Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

The opening scenes of Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn introduce viewers to a charismatic and devoted father deep in the joys of parenthood. Crawling on the floor, swimming and blowing out birthday candles with his toddler and infant sons, he is right where he should be. Until the day he isn’t. Through interviews, reports and a thoroughly researched investigation, the filmmaker poses some incriminating questions.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Was it the mechanic who told him his helicopter was cleared for flight two hours before it slammed tail-first into the ocean? Was it the manufacturer who produced the faulty wiring blamed for the explosion? Was it the upper ranks of the Navy who disregarded multiple letters of concern purportedly choosing flight hours over safety? How about the Congressional and Executive branches of our government that teamed up with arms manufacturers and focused on new bloated defense contracts instead of investing in the people and machinery already in place?

Van Dorn’s wife, Nicole, living in the shadow of her husband’s unnecessary death, is on a mission to find out. Catalyzed by her and others’ search for answers, this gripping 2018 documentary investigates events leading up to Navy lieutenant J. Wesley Van Dorn’s death one month before his 30th birthday. His untimely demise occurred during a training exercise when an explosion killing three of the five crewmen aboard caused the crash-prone helicopter to fall from the sky into frigid waters below. Van Dorn was not the only one who had expressed concerns about the safety of this aircraft, nor was he the only one to die in it as a result of misguided leadership and mechanical failure.

Written, directed, and narrated by Zachary Stauffer as his first feature documentary, this film offers a sobering look into chronic institutional failings that have resulted in 132 arguably preventable deaths. Diving unforgivably into one family’s agonizing loss, Stauffer invites us to ponder heavy questions while constructing a wall of outrage in his viewers. What is the price of a life? How many lives does it take before change takes place? When will avarice and the “just get ‘er done” attitude stop undermining the American defense establishment?

Built by Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin subsidiary, the MH-53E Sea Dragon is the Navy’s nearly identical version of the Marine Corps’ CH-53-E Super Stallion. Since entering service in 1986, it has never succumbed to enemy fire but holds the worst safety record in the Navy’s fleet making it the deadliest aircraft in military history. The 53-E is a powerful machine used by the Navy for dragging heavy equipment through water to sweep for mines while the Marine version is used for transporting people and gear.

Stauffer explains that due to issues with these aircraft that cropped up even in their initial test flights at the manufacturer and in training missions, the Navy tried to get away with using less powerful helicopters and alternate minesweeping tactics but nothing was as effective as the relic Sea Dragon. Since they were fated to be replaced at some point, the higher ranks avoided investing too much into them so funding for spare parts and maintenance was lean. Members of Congress allegedly chose the path of greed and corruption when defense contractors offered them flashy new weaponry and vehicles as well as comfortable retirement packages. The upper echelons flourished while those training, fighting, and dying on the ground, as well as the American taxpayers, suffered needlessly as top-down decision makers claimed their hands were tied.

With fewer and fewer resources, those maintaining the Sea Dragon had to do more with less. They began cutting corners and developing bad habits. When voicing their worries in person or through over a dozen letters and memos to the upper ranks, they were “belittled, humiliated and cut down,” as one pilot explained. More than 30 years before Van Dorn’s crash, Sikorsky recommended replacing the faulty Kapton wires on all Navy aircraft. This was suggested not once, not twice, but three times before the Navy decided to start looking into the issue. Eventually they named Kapton as the highest ranked safety risk in the fleet and devised a long-term plan to replace it in phases but claimed to never have enough funding to refit all the wiring in the 53s. Only months prior to Van Dorn’s crash the Pentagon re-budgeted funding away from this critical project. Thus, problems that had been escalating over decades while the issue was known and actively overlooked perpetuated, yet the birds were still allowed to fly.

By the time Van Dorn signed on the dotted line in 2010, the run-down helicopters that required about 40 hours of maintenance for a single hour of flight time should have been retired. He and his wife made the decision together to request a spot in the squadron flying 53s because others told them it was an ideal position for a family man who wanted to be home for dinner every night.

Van Dorn was one of those who voiced his opinions about the safety of this aircraft. In an ominous voice recording foreshadowing his own death, he stated “If anyone should care about what’s happening on that aircraft, it should be me and the other pilots, I think. It makes sense to me, because I’m the one who’s going to get in it and have something terrible happen if it doesn’t go right.” His wife Nicole later explained that, “He felt that no matter what he said or what he wrote or who he complained to, nothing was changing.”

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

On a particularly cold morning in January 2014, Van Dorn’s own portentous sentiments were realized 18 nautical miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. Chafing from a single nylon zip tie exposed naked wiring to a fine spray of fuel causing it to arc, sending a blast of fire into the cockpit. Hours later Nicole lay on her husband’s chest just before they pronounced him dead.

Dylan Boone, a Naval aircrewman and one of two survivors of the wreck declared, “You don’t expect to give up your life for this country because you were given faulty equipment.”

Dynamic cinematography combined with a subtly haunting score by composer William Ryan Fritch creates the backdrop for this solid investigative report. Crisp and flowing visuals paired with thrilling military footage complement the feelings portrayed by those interviewed. These primary sources include Van Dorn’s mother, wife, friends, and fellow airmen as well as a mechanic, pilots, a general, a Pentagon Analyst and a military reporter. Throughout the documentary they and the narrator explain the multifaceted issues connected to Van Dorn’s death and the trouble with the 53s from a variety of angles.

Woven skillfully together, a poignant story is told of decades of negligence that continues to result in tragedy. Wholesome home movies of a young involved father raising two sons with his lovely wife are contrasted with the aching void ripped into the Van Dorn family’s home after his death. Stirring visions of military life ignite the urge to join in viewers who have ever felt compelled to do so, whereas the deep frustration of stifled dreams and a scarred body and soul are almost tangible to someone who has been there before as hard truths are drawn out throughout the film.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

Centering on the death of a handsome, beloved father, husband and seaman who was liked by all humanized an issue that might have otherwise been unrelatable. Utilizing the audience’s heartstrings as a focal point was a powerful way to bring attention to a predicament that could have been swept under the rug. Despite the fact that the C-53 airframes experienced serious accidents more than twice as often as the average aircraft and that internal investigations were performed with alarming results, the Navy continues to risk its servicemembers’ life and limb to keep these helicopters performing their critical mission in the air. With this in mind, this documentary might just put enough pressure on the Navy to make the changes necessary to save an untold number of lives.

Winner of the Audience Award in Active Cinema at the 2018 Mill Valley Film Festival, Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn is an intriguing and effective piece of military reporting presented in comprehensible terms for the layman. It is a successful examination of not only the serious failings of a controversial aircraft and the misled priorities keeping it aloft, but also hints toward the fact that anyone who brings up the disturbing issue of safety of these helicopters will be forced out of service. I would recommend this professional-level documentary, especially to anyone with interests in the military or national defense.

The Navy, the Pentagon, Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin declined to participate in this well-researched film. Major funding to make this documentary possible was provided by supporters of the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and Investigative Studios.

After viewing this film, you can decide for yourself who killed Lt. Van Dorn. Regardless of the answer, his unwarranted death will not have been completely in vain if it successfully carries out his final mission: righting the deep and longstanding problems with the CH-53 helicopters, thus preventing the death and destruction of countless others just as it ultimately took him.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn is available for purchase or streaming through Amazon.


MIGHTY CULTURE

Why troops in Vietnam could write on their helmets

One of the enduring images of the Vietnam War is one of the Army or Marine Corps’ infantry troops, sitting out in the jungle or around a rice paddy, wearing a helmet covered in graffiti. Maybe it’s ticking off the number of days he’s been in country. Maybe it’s announcing to the world that the wearer is a bad motherf*cker. Or it could be simply the troop’s blood type and drug allergies.


Truth be told, troops in Vietnam didn’t “get away” with writing on their issued helmets, and neither do the troops who do it today.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

Some things never change.

As one might imagine, it would be considered counter to good order and discipline to write on one’s helmet cover. The helmet is, after all, a uniform item, usually owned by the government. To deface it would be defacing government property while at the same time violating the rules of wearing your uniform properly. But none of this ever prevented the troops from doing it.

Some troops in Vietnam only ever wore their helmets when doing perimeter duty or moving materiel from one area to another and didn’t really have the downtime with their helmets to make any sort of writing on it. For those who did write on their helmet covers, they’ll tell you there were more important things happening than worrying about what was written on their helmets.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

What are they gonna do, send them to Vietnam as punishment?

Of course, the difference between troops back then and troops today is that yesteryear’s combat troops could be draftees, which means they’re not the professional army the United States uses as the backbone of its military power. Even so, those who wrote on their helmets were not allowed to wear the helmet with its cover on while in the rear. The MPs would make sure of that. In any case, soldiers were required to wear a cap while in the rear, and the helmet would go back on only when they went back into the sh*t, where no one cared what they wrote anyway.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

Vietnam veterans say the graffiti depended on which outfit you were moving with, and was usually okay as long as it didn’t defeat the purpose of camouflage in combat. Others say that as long as the graffiti didn’t disparage the Army, the United States, or the chain of command, it didn’t matter what you wrote or how you wrote it.

If a new NCO or lieutenant was coming into Vietnam for the first time and all he cared about was helmet covers, his troops would call him “dinky dao” anyway.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Check out video of Russia’s famously bad aircraft carrier on fire

Russia’s only aircraft carrier, which has regularly been described as the worst in the world, burst into flames on Thursday while undergoing repairs.

10 people are injured, three are unaccounted for, and six were saved from the Admiral Kuznetsov, which was at port in Murmansk, according to reports from Russian state news agencies TASS and Interfax.

“Ten people were injured: they were mostly poisoned by combustion products,” a source told TASS. Six people are in intensive care.

TASS reported that the fire started in the engine room on the second deck, then has spread to the size of 120 square meters.


Firefighters are battling the blaze with limited success, according to the news agencies.

Aleksey Rakhmanov, head of the state-run United Shipbuilding Corporation, told Interfax that “a human factor” may have caused the fire.

Russia’s Northern Fleet reported two firefighters were injured while fighting the blaze, TASS reported.

The aircraft carrier was undergoing major repairs at Russia’s Arctic port in Murmansk, also known as the Barents Sea port.

The ship was seriously damaged in October, when a crane toppled over and smashed a 214-square-foot hole in the hull.

The aircraft carrier is has long been beset with operational problems.

On a 2016 mission in Syria, the carrier saw the loss of two onboard fighter jets in just three weeks.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Combat in Afghanistan hits five-year high for American forces

The situation in Afghanistan is getting worse with the Taliban controlling more territory and American forces reaching a five-year high in terms of dropped ordnance last month. That is what Congress was told in testimony Oct. 31 by the man tasked with overseeing the effort in that country.


According to a report by the Washington Times, John F. Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, told Congress that the Afghan National Army has lost 4,000 troops, and 5,000 Afghan policemen have also dropped from the ranks. The decline in Afghan forces comes as armed clashes are on the rise.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know
An F-15E Strike eagle conducts a mission over Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2008. The F-15E Strike Eagle is a dual-role fighter designed to perform air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon)

“Afghanistan is at a crossroads,” Sopko said. “President Donald Trump’s new strategy has clarified that the Taliban and Islamic State-Khorosan will not cause the United States to leave. At the same time, the strategy requires the Afghan government to set the conditions that would allow America to stay the course.”

Sopko also complained that the military was classifying some important information that had exposed wasteful spending. One of the more egregious cases included the expenditure of $500 million for Italian planes that were unable to operate in Afghanistan. The presence of “ghost” soldiers, whose paychecks are pocketed by senior officers, is also a problem.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know
Ktah Khas Afghan Female Tactical Platoon members perform a close quarters battle drill drill outside Kabul, Afghanistan May 29, 2016. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis.

From January 1 to August 23 of this year, 10 Americans have been killed and 48 wounded during operations in Afghanistan. That figure does not include the death of Chief Warrant Officer Jacob M. Sims of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, who was killed in a crash on Friday.

According to iCasualties.org, 2404 Americans have died during Operations Enduring Freedom and Resolute Support. Since President Trump took office, U.S. forces have taken a more aggressive posture, including the first combat use of the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Burst bomb.

Featured Image: Afghan agents with the National Interdiction Unit participate in the grand opening ceremony for the new Counter Narcotics Police of Afghanistan Headquarters Compound June 17, 2010, in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Photo courtesy of CNP-A, U.S. Embassy, Kabul, Afghanistan)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump’s strategy to prepare the US for power war with Russia and China

The new National Defense Strategy, announced Jan. 19, is aimed at restoring America’s competitive military advantage to deter Russia and China from challenging the United States, its allies, or seeking to overturn the international order that has served so well since the end of World War II.


It is the first new National Defense Strategy in a decade. The defense strategy builds on the administration’s National Security Strategy that President Donald J. Trump announced Dec. 18.

Elbridge A. Colby, deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy and force development, briefed Pentagon reporters about the unclassified summary of the strategy in advance of Defense Secretary James N. Mattis unveiling the policy, saying “this is not a strategy of confrontation, but it is a strategy that recognizes the reality of competition.”

The National Defense Strategy seeks to implement the pillars of the National Security Strategy: peace through strength, the affirmation of America’s international role, the U.S. alliance and partnership structure, and the necessity to build military advantage to maintain key regional balances of power, he said.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know
The headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, The Pentagon. (U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Andy Dunaway)

Confronting challenges

The strategy states that the primary challenge facing the Defense Department and the joint force is “the erosion of U.S. military advantage vis-a-vis China and Russia, which, if unaddressed, could ultimately undermine our ability to deter aggression and coercion and imperil the free and open order that we seek to underwrite with our alliance constellation,” Colby said.

The strategy aims at thwarting Chinese and Russian aggression and use of coercion and intimidation to advance their goals and harm U.S. interests, and specifically focuses on three key theaters: Europe, the Indo-Pacific, and the Middle East, Colby said.

While Russia and China are the main U.S. adversaries in this strategy, DoD must address North Korea, Iran, and the threat posed by terrorism, Colby noted, and he said this strategy does that. “The strategy will have significant implications for how the department shapes the force, develops the force, postures the force, uses the force,” he said.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know
Russian soldiers participate in military exercise Zapad ’13. (Photo from Russian Kremlin.)

More lethal, agile force

The strategy looks to build a more lethal and agile force, Colby said. It shifts away from the post-Desert Storm model, and DoD seeks to modernize key capabilities and innovate using new technologies and operational concepts to maintain dominance across all domains, he explained.

The strategy will build on America’s unequalled alliance and partnership constellation and seek new partners for the future, he added.

Finally, the strategy seeks to reform DoD to create a culture that “delivers cost-effective performance at the speed of relevance,” Colby said.

The new strategy is needed because China and Russia have “gone to school” studying the American way of war, he said, and the U.S. dominance in the Middle East during Desert Strom was not lost on Russia or China. The two nations have spent the last 25 years studying ways to deny America its greatest military advantage, he said: the ability to deploy forces anywhere in the world and then sustain them.

Also Read: Here’s how the US is sticking it to Beijing in the South China Sea

The anti-access, area-denial methods that both Russia and China have developed need to be countered, and this new strategy sets in place the framework around which to build those capabilities, Colby said.

Joint force should be ready

“The joint force should be ready to compete, to deter and — if necessary — to win against any adversary,” Colby concluded.

Modernization has been the sacrificial lamb in the recent budget wars, and this strategy reemphasizes the importance of modernization, Pentagon officials said. The strategy specifically states the United States must modernize the nuclear triad. It also emphasizes the importance of space and cyberspace as domains of warfare and calls for resilience in both space and cyberspace capabilities and technology and concepts to operate across the full domains.

The strategy also calls for modernized command-and-control assets and for new intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities, officials said, adding that missile defense plays a large role in the strategy, as well as the development of advanced autonomous systems.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know
The Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) launches a Standard Missile 6 (SM-6) during a live-fire test of the ship’s aegis weapons system. Over the course of three days, the crew of John Paul Jones successfully engaged six targets, firing a total of five missiles that included four SM-6 models and one Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) model. (U.S. Navy photo)

Officials said the strategy also calls for resilient and agile logistics systems that will continue to operate under multidomain attack.

The Pentagon Library is full of documents that were announced with great fanfare, but ultimately were ignored or discarded. Officials say the National Defense Strategy will not be one of those.

I think if anybody knows Secretary Mattis or looks at his history, he’s not inclined to publish documents or give guidance that he doesn’t actually intend to execute,” Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a recent interview in Brussels. “I can assure you that one of the things that gives me confidence the National Defense Strategy will affect our behavior is Secretary Mattis’ ownership of the National Defense Strategy, and his commitment to actually lead the U.S. military in a direction that is supportive of that National Defense Strategy.

Leadership will be key to implementing the strategy, Dunford said. “I have a high degree of confidence that the secretary’s going to drive implementation of the NDS,” he said. “And I’m equally committed, as are all the combatant commanders and the service chiefs, to supporting the secretary in execution of the NDS.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Amputation couldn’t keep these pilots out of the skies

More than 1500 service members have lost limbs in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.


For those faced with this traumatic injury, the Department of Defense medical system has adapted in the last 20 years to speed up the recovery process and improve prosthetics.

“Our patients have challenged us by wanting more,” said Col. (Dr.) Mark Mavity, Air Force Surgeon General special assistant for Invisible Wounds and Wounded Warrior Program. “One of the unfortunate truths of war is that medicine does advance based on the large numbers of our service members who become injured.”

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know
More than 1500 service members have lost limbs in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. For those faced with this traumatic injury, the Department of Defense medical system has adapted in the last 20 years to speed up the recovery process and improve prosthetics. About 1.8 million Americans are living with amputations. The psychological challenges patients battle every day can be harsh. For most people, losing a limb profoundly impacts every aspect of their life: mentally, physically and spiritually. A strong support system can be vital to recovery and returning to duty. (U.S. Air Force video by Andrew Arthur Breese)

About 1.8 million Americans are living with amputations. The psychological challenges patients battle every day can be harsh. For most people, losing a limb profoundly impacts every aspect of their life: mentally, physically and spiritually. A strong support system can be vital to recovery and returning to duty.

Capts. Christy Wise and Ryan McGuire can attest to this. Both Wise, a C-130 pilot, and McGuire, a C-17 pilot, lost a limb and credited their support systems with helping them continuing their service and remain flying.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know
After losing her right leg above the knee in a boating accident. U.S. Air Force Capt. Christy Wise, an HC-130 pilot. Never doubted her self that she would return to serving her country and flying. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Perry Aston)

“In April of 2015, I was stationed at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. I had been flying for a couple years and had just got back from a deployment,” Wise said. “I was in Florida … out on my paddle board, just behind my best friend’s house, and I was hit by a hit-and-run boat driver. My boyfriend at the time used his t-shirt and made a tourniquet to save my life.”

Also read: Watch the Air Force Academy’s top commander tell racists ‘to get out’

A couple on a fishing boat saw it all happen and transported Wise to medical care. She lost 70 percent of her blood in approximately three minutes.

Lucky to be alive, Wise said she thought about McGuire, who in 2009, while in pilot training at Laughlin AFB, Texas, lost his leg returned to flying C-17s. She remembered him because he was only a year ahead of her in pilot training.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know
U.S. Air Force Captain Ryan McGuire, C-17 Globemaster III pilot with the 535th Airlift Squadron, lines up for a landing at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii Sep 12, 2017, McGuire lost his right leg below the knee from a boating accident in 2009. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Perry Aston)

It was Labor Day weekend when McGuire’s accident happened. He and some friends from pilot training were out tubing.

“There was no place to tie the tube into the boat, so we had the tube in the back of the boat, and I was holding the rope,” McGuire said. “The tube caught some air and flew out the back of the boat, and then the rope unraveled, cinched around my leg and pulled me out of the boat, slammed me into the side of the boat on the way out.”

McGuire said he flew over his friends’ heads and landed in the water. The rope then unraveled around his leg and caused traumatic rope-burn damage from his right knee down to his foot.

“I was able to get back into the back ledge of the boat that’s level with the water, and then the pain started setting in, I knew something was really wrong,” he said. “My pelvis had popped open, or fractured, and my hip had dislocated, so I was in an incredible amount of pain.”

After multiple attempts to save his foot and leg, doctors were forced to amputate below the knee.

“That was probably the lowest point of my life, just going through the amputation surgery, and losing my leg for something that seemed like it was so trivial, and not that big of an accident,” McGuire said.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know
U.S. Air Force Captain Ryan McGuire, C-17 Globemaster III pilot with the 535th Airlift Squadron, lost his right leg below the knee from a boating accident in 2009, thanks to his squadron leadership, friends and family, Capt McGuire was able to rehabilitate with a prosthetic and finish his pilot training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Perry Aston)

Even at this low point, McGuire never doubted he wanted to return to flying. But for service members to return to duty after accidents such as these, they must be able to prove they can continue to function, while maintaining the safety of those they support.

McGuire’s unit and leadership backed the idea and began the process of returning him to duty.

“One of the things that I insisted on from the beginning, and all the commanders below me and above me insisted on, is if we’re going to do this, this isn’t a [publicity] stunt,” said Brig. Gen. Craig Wills, director of strategy, plans and programs for Pacific Air Forces.

Air Force: 9 reasons you should have joined the Air Force instead

Wills was the operations group commander at Laughlin AFB when the accident happened. He believes McGuire’s character, and the support he received, was the key to his recovery and return to duty.

“I think this story shows that we have great squadron commanders out there, and in my mind, the squadron commanders involved were the key to this thing,” he said. “Because they never stopped believing in [McGuire], they never stopped for one minute trying to think of a way to help this Airman succeed.”

One of the things McGuire had to prove was that he could stop the airplane with a prosthetic leg and that he could control it without any additional risk.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know
U.S. Air Force Captain Ryan McGuire, C-17 Globemaster III pilot with the 535th Airlift Squadron, adjusts his prosthetic before a training flight, Sep 12, 2017 on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. McGuire brought his prosthetist into a C-17 simulator, to make sure his prosthetic can properly push the rudder pedals. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Perry Aston)

McGuire also appeared before a board. But even here he wasn’t alone. His squadron commanders and some classmates also flew to San Antonio to testify on his behalf.

“It was amazing for me as the group commander to just look around see all these gentlemen that were lining up to support Ryan,” Wills said.

In 2010, McGuire received word from the medical board that he was cleared to return to pilot training.

Now, several years later, Wise was in the back of an ambulance worrying about her Air Force career.

“I remember laying in the back of an ambulance thinking, ‘I can’t feel my leg, this is not good,'” Wise said. “But worst-case scenario, ‘Ryan did it, I can do it.'”

Wise’s injuries were so severe her leg had to be amputated above the knee.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know
U.S. Air Force Capt. Christy Wise, early after losing her leg during a boating accident. (courtesy photo of the Wise family)

But before she even left the hospital Wise said the support from her unit and other Airmen had already commenced. She even received phone calls from other amputees wanting to help.

“They would say, ‘Hey, when you’re ready to talk, I got back to flying, we’ll tell you the steps, you can do it, don’t doubt it,'” Wise said.

So, like McGuire, Wise put in the work and proved she could still fly.

“And now I’m here, I’m at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base [Arizona] back on flying status, back to my job and loving it,” she said.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know
Since her accident U.S. Air Force Capt. Christy Wise has participated in wounded warrior games, the Invictus games, with this year leading the USA team as captain. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Perry Aston)

McGuire’s injury may have paved the way for Wise to return to duty, but it is not what helped her regain her flying status.

“That’s when I realized how much support I really had from my unit, from the Air Force, from my family, from my friends,” she said. “I mean, half of my base showed up in the hospital room the next day in Florida. So it’s weird, because it’s such a dark chapter, but such a good chapter too.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Diabetes education and training

When someone has diabetes, there’s a constant stream of questions. Did you check your blood sugar? Are you exercising and keeping a good diet? Do you have your insulin handy?

Mary Julius, a program manager for the diabetes self-management education and training at Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, wants to help educate veterans and their families about how to self-manage diabetes.


Julius broke down the differences between Type I and Type II diabetes.

  • Persons with Type I diabetes produce little or no insulin.
  • Persons with Type II diabetes make insulin but there is a resistance to the insulin.

According to Julius, diabetes awareness and education are increasingly important for veterans and their families; “25% of veterans receiving VA care have been diagnosed with diabetes.” Without awareness and education, people diagnosed with diabetes put their health at risk. Thus, veterans who have been diagnosed with diabetes should work closely with their primary provider, but, she emphasizes, veterans and their family also need the tools and education to apply self-management techniques.

Finally, Julius shares how VA has been working on creating a virtual medical learning center for veterans and their families to learn more about diabetes and related topics. Veterans and their families can access this learning site at VAVMC.

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

Articles

The Air Force is joining the race to bring back American rocket superiority

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know
Flickr


For the last decade, Russian-made engines have been propelling US national security satellites into space.

While this has proven to be a good approach in the past, the time has come for a new breed of rocket engine that’s American-made.

On Feb. 29, the US Air Force — who runs the national security launch missions — announcedthat it will invest up to $738 million to put an end to America’s reliance on the Russian-made RD-180 rocket engines.

RD-180 engines currently power the Atlas V rocket, which is owned and run by the United Launch Alliance (ULA) aerospace company.

And over the last 10 years, the Atlas V has helped ferry expensive and sensitive national security payloads into space for the Air Force.

But in recent years, as political tensions grew between the US and Russia, ULA’s use of the RD-180 engines has come under fire.

After the Crimean crisis in 2014,Congress called to permanently terminate the Air Force’s reliance on Russian-made rocket engines by building a program that would see functional, American-made rocket engines by the end of 2019.

Now is the right time

As part of its announcement on Feb. 29, the Air Force said it will award ULA up to $202 million, which will go toward the construction of ULA’s new Vulcan rocket — scheduled to launch for the first time in 2019.

Vulcan is expected to run on rocket engines designed and constructed by the American aerospace company Blue Origin, which is owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know
Blue Origin

But Blue Origin isn’t the only company working on taking back America’s role as a leader in rocket propulsion systems.

In direct competition is the rocket propulsion manufacturer company Aerojet Rocketdyne, which just got a major vote of confidence.

The rest of that $738 million the Air Force is willing to invest — which equates to a whopping $536 million — was dedicated to Aerojet Rocketdyne.

Right now, Aerojet is constructing its AR1 rocket engine, which the company says could be used to propel the Atlas V, Vulcan, as well as other rockets currently under development.

While ULA has contracted with Blue Origin to build its BE-4 rocket engines for the Vulcan rocket, ULA also has a contract with Aerojet, as back up.

If Blue Origin’s efforts to build the BE-4 rocket engine falter, then ULA will turn to Aerojet’s AR1 to power the Vulcan.

ULA and Aerojet have until Dec. 31, 2019 to design, build, and test its new engines.

“While the RD-180 engine has been a remarkable success with more than 60 successful launches, we believe now is the right time for American investment in a domestic engine,” Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and chief executive officer, said in a release.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Online commissary privileges finally available to newly eligible shoppers

Nearly 4 million veterans and caregivers who were granted privileges to shop at commissaries and exchanges Jan. 1 can finally enjoy access to online features, a Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) news release said Friday.


However, the new patrons’ access to American Forces Travel (AFT), the official Morale, Welfare and Recreation travel site, is still spotty, according to the latest AFT Facebook post.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war, veterans with any service-connected disability, and caregivers registered with the VA’s Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program became eligible to shop at commissaries, exchanges and MWR facilities beginning Jan. 1.

Since then, these new shoppers have experienced issues, including not being able to bring guests on base and trouble accessing MyCommissary and AFT online portals.

DeCA officials said they had to work with Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC), which is used to confirm shopping privileges, to let new patrons register their Commissary Rewards cards online to access coupons and to use, as available, the Click2Go curbside service.

“In the event a new shopper is still receiving an error message when trying to create an account, they should check with the [Department of Veterans Affairs] to ensure their information and privileges are correctly entered into the system,” DeCA system engineer Clayton Nobles said in a statement. “For those receiving a new Veterans Health Identification Card (VHIC), there may be a delay between when the veteran receives the card and when the system allows them access. This delay can take up to 30 days.”

Eligible veterans must have a VHIC to access bases for shopping or MWR use.

Customers who had access before Jan. 1, such as retired service members, Medal of Honor recipients and veterans with a service-related disability rating of 100%, are not affected.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

images02.military.com

Meanwhile, AFT is still updating its customer database of “millions of records.”

“We have sent examples to DMDC and they were able to see why some patrons are having issues,” AFT said on Facebook, the only place it is providing updates on the issue. “We will let you know when that resolve has been made and then ask you to try logging on again. Records are being updated every hour.”

But some veterans are getting tired of waiting.

“No luck today. Last week they said it would be fixed this week,” one Facebook user wrote. “The week before, it was going to be fixed last week. I sent a private message this afternoon and got an automated response to call the DMDC help desk at 1-800-727-3677. That number is for the Commissary. After 35 minutes, someone answered the phone and said they could not help me to get verified.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iraqi Army’s recent gains are fragile as US draws down

From their outpost on Iraq’s westernmost edge, U.S. 1st Lt. Kyle Hagerty and his troops watched civilians trickle into the area after American and Iraqi forces drove out the Islamic State group. They were, he believed, families returning to liberated homes, a hopeful sign of increasing stability.


But when he interviewed them on a recent reconnaissance patrol, he discovered he was wrong. They were families looking for shelter after being driven from their homes in a nearby town. Those who pushed them out were forces from among their “liberators” — Shiite militiamen who seized control of the area after defeating the IS militants.

It was a bitter sign of the mixed legacy from the United States’ intervention in Iraq to help defeat the militants. American-backed military firepower brought down the IS “caliphate,” but many of the divisions and problems that helped fuel the extremists’ rise remain unresolved.

The U.S.-led coalition, which launched its fight against IS in August 2014, is now reducing the numbers of American troops in Iraq, after Baghdad declared victory over the extremists. Both Iraqi and U.S. officials say the exact size of the drawdown has not yet been decided.

Also read: Twin bombings in Baghdad kill 38, shatter post-IS calm

U.S. and Iraqi commanders here in western Iraq warn that victories over IS could be undercut easily by a large-scale withdrawal. Iraq’s regular military remains dependent on U.S. support. Many within Iraq’s minority communities view the U.S. presence as a buffer against the Shiite-dominated central government. Still, Iranian-backed militias with strong voices in Baghdad are pushing for a complete U.S. withdrawal, and some Iraqis liken any American presence to a form of occupation.

That has left an uncomfortable limbo in this area that was the last battlefield against the extremists. Coalition commanders still work with Iraqi forces to develop long-term plans for stability even as a drawdown goes ahead with no one certain of its eventual extent.

Hearts and minds — again

“Let’s go win us some hearts and minds,” Sgt. Jonathan Cary, 23, joked as he and Hagerty and the patrol convoy set off from a base outside the town of Qaim, evoking a phrase used in American policy goals for Iraq ever since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know
U.S. Army military police provide crowd control while Iraqi citizens line up for food and water being distributed to citizens in need in April 2003. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Arlo K. Abrahamson.)

After just a few hours moving on foot across farmland and orchards to a cluster of modest houses, Hagerty realized the families he thought were returnees to the area were in fact newly displaced. Their homes in Qaim had been confiscated by the government-affiliated Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMF, made up mainly of Shiite paramilitary fighters backed by Iran.

“Our end goal is a stable Iraq, right?” Hagerty said later, back at the base. “But when you see stuff like that, it makes you wonder if they are ever going to be able to do it themselves.”

After victories against IS, the PMF has built up a presence in many parts of Sunni-majority provinces, including western Anbar. It formally falls under the command of the prime minister, but some Iraqi commanders accuse the PMF of being a rival to government power.

PMF flags line highways crisscrossing Anbar. At a PMF checkpoint outside al-Asad airbase — a sprawling complex used by both Iraqi and coalition forces — U.S. convoys are regularly stopped for hours while busloads of PMF fighters are waved through.

U.S. Marine Col. Seth Folsom works closely with the branches of Iraq’s security forces — Sunni tribal fighters and the Iraqi army — who are increasingly concerned about the rise in power of the PMF. Iran has given no indication of dialing back its support after the defeat of IS extremists.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know
Popular Mobilization Forces fire a mortar during the Hawija offensive in 2017. (VOA photo by Dlshad Anwar)

“The biggest question I get now is, ‘how long can we count on you being here?'” Folsom said of his conversations with Iraqi commanders and local politicians.

That decision ultimately rests with Iraq’s political leadership, he said.

“I guess some people could see that as a cop-out, but at the same time it’s not my place as a lowly colonel to define how long the U.S. presence is going to be.”

‘Forward line of freedom’

For the senior officers leading the current fight against IS, decades of U.S. military intervention in Iraq has defined their careers.

The top U.S. general in Iraq — Lt. Gen. Paul Funk — served in Iraq four times: in the Gulf war in 1991; in the 2003 invasion; in the surge when some 170,000 American troops were serving in Iraq in 2007; and most recently in the fight against IS.

Related: The US is beginning to draw down from fighting in Iraq

“It will definitely be positive,” Funk said of the legacy of the U.S. role against IS in Iraq. “People see their young men and women out here defeating evil. That’s a positive thing.”

On a recent flight from Baghdad to a small U.S. outpost in northern Syria near Manbij — a trip that traversed the heart of the battlefield with IS for the past 3½ years — Funk described the future of the fight as ideological and open-ended.

“The problem is people believe it’s already over, and it’s not,” he said. “Beating the ideology, destroying the myth, that’s going to take time.”

Touching down outside an orchard on the perimeter of the Manbij base, Funk exclaimed: “Welcome to the front line of freedom!”

Funk predicts the ideological fight could take years and easily require U.S. troop deployments elsewhere. He said that is one reason he believes it’s so important to visit U.S. troops on the current front lines — to show them “the American people believe in their purpose.”

“We have got to recruit the next generation,” he said.

More reading: This is the story behind the rise and fall of the Islamic State group

Many of the young U.S. troops interviewed by The Associated Press said they didn’t know anything about the Islamic State group when they enlisted.

Rayden Simeona, a 21-year-old corporal in the Marines, enlisted in 2014, when all he knew about the U.S. military was from movies and video games.

“I felt like I wasn’t going anywhere with my life, I had no idea what IS was. I just knew I wanted to go to war,” he said. Once deployed, he said talk rarely broached the big questions of “What we are doing here?” or “Why?”

“But I do wonder all the time: Why are we spending all this money in Iraq?” he said. “There’s probably some greater plan or reason that someone much higher up than me knows.”

Is the juice worth the squeeze?

Along Iraq’s border with Syria, the two Iraqi forces charged with holding a key stretch of territory lack direct communication. Because one force falls under the Defense Ministry and the other under the Interior Ministry, their radios are incompatible.

Instead, the troops use Nokia cellphones in a part of the country where network coverage is spotty to nonexistent.

At the nearby coalition outpost near Qaim, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Brandon Payne spends much of his time filling communications gaps by relaying messages between different branches of Iraq’s military.

“The coordination is not where we hoped it would be,” Payne said. “But they do talk to each other, and we see that as a sign of progress.”

Tactical shortcomings within Iraq’s military are partially what fueled the expansion of the coalition’s footprint in Iraq in the past three years. As Iraqi ground forces demonstrated an inability to communicate and coordinate attacks across multiple fronts, U.S. forces moved closer to the fighting and sped up the pace of territorial gains.

Despite the caliphate’s collapse, those weaknesses have persisted. Iraqi forces remain dependent on coalition intelligence, reconnaissance, artillery fire, and airstrikes to hold territory and fight IS insurgent cells.

Payne regularly shuttles between his base, Qaim and the Syrian border, meeting with different members of Iraqi forces to coordinate security and repel IS attacks from the Syrian side.

Read more: ISIS’ last town in Iraq falls to Iraqi security forces

“I would say we are still needed,” Payne said. “We are getting great results with this model, but you see how much goes into it.”

The base, once a small, dusty outpost, now houses a few hundred coalition troops and is a maze of barracks, gyms, a dining facility, laundry services and a chapel.

“At some point, someone much higher up than me is going to decide the juice is just not worth the squeeze,” Payne said, referring to the cost of such a large outpost in a remote corner of the country.

Rotten leadership

Iraqi army Lt. Col. Akram Salah Hadi, who works closely with Payne’s soldiers at the Qaim outpost, said coalition training and intelligence sharing have improved the performance of his unit. But overall, the U.S. effort in Iraq gives him little hope for the future.

Corruption in the military, Hadi said, remains as bad as it was in 2014, when it was seen as a major reason why entire Iraqi divisions simply dissolved in the assault on Mosul by a few hundred IS fighters.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know
This soldier instructs a motivated group of Iraqi troops. (Image from DoD)

Young Iraqi soldiers with ambition and talent can’t rise through the ranks without political connections. Top ranks are bloated with officers who have bought their promotions. Within his division alone, Hadi said he can think of 40 officers with no military background who attained their rank because of their membership in a political party.

“With leadership like this, the rest will always be rotten,” he said.

Coalition programs that have trained tens of thousands of Iraqi troops have largely focused on the infantry, not the junior officers needed to lead units and instill a culture of service that will make a professional force.

Folsom, the U.S. Marine colonel, said military power will not root out corruption or heal Iraq’s longstanding divisions.

“I have a saying out here,” he added, “‘You can’t want it more than them.'”

Articles

This is how the remains of a WWII hero made it home after 75 years

A New York military aviation researcher got more than she bargained for on a dream trip to a battle-scarred South Pacific island — the chance to help solve the mystery of an American soldier listed as missing in action from World War II.


Donna Esposito, who works at the Empire State Aerosciences Museum in upstate Glenville, visited Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands this spring and was approached by a local man who knew of WWII dog tags and bones found along a nearby jungle trail. The man asked if Esposito could help find relatives of the man named on the tags: Pfc. Dale W. Ross.

After she returned home, Esposito found that Ross had nieces and nephews still living in Ashland, Oregon. A niece and a nephew accompanied Esposito on her late July return to Guadalcanal, where they were given his dog tags and a bag containing the skeletal remains.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know
Marines rest in this field during the Guadalcanal campaign. (Photo under Public Domain.)

Although it’s not certain yet the remains are the missing soldier’s, the nephew who made the Guadalcanal trip is confident they will be a match.

“It’s Uncle Dale. I have no doubt,” said Dale W. Ross, who was named after his relative.

The elder Ross, a North Dakota native whose family moved to southern Oregon, was the third of four brothers who fought in WWII. Assigned to the Army’s 25th Infantry Division, he was listed as MIA in January 1943, during the final weeks of the Guadalcanal campaign. He was last seen in an area that saw heavy fighting around a Japanese-held hilltop.

When the Japanese evacuated Guadalcanal three weeks later, it was the first major land victory in the Allies’ island-hopping campaign in the Pacific.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know
Members from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point and the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency transfer a case of unidentified remains believed to be military personnel onto a Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules airplane to be transferred to Oahu from the Solomon Islands, Aug. 9, 2017. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle.)

Ross’ relatives handed the remains — about four dozen bones, including rib bones — to a team from the Pentagon agency that identifies American MIAs found on foreign battlefields. On August 7, the 75th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Guadalcanal, an American honor guard carried a flag-draped coffin containing the bones onto a US Coast Guard aircraft.

The Pentagon said the remains were taken to Hawaii for DNA testing.

“Until a complete and thorough analysis of the remains is done by our lab, we are unable to comment on the specific case associated to the turnover,” said Maj. Jessie Romero of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

The other three Ross brothers made it back home, including the oldest, Charles, who served aboard a Navy PT boat in the Solomons and visited Guadalcanal in the vain attempt to learn about his brother Dale’s fate.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know
Gen. Robert B. Neller lays a wreath during the 75th Anniversary of the Battle for Guadalcanal ceremony. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.)

Ross’ niece and nephew made their trip last month with Esposito and Justin Taylan, founder of Pacific Wrecks, a New York-based nonprofit involved in the search for American MIAs from WWII. They met the family whose 8-year-old son found the dog tags and remains. They also were taken to the spot on a slope in the jungle where the discovery was made.

“I never met this man, but I was a little emotional,” Ross, 71, said of the experience.

For Esposito, 45, finding evidence that could solve a lingering mystery in an American family’s military history is the most meaningful thing she’s ever done in her life.

“I can’t believe this has all happened,” she said. “It has been an amazing journey.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marines to shut down all tank units, cut infantry battalions in major overhaul

In the next decade, the Marine Corps will no longer operate tanks or have law enforcement battalions. It will also have three fewer infantry units and will shed about 7% of its overall force as the service prepares for a potential face-off with China.


The Marine Corps is cutting all military occupational specialties associated with tank battalions, law enforcement units and bridging companies, the service announced Monday. It’s also reducing its number of infantry battalions from 24 to 21 and cutting tiltrotor, attack and heavy-lift aviation squadrons.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

The changes are the result of a sweeping months-long review and war-gaming experiments that laid out the force the service will need by 2030. Commandant Gen. David Berger directed the review, which he has called his No. 1 priority as the service’s top general.

“Developing a force that incorporates emerging technologies and a significant change to force structure within our current resource constraints will require the Marine Corps to become smaller and remove legacy capabilities,” a news release announcing the changes states.

By 2030, the Marine Corps will drop down to an end strength of 170,000 personnel. That’s about 16,000 fewer leathernecks than it has today.

Cost savings associated with trimming the ranks will pay for a 300% increase in rocket artillery capabilities, anti-ship missiles, unmanned systems and other high-tech equipment leaders say Marines will need to take on threats such as China or Russia.

“The Marine Corps is redesigning the 2030 force for naval expeditionary warfare in actively contested spaces,” the announcement states.

Units and squadrons that will be deactivated under plan include:

  • 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines
  • Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 264
  • Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 462
  • Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469
  • Marine Wing Support Groups 27 and 37
  • 8th Marine Regiment Headquarters Company.
Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

The 8th Marine Regiment’s other units — 1/8 and 2/8 — will be absorbed by other commands. Second Marines will take on 1/8, and 2/8 will go to the 6th Marine Regiment.

Artillery cannon batteries will fall from 21 today to five. Amphibious vehicle companies will drop from six to four.

The Hawaii-based Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367, which flies AH-1Z and UH-1Y aircraft, will also be deactivated and relocated to Camp Pendleton, California, the release states.

And plans to reactivate 5th Battalion, 10th Marines, as a precision rocket artillery system unit are also being scrapped. That unit’s assigned batteries will instead realign under 10th Marines, according to the release.

“The future Fleet Marine Force requires a transformation from a legacy force to a modernized force with new organic capabilities,” it adds. “The FMF in 2030 will allow the Navy and Marine Corps to restore the strategic initiative and to define the future of maritime conflict by capitalizing on new capabilities to deter conflict and dominate inside the enemy’s weapon engagement zone.”

Existing infantry units are going to get smaller and lighter, according to the plan, “to support naval expeditionary warfare, and built to facilitate distributed and Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations.”

The Marine Corps will also create three littoral regiments that are organized, trained and equipped to handle sea denial and control missions. The news release describes the new units as a “Pacific posture.” Marine expeditionary units, which deploy on Navy ships, will augment those new regiments, the release adds.

In addition to more unmanned systems and long-range fire capabilities, the Marine Corps also wants a new light amphibious warship and will invest in signature management, electronic warfare and other systems that will allow Marines to operate from “minimally developed locations.”

Berger has called China’s buildup in the South China Sea and Asia-Pacific region a game changer for the Navy and Marine Corps. He has pushed for closer integration between the sea services, as the fight shifts away from insurgent groups in the Middle East and to new threats at sea.

Marine officials say they will continue evaluating and war-gaming the service’s force design.

“Our force design initiatives are designed to create and maintain a competitive edge against tireless and continuously changing peer adversaries,” the release states.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 New Year’s resolutions every military spouse will break

There’s something magical about the approach of a New Year. After all, it’s the time we tend to create wonderful fantasies about what the coming year will bring. Untold riches, a beautiful new hobby, and a six-pack that would make Schwarznegger shed a tear are at the top of many lists.

However, come the end of January – let’s face it. The struggle bus is real and the wheels are about to come off. And you know what? That’s ok!

This New Year, give yourself some grace if you make – and then break – these resolutions.


Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

1. Limit Family Screen Time, Starting with Fortnite

I guess we could cut back an hour…or two…and parent by using less screen time in the house. But, since we’re talking crazy, I could also churn my own butter, but that’s not happening either.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

2. ‘Marie Kondo’ the $@%& Out of this House Before We PCS

Converts swear by organizational queen Marie Kondo’s life-changing magic of tidying up. And soon, you too find dreams of nice, clutter-free spaces dancing in your head. This year is finally THE YEAR to de-clutter before a PCS.

But let’s face it. Once you pull out every piece of clothing and lay it on your bed, it doesn’t take long to realize this little exercise does anything but spark joy. Back into the closet it goes, right next to “The Box” and the curtains you swore would fit in the next house.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

3. Not Go Into Feral-Mode Every Time My Spouse Leaves

Whether it’s a lengthy deployment, or the seemingly never-ending rounds of TDYs – it’s oh so tempting to set the loftiest of lofty self-improvement goals to stay busy while our spouses are away from home.

But, if you find yourself having ice cream, mac and cheese, or wine for dinner for a week straight, that’s ok too. We’ve all been there.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

4. Stay on Top of the Laundry

Is that the third time I’ve washed the same load of laundry – because I left it overnight in the machine? Someone remind me – why did we ever want to grow up and become adults?

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

5. Not Buy Plane Tickets Before Leave is Finalized

Until one magical commercial later. Disney – here we come. Hopefully.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

6. Finally, Step Outside of my Comfort Zone

This is the year I’m finally going to do it! I will step outside of my comfort zone, meet that village I keep hearing about, learn a new hobby, and sign up for ALL of the things. Crochet, CrossFit and Zumba – here I come!

Right after I finish catching up on my latest Facebook gossip and hiding in my car for five minutes in the commissary parking lot to avoid people…

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

7. Learn to Better Manage my Time

Ok, who are we kidding? I call foul and blame the military for teaching us constant lessons in the fine skill of “hurry-up…and wait.”

This year, let’s resolve to give ourselves grace and let go of the pressure to be perfect. Regrets? None.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

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