iraq.
“My time in theater and my travels have shaped my perspective,” Simpson says. “There’s a lot of good and beauty in this world, and I want to add to that. Our program is about helping the men and women that are coming back – the veterans – the people we should be looking out for. We in the veteran community have these experiences and while we may interpret them differently, this shared experience can bring us together. We can come together to create profound and impactful programs to help the veterans from these two wars as well as something permanent and sustainable for veterans of future conflicts.”
Sailing is the catalyst for Simpson’s initiative. Not only his love for sailing but how he changed his life and how he aims to change the lives of others.
“I joined the Marines at 18, was injured in combat at 19, my dad died four months after I got hurt, and by 20 I was medically retired,” Simpson says. “By 22 I was a lost soul. I had reached my deepest, darkest point. I’m fearful of what would have happened if I hadn’t flipped the script. I broke off an engagement, sold my house, and moved from Texas to California. That move was my re-birth as a new person.”
On the California coast, he found his calling. After living so recklessly, he became completely focused on becoming a racing sailor and making the most of his life. Seven years later, Simpson now travels the world as a professional sailor and sailing writer.
“It helped me heal,” Simpson says. “These adventures help you positively adrenalize yourself in a sustainable manner. Guys who come back from places like Fallujah have experienced adrenaline like most will never know, and again need to achieve that heightened state of existence. But where will they find it? Drugs, alcohol, or doping the pain away with pills? I can put you on the helm of a racing sailboat in the middle of the night and it will rock your world. This is a healthy way to get that fix.”
It’s not just about giving people the fix of adrenaline they were accustomed to while in combat. For Simpson and his sailing nonprofit – Coastal and Offshore Recalibration Experience, or CORE (www.medicinalmissions.com/CORE), that community of veterans is the most important result.
“Because that’s what it is: a Community,” he says. “On a sailboat you can put anyone into a job they can do, regardless of their injury. It’s a sport that doesn’t care if you have arms or legs. That’s a big part of it. Everyone has an assigned, defined role. There’s a chain of command, a defined mission, teamwork is critical and constant risk management is all part of the game. The parallels between racing sailboats and combat are incredible. When you combine that with the peacefulness and serenity of heading to sea with your brothers and sisters, it’s a powerful experience.”
Simpson and his best friend Army veteran Walter Kotecki, created a sailing program within an existing wounded-veteran nonprofit, raised $50,000 through yacht clubs and private donors, and gave a sailing experience to 30 veterans over the course of four clinics in 2012 and 2013.
“There’s always a steep learning curve when you start your own thing. We flew vets to San Francisco,” he says. “They had the whole range of injuries from PTSD to multiple amputees to blindness. We used sailing, surfing, yoga, nature walks, kayaking, art and more to help these guys look past their injuries and realize that anything is possible, no matter their injury, while re-establishing that sense of camaraderie and community that so many have lost since leaving the service.”
It was so successful and the veterans so responsive Simpson and Kotecki decided to strike out on their own earlier this year, forming CORE.
“I had a Vietnam vet hook me up with a racing sailboat and an opportunity,” says Simpson. “He passed that torch to me and told me to pay it forward. Here’s my chance to hook somebody else up. Let’s re-build that community and keep that torch going.”
CORE is seeking veterans of the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan to participate in more sailing clinics throughout California, with the first being in San Francisco in October of this year. They will be accepting applications until August 31. For 2016, CORE is planning six to eight clinics up and down the California coast.
The most ambitious plan for CORE is participating in the 2017 Transpacific Yacht Race – where they will train a full crew of combat-wounded veterans to sail from Los Angeles to Honolulu, the first time ever that such a crew would be assembled.
“Our goal is to help reduce the rate of veteran suicide in this country. Sailing is one of the tools that we use,” he says.
Simpson is now featured in a series of short films produced by Craftsman, We Are The Mighty, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), showing how IAVA empowers veterans as they transition back to civilian life.
“It’s admirable for companies like Craftsman to reach out to veterans groups to benefit the guys and girls that are coming back,” Simpson says. “I see a positive shift in awareness about issues that affect veterans, how we can improve the care of veterans, and how we can achieve a more holistic healing approach instead of pumping them full of drugs.”
Craftsman is donating $250,000 to IAVA and from May 25 – July 4, for every new follower of @Craftsman on Instagram, Craftsman will donate an additional $1 to IAVA (with a minimum donation of $5,000).
“I am honored to be part of this and stoked that a big corporation is out to make a difference of stemming the tide of 22 veterans a day,” Simpson says. “I’m excited that they believe in what we’re doing, and to work on this next mission of saving lives by reaching out to the veteran community.”
While every veteran probably knows about the GI Bill, there are a number of other education benefits offered that they might be unaware of. Here are a few of them:
1. VA Work-study Programs
These work-study positions are part-time jobs, up to 25 hours a week, for students-veterans usually at local VA facilities (i.e. hospitals, Vet Centers, etc.) that allow veterans to earn extra money and gain experience while in school. The job may only pay minimum wage but since it is considered an education benefit it is tax free. To utilize this benefit a veteran must be enrolled at least three-quarters of the time and are using veteran education benefits, such as the GI Bill.
If you are a veteran working for the VA, a company, or non-profit that is dedicated to serving veterans you can apply to host a work-study program and employ your own student veterans.
2. Vocational Rehabilitation
Also known as Voc Rehab this is a benefit provided by the VA to assist veterans with service connected disabilities to obtain education or training in a new field. This can be particularly useful for veterans who have exhausted their GI Bill but wish to continue their education.
3. Veterans Upward Bound
A pre-college program designed to help veterans reintegrate into higher education after their service. Unfortunately there are only 49 programs nationwide, but they cover most states and many major universities. Check to see if there is a program in your area.
4. Veterans Success Program at your school
Much like the Veterans Upward Bound program, many colleges and universities have implemented their own in-house programs to assist veterans with the transition to college. The nationally recognized program at the University of Arizona offers specialized classes to help transitioning veterans and also has a VETS Center on campus.
5. State Veteran Education Benefits
Many states have enacted their own benefits for veterans, such as the Hazelwood Act in Texas, which pays the tuition of Texas veterans after they have exhausted their GI Bill. Other states have varying types of veteran assistance, check with the Veterans Services Representative at your school for more information.
6. Veteran Scholarships
Many veteran and unit organizations (i.e. the 82nd Airborne Division Association) offer scholarships to their members. A quick search for your unit’s association (or just asking your buddies) should get you started.
An incident involving the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) in February now has new context. The dustup involved multiple Russian aircraft making close passes over the Porter that the United States Navy described as “unsafe and unprofessional” at the time. The aircraft involved were Su-24 Fencers and an Il-38 May.
According to a report from Reuters, the Russian defense ministry has declared that any United States Navy patrol in the Black Sea is a potential threat to Russia. The reason, they claim, is that they cannot tell what missiles are loaded aboard the U.S. ships.
How credible is this claim? To start, let’s look at the Porter’s weapons suite. It carries a single five-inch gun, it is equipped with two Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems, two triple Mk 32 launchers for 324mm torpedoes, and two Mk 41 vertical launch systems (one with 29 cells, the other with 61).
It is this last system that warrants a closer look. The Mk 41 can carry RIM-66 Standard SM-2 surface-to-air missiles, RIM-174 Standard SM-6 surface-to-air missiles, RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, RUM-139 Vertical-Launched ASROCs, and BGM-109 Tomahawks. The Tomahawks are probably what the Russian defense ministry is citing as their excuse for the close encounter.
The Tomahawk comes in several varieties. Perhaps the most well-known are the TLAM-C and TLAM-D versions, largely because they have been the most used. According to Designation-Systems.net, the Block III version of the Tomahawk has a 750-pound high-explosive warhead and a range of 870 nautical miles.
The new Tactical Tomahawk, known as the BGM-109E, has a range of 900 nautical miles, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. In other words, from the Black Sea, Tomahawks could reach out and at a minimum, roll back Russian air defenses in time of war. There used to be a nuclear version of the Tomahawk, but according to a 2013 report by the Federation of American Scientists, the BGM-109A TLAM-N was retired after the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review.
So, really, a patrol by the United States Navy is not a threat to Russia, in and of itself. And the Navy’s patrols in the Black Sea won’t touch off a nuclear war – unless the Russians launch their nuclear-tipped anti-ship missiles first.
Marines are a tribe of warriors, plain and simple. When it comes to warfare, there are very few enemies (if any) that Marines couldn’t match up against. No matter the situation, no matter the circumstance, we give the enemy an absolute run for their money and make them remember why we have the reputation we do. Extra-terrestrial invaders are not exempt from this rule.
Marines don’t care where their enemies come from — whether it’s another continent or another galaxy, these hands are rated “E” for everyone. In fact, some might say we’re pioneers of equality when it comes to kicking asses.
Here’s why Marines would destroy an extra-terrestrial invasion:
1. We make do with less
The Marine Corps budget must be the smallest of all the armed forces. At least, that’s how it seems when you consider how broken everything we use is. Still, we care not. If you pick a fight with us, we’ll use sticks and stones if we must — and don’t even ask what happens when we mount bayonets…
If you think things like plasma weapons and shields will stop Marines from reaping alien souls — you don’t know Marines.
2. We’re experts at unconventional warfare
Do you think Marines like setting ambushes and using explosives to cripple an enemy just before we dump an entire ammunition store into them? If you answered with an enthusiastic “yes,” you’re correct (We would have also accepted “f*ck yeah!”). We love ambushing and we’re great at it.
We’ll make those alien scumbags regret ever coming into orbit.
3. We exhibit savagery on the battlefield
Marines have made a history of striking fear into the hearts of enemies on the battlefield. It doesn’t matter if we’re outnumbered or surrounded — we’ll just shoot our way out of it. Cloud of mustard gas? Pfft, slap that gas mask on and mount your bayonet ’cause we’re storming the trenches.
Even if the aliens defeat humanity overall — they’ll be talking about how scary it was to face off against a battalion of Marines for millennia to come.
4. We’re expert marksmen
Every Marine is trained to be an expert marksman. Even our worst shooters are still substantially better than the average soldier Joe with a gun. Our skill with rifles would sure pay off in a war against alien invaders as their tech might force us to avoid close-quarters engagement.
But our skill with weaponry doesn’t end at the stock of a rifle. If they force us into CQC, we’ll give them a run for their money there, too.
5. We are resilient
No matter what, Marines will not stop fighting. If we’re given a task or a mission, we’ll see it through to the very end. Even if we’re beaten at first, we won’t give up on the mission — or each other. Conquest-driven aliens may have forced other species to their knees, but they won’t find any quit in Marines.
At a recent event, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that a division of troops would be stationed in Chukotka, Russia’s far-east region, just slightly more than 50 miles from Alaska.
“There are plans to form a coastal defense division in 2018 on the Chukotka operational direction,” said Shoigu.
He said that the deployment was “to ensure control of the closed sea zones of the Kuril Islands and the Bering Strait, cover the routes of Pacific Fleet forces’ deployment in the Far Eastern and Northern sea zones, and increase the combat viability of naval strategic nuclear forces.”
It’s not often you see those three-letter titles A1C and Ph.D. used to refer to the same person. As a matter of fact, only one-hundredth of one percent of the Air Force’s enlisted force from E-1 through E-9 possess a doctor of philosophy degree, one of 33 enlisted airmen in the Air Force with a doctorate degree.
Yet one woman with a doctorate in chemistry found herself signing on the proverbial dotted line, completing basic training, and is now assigned to the Department of Defense’s sole nuclear treaty monitoring center.
Airman 1st Class Cynthia A. Schroll enlisted in the Air Force in December 2017, though her unique career journey began much earlier, soon after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“I was in my senior year of high school in 2001, and after 9/11 happened, I told my parents I wanted to enlist,” Schroll said. “During the discussion, my mother said something that struck me even using the word ‘please’ and asking me to do something for the first time in my life instead of telling me to. She said, ‘please don’t enlist. I’ve been saving your whole life for you to go to college.’ I knew how much it meant to her and I respect my parents deeply, so I went to college.”
Airman 1st Class Cynthia A. Schroll, a radiochemistry technician at the Air Force Radiochemistry Laboratory, Air Force Technical Applications Center, Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., pours solution from a test tube as she prepares reagent kits for AFTAC’s precious metals program.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Susan A. Romano)
Schroll attended Morehead State University in Kentucky and earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 2006. She bypassed the traditional path after her undergraduate studies and went straight into the doctoral program at the University of Cincinnati.
“It’s not uncommon for people looking into science degrees to forego a master’s program and go straight into a doctoral studies,” Schroll explained. “Most universities that offer a Ph.D. will let you obtain a master’s degree if you find yourself struggling with the Ph.D. work load.”
She joked, “someone once told me that the difference between a Ph.D. and a master’s degree is the Ph.D. project has to work in the end, while a master’s student can write up all the ways the project didn’t work!”
Upon completion of her doctorate in analytical chemistry with an emphasis in spectroelectrochemical detection of f-block elements, she went straight into the work force doing environmental sample preparation, product management and worked as a contract research assistant at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. She also taught general chemistry at the University of Cincinnati for two years. It was an enjoyable career, Schroll said, but military service was still on her mind.
“I had everything going for me: a great education, good job, supportive family, everything, yet I was still thinking about enlisting,” she said. “But I had some significant hurdles to overcome. I was overweight and knew that was going to be a factor as to whether I’d qualify or not. I had pets. I had a house and in 2014, I lost my mother to multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer. It was devastating to my family and me. I took it quite hard and was lost without her influence.”
Air Force Basic Training graduation photo of Airman 1st Class Cynthia A. Schroll.
From that tragedy, however, came the realization that she still wanted to serve her country and thought it would be a lasting tribute to her beloved mother.
“I knew deep down from the beginning she didn’t want me to join the service, but through all the grief I was experiencing, I had to find a path that would bring me greater reward,” she explained.
So after several months of careful thought, consideration and a solid work-out program, Schroll paid a visit to her local recruiter to change her title from ‘Doctor’ to ‘Airman.’
“Before I left for basic, I had several lengthy conversations with my sister who served in the Army for almost 10 years and I spoke to several other female friends who had also gone through the experience,” she said. “They all told me about the mind games I should expect from the military training instructors and some of the difficulties that arise when you put 40 women together in small quarters for several weeks at a time. Needless to say, I found basic training quite entertaining!”
During basic, trainees are selected to fill certain jobs and responsibilities given to each flight: dorm chief, element leader, chow runner, and entry controller, just to name a few. Schroll volunteered to be the flight’s academic monitor. When the MTI asked what made her qualified for the job, she nonchalantly mentioned she had taught classes before. The MTI did some digging and learned that Schroll had a Ph.D.
“It all came out from there,” she said. “I tried to downplay it as much as I could, and I offered to help any of my flight mates with their study techniques, because we were all in this together. We had one trainee who had such bad test anxiety and we were all worried she was going to run out of the classroom before she finished the end-of-course exam. When our MTI started reading off our test scores, we collectively held our breath when hers was read and we cheered like mad when it was a passing score. A few of us even cried. By far my proudest moment as the academic monitor was the fact we all passed our exams the first time through.”
U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Daniel Stein, 17th Training Group superintendent, presents the 312th Training Squadron Student of the Month award to Airman 1st Class Cynthia Schroll, 312th TRS trainee, at Brandenburg Hall on Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, June 1, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Chapman)
She graduated basic training in February 2018 and was sent to Goodfellow AFB, Texas, to undergo special instruments training. While there, she became friends with a large contingent of Air Force firefighters.
“Our tech school was housed with the airmen who undergo firefighting training, and it was so much fun,” Schroll recalled. “I was selected to be a red rope, the person who oversees dorm activities, and they kept me so grounded. I had so much respect for them that on my last day I woke up at 3:30 a.m. to go to their daily formation so I could shake every single hand and say thanks. I love and respect them all so much.”
During her tenure at Goodfellow, she received a special visitor who requested to meet with her. She was surprised to learn it was a command chief master sergeant who made the trip to speak directly with her.
“I was pretty floored when I found out Chief Master Sgt. Michael Joseph came to the schoolhouse to discuss career options with me,” she said. “He introduced himself as the command chief for the Air Force Technical Applications Center, and said his commander was very interested in having me on his team at Patrick AFB. I can’t put my finger on it, but during my conversation with Chief Joseph, I realized this was my chance to live out my desire to serve, especially in the capacity of a scientist. I thought to myself, ‘These folks who have so much experience would know how best to use my skills,’ so I put my trust in them.”
Joseph was highly impressed when he met with Schroll.
“I heard about A1C Schroll as she was coming through the pipeline since AFTAC has a majority of the 9S100 airmen in the Air Force,” said Joseph. “Every airman has a story, and I wanted to hear hers. Her background was impressive — she had written two books and has a patent to her name, but it was her desire to serve that impressed me the most. With her chemistry background and our operational need for highly-skilled chemists, it seemed like a natural fit for her to come to AFTAC.”
Recruiting personnel who possess highly-technical scientific degrees and experience has been a challenge for the nuclear treaty monitoring center, but AFTAC’s senior enlisted advisor believes they’re seeking out ways to overcome that challenge.
Schroll is assigned to AFTAC’s radiochemistry laboratory working as a radiochemistry technician. She is responsible for preparing reagent kits in the lab’s tech room as well as co-managing the precious metals program.
“I love the responsibility that comes from knowing our chemists are counting on me to prep their reagents properly and in a timely manner,” said Schroll. “If anything goes wrong with the chemistry, the first place that is looked at is the reagent, so I want them to have confidence when they see my initials on the label that they were prepared correctly.”
When asked if she was looking at becoming a commissioned officer someday, Schroll said it’s not out of the question, but it’s not her immediate focus.
“Right now, I’m still brand new to the Air Force, so I am learning as much about it as possible. I’m an airman first class, and with that comes the responsibility of being the best A1C I can be. My focus is on doing the job I am fortunate to have, and doing it as best I can. When I look to the future, I only see broad opportunities. But I’ve never been one to look too far ahead because all too often we make this grand dream or goal, only to forget to focus on the little steps to get there. I’m focusing on the little steps right now.”
For World War I pilots, the most terrifying song that relates to their experience may not be Seven Nation Army but 99 Luftballoons, because going against barrage and observation balloons in the Great War was terrifying.
Barrage balloons over London in World War II.
Pilots with the balls and skill to attack these balloons were known as balloon busters, and ones that had shot down more than five of the balloons were known as balloon aces. And yes, shooting down a balloon counted as a “kill,” same as shooting down a piloted enemy plane.
But what made them so hard to shoot down? After all, they were just a bunch of floating bags of air. Pop ’em with a needle and get on with your day, right?
First, military balloons weren’t made of cheap Mylar or latex. Many in World War I were made of tightly woven fabric, though vulcanized rubber and Thiokol rubber were prominent in World War II. All of these materials could take plenty of hits without splitting, meaning bullets that passed through them caused them to leak instead of to pop.
A row of spherical barrage balloons used for suspending aerial nets
(Australian War Memorial)
So they couldn’t simply be popped, and it often took a lot of rounds to bring one down. But if a fighter did manage to slay the beast, he wasn’t out of danger yet. While American balloons in World War II were sometimes filled with helium, none of the early Great War combatants had access to that gas, and hydrogen was the preferred gas for barrage balloons anyway.
Why? Well, for the same reason it was bad for the Hindenburg. Observation balloons had people in them, people who would’ve loved helium instead of hydrogen over their heads. But barrage balloons were empty, and filling them with hydrogen meant that, when destroyed, the balloons had a tendency to go out in massive fireballs. This was a huge threat to the fighters attacking it.
It also meant that fighters had one advantage though: Incendiary rounds were very effective against the balloons. But in World War I, pretty much only the British had incendiary rounds in planes. Everyone else was slinging cold metal. And incendiary rounds didn’t stay hot forever, generally traveling only 300 to 400 yards while still burning. You did not want to be 300 yards from an exploding balloon and still flying towards it as you would have to be to effectively shoot at it.
Barrage balloons and their crews in World War II.
(Royal Air Force)
Fine, fine, fine. The balloons were hard to shoot down and, when shot down, might explode in a big fireball and kill the attacking fighter. Fine. Just fly around them, right? Let the Germans have their balloons over their lines, maybe bring in some air defense artillery to shoot at it. But let the fighters avoid them.
Nope. For two reasons. First, those observation balloons were an enduring threat from the moment they went up until the moment they went down. Artillery observers sat in them and reported troops positions and movements to their friendly artillery for hours, allowing German crews to hit English, French, and U.S. positions all day. They had to be killed.
American pilot Frank Luke poses with his 13th confirmed kill.
So observation balloons and barrage balloons were lethal, terrifying, and absolutely had to be destroyed, and some of America, England, and France’s top aces proved their mettle by flying at the things, especially in World War I. In fact, some of the top decorated fighter pilots of World War I had few wins against human-piloted planes, but a dozen or more against balloons.
Will Coppens, a Belgian pilot, personally awarded a medal by King Albert I had only shot down two enemy planes in his career, but he had taken down an astounding 35 enemy balloons. The next highest scoring pilot after him was Frenchman Leon Bourjade with 27. So, yeah, Coppens earned that medal from his king.
America’s top balloon buster was Frank Luke, a mouthy pilot who was looked down upon by his peers when he arrived in France. He claimed his first fighter kill in August 1918, but no one else had witnessed the feat, and he was written off as a blowhard. So, after hearing how hard balloons were to take down, he attacked one on September 12 and, after three passes, destroyed it right before it reached the safety of the ground where the observers could clamber out.
German observation balloons allowed for intelligence gathering and highly accurate artillery fire, and barrage balloons created persistent threats to enemy fighters.
(State Library of New South Wales)
Luke bagged another two balloons two days later. His wingman that day, 1st Lt. Joseph Wehner, formed a team with him that specialized in balloon busting and turned the whole thing into a traveling show, sending invitations to VIPs to witness German balloons blowing up at set times and places. But it was too bold to last, and Wehner was shot down on September 18 while taking down his fifth balloon, giving him balloon ace status in death.
Distraught, Luke went off the deep end, taking more and more risks in flight to the point that his superiors grounded the already famous pilot who, by that point, had 11 victories against balloons and four against fighters, making him America’s ace of aces. On September 29, he stole a plane and dropped a note to the ground that told observers to watch German balloons over the Meuse.
Luke flew into the teeth of the enemy, dodging ground fire and eight enemy fighters as he took down one balloon after the others, destroying all three in the area before he was shot down. He survived the wreck and pulled his pistol, fending off a German patrol and killing multiple members of it until a German round drilled him in the chest.
He was awarded two Distinguished Service Crosses and the Medal of Honor for his heroics in September 1918, going to his grave as America’s best-ever balloon buster with 14 kills against balloons and four against fighters.