Here are some tips to get you through holiday stress - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Here are some tips to get you through holiday stress

There are many joyous things about the holiday season, but this time of year can also bring on stress, depression, and other challenges. For veterans or their family members, the unique experiences of the military and transitioning back to civilian life can make enjoying the season difficult.

Here are a few things to keep an eye out for as the holiday season approaches — as well as healthy tips for managing these challenges.


Here are some tips to get you through holiday stress

(Photo by Jonathan Borba)

The holidays are typically times spent with family members and friends. But veterans transitioning back to civilian life — or even those who returned home years ago — might find themselves avoiding the people and activities they would usually enjoy.

“I’m a pretty extraverted, amicable person, but I didn’t want anything to do with anybody. I didn’t want to talk with anybody,” says Bryan, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. Sometimes a vicious cycle can develop: The more time you spend alone, the less you feel like people will understand you. And the less you feel like people understand you, the more time you want to spend alone.

“You can’t isolate yourself,” says Bryan. “You have to surround yourself with good people that want to see you do better. Take advantage of the programs they have at the VA or the nonprofit organizations that are there to help veterans out.”

Feelings of guilt can sometimes lead people to withdraw, become irritable, or feel like life has lost meaning. These behaviors can strain personal relationships, especially during the holidays, when most people spend a lot of time with family members and friends. But if you’re having trouble forgiving yourself — for something you did or did not do — talking with your family members and friends is actually a positive first step.

Here are some tips to get you through holiday stress

If you notice yourself withdrawing from loved ones, here are a few ways to begin breaking a pattern of isolation. If these actions feel overwhelming, start with small steps.

  • Identify the thoughts and feelings that make you want to be alone.
  • Reach out to your family members or friends, even if it’s the last thing you feel like doing. Research shows that spending time talking with family members and friends improves your mood and your health.
  • Connect with veterans’ groups or participate in clubs or hobbies focused on something you like.

“Isolation and withdrawal [are] not going to get you the end result that you need,” says Marylyn, a U.S. Army veteran. “You want to get back to enjoying your life, the things you like to do, and be able to explore new things. So you’re going to eventually have to talk to someone and connect with someone.”

Here are some tips to get you through holiday stress

(Photo by Eugene Zhyvchik)

Feeling on edge in large crowds?

Whether you’re walking through a crowded shopping mall or attending a large party with loud noises, you may find yourself in situations that make you uncomfortable during the holidays. Your military training taught you the importance of being observant and alert when you need to be — and being in that state of high alert in civilian life may be stressful.

“When you’re in large crowds or there’s a lot of chaos, you have to keep an eye on everything because you don’t know where a potential threat is,” says Casey, a U.S. Army medic. “After you see things like a life or death matter, your No. 1 goal is ‘I’m always going to protect myself.'”

This experience of feeling on edge is also called hypervigilance, a symptom experienced by some veterans who have returned from war or experienced traumatic events during their time in the military. Hypervigilance is a state of being on very high alert — constantly “on guard” — to possible risks or threats.

“It takes a long time to shed that alertness,” says Casey. “Once it’s there and you depend on it to stay alive, it’s really hard to lose it once you’ve been back.” Talking to your family and friends can be a first step. Turn to them whenever you are ready.

Here are some tips to get you through holiday stress

(Photo by erin mckenna)

On edge?

Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you find yourself feeling on edge in large crowds:

  • If you’re with friends or family, tell them what you’re feeling so they can try to help you work through it.
  • Try grounding yourself by focusing on details of your surroundings or neutral physical sensations, such as the feeling of your feet on the floor.
  • Practice relaxation exercises, such as taking slow, deep breaths.
  • Calmly remove yourself from the situation.

“Being able to talk helps me manage, because it’s not built up,” says Ertell, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam. “It helps me to manage my hypervigilance.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS returns after the New Zealand shooting

As the last ISIS stronghold in Syria crumbles, it’s clear that the leadership of the terrorist organization had no intention of fighting to the death with their devoted fighters. The whereabouts of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi have been unknown for some time, and those in his inner circle have been just as absent, from either the battlefields or the media.

Until now, that is.


Here are some tips to get you through holiday stress

“Guys, we’re totally coming to help you. Just keep fighting. We’ll be there in, like, two days. Pinky swear.”

It’s been six months since the world last heard from Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, the Islamic State’s official spokesperson. But on Mar. 18, 2019, the terrorist group released a 44-minute audio recording in the wake of the mosque shootings in New Zealand.

That shooting killed some 50 muslim worshippers while they were at prayer in the New Zealand city of Christchurch. The perpetrator was a white nationalist extremist from Australia, who broadcast the event all over social media. ISIS is trying to rebrand it as part of the Islamic State’s global struggle against the West.

“Here is Baghuz in Syria, where Muslims are burned to death and are bombed by all known and unknown weapons of mass destruction,” he said.

Here are some tips to get you through holiday stress

We’re pretty sure he meant to say “There is Baghuz…” because he is definitely somewhere else.

ISIS Is implying that muslims are being killed indiscriminately in Syria because of their religion. The truth of the matter is Baghuz is under attack from the U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, who are fighting to take the town because it’s full of only ISIS fighters and their families. Those same ISIS fighters attempted a genocide against several Iraqi minorities at the peak of their power.

Despite what ISIS would have anyone believe, the global community of muslims has little to do with ISIS or its worldview.

Here are some tips to get you through holiday stress

Imam Alabi Zirullah warned his worshippers before the gunman could open fire on the group.

Alabi Lateef Zirullah is an imam at the Linwood mosque. He saw the gunman enter the mosque and warned the crowd to take cover. Linwood was one of two Mosques targeted and where seven people died.

“The heroes are those people who passed away, not me,” Zirullah said. “But I thank God Almighty for using me to save the few lives that I could.” The imam also had words for the attacker who stormed the mosque – words very different from ISIS’ message.

“I don’t hate him. He may have gone through a lot of bad experiences in his life. But that is no excuse to kill. We must overcome what has happened and be strong for the families of those who died. Hate cannot be the victor.”

Articles

The Air Force may offer a ‘fly only’ option to keep more pilots in its jets

The Air Force’s pilot shortage has leaders worried not only about filling gaps in the immediate future, but also how the military and civilian airlines may suffer without fine-tuned aviators in decades to come.


As a result, Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, if given permission, may start a small group tryout for pilots testing a new program in which aviators stay at their home-duty stations longer, thus increasing their longevity and likelihood to stay in service, the head of the command told Military.com in an exclusive interview.

“Should we go with a ‘fly-only’ track?” Gen. Carlton Everhart II said in an interview July 26.

Everhart said he envisions something like this: “You stay with me for 20 years, and I let you fly. You … could maybe [make] lieutenant colonel, but you may not make higher than that.”

Here are some tips to get you through holiday stress
Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, left, Air Mobility Command commander, shakes hands with Chief Master Sgt. Chris Hofrichter, 514th Maintenance Operations Squadron. USAF photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen

“Then, [we] allow you to stay at your home station for three to four years instead of two to three, so you can get some longevity,” he continued. “Then, it’s not just [flying airlift cargo or tanker planes]. You could go to [Air Education and Training Command] and help out there for three to four years to help bring on new pilots.”

“To sweeten the deal, as you come into your career, maybe in the last four years, we allow you on a ‘dream sheet’ to put your top three choices, try to get you moved to there so you can establish your family and where you want to retire,” he said.

Everhart said the ‘fly-only’ effort would still encompass wing, squadron, and group duties and deployments but — bottom line — “it’s longevity.”

The same aviator retention bonuses would also apply, he said.

Here are some tips to get you through holiday stress
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey

“The idea being explored is seeking airmen volunteers for a professional ‘fly-only’ aviator track comprised of anywhere from 5 to 10 percent of the AMC flying force,” said Col. Chris Karns, spokesman for the command, in an email. “This small group of airmen would be linked to flying jobs throughout a career.”

AMC has nearly 49,000 active-duty members and civilians; 42,000 Air Reserve component military; and 35,000 Air National Guard members, according to the command.

RELATED: The Air Force is running out of pilots

The mobility Air Forces has roughly 8,500 total force pilots. Throughout the Air Force, active-duty mobility pilots total 5,125, Karns said. Active-duty pilots assigned to AMC installations total 2,866.

How airmen will be selected for the ‘fly-only’ program is still being determined, the officials said, as well as how many will be involved.

Here are some tips to get you through holiday stress
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Charles Rivezzo

Everhart said his teams are looking at the program to establish more fixed methodology behind the effort, but would like to “look at it in the next three to four months” to begin a trial run.

“There’s certain things we have to do to code these folks … and I’ve introduced the notion and got a tentative nod from [Air Force Chief of Staff Gen David Goldfein],” he said. “I think there’s merit there, but I’ve just got to work all the way through it, then do the small group tryout and see where we go.”

“I’m not taking anything off the table because I need them with me, I need them to fly with me,” he said.

The Issues Wearing Out Pilots

Goldfein and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson have said the service was 1,544 pilots short by fiscal 2016, which includes 1,211 total force fighter pilots — with the deficit expected to grow.

Here are some tips to get you through holiday stress
USAF photo by Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen

Everhart said the Air Force stands potentially to lose 1,600 pilots who are eligible to separate from the service in the next four years.

He has been working with an AMC aviation retention task force for the past few months, trying to come up with recommendations as a result of airman feedback.

That feedback includes: Flying has become secondary to administrative duties; airmen desire more stability for themselves and their families; they lack support personnel; and they fear the impact of service politics on their career paths.

Airman feedback has resulted in one concrete move — the removal of additional duties, a common complaint.

Here are some tips to get you through holiday stress
USAF photo by Lt. Col. Robert Couse-Baker

In August, the service began removing miscellaneous responsibilities known as “additional duties” typically assigned to airmen at the unit level. It has since cut 29 of 61 additional duties identified under Air Force Instruction 38-206, “Additional Duty Management.”

Some duties were reassigned to commander support staffs, and civilians will be hired to take on some other duties in coming months.

ALSO READ: 23 terms only fighter pilots understand

Other areas are also getting scrutiny: Officials are looking at accession and promotion rates, giving commanders more freedom to think of creative solutions, and working with US Transportation Command to look at deployment requirements, Everhart said.

“We’re working hand-in-hand with headquarters Air Force A3 … so we don’t get in crossways with each other, and can we, as solution sets, put these across the entire broad perspective of the Air Force,” he said, referring to Lt. Gen. Mark C. Nowland, head of operations, plans and requirements.

Here are some tips to get you through holiday stress
USAF photo by Senior Airman Christopher Callaway

He’s also in communication with Lt. Gen. Gina M. Grosso, the Air Force’s chief of manpower, personnel, and services, and the Air Force Personnel Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, he said.

Lessons learned from these discussions and trial programs could then be applied to the fighter pilot community, Everhart said, but that’s still a ways out.

But the Air Force is not the only organization in crisis.

Working With Civilian Airlines

Boeing Co., the US’ largest aerospace company, on July 26 said it predicts that in the next 20 years, North American airline companies will need 117,000 new pilots to keep up with commercial demands, CNN reported.

Here are some tips to get you through holiday stress
USMC photo by Sgt. Keonaona Paulo

Everhart said this incentivizes both sides to work together.

Last May, the Air Force met with representatives from civilian airline corporations such as American Airlines and United; academic institutions such as Embry Riddle University, an aeronautical university; civil reserve airfleet institutions such as FedEx; and Rand Corp., a nonprofit institution that provides research and analysis studies on public policy.

The groups established working areas, Karns said, that need critical attention, such as exploring ways to make a career in aviation more desirable; finding ways to reduce the cost of earning a civilian aviation certification — for example, a debt relief program; looking at enhanced data analysis to establish a baseline for what is actually required to meet national pilot need; exploring potential alternate pathways to becoming a pilot — possibly by accelerating timelines; and improving the effectiveness of “shared resources” of pilots who fly for both the military and commercial airlines.

“We’ve got another airline meeting coming up in September,” Everhart said, in which leaders will discuss the secondary phases for these working areas.

Here are some tips to get you through holiday stress
USAF photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen

“We need to instill in the hearts of our American public what … aviation is all about,” he said.

Rotating Air Force Assets

AMC already employs a rotational system to keep its aircraft sustainable longer.

“In an effort to extend the life service of various mobility fleets and enhance aircraft availability, we’re looking to work with the Guard and Reserve to rotate aircraft more regularly and consistently to avoid disproportionate wear-and-tear on systems,” Karns said. “What has been known as enterprise fleet management is adjusting to what is called ‘Total Force effort to sustain and modernize the fleet.’ ”

The system rotates aircraft from the three components more often in order to “shrink … and no longer have that airlift gap,” Capt. Theresa Izell, a maintenance officer, said in March during an AMC media day at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.

Here are some tips to get you through holiday stress
USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Rito Smith

Could that system be applied to the pilot gap — moving pilots flying various platforms throughout, or qualifying pilots to fly more platforms?

“I think you’ve got something there,” Everhart said. “I think we already do that with cross training. We do some cross training for airframes as far as pilots flying tankers versus cargo, but I have to explore that more. I haven’t looked at it from the human dynamic prospect — and I think that’s something to pull back [on]. I love it.”

Love for Country

Everhart reiterated that time in service always comes back to the willingness to serve.

In June, the Air Force unveiled a new tiered Aviation Bonus Program, an expansion of Aviator Retention Pay that puts into place the cap authorized for the incentive under the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA.

Should they choose to stay, fighter and drone pilots, for example, are slated to receive the highest maximum bonus of $35,000 a year, while special operations combat systems officers would receive the least at $10,000. Officers have until Oct. 1 to decide whether they want to extend their service.

Here are some tips to get you through holiday stress
USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Alystria Maurer

The number of pilots taking the aviator retention bonus for AMC has also slightly declined, Karns said. In 2015, the “take-rate” of pilots choosing the bonus and choosing to re-up into the Air Force was 56 percent; in 2016, that number dropped to 48 percent, Karns said.

While bonuses matter, Everhart reiterated it’s not always about the money.

“They stay in the military because what’s in their heart, and their service to America. They really believe [in] an American fighting force. That’s why they stay,” he said.

“The bonus? Sure, that’s sweet. But that’s not why I stayed,” Everhart said. “I stayed because it’s service to the nation. And that’s what I’m finding out across the board” from other pilots.

Articles

Here are the most likely US targets for a nuclear attack

Since the Cold War, the US and Russia have drawn up plans on how to best wage nuclear war against each other — but while large population centers with huge cultural impact may seem like obvious choices, a smarter nuclear attack would focus on countering the enemy’s nuclear forces.


So while people in New York City or Los Angeles may see themselves as being in the center of the world, in terms of nuclear-target priorities, they’re not as important as places in states like North Dakota or Montana.

Stephen Schwartz, the author of “Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of US Nuclear Weapons Since 1940,” says that after the Cold War, the US and Russia shifted from targeting each other’s most populous cities to targeting each other’s nuclear stockpiles.

This map shows the essential points Russia would have to attack to wipe out the US’s nuclear forces, according to Schwartz:

Here are some tips to get you through holiday stress
Skye Gould/Business Insider

This map represents targets for an all-out attack on the US’s fixed nuclear infrastructure, weapons, and command and control centers — but even a massive strike like this wouldn’t guarantee anything.

“It’s exceedingly unlikely that such an attack would be fully successful,” Schwartz told Business Insider. “There’s an enormous amount of variables in pulling off an attack like this flawlessly, and it would have to be flawless. If even a handful of weapons escape, the stuff you missed will be coming back at you.”

Even if every single US intercontinental ballistic missile silo, stockpiled nuclear weapon, and nuclear-capable bomber were flattened, US nuclear submarines could — and would — retaliate.

According to Schwartz, at any given time, the US has four to five nuclear-armed submarines “on hard alert, in their patrol areas, awaiting orders for launch.” Even high-ranking officials in the US military don’t know where the silent submarines are, and there’s no way Russia could chase them all down before they fired back, which Schwartz said could be done in as little as five to 15 minutes.

But even a strike on a relatively sparsely populated area could lead to death and destruction across the US, depending on how the wind blew. That’s because of fallout.

Here are some tips to get you through holiday stress
Dangerous radioactive fallout zones shrink rapidly after a nuclear explosion. Bruce Buddemeier/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

The US has strategically positioned the bulk of its nuclear forces, which double as nuclear targets, far from population centers. But if you happen to live next to an ICBM silo, fear not.

There’s a “0.0 percent chance” that Russia could hope to survive an act of nuclear aggression against the US, according to Schwartz.

So while we all live under a nuclear “sword of Damocles,” Schwartz said, people in big cities like New York and Los Angeles most likely shouldn’t worry about being struck by a nuclear weapon.

Articles

DoD extends online military exchange shopping privileges to veterans

The Department of Defense announced a policy change that will extend limited online military exchange shopping privileges to all honorably discharged veterans of the military.


The veterans online shopping benefit will be effective this Veterans Day, Nov. 11.

Also read: The VA is set to lower copays for prescriptions

While shopping privileges exclude the purchase of uniforms, alcohol and tobacco products, it includes the Exchange Services’ dynamic online retail environment known so well to service members and their families. This policy change follows careful analysis, coordination and strong public support.

“We are excited to provide these benefits to honorably discharged veterans to recognize their service and welcome them home to their military family,” said Peter Levine, performing the duties for the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

“In addition, this initiative represents a low-risk, low-cost opportunity to help fund Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs in support of service members’ and their families’ quality of life. And it’s just the right thing to do,” Levine added.

The online benefit will also strengthen the exchanges’ online businesses to better serve current patrons. Inclusion of honorably discharged veterans would conservatively double the exchanges’ online presence, thereby improving the experience for all patrons through improved vendor terms, more competitive merchandise assortments, and improved efficiencies, according to DoD officials.

“As a nation, we are grateful for the contributions of our service members. Offering this lifetime online benefit is one small, tangible way the nation can say, ‘Thank you’ to those who served with honor,” Levine said.

NOW WATCH: Pentagon considers lifetime access to Exchange system for vets

MIGHTY TRENDING

Nigeria just bought the JF-17 Thunder to blast Boko Haram

The Nigerian military has been fighting the radical Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram since 2009. Now, Nigeria is getting some new firepower to deal with the group made infamous by kidnapping over 200 girls from a school in Chibok in 2014.


Here are some tips to get you through holiday stress
Boko Haram fighters. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Nigeria has become the latest country — and the first in Africa — to buy Communist China’s JF-17 Thunder multi-role fighter. The country has ordered three for their 2018 defense budget, which also included funds for the maintenance needs of the Nigerian Air Force’s nine Alpha Jets, which have conducted strikes against Boko Haram in the past. Nigeria also has nine Chengdu F-7 fighters, which is the export designation for Chinese-built J-7 Fishbeds, a copy of the Soviet-designed MiG-21.

Here are some tips to get you through holiday stress
Nigerian Air Force Alpha Jet loaded up for a strike mission. (Photo from Nigerian Air Force)

According to the BBC, Boko Haram, which calls itself “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad,” and is also known as the “Islamic State in West Africa,” has conducted a lengthy campaign against the government of Nigeria. The group has suffered some recent reverses in the wake of the 2014 mass kidnapping, which drew international outrage. The United States has been involved in the campaign against Boko Haram, sending Special Forces to assist countries in the region.

Here are some tips to get you through holiday stress
A C-802 missile in front of a JF-17 Thunder of the Pakistan Air Force on static display at the 2010 Farnborough Airshow. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

To date, the JF-17’s primary user has been the Pakistani Air Force, which sought to replace a mix of French-built Mirages, Nanchang A-5 attack planes, and Chengdu J-7s. The plane was co-developed by Chengdu and the Pakistanis. Myanmar has also reportedly agreed to acquire the plane to bolster their existing force of 31 MiG-29 Fulcrums. They also have a total of 46 older jets, including A-5s, F-6s, and F-7s, according to FlightGlobal.com.

Here are some tips to get you through holiday stress
Two JF-17 Thunders in formation. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Faizanbokhari)

The JF17 is a good fit for the Nigerian Air Force. It can carry a wide variety of air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons from both China and Western countries. This will allow Nigeria to use its current stocks of weapons to try and finish off Boko Haram.

MIGHTY TRENDING

‘Throttle Therapy’ is a thing — and it works

The topic of combat-related trauma is finally being addressed in mainstream medicine across the United States. After seventeen consecutive years in overseas conflicts, trauma is both a reality and a devastation for our troops. As the stigma previously attached to mental health challenges fades, we’re finally coming together collectively to help support the men and women who serve in our military.


Luckily, there are many forms of treatment. Throttle therapy happens to be one of them — and a high octane one at that.

Here are some tips to get you through holiday stress
Eli Tomac flies high at the 2018 Monster Energy Supercross.

“Throttle therapy” is the term for time spent on a motorized bike with the intent to enjoy feelings of euphoria that may exceed the capabilities of prescription or illegal drugs. According to the nonprofit Veteran Motocross Foundation, or VetMX, “Research has shown that physical experiences which are thrilling and physically demanding can re-center human brain chemistry.”

In other words, sports like Motocross can help alleviate symptoms of post-traumatic stress, especially for veterans.

“It’s not something radical we’ve come up with,” said Dustin Blankenship, an Air Force veteran with a paralyzed left thigh. “There’s proof that riding a motorcycle helps people. It’s almost like you’re in a trance state on a motorcycle. It’s like meditation.”

Blankenship discovered that his injury doesn’t hold him back when he rides.

Here are some tips to get you through holiday stress
2nd Lt. Michael Reardon poses in front of a race track in Maize, Kan. Reardon has competed in motocross races for nearly three years and has been riding since he was 10 years old. (U.S. Air Force photo)

He’s not the only veteran to experience a transformation when he rides. Then-2nd Lt. Michael Reardon told the Air Force that motocross racing was the ultimate stress reliever and the perfect adrenaline rush — within reason: “[Motocross] is only dangerous if you let it be dangerous. The sport is much safer if you don’t exceed your own limits.”

Brothers Greg Oswald and Eli Tomac, a C-17 pilot and a Supercross champ respectively, know a thing or two about getting in a machine and letting everything else fade away. Check out the video below to hear about how they support each other on the ground, in the air, or on a racetrack:

MIGHTY CULTURE

93-year-old woman asks for more beer during quarantine and gets a surprise

Desperate times call for desperate measures and 93-year-old Pennsylvania resident Olive Veronesi wasn’t about to let things get too bleak.

CNN Pittsburgh affiliate KDKA shared a photo of Veronesi taken by a family member, with a Coors Light in hand and a plea written on a white board: “I NEED MORE BEER!!” The picture was shared more than 5 million times and Coors Light delivered on the request in a major way.


Local 93-Year-Old Woman Who Went Viral For Requesting More Beer Gets Her Wish

www.youtube.com

Veronesi said she drinks a beer every night and was down to her last few cans.

“When we saw Olive’s message, we knew we had to jump at the chance to not only connect with someone who brought a smile to our faces during this pandemic, but also gave us a special opportunity to say thanks for being a Coors Light fan,” a Coors spokesperson told CNN.

Our favorite part? She cracked one open on the front porch as soon as the cases were delivered. Cheers, Olive! We’ll definitely be raising a Coors to you.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

Thousands of Soldiers and their families are traveling home for the holidays, including about 44,000 trainees and cadre from initial-entry training centers.


The Soldiers are participating in a two-week Holiday Block Leave beginning Dec. 18, said Michael Brown, a training analyst at the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training’s Initial Entry Division.

These Soldiers are in various training sites across the U.S., going through Basic Combat Training, One Station Unit Training, Advanced Individual Training, the Basic Officer Leadership Course, and Warrant Officer Basic Course, he said.

Normally, about 3 to 5 percent of these Soldiers choose to remain at their installation and not travel home, he added. For those who stay behind, units coordinate several Morale, Welfare, and Recreation activities for them, including attending professional sporting events.

Maj. Gen. Pete Johnson, commander, U.S. Army Training Center and Fort Jackson, South Carolina, was at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina Dec. 18, granting media interviews about the holiday travel. Around him were thousands of Soldiers trainees awaiting flights.

Here are some tips to get you through holiday stress

Holiday Block Leave gives Soldiers a chance to reconnect with their families, he said. About 7,000 Soldier trainees were traveling out of Fort Jackson on Dec. 18, “by trains, planes, and automobiles” and by buses, too, he added.

Planning for this mass exodus is like planning for the D-Day landings, he added, describing the logistical challenges of packing all the Soldiers out, giving them their safety and Army Values briefings, and getting them to their preferred modes of transportation.

Most of those Soldiers will be telling the Army story back home, he said, and some will even have “embellished war stories.”

Most of them are young, as young as 17, he noted, but sprinkled among them are “elder statesmen,” some as old as 39. They are from every state in the Union.

Johnson praised the volunteers at the airport’s USO lounge, who are particularly busy this time of year giving Soldiers a place to relax while awaiting their flights.

Also Read: Watch Stephen Colbert’s Hilarious Stint In Army Basic Training

Pvt. Seth Akavickas was at the airport in Charlotte Dec. 18, waiting for a flight to take him home to Wausau, Wisconsin.

Soldiers in training at Fort Jackson were given personalized assistance getting home by ticket vendors, Akavickas said. His ticket vendor got him discounted round-trip tickets for $480, which was a good deal, he noted.

Feb. 28 is when Akavickas began his Basic Combat Training, so he’s experienced life in the Army for some time now. Currently, he is in Advanced Individual Training and will graduate Feb. 1.

Akavickas said he has mixed feelings about Holiday Block Leave. On the one hand, he’ll be able to spend time with his family over the holidays. But on the other hand, he said he’d kind of like to stay and finish training.

However, he added, the vast majority of Soldiers in training whom he’s spoken with are delighted for the break.

After AIT, Akavickas will return to Wisconsin to work as a human resource specialist in the National Guard. He said he plans to attend college through the ROTC program and then try to get commissioned in four years. He wants to make a career in the Army.

Pfc. Madeline Sallee was also at the Charlotte airport Dec. 18. She was heading home to Minnesota, on leave from Basic Combat Training and very happy to see her friends and family.

Here are some tips to get you through holiday stress
New U.S. Army soldiers in basic combat training wait for further in-processing after receiving their initial haircuts January 16, 2008, at Fort Jackson, S.C. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Micky M. Bazaldua)

Sallee said the rest over break will be very good, particularly after some arduous training that included a 15-kilometer rucksack march and a lot of other physical activity.

The hardest part of training, she said, was spending the night outside when the temperature got down to 16F. “We were all shivering,” she added, despite being used to cold in her home state.

Sallee will graduate Feb. 1 and will become a logistical specialist. She said one of the benefits about basic was making a lot of new friends.

Staff Sgt. Domenic Buscemi, a drill sergeant from Fort Jackson, was also at the airport in Charlotte Dec. 18. He said drill sergeants accompany their Soldiers to help facilitate movement through the airport and to ensure standards of discipline are adhered to at all times.

Soldiers in training are required to travel in uniform, which means they are still representing the Army even while they are away, he said.

Buscemi also relayed some of the benefits of Holiday Block Leave. It serves to boost morale and motivation and gives Soldiers a chance to recharge.

It also gives them time to reflect on their experiences and spread their short-but-memorable Army story back in their communities, he said.

When the Soldiers return, Jan. 3, they will have retained about 70 percent of their basic military knowledge, so there will be some re-learning, he said, along with re-establishing their military discipline.

Here are some tips to get you through holiday stress
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Pfc. Andrew Valenza)

Soldiers don’t get to travel home in the middle of their training cycle during the rest of the year, he noted. On Thanksgiving, they’re given one day off, but that’s not time enough to travel home for most.

Fifteen years ago, Buscemi was a Soldier in training at Fort Benning, Georgia. It was summer and it was hot, he said, much tougher than winter training weather-wise.

Buscemi said he’ll return to Fort Jackson today, take a day of rest, then pile into the car with his wife and drive to her family’s home in Oklahoma where they will spend the holidays.

Brown admitted that the break in the training cycle is tough on drill sergeants, who have to re-teach numerous tasks, including discipline and customs and courtesies, when the Soldiers return from leave.

However, he said “the break is also good for trainees who come back with a little more pride about training to be a Soldier.”

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

No joke: Here’s how you can join President Trump’s COVID-19 briefing April 1

During the COVID-19 crisis, President Trump has been holding daily briefings from the White House to provide updates on the pandemic. Now, the president is extending an opportunity for service members and their families to listen in on a conference call hosted especially for them, to discuss the status of COVID-19 and how it impacts the military.


The Department of Defense announced the call on social media, requesting that interested parties RSVP via a provided link.

According to the Center for Disease Control, as of March 31, 2020, there were 163,539 total cases of COVID-19 reported in the United States and 2,860 deaths. The military announced they will no longer be releasing numbers of infected service members due to security reasons.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Coronavirus deaths In China surpass level Of SARS in 2002-03

The number of deaths from the coronavirus in China has surged past 800 people, surpassing the number of fatalities of the SARS outbreak in 2002-03, but overall figures showed a one-day slowing of new cases, raising hopes that it was the first sign of a peaking of the epidemic.


China’s National Health Commission on February 9 said the central Hubei Province recorded 89 new deaths on February 8, pushing the total to 811 throughout the country and above the 774 who died from SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

The number of new infections in Hubei Province — whose capital, Wuhan, is considered the epicenter of the outbreak — showed a decline in new cases for the first time since February 1.

Officials said 2,656 new cases were identified throughout the country for the day, with 2,147 in Hubei.

Joseph Eisenberg, professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan, told Reuters it was too early to say whether the epidemic was peaking given the uncertainty in reporting procedures.

“Even if reported cases might be peaking, we don’t know what is happening with unreported cases. This is especially an issue in some of the more rural areas,” he said.

The total of confirmed cases hit 37,198 in mainland China.

The virus has spread to about two dozen countries, but all but two of the deaths have occurred in mainland China. The first U.S. citizen died from the disease, officials said on February 8, identifying him as a 60-year-old man in Wuhan.

The virus broke out at a seafood market in Wuhan that reportedly sold exotic animals for consumption — similar to the SARS outbreak.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea posted this ISIS-style video showing a mock missile attack on Guam

Displaying images of Donald Trump staring at a cemetery filled with crosses and Vice-President Mike Pence enveloped by flames, the nearly four-minute video showed the island of Guam being targeted by intermediate-range ballistic missiles.


“Americans should live with their eyes and ears wide open. They will be tormented day and night by the Hwasong-12 rockets without knowing when they will be launched,” the caption reads, according to Yonhap. “They will be in jitters.”

Here are some tips to get you through holiday stress
The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. This photo was released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on February 13. | KCNA/Handout

“(We) just wish US policymakers should seriously think twice ahead of an obvious outcome (of a war),” another caption says, showing a photo of US Defence Secretary James Mattis. “Time is not on the US side.”

With the exercises continuing on Aug. 22,  upped its rhetoric, saying it would be a misjudgment for the US to think that Pyongyang would “sit comfortably without doing anything,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency said, citing an unidentified military spokesman.

The ongoing drills and visits of US military officials to South Korea create the circumstances for a “mock war” on the Korean peninsula, KCNA said.

The comments represent a more belligerent tone after a war of words between the US and  appeared to have subsided.

Trump praised North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last week for waiting to launch missiles over Japan into waters near Guam, after previously warning of “fire and fury” if he continued to threaten the American homeland.

Here are some tips to get you through holiday stress
North Korea prepares for a test launch of a mobile nuclear ballistic missile. (Photo from KCNA)

Tensions increased in July after  conducted two intercontinental ballistic missile tests. Trump has said military force is an option to prevent Kim from gaining an ICBM that could deliver a nuclear weapon to the US.

On Monday, South Korea President Moon Jae-in said  shouldn’t use the latest round of drills as an excuse for any further provocations. The exercises “are not aimed at raising military tensions on the Korean peninsula at all,” Moon told Cabinet members.

Kim made a visit in early August to a guard post about 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) from the border with the South, Yonhap News reported, citing unidentified South Korean government officials. The South Korean military considers the visit an unusual act and is preparing to prevent a possible military provocation, Yonhap said.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgSOp1LfcXo
MIGHTY CULTURE

How the Marines select their military working dog handlers

Military occupational specialties are the foundation of the Marine Corps. Each MOS is a cog, working with and relying on each other to keep the fighting machine that is the United States Marine Corps running. The military working dog handlers are one such dog.

Military police officers have many conditions they have to fulfill to effectively complete the mission of prevention and protection in peace and wartime. One aspect of their duty is to be handlers for the military working dogs.


“To even have the opportunity to be a military working dog handler, you have to be military police by trade,” said Cpl. Hunter Gullick, a military working dog handler with Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Installations Pacific – Marine Corps Base Camp Butler, Japan. “We go to the school at Fort Leonard Wood for roughly three months before graduating and joining the fleet. After that you can put a package in to request the chance. This process is long since they screen you with background checks, schooling history and recommendations. If they accept you, you are sent to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas for another three months of school, this time strictly for military working dog handler training.”

The tradition of using dogs during war dates back thousands of years, but the U.S. military did not officially have military working dogs until World War I. Since that time the partnership between the canines and their human has grown.

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Lance Cpl. Joseph Nunez from Burbank, Calif., interacts with Viky, a U.S. Marine Corps improvised explosive device detection dog, after searching a compound while conducting counter-insurgency operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan, July 17, 2013.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alejandro Pena)

“We utilize the dogs for a number of things,” said Cpl. Garrett Impola, a military working dog handler with Headquarters and Support Battalion, MCIPAC. “The dogs are trained for substance location, tracking, and explosive device detection. During festivals and events we use them as security to do sweeps and to detrude conflicts. No other single MOS can do everything our dogs can.”

The handlers spend most of their working day with their partner to keep at top performance. This can be both a struggle – as much as it is a joy — for the Marine partner.

“The best part about my job is the dogs, for sure,” said Gullick. “They give everything they have to you, so we give everything to them in return. The most challenging aspect of my job would be that sometimes the dogs are like kids. It can get frustrating so you have to have patience. You also have to be humble because as a handler you have to be able to take constructive criticism.”

The Marine and military working dog are a team. The job of being a handler is always a work in progress. Marines are encouraged to push their limits and learn more when it comes to doing their jobs. They are always learning new techniques and procedures when it comes to performing their job to the best of their abilities.

“You will never know everything because each dog is different,” said Gullick. “With one, you think that you have the dog world figured out and then another one comes along and throws a curve ball at you. You have to continually learn and adapt.”

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

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