If you sometimes struggle with strength and optimism in difficult situations, keep reading.
I recently discovered motivational speaker and all-around role model Ryan Manion through her podcast, titled The Resilient Life. Honestly, I was hooked on Ryan’s story after learning about the foundation she started in her brother’s honor and name, following his death in Iraq. The Travis Manion Foundation strives to “unite and strengthen communities by training, developing and highlighting the role models that lead them.” Ryan has pledged to inspire others to improve themselves through service, and has done so through her work in TMF and, more recently, through her podcast.
In The Resilient Life, Ryan discusses how struggles shape people and the different ways we can face them. In her words, “Every human will struggle in this life. Our challenge is to struggle well.”
I think Ryan’s podcast is so impressive to me because I, too, am constantly struggling (and, subsequently, am always learning). It’s common for me to find myself thinking about the best ways to deal with pain and handle conflict. Listening to Manion’s podcast felt like hearing my own personal thoughts put into words that made sense, were inspiring, and additionally were directly applicable to my life. Through Ryan’s personal stories, dialogue with guest speakers and practical advice, aspects of my life that had previously seemed utterly cryptic are starting to make sense.
Something good happening during 2020!?
Manion dives further into the deeper topics discussed in the podcast in her book, The Knock at the Door.
The foundation of TMF in itself is the product of Ryan’s own productive struggling. Travis was killed in combat with other members of his battalion in the Al Anbar province of Iraq during his deployment in 2007. While many people use a life altering tragedy such as this one as a reason for pity and squander opportunities to learn from their own suffering, Ryan took the opportunity, or “knock at the door,” to grow and to improve herself. Her podcast and her book demonstrate her growth and put her wisdom into words.
In fact, The Resilient Life has a new episode airing today. In the second ever episode of the podcast, Manion and Brian “Tosh” Chontosh, a well-known force in the Marine Corps, discuss failure, discipline and more. Tosh is a retired Marine Corps officer who was awarded the Navy Cross for his heroism and patriotism during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The most encouraging thing about the podcast is the reassurance that even successful, strong people such as Manion and Tosh can struggle and fail. Listen to the podcast to hear the details of Tosh’s struggles with the “ultra” marathon, taking place in Minnesota during wild blizzards.
Personally, I feel good about myself after running a 5K. We all have different definitions of success. And that may be why Tosh and Manion’s joint work is so amazing.
Manion’s podcast, work with and foundation of the TMF, and book are all examples of how we can use pain for productivity; suffering for efficiency. In a time where it’s so natural to be passive and let time pass us by as the world is shut down around us, it’s very easy to lose our sense of urgency in the doldrums of quarantine. However, with Manion’s inspiration, it’s a little easier to get up and get shit done.
The Travis Manion Foundation is inspiring people every day. Let yourself be one of them by listening to The Resilient Life.
Nearly 17,000 World War I veterans and some of their families had made camp on the shore of the Anacostia River south of Capitol Hill by the summer of 1932. They were all unemployed, and many of them had been so since the start of the Great Depression in 1929. They wanted the money the government had promised them as a function of their wartime service, and they wanted it immediately.
But the benefit they were due was a little more complicated than that. In 1924 Congress overrode a veto by President Calvin Coolidge and passed the World War Adjusted Compensation Act. According to the act each veteran was to receive a dollar for each day of domestic service, up to a maximum of $500, and $1.25 for each day of overseas service, up to a maximum of $625 (about $7,899 in current dollars). Amounts of $50 or less were immediately paid. All other amounts were issued as Certificates of Service maturing in 20 years.
3,662,374 military service certificates were issued, with a face value of $3.638,000,000 ($43.7 billion today). Congress established a trust fund to receive 20 annual payments of $112 million that, with interest, would finance the 1945 disbursement of the $3.638 billion due the veterans. Meanwhile, veterans could borrow up to 22.5 percent of the certificate’s face value from the fund.
But in 1931, because of the Great Depression, Congress increased the maximum value of such loans to 50 percent of the certificate’s face value.
Although there was congressional support for the immediate redemption of the military service certificates, President Hoover and Republican congressmen opposed such action on the grounds that the government would have to increase taxes to cover the costs of the payout, and that would slow down any potential recovery.
On June 15, 1932, the House of Representatives passed the Wright Patman Bonus Bill which would have moved forward the date for World War I veterans to receive their cash bonus, but two days later the Senate defeated the bill by a vote of 62-18.
The Bonus Army, as the veteran squatters were known, decided to protest the Senate vote by marching from Anacostia to Capitol Hill. Once the march was over a number of vets decided not to return to Anacostia and instead they set up camp on Capitol Hill. They lived there for over a month waiting for lawmakers or President Hoover to do something on their behalf.
On July 28, 1932, Attorney General William D. Mitchell ordered the police to remove the Bonus Army veterans from their camp on Capitol Hill, and during that effort the vets rushed two policemen trapped on the second floor of a building. The cornered police drew their revolvers and shot at the veterans, two of which, William Hushka and Eric Carlson, later died.
When President Hoover heard about the incident he ordered the U.S. Army to evict the Bonus Army from Washington DC. The task fell to the 12th Infantry Regiment, commanded by one General Douglas MacArthur, who was supported by six tanks, under the charge of one Major George S. Patton who was attached to the 3rd Calvary Regiment.
When the vets saw the Army force they cheered, thinking they were there to support their cause. But MacArthur quickly showed them that wasn’t the case. The Army waded into the vets with tear gas and fixed bayonets. The vets retreated back to Anacostia, and President Hoover ordered the Army to stop the eviction. However General MacArthur, in a move that foretold his infamous showdown with President Truman years later during the Korean War, ignored Hoover’s order and continued his assault on the Bonus Army.
Fifty-five veterans were injured and 135 arrested. A veteran’s wife miscarried. A 12-week-old boy died in the hospital after being caught in the tear gas attack. The veteran shantytown was burned to the ground.
MacArthur later explained his actions by saying that he thought that the Bonus March was an attempt to overthrow the U.S. government.
Though the Bonus Army incident did not derail the careers of the military officers involved, it proved politically disastrous for Hoover. He lost the 1932 election in a landslide to Franklin D. Roosevelt.
MGM released the movie “Gabriel Over the White House” in March 1933, the month Roosevelt was sworn in as president. Produced by William Randolph Hearst’s Cosmopolitan Pictures, it depicted a fictitious President Hammond who, in the film’s opening scenes, refuses to deploy the military against a march of the unemployed and instead creates an “Army of Construction” to work on public works projects until the economy recovers.
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt quipped that the movie’s treatment of veterans was superior to Hoover’s.
Young veterans often ask me why they should care about resilience. It’s a fair question. At this point, the term is almost meaningless – an overused buzzword.American military culture in particular has packaged “resilience” into an unsexy powerpoint training requirement. It seems like an add-on. An annoyance.
It’s unfortunate, because resilience practices are key to maximizing performance. And when you’re performing optimally, your family, your team, and the other people around you benefit significantly. We’re better off in every area of our lives – personally and professionally – when we practice resilience trait cultivation.
The three pillars of a resilient life are social support, self-care, and spirituality. The individual value of these pillars is backed irrefutably by science, and – when practiced together – their benefits increase exponentially.
I promise not to spend the next few paragraphs trying to convince you to drink green smoothies and sit on a therapist’s couch. There’s a lot more to wellness than that. Instead, we’ll examine some simple tactics you can start using today to build a better life.
1. Social Support: Surround Yourself With Good People
The first and most important step in building resilience is making the hard choice to surround yourself with great people. If you don’t have them around you, you can’t get started. You won’t start or keep growing.
This seems like an obvious step, but it’s a real challenge for some. It was for me.
The truth is, you’ve got a battle ahead and you’re most likely to succeed if you have like-minded people to walk with you as you make some changes. I’m not saying you have to hang out with people who look, think, and talk like you, but you do have to spend time with people who are supportive and interested in their own growth and development.
Take a moment to honestly evaluate the influence of the people in your life. Is their influence negative and destructive or positive? If you don’t have great people around you right now, that’s ok. It means you have plenty of room to grow.
You may need to make some serious life changes to find a more positive tribe. You may also need to put yourself in some uncomfortable situations to meet new people. Perhaps you’ll find your new group volunteering, on a sports team, or as part of a faith community.
If you’re not in a great place right now, or you don’t have many skills when it comes to connecting with other people, you might be feeling shame or a lack of confidence. Do some outreach anyway. Be willing to risk sharing things that feel deeply personal. You’ll be surprised at how supportive people can be when you open up.
Think about this intense challenge in terms of improving yourself for the people you love.
2. Self-Care: Calm Your Body and Mind
Start here by choosing just one or two healthy practices you can incorporate as daily habits, then track how they benefit your life. Don’t worry about trying to change everything at once.
By practicing effective self-care to calm your body and mind, you can become less reactive to external stressors. When you’re less reactive, you’re more capable of engaging in positive social interactions. Better social interactions result in increased social support. Improved social support increases your physical and emotional health. There’s a ripple effect here that’s really exciting.
Self-care can be as simple as cooking at home or going back to the gym. What you’re looking for is something that makes you feel relaxed. You might be working hard, but you’re going to feel your sympathetic nervous system (body and mind) calm down. Some people call it a click. An exhale. A downshift. When you feel it, you’ll know you found your thing.
Think of your sympathetic nervous system like a dashboard: It’s where your perception, speech, and moving about in the world happens. It’s where you live when you’re alert. Our goal through self-care is to pump the brakes and calm down this side of our nervous system.
When our brains shift to rest, our bodies and minds are refreshed and we’re more capable of controlling our emotions, focusing, and engaging in high-level thinking. You can reach this rested state by sleeping, but you don’t have to be sleeping to be in this zone. You may also get there by swimming, snowboarding, gardening, praying, meditating, or hitting flow in some other activity you enjoy. Most of us – particularly those of us with stress injuries – are sadly lacking in this rested state.
As you begin incorporating daily self-care practices into your life, track your progress. Take note of how you feel two weeks in. Do you feel better? More focused? Do you sleep better at night? Are you feeling less pain?
Remember that self-care will differ for every person. For example, if meditation isn’t for you and you keep trying it, it can actually increase your stress. You may not be a meditator – you may be a trail runner. It’s about trial and error. Don’t be surprised if what works for you changes over the years. The most important thing is to maintain your willingness to practice, and understand that it may take time to discover what works best for you.
3. Spirituality: Find Your Meaning
Finally, there’s a clear correlation between physical, mental, and emotional resilience and a sense of meaning in our lives. We all need a connection to someone higher – with God, or a sense of personal purpose. Whether you approach this aspect of resilience from a secular perspective (think Maslow’s hierarchy with transcendance at the top) or with a theological view, give yourself some time to ask questions about the source of purpose and meaning in your life.
To plug into a community that supports you as you explore this aspect of resilience, consider getting involved with your church, synagogue, or specific faith group, volunteering, giving generously, or taking time to study a faith practice you’ve been curious about.
Editor’s note: Each week WATM will be presenting a new column by Dr. Hendricks Thomas on topics important to the veteran community.
About the Author
Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas is a U.S. Marine veteran and wellness coach who writes about resilience building, creating strong communities, and the science of spirituality. You can find her new book, Brave, Strong, True: The Modern Warrior’s Battle for Balance, here.
As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches on, exhausted parents are trying to juggle work, joblessness, rambunctious children, the emotional needs of spouses, the safety of aging parents, and fear of infection from a virus that can ravage the lungs, leaving its victims sick for weeks at a time. While the war metaphor is often tossed about carelessly — a virus is not a living lifeform, let alone an “enemy” — to parallel the mental impact of this time to soldiers at war is useful.
The sense of fear and stress many are experiencing now is familiar for many families of military service members, as well as those who help them through crises. Faced with separation, dangerous deployments, and untimely deaths, parents and children can cope by practicing a resilient mindset. “We serve families who experience a loss, and put on resilience retreats for children, siblings, spouses, and others who have lost a service member. We are helping them learn to stay health in the face of grief and loss, ” says Mia Bartoletti, the clinical psychologist for the Navy SEAL Foundation and an expert on helping families navigate crises. Bartoletti acknowledges that the same process can help families navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.
As Bartoletti frames it, resilience is a practice of acknowledging “normal reactions to extraordinary circumstances.” This means working to strengthen the attributes that make one “resilient” including hardiness, personal competence, tolerance of negative affect, acceptance of change, personal control, and spirituality, according to a review in PTSD Research Quarterly, a publication by the National Center for PTSD. These traits are “like a muscle,” says Mary Alvord, psychologist and the founder of Resilience Across Borders, a nonprofit program that teaches resilience to children, adolescents, and young adults in schools. “You just keep working it out and you can build it.”
Whether you’re a healthcare worker on the frontlines or a stay-at-home parent, having a strong reaction to the pandemic is to be expected. Bartoletti divides these reactions into three categories: Intrusive reactions, avoidance and withdrawal reactions, and physical arousal reactions. Intrusive reactions involve memories, dreams, nightmares, and flashbacks that take you back to the psychologically traumatizing situation after the fact. Avoidance and withdrawal can happen during and after a distressing event, causing you to repress emotions and even avoid people and places. Physical arousal reactions involve changes in the body itself, including trouble sleeping, irritable outbursts, difficulty concentrating, hypervigilance.
All of these reactions are normal, as long as they remain acute. Are you dreaming about Genghis Khan stealing your wallet, or breaking into a co-workers house to steal their toilet paper? Those vivid, COVID dreams are an acute intrusive reaction. Are you finding the need to shut yourself in a room and cry? That’s acute withdrawal. Do you find the news about COVID-19 in your area rockets up your heartbeat and blood pressure? That’s an acute physiological reaction. “I think that anyone can be experiencing these things, depending on your own reaction to this pandemic situation, these are common reactions,” says Bartoletti. “We expect to see more of these in this time frame.”
What is not normal is when the acute reaction morphs into a long-term psychological problems.
If these symptoms persist, acute stress in the moment can morph into post-traumatic stress after the fact. That can mean intense physiological feelings of stress, avoidance and withdrawal behavior, or intrusive flashbacks that impede normal social and emotional functioning for days, weeks, or months even after the pandemic subsides.
How does one prevent this all from going down? As with so many things, it starts with communicating those reactions, grappling with them and forming them into verbal thoughts. “If you don’t acknowledge your emotional state, that’s a risk and puts you in jeopardy for adverse lasting consequences,” says Bartolleti. “If you engage in narrative sharing open and effective communication with kids and other selective resilience skills — these are mechanisms of resilience. We can strategically set these mechanisms in motion to enhance individual and family resilient adjustment during this time.”
In many ways, parents and children can practice resilience in similar ways—through dialogue, social connection, and focusing on self-care and controlling what they can and letting go of what they can’t. Of course, parents also act as aids and models for their children, helping their kids let go of negative thoughts, providing warmth and support, and helping them connect with friends while getting outside enough. Under non-pandemic circumstances, Alvord and her colleagues have found that the presence of a caring adult in a child’s life can really help that child overcome stressful or traumatic circumstances. In a pandemic, which affects everyone, parents need to remember to take care of themselves, too.
To foster resilience in kids, the first step is talking it out. “Dialogue is really healthy for kids and teens for actual brain development,” Bartoletti says. “Having conversations about workplace safety and hazards is a healthy thing.” It’s good to gauge what your children are thinking and experiencing, as well as explaining to them your role in this situation. You can set the record straight on anything they have misunderstood. You can offer calm and reassurance while explaining the actionable steps you are taking to cope with the situation. You can model a problem-solving mindset to help your children as they figure out how to manage their emotions.
For both children and parents, social connection will be crucial for staying emotionally healthy through this time, says Alvord. While we may be physically distant, we should still be socially connected. For parents of children old enough to have friends and social groups, this will mean helping those children connect with their friends via phone or video chat. If your children are older, it may mean encouraging and allowing time and space for your teen to spend time with their friends online. For parents, make time to stay connected to your normal group of friends and family. And if you don’t have a parent support group already, it’s a good idea to seek one out so you can share tips and tricks and commiserate about parenting in lockdown. And of course, take the time to connect as a family and make the most of being stuck together.
Self-care really is essential to overall well-being. Alvord recommends trying to get plenty of sleep and taking a break to be by yourself, even if that means getting in your car to get away from everyone in the house. Physical activity and getting outside helps too, says Alvord. Bartoletti cautions that you can overdo it on the exercise, however, and that becomes its own form of avoidance. Being resilient, “really means getting in tune with your own internal landscape,” she says.
Finally, Alvord says resilience means letting go of the things you can’t control and focusing on the things that you can. Taking initiative in one’s life is one of the primary characteristics of resilience, Alvord wrote in a 2005 study published in Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. “Depression is hopelessness and helplessness and so resilience is the opposite,” she says. “No, you’re not helpless, you do have control over many aspects of your life.” For example, Alvord’s neighbors recently went out and bought a cheap pool for their backyard. If pools can’t open this summer, they have their own to keep their five children occupied. Recognizing you have agency in this situation — that’s resilience. “It’s action-oriented, as opposed to sitting back and letting things happen,” she says.
“Our mindset in this timeframe matters in terms of brain health and how we react in this experience,” says Bartoletti. Our bodies are primed with hormones to react to stressful situations. “We need to practice a mindset of challenging that at times,” she says.
Research shows it is possible to come out of a traumatic experience even stronger than before. And Bartoletti’s research in military families shows that these coping skills, taken together, can help families “become more cohesive and supportive and more resilient in the face of adversity.” Some days are still going to be challenging, and there will certainly be moments of grief and stress. But if parents and kids alike start to stretch and work that resilience muscle, they can get through this together.
These days, Americans are less likely to exclaim “son of a gun” than the more-explicit “son of a b*tch,” but there was a time when “son of a gun” itself was not used in mixed company — and that time was more than 200 years after the age of sail.
It seems the Royal Navy, while not keen on having women aboard its ships, sometimes overlooked the practice. Different times throughout its history saw sailors of the Royal Navy either bring either their wives or lovers aboard ships that might be out at sea for a while. While it wasn’t officially tolerated, there are instances of a ship’s company turning a blind eye to it.
At this point, it’s important that everyone knows I’m talking about prostitutes.
Everyone aboard a ship was counted in the ship’s log back in those days. The log was a detailed account of who was working, who came aboard, who left, who died, etc. It also kept track of who was born aboard one of the King or Queen’s ships. It was uncommon, but it did happen. Women had to get around the world just like anyone else. The Royal Navy kept this count, just like any other ship.
But say there was one of the aforementioned female guests aboard a ship. If that woman just happened to give birth aboard ship, that child would have to be kept in the log. If a child was born with uncertain paternity — that is to say, there were too many possibilities as to who the father could be — the newborn still had to be counted in the log.
Like an old-timey recording of the Maury Show.
If this was the case, the child’s name was recorded as the “son of a gun” — the son of a seaman below decks. Eventually, the common use of the phrase began to refer to any child born aboard a ship, even those of officers accompanied by their wives. Then, it began to refer to any child of a military man, not just the bastard children of sailors.
Some 200-plus years later, it’s used to lovingly refer to a mischievous person or as an expression of awe or esteem. To use an expletive or insult in the same vein, we’ve moved on as a society. Who knows where language will go next?
The Air Force Security Forces Center, in partnership with the Air Force Small Arms Program Office, has begun fielding the new M18 SIG Sauer Modular Handgun System to security forces units as part of the Reconstitute Defender Initiative and its effort to modernize weapon systems and increase warfighter lethality.
The M18 replaces the M9 Beretta, which has been in use for more than 30 years. This new weapons system is also projected to replace the M11-A1 Compact used by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the U.S. Army M15 General Officer pistol used for military working dog training.
The modular design of the M18 provides improved ergonomics, target acquisition, reliability and durability to increase shooter lethality.
A key benefit of the M18 is that it can be customized to individual shooters with small, medium or large handgrips.
The Air Force Security Forces Center, in partnership with the Air Force Small Arms Program Office, has begun fielding the new M18 Modular Handgun System to Security Forces units.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Vicki Stein)
“This is going to help shooters with smaller hands. It also has a much smoother trigger pull, leading to a more accurate, lethal shooter,” said Staff Sgt. Richard Maner, 37th Training Support Squadron armory noncommissioned officer in charge at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, who had an opportunity to test the weapon. “The M18 is a smaller platform weapon, but it gives the shooter more capabilities over the bulkier, larger M9 pistol.”
“The M18 is a leap forward in the right direction for modernizing such a critical piece of personal defense and feels great in the hand. It reinforces the muscle memory instilled through consistent shooting,” said Master Sgt. Casey Ouellette, 341st Military Working Dog Flight Chief JB San Antonio-Lackland. “It’s more accurate and, with a great set of night sights and with their high profile, follow-up shots have become easier than ever before.”
So far, more than 2,000 M18s have been delivered to JB Andrews, Maryland, the Air Force Gunsmith Shop, Air Education and Training Command Combat Arms Apprentice Course at JB San Antonio-Lackland, two regional training centers (Guam and Fort Bliss, Texas), Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, and F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming. All security forces units are expected to have their full authorization of M18s by 2020 with the remainder of the Air Force to follow.
“Once all security forces units have been supplied the new weapon, we will supply special warfare airmen, Guardian Angel/(pararescue) communities, OSI and other high-level users,” said Master Sgt. Shaun Ferguson, AFSFC Small Arms and Light Weapons Requirements program manager. “Aircrew communities and other installation personnel will be issued the handgun as well based on requirements.”
The Apache helicopter was a maligned weapon system in early 1991 as low readiness rates, and worse than expected performance in small conflicts made people wonder if the aircraft’s huge costs were worth it. But the system excelled in the tough environment of the Persian Gulf War, chewing up Iraqi armor, bunkers, and ground troops.
In fact, one Apache crew even accepted the surrender of an Iraqi officer and his driver after the men decided they couldn’t escape the helicopter in their vehicle.
Soldiers receive an escort from AH-64 Apache helicopters in 2004.
(U.S. Army Sgt. Kimberly Snow)
Warrant Officer John Ely was one of the pilots on the attack helicopter, and he would later describe the Iraqis’ actions as a seemingly obvious decision. Ely had been part of a team hunting targets in the desert, and they had already erased a few enemy positions.
Ely had his eye on a Toyota when the driver suddenly stopped the vehicle and hopped out. He opened the door for “a fat Iraqi officer” who exited the vehicle with his hands up and a briefcase raised.
Now, even with the man attempting to surrender, this was a tricky situation. Typically, surrenders are given to “maneuver” forces like infantry or cavalry on the ground, but engineers, artillery, and plenty of other ground troops are quite capable of accepting an enemy surrender.
But Apache crews have a severe weakness in this area. While the helicopter’s lethality is a great reason for enemy troops to throw their hands in the air, how does a four-man team in two helicopters; a common battlefield deployment for the attack helicopters, take custody of prisoners?
How do they search them for intel and weapons? How do they transport them back to a base? Apaches have good armor and redundant systems, but they’re vulnerable if they land. And they have no real passenger space even if they landed.
Look, [if you`re an Iraqi and] you see a guy in this machine hovering 200 feet in front of you, with a gun turret that moves with the nodding and turn of my head . . . I point south, they move south. They`ve just seen their buddies blown away. What would you do?
Another event took place in Iraq after Apaches took out artillery positions. The insurgents manning the weapons went to the middle of the field and held their hands up while the Apaches took out the large weapons, and then ground troops moved in to take possession of the prisoners.
But, tragically, that’s not always an option. The 227th Aviation Regiment’s 1st Battalion saw those flags of surrender from Iraqi tankers on the Highway of Death and didn’t engage them, allowing U.S. ground troops to accept the Iraqi surrender in 1991. But in 2007, two Iraqi men jumped out of their truck and attempted to surrender to a 1-227th Apache crew.
The crew held off on attacking, but wasn’t sure what to do. The Iraqis had been firing mortars from the truck, so the unit asked an undisclosed military lawyer for a legal review. His advice was that the Apache crew could not effectively receive the surrender, and so the mortar crew was still a legal target. (This advice has proved controversial since then.)
Meanwhile, the mortar crew jumped back into the truck and drove off with its mortar tube. So it was no longer clear whether they still wanted to surrender. The Apaches re-engaged, but failed to destroy the truck in the next attack. The men abandoned the truck and took shelter in a nearby shack, and the Apaches killed them there with a 30mm gun run.
So, if you ever find yourself trying to surrender to an Apache crew, maybe look around and see if you can find some ground troops to surrender to instead.
The United States Coast Guardsman will wear multiple hats during their service to this nation. They are an armed force, environmental protector, maritime law enforcer and first responder.
Every single day.
“We have eleven statutory missions that we perform for the country with 42,000 active duty, 6,000 reservists, and 8,000 civilians. We don’t get overtime, we are on duty 24/7 and are subject to the uniform code of military justice. We work a lot of hours to get it done,” shared Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, Jason Vanderhaden.
He continued on sharing the differences between those that serve under the Department of Defense and the USCG. He explained that those under DOD leave to fight, and when they get home, they have a chance to recharge and retrain. That’s not the case for those in the USCG. When a ship returns home from deployment, there are continual repairs and work that doesn’t stop. Then – it redeploys again, to continue serving the mission.
The defense readiness aspect of the USCG is unique. They have always had a respected partnership with the United States Navy and have fought in every major war since their inception on Aug. 4, 1790. They are overseas even now, serving in the ongoing middle eastern conflict. It may surprise the public to learn that they are the nations oldest continuing seagoing service.
“I want to paint the picture that we have a very challenging mission set, but at the same time, we do it well,” shared Vanderhaden. He continued on saying that it’s almost as though coasties thrive on that environment, which is evidenced in the retention rate.
It may surprise people to learn that the USCG has an absolutely vital role in America’s anti-terrorism and counter-terrorism battle. As a matter of fact, they are on the front lines of it. On any given day, they are enforcing security zones, conducting law enforcement boardings, and working to detect weapons of mass destruction.
They are also the nation’s first line of defense against drugs entering the country. The USCG’s drug interdictions account for over half of the total seizures of cocaine in the United States.
While patrolling and protecting America, they are also continually serving her water and its marine inhabitants. They partner with multiple organizations and groups to protect the environment. One of the core missions of the USCG involves protecting endangered marine species, stopping unauthorized ocean dumping, and preventing oil or chemical spills.
“You’ll go a lot of places where people don’t know what the Coast Guard does, that’s for sure. We also struggle a little bit because people think they can’t join the Coast Guard because they don’t swim well. If you are in the water – something is probably wrong,” said Vanderhaden with a laugh. This is because there is truly only one rating or MOS where they have to get into the water, and that is the aviation survival technician, most commonly known as the rescue swimmer.
The USCG often conducts search and rescues in extreme weather conditions. This mission involves multi-mission stations, cutters, aircraft, and boats that are all linked by communication networks. Although public references to movies like The Guardian cause eye rolls within the USCG community; it did bring rescue swimming to a higher level of respect within the public. The rescue swimmer motto should give you goosebumps: “so that others may live.”
You’d think that recruiting potential coasties would be easy with the continuous news coverage and more visibility with certain movies, but it isn’t. Vanderhaden shared that only a small percentage of the population will actually qualify to serve in the armed forces, and getting the word out about the USCG is still very challenging. This is because they do not have the recruiting budgets that the DOD has, so you’ll almost never see a USCG commercial. “We rely on people finding us,” said Vanderhaden.
With the world currently being consumed with the coronavirus or COVID-19 spread, Vanderhaden was asked about the USCG’s response and continuing of its missions during the pandemic. “We still have the service that we have to provide to the nation…. We are still doing our job and we have to, we are just taking more precautions,” he shared. There is no stand down for all of the vital operations of the USCG. He continued on saying, “We do need to make sure that we are always ready to respond, and we will continue to do that.”
Their core values are honor, respect, and devotion to duty. These values guide them in all they do, every single day. They willingly don the multiple hats and are prepared to sacrifice it all in the name of preserving this nation. That’s the United States Coast Guard, always ready.
To learn more about the Coast Guard and their missions, click here.
The Pentagon’s research arm is now demonstrating an entirely new level of aircraft autonomy which blends the problem-solving ability of the human mind with computerized robotic functions.
The Defense Advance Research Project Agency, or DARPA, program is called Aircrew Labor in Cockpit Automation System, or ALIAS.
A key concept behind ALIAS involves a recognition that while human cognition is uniquely suited to problem-solving and things like rapid reactions to fast-changing circumstances, there are many procedural tasks which can be better performed by computers, developers explained.
ALIAS uses a software backbone designed with open interfaces along with a pilot-operated touchpad and speech recognition software. Pilots can use a touch screen or voice command to direct the aircraft to perform functions autonomously.
For instance, various check-list procedures and safety protocols such as engine status, altitude gauges, lights, switches and levers, can be more rapidly, safely and efficiently performed autonomously by computers.
“This involves the routine tasks that humans need to do but at times find mundane and boring. The ALIAS system is designed to be able to take out those dull mission requirements such as check lists and monitoring while providing a system status to the pilot. The pilot can concentrate on the broader mission at hand,” Mark Cherry, President and CEO of Aurora Flight Sciences, told Defense Systems in an interview.
The aircraft is able to perform a wide range of functions, such as activating emergency procedures, pitching, rolling, monitoring engine check lights, flying autonomously to pre-determined locations or “waypoints,” maneuvering and possibly employing sensors – without every move needing human intervention.
Developers explain that ALIAS, which has already been demonstrated by DARPA industry partners Lockheed Martin and Aurora Flight Sciences, can be integrated into a wide range of aircraft such as B-52s or large civilian planes.
Initial configurations of ALIAS include small aircraft such as a Cessna 208 Caravan, Diamond DA42 and Bell UH-1 helicopters, Cherry explained. The ALIAS system is able learn and operate on both single engine and dual-engine aircraft.
Both Lockheed and Aurora Flight Sciences have demonstrated ALIAS; DARPA now plans to conduct a Phase III down-select where one of the vendors will be chosen to continue development of the project.
As algorithms progress to expand into greater “artificial intelligence” functions, computers with increasingly networked and rapid processors are able to organize, gather, distill and present information by themselves. This allows for greater human-machine interface, reducing what is referred to as the “cognitive burden” upon pilots.
There are some existing sensors, navigational systems and so-called “fly-by-wire” technologies which enable an aircraft to perform certain functions by itself. ALIAS, however, takes autonomy and human-machine interface to an entirely new level by substantially advancing levels of independent computer activity.
In fact, human-machine interface is a key element of the Army-led Future Vertical Lift next-generation helicopter program planning to field a much more capable, advanced aircraft sometime in the 2030s.
It is certainly conceivable that a technology such as ALIAS could prove quite pertinent to these efforts; a Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstration Army ST program is already underway as a developmental step toward engineering this future helicopter. The intention of the FVL requirement, much like ALIAS, is to lessen the cognitive burden upon pilots, allowing them to focus upon and prioritize high-priority missions.
The human brain therefore functions in the role of command and control, directing the automated system to then perform tasks on its own, Cherry said.
“Help reduce pilot workload and increase safety in future platforms,” Cherry said.
Aircraft throttle, actuation systems and yokes are all among airplane functions able to be automated by ALIAS.
“It uses beyond line of sight communication which is highly autonomous but still flies like a predator or a reaper,” John Langford, CEO of Aurora Flight Sciences, told Defense Systems in an interview.
Due to its technological promise and success thus far, ALIAS was given an innovation award recently at the GCN Dig IT awards.
Sure, everyone wants to get off for the weekend so they can celebrate the big win by Delta and raise a toast to the operator we lost this week. Here are 13 memes to keep you chuckling until release formation:
The 82nd Airborne Division has a long and storied history. It also has a very significant mission for the United States: It’s America’s fire brigade — sent to a hot spots around the world to draw a line in the sand whenever needed. It did just that in 1990, at the start of Operation Desert Shield, but a lot of time has passed since then.
During Saber Strike 2018, an international exercise held annually in partnership with the Baltic States and Poland to rehearse the deployment of troops in defense of those nations, the 82nd Airborne Division was used to send a pointed reminder. The world needed to know that this division remains ready to act.
With the help of nine U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transport planes, roughly 700 paratroopers from the famed division, as well as some from the British Army’s Parachute Regiment, dropped into Latvia, simulating a no-notice deployment.
A paratrooper gathers his equipment after making a landing during Saber Strike 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven)
It took ten hours for the planes to take the troops to their drop zone in Latvia. In addition to the paratroopers, they also dropped vehicles, like the High-Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), and equipment, including FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank guided missiles and .50-caliber sniper rifles.
The message was clear: In less than half a day, the United States and its allies can have troops on the ground, equipped and ready to fight.
But here’s something you may not know about the 82nd Airborne Division: There is always a brigade ready move anywhere in the world with just 24 hours’ notice. This is known as the Division Ready Brigade. Inside that brigade, one battalion can arrive anywhere in the world within 18 hours or less.
Not only did paratroopers from the 82nd make a jump into Latvia, they brought vehicles like HMMWVs, too!
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven)
In 1990, the deployment of those forces to Saudi Arabia stopped Saddam Hussein at the Kuwaiti border with Saudi Arabia. It was a clear message that said crossing the border would lead to war with America.
Their rapid deployment as part of Saber Strike 2018 sends a similar message to Putin: The United States of America can and will rapidly respond if you try to attack the Baltic States. Hopefully, as it did in 1990, such a deployment will give a hungry, aggressive nation pause.
This week’s Borne the Battle features Wayne Hanson, the Chairman of the Board of Directors for Wreaths Across America (WAA).
WAA is a national campaign that coordinates wreath-laying ceremonies at over 1,700 national cemeteries, culminating at Arlington National Cemetery. The three-fold purpose of WAA aims to remember fallen U.S Veterans, honor those who currently serve, and teach children the value of freedom. Here, Hanson explains WAA’s humble beginnings and its rise into the national organization that it is today.
In this episode, Hanson discusses his time in the Army and the socio-political atmosphere of when he returned from Vietnam. He talks about transition and his gradual involvement at WAA. Lastly, he shares the four words from a stranger that kept him motivated to work even to this day.
For more information on Wreaths Across America, or for info on how to volunteer, visit the WAA website.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
On April 17, 2020 this country lost one of its greatest defenders to COVID-19. Although fighting bravely for weeks to overcome the virus, it took his life. But how he died is nothing compared to how he lived. Sergeant Major Bennie G. Adkins was truly a hero.
Adkins was drafted into the United States Army at 22 years old in 1956. After completing his initial training, he was sent to Germany as a typist for a tour and then made his way back to the states to the 2nd infantry division at Fort Benning in Georgia. Adkins attended Airborne School and then volunteered for Special Forces in 1961. He became a Green Beret.
During the ceremony which authorized the use of the Green Beret for the Army Special Forces, Adkins was a part of the Honor Guard. President Kennedy once said in a memo to the Army that, “the Green Beret is again becoming a symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom.” Adkins was all of that and more.
After officially becoming a Green Beret, he deployed overseas to serve in the Vietnam War. He would go on to deploy there three times. It was during his second deployment that he would distinguish himself in an extraordinary way, earning the nation’s highest honor.
While serving as an Intelligence Sergeant in the Republic of Vietnam, his camp was attacked. The after action report showcases how he and his fellow soldiers sustained 38 hours of unrelenting, close-combat fighting. Even after receiving wounds of his own during the attack, he fought off the enemy. He exposed then continually exposed himself in order to carry his wounded comrades to safety.
He also refused to leave any man behind.
Adkins had a wounded soldier on his back when they all made it to the evacuation site and discovered that the last helicopter had left. Despite the bleakness of their chances, he gathered the remaining survivors and brought them safely into the jungle where they evaded the enemy for two days until they were rescued.
After his time in Vietnam, he went on to serve the Army and this grateful nation until 1978. Adkins went on to earn two master’s degrees and established Adkins Accounting Services in Auburn, Alabama, where he was the CEO for 22 years.
In 2014, President Barack Obama presented Adkins with the Medal of Honor. His citation states that he “exbibits extraordinary heroism and selflessness”. Adkins was also entered into the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes. In 2017 he established the Bennie Adkins Foundation which awards scholarships to Special Forces soldiers.
On March 26th, 2020 at 86 years old, he was hospitalized for respiratory failure and labeled critically ill according to his foundation’s Facebook post. Weeks after that post, he lost his battle with COVID-19. He leaves behind five children and his wife Mary, whom he has been married to for 59 years.
Today and always, remember him and honor his selfless service to this nation.To learn more about Sergeant Major Adkins service, click here