Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler

A military kid is learning about her dad’s life and experiences through the eyes of her mom.

Ever since Britt Harris first met her husband, Army Spc. Christopher Michael Harris, eyes have played an important part of her story.


Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler

Chris and Britt Harris. Courtesy photo.

From the beginning, she couldn’t help but notice his baby blues, so different from her own hazel eyes. The North Carolina natives fell in love and married in October 2016. A paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division, Chris deployed to Afghanistan the next summer.

Then came the eyes of the nation on her when her 25-year-old husband was killed in a vehicle explosion on August 2, 2017, making her a Gold Star wife. Just one week earlier, Britt thrilled him with the news that they were expecting their first child.

Unit connection

Britt’s grief felt all-encompassing, but she still wanted to feel connected to her husband’s unit. She included them in her gender reveal, shipping confetti poppers with the appropriate color to Afghanistan. The men and women celebrated amidst a shower of pink in a now-viral video.

When her daughter, Christian Michelle, arrived on March 17, 2018 — the day Chris’ unit returned — Britt knew the story wasn’t over. So she arranged for a photoshoot featuring Christian, herself and Chris’ fellow soldiers.

With the same otherworldly blue eyes as her father, Christian quickly captivated millions. The moment wasn’t just for show, however; the men and women who served alongside Chris (he and Britt are only children) are viewed as family.

“We still see each other. We get lunch, or send texts, or social media,” says Britt, 28. “It makes me feel like I’m still part of the group even though I don’t have Chris anymore.”

Yet thanks to Christian’s uncanny resemblance to Chris — especially his eyes — Britt still does, in a way. Christian loves doing handstands now, the result of toddler gymnastics classes.

“She does them everywhere we go,” Britt laughs. “She dances all day, every day.”

Pageant platform

Living as a single mom in Moore County, North Carolina, was never Britt’s original plan. But she has plenty of new accomplishments to list since her world came crashing down in 2017, including hiking Kilimanjaro in Africa and starting a PhD program in psychology at Liberty University.

“My husband was really adventurous and he was always the person to push me to do something new,” Britt says. “When he passed away, I didn’t have anyone to push me anymore, so I started pushing myself to try new things.”

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler

And in going after those firsts, Britt now holds the title of Mrs. North Carolina Universal 2020. Though this year’s national pageant fell victim to quarantine, she still plans to compete in 2021. Her platform will be bringing awareness to families of the fallen.

“A lot of people don’t even know what Gold Star means,” Britt said. “I’ve met veterans who don’t know what Gold Star is.”

The publicity that pageants offer could majorly change that, giving Britt a wider audience to educate on the definition and needs of Gold Star families, perhaps even affecting future related legislation.

“The pageant world isn’t really a place where widows go,” she said. “I’m hoping out of curiosity people will read up on Gold Star or ask when I give my interviews so I can speak more about it.”

Road trips

Besides getting ready to eventually compete in a national pageant, 2020 has held another rookie experience for Britt and Christian: being the recipients of a Gold Star canine training program.

Ridgeside K9 Carolinas recently boarded Atlas, the Harris’ one-year-old Blue Heeler, and professionally trained him to be a well-behaved family dog. The Harrises were the first selected for this free service for families of the fallen.

“Atlas is a very high-energy dog that was by no means a ‘bad dog,’ but I certainly needed help teaching him obedience,” Britt said. “He’s very patient and well-behaved now. He listens and the stress of chasing him and him avoiding and ignoring my calls and demands is long gone!”

Now, Atlas could happily join Britt and Christian on their road trips to places where Chris visited. Britt documents each trip in photos.

“I want to show the re-creations of her in the places Chris went, to walk where he walked, to feel close to him,” she says. “I want her to feel connected to him and the things he enjoyed.”

As a Gold Star wife, Britt understands that Chris is physically absent. But he — and those blue eyes he passed on to the daughter he never met — will always be a part of their lives.

Follow Britt at https://www.instagram.com/britt.m.harris/ to keep up with her and Christian’s future adventures.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.


Articles

The 13 Funniest Military Memes Of The Week

After another arduous week of combing the internetz for good lulz, here are our picks for great military memes.


It wouldn’t sting so much if it weren’t true.

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler
If you poop on the carpet, you’ll change ranks quickly too.

Ah, the beautiful colors of fall.

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler
‘Playing’ means different things to different people.

If enlisting didn’t teach you not to volunteer, this cleaning detail will.

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler
When you see what first sergeant has everyone else doing, you’ll wish you volunteered.

The sun was in his eyes …

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler
… right before that fist was in his eye.

I’d love to see this guy at the promotion board.

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler
Seeing a panel of sergeants major assess him for proper uniform fit would be amazing.

One way to fix a fat neck? Destroy it.

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler
Throat punch is also a good solution for uppity privates or hovering officers.

Falling asleep at staff duty is a pretty quick ticket to this.

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler

Pilots have so many switches and buttons to worry about.

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler

Just because you’re at war, that’s no reason to be uncivilized.

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler

Marines don’t always understand how airborne works.

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler
Airborne wings are just a uniform thing. You can’t actually fly, Marine.

Hurry up and clean!

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler
Ok, now wait. Keep waiting. Keep waiting …

A-10s have a one-track mind.

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler
And on that track, they rain destruction on a Biblical scale.

Yeah, that’ll show those lazy airmen.

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler
You should take them outside and teach them how to PT.

NOW: 7 Interesting Facts About The Javelin Missile System

And: Soldiers Record Catchy Beatles Cover From A Snowbank 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines train to save lives from downed aircraft

Marine Wing Support Detachment 31 conducted an aircraft recovery convoy exercise during a Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort Aug. 2, 2018.

The exercise prepared the Marines for an aircraft mishap and ensured they were properly trained to recover personnel and equipment if called on.

“We used our own vehicles to conduct the convoy and assisted with the recovery process,” said Staff Sgt. Joel Contreras, the motor transportation operations chief with MWSD-31. “There were multiple training evolutions that pertained to different parts of the convoy.”


During the course of the exercise, MWSD-31 conducted convoy and sweeping operations by planning a route to the downed aircraft and back while simultaneously sweeping the area with combat mine detectors for explosive threats. Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Marines from Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron also aided in the training by salvaging the aircraft while also defueling the fuselage of the simulated aircraft to prevent fires and fuel leaks.

“I’m just one piece of the puzzle when we’re doing these kinds of events,” said Lance Cpl. Brandon Moody, a combat engineer with MWSD-31. “Once we get to a site, everyone has a job to do. We could be sweeping up and looking for ordnance while AARF Marines are defueling a gas tank. This exercise really painted a picture on how important teamwork is to mission accomplishment.”

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler

Cpl. Danny L. Clark and Sgt. Jose R. Trujillovargas help to guide a downed F/A-18 Hornet into a secure position during a Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Erin Ramsay)

MCAS Beaufourt is unique because it has the ability for Marines to conduct this type of training on base as opposed to having to go to another Marine Corps base in the fleet.

“Some of the Marines here only have the ability to do exercises like this during Integrated Training Exercise at Twentynine Palms, California and other places,” Contreras said. “If they don’t have the ability to do it there, we can do it here. We were fortunate that one of the squadrons gave us a retired aircraft to allow us to conduct this training.”

ITX is a month-long joint exercise that trains Marines so they can merge more easily into a Marine Air Ground Task Force, as well as, to maintain familiarity with basic military requirements.

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler

Cpl. Tristin L. Hoffmaster inspects a simulated downed F/A-18 Hornet to ensure it’s secured properly during a Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Erin Ramsay)

The mission of MWSD-31 is to provide all essential aviation ground support to designated fixed-wing component of a Marine Aviation Combat Element and all supporting or attached elements of the Marine Air Control Group. They offer support with airfield communications, weather services, refueling, and explosive ordinance disposal.

“I’m not sure if most Marines are familiar with what we do,” Moody said. “We’re here to support the wing units when stuff like this actually goes down. At the end of the day, if MCAS Beaufort needs something done, they can always rely on us.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19

Volunteers are returning to national cemeteries under certain circumstances, following strict COVID-19 guidance.

More than 40 volunteers displayed the new policies during an event Sept. 19 at Culpeper National Cemetery in Virginia. A group from a local Latter-day Saints church cleaned headstones while wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

“The reason we wanted to do this is every year we look for service to do in our community,” said Tyler Herring, who organized the volunteers. “It’s an honor to be able to come out to do this every year.”


Volunteers return safely to national cemeteries during COVID-19

www.youtube.com

Justice Cruzan, a Culpeper County High School student, said she volunteered because she had family members who served. She added cleaning the headstones is a way of repaying the fallen.

“Keeping their headstones clean is honoring them,” Cruzan said.

The cemetery director said groups spending time volunteering during a pandemic is inspiring.

“Witnessing these volunteers dedicate their time and energy on this beautiful autumn day always renews my commitment to NCA’s mission of honoring Veterans and their eligible family members with a final resting place in national shrines and with lasting tributes that commemorate their service and sacrifice to our Nation,” said Matthew Priest, cemetery director. “Even in the middle of this pandemic, Americans are going to safely gather to help us honor our servicemembers who have come before us and stood for something greater than themselves.”

Herring said the event was different from previous years with COVID-19 restrictions. He said that didn’t stop the group from coming out.

“We’re still able to social distance,” Herring said. “We’re still able to follow all the mandates we need to, but we’re still able to serve.”

National cemetery directors may allow volunteers to return to the cemetery on a limited basis. The decision to bring back volunteers will be a local cemetery decision based upon current cemetery conditions. Cemeteries use federal, state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance. Any volunteers who are considered at risk due to COVID-19 are strongly encouraged to wait until conditions improve prior to resuming any volunteer activities.

Volunteers are essential

Priest said volunteers are an essential part of national cemeteries honoring Veterans and ensuring no Veteran ever dies.

“This is the second year that Tyler contacted me about how his team can help memorialize the men and women interred at Culpeper National Cemetery,” Priest said. “I am always amazed when I see so many patriots volunteer their time to help remember those who stood their final formation for us. Service and commitment are two words that are etched in the core of all Americans. That is evident today.”

More information

To find local cemeteries to see if they offer volunteer opportunities, visit https://www.cem.va.gov/cems/listcem.asp.

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

Articles

9 incredibly successful companies founded by military veterans

It should be no surprise that skills learned in the military such as decision-making under pressure, organization, and leadership translate well to the corporate boardroom. And those skills tend to make a big difference, with companies led by former military officers tending to show better performance.


People like Fred Smith or Sam Walton have become household names for their business success. Lesser known is their service prior to the companies they founded.

Also read: 10 entertaining military podcasts you need to know about

After World War II, nearly 50% of veterans went the entrepreneurship route, though that number has substantially declined today. Still, there are currently around 3 million veteran-owned businesses.

Here are 9 companies started by military veterans.

1. RE/MAX, cofounded by Air Force veteran Dave Liniger

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler
RE/MAX

Prior to founding “Real Estate Maximums” — better known as RE/MAX— Dave Liniger served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.

From 1965 to 1971, he served as an enlisted airman in Texas, Arizona, Vietnam, and Thailand, according to his LinkedIn.

“The military really gave me the chance to grow up. It was fun. I thought it was a fabulous place,” he told Airport Journals. “It also taught me self-discipline and a sense of responsibility.”

After he got out of the military, he started flipping houses for profit, and eventually got his real estate license. He cofounded RE/MAX with his wife Gail in 1973.

2. Sperry Shoes, founded by Navy veteran Paul A. Sperry

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler
Sperry

You can thank a former sailor in the US Naval Reserve for inventing the world’s first boat shoe.

In 1917, Sperry joined the Navy Reserve, though he didn’t stay in for very long. He was released from duty at the end of the year at the rank of Seaman First Class.

Still, his experience there and further adventures sailing led to the founding of his company, which eventually created the first non-slip boating shoe. He founded Sperry in 1935.

During World War II, his Sperry Top-Sider shoes were purchased by the boatload by the Navy. Now nearly a century later, they are still a favorite of sailors everywhere.

3. FedEx, founded by Marine Corps veteran Fred Smith

Back before FedEx was the behemoth logistics company it is today, founder Fred Smith was observing how the military was getting things from point A to point B.

After graduating from Yale University, he was commissioned as a Marine Corps officer and served two tours in Vietnam. He earned a Bronze Star, Silver Star, and two Purple Hearts,according to US News.

Only two years after he left the Corps, he started Federal Express.

“Much of our success reflects what I learned as a Marine,” he wrote forMilitary.com. “The basic principles of leading people are the bedrock of the Corps. I can still recite them from memory, and they are firmly embedded in the FedEx culture.”

4. Walmart, cofounded by Army veteran Sam Walton

WalMart is the largest company in the world.

It was founded by a former Army intelligence officer named Sam Walton.From 1942 to 1945, Walton was in the Army and eventually rose to the rank of captain. His brother (and cofounder) Bud served as a bomber pilot for the Navy in the Pacific.

According to the company’s history, Sam Walton’s first WalMart store, called Walton’s Five and Dime, was started with $5,000 he saved from his time serving in the Army and a $25,000 loan from his father-in-law.

5. GoDaddy, founded by Marine Corps veteran Bob Parsons

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler
Creative Commons

The company responsible for registering a large portion of the world’s web domains, GoDaddy, is the brainchild of Marine veteran Bob Parsons.

Parsons enlisted in the Corps in 1968 and later served in Vietnam, where he earned a Combat Action Ribbbon, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and the Purple Heart for wounds he received in combat.

“I absolutely would not be where I am today without the experiences I had in the Marine Corps,” he writes on his website.

In 1997, he started GoDaddy. In 2014, it filed for a $100 million IPO. He left the company around that time to focus on his philanthropic efforts

6. WeWork, founded by Israeli Navy veteran Adam Neumann

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler
Adam Neumann | Adam Neumann

Hot coworking startup WeWork is the 9th most valuable startupin the world, and it was started by a veteran of the Israeli navy.

Adam Neumann started a coworking office space for entrepreneurs in New York City back in 2011.Today, WeWork has 128 offices in 39 cities around the world.

Born in Tel Aviv, Israel, Neumann served as a navy officer there for five years before moving to the US in 2001.

7. Taboola, founded by Israeli Army veteran Adam Singolda

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler
Taboola Founder and CEO Adam Singolda. | Taboola

Another veteran of the Israel Defense Forces is Adam Singolda, the founder of content recommendation engine Taboola.

Like many other successful Israeli entrepreneurs who served in the IDF (military service ismandatory in Israel), Singolda developed many of the skills that would help his company later on in the military intelligence field.

He ended up serving for seven years as an officer with the elite Unit 8200, the Israeli military’s version of the NSA.

He started Taboola back in 2007, and you have surely seen his work under the many millions of articles who feature “Content You May Like” that the company generates at the bottom. Taboola raised a round of financing in 2015 that put its value at close to $1 billion.

8. Kinder Morgan, cofounded by Army veteran Richard Kinder

The fourth largest energy company in North America was cofounded by Vietnam veteran Richard Kinder. Along with his business partner William Morgan, he started the company in 1997.

He earned his law degree at the University of Missouri before serving in Vietnam as a US Army captain. He was in uniform for four years as a Judge Advocate General officer (aka a military lawyer).

9. USAA, founded by a group of Army officers

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler
Flickr/Fort Rucker

It may not be a huge surprise that USAA — a company that exclusively caters to military veterans and their families — was started by veterans.

Interestingly though, it doesn’t have just one founder. It has 25.

Back in the 1920s, it was pretty hard for military service members to get (or keep) auto insurance, since it was either way too expensive or likely to get cancelled since they moved around so much.

So Maj. William Henry Garrison and 24 of his fellow Army officers got together in 1922 and formed their own mutual company to insure themselves, according to Encyclopedia.com. Today, the United Services Automobile Association provides insurance, banking, and investment services to nearly 12 million members.

Disclosure: I personally have USAA insurance and use its banking services.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Unique Russian Tu-134 UBL nicknamed “Black Pearl” intercepted over the Baltic

Four Belgian Air Force F-16AM jets are deployed to Siauliai, Lithuania, to support NATO BAP (Baltic Air Policing) mission in the Baltic region since September. As part of their mission to safeguard the airspaces over Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and the Baltic Sea, the Belgian Vipers (just like the fighters of all the other air forces which support the BAP mission with rotational deployments to the Baltic States) are regularly scrambled to intercept Russian/non-NATO aircraft that fly in international airspace near NATO airspace.


While Il-76s, Su-27s and other interesting “zombies” are often escorted over the Baltic, the Russian Navy Tu-134 UB-L, RF-12041 nicknamed “Black Pearl”, that the BAF F-16s intercepted last week is a real first. The Belgian Air Force shared an IR image (most probably taken by the F-16’s SNIPER Advanced Targeting Pod used in air-to-air mode for long range identification) of the rare bird, along with a file photo of the same aircraft taking off in 2019:

The Tu-134UB-L, NATO reporting name Crusty-B, is a variant of the civilian Tu-134B aircraft designed to train Tu-160 and Tu-22M3 strategic bombers aircrews (in particular, the Tu-134 was chosen because of the thrust to weight ratio and landing/takeoff characteristics were similar to those of the Tu-22M). The Tu-134UB-L (Uchebno-Boyevoy dla Lyotchikov, Russian for combat trainer for pilots) is indeed a Tu-134B airframe with a Tu-22 nose. According to Russia’s Warplanes Vol. 2 by Piotr Butowski, a total 109 Tu-134UB-L were built, with the first one making its maiden flight in March 1981.

Noteworthy, according to some sources, the “Black Pearl” is no longer used as a trainer, but was converted to be used for transportation tasks in 2017.

Whatever its current mission is the Tu-134UB-L RF-12041 is an extremely interesting and rare aircraft. Let’s just hope the BAF will release more images of this beauty!!

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A-10 unit claims unprecedented readiness levels

For the first time, Moody’s 23rd Maintenance Squadron’s propulsion flight accomplished an unprecedented feat by ensuring every TF34 engine in their fleet is repaired to serviceable status.

This readiness level relinquishes the need for the flight to perform maintenance on their current A-10C Thunderbolt II engine assets. While they normally maintain the 74th and 75th Aircraft Maintenance Unit’s engines in support of Moody’s close-air support mission, the backshop will now centralize their TF34 repair efforts to assist other bases and Major Commands to include Reserve and National Guard units.

This has allowed the 23rd MXS to play a vital role in helping secure an Air Force-wide 200 percent ‘war-ready’ engine status, the highest in the TF34’s 40-year history.


“I’m excited for every member of this team,” said Master Sgt. Cevin Medley, 23rd MXS propulsion flight chief. “This is my third base and engine backshop. Repairing an entire TF34 engine fleet to serviceable status (with zero required maintenance) is something I have only “heard” about in my 17 years.

“This (accomplishment) is important because it not only allows us to meet our minimum deployment requirements, but we also can support other operations if every (Moody AFB) A-10 aircraft were to be tasked to deploy,” Medley added. “Since our ‘war-ready’ engine levels have been so high, we have been able to help the rest of the Air Force’s TF34 community with their due engine repairs.”

The 23rd MXS propulsion flight manages WREs, which are engines that are ready to be installed on the A-10. Of their entire fleet, 14 are spare WREs, which surpasses Air Combat Command’s required level of five spare WREs. The flight’s 280 percent spare WRE rate has enabled the backshop to currently perform no current maintenance on their assets and have rebuilt seven engines in total from outside Moody.

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler

Airman 1st Class Jordan Vasquez, 23rd Maintenance Squadron aerospace propulsion technician, inspects the fuel lines of an A-10C Thunderbolt II TF34 engine, May 16, 2018, at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Eugene Oliver)

The road to pursue this challenge wasn’t easy. An innovative process, known as the Continuous Process Improvement, positioned the flight to have a chance at history. In 2017, approximately 20 civilians and Airmen from almost every enlisted rank implemented ideas to help the flight better maintain the TF34 engine.

“(2017’s) Continuous Process Improvement event allowed us to identify waste in our streamline,” said Medley. “This enabled us to shave an average of 58 work hours off each engine visit. This allowed us to go from six awaiting maintenance engines, which is the amount of engines we didn’t have the manning to work because we were repairing other engines in 2016, to where we are today.”

In order to reach new heights in maintenance proficiency, many small changes were made. The flight refocused training for new Airmen on common problems, began pre-ordering commonly needed engine parts, enhanced cross-unit and internal communication and even added updated photos to technical orders.

For Senior Airman Dakota Gunter, 23rd MXS aerospace propulsion technician, these new improvements paid big dividends for the backshop’s operations.

“The Continuous Process Improvement not only helped us (reduce) time on engine rebuilds, it also made the job a lot easier,” said Gunter. “Our processes have gone a lot smoother with everything from checking out tools to (performing) and documenting maintenance. Teamwork has been key during all of this, with everyone playing a key part to ensure the job is complete.”

According to Medley, the cohesion and continued support of not only the 23rd MXS, but the 23rd Maintenance Group supervision proved invaluable. He hopes to sustain their achievements and continue to assist in getting the rest of the Air Force’s TF34 fleet to match Moody’s readiness.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Everything you need to know about the Air Force’s new PT tests

Air liaison officers and tactical air control party operators will soon see new career field-specific physical testing as the Air Force expands physical training beyond the standard PT test, officials announced Jan. 31.


It marks the first time specific career fields will have “occupationally specific and operationally relevant standards, as well as a second fitness assessment,” the service said in a release.

“ALO and TACP operators will be given a 12-month period after implementation to adapt to these new tests and standards before they are officially enforced,” Dr. Neal Baumgartner, chief of the Air Force’s Exercise Science Unit (ESU), said in the release.

“There are certain career fields, ALO and TACP for instance, that required much higher and broader levels of physical fitness to meet the demands of their operational mission sets,” he said.

Because of the critical skills these career fields require, Baumgartner said, the unit — with support from Rand Corp., a nonprofit institution that provides research and analysis studies on public policy, and its Project AIR FORCE team — initiated the science-based review.

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler
Senior Master Sgt. Kenneth Blakeney (second from left), 9th Air Support Operations Squadron, Fort Hood, Texas, launches a medicine ball at the fitness center at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Jan. 9, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe Yanik)

Job-related exercises

Based on the study and focus groups, the new Tier 2 test — which is still being augmented in certain cases — includes such exercises as follows:

  • 1,000-meter row (measured in minutes and seconds);
  • Pull-ups (measured in repetitions);
  • Trap bar deadlift (five repetitions, measured in pounds);
  • Two-cone agility drill (measured in seconds);
  • Medicine ball toss (measured in feet);
  • Grip strength test (measured in pounds per square inch);
  • 100-yard farmer’s carry (or 4 x 25 yards, measured in seconds);
  • Extended cross knee crunch (measured in repetitions);
  • Weighted lunges (measured in repetitions); and
  • A faster 1.5 mile run (measured in minutes and seconds).

Tier 2 is scored on a 1-10 scale in each of the 10 components. The ALO or TACP must score at least 46 points out of 100 to pass, according to the scoring sheet provided to Military.com.

In addition, TACPs or ALOs must now complete the 1.5-mile run in 11 minutes, 31 seconds, or less, the scores reveal.

Unlike the Tier 1 test, age, and gender are not a factor.

The tape test — widely unpopular among airmen, which measures weight and waist circumference — will still be taken, Air Force spokeswoman Brooke Brzozowske told Military.com.

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler
Master Sgt. Kyle Anderson, 3rd Air Support Operations Group, runs between two cones during a speed, strength and agility demonstration at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Jan. 9, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe Yanik)

Science-based review

The study, which began in 2011, found that in order “to properly develop Tier 2 tests and standards, we performed five major steps to develop a final product: identify critical physical job tasks; develop fitness tests and physical task simulations; validate fitness tests and standards versus operational physical requirements; implement and verify these tests and standards; and finally document Tier 2 products and provide recommendations for policy during the adaptation period,” Baumgartner said.

The first step used Air Force focus groups to identify 44 air liaison-TACP Critical Physical Tasks, or CPTs, the release said. They were reviewed and approved by senior leaders in the operations community.

The ESU team then identified 10 testing components deemed critical for strength training, dubbed “Tier 2 Operator Prototype PF Test Battery.”

They included grip strength, medicine ball toss, back and side; three cone drill; trap bar deadlift, five repetition maximum; pull-up; lunges, weighted 50 pound, metronome; extended cross knee crunch, metronome; farmer’s carry, 2 x 50 pound, 100 yards; row ergometer, 1000 meters; and 1.5-mile run.

Related: Here’s how to get in shape to be an Air Force special operator

“The important takeaway here is that each of these 10 components have specific relevance to unique ALO-TACP operational mission sets,” Master Sgt. Matthew Gruse, ESU NCO in charge, said in the release.

“The grip strength test, for example, measures muscular strength in the hands and forearms, but why?” he said.

“While some may see this as redundant to other test components, our study found grip strength plays a significant role in performing tasks such as litter carries, casualty drags and rescue sled pulls during casualty movement,” Gruse said.

Lastly, Rand designed eight broad physical task simulations, or PTSs, which were developed in collaboration with special operators, reviewed by senior leaders, and tested during a pilot study.

Physical Task Simulation components included rope bridge; rope ladder; cross load personnel and equipment; casualty movement; and small unit tactics.

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler
Master Sgt. James Blair, 12th Combat Training Squadron, performs a farmers drag during a strength and agility demonstration as part of the Air Force special operations community’s new fitness assessment program at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Jan. 9, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe Yanik)

Coming in 2019

All airmen are required to pass the service-wide Fitness Assessment known as Tier 1, Brzozowske said.

With Tier 2 in the mix, there is some nuance.

“ALOs and TACPs are granted permanent exemption from the aerobic (1.5-mile run) and muscle fitness (sit-up and push-up) components [under] the Tier 1 Air Force Fitness Assessment,” Brzozowske said in an email Wednesday. They were granted the exemption on Nov. 1, 2017, she said.

That is because the sharper run is already built in their new Tier 2 training.

Brzozowske said, “The exemption applies only to ALO and TACP personnel assigned to positions that are required to take the Tier 2 [Occupationally-Specific, Operationally-Relevant] Fitness Assessment per forthcoming Air Force Instruction 13-113, TACP Training Volume 1 policy. All other ALO and TACP personnel must continue to take the Tier 1 Air Force Fitness Assessment.”

While there were no women represented in the career fields during the pretrial testing, officials said they are eligible for either career field provided they “meet all minimum standards outlined in respective qualifications summaries.”

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright (second from left) poises to launch a medicine ball over his head Jan. 9, 2018 at Joint Base Andrews, Md. Wright visited a demonstration for a new occupational fitness program performed by senior noncommissioned officers from across the special operations community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe Yanik)

How and when the Air Force intends to implement the Tier 2 testing is still being determined.

The service is also weighing expanding job-specific physical testing standards for other Special Tactics career fields such as combat controllers, weather officers, combat rescue and combat pararescue, as well as non-battlefield airmen careers such as fly-away security teams, loadmasters and firefighters, which require more endurance on the job.

To prepare and to avoid duplication, some of these careers — combat control (1 C2Xl ), combat rescue officer (13DX), pararescue (1 T2Xl), special tactics officer (13CX), special operations weather technician (1 WOX2) — may be granted a temporary exemption of the aerobic run, push-ups, and sit-ups until Dec. 1, 2018, Brzozowske said. The waist-tape test will still occur.

“This exemption is contingent upon each career field manager resuming and continuing development and validation of their new AFSC-specific, operationally specific/relevant fitness assessments,” she said.

The Tier 2 test is expected to be fully implemented for the ALO-TACP career fields by the start of 2019.

Articles

Navy SEALs are prowling the Middle East on these stealthy boats

Everyone knows that when Navy SEALs arrive at their target, they can do some serious ass-kicking. But how they get to the point of attack is changing – and becoming more high-tech.


According to a report from TheDrive.com, the Combatant Craft Assault has been stealthily prowling the battlefield, giving SEALs new capabilities to insert into hostile territory and then make a clean getaway.

The CCAs reportedly took part in Eager Lion, a joint exercise in Jordan, and also got a moment in the spotlight when Army Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of United States Central Command took a training ride in one.

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler
SEALs use a Combatant Craft Assault to insert special operators during an exercise as part of Eager Lion 2015. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Paul Coover/Released)

According to AmericanSpecialOperations.com, the CCA is 41 feet long, and is capable of carrying M240 medium machine guns, M2 heavy machine guns, and Mk-19 automatic grenade launchers. The boat is also capable of being air-dropped by a C-17A Globemaster, making it a highly flexible asset.

These boats can operate from the well decks of Navy amphibious ships or afloat staging bases like USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15) and USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-ESB 3), which departed this past June for a deployment to the Persian Gulf region.

The craft reached full operational capability this year. While initially built by United States Marine, Inc., Lockheed Martin is now handling maintenance of these boats, which are manned by Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewmen. Two other stealthy special-ops boats, the Combatant Craft Medium and the Combatant Craft Heavy, are reportedly in various stages of development and/or deployment to the fleet.

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler
Service members assigned to Naval Special Warfare Command and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) participate in an interoperability exercise in the ship’s well deck during exercise Eager Lion 2017. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Darren M. Moore)

CENTCOM has seen a number of incidents with Iran, including a near-midair collision between a drone and a F/A-18E Super Hornet. Iran also notably seized American sailors in December, 2015 detaining the crews of two Riverine Command Boats. The stealthy boats could prevent future incidents by being far more difficult to track.

You can see the Eager Lion video with a CCA cameo below.

MIGHTY GAMING

One armed Marine veteran makes waves streaming on Twitch

Marine Corps veteran and amputee video game streamer known amusingly as “ToeYouUp” has been making headlines as of late for his win in the uber-popular battle royale game, Apex Legends. The Marine Corps vet lost his arm in a motorcycle accident at the age of 24 but hasn’t let it affect his love for video games.

For those of you who have played Apex Legends (one of the humble 25 million to enjoy its February debut), you know how difficult it can be to get a single kill in this game, let alone a win. However, ToeYouUp managed to get a win in the game — using one hand, one foot, and a run-of-the-mill, ol’ Playstation 4 controller.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rafuhqNnkm8
ToeYouUp getting his first Apex Win

www.youtube.com

ToeYouUp getting his first Apex Win

He’s also opted to forego any modifications on his controller. Instead, he uses his left hand to press the controller buttons, move, and aim his character. Then, he uses his toe to fire. Just look at that trigger discipline. Once a Marine, always a Marine.

How fitting then, for a Marine, that he specializes in first-person shooting games. Specifically, he alternates between Apex Legends and Battlefield V. You can take the boy outta the Marines, but you can’t take the Marines outta the boy.

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler

It’s also important to note that ToeYouUp’s channel is a blast to watch independently of his amputation. It’s actually allowed him to develop a play style that is far more watchable than a lot of his two-handed counterparts — because it’s unique. His motions tend to be far more linear, and he surveils the landscape far more than most top ranked Apex Legends players, so what could initially be looked at as a “limitation” is actually quite the opposite — it makes for more creative play.

On a website full of thousands of people who can play a game well, it’s far more entertaining (and refreshing) to see someone who can play the game with their own style and approach. Twitch users are noticing, too — he’s jumped up thousands of followers since his Apex Legends win went viral.

You can join the masses and watch the vet drop some virtual bodies on his Twitch channel below.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is an actual Army report on witches in the Republic of the Congo

Please spare some sympathy for the member of the Special Operations Research Office who, in 1964, was ordered to take a good, hard look at the impact of “witchcraft, sorcery, magic, and other psychological phenomena” during the civil war in the Republic of the Congo.

Yup. This poor soul was actually tasked with investigating the burning question of, “Are we losing because of the witches?

The surprising answer was, to paraphrase, ‘At least partially.’


In fact, the 1964 paper even analyzed the viability of U.S. forces and their allies adopting magic for their own purposes. Oh yeah, if you wanted to be a U.S. Army witch doctor, this was the time to do it.

Except, of course, the U.S. didn’t actually believe magic was affecting the physical world. Instead, it was studying how the belief in magic affected the morale of troops fighting on each side of the conflict, and then it had to decide whether to engage in some play-acting; doing fake magic in order to affect the enemy’s perceptions.

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler

A Swedish soldier with U.N. forces on duty in Congo during the crisis.

(Pressens Bild, public domain)

This wouldn’t be the Army’s only flirtation with the supernatural at the time. In 1950, a U.S. Army colonel helped fake a vampire attack to terrify communists in the Philippines, and psychological operations soldiers pulled a similar (but less effective) trick in Vietnam when they played ghost sounds over enemy troop concentrations.

The magical beliefs in the Congo revolved around two supposed classes of powers. There was sorcery, a system of magic that relied on rituals that were usually performed while mixing ingredients for a traditional medicine or preparing a charm. And there was witchcraft, a method of doing magic that relied on an innate ability that some people had from birth. These witches could simply wish for certain things to happen and, for some inexplicable reason, they would.

This magical belief was deep-seated in the Congolese. It had survived and even flourished despite nearly 100 years of economic and religious colonization. What missionaries and Belgian representatives sent to the country always found was that when push-came-to-shove, the bulk of the Congolese people would only incorporate European beliefs and power structures into their belief in magic. European beliefs were never able to replace traditional, magical ones.

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler

A Shona witch doctor in Zimbabwe.

(Hans Hillewaert, CC BY-SA 3.0)

When Belgium finally began relaxing its stranglehold in 1957 over what was then the Belgian Congo, this struggle had resulted in a deep rift between the Congolese who embraced European education and methods and those who were more dedicated to tribal beliefs and power structures. But both sides held magical beliefs. The European-influenced évolués, as they were known, simply hid those beliefs.

The Belgian Congo collapsed in 1960 and U.N. forces were eventually sent in to try and keep a tentative peace after repeated fighting and clashes. The stakes there were high. Certain parts of the Congo were quite resource-rich, including one of the breakaway zones. It also had Uranium that would be quite valuable to either the Soviet Union or the U.S., depending on who tied the emerging but troubled Republic of the Congo to their sphere of influence.

Hence U.S. military planners debating on twisting magical beliefs to their own ends. The rebellious forces often had the sorcerers (and the occasional witch) prepare magical defenses that were supposed to stop harm from European weapons.

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler

Swedish soldiers from the U.N. man a fighting position near a road in Niemba.

(Pressens Bild, public domain)

Upon deeper study, though, the 1964 paper recommended against weaponizing these beliefs against the Congolese rebels. There were a couple of major concerns. One was that these évolués were the ones most likely to be Congolese leaders that the U.S. would work with. Since they still believed in magic, they would probably balk at a U.S. mockery of it.

But they would balk even harder if their forces or their Western allies began dabbling in magic. Their entire political brand was built on not being superstitious and backwards like their peers (even though they did believe in the same magic).

Even more troublesome, though, was that while the belief in magic was near universal across the country, the exact details of the belief varied wildly between tribes and, sometimes, even between sub-tribes. As the paper described it, “Literally, one man’s charm might be another man’s potion.”

So, if a psychological operations unit were sent to capitalize on these beliefs, they would have to surreptitiously gather data on every targeted tribe and keep detailed records of it. Then, when crafting their messaging or other plots, they would have to adjust it for each tribe and then take care to keep the messages from sabotaging each other.

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler

Irish forces on duty in Congo during the Crisis.

(Irish Defence Forces)

But the most awesome concern with the program was the author’s worry that, if the U.S., Western, and government forces began openly engaging in magical operations against tribal leaders and insurgent witch-doctors, and the witch-doctors engaged in open counters, then the one near-guaranteed result would be an increased belief in magic.

In the post-war Congo, that would grant a ton of power to tribal leaders and witch-doctors, potentially necessitating power sharing that the évolués and their Western backers wouldn’t necessarily want. And, while there were government-friendly tribes, nearly all the insurgents were part of traditional tribal structures, so potentially strengthening the belief in magic would be a long-term problem for the West whether they won or lost.

Instead, the paper recommended overturning magical beliefs by showing them to be false. The biggest magical claim that witch-doctors made was that they could make troops invulnerable to Western weapons. So, every enemy soldier killed with a Western weapon weakened belief in magic. As the paper states it:

In the Congo, as elsewhere in black Africa, there is every reason to believe that disciplined troops, proficient in marksmanship, and led by competent officers, can handily dispel most notions of magical invulnerability.

In the end, it appears that no magical campaign was launched. But that hasn’t prevented decades of rebellions, coups, and other violence.

This unrest has unfortunately continued to this day — literally. On the day this article was written, accusations of recent murder by police, election violence by the state, and other human rights abuses were in the news.

Almost makes you wish the magic was real. Would be a perfect time to whip up a few charms to protect the population.

Articles

US practices D-Day-like landing in Latvia amid Russia tensions

U.S. Marines engaged in a mock beach landing in the Baltics on June 6 in a scene reminiscent of the D-Day landings of World War II.


The drill took place as part of NATO’s Exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS), an annual exercise involving approximately 6,000 troops that runs from June 1 to 16. The drill, which took place on a beach in Latvia, is a key component of the exercise which aims to project NATO power from sea at a time when the Russian threat to the Baltics has taken a drastic increase.

“What we want to do is practice and demonstrate the ability to deliver sea control and power projection at and from the sea,” said U.S. Navy Adm. Christopher Grady, Joint Force Maritime Component Commander Europe.

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler
U.S. Marines land in the Baltics for BALTOPS 17. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ricardo Davila/Released)

Reserve Marines from Texas deployed from the the USS Arlington, an amphibious landing transport, onto the beach with various landing craft. The drill was conducted on the 73rd anniversary of the D-Day landings during World War II, the largest amphibious invasion in modern history.

The Latvian landing was significantly smaller in scope than the multiple landings on D-Day, but both operations involved a combination of air, maritime and land forces. BALTOPS, like D-Day, is also multinational, with 14 nations participating in various drills.

BALTOPS has been recurring since 1972, but this year’s event comes at a time when NATO’s tensions with Russia are at their highest since the end of the Cold War. The ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine and Russia’s aggressive rhetoric has Balkan countries concerned they could be the next target.

They’re scared to death of Russia,” said Gen. Raymond Thomas, head of U.S. Special Operations Command in January. “They are very open about that. They’re desperate for our leadership.”

The U.S. sent a detachment of special operations forces to the Baltics in January in order to help train local forces.

Gold Star wife brings husband’s legacy to life through their toddler
Marines participate in BALTOPS 17. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ricardo Davila/Released)

Russian forces could reach the capitals of both Latvia and neighboring Estonia in less than 60 hours, according to an assessment by the RAND corporation, even with a week’s notice. Latvia has approximately 4,450 active ground troops, while all three Baltic countries (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) have only around 15,750 between them. Estonia can also activate the 16,000 paramilitary troops in the Estonian Defense League, while Lithuania has around 10,000 militia members in the Lithuanian Rifleman’s Union.

NATO also has rotating forces throughout the Baltic region, but RAND’s assessment noted that they may not be enough to stave off a Russian attack.

“Such a rapid defeat would leave NATO with a limited number of options, all bad,” noted the report.

Fortunately for the Baltics, President Donald Trump has noted he is “absolutely committed” to the collective defense of NATO, a stark change from his previously doubtful outlook on alliance.

 

 

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MIGHTY CULTURE

Military fathers are our daughters’ heroes

My daughter is six, an only child, a military child, and a true Daddy’s girl. I recently asked her the following:


  • Q. What makes Daddy a good daddy?
  • He takes me on bike rides and fishes with me.
  • Q. Why is Daddy important to you?
  • Because he works in the Coast Guard.
  • Q. What do you like about Daddy being in the U.S. Coast Guard?
  • He flies airplanes.
  • Q. What do you dislike about Daddy being in the U.S. Coast Guard?
  • He has to work a lot and has a lot of long work trips.

My daughter’s answers to these questions made me think about how she sees, loves, and respects her father as a hero. Every little girl deserves a father figure who is a hero in their eyes. How are military fathers equipped to be heroes to our daughters?

Military Fathers are Leaders

Serving in the military requires courage, strength, selflessness, resilience, and confidence. Leaders in the military are those whom subordinates rely upon for wisdom, direction, sound judgment, and guidance. Leaders must be determined, confident, able to delegate authority, and thoughtful. Daughters need leaders with similar qualities. The skills learned within the military are transferrable to parenting. Military fathers have a unique skill set that can help lead and guide our daughters.

There are many different types of families, extended families, relationships, and dynamics that may surround any daughter. However, fathers are often the first man in a girl’s life. Military fathers are well-equipped to excel in this role despite the time they are required to spend away from family. Leaders and mentors in the military can help shape lives, influence the decision-making skills of others, and help subordinates find their way. Couldn’t the same be said for fathers leading daughters at home?

Military Fathers Know How to Defend

When joining the military, one chooses to defend, protect, and fight for our country and our freedom. How do we teach our daughters to defend themselves both figuratively and literally? How do we, as parents, encourage them to protect their rights, health, safety, values, morals, and beliefs?

The military is rich with honor and codes of conduct, outlining what members can and cannot do. Dedication to duty, honor, service, and respect are of the highest importance. Military fathers can use these codes as moral and ethical roadmaps for our daughters.

From the first day of basic training until a member of the armed forces leaves the service, they are training for the next mission, preparing for future roles, and learning new skills. Military members are always ready. Training in this manner equips military fathers to teach our daughters to be prepared for challenges, face adversity, choose right over wrong, and take responsibility for their actions.

Military Fathers Are Heroes

The definition of a hero is a person admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. We certainly have endless examples of heroism and ultimate sacrifice in the military. Look at any Medal of Honor, Purple Heart, or Distinguished Service Cross recipient, and you will find a hero. Military members are heroes for serving their country.

Daughters need heroes as strong role models to show them leadership, perseverance, and courage. If any father can fulfill this role and do it well, it is one in the military. Military fathers might not realize it, but they are superheroes in our daughters’ eyes.

Heroes protect others and know how to do the right thing. What better way to set an example and express love to a daughter than by being a hero for your country and family? Happy Father’s Day to all of our military heroes. May you never forget just how heroic you are to our daughters.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

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