The Air Force was recently considering a new strategy to its PT tests. In a nutshell, it’s going to give any airmen who might fail a PT test a “mulligan” and list the test as a diagnostic instead of a record test. It may possibly be allowed for an airman to list a failed test as off-the-books, but that part isn’t set in stone.
The Air Force was surprisingly serious (to the other troops who use phrases like “Chair Force”) about failed PT tests and other branches also have a practice test system in place. But I can’t help but point out the bad optics on this one.
I mean, I get it. Any notion that the Air Force might someday consider being a fraction more lenient in comparison to the other branches or older vets will cause outrage. On the other hand, I know I would have killed for something like that back in my lower enlisted days…
Anyways, here are some memes while I ponder how much weight I’ve gained since getting out of the Army…
(Meme via Private News Network)
(Meme via Army as F*ck)
(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)
(Meme via The Salty Soldier)
(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)
(Meme via On The Minute Memes)
True story: I had an E-6 MP live in the apartment next to me off-base…
You know the type, the kind that called in a “noise violation” for my TV being “too loud.” Seeing him get an eviction notice was one of the happiest days of my life in the Army.
Russian lawmakers have approved a bill banning the armed forces from carrying smartphones, tablets, and other gadgets capable of recording and keeping information while on duty.
According to the bill, approved in its third and final reading in the lower house on Feb. 19, 2019, only regular phones with no cameras and without an Internet connection are now allowed in the Russian armed forces.
The bill also bans military personnel from sharing information online about their military units, missions, services, colleagues, former colleagues, and their relatives.
The bill says that “information placed on the Internet or mass media by military personnel is … in some cases used to shape a biased assessment of the Russian Federation’s state policies.”
(Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)
The bill was approved by 408 lawmakers with no vote against.
The legislation was necessary because military personnel were of “particular interest for the intelligence services of foreign governments, for terrorists, and extremist organizations,” the Duma said.
In recent years, photos and video footage inadvertently posted online via smartphones by members of the Russian military have revealed information about the location and movements of its troops and equipment.
Human rights activists were also sometimes able to obtain from the Internet video and photographic proof of the hazing of young recruits in the Russian military.
“The WS-15 [engine] is expected to be ready for widespread installation in the J-20s by the end of 2018,” one of the military sources told SCMP, adding that “minor problems” remained but would be resolved quickly.
China currently has about 20 J-20 stealth fighters in the field, but the aircraft are equipped with older Russian Salyut AL-31FN or WS-10B engines, which means they are not yet fifth-generation aircraft.
“It seems interesting that [the WS-15] would be ready for production so quickly,” Matthew P. Funaiole, a fellow with the China Power Project at CSIS, told Business Insider.
The South China Morning Post report “might indicate that there was a major milestone in what they consider to be a ready-for-production engine,” Funaiole said, but there would likely be more reports out there if the whole package was truly ready.
“I imagine this would be a very proud moment for the PLA Air Force, and that they would want to promote that as much as possible,” Funaiole said. “It’s an impressive engine.”
China’s J-20 stealth fighter.
The WS-15 is reported to have a thrust rating of 30,000 to 44,000 pounds. The F-22 Raptor, for example, has a maximum thrust of 35,000 pounds.
Nevertheless, “there’s a difference between something being production ready, and an engine being ready to be outfitted on a particular airframe,” Funaioloe said.
“There’s the initial process of them testing [the J-20 with the WS-15], it being ready for limited production, and then the first outfits training and testing it,” Funaiole added.
In other words, there’s still a ways to go before the J-20 will be mass-produced with the WS-15, even if the WS-15 is almost ready for mass production.
But it’s unclear how long that process will take.
“It’s really hard to put a particular date on it,” Funaiole said, “I think that most people sort of expect there to be progress on it over the next couple years.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
On Sept. 21, 2018, the Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System hosted our annual POW/MIA Recognition Day program. Three former prisoners of war (POW) attended including World War II Veteran Fred Brooks.
Here is his story.
From Bartlesville to the Battle of the Bulge
Born on April 2, 1926, Fred Brooks turned 18 in 1944. Nearly nine months later, the native of Bartlesville, Okla. was sent to the front lines on Christmas Day during the Battle of the Bulge.
On January 10, 1945, Brooks and five other solders in the 4th Infantry Division were conducting a night patrol and entered a German village.
“We went into this little village at night to check it out, and there wasn’t anyone in that village when we entered it,” said Brooks. “When daylight came, the Germans were everywhere. They killed one and wounded two.”
Surrounded, the remaining soldiers were forced to surrender, and were transported to Stalag IV-B Prison Camp in Mühlberg, Germany.
Brooks said the Germans fed the POWs once a day, which was typically a small cup of vegetable soup.
World War II Veteran Fred Brooks.
“That’s all they had to give you,” he said. “The Germans had nothing to feed their own troops, let alone us.”
He said the Germans never harmed him, but he did have to endure the brutal winter conditions.
“My feet were frozen terribly bad,” he said. “I didn’t have one drop of medication. There was an elderly English man in the camp where I was at and he helped me tremendously to clean the wounds as best we could. It was a rough winter.”
On April 23, 1945, the Russians liberated Stalag IV-B and approximately 30,000 POWs.
“The Russians entered our camp during the night,” said Brooks. “The next day, I think there was three German guards left and the Russians hung them high in the trees. We were very happy to see (the Russians). They fed us.”
Approximately 3,000 POWs died at Stalag IV-B, mostly from tuberculosis and typhus.
World War II Veteran and former POW Fred Brooks has received his health care from the Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System for approximately 30 years.
Brooks was reunited with the American Army and sent to the coast of France to wait for a transport ship home. While waiting, he met another soldier from Bartlesville, and the two made a pact not to tell their families they were coming home.
“When we got to the little bus station in Bartlesville, his wife was waiting on him,” he said with a laugh. “He had broken our vow not to call.”
From the bus station, Brooks walked a mile to his parent’s home.
“I got my parents up at 2 o’clock in the morning,” he said. “It was unreal. My parents were just out of it to see me walking in the door. It really surprised them. They were very happy.”
After the war, Brooks worked in construction and retired at the age of 75. He still lives in Bartlesville.
Looking back on the war and his internment in a German POW Camp, Brooks credits divine intervention for his survival.
There’s no perfect treatment for the psychological ailments that veterans face when returning from combat. What works for one veteran may not work for another — in some cases, it may even make things worse. Unfortunately, the burden of finding the best method of treatment (which usually involves endless hours of trial and error) is almost always placed squarely on the shoulders of those preoccupied with coping with post-traumatic stress.
For some folks, taking prescription medication helps — and that’s great. For others, those same medications may cause more harm than good. The veterans for which standard treatments don’t work often feel as if they’re being tossed into a box and told to just keep taking pills until the problem is better. We can all agree that there has got to be a better solution, but it’s not an easy ask — there’s no magic wand to wave to make the bad life experiences just go away.
So, to take some steps in the positive direction, some veterans are venturing into the taboo. From Shock to Awe, a new documentary that comes out November 12, follows two veterans as they embark on a journey into psychedelic medicines to try and finally find peace and balance.
In Iraq’s capital city of Baghdad during the 1980s, a family of six brothers and one sister — all very close in age — played in the streets and parks of their hometown, enjoying the simple things in life they had at the time. Through the decades, the times and the city had changed, and the streets and parks were not as simple.
Alsaeedy, the son of an Iraqi army reserve officer, said Iraq was a joyous place to grow up. “We played basketball, walked to school — all the children in the neighborhood were close,” he added. “There were negatives in politics, but we believed in our father, and everything was fine.”
Alsaeedy’s dream was to travel. “Everybody’s goal [in high school] was to travel the world, places like [the United Kingdom], U.S., and Europe,” Alsaeedy said. He kept that dream with him before pursuing a degree in biochemical engineering at the University of Baghdad.
“I was in my second year of college when everything happened — the troops arrived,” he said. “It was a year later when it seemed things began to settle down. We all were trying to educate ourselves on the matter, because we believed — and still do — that the U.S. forces and allies were there to transform the country and help. We felt there was not going to be any more tyranny system or sects of families taking over the country, doing whatever they felt they wanted … so we believed in the change and welcomed it.”
Trouble Finding Work
After graduating from college, Alsaeedy needed to find work, preferably in the engineering field. But it was extremely hard to come by, he said, due to the nature of the country and the fact that most employers hired only within their sects.
“I did not know exactly what to do or what I wanted to do, but I did know that I wanted to work for and with the service members,” he said. “It was not just about money or security. It was about being a part of something important to me.”
Unable to break into the U.S. contractor market, Alsaeedy’s education and skill set eventually gravitated employers to him within the private sector. In 2005, he found stability in the information technology field as a networking specialist for satellite communications.
“Then one day a man came into the shop and it changed my life forever,” he said. “He inquired about an internet network to be installed on a military base in Baghdad. I took the job. After the work was complete, they were very satisfied and needed more, so they hired me full-time. My English was very fluent, and I became a translator for them, too.”
While the years passed, Alsaeedy’s experiences and relationships grew through the ranks, and by 2007, he was a popular name among higher-ranking officials with the U.S. Air Force and the Marines in Qaim, Iraq.
Integrated Into Brotherhood
“I saw in the soldiers what very few of us [natives] see,” Alsaeedy said. “They were trustful, pleasant and respectful; they integrated me into their brotherhood.”
Insurgency propaganda said the Americans were in Iraq to destroy everything, Alsaeedy said.” But they were not,” he added. “They were building. They built infrastructure for the population and barracks for the Iraqi army. They supplied resources increasing our livelihood [and] creating jobs for husbands and fathers.”
At the end of 2007, Alsaeedy received some big news. Then-President George W. Bush allowed vetted contractors who had worked for the U.S. government for at least five years to be granted special immigrant visas for them and their families. The visa allowed them to live and work in the United States. At the end of 2009, Alsaeedy said, things started to change as U.S. troops began to withdraw.
“The protection was decreasing and so was the structure,” he said. “I knew if I stayed, my family and I were going to die soon.” In 2010, Alsaeedy met his five-year requirement to qualify for the special visa for him and his family to move to the United States.
Settling in Virginia
He settled in Norfolk, Virginia, where a new country and culture surrounded him. What he once knew as a world of war was now a life of peace and the pursuit of happiness, he said. He was immediately hired, and he worked for an oil and gas company from 2011 to 2012.
Alsaeedy said he felt grateful to the United States for the opportunities he’d received.
However, Alsaeedy said he “wanted to give them more.”
He enlisted into the U.S. Army in August 2013 as a combat engineer. Shortly thereafter, he attended basic training and advanced individual training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
Alsaeedy demonstrated his potential and quick-learning abilities, as well as outstanding physical fitness. He was afforded the opportunity to attend airborne school at Fort Benning, Georgia, upon graduation.
“I found out that I was going to be assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division,” he said. “I knew it was an honor and a prestigious unit. I remember seeing the ‘Double-A’ patch in Iraq. And to realize that I am now one of those paratroopers along with my family — I was beyond excited and humbled. However, it truly did not hit me until I came to Fort Bragg and walked through the division’s museum. That’s when I realized I was a part of something special.”
In 2014, Alsaeedy arrived full of energy to Alpha Company, 307th BEB. He was a new Panther Engineer, and he integrated just fine among his leaders and peers.
“We did a lot of training,” he said. “We went to every kind of weapons range you could think of. I learned demolitions, steel cutting, [went on] too many ruck marches, and was just very happy.”
Returning to Iraq
But Alsaeedy’s heart was holding a deep secret: there was something missing.
“My real dream was to return to Iraq,” he said. “I wanted to be an asset to the unit. I had the language, the background and culture. I knew if I ever went back, I would put myself out there to be as valuable as I could for the 307th.”
In early 2015, the 3rd BCT deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. At the time, it was the newest campaign in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. There, paratroopers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division provided advice and assistance to Iraqi security forces.
In a twist of fate, Alsaeedy’s unit operated in the neighborhood where he was raised. His dream finally came true.
“It wasn’t easy at first,” Alsaeedy said while looking up with teary eyes. “But it was my leadership. They understood my situation. They supported me. It made my job and task much easier.”
Alsaeedy’s background and capabilities soon became an asset for his battalion commander all the way up to division command sergeant major and higher-ranking officials in tactical operations centers around the area of operations.
With his hard work and commitment to his leadership and the unit’s mission, Alsaeedy received the first battlefield promotion for a noncommissioned officer during the OIR campaign. He was pinned with the rank of sergeant during the fall of 2015 upon the unit’s redeployment to Fort Bragg.
His accomplishments and accolades did not stop there. “When I became an NCO, great things began to happen for me and my family,” Alsaeedy said. He attended the Warrior Leader’s Course soon after becoming a sergeant, learning technical skills and correspondence in the craft of an NCO.
Alsaeedy’s motivation and physical fitness separated him from his peers. He wanted to go to Sapper School and master his craft as an engineer. “I may have had a more advanced role during deployment, but I am still an engineer in the 307th,” he said.
Early 2016 came around, and he began training with the division’s Best Sapper Team as it prepared to compete in the U.S. Army Best Sapper competition.
To keep himself busy and find new challenges, Alsaeedy attended the two-week Fort Bragg Pre-Ranger Course, which evaluates and prepares future candidates for the U.S. Army’s Ranger School at Fort Benning.
He never went to Sapper School, though. Immediately upon graduating the Pre-Ranger Course, he was put on a bus to Ranger School. Alsaeedy went straight through the 62-day course, a course that normally has a high attrition rate.
“I have been busy, that’s for sure,” he said. “But I felt the more I accomplish as an NCO and a paratrooper, the more I am giving back to the Army.
“I am just so grateful. I cannot put into words how I feel, landing the opportunity during the mid-2000s to becoming a citizen, a soldier deployed to my hometown and a Ranger,” he continued. “My wife and child love the installation, the people, and my daughter is receiving a great education from the schools on Fort Bragg. The Army adopted me, and I am forever in debt to the most professional and perfect organization: the 82nd Airborne [Division].”
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
A U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle fires flares during a flight in support of Operation Inherent Resolve June 21, 2017. The F-15, a component of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, supports U.S. and coalition forces working to liberate territory and people under the control of ISIS.
U.S. Air Force Col. Peter Fesler, 1st Fighter Wing commander, looks back to his wingman during his final F-22 Raptor flight over Charlottesville, Va., June 21, 2017. The Raptor is a 5th-generation fighter jet that combines stealth, supercruise, maneuverability and integrated avionics.
Soldiers of the 100th Battalion donned Ghillie suits, June 18, 2017, in preparation for their mock ambush on opposing forces during their annual training at Kahuku Training Area.
An M1A1 Abrams from Task Force Dagger plays the role of Opposing Forces at Fort Hood, Texas, to provide the 278th Armored Brigade Combat Team with a near-peer opponent during the unit’s eXportable Combat Training Capability rotation May 30 – June 21. Task Force Dagger consisted of the 116th Brigade Engineer Battalion’s forces and was supplemented by units from five other states during the exercise.
The Henry J. Kaiser-class fleet replenishment oiler USNS Yukon (T-AO 202) is underway alongside the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd (DDG 100) during a replenishment-at-sea. Kidd is underway with the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group on a scheduled deployment to the western Pacific and Indian Oceans.
Sailors aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) prepare to participate in an M9 pistol shoot on the ship’s port aircraft elevator. The ship and its ready group are deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations designed to reassure allies and partners, and preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the region.
Marine Special Operations School Individual Training Course students fire an M249 squad automatic weapon during night-fire training April 13, 2017, at Camp Lejeune. For the first time, U.S. Air Force Special Tactics Airmen spent three months in Marine Special Operations Command’s initial Marine Raider training pipeline, representing efforts to build joint mindsets across special operations forces.
U.S. Marines of Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 25th Marines, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, exit a CH-53E from Heavy Marine Helicopter Squadron 772, 4th Marine Air Wing, MARFORRES, to perform a rehearsal for the Air Assault Course as a part of the battalion final exercise for Integrated Training Exercise 4-17 at Camp Wilson, Marine Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, June 21, 2017. ITX is a Marine Air Ground Task Force integration training exercise featuring combined arms training events that incorporate live fire and maneuver.
A 25-foot Response Boat-Small boatcrew from Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team Honolulu (91107) conducts a coastal safety and security patrol while escorting Hōkūleʻa, a Polynesian double-hulled voyaging canoe, back to Magic Island, Oahu, June 17, 2017. The Hōkūleʻa returned home after being gone for 36 months, sailing approximately 40,000 nautical miles around the world.
A member of the U.S Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard’s silent drill team waits prior to performing at a sunset salute program, Tuesday, June 20, 2017, at Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston. The team performed in front of the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle as part of the festivities surrounding Sail Boston.
Award-winning nonprofit Pin-Ups for Vets is releasing its 13th annual fundraising calendar to raise money for VA hospitals; ill, injured, and homeless veterans; deployed troops; and military families. The 2019 calendar, photographed on the iconic Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA, features 19 female veterans decked out in World War II inspired fashion.
“Fans of Art Deco will appreciate the look of the upcoming calendar that reflects the vintage glamour of this 1936 cruise liner, now permanently docked in Long Beach, CA as a floating hotel,” said Pin-Ups For Vets Founder, Gina Elise, who established Pin-Ups For Vets in 2006, as a way to honor the WWII service of her grandfather.
Gina Elise, Founder
Gina has devoted her life to giving back to the military community. To date, Pin-Ups For Vets has donated over ,000 to help hospitals purchase new therapy equipment and to provide financial assistance for Veterans’ healthcare program expansion across the United States.
The 2019 calendar is officially ready for pre-order at www.PinUpsForVets.com. All 2019 Pin-Ups for Vets calendar pictures were taken by Shane Karns Photography — and let me just tell you…he really nailed it.
Kirstie Ennis, U.S. Marine Corps veteran
From a linguist, to a Human Intelligence Collector, to a combat photographer, to a combat medic, to a motor transportation operator, to a heavy equipment transporter driver leading convoys in Iraq, to a helicopter door gunner in Afghanistan, these ladies also include an above-the-knee amputee veteran (Marine Corps veteran Kirstie Ennis — who, by the way, at the time of this publishing was climbing Mount Denali in support of Service to Summit to raise money for Building Homes for Heroes, a nonprofit organization that builds or modifies homes and gives them to veterans in need).
Julie Noyes, Army veteran
Army veteran Julie Noyes says, “It can be so difficult as a female service member to feel empowered in her beauty without feeling like she may betray the professionalism of her uniform when we only seek to be treated like our male counterparts. I feel that Pin-Ups for Vets does a superb job at raising money and awareness for our elderly, wounded vets and our currently deployed troops while also showcasing the class and beauty of female veterans without objectifying them. What Pin-Ups Vets Founder Gina Elise has done with this publication and non-profit is nothing short of empowering and inspiring.”
Naumika Kumar, Navy Veteran
“I will always be thankful to the Navy. I met my husband in the Navy who is also a veteran now and I graduated from National University with Master’s Degree in 2012 as well. I am happy to see there are organization such as Pin-Ups For Vets who are doing so much to support the military and Veterans. I am happy that I got an opportunity to be part of the organization.”
Patti Gomez, Army veteran
Patti is a veteran of the United States Army, where she proudly served in the New York Army National Guard as a 35M (Human Intelligence Collector) of the 42nd Infantry Division, located in Glenville, New York. She volunteered to attend JRTC in Fort Polk, Louisiana, alongside the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in July 2016. She also trained at Warfighter at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, with her unit in October 2017. Patti attended Basic Combat Training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and attended Advanced Individual Training at the United States Army Intelligence Center of Excellence in Fort Huachuca, Arizona.
“Pin-Ups for Vets is an incredible organization with an important mission. Being a part of a nonprofit that helps veterans and empowers women at the same time is truly an honor and one that I couldn’t pass up when I was asked to be a part of the 2019 calendar. As the reigning Mrs. New York America, my platform is veteran organizations — and Pin-Ups for Vets is truly among the best of them!”
Check out that cover image!
The 2019 calendar can be purchased at: www.PinUpsForVets.com or by check to: Pin-Ups For Vets, PO Box 33, Claremont, CA 91711.
Check out these five military veteran comedians you should look out for in 2018.
5. Mitch Burrow
This Marine veteran served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Afterward, he started a career in manufacturing, but quickly realized that it sucked. He began his stand-up comedy career after driving down to the Comedy Store in La Jolla, drinking three shots of tequila and a couple of Budweisers, and getting on stage. Later, Mitch was told it went pretty well.
To follow Mitch or check out one of his shows visit his website: MitchBurrow.com.
4. Thom Tran
After enlisting in the Army at 18, Thom spent most of his career as a Communications Sergeant and Civil Affairs Sergeant. Thom decided to become a comedian after sustaining an injury during combat operations.
In 2008, he moved to Los Angeles and soon created The GIs of Comedy tour — a show that travels the world performing for both military and civilian audiences.
3. Isaura Ramirez
After serving 13 years in the Army, this former captain deployed to Iraq for 15 months. When she returned home, Isaura enrolled herself in a comedy class as a form of expression.
This Philadelphia native joined the Marine Corps at 18, serving as an infantry rifleman (0311) with 3rd Battalion 6th Marines. After leaving the Corps in the mid-90s, Rocco moved to Los Angeles where he’s had luck landing gigs, including headlining his act at several comedy stores throughout the U.S.
This comedian and Marine veteran also serves the community as a knowledgeable yoga instructor
Before James was cracking up audiences with his flawless stand-up routine, he was giving orders while stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. This former captain served in both Operation Desert Shield and Storm before exiting from the Corps.
Now, he performs wherever he can find work, but you follow him on his website JamesPConnolly.com.
They will be here all week and don’t forget to tip your waiter.
Got any vets you think will make us laugh? Leave a comment.
New events for this year’s Best Warrior Competition will come from the experiences of operational advisors deployed around the world by the Asymmetric Warfare Group, the lead organizer said Sept. 25, 2019.
The competition will take place Oct. 6-11, 2019, at Forts Lee and A.P. Hill, Virginia, with 22 competitors from the Army’s major commands and components vying for Soldier of the Year and NCO of the Year. Winners will be announced at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C., Oct. 14, 2019.
A small Asymmetric Warfare Group detachment at Fort A.P. Hill has been preparing for the competition since February 2019 under the leadership of 1st Sgt. Hunter Conrad.
Conrad served as an AWG operational advisor for three years, undergoing half a dozen deployments to nations such as Senegal, Uganda, Somalia and Tunisia. He also served for a year on AWG’s Leadership Development Troop, teaching brigade combat teams how to operate in a subterranean environment.
The competition’s events, though, don’t just come from his experiences; they’re based on real-world situations observed by operational advisors across all combatant commands, he said.
Spc. Hunter Olson, Maryland National Guard, dominates a water survival event involving a 100-meter swim in full uniform at the 2019 Region II Best Warrior Competition.
(Photo by aj. Kurt M. Rauschenberg)
“It’s been a team effort,” Conrad said, and that doesn’t just stop with the preparations. A team of about 15 soldiers from First U.S. Army at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois, will be joining his detachment to conduct the competition.
Another 20 or so soldiers from AWG at Fort Meade, Maryland, will be going to A.P. Hill to help run the competition, he said, and a handful from the Army Medical Command will also be there.
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael A. Grinston went to Fort A.P. Hill September 2019 for a validation and mission rehearsal of the competition. He made minor course corrections, Conrad said, based on his preference for enhanced, realistic training.
“The Best Warrior Competition is the essence of what we want to accomplish,” Grinston said. “We want to enhance Army readiness by building cohesive teams who are highly trained, disciplined and physically fit. Cohesive teams are the key to winning on any battlefield.”
In order to enhance the realism, Conrad spent hours studying after-action reports that describe recent incidents around the world that tested the combat proficiency of soldiers. Many of those incidents will be re-created for the competition.
The competition actually begins at Fort Lee with the new Army Combat Fitness Test. Then competitors depart for the operational phase of Best Warrior at Fort A.P. Hill. There they will be tested on various soldier skills as part of a fictional combatant command scenario, Conrad said.
Every year, different skill level 1 tasks are tested, he said, in order to keep competitors guessing. They don’t know ahead of time what skills will be assessed, or in what order, so Conrad said they must be proficient in all of them.
Competitors won’t be able to “just memorize the sequence of events and perform them in a sterile environment,” like they do in warrior task testing lanes at many units, he said.
Spc. Collin George, U.S. Army Reserve Soldier of the Year, reassebles an M240B machine gun with his eyes covered during a crew-served weapons class at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, Aug. 14, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Kevin Long)
“We actually try to place them in a real-world scenario and grade them on their ability to execute the same tasks in a more stressful, realistically-simulated environment,” he said.
Last year the operational phase of the competition began with a ruck march in the dark carrying 50 pounds of gear. The initial event will be different this year, but Conrad added competitors “can expect to exert themselves physically.”
Additionally, Grinston noted, as the Army continues to study ways to enhance readiness, it must better understand biomechanics and cognitive performance to quantify soldier lethality.
“We need to establish a baseline for soldier performance through the Soldier Performance Model,” he said. “We have a team who will place sensors on each competitor to measure everything from stress and fatigue, to how their bodies process nutrition during the competition.”
“This will help us collect data to evaluate the impact of those factors, and others, on soldiers, and what we can do to help them perform better,” Grinston said.
Last year, Cpl. Matthew Hagensick from the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning, Georgia, earned the Soldier of the Year title. Sgt. 1st Class Sean Acosta, a civil affairs specialist with the 1st Special Warfare Training Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, became NCO of the Year.
An avionics technician recently returned to her place of inspiration, an event that helped her further set her sights on the skies right after she graduated high school in 2015.
Senior Airman Lydia Kamps, an avionics technician with the 756th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, had the opportunity to return to the Experimental Aircraft Association’s GirlVenture Camp during the Oshkosh Air Show in Wisconsin as a mentor — not just a participant. She was able to share how her path of becoming an airman is taking her toward the goals she set for herself in aviation, a path most young women in the audience haven’t considered.
“Not only do I get to share my experiences from flying general aviation and my time in the Air Force, I get to inspire others and give them direction for their aviation dreams,” Kamps said. “It is even cooler that I am so close in age to the girls I mentored because I can really connect with them and help them realize their career goals are entirely possible even at a young age.”
It was the second year in a row Kamps used the Air Force Recruiting Services’ We Are All Recruiters program, or WEAR, to get approval for a permissive temporary duty to the summer event.
Senior Airman Lydia Kamps, a 309th Aircraft Maintenance Unit F-16 Fighting Falcon avionics technician, Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., speaks to young women during the Experimental Aircraft Association’s GirlVenture Camp held July 22-24, 2019 during the EAA’s AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis. This is the second year in a row Kamps volunteered as a mentor at AirVenture and its air show, one of the largest aviation events in America.
“The airshow and GirlVenture Camp is always one of the best parts of the year,” Kamps said. “It is an awesome opportunity to connect with so many different people, the aviation professionals I mentor with and the girls that attend the camp. I was also able to meet up with old friends and aviation enthusiasts from all around the world and nerd out over hundreds of airplanes!”
A WEAR event is an event where the interaction of Air Force personnel educate and increase public awareness of the Air Force and could potentially provide numerous leads for recruiters. These events enhance the AFRS mission to inspire, engage and recruit future airmen to deliver airpower for America.
“GirlVenture is one of the many outreach engagements we participate in to achieve the Air Force’s rated diversity improvement objectives,” said Maj. Lindsay Andrew, AFRS Detachment 1 director of operations, Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas. “This year, AFRS Detachment 1 manned a booth at Kidventure to inform, influence and inspire young aviation enthusiasts at Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Senior Airman Kamps’ enthusiasm and expertise made her a perfect match for the type of spokespersons AFRS needed at GirlVenture.”
Approval for WEAR is limited to those events where airmen are directly speaking to potential applicants or influencers about Air Force opportunities. Applicants are defined as individuals within the 17- to 39-year-old range; and influencers can be defined as parents, community leaders, teachers, counselors, coaches and more.
Senior Airman Lydia Kamps, F-16 Viper avionics technician at the 309th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, takes a photo with young aviation enthusiasts during the Experimental Aircraft Association’s GirlVenture Camp held July 22-24, 2019 during the EAA’s AirVenture in Osh Kosh, Wisconsin.
“It can be challenging to share Air Force experience with the high school ladies as many of them have not ever considered the military and have misconceptions,” Kamps said. “However, when I describe the technical skills I have gained from working on jets and mention the benefits of education, travel and camaraderie, they are intrigued and anxious to find out more. Additionally, when we are walking around the grounds looking at the aircraft and watching the jets fly in the shows they are amazed and encouraged to learn more.”
WEAR events are approved on an individual basis and must be first approved by the individual’s commander in accordance with AFI 36-3003 Military Leave Program. Air Force members may receive up to 14 days permissive TDY per year to attend WEAR events.
“My flight chief introduced me to the WEAR program last year when I was submitting leave to volunteer,” Kamps said. “The program makes it a lot easier to take time from work and fully focus on mentoring and getting the most out of one week packed with people and airplanes.”
While inspiring others, the avionics technician said she was also mentored by other airmen sharing their story.
Airman 1st Class Lydia Kamps.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Robert L. McIlrath)
“This year we had the privilege of hearing from Col. Kim Campbell about flying in Operation Iraqi Freedom and other accomplished aviators like the Chief Systems Pilot Bebe O’Neil who is prior Air Force,” Kamps said. “The speakers were definitely a highlight for me and the girls.”
A bond was created between the mentor airman and participants through shared activities and experiences on the air show grounds.
“Many of them are intimidated by the military, especially since the majority that serve are gentleman, but when they see me and find out about my success even as a woman, they are encouraged to not let that hold them back from their career goals,” Kamps said. “Several girls are already looking at working toward being fighter pilots, and appreciate how I started out flying general aviation and later enlisted with the same goal of commissioning that I am currently pursuing.
“For others, hearing from my experience might just have been the first spark to their wanting to join the Air Force,” she continued. “It was an honor to share my experiences as an avionics technician and tell them about all the opportunities the Air Force offers.”
National Guard units joined with the U.S. Army and Hungarian Defense Forces (HDF), who partnered for a live-fire training exercise as a part of Breakthrough 2019 in June.
Breakthrough 2019 aims to identify the capabilities and limitations of the U.S. Army and HDF on a tactical level while in theater. During the exercise, firing systems are tested to demonstrate multi-echelon interoperability between both the U.S. and Hungarian military forces. This provides an opportunity to observe the synchronization and execution of both manned and digital firing upon specified targets within a tactical environment.
“We are grateful to our strong NATO ally Hungary for hosting this outstanding training event,” said Lt. Gen. Christopher Cavoli, commander, U.S. Army Europe.” We appreciate the coordination and planning conducted by all of our allies and partners in the Balkan peninsula that ensured the success of this exercise.”
Breakthrough 2019 promotes regional stability and security while increasing readiness. Units such as the 3rd 197th Artillery Battalion from Ohio and New Hampshire National Guards worked along with Hungarian Defense Forces.
Soldiers from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, Rose Barracks, Vilseck, Germany, salute the raising of the American flag during the opening ceremony of Breakthrough 2019
(Photo by Spc. Joseph E.D. Knoch)
“The exercise brings together the Ohio Army National Guard and other National Guard units from four other states to exercise with U.S. Army Europe’s 2d Cavalry Regiment,” Lt. Gen. Cavoli said. “We are strengthening partner capabilities and fostering trust. Our combined training grants an opportunity to greatly improve interoperability among participating allies and partners such as the HDF.”
All of Breakthrough 2019 is set up as a joint training exercise which is designed to afford U.S. and Hungarian military units of similar skill set the chance to work together in a field environment.
“One of the Army’s top priorities is training with allies and partners to improve multinational cooperation,” said Lt. Col. Davis Ulricson, 3rd 197th Artillery Battalion, New Hampshire National Guard. “I don’t think we’ve ever waged a war on our own. So if we don’t exercise together, we don’t understand each other, how we work together, or what our capabilities are, then we can’t be effective. So it’s important that we come together and exercise these things by really working together and understanding each other.”
Ulricson expressed his support for the opportunity that Breakthrough 2019 is affording his soldiers who brought, M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) all the way from New Hampshire in order to shoot with the Hungarian cannon unit.
“That’s pretty exciting,” Ulricson said. “It’s good for my Soldiers to understand cultures in other nations, meet other people and really just get to know people outside of their neighborhood, It makes them feel comfortable and fosters a trust that allows us all to do our jobs better.”
The Hungarian Defense Forces were quick to affirm Breakthrough 2019 in a positive light.
“It’s very important, the cooperation between the Americans and the Hungarian Defense Forces,” said Brig. Gen. George Sandor, Artillery Battalion, Hungarian Defense Forces.
Hungarian Defense Forces Col. Vokla Janos, commander, Bakony Combat Training Centre, calls for fire during Breakthrough 2019.
(Photo by Spc. Nyatan Bol)
Cavoli said that no nation can confront today’s challenges alone, and Breakthrough 2019 demonstrates the U.S. resolve to stand side-by-side with our NATO allies and partners.
The interoperability of Breakthrough 2019 demonstrates the realistic challenges of multi-domain exercises, which are orchestrated in order to learn how these armies are capable of fighting together.
“Breakthrough 2019 showcases the U.S. Army’s ‘Total Army’ concept,” Cavoli said. “Breakthrough demonstrates our ability to conduct combined field artillery operations with the Hungarian Defense Forces, which builds our interoperability and collective readiness.”
Exercises like Breakthrough involve the U.S. Army’s ability to move units and their equipment from the United States, offload them into European ports and then move them quickly throughout the region.
“In coming to Breakthrough 2019, readiness was our priority,” Ulricson said.
In sharing the real aspects of preparing a unit for an undertaking such as this, Ulricson said that a large portion of the work comes down to paperwork and online training for his soldiers. But he also shared that there are many aspects to preparing such as cultural awareness training, equipment inspections and tactical training, among other things.
“The movement here from New Hampshire lasted most of the year,” Ulricson said.
The 197th first had to prepare every piece of equipment, and every vehicle for the trip. Then a long series of events had to unfold. The vehicles were placed on a train to Charleston, then put on a boat and shipped to Slovenia, where they offloaded and driven by the unit the rest of the way to Hungary.
“It was an amazing effort. All in all, this is a lot of coordination and work from the people who keep this unit moving.” Ulricson said.
That same dedication and work ethic remained evident.
U.S. Army Lt. General Christopher Cavoli, commander, U.S. Army Europe, receives a briefing from Hungarian Defense Forces Col. Vokla Janos, commander, Bakony Combat Training Centre, while observing a live fire exercise as part of Breakthrough 2019.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Joseph E. D. Knoch)
“One of the biggest challenges was getting into the vehicles after having not seen them for so long and running communications checks to make sure that everyone was up and ready so that vehicles didn’t break down on the road.” said 2nd Lt. Taylor Mitchel, Platoon Leader, Bravo Battery, 3rd 197th Field Artillery Battalion, New Hampshire National Guard.
On the day of the live fire, Lt. Col. Ulricson explained that part of that day’s mission was to shoot one M142 HIMARS round each out of four separate MLRS within a tight time frame of just several seconds. The rockets would then travel close to the speed of sound to an impact area.
Mitchel said one of his favorite parts of this mission was the opportunity to plan and strategize.
“Especially in situations like where our launcher chiefs are coming out and finding places to hide, engage and deploy,” Mitchel said. “It showed a lot of the new guys, especially myself, who haven’t deployed, the process that is behind the deployment; moving an element of individuals as well as the equipment out to a battlefield area so that we can operate in that environment.”
He said another personal highlight to working in the POC and directing fires was finally seeing the HIMARS, that he helped call out, go off right next to him.
“It’s a very rewarding feeling as well as very humbling because of the power and teamwork that goes behind getting that rocket down range where it needs to be, it’s awesome,” Mitchel said.
As breakthrough 2019 came to a close Brig. Gen. Sandor shared his thoughts on the overall success of the training.
“Breakthrough 2019 was very useful,” said Sandor. “This exercise provided an opportunity to address differences between Hungarian and American military weapons, which has resulted in a more unified tactical preparedness between the two countries.”
Paul Rieckhoff, director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). Photo: C.J. Lin, Stars and Stripes
In politics, business, advocacy, and media, there are veterans on the American landscape who have the potential to make a big difference in the months ahead. Some of them are well-known; many of them are not (but should be).
The editors of We Are The Mighty looked across the community and created a diverse list of veterans who continue to serve in a wide variety of high-impact ways. Here are The Mighty 25:
WILLIAM MCNULTY — Managing Director, Team Rubicon Global
William McNulty is a former Marine infantryman who later transitioned into the intelligence community. In 2010 he assumed a new mission with what would eventually become Team Rubicon, a non-profit disaster relief organization he co-founded with fellow Marine Jake Wood.
Since then, Team Rubicon has grown considerably. The permanent staff now oversees some 16,000 volunteers who deploy wherever disaster strikes. Late this year, McNulty stepped back from the main organization to focus on an ambitious project to take TR international.
In 2015, with McNulty now managing director of Team Rubicon Global, look for greater impact from the five-year-old organization as it expands to support relief efforts worldwide. This franchise approach will model Team Rubicon’s successes with American veterans and allow foreign military vets to continue to serve in their communities.
DON FAUL — Director of Operations, Pinterest
Annapolis grad and former Marine Don Faul got to his new job by way of Google and Facebook, a great training track for the task he faces as Pinterest’s head of Operations.
Faul is already making waves with his innovative approach to the site’s ad units, substituting the standard way of charging an advertiser per one thousand impressions for a model that charges by the amount visitors actually click on an ad – a huge benefit for the small businesses that frequent Pinterest. Faul’s leadership could make a big difference in Pinterest’s performance, and beyond that, in how social media is monetized next year and beyond.
JONI ERNST — Senator from Iowa
A day after winning the most contested Senate race in the country — a race punctuated by ads that showcased her talking about castrating cows — Maj. Joni Ernst showed up for duty with the Iowa National Guard where she’s served since 1993.
She now arrives in D.C. as the only female combat veteran in the Senate, and the Republican side of the aisle is ready to use that for all it’s worth. “It’s really good for our National Defense,” Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley told National Review Online, “having [Ernst serve] in the Senate will be good for all debate on national security.”
DAN BRILLMAN — Co-founder, Unite US
Along with co-founder and West Point grad Taylor Justice, Air Force reservist and tanker pilot Dan Brillman has figured out a way to leverage web technology to allow eligible parties to effectively navigate the “Sea of Good Will” — the 40,000 organizations dedicated to helping veterans that have historically presented a challenge because of their sheer number and dizzying overlap.
Brillman created Unite US, a website that uses “interactive, proximity-mapping technology” to match vets to the services they need – sort of like Yelp for the military dot-org ecosystem. If you haven’t used UniteUS.com yet, by the end of 2015 you will have.
SETH MOULTON — Congressman from Massachusetts
Seth Moulton’s reluctant entry into politics was spurred primarily by his experiences as a Marine across four tours during the Iraq War – a war he didn’t believe in. After getting his MBA at Harvard and working for a start-up for a while, he decided to run for Congress as a Democrat in Massachusetts sixth district.
He ultimately won the election after unseating a longstanding incumbent during the primary. The same work ethic, intelligence, and moxie that made him a Gen. Petraeus acolyte should serve him well on the Hill. If anyone has the pedigree and problem solving skills to get something done from across the aisle in a Republican-majority Congress, it’s Moulton.
BRIAN ADAM JONES — Editor-in-Chief, Task & Purpose
After an award-winning career as a Marine Corps combat correspondent, Brian Adam Jones honed his journalism chops at Business Insider, working as a reporting intern for the military section.
This year he joined (and helped launch) the HirePurpose blog “Task Purpose” as editor-in-chief, and in short order his content choices and writing helped that website become a breakout property among a host of emerging military-affinity destinations.
And he’s just getting started; Jones is currently working on a political science degree at Columbia in addition to his gig at Task Purpose. Make it a point to find his byline in 2015.
PATRICK MURPHY — Host of MSNBC’s “Taking the Hill”
Patrick Murphy was the first Iraq War vet to be elected to Congress in 2007, but his political career was short-circuited in 2011 when the Tea Party helped orchestrate his defeat in Pennsylvania’s 8th District, primarily because of his work in repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Murphy fell back into legal work until he was approached to host a new show on MSNBC. “Taking the Hill” is the only broadcast network program dedicated to military issues and veteran advocacy, and the show was just picked up for a second season. Look for bigger impact in 2015 as Murphy continues to find his voice as a host and gains more creative control over program topics.
PHIL KLAY — Author of “Redeployment”
The New Yorker said this about Army vet Phil Klay’s debut Redeployment: “The best literary work thus far written by a veteran of America’s recent wars . . . Klay’s fiction peels back every pretty falsehood and self-delusion in the encounter between veterans and the people for whom they supposedly fought.”
This year Klay was awarded National Book Award for Fiction — the first Iraq war veteran do so — and he was also named a National Book Foundation ‘5 Under 35′ honoree. Whenever he puts pen to paper going forward, his will be an important and credible voice on behalf of those who served during our most recent wars.
TOM COTTON — Congressman from Arkansas
Tom Cotton first came to the attention of conservatives when he wrote The New York Times a nastygram from the Iraq War because of a story the paper published that he believed hazarded the safety of his troops. Since that time he’s been shaped into a new breed of veteran politician: an anti-progressive in spite of his Harvard degree, one who’s Tea Party-friendly but whose views are shaped as much by reason as ideology.
A recent Atlantic Monthly article put it this way: “He unites the factions of the Republican civil war: The establishment loves his background, while the Tea Party loves his ideological purity.” That combo could be used to good effect – the kind that actually causes outcomes – as he continues to represent the people of Arkansas’ 4th District next year.
TM GIBBONS-NEFF — Reporter, The Washington Post
While working toward his undergraduate degree at Georgetown University, former Marine and Afghan War vet T.M. Gibbons-Neff has emerged as a high-impact writer with bylines in vaunted publications like The New York Times andThe Washington Post.
As an intern with The Post, Neff landed a significant scoop earlier this year with a story that revealed that Maj. Doug Zembiec, the “lion of Fallujah” who was killed in 2007, was actually working for the CIA at the time.
Gibbons-Neff is a guy to watch in that he shows a deft hand by leveraging his warfighting experience while remaining an objective journalist — a skill few possess who deign to cover the topics surrounding national security.
TULSI GABBARD — Congresswoman from Hawaii
Tulsi Gabbard deployed to Iraq with the Hawaii Army National Guard in 2004, and eight years later she was elected to represent Hawaii’s second congressional district. With a diverse background — she’s just 33, thereby one of just a handful of millennials in the House — and the first member of the Hindu faith to be elected to Congress. She’s also just one of two female combat veterans in office.
“I saw in Congress we had fewer veterans serving than had ever served before in our nation’s history and you have people making very important decisions about where and when our troops go into battle,” Gabbard told Yahoo News. As the Obama Administration continues to struggle with how to best counter threats like ISIS, watch how Gabbard leverages her war experience going forward.
TODD CONNOR — Founder, The Bunker
After earning his MBA, Navy veteran Todd Connor started to miss military life while working as a consultant, so he approached Chicago-based tech incubator 1871 with the idea of creating an effort dedicated to veterans.
The result was “The Bunker,” a group of entrepreneurs helping vets avoid the pitfalls of tech start-up life as they struggle to get their businesses off the ground – sort of like a friendlier version of the TV show “Shark Tank.” Connor has a vision of national dominance, and “The Bunker” detachments have sprouted up from Boston to Austin to Los Angeles.
ANU BHAGWATI — Founder, Service Women’s Action Network
Anu Bhagwati’s path to becoming an advocate on behalf of female service members started during her time in the Marine Corps where she weathered myriad examples of sexual harassment and found no quarter within the system designed to protect her and then found no justice when she attempted to go around it.
She channeled her frustration and anger into action in the form of the Service Women’s Action Network, a nonprofit organization that works to end discrimination, harassment and assault in the military. In short order Bhagwati’s clear voice and unflinching approach to SWAN’s mission has influenced policies at the VA and legislation on Capitol Hill. Look for her to keep the pressure up into the new year.
OWEN WEST — Director, Goldman-Sachs Veterans Network
Business Insider labeled Owen West as “the most badass banker on Wall Street” a couple of years ago, and his efforts since then have done nothing but reinforce that title.
West left his lucrative job at Goldman-Sachs three times to serve during the Iraq War. He defines “Renaissance Man”: Novelist and historian; triathlete, world traveler, and philanthropist. But perhaps most importantly, his day job as the director of Goldman-Sachs’ veterans network underwrites the impact of that program and ensures this generation of warfighters have a place in the halls of power on the south end of Manhattan.
DAWN HALFAKER — Board Chairwoman, Wounded Warrior Project
Dawn Halfaker was serving as a military police officer when she lost her right arm in an ambush in Iraq in 2004. Her employment struggles after being medically retired from the Army motivated her to start Halfaker and Associates, a consultant firm that specializes in government tech solutions.
She’s built the business with an eye on veteran hiring, and, in turn, used the lessons learned as a board member for the Wounded Warrior Project, specifically with WWP’s “Warriors to Work” employment program. “A lot of business leaders say they want to hire veterans, but don’t know ultimately how they can bring veterans in and empower them to be successful, given the cultural differences of the military,” Halfaker told The Huffington Post. Look for her to continue bridging that cultural divide in 2015.
ANTHONY NOTO — Chief Financial Officer, Twitter
Army vet Anthony Noto was named Twitter’s CFO this summer after shepherding the social media giant through its IPO, and he’ll need to channel the aggressiveness he used as a football player at West Point as the company attempts to, as the Wall Street Journal put it, “transform its mainstream presence into widespread adoption.”
Noto’s job this year is to diminish investor skepticism by growing Twitter’s user base beyond its already gigantic footprint – a suitable challenge for a former Ranger who honed his business chops at Goldman-Sachs and the NFL.
PAUL RIECKHOFF — Founder, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America marked a decade of existence in 2014, and the organization is showing no signs of slowing down going into next year. Under the leadership of the well-networked and media-savvy founder Paul Rieckhoff, IAVA championed the Clay Hunt SAV Act – legislation designed to combat the veteran suicide rate – at the end of the year, although the bill’s passage was singularly impeded by Sen. Tom Coburn.
As military vets continue to take their own lives at a rate of 22 per day, don’t expect Rieckhoff to give up on this issue in 2015.
GUY FILIPPILLINI — Co-founder and CEO, The Commit Foundation
Former Army intel officer Guy Filippellini co-founded The Commit Foundation to address what he saw as a fundamental flaw in veteran career transition programs he’d seen: One-size-fits-all approaches are largely ineffective.
The Commit Foundation’s mission statement is at once lofty and matter-of-fact: “[The foundation] creates serendipity for veterans by fostering mentorship, extending and growing professional networks, promoting familiar camaraderie, and setting the stage for inspiring moments.”
The foundation’s approach is different than most in that it’s focused on what Filippellini calls “small touch high impact efforts,” which means they focus on small numbers of veterans at a time and give each “sustained attention.” The veteran unemployment problem isn’t going away next year, but Filippellini’s foundation is poised to lessen it.
JOHN MCCAIN — Senator from Arizona, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee
Senator John McCain returned to the spotlight at the end of 2014 when the Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA enhanced interrogation techniques hit the streets. “[The CIA] stained our national honor, did much harm and little practical good,” he said on the senate floor.
McCain also took over as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee this year, which could be sporty considering his criticism of wasteful spending and his currently rocky relationship with the Pentagon. With his unique ability as a Hill provocateur, 2015 could be an exceptionally bad year for weapons programs that are over budget and behind schedule.
ROBERT MCDONALD — Secretary of the Veterans Administration
Former Army Ranger Robert McDonald took the reins of the VA on the backside of a massive scandal that revealed administrative ineptitude at the agency had led to the deaths of more than 40 veterans.
McDonald was brought aboard primarily because of his experience as CEO of Proctor and Gamble, but also because he has more charisma than his predecessor, the phlegmatic Eric Shinseki. McDonald has already been more visible than Shinseki was, threatening to fire large numbers of entrenched bureaucrats and even making his cell phone number public. As more veterans transition to VA care next year, the pressure is on the new secretary to improve the way the agency has performed overall since 9-11.
JASON MANGONE — Director, The Aspen Institute’s Franklin Project
The Aspen Institute’s Franklin Project “envisions a future in which a year of full-time national service — a service year — is a cultural expectation, a common opportunity, and a civic rite of passage for every young American,”according to their website. Jason Mangone is a former Marine Corps infantry officer and the director of the project.
Although he served three tours in Iraq, he is quick to point out that he never saw actual combat and that service is not about that. “While those who bear the costs of battle carry a heavier burden, the rest of us can still rightly say we’ve served our country,” Mangone writes at The Huffington Post. “Serving my country means that I gave up the normal progression of my life — high school, college, work — to do something whose end was civic. The same could be said for the veterans of many other types of national service.”
In an era where the social contract is increasingly challenged by diverging political outlooks, economic circumstances, and cultural backgrounds, Mangone’s effort in leading the Franklin Project may ultimately design the road map toward preserving our national identity.
MAT BEST — Founder, Article 15 Clothing Company
Though Mat Best did five combat tours to Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom with the 2nd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, he’s best known for his collection of hilarious videos on YouTube. He’s doing something right: His videos that poke fun at military life have been viewed a whopping 13 million+ times.
Besides his videos, he’s also written on important topics like PTSD. Best is also the founder and president of Article 15 Clothing, a successful business selling everything from t-shirts to patches to branded coffee. While 2014 has been a huge year for the company, next year looks to be even better. Article 15 is launching their own whiskey brand and the team is scheduled to appear in major movies outside of YouTube.
TIM KENNEDY — MMA Fighter
Tim Kennedy is many things: Special Forces sniper, YouTube video star, and philanthropist. As if that weren’t enough, his main gig these days is a professional mixed martial arts fighter in the UFC.
Fighting since 2001, the 35-year-old Kennedy now has an 18-5-0 record in the UFC. In 2014, he had two major fights: a dominant win against Michael Bisping, and a controversial loss against Yoel Romero. (Kennedy maintains Romero cheated during the fight by sitting on his stool an extra 30 seconds before the final round).
Look for Kennedy to continue his rise in the UFC next year. Also keep an eye out for more of his hilarious videos, which are usually put together by Ranger Up.
MAXIMILIAN URIARTE — Creator, “Terminal Lance”
In 2010, then-Marine Lance Cpl. Max Uriarte launched “Terminal Lance,” a web comic that captures the grunt-level view of life in the Corps. Drawing on his time in the service — with two deployments to Iraq — Uriarte runs a 300,000+ fan-strong Facebook empire that drives readers to his site where he posts two new comics each week.
Now four years old, the strip has matured into a must-read for military personnel, while also making Uriarte a celebrity among Marines. His Terminal Lance brand helped him fund a successful Kickstarter campaign for a graphic novel he’s working on, which brought in more than 0,000. While he works on the novel — working title “The White Donkey” –Max also has plans to move into animation next year.
JAS BOOTHE — Founder, Final Salute
Jas Boothe was a captain who’d been in the Army for 13 years when she was hit with a double whammy: She found out she had cancer and her home in New Orleans was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
The single mother was suddenly homeless and unemployed. As she fought for her family and her dignity, she discovered there were many other female veterans suffering the same plight. She founded Final Salute to address the problem, and she created the Ms. Vet America event (don’t call it a “pageant”) to bring visibility to the organization. Look for more from Boothe and the Ms. Vet America event in 2015.