Photo by Bob Hall, also a public affairs specialist for the Columbia VA Health Care System.
Two ladies are alive today thanks to the quick action of five police officers from the Columbia VA Health Care System.
On Oct. 5, Columbia VA Police officers Major Calvin Rascoe and officers Colt Clark, Ronald Turner, Robert Evans and Shawn Bethea were returning to the Columbia VA from training. Rascoe observed fire and smoke coming from a vehicle traveling north on Interstate-77. The driver and passenger were unaware of the fire coming from the undercarriage of their car.
Rascoe activated his vehicle’s blue lights and siren to get the driver’s attention to pull over. The police officers quickly jumped into action to save the two ladies in the car.
Clark and Turner led the ladies to a safe area away from the car. Turner called 911 to request fire and emergency rescue and Bethea took care of traffic control.
Took three extinguishers to put out the fire
With the ladies safely rescued from the car, Rascoe and Evans attempted to put out the fire. Rascoe emptied a five-pound fire extinguisher on the engine and undercarriage and Evans emptied a second 2.5-pound extinguisher to battle the fire on the engine.
With flames still blazing from the undercarriage, Rascoe grabbed a third fire extinguisher and finally extinguished the fire just as the Lexington Fire Department and local Emergency Management Service arrived on the scene.
Pictured above are VA Police officers (l-r) Major Calvin Rascoe and officers Colt Clark, Shawn Bethea, Ronald Turner and Robert Evans.
Followed their training
“Our focus was to save the two ladies in that burning car,” Rascoe said. “I appreciate these guys 100 percent. They did an impeccable job. They reacted and did what they are trained to do to make sure people are safe. I believe if God had not placed us there at that particular moment, the outcome would have been tragic.”
David Omura, Columbia VA Health Care System director, said “The heroic work our great police service does inspires me. I hope that if I am ever driving down the road and I have an emergency, like my car being unexpectedly on fire, the VA Police are there to save the day.”
Guests and family members who flock to the Arlington Cemetery this Independence Day week will have to leave their America flags at home.
Current law does not permit people to bring American flags to grave sites after Congress passed legislation following protests from the Westboro Baptist Church at service members funerals, The Washington Post reported July 4.
Former Michigan GOP Rep. Mike Rogers helped pass the Respect For America’s Fallen Heroes Act in 2006, making it illegal to protest funerals within 300 feet of a cemetery. The legislation had the unintended consequence of barring the bringing of “any placard, banner, flag, or similar device.”
Flags are permitted, however, if they are “part of a funeral, memorial service, or ceremony.”
Violating the law can bring penalties of up to a year in jail. While the bill received bipartisan support, the ACLU contended the law violated the First Amendment based on censorship.
“If someone is in there with the colors in a respectful way, or paying homage in a respectful way, then they should allow it,” Paul Rieckhoff founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
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Joe Quinn, a West Point graduate and the current Director of Leadership Development for Team Red, White Blue (RWB), has been hand-selected as in the incoming Executive Director for Headstrong, a non-profit organization that provides post-9/11 military veterans with free mental health care. He’ll begin his new role on Jan. 1, 2018.
U.S. Marine Zach Iscol, Chairman and Co-Founder of The Headstrong Project (and a previous veteran-to-watch on WATM’s Mighty 25) personally attested to Quinn’s character in the announcement made to the Headstrong team:
Despite graduating from West Point, Joe has had an exemplary and impressive career. He deployed twice to Iraq, served as an advisor to General Petraeus’ Counterinsurgency Advisory and Assistance team’s in Afghanistan, and earned a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard. As the Director of Leadership Development at Team RWB, a leading Veteran Service Organization, he has managed their growth to a major national organization and personally developed nearly 2,000 community leaders.
No stranger to service-after-service (Team RWB enriches the lives of vets by connecting them to their community through various activities), Quinn’s own letter to the Team RWB family was filled with sentiment, purpose, and praise for his team:
Beginning January 1st, I’ll be the next Executive Director of the Headstrong Project, an organization that heals the hidden wounds of war through stigma-free, bureaucracy-free, cost-free, evidence-based treatments. At Headstrong, we are going to lead a vast movement across the country that heals the hidden wounds of war to help prevent veteran suicide. This is only the beginning, and I couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity.
Quinn is a highly respected member of the veteran community, and one who knows the space and is connected to the vets he serves. He’s someone to watch out for in the coming year and we can’t wait to see what good he’ll do for veterans next!
Veterans are likely to play a significant part in what has been called “the Moon shot” in cancer research — the plan announced by President Barack Obama last week for a cancer fight effort to equal the country’s determination to put a man on the moon during the 1960s.
Fittingly, the veterans’ role in the cancer Moon shot, as well as in scores of other research projects into illnesses that impact vets and non-vets alike, will be doing something they were prepared to do back in their active duty days: shed some blood.
“When they realize that this could help other veterans most of them volunteer right away” when asked, VA Secretary Bob McDonald said during a visit to the VA Medical Center in Boston on Friday, when he toured the lab and growing biorepository.
The VA project, called the Million Veterans Program, predates the cancer Moon shot by six years. Its goal is to collect blood samples — and with it the DNA — of at least a million veterans, and use it to research illnesses, including at the genetic level.
“This is fascinating what they’re doing here,” McDonald said. “The whole role of genomics will be huge in, and that’s one of the reasons we wanted you to see this, because I think the work of the Million Veteran Project underscores the importance of genomics in the Moon Shot in eradicating cancer.”
It is veteran-centric, for sure, and already is being used in alpha and beta projects that focus on veteran issues, according to the VA.
The veterans’ blood samples, informed by medical health records that, depending on the veteran, may go back 20 or more years, could hold the key to understanding causes and discovering treatments and cures for myriad illnesses. The VA is looking at some 750,000 genetic markers that medical researchers believe could be linked to illnesses that plague veterans, ranging from cancers to heart disease, kidney disease to post-traumatic stress disorder.
To date, the effort has collected close to 445,000 vials of blood, each one spun in a centrifuge prior to storing to divide red cells, white cells and plasma. The vials are kept in an oversized refrigeration unit within a lab at the hospital.
Although the project name suggests it will store a million samples, it will continue to grow the biorepository as long as there is funding support and vets who volunteer. There is storage space for several million samples. During a tour of the lab, McDonald climbed a ladder to look into the storage site, where a robotic arm, kept at minus 20 degrees Celsius, plucked newly deposited vials one at a time from small containers and moved them into trays that were then automatically transferred into the unit and stored at minus 80 degrees Celsius.
“When I do my recruiting speech to try to attract people to VA, this is exactly the issue — come be on the cutting edge, the tip of the spear [in medical research] that can make a difference in so many people’s lives,” McDonald said.
The department has spent about $130 million on the program since it began laying the foundation for it in 2010. Its nearly 445,000 samples have come from nearly 245,000 veterans. It currently is getting in about 100,000 samples per year, which means it will hit the million mark around 2022.
They hope the speed that up by opening the program to active-duty personnel. The VA estimates that would add an additional 25,000 samples a year to the collection and perhaps allow them to reach one million by 2020, said Dr. Mary Brophy, director of the biorepository.
Because the donations are for research purposes, neither the VA nor the Defense Department can simply request use of a veteran’s or service member’s blood for the project.
Donors — strictly veterans right now — may volunteer for the project at a number of VA sites across the country. In signing up, they are told their blood and medical information will be shared with researchers and that they may not benefit directly or immediately from any of the research.
But their identities are masked on the samples, so that researchers do not know whose blood or DNA they are working with. For its part, the VA does retain a link between the sample code and the veteran so that changes in health or long-term effects of drugs and medications can be incorporated into the veteran’s research profile.
While Britain began building its own biorepository before the U.S. and currently has more samples –about 500,000 — the VA is quickly catching up and will pass that number.
It’s not only because the veterans have volunteered in such large numbers, but because VA has been able to build the computing capacity to handle the data.
“It’s not just the samples, it’s the informatics platform. The reason VA can do that better than anyone … is that we have an electronic health record,” she said. “We have the health record already in a data base, and it’s been around for 20-30 years.”
The British Health System — it does not have a separate system for veterans – is largely decentralized, with many medical records still in paper form and residing in doctor’s offices across the country.
Not only has an existing data base of electronic records and a willing veteran population allowed VA to rapidly build its biorepository, it has already provided the VA enough samples and data to launch several research studies of benefit to veterans.
The projects include cardiovascular risk factors among African American and Hispanic Americans, to determine how genes influence obesity and lipid levels affect the heart; an examination of genetic risk from chronic use of alcohol, tobacco and opioids; and a study into how genes affect the risk and progression of kidney disease — a major risk factor for veterans, according to researchers.
The biorepository is essentially one-stop shopping for a specific patient cohort and control group for any research institution wanting to investigate an illness or try out a new drug, according to Brophy.
“If I want to do a study in Gulf War Illness, before I would have to go out and find all these patients with Gulf War Illness, do it myself, Then get the samples, store it and send it out” to research lab, she said. The biorepository eliminates those time-consuming steps, she said, by making VA the go-to place for medical researchers.
Now, she said, if a research lab needs 5,000 patients with Gulf War Illness, it can get that cohort from the VA, as well as a control group without Gulf War Illness.
“The infrastructure is there to do key PTSD research, Gulf War Illness research. The hard work of getting people together, knowing who has Gulf War Illness [is done],” she said.
The Army Futures Command now officially has a shoulder sleeve insignia and distinctive unit insignia that its soldiers will wear while they work toward modernizing the Army.
With a golden anvil as its main symbol, the shoulder patch and unit insignia are a nod to former Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s personal coat of arms that used a blue-colored anvil.
The command’s motto “Forge the Future” is also displayed below the anvil on the unit insignia, while both the patch and unit insignia have black and white stripes stretching outward from the anvil.
“Symbols mean things just like words do,” said Robert Mages, the command’s acting historian. “It’s a reminder to the soldiers that wear the patch of the mission that they’ve been assigned and of the responsibilities that come with that mission.”
Since last year, the four-star command has been at the heart of the most significant Army reorganization effort since 1973.
In July 2018, senior leaders picked Austin, Texas, for the AFC headquarters. Cross-Functional Teams were also stood up within the command to tackle the Army’s six modernization priorities: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, network, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality.
Shoulder sleeve insignia for Army Futures Command. With a golden anvil as its main symbol, the shoulder patch and distinctive unit insignia are a nod to former Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s personal coat of arms that used a blue-colored anvil.
(Photo by John Martinez)
The patch and unit insignia represent the command’s most recent move toward full operational capability, which is expected in 2019.
Andrew Wilson, a heraldic artist at The Institute of Heraldry at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, worked with command leadership since December 2017 to finalize the designs.
“This is something that is supposed to stand the test of time and just to play a part in it, it’s an honor,” he said.
The main piece — the anvil — is meant to represent fortitude, determination and perseverance. The black, white, and gold resemble the colors of the U.S. Army.
Wilson said he got the idea for the anvil during a design meeting that mentioned the command’s new motto — Forge the Future.
Wilson, who once took a blacksmithing course in college, was immediately reminded of reshaping metals on an anvil.
“Taking away from the meeting, I tried to come up with something that would play off of that,” he said. “The first thing that popped in my head with ‘forge’ was blacksmithing and one of the key features of that is an anvil.”
Once he spoke of his idea, Charles Mugno, the institute’s director, then advised him to look at the anvil used in Eisenhower’s coat of arms.
The coat of arms granted to Eisenhower upon his incorporation as a knight of the Order of the Elephant in 1950.
“And from there the spark of creativity just took off,” Wilson said.
The Institute of Heraldry was also involved in the organizational identity of the Security Forces Assistance Brigades, one of which just completed its first deployment to Afghanistan.
“Whenever you have a new Army unit, you do end up doing a heraldic package of shoulder sleeve insignia, distinctive unit insignia and organizational colors,” Mugno said.
Heraldic conventions, he added, is a time-honored process that dates back to the 12th century.
With a staff of about 20 personnel, the institute also helps create the identity of other federal government agencies. Most notably is the presidential seal and coat of arms.
“We have a very unique mission,” Mugno said. “We all share a sense of honor and purpose in being able to design national symbolism for the entire federal government.”
Until the new patch was created, soldiers in Army Futures Command wore a variety of patches on their sleeves. Those assigned to ARCIC, for instance, wore the Army Training and Doctrine Command patch and those in research laboratories had the Army Materiel Command patch.
Now, the golden anvil has forged them all together.
“It’s a symbol of unity — unity of effort, unity of command,” said Mages, the historian. “We no longer report to separate four-star commanders. We now report to one commander whose sole focus is the modernization of our Army.”
It’s no secret the military is full of soup. Even an FNG could tell you that. There are even more specific alphabet soup acronyms within each branch: the Air Force has OTP, and the Marines have OSM (semi-respectively).
Here’s a couple of acronyms we made up that aren’t in use, but should be.
“Sergeant ran out of real tasks.”
This acronym is used to explain why you are: measuring the length of floor tiles, power washing a lawn chair, or cleaning an actual pile of garbage with Windex. We don’t ask why. We know.
Example: I know we’re outside in the desert, but S.R.O.O.R.T. so now we all have to sweep the dirt.
Images From The Korengal Outpost – The Far Side.
“Only dipping tobacco while on deployment.”
This acronym is the lie you tell yourself while on deployment. It soon warps into the closely related acronym “O.D.T.B.O.D.” which is “Only dipping tobacco because of deployment.”
Example: Yeah, I never used to chew Cope, but I’m O.D.T.W.O.D.
“Good piece of gear.”
This acronym is used to describe a fully functional piece of gear in the military.
Example: *N/A, no plausible use*
“Dinner” aboard the USS Green Bay.
(Sgt. Branden Colston/ USMC)
“Why did I even grab a fork?”
This acronym is used to describe the fine delicatessen cuisine service members enjoy on a ship. It’s food so sparse, so understated, so daringly simple, it begs the question: why did I even grab a fork?”
Example: Welcome aboard, today we will be serving delectable items from the W.D.I.E.G.A.F. cuisine: our first course is a handful of hard white rice, followed by two triangles of cardboard garlic bread, accented with a chalice of warm water. Served sea side. Bon Appetit.
“Not old enough for beer, only for armed combat.”
This is a much needed acronym for the millions of 18-to 21-year-olds in our military who cannot legally buy beer but can legally be trusted with billions of dollars of equipment and the lives of men who are old enough to buy beer. Granted, this one doesn’t really roll off the tongue—but neither does explaining the ancient logic behind this law.
Example: I’ll take an automatic rifle, a crate of C-4 explosives, and a Shirley Temple to drink, sorry I’m N.O.E.F.B.O.F.A.C.
“You make comm awful.”
This is for anybody who never shuts the hell up over comm. They add useless information, make bad jokes, clog up the line, and all kinds of other annoying things.
Example: You don’t have to mouth breath for 3 seconds before saying what you need to say. Y.M.C.A. Over.
“Boy, our operation’s boring, Sgt.”
Sometimes you have said all you need to say. You’ve been in a foreign place with the same 6 dudes for months. You can only talk about how bad the Cleveland Browns are, or what kind of food you wish you could eat, for so long… Sometimes, when you’ve been away for months and don’t have anything to talk about, you just talk about B.O.O.B.S.
In the last few years, Russia has activated a new Arctic command, four new Arctic brigade combat teams, 14 new operational airfields, 16 deepwater ports, a new military base, and more.
They reportedly have 40 icebreakers with 11 more in the making, and even recently unveiled a giant nuclear one.
They’ve also developed several armored vehicles and other systems designed for cold-weather fighting, including a radar-guided-missile system called the SA-15 Gauntlet, the T-72 main battle tank, and the Pantsir-SA artillery system.
But with all this and more, they still sometimes use antiquated technology.
Check out some of their old school methods below.
Russia still uses animal transports, like reindeer seen below, for certain kinds of missions in the Arctic.
Above is a shot of members of Russia’s Northern Fleet motorized rifle brigade being pulled around by reindeer.
The reindeer require less maintenance and fuel than motorized vehicles and can cover great distances without getting tired.
Source: Sim Tack, chief analyst at Force Analysis, and former Stratfor analyst, and Omar Lamrani, a Stratfor analyst.
The reindeer can also be more mobile on rough terrain and sometimes go places vehicles can’t, like through thick forests or over frozen lakes.
Source: Sim Tack, chief analyst at Force Analysis, and former Stratfor analyst and Omar Lamrani, a Stratfor analyst.
Russian troops also use sled dogs and skis.
Reindeer and dog sleds are probably best suited for reconnaissance or other specialized tasks.
Source: Sim Tack, chief analyst at Force Analysis, and former Stratfor analyst.
And Russia isn’t the only country to still use animal transports. The US has a Mountain Warfare Training Center in California where they train Marines to ride horses and load pack animals.
The US and Russia also use dolphins for underwater mine detection as well.
If you’ve learned everything you know about Marine Corps boot camp from watching films like Full Metal Jacket or Jarhead, then you’ve got a skewed idea of what goes down. In fact, before we even hop into the list of misconceptions, let’s squash one here and now: your senior drill instructor does not train you the whole time. If anything, he or she is more like a ghost, only appearing when it’s time to pass out mail or if your platoon really f*cks up.
Sincerely, one of the biggest challenges you’ll face as a boot is telling people tales of your training. Why? If you’re telling someone who hasn’t experienced boot camp for themselves, you’ll have to constantly stop and break down all of their existing misconceptions. If you’re telling someone who has gone through it, then they don’t want to hear a bunch of crap they’ve already heard from every boot before you.
So, to save you some time, my young boot, go ahead and share this article with your friends before you regale them with tales of your triumph over boot camp. These preconceived notions are all wrong:
They’re usually pretty cool. Just don’t piss them off.
(U.S. Marine Corps photos by Sgt. Dana Beesley)
Your drill instructor trains you to shoot
Drill instructors have a role during your basic rifle training, but you get most of your training from a primary marksmanship instructor. Being a PMI is the only other way to be able to wear a campaign hat, the infamous “Smokey Bear” as some refer to it. Your drill instructor takes you to class and you’re trained by someone with a more even temper.
You do learn tactics at combat training, however.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Shane Manson)
You learn infantry tactics
This one’s easy — you don’t. Not extensively, anyways. Not to a degree where you could be dropped off on a battlefield the day of graduation and expect to survive, at least.
Usually the morning.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl Vivien Alstad)
All you do is PT
There’s a lot of physical training done during Marine boot camp, like, a lot. But it’s not the only thing you do. If you’re a total sh*t bag and no one likes you, yeah, that’s all you’ll do because you’re going to live in the freaking sand pit. Generally, though, PT only accounts for a portion of your day.
Don’t piss them off when you get these moments.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Carlin Warren)
Your drill instructors never stop being mean
At first, yeah. Every time you see a Marine in a campaign cover it sends a chill down your spine and you die a little bit on the inside, but after a while, your drill instructors will treat you just a little bit better. You may even have some cool sit-downs where one lectures about their personal experiences as a teaching tool.
But, if you take that kindness for weakness — you’ll pay.
It’s not all about crawling under barbed wire.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by WO1 Bobby Yarbrough)
Marine Corps boot camp is extremely difficult
While some believe it’s the most difficult of all the branches, that’s irrelevant. The truth is that Marine Corps boot camp — or any other basic training — isn’t as hard as you’ll make it out to be in your mind.
If you can adapt, you can survive. That’s essentially what you learn in boot camp because that’s what it means to be a Marine.
The Islamic State is “dead set” on using chemical weapons attacks, including sulfur-mustard gas, to endanger U.S. troops and blunt or delay the long-planned offensive to retake Mosul in northwestern Iraq, a Pentagon spokesman said Monday.
“I think we can fully expect, as this road toward Mosul progresses, ISIL is likely to try to use it again,” Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said, using another acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. “They are dead set on it.”
Last week, ISIS fighters fired an artillery shell near U.S. troops at the Qayyarah West airfield, about 40 miles southeast of Mosul, that was initially suspected of having traces of sulfur-mustard blistering agent. There were no deaths or injuries in the incident.
In a briefing from Baghdad to the Pentagon last Friday, Army Col. John Dorrian, the spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, said that first test of an oily substance on shell fragments was positive, a second test was negative, and a third was inconclusive.
“We have no conclusive evidence” that mustard gas was used, Dorrian said. He said more tests were being conducted.
However, Kurdish peshmerga forces participating in the “shaping operations” for the Mosul offensive said last year that ISIS fired mortar shells suspected of containing mustard gas at their positions about 20 miles east of the Qayyarah airfield. ISIS is also suspected of using chlorine gas in Syria.
Earlier this month, U.S. and coalition aircraft carried out strikes against a former pharmaceutical factory in Mosul that ISIS was suspected of having turned into a chemical weapons complex.
At the Pentagon, Davis said ISIS “would love to use chemical weapons against us and against the Iraqis as they move forward, and we are making every effort to make sure we are ready for it.”
U.S. troops in Iraq have access to gas masks and Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) gear to protect against chemical attacks.
In the 2003 invasion of Iraq, troops carried masks and MOPP suits with them at all times and frequently had to don them as alarms went off on the possibility that chemical weapons were in the area.
Later U.S. inspections and reports found that Iraq had stopped producing and stockpiling weapons of mass destruction before the invasion.
“We fully recognize that this is something that ISIL has done before,” Davis said of the possibility of chemical attacks. “They have done it many times, at least a couple of dozen that we know of, where they have launched crude, makeshift munitions that are filled with this mustard agent.”
“That is not something we view as militarily significant, but obviously it is further evidence that ISIL knows no boundaries when it comes to their conduct on the battlefield,” he said.
In addition to U.S. troops having access to gas masks and MOPP gear, Davis said the U.S. has distributed more than 50,000 kits of personal protective gear for Iraqi and Kurdish forces.
In the Mosul offensive, American advisers are expected to move closer to the battlefront. The Defense Department has authorized U.S. commanders to place advisers with the Iraqi Security Forces and Kurdish peshmerga at the battalion level.
In his briefing last Friday, Dorrian said eight to 12 brigades of the Iraqi Security Forces were “ready to go” against Mosul, where ISIS has had nearly two years to build up defenses. The U.S. estimates that the group “no longer is able to mass enough forces to stop the advance” on the city, and its fighters are experiencing “flagging morale” from the loss of territory and the unrelenting coalition airstrikes, Dorrian said.
U.S. airstrikes recently destroyed an estimated 29 ISIS boats on the Tigris River and also blew up a bridge over which the group’s vehicles were attempting to escape, he said.
To defend Mosul, ISIS has built “intricate defenses,” including elaborate tunnel networks and interconnected layers of improvised explosive devices along likely “avenues of approach” to the city, Dorrian said.
The U.S. has also seen reports that ISIS has dug trenches and filled them with oil to be set on fire once the offensive begins. “They’ve built a hell on earth around themselves,” he said.
Moni Jefferson and Flossie Hall are serial entrepreneurs and military spouses. Over the years, they have each owned several businesses and looked for ways to increase entrepreneurship among the military community. Through their combined passion to create something that would build a profit-for-purpose while also creating a social impact, the Association of Military Spouse Entrepreneurship (AMSE) was born.
“It’s a crazy evolution. We are now tapping into a space where it is so needed. People are really recognizing the value of entrepreneurship for military spouses but also the lack of resources and trusted places to go,” said Jefferson. She explained that she created The MilSpouse Creative for this reason, to connect and help grow the ability of military spouses to find employment within the entrepreneur world. Jefferson shared that when she brought that community and merged it in with Hall’s ideas, they knew they had something special.
AMSE is a digital platform where military spouse entrepreneurs can connect with each other and partner to build opportunities and support one another. The membership includes both free and paid options. The aim is to give military spouses the tools they need to grow, scale and thrive in their businesses. The free option will give members resources, tools, and access to campaigns, or opportunities to be hired. The fee-based option can be paid monthly or yearly and includes master classes with guest experts, a coworking virtual space, tools, a private slack channel, VIP access to events and campaigns and much more.
“We are three pillars; we have the membership which services and provides to the spouses. Then we have the campaigns which helps with economic empowerment by paying spouses for their work. Then the military media marketing,” shared Jefferson.
Hall shared that they were working with big corporations and advising them on how to work within the military community. She continued by saying, “We are telling corporations that there is a military spouse entrepreneurship community here that needs you and if you don’t have a program, you should, and this is why. Then we help them build their programs.” When those companies are then ready to hire, AMSE is directing them to military spouses within their Association.
“The education piece [of AMSE] is really key to support them. The three pillars play into each other to support the companies, the community, and then continue to support the spouses,” said Hall. She and Jefferson are building a safe space created by military spouse entrepreneurs for military spouse entrepreneurs. They label themselves as a social impact agency. This space is allowing military spouses to not only work – which targets that 24 percent unemployment rate of military spouses – but to find their purpose and not just a career.
“It’s easy to get lost in the sea of google trying to figure out what to do first. We’re here to say here’s step one, two and three. No question is stupid, we are all here together and living the same lifestyle,” said Hall. Jefferson expanded on that by discussing the importance of the support that members of AMSE receive to make their goals come alive.
One of the barriers contributing to the high unemployment rate among military spouses is issues related to childcare. On Feb. 26, 2020, Blue Star Families released its survey results for 2019; 45 percent of military spouses reported being unable to work due to high costs of childcare. When AMSE released its 2019 impact report and polled spouses, the numbers showed that only 7 percent were struggling with childcare.
Hall and Jefferson explained that this is because a military spouse entrepreneur can work around the needs of her family and their spouse’s service to the country. Of the spouses polled within AMSE for the impact report, 89 percent are able to work from home with their businesses. This eliminates the need for childcare, in most cases.
Jefferson referenced the focus within organizations and large corporations where they have made huge strides in creating programs geared towards veterans, but they seemed to forget the spouses. This is where AMSE came in. “Now they are realizing that the spouses are the backbone of it all and are asking how they can help,” said Jefferson.
AMSE has been open for close to four months and currently has around 400 members. They shared that they have built partnerships with companies like Amazon, LinkedIn Military and Google to name a few. Both have been hard at work within the government to make positive changes for military spouse entrepreneurs. “We don’t want to just talk the talk, we are tired of talking about the problems, we are working on the solutions at this point,” Hall shared.
“We need to change the mindset that military spouses should just volunteer, give their time or be part of a nonprofit. No, we are challenging them to build big powerful businesses,” Hall said. Both agreed that they are no longer waiting for companies to catch up. Instead, they are taking it into their own hands and demanding that military spouses be paid what they are worth.
When asked to describe their agency in one sentence, it was easy for them. AMSE, to them, means impacting the military spouse community with economic empowerment.
“I’ve had a good life, so I can’t complain at all,” he told KARE 11.
As an only child who never married or had any children, Karlstrand has no heirs to leave his belongings to. Everything in his home has been donated to members of the community, including his $1 million retirement fund to the school he graduated from.
“The school receives many gifts. This one is just deeply touching,” said Connie White Delaney, dean of the University of Minnesota Nursing School. The donation provided six scholarships this year and more to come.
His home of 38 years will be donated to Habitat for Humanity, which will find a new owner after he passes. Karlstrand’s only requirement for the charity is that the new owner be a military veteran like himself. “I wanted to give back to the veterans if I could,” Karlstrand said.
Growing up in the segregated south, Lt. Gen. Aundre Piggee recalled his first experience with racism many African-American children faced at the time.
While he would go on to encounter other acts of discrimination, this one hurt the most, he said.
The parents of Aundre Piggee pin second lieutenant rank onto their son in 1981 after his graduation from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
He grew up in Stamps, a small town in southern Arkansas with a population of about 1,200.
While his father was principal of the local school, which had previously been an all-black school, his mother worked at the Lone Star Army Ammunition Plant in nearby Texarkana — and a young Piggee became the first African-American child to integrate into his little league baseball team.
“Things went well the whole season,” Piggee said Jan. 17, 2019, after he spoke at a ceremony here in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “We integrated well and we had no issues.”
When the baseball season ended, the team held a celebration at a local Boy Scout hut. Piggee begged his parents to go since he wanted to party with his friends.
But when they walked up to the front door, he was denied entry. Some parents of the other players even worked as teachers under his father, but they still would not allow him in.
“They didn’t let me come to the party because I was black,” he remembered.
Images of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are seen on display during a ceremony at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., Jan. 17, 2019.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
While racism had likely been around him before, he said it was the first time he personally noticed it. The incident also made him think deeply about his own character.
“It was a humbling experience,” he said. “But what it taught me was that I didn’t ever want to treat anybody else the way I had been treated.”
A young Piggee was held to a higher standard by his parents. The general’s biography says whenever he got into trouble during school, he would get lectured and punished by his father twice — in the principal’s office and at home.
“It was a lesson that served him well in life,” his bio reads.
On April 3, 1968, King traveled to Memphis, Tennessee, to deliver a speech in support of black workers being paid significantly lower wages than white workers.
His flight to Memphis was initially delayed due to a bomb threat, but he made it to the city in time for his speech. The next day, while outside his motel, King was assassinated.
On Jan. 15, 2019, the civil rights leader would have turned 90 years old.
King’s leadership values were passed down to Piggee by his parents who strove to live by the message he left behind.
“My parents gave us examples of King’s life and what right looked like,” he said. “And I still remember those to this day.”
Members of the U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own” perform during a ceremony honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., Jan. 17, 2019.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
A life of service
In almost 40 years of service, Piggee has held the title of commander five times. He now oversees policies and procedures used by all Army logisticians and manages an billion portfolio.
October 2018, he was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame for his dedication.
Fellow Stamps native Maya Angelou, a poet laureate, was among the first inductees in 1993.
Piggee’s childhood home was a block from a general store, which was owned by Angelou’s grandmother. “I used to walk there almost every day,” he recalled. “For a nickel, I could get two cookies and some candy.”
Angelou worked for King as a civil rights activist and later wrote a poem for the dedication of his monument on the National Mall.
Lt. Gen. Aundre Piggee, the Army deputy chief of staff for logistics, speaks during a ceremony in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., Jan. 17, 2019.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
Leading by example
Also inspired by King, the general often shares with soldiers his three leadership traits — competence, commitment and high character.
In his speech, the general noted that King had a strong vision to change the country.
“Competence is what we need of our soldiers,” he said. “If I can challenge soldiers to improve every day, to be more competent, to be readier to do the mission our nation asks of us, I have had a good day.”
King, he added, was also committed to his cause.
“That should be a model for our professional soldiers,” Piggee said. “Putting on this uniform is a noble cause, but doing the missions the Army asks of you is not always easy.”
The most important trait, he said, is high character — a tough lesson he once learned as a child.
“Dr. King’s dream was to judge people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin,” he said.