​5 misconceptions troops have about reentering the civilian world​ - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

​5 misconceptions troops have about reentering the civilian world​

That sweet, sweet DD-214 can’t come soon enough. You’ve served your country honorably for all those years and now, finally, it’s time to close that chapter of your life. You’ve either got some big plans for your life after service or you’re just planning on winging it. Whatever the case, you’re ready to hang that uniform up for good and move on, into the great unknown.

Not to sound like the exit briefing slideshows that they’ll make you endure, but we’ve got to warn you: You’ve probably got a few misconceptions about what civilian life has in store for you.


​5 misconceptions troops have about reentering the civilian world​

Don’t worry about telling everyone you were in the military. We know. We all know.

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

“I can just fall back into my old life”

Let’s get the most obvious — yet somewhat depressing — misconception out of the way first: You’ve changed. You’re not the same person that you were when you stepped on that bus to head out to Basic/Boot Camp. And to be entirely honest, you’ve probably grown better for it.

But at the same time, the world didn’t stop spinning while you were gone, and others have changed in your absence — for better or for worse. Your family and your old friends have adapted to you not being around for years. They’ve developed hobbies, relationships, and interests without you, so jumping back in might just feel… odd. Hell, even your old job has carried on in your absence.

It’s not going to be easy, so just ease your way back into civilian life. Accept that the world is different now.

​5 misconceptions troops have about reentering the civilian world​

And don’t forget your references. You know your boys back in the military will talk you up.

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

“My skills won’t translate to civilian life…”

Over the years, you’ve perfected the art of putting your mind to tasks and getting them done. By now, your work ethic is probably phenomenal and you’re highly mission oriented. That just so happens to be a skill that every employer wants — but it’s not the only skill they’ll want.

When building a resume, pick aspects of your service and let those shine, too. For example, being an infantry squad leader taught you personnel management skills. Being a medic gave you skills in property accountability and acquisitions. Stuff like that.

​5 misconceptions troops have about reentering the civilian world​

If you feel, in the bottom of your heart, that your passion lies in underwater basket-weaving, you be the best f*cking underwater basket-weaver this world has ever seen. Maybe don’t lock yourself into crippling debt to get there, though.

“I’ll be 100% student loan debt free”

One of the key selling points of military life was the GI Bill and the promise of a tuition-free college experience. Now, don’t get me wrong: If you play your cards right, this might be exactly what happens. But know the GI Bill won’t cover your expenses at just any school.

If your plan is to go through a technical school or a smaller college, outstanding. Carry on to the next misconception. If you’ve got your mind set on a specific career path, look into exactly how much assistance the GI Bill can offer you. Then, evaluate if it’s worth taking out a sizable loan to pursue your goals.

If there’s anyone who’s earned the right to chase after their dreams, it’s a veteran who’s given the world their all.

​5 misconceptions troops have about reentering the civilian world​

You don’t have to hide all of your military bearing. Just know when to turn it on and off.

(Meme by CONUS Battle Drills)

“Civilian coworkers are going to be garbage”

You’ve spent years knowing that an individual’s failure has consequences for the entire unit. Many civilians don’t have that same kind of all-for-one way of thinking. They’ll see working hard at this job as a stepping stone to something bigger and better down the road. You will encounter blue falcons in the civilian world — but they aren’t all bad.

Many civilians are genuinely good people who just aren’t as loud as we tend to be. Some people legitimately want to help everyone succeed.

Keep the a**holes at an arm’s length, but don’t shut out everyone and adopt some sort of “holier than thou” mentality because of your service. In short, don’t be a civilian blue falcon.

​5 misconceptions troops have about reentering the civilian world​

You’ll be the odd duck — but at least your stories are funnier.

(Meme via Shammers United)

“I’ll never find friends like I did in the military…”

The tiny ray of sunshine is that you won’t be alone in this world. Just as you’ll find some co-workers to be good, decent people, you’re sure to find good friends, too. Open up a bit and try to socialize.

And if worst comes to worst and all civilians annoy you, you can always find the nearest VFW or American Legion and hop in for a beer or two. Vets tend to befriend other vets fairly easily.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How guitars become works of art that help vets heal

Guitars for Vets is a non-profit organization that has a guitar instruction program aimed at providing veterans struggling with physical injuries, PTSD, and other emotional distress a unique therapeutic alternative. G4V pursues its mission to share the healing power of music by providing free guitar instruction, a new acoustic guitar and a guitar accessory kit in a structured program run by volunteers.

In other words, they give guitars to vets and teach them how to play. It’s pretty cool! 

And it works — playing a musical instrument has been linked to the process of coping with PTSD, reducing anxiety, and improving quality of life.

WATCH: Guitars for Vets Feelin’ Good Tutorial

Most of the non-profit’s funding comes from a mix of individual donors and sponsors, from monetary donations to merchandise purchases to my favorite: the Operations Art Strings program. 

Through the Operation Art Strings program, Guitars for Vets connects talented artists around the country with unplayable guitars in their inventory to create works of art that can be sold to help fund their program.

And they’re looking for artists!

​5 misconceptions troops have about reentering the civilian world​

Aspect and Angles Photography

If you’re interested in painting a guitar, helping, or learning more, you can reach out to tori@guitarsforvets.org (and if you do paint a guitar, please send me a picture on social media!).

Guitars for Vets — and its impact — has gained national attention. Vietnam War veteran James Robledo is a graduate of the program and the chapter coordinator at the Loma Linda chapter in California who, as a volunteer, has helped hundreds of veterans graduate from the program.

Also read: This is why so many veterans turn to music after war

Robledo was named the 2015 National Humanitarian of the Year by the National Association of Letter Carriers, and he was invited to a music panel at the White House as well as to place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

“There have been students that have come back and said because of the program they no longer have suicidal thoughts. And that’s what we’re about,” added Robledo.

If you’re a veteran interested in enrolling in the Guitars for Vets program, you can check out their website to find a local chapter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution

Western models of spycraft are failing. Traditional models of spycraft seek to inform decision-making based on predictive analysis, but this is no longer effective in today’s environment. By nature, closed and authoritarian regimes, such as Russia and China, have an easier job of spying on their more progressive and open adversaries — the United States and the West — and currently possess the advantage. What follows is the author’s abridged philosophy of intelligence on this revolution in spycraft.

Last year, Foreign Policy magazine introduced a provocative thought piece highlighting the ongoing revolution in espionage: namely, that intelligence agencies must adapt (or die) to disruptive changes in politics, business, and technology.


At the risk of irrelevance, Western intelligence agencies are learning that traditional models of spying are outdated and losing out to more nimble, collaborative, and less fragile adversaries. As the article adeptly notes, “the balance of power in the spy world is shifting: closed societies now have the edge over open ones. It has become harder for Western countries to spy on places such as China, Iran, and Russia and easier for those countries’ intelligence services to spy on the rest of the world.”

Circumstances such as unprecedented levels of legislative and judicial scrutiny, technological advances in mobile phones and electronic data, public skepticism of domestic and international intelligence activities, and general political scrutiny in liberal democracies are symptomatic of such difficulties. They represent an underlying revolution that is significantly disrupting traditional notions of Western spycraft.

Standards of Cold War-era surveillance detection disintegrate when applied to modern cities rife with CCTV cameras, such as Beijing or even London. The absence of an online “footprint” (i.e. social media or other publicly available data) instantly warrants additional scrutiny.

Thus, we must examine several philosophical nuances of this intelligence revolution, based on the premise that the Western way of spying is indeed losing out to oftentimes less sophisticated but more effective adversaries, who possess fundamentally less fragile models of spycraft than do Western counterparts.

Lest the author receive undue credit, it must be noted that the framework for this analysis is derived from several schools of thought, ranging from the Roman Stoics to economist-turned-philosopher Nassim Taleb. Indeed, the reader may be familiar with the latter’s concept of anti-fragility, or things that gain from uncertainty, chaos, or randomness. Western models of spycraft certainly do not fit this notion and are, in the author’s opinion, quite fragile.

Western intelligence, and other such similarly traditional systems, are based largely on the value of predictive analysis that can be used to inform decision-making and thereby shape understanding and policy. But what if, as we are now seeing, environments far outmatch capability in complexity, speed, or scope? It is the author’s opinion that the U.S. Intelligence Community is designed on an outdated and fragile premise and, in the face of overwhelming environmental dissonance, must be re-assessed in the framework of anti-fragility.

Put differently, the present U.S. model of spycraft plays to the margins. Western spycraft invests inordinate amounts of manpower and resources into its Intelligence Community only to yield arguably disproportionate and marginal gains in understanding. It is not enough that the intelligence is gleaned in the first place (which remains an altogether impressive feat and a testament to the dedication and professionalism of its practitioners).

Alas, it is growing increasingly challenging to properly inform policy-making in an aggressively partisan and politicized environment. One only need reflect on the overall character of the ongoing Russian bounties discussion as evidence of this model and its debatable effectiveness. And such debatable effectiveness is certainly not for a lack of trying. The effectiveness of the Intelligence Community is a reflection of the broader environment in which it operates.

In the spirit of ancient Roman Stoic philosophers, we must acknowledge that environments cannot be changed and that at best significant national effort is required to “shape” them (and even then, with limited “control” of the exact outcome). In this instance, it is perhaps useful to examine U.S. strategy (or lack thereof) over the course of 20+ years of engagement in Afghanistan in an effort to reflect on any unilateral or coalition efforts taken to shape any semblance of “success” in the country.

Let us introduce a more tangible instance: That brief electronic communication from a foreign diplomat’s privileged conversation? That was probably the result of many factors: Of 17 years of technological research and development; of several successful (and more failed) recruitments to identify and gain sufficient placement and access for an exploit; and immeasurable bureaucratic “churns” to actually manage and manipulate the complex systems and processes in place designed to collect, process, analyze, exploit, and disseminate the information to its consumers. Entire professional careers are the substance of such churns.

While environments cannot be changed, one’s disposition within an environment most certainly can be. Thus, it is perhaps more useful to explore an intelligence model that divorces success from the ability to accurately predict the future. But then, what does this model look like and how is it employed?

In the author’s opinion, an effective spycraft model would maintain the intent to inform policy-making but disregard traditional models of operational risk management in favor of a more aggressive operational culture. In short, the change intelligence agencies must make is largely cultural, but also procedural.

Rather than embark on “no-fail,” highly sensitive (read: events that would cause inordinate damage if learned, i.e. fragile) operations, and futile attempts to accurately predict the future (read: failure to predict or act upon 9/11, Pearl Harbor, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and countless other so-called intelligence failures), it is more useful to focus efforts on intelligence activities that have, in Taleb’s words, more upsides rather than downsides.

This model would remove, within reason, attempts to mitigate risk and would instead truly accept failure and mistakes — regardless of their perceived damage if made public — as a natural feedback mechanism. Rather than the frenetic New York banking system, we have Silicon Valley’s “fail fast” mentality. Rather than the Sword of Damocles, we have Hydra. Rather than post-traumatic stress, we have post-traumatic growth. Instead of isolated muscle hypertrophy, we have complex, multi-functional movements. The comparative benefit of this model is clear and can apply to intelligence systems as well.

So what does this new model of spycraft look like?

For one, it harnesses the power of publicly available data and information to leverage the power of public opinion and access to technology. What previously was known only to few becomes known to many, and with that knowledge comes the ability to influence. Information, which is the bane of closed societies, but also its favorite weapon against open ones, is harnessed to dismantle closed societies from within.

Here’s the bombshell: such a system, albeit in incomplete and slightly “impure” form, already exists in the form of the Russian intelligence apparatus. Indeed, there is a benefit to be gained by examining the nature and relative effectiveness of this chief U.S. adversary.

While far from a perfect comparison, the oftentimes blunt nature of Russian security services does lend itself to a somewhat anti-fragile system. Namely, despite numerous “failures” (in the sense that its operations are consistently made public), the Russian model is such that its public mistakes do not appear to significantly impact the system’s ability to continue to iterate, adapt, and pester its Western opponents.

An additional example can also be found in the spirit of the CIA’s historical predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Known affectionately as the “glorious amateurs,” the OSS was the first of its American kind that weathered many failures but also effectively operated in complex environments. By nature of relative American intelligence inexperience, the OSS succeeded in exploiting the upside of its activities simply by being a young, nimble, and discovery-based (i.e. tinkering, iterating, or “risk-bearing”) organization. The OSS was an anti-fragile organization.

Thanks to many of the same advances in technology, politics, and business that challenge Western espionage efforts, Russian spies have been caught on CCTV footage, publicly outed or arrested, appropriately accused of dastardly acts, and of possessing an intolerable appetite for disinformation targeting open societies and liberal democracies. However, it was presumably in Russia’s best interests that, knowing full well the possibility of such downsides, it chose to pursue such activities given the major upsides they produce (discord, division, polarization, etc.).

Indeed, as Foreign Policy magazine adeptly wrote, and as the reader can observe by way of reflecting on other seeming successes reaped by Russian active measures, there is an unrefined yet effective nature to the blunt manner in which Russian security and intelligence services operate.

It must be stated that this model does not advocate for recklessly “burning” any sources and methods, nor for engaging in renegade covert activity that lacks oversight or grounding in well-formed policy. However, it does require a significant cultural paradigm shift that will provide more space for downsides that have not been historically well-received (e.g. temporary injury to bilateral relationships, strained diplomatic interactions, etc.).

The U.S. Intelligence Community is already a complex system, comprised of 17 unique agencies that seek to inform policy-making. It is a long cry from the “glorious amateur” days of the OSS. Thankfully, we do not require complicated systems, regulations, or intricate policies to ensure the community’s success. The more complicated a system, the more we experience “multiplicative chains of unanticipated effects.” In other words, less is more; simpler is better.

The competitive edge of traditional, risk-based intelligence operations is growing smaller. The state of affairs is such that closed societies find it easier to spy on open adversaries more than the opposite. As such, it benefits Western intelligence to undergo aggressive changes that evolve or significantly alter this paradigm. It is time for the Intelligence Community to become a risk-bearing system, rather than a risk management system. It must experience a culture shift that will make it open to accepting failures. This may create short-term downsides for U.S. statecraft but will allow the system to iterate and improve. In the end, it must become anti-fragile.

Thanks for listening.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why you can’t climb the arm of the Statue of Liberty anymore

More than 100 years ago, European powers were in the middle of World War I and looking everywhere for potential enemies and allies. In 1916, even President Wilson believed it would soon be inevitable for the U.S. to enter the war on the side of England and the Triple Entente. Then, an explosion on July 30, 1916 shattered windows in Times Square, shook the Brooklyn Bridge, and could be heard as far away as Maryland.

But the effect that would have lasting impression was the shrapnel that peppered the nearby Statue of Liberty.

​5 misconceptions troops have about reentering the civilian world​
New York Harbor in 1916.
(National Board of Health)

German saboteurs moved to hit a munitions plant in New York City’s Black Tom Island (an artificial island near Liberty Island) that was already making weapons and ammunition bound for Britain and France. They did it in the early morning hours on the poorly lit, poorly defended ammunition depot.

​5 misconceptions troops have about reentering the civilian world​
View of the debris of the Lehigh Valley pier wrecked by an explosion of munitions on Black Tom Island, New Jersey. Five dead and $25,000,000 worth ($500,000,000 in 2018) of property destroyed.
(National Archives)

It was part of a two-year German campaign of sabotage in the United States and shook far away America to its core. The outrage over the previous year’s sinking of the RMS Lusitania and the loss of 120 Americans aboard that ship already began to turn American public opinion against Germany.

The Great War had finally come home in a big way.

This was not the first explosion or “accident” that occurred in munitions plants or on ships bound for Europe. German agents operating out of New York and its port facilities hired German sailors and Irish dock workers to plant bombs and incendiary devices on ships and in plants working on war materials. The number of accidents aboard those ships skyrocketed. But the Black Tom incident was different.

Two million tons of explosives were set off in a single instant. Five people died and it’s fortunate more people weren’t killed, considering the size of the blast. The buildings on the landfill island were smashed and flattened.

​5 misconceptions troops have about reentering the civilian world​
The aftermath of the Black Tom explosion.
(U.S. Army Signal Corps photo)

The shrapnel that exploded in every direction damaged the Statue of Liberty and didn’t just scar her lovely face, it popped the rivets that connect the arm that bears the torch of freedom, forcing the the arm to be forever closed to tourists. For a little while, even the years following the end of World War I, Black Tom was all America could talk about.

That is, until a new Germany rose from the ashes of the Kaiser’s Empire.

Articles

Army soldier Phillip Jungman is headed to the Olympics for skeet

This July, the Army’s Marksmanship Unit skeet shooter, Sgt. Phillip Jungman, will compete in the Tokyo Olympic Games. It’s been a year’s worth of delays, however, after the event was postponed for the pandemic. Jungman qualified over a year ago.

Waiting for this opportunity is nothing new, however. He just missed the chance to compete and served as an alternate in the 2016 games.

“It was a heartbreaking moment. My parents cried, I cried,” he said.

Not that he was a sore sport about it. Bubbly and eager to get to know others, Jungman is as supportive of other shooters as it gets. He watched competitors online, cheering them on as they went.

It’s that very inclusive atmosphere that encouraged him to get into skeet shooting in the first place. At age 8, he began shooting competitively in 4-H in his native Texas. Not only did he excel in the sport, but he and his parents also enjoyed the scene — nice people, friendly events, and the ability to grow as a competitor for years to come. Then Jungman found out just how far the sport could take him, learning about sponsorships and the ability to travel across the world to shoot. He had found his calling.

He was recruited by the Army in high school, but he decided to first attend college. Then in 2017, he enlisted, calling the Marksmanship Unit his home. 

​5 misconceptions troops have about reentering the civilian world​
U.S. Army

“I needed that little extra push and the Army gave me that push to get over the edge,” he said on making the 2020/2021 Olympic team. “It was nice to know I’m good enough, I’m right there to be with the best of the best.”

Jungman qualified in March of 2020 after one of his best scores ever, hitting 173 out of 175 targets, and his best-ever final score, 57 out of 60.

He boasts additional shooting awards, including multiple national titles, competing on the World Championship team and Pan American team and more.

Skeet is a shotgun sport with fast-moving targets. Each round has a series of 25 targets, shot from two heights of launching machines. He said scores can vary greatly based on weather, especially wind. He looks for that to be a factor in Tokyo, but noted that everyone will be competing in the same weather.

Competitors use “basic” shotguns, with a shorter stock so it doesn’t get caught on their clothing, he said. “We don’t have much time to adjust. You’re up and down shooting both ways and into the wind. You have to get the gun to your face, acquire the target and correct, then shoot, all very quickly.”

Jungman shoots an Italian-made Perazzi over and under shotgun. He said it’s his model of choice due to the ease of repairs, with a quickly removable trigger mechanism – a replacement will fix 90% of problems.

“A backup gun will never be the same as your starting gun. Gun fit is everything.”

In preparation for the Olympics, Jungman has been shooting 150-300 shells per day. Including timing drills, gun placement, accuracy and more. He said it’s similar to a basketball player shooting free throws. There’s form, muscle memory – different drills to improve your results.

“There’s always the human error, I mean you’re human, mistakes will happen,” he said. “But you still have to hit that specific one when the game is on the line.”

He also looks to the guidance of others – there are three Olympians in the shotgun unit on base – and his personal coach who’s been with him since 2009, Todd Graves. Jungman also has the support of his entire family, including his wife, Rebecca, who he’s been with since senior prom.

“I did the thing you’re not supposed to do,” he laughed. “I married my best friend’s sister.” He added that he did in fact obtain permission before their first date and how family events are that much more fun.

For others wanting to get into the sport, Jungman said it’s important not to give up.

“As a kid there are a lot of downs and you just have to push through them. You’re going to cry a bunch of times — a lot of times. But the touching moments are there. I love winning matches, it’s a lot of fun.”

Follow Sgt. Jungman, along with Lt. Amber English, of the Army Marksmanship Unit, in their Olympic competition. Skeet events will take place starting July 25.

Feature image: U.S. Army

MIGHTY CULTURE

LEGO Masters is teaming up with Merging Vets & Players charity to combat PTSD

LEGO Masters attracted the attention of millions of viewers with its first season in the first half of 2020. The reality competition show was hosted by Will Arnett and pit teams of two against each other to take on LEGO building challenges and prove themselves to be LEGO Masters. Builds were judged by two Lego Group creative designers and the show incorporated various guest stars to serve as hosts and judges. On November 11, 2020, it was announced that the show had been renewed for a second season which would begin filming in 2021. The Veterans Day announcement was coupled with the announcement of a partnership with the Merging Vets & Players charity.

Founded in 2015 by FOX Sports NFL Insider Jay Glazer and former Green Beret and Seattle Seahawk Nate Boyer, MVP connects combat veterans with former professional athletes to provide them with a new team, assist in their transition and show them that they are not alone. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MVP is currently working to help veterans remotely—that’s where LEGO Masters comes in.

Arnett presents LEGO sets to vets
Arnett presents LEGO sets to veterans with a fist bump (LEGO Masters)

Lockdowns and quarantines forced people all around the world into their homes. While the new reality was difficult for some, the effect it had on combat veterans was even greater. To counter the stress of confinement, many people turned to building LEGO. “One of our vets, Robin Fox, [brought] up that he uses LEGOs to help his PTSD,” Glazer said. From that mention, other veterans in MVP were inspired to pick up LEGO sets and start building. The idea culminated in the partnership with LEGO Masters.

LEGO Masters provided hundreds of LEGO sets to MVP to allow vets to find the joy and peace of building during this challenging time. “I’m really proud to be able to be here as a representative for LEGO Masters to present these LEGO sets to MVP chapters all around the country,” Arnett said.

Currently, MVP has chapters in Los Angeles which serve the Pacific region, Las Vegas which serve the Rocky Mountain region, Chicago which serve the Midwest, Atlanta which serve the Southeast and New York which serve the Northeast. Combat veterans can join by submitting proof of eligibility including Authorized Campaign Medals, a military pay statement reflecting Hostile/Imminent Danger Pay, or Korea duty. Though a DD-214 can generally provide sufficient information for eligibility, MVP encourages interested veterans to reach out for assistance.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Top 7 troops you’ll always want to have your back

There’s an old saying in the military: There are three people that you always want to have on your good side: the cooks, the medics, and whoever happens to be repeating this tired, old saying.

Despite the fact that it’s a cliche, there’s a nugget of truth in there. Every single troop plays an important role in this crazy mechanism we call the military — but some roles more important than others. Regardless of whether they’re cool with you, they should be doing their job. Still, there’s no denying that having a key ally within certain roles in the unit will net you certain perks.

These are the 7 guys you’ll want on your good side.


​5 misconceptions troops have about reentering the civilian world​

Cooks also have a mentality of not giving a f*ck about giving their buddies special treatment in line. They’ll just stare at the other guy who just got two slices of bacon and not budge.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Cooks

This one is a no-brainer. Having a buddy on the inside of the mess hall means that you won’t have to awkwardly sweet talk them to get that extra piece of bacon in the morning.

And it gets even better. At the end of their shifts, there’s almost always large-ass trays of uneaten, good food left over. The rules say that they should turn it in for compost or recycle it into a dish for the next meal, but oftentimes, the cooks just take it home — you can get in on that feast.

​5 misconceptions troops have about reentering the civilian world​

It’s also their job to deal with the most disgusting parts of the human body, so you know they’re a good time.

(U.S. Army)

Medics

Outside of the obvious — you want these guys to have your back in combat — medics are also going to help you out stateside when you eventually get around to going to the aid station.

Now, we’re not going to pretend like this doesn’t venture into a morally gray area, but when you’re hammered drunk on the weekend and you’re partying with your medic or corpsman, they’ll have some IVs on standby in case your chain of command decides to surprise you with a 12-mile ruck march the next morning. And there’s no better hangover cure.

​5 misconceptions troops have about reentering the civilian world​

“Oh no, It looks like the unit only ordered 3 of these swords. Oh well.”

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Supply

One of the first and last signatures you’ll need in the unit is from supply. Just how smoothly those final moments go may just hinge on how cool you’ve been with them.

No one does “off the books” quite like supply. They’re all masters at pulling the it-must-have-fallen-off-the-truck maneuver to slide things across to their bros. This basically means that if you’re missing something from the CIF checklist, they could just “happen” to find one that “somehow” had its serial number scratched off. What luck!

​5 misconceptions troops have about reentering the civilian world​

The commander may be the head of the unit, but the training room is the neck, pointing them wherever they want.

(U.S. Army)

Training room clerks

Most training room clerks like to tell themselves that there’s some kind of method to their madness, but there isn’t. The inbox gets shuffled around so many times at the training room’s discretion that it’s kind of a misnomer to even call it a “system.”

That paperwork usually gets done at exactly the rate and order of when the training room gets around to it. Be a dick to them and you’ll find your stuff at the bottom of the pile — constantly. Go talk to your buddy Stevenson and they’ll make sure you get the commander’s signature before lunch.

​5 misconceptions troops have about reentering the civilian world​

They’re also pros at finding BS justifications to send their buddies to schools their unit isn’t even authorized for.

(U.S. Army)

Schools NCO

The recommendations that determine who gets to go to which military school falls on the NCOs at the training meeting, what schools your unit is allotted, and who your commander and Schools NCO feel are the right fit to send.

The commander’s got a million and a half other things to worry outside of scrubbing through a list to determine who’s most suited for Airborne School. The commander, usually, will just nod along whomever the Schools NCO says should go. Get on their good side and they just might bring your name up.

​5 misconceptions troops have about reentering the civilian world​

“Oh god, your paperwork just keeps accidentally falling into the shredder. I’ll look into that.”

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Finance

Being best buddies with the finance guys isn’t really necessary because they’re not going to help give you a raise or anything since, you know, pay grades and all. They’re mostly just the last people you want to piss off.

Scoff when the POGiest finance Marine says “every Marine is a rifleman” and you’ll somehow find yourself accidentally not paid for the month. If you can’t play nice with them, just avoid them.

​5 misconceptions troops have about reentering the civilian world​

What are bros for, am I right?

(U.S. Army)

Grunts

This is basically the catch-all for all of the combat arms MOS’s out there. Sure, your standard grunt probably can’t slide you anything under the table or go to bat for you with the commander, but earning the friendship and trust of a grunt means way more than any of that.

Grunts have a mentality of brotherhood and they’ll always put their guys above themselves. You need help moving something? The grunts have got spare time for their boy. You need a couch to sleep on for the night? Take their bed, they’re cool on their own couch. Some a**hole gets a bit too close for comfort with you? They’re going to knock out that prick faster than you can blink.

MIGHTY CULTURE

USAA helps military “get inside” Petco Park & offers discounted MLB.TV subscriptions

Opening Day is quickly approaching! The San Diego Padres and USAA, the Official Military Appreciation Partner of the Padres, are honoring the military community all season long with two key initiatives:


35% off MLB.TV Subscriptions

To thank military, veterans and their families for their service, USAA has teamed up with the Padres to offer a 35% discount on MLB.TV subscriptions for this season. The discount is available for all tiers of MLB.TV and online authentication verification by GovX is required. To purchase your subscription, please visit Padres.com/USAA.

Military Padres Fans Cutouts

USAA is helping military Padres fans “get inside” Petco Park this season, via fan cutouts that will appear in seats all season long. Military and veterans were invited to upload a headshot photo of themselves in Padres or military themed gear. This free experience courtesy of USAA was fulfilled within minutes of being released. The military fan cutouts will be placed within “USAA’s Military Appreciation Section” – Section 325.

In 1995, the Padres were the first professional sports team to have a Military Affairs department, and since have been recognized as ‘The Team of the Military’ throughout professional sports. For more than two decades, the Padres have looked for ways to recognize and honor the men and women who serve. The Padres efforts in recent years have expanded to include First Responders under a broader ‘Those Who Serve’ initiative, paying respect to the sacrifices made by Americans who provide us the freedom and safety we enjoy.

Support for ‘Those Who Serve’ has become one of the signature identities for the Padres, continuously striving to deliver a best-in-class program.

The Padres and USAA thank the military and their families for their service and offer special pricing on Padres tickets

For more information on how USAA and the Padres honor the military community, please visit padres.com/military.

MIGHTY TRENDING

3 countries where Russian mercenaries are known to operate

Newly confirmed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed in April 2018, that the US killed hundreds of Russians during a large firefight in Syria in early February 2018.

“In Syria now, a handful of weeks ago, the Russians met their match,” Pompeo said. “A couple hundred Russians were killed.”


The Russians were part of Wagner Group, or Vagner Group, a private mercenary company reportedly contracted by the Syrian government to capture and secure oil and gas fields from ISIS.

The Wagner Group started getting attention in 2014 when its mercenaries fought alongside Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine, before moving to Syria.

While little is still known about the shadowy mercenary group, they are believed to be operating in at least the following three countries:

1. Syria

1. Syria

There are currently about 2,500 Wagner mercenaries in Syria, according to the BBC, but the figures have varied.

In 2015-2016, Wagner mercenaries moved from Ukraine to Syria, Sergey Sukhankin, an associate expert at the International Centre for Policy Studies in Kyiv, told Business Insider in an email.

The mercenary group was contracted by Syria’s state-owned General Petroleum Corp to capture and secure gas and oil fields by ISIS, reportedly being given 25% of the proceeds, according to the Associated Press.

A Russian journalist who helped break the story about the mercenaries killed by the US military in February died earlier this month after mysteriously falling from a balcony.

2. Sudan

Wagner mercenaries were sent to Sudan in early January 2018, according to Stratfor.

The Wagner mercenaries were sent to Sudan “in a conflict against the South Sudan” to back up Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s government “militarily and hammer out beneficial conditions for the Russian companies,” Sukhankin said.

The mercenaries are also protecting gold, uranium and diamond mines, Sukhankin said, adding that the latter is the “most essential commodity.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has a cozy relationship with al-Bashir. The two leaders met in Moscow in late 2017, where al-Bashir asked Putin for protection from the US.

The Hague has had an arrest warrant out for al-Bashir since 2009 for crimes against humanity.

3. Central African Republic

In early January 2018, Stratfor reported that Wagner mercenaries might soon be sent to CAR, and Sukhankin said that there are now about 370 mercenaries in CAR and Sudan.

Sukhankin said that Wagner mercenaries have the same general mission in CAR — protecting lucrative mines and propping up the government regime.

In December 2017, the UN allowed Russia to begin selling weapons to the CAR, one of the many ways Moscow is trying to influence the continent. The CAR government is trying to combat violence being perpetrated by multiple armed groups along ethnic and religious lines.

“Russian instructors training our armed forces will greatly strengthen their effectiveness in combating plunderers,” President Faustin-Archange Touadera said in early April, according to RT, a Russian state-owned media outlet.

“The Russian private sector is also seeking to invest in the country’s infrastructure and education,” RT reported.

“Moscow seems more interested in filling its coffers through the Wagner deals than in preparing for a massive investment drive [in Africa],” Stratfor reported.

The Wagner Group might also be operating in other countries now or in the future.

The Wagner Group might also be operating in other countries now or in the future.

“Potentially, the Balkans if any conflict erupts,” Sukhankin said. “The Russians had sent PMC’s in 1992 to Bosnia. In case something occurs, this might happen once again.”

Wagner mercenaries might also soon be sent to Libya, one Wagner commander told RFERL in March 2018.

“There are many fights ahead,” the commander told RFERL. “Soon it will be in Libya. [Wagner] is already fighting in Sudan.”

Russia has been engaging more and more with Libya since 2016, supporting the faction led by military commander Khalifa Haftar. Meanwhile, NATO backs the the Government of National Accord, led by Fayez al-Sarraj.

Wagner commanders said that demand for their mercanaries will continue to grow as “war between the Russian Federation and the United States” continues, RFERL reported.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY GAMING

6 video games that are surprisingly popular with service members

Video games are extremely popular in the military community. It’s a favorite pastime and even troops who grew up playing outside will take part at some point. But what might surprise you is that it’s not just the nerds among us who’ve made videos games less of a time-killer and more of a hobby.


The military brings people from all different backgrounds together under the same roof — nerds and jocks alike. In fact, in the past two decades, a countless number of young hopefuls have showed up at the recruiter’s office looking to live out fantasies they’ve had while playing games.

Sure, not all of them make it and, yes, the harsh reality of military life sets in and you’ll quickly realize it’s not anywhere close to your favorite video game, but those who make it hold on tightly to their hobby. You just might be surprised at what types of games are popular among troops.

​5 misconceptions troops have about reentering the civilian world​

There was a movie that came out recently based on the original game. You should probably just stick to the games, though…

(Universal Pictures)

‘Warcraft’

The predecessor to the insanely popular massively multiplayer online role playing game, Warcraft is a real-time strategy series set in a grim fantasy world. If anyone from any walk of life brings this game up in conversation, they are most definitely a nerd — but by that barometer, there are a lot of nerds in the military.

​5 misconceptions troops have about reentering the civilian world​

Service members often feel the need for speed after a long week.

(Nintendo)

Any Mario game

Mario Kart, Mario Party, and Super Smash Brothers are all great games to play in the barracks on the weekend. These bring people together, just like a split-screen game of Call of Duty, but you’d never expect to see the bright colors and cartoony characters of a Nintendo title glowing on the faces of hardened war fighters.

​5 misconceptions troops have about reentering the civilian world​

You’ll still find an amazing following within the military, though.

(Sony Interactive Entertainment)

‘God of War’

Judging by the title alone, you’d think this series was a smash hit among service members, but it’s not wildly popular. Here’s why: You might get the opportunity to kill a bunch of gods in a bloody frenzy, but most games in the series follow a linear storyline. Troops generally aren’t interested until it comes time to fight.

​5 misconceptions troops have about reentering the civilian world​

This game takes quite a bit of skill, actually.

(Naughty Dog)

‘The Last of Us’

Of course a zombie shooter made it onto this list, but the best part of The Last of Us isn’t its gunplay, it’s the engaging and tragic story. Anyone can pickup Call of Duty and get their fill of zombie killing, but it takes a true dork to buy a game for the zombies and stay for the story.

​5 misconceptions troops have about reentering the civilian world​

Nerds love fighting giant monsters!

(Bioware)

‘Dragon Age’

One of the greatest game series to ever be developed, Dragon Age is a fantasy RPG that offers great story that evolves based on player choices. Much like the Witcher series (see below), you wouldn’t expect this to come up in conversation, but if you bring it up in the barracks, you’ll turn a few heads.

​5 misconceptions troops have about reentering the civilian world​

Seriously, though.

(CD Projekt Red)

‘The Witcher’

A role-playing fantasy game based on the novels of the same name by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, this series is renowned for its engaging story and open-ended choices. This game requires patience, preparation, and a good amount of reading — and it’s still popular among service members. It’s just that good.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A new campaign will tell the stories of vets and their connections to refugees

Many veterans have a unique perspective on the state of the world — with continued deployment tempos to foreign countries (especially those impacted by conflict), our veterans are exposed to life outside the continental United States. They also work alongside our allies and build relationships with them.


On Veterans Day 2017, Human Rights First’s Veterans for American Ideals project is launching the #WhatIFoughtFor campaign to tell the stories of U.S. veterans with deeply personal and profound connections with refugees. 

​5 misconceptions troops have about reentering the civilian world​
U.S. Air Force Colonel Len Profenna, left, chief of internal medicine, and Major Nathan Piovesan, a general surgeon from the 96th Medical Group, screen earthquake victims in the University of Miami medical tent Jan. 25, 2010, at the Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The doctors are screening 27 patients to be medically evacuated to the United States following a 7-magnitude earthquake that hit the city on Jan. 12, 2010. (DoD photo by Master Sgt. Jeremy Lock, U.S. Air Force)

Veterans have seen firsthand the devastation of war. According to #WhatIFoughtFor, “many of them have worked in communities around the world that have suffered from violence and oppression. They have even fought alongside many of these individuals as allies during wartime. They understand why refugees flee their homes, and that refugees want the same safety and opportunity for their families that we do.”

As a result, many veterans believe that commitment extends beyond their military service. Veterans for American Ideals is one such organization, and their mission is to stand with refugees, to tell their stories, and to help the American people make educated and informed decisions about America’s relationship with refugees.

Also read: This artist brought together Iraq refugees and war veterans for a pretty cool radio project

According to their website, “Veterans for American Ideals is a nonpartisan group of military veterans who share the belief that America is strongest when its policies and actions match its ideals. After taking off the uniform, we seek to continue serving our country by advocating policies that are consistent with the ideals that motivated us to serve in the first place: freedom, diversity, equality, and justice. It is those same ideals that make the United States a beacon to the world’s refugees.”

The campaign chronicles seven stories of family, friendship, brotherhood, and camaraderie between U.S. veterans and refugees. You can find more information about the Nov. 11, 2017 launch on Facebook or Twitter

Check out the trailer for the campaign below:

MIGHTY CULTURE

Kill and Survive: A stealth pilot’s guide to excellence

U.S. Air Force pilot Bill Crawford is a stealth pilot, someone who has risen to the very top of an extremely challenging field. But to hear him tell it, it can all be chalked up to a very simple secret, a secret that will sound familiar to anyone who has served in the military.


Kill and Survive: A Stealth Pilot’s Secrets of Success | Bill Crawford | TEDxRexburg

www.youtube.com

His trick is becoming the best in the world, studying and refining himself and his processes until he’s above whatever cutoff he needs to clear. And that includes the time in college when he learned that the Air Force was cutting fighter pilot training slots from about 1,000 a year to 100 per year. In order to make sure he cleared the cutoff, Crawford became the best.

Not the 100th best, not the 10th. He received a scholarship that year for being the single best.

And he wants everyone to have the chance to be the best in the world at whatever it is they do.

In his TEDx talk, Crawford talks about bombing Baghdad, conducting inflight refuelings, and, most importantly, conducting the post-mission debrief. The after-action review.

And, yeah, that’s a big part of Crawford’s secret. As anyone in the military can tell you, all the branches have some sort of process for reviewing mission performance and success (two different things) from any operation. Crawford’s version from his Air Force career is asking five questions:

  1. What happened?
  2. What went right?
  3. What went wrong?
  4. Why?
  5. Lessons learned?

The Army had a slightly different version. What was supposed to happen? What did happen? Why? What should we, as a team, sustain about that performance? What should we change? But all the branches have some version of this process.

And this self-review is key to understanding modern military success. If you look at old articles from the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008, plenty of hand-wringing in the West was about the pain, death, and destruction Russia inflicted, but many military leaders worried about Russia’s review process after the invasion.

That’s because the most successful organizations and individuals define their processes and actively assess whether or not they are doing it the best way they can. Russia hadn’t historically reviewed their successes all that deeply. But they decisively won the war on the ground in Georgia in five days, then they reviewed their success for how to do better.

And that meant that they wanted to improve their processes. Crawford wants everyone to learn to do that process in their own life just like the American military has for decades, and Russia now does as well. And the process is simple.

But it’s also hard to do. Crawford and his team had to do their debrief from bombing Baghdad right after they landed. So, right after completing 40-hours of flying and bombing, they had to go sit in a room and discuss their process, their success, and what they could do better.

But if you can make yourself do all that, you’re more likely to get better. And if you keep getting better, you’ll be the best.

Articles

Dunford: speed of military decision-making must exceed speed of war

Military decision-making needs to exceed the speed of events, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff wrote recently in Joint Forces Quarterly.


Since Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford became the chairman in September 2015, he has emphasized innovations and changes that speed the military’s ability to respond to rapidly changing situations.

While America’s joint force is the best in the world, he said, it must continue to innovate to stay ahead of potential foes and to adapt to constantly changing strategies.

Also read: Mattis threatens ‘overwhelming’ response if North Korea ever uses nukes

“As I reflect back on four decades of service in uniform, it is clear that the pace of change has accelerated significantly,” Dunford said.

He noted that when he entered the Marine Corps in the 1970s, he used much the same equipment that his father used during the Korean War. “I used the same cold-weather gear my dad had in Korea 27 years earlier,” he said. “The radios I used as a platoon commander were the same uncovered PRC-25s from Vietnam. The jeeps we drove would have been familiar to veterans of World War II, and to be honest, so would the tactics.” Marine units, he added, fought much the same way their fathers did at Peleliu, Okinawa or the Chosin Reservoir.

​5 misconceptions troops have about reentering the civilian world​
Petty Officer 3rd Class Steven Martinez, left, a corpsman, and Staff Sgt. Joseph Quintanilla, a platoon sergeant, both with 3rd Marine Regiment, brace as a CH-53E Super Stallion with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 366 takes off after inserting the company into a landing zone aboard Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, July 26, 2015. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt.Owen Kimbrel

Accelerated Pace of Change

Today, “there are very few things that have not changed dramatically in the joint force since I was a lieutenant,” Dunford said.

He spoke of visiting a Marine platoon in Farah province, Afghanistan. “This platoon commander and his 60 Marines were 40 miles from the adjacent platoons on their left and right,” he said. “His Marines were wearing state-of-the-art protective equipment and driving vehicles unrecognizable to Marines or soldiers discharged just five years earlier. They were supported by the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, which provided precision fires at a range of 60 kilometers.”

The platoon, Dunford recalled, received and transmitted voice, data and imagery via satellite in real time, something only possible at division headquarters just five years before his visit.

These changes are mirrored across the services and combatant commands, the chairman said, giving commanders amazing capabilities, but also posing challenges to commanders on how to best use these new capabilities.

“Leaders at lower and lower levels utilize enabling capabilities once reserved for the highest echelons of command,” Dunford said in the article. “Tactics, techniques and procedures are adapted from one deployment cycle to the next.”

This accelerated pace of change is inextricably linked to the speed of war today, the general said. “Proliferation of advanced technologies that transcend geographic boundaries and span multiple domains makes the character of conflict extraordinarily dynamic,” the chairman said. “Information operations, space and cyber capabilities and ballistic missile technology have accelerated the speed of war, making conflict today faster and more complex than at any point in history.”

Shortened Decision-Space Adds New Risks

The American military must stay ahead of this pace because the United States will not have time to marshal the immense strength at its command as it did in World War I and II and during Korea, Dunford said. “Today, the ability to recover from early missteps is greatly reduced,” he said. “The speed of war has changed, and the nature of these changes makes the global security environment even more unpredictable, dangerous and unforgiving. Decision space has collapsed and so our processes must adapt to keep pace with the speed of war.”

The situation on the Korean Peninsula is a case in point, the chairman said. In the past, he said, officials believed any war on the peninsula could be contained to the area. However, with the development of ballistic missile technology, the North Korean nuclear program and new cyber capabilities that is no longer possible, Dunford said. A war that once would have been limited would now spiral, almost immediately, with regional and global implications, he said.

“Deterring, and if necessary, defeating, a threat from North Korea requires the joint force to be capable of nearly instant integration across regions, domains and functions,” Dunford said. “Keeping pace with the speed of war means changing the way we approach challenges, build strategy, make decisions and develop leaders.”

This means seamlessly integrating capabilities such as information operations, space and cyber into battle plans, the chairman said. “These essential aspects of today’s dynamic environment cannot be laminated onto the plans we have already developed,” he said. “They must be mainstreamed in all we do, and built into our thinking from the ground up.”

​5 misconceptions troops have about reentering the civilian world​
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks with Army Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell, the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman, and senior enlisted leaders from across the Defense Department during the Defense Senior Enlisted Leaders Council at the Pentagon, Dec. 1, 2016. | DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro

Integrated Strategies Improve Responsiveness

Dunford said the joint force must also develop integrated strategies that address transregional, multidomain and multifunctional threats. “By viewing challenges holistically, we can identify gaps and seams early and develop strategies to mitigate risk before the onset of a crisis,” he said. “We have adapted the next version of the National Military Strategy to guide these initiatives.”

The military must make the most of its decision space, so military leaders can present options at the speed of war, Dunford said. “This begins with developing a common understanding of the threat, providing a clear understanding of the capabilities and limitations of the joint force, and then establishing a framework that enables senior leaders to make decisions in a timely manner,” the chairman said.

Leadership is essential, said the chairman, noting the joint force depends on leaders who anticipate change, recognize opportunity and adapt to meet new challenges.

“That is why we continue to prioritize leader development by adapting doctrine, integrating exercise plans, revising training guidance and retooling the learning continuum,” Dunford said. “These efforts are designed to change the face of military learning and develop leaders capable of thriving at the speed of war.”

Adaptation and innovation are the imperatives for the Joint Force, the chairman said. “The character of war in the 21st century has changed, and if we fail to keep pace with the speed of war, we will lose the ability to compete,” he said.

“The joint force is full of the most talented men and women in the world, and it is our responsibility as leaders to unleash their initiative to adapt and innovate to meet tomorrow’s challenges,” Dunford said. “We will get no credit tomorrow for what we did yesterday.”

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