One of the most heartbreaking things troops must do is say goodbye to their loved ones before they deploy. If they’ve found a good one, they know their love will be waiting for them back home. Those troops will look cling on to that bittersweet silver-lining while their beloved waits, always dreading, on some level, the realities of war.
It falls on the shoulders of the troops to let their love know that things will be okay. Even if the worst happens, they will always love their spouse, fiance, girlfriend/boyfriend, children, and family. No matter how long they’ve been together or how many times the troop has deployed, it never gets easier — even if they say it does.
1. Right before they leave
Logically, troops should be spending every waking moment getting ready for war — training, making sure their gear is right. And yet, troops always spend every last second they can with the ones they love.
It’s the kiss that no one ever wants to end, but it must. Duty calls.
It doesn’t have to be as expensive as a diamond necklace and it doesn’t have to be as elaborate as a diary full of love notes.
Troops can leave behind something even as simple as an old sweatshirt for their loved ones and they’ll never let it out of their sight. But they probably won’t complain if it’s something nicer than the junk they forgot to clean before shipping out.
Loved ones will always send out care packages filled with sweet cards, treats, and whatever else troops asked for.
Troops don’t usually send care packages back — there’s not much to send back from Afghanistan. But it’s always nice when troops return the favor by writing letters.
I don’t want to get anyone in trouble with their loved ones, but the mail system does work both ways. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Smith)
4. Phone and video calls
While deployed, it feels like life returns to normal for just a few moments when troops get their hands on a phone just to hear those three words: “I love you.”
Because technology is amazing, troops can now call home on video. This is a perfect chance for dads to read their kids a goodnight story (even if it’s morning time for them).
5. That first kiss upon return
It’s finally over. The plane landed. The formation is over. They’ve been trying their hardest to stand at attention while also trying to find their loved ones among the waiting crowd.
You’ll never see a truer and more passionate kiss like the one a troop’s waited an entire deployment to give.
WATM received this piece from a Marine reader deployed to Almaty, Kazakhstan, who was concerned about the scandal engulfing the Marine Corps over allegedly illegal postings of photos of female Marines on Facebook and other social media outlets. The views expressed in this piece are his own.
My views on the recent scandal are simple: sharing someone else’s nude photo with friends at the barracks is as equally reprehensible as sharing it on social media. There is no honor in either situation. If you justify the first, the latter will shortly follow.
I think the bigger problem here is that we have not done a good enough job fostering a culture of chivalry in the Marine Corps.
While we’ve done exceptionally well with regards to physical fitness, physical appearance, and discipline, we’ve also allowed a culture where “locker room talk” is not only acceptable, but somehow considered “manly” — and that couldn’t be further from the truth.
This issue is neither unique to the Marine Corps nor the military. This behavior plagues our schools and workforces, and is a detriment to our society as whole.
It’s true that we are a product of the society we recruit from, but it is also true that as Marines, we hold ourselves to a higher standard. Making Marines doesn’t simply mean training them for duty, but instilling in them the values and ethics that will in turn mold them into better citizens.
We have a proven record of doing just that, but we regularly fall short with our commitment to female Marines, as evident with recent events.
On March 14, 2017, Gen. Robert B. Neller, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, told Congress he understands this kind of behavior is a problem in the Marine Corps, and he honestly confessed to not having a good answer in regard to how to fix it.
He took full responsibility as the Commandant, and I commend him for it. He didn’t make excuses; he acknowledged the deficiencies and I genuinely believe he is seeking a sustainable solution. That took humility and courage, which are characteristics of exceptional leaders.
To get to that end goal, I think it’s important we start at the beginning.
Men and women from all over the U.S. and our territories flock to Marine Corps Recruit Depots San Diego and Parris Island every year to become Marines. Currently, the requirements to even get accepted to attend Marine Corps recruit training are higher than in that of recent years.
The Marine Corps looks for quality men and women who will add value to our force and while we may come from different backgrounds and walks of life, in the end, we’re all united in our love of Corps and country.
Many of these recruits are fresh out of high school and still in their teens, which means that sex is typically the first and last thing on their mind and a big reason why the Marine Corps has traditionally conducted much of the training separately in order to reduce distractions and make the most out of those twelve weeks.
Male Drill Instructors are known to use sexual innuendos and lewd comments about women to help male recruits remember the skills and knowledge they need to graduate. While this might be an effective way to get the male recruits to absorb the information quickly, it also exacerbates a problem that we’ve already acknowledged takes place in our society, and therefore fosters a culture that is not conducive for chivalry to thrive.
It teaches Marines that disrespecting their female counterparts, by making lewd comments about them, is acceptable.
While this might be a common practice in the civilian sector, we should, and must, hold ourselves to a higher standard.
The Marine Corps’ core values are honor, courage, and commitment. While some Marines may not follow all of these, the truth of the matter is that most do, and it is our responsibility — as noncommissioned officers, staff noncommissioned officers, and officers — to instill these values in all of our Marines by setting the example and holding each other accountable.
I can’t tell you how much I love this organization as we’re perhaps the last real warrior culture that exists today.
We’re known as modern day Spartans, Devil Dogs, etc., but I think that some may have misunderstood what it means to be a warrior. Some equate it to being hostile and irreverent towards women. Some, unfortunately, believe part of being a man means to degrade our female counterparts even though Spartans were known to hold their women in the highest regard and medieval knights were the ones who created the concept of chivalry to begin with.
My hope is that we as Marines can grasp this concept and set the example for the rest. We are known to be “First to Fight,” and it’s a term we’re proud to bear.
We thrive on being known as standard-bearers, and that is a privilege and honor that should, and must, also extend to how we choose to lead.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
Aerial porters load cargo onto a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in preparation for Hurricane Maria relief efforts, Sep. 30, 2017, at Travis Air Force Base, Calf. The aircraft from March Air Reserve Base, Calif., will deliver a 65-member Contingency Response Element to Aguadilla, Puerto Rico to establish command and control of the airfield and provide aerial port and maintenance support during Hurricane Maria relief efforts.
Airman 1st Class Edwin Ocasio, a WC-130E Hercules loadmaster assigned to the 198th Airlift Squadron, annotates information on his cargo loading forms at Muñiz Air National Guard Base, Puerto Rico, Oct. 2, 2017. Hurricane Maria formed in the Atlantic Ocean and affected islands in the Caribbean Sea, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. U.S. military assets supported FEMA as well as state and local authorities in rescue and relief efforts.
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Brendon Shannon, assigned to U.S. Army Forces Command, fires an M500 (Mossberg M500) 12-gauge shotgun from the kneeling supported position during the 2017 Best Warrior Competition at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., Oct. 5, 2017. The BWC is an annual weeklong event that will test 22 Soldiers from 11 major commands on their physical and mental capabilities.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Nate Sanchez, assigned to the Asymmetric Warfare Group, runs to assist a competitor during the Army Best Warrior Competition (BWC) at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., Oct 4, 2017. The BWC is an annual weeklong event that will test 22 soldiers from 11 major commands on their physical and mental capabilities.
The Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) arrives in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Oct. 3, 2017. The Comfort will help support Hurricane Maria aid and relief operations.
Chief Boatswain’s Mate Raye Cardona, patrol officer assigned to Coastal Riverine Group (CRG) 1 Training and Evaluation Unit supervise the Combat Rubber Raiding Craft (CRRC) launch and recovery exercises onboard MKVI patrol boat as part of the Safe Boat International (SBI) MKVI advance operator’s training course in San Diego OPAREA. CRG provides a core capability to defend designated high value assets throughout the green and blue-water environment and providing deployable Adaptive Force Packages (AFP) worldwide in an integrated, joint and combined theater of operations.
Marines with 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment maneuver to the next building during a military operation on urbanized terrain exercise at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Oct. 3, 2017. The Marines conducted MOUT training in preparation for their upcoming deployment to Japan.
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Breanna Brown, helicopter mechanic, with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 167 (HMLA-167), Marine Aircraft Group 29 (MAG-29), 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (2D MAW), engages a target during Weapons and Tactics Instructors Course (WTI) 1-18 at Chocolate Mountain, Aerial Gunnery Range, Calif., Oct 03, 2017. WTI is a seven-week training event hosted by Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron (MAWTS-1) cadre, which emphasizes operational integration of the six functions Marine Aviation in support of a Marine Air Ground Task Force. MAWTS-1 provides standardized advanced tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications to support Marine Aviation Training and Readiness and assists in developing and employing aviation weapons and tactics.
Fireman Zeon Johnson (left) and Petty Officer 3rd Class Zach Little, a marine science technician (right), monitor the recovery of the workboat King Triton, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017, in Boston Harbor. The pair monitored for any signs of pollution and ensured that proper containment and absorbent boom was deployed around King Triton, which sunk at its mooring two days earlier.
Chief Petty Officer Mark Fisher places an Assessment Sticker on a vessel displaced by Hurricane Irma in the area of Dinner Key, near Miami, Oct. 4, 2017. Boaters are urged to exercise extreme caution in ports and waterways affected by Hurricane Irma, as navigational hazards have been created by the storm.
He partnered with Ford to unveil the 2018 Ford Mustang, and he decided to take it one step further by giving the car to combat Army veteran Marlene Rodriguez, who earned the Purple Heart for injuries received from an RPG while serving in Mosul.
Her reaction was stunned as she said, “I don’t deserve all this.” Johnson replied with, “You deserve more,” and we all lost our sh**.
His Instagram caption of the reveal was perfect (including the emojis–we’ve kept them intact for you):
This one felt good. Very good. ?? Our Ford partners asked me to unveil the never seen before, brand new 2018 FORD MUSTANG to the world. As their Ambassador, I’m happy to do.
With a twist.
Myself and Ford compiled a big list of US veterans and from that list, I chose Army combat vet Purple Heart recipient, Marlene Rodriguez to surprise and give it away to her.
It was such a cool moment that all of us in the room will never forget.
When Marlene, stopped and just looked at me and asked “Why?”, well that’s when I may or may not have gotten a lil’ emotional with my answer – in a bad ass manly way of course.
Why? Because of the boundless gratitude and respect I have for you, Marlene and all our men and women who’ve served our country. Just a small way of myself and the good people of FORD of saying THANK YOU.
A HUGE thank you to FORD, our SEVEN BUCKS PRODUCTIONS and everyone who was involved in making this awesome surprise come true.
Finally, thank you FORD for making the new 2018 Mustang straight ?, completely customizable for the world to enjoy. Thanks also for making sure I fit in it as well.
Marlene, fits better. ?. Enjoy your ride mama. Enjoy that Dodger game. You deserve it.
It’s okay if you get a little misty-eyed over this one. We did.
In the military, it’s impossible to say what the next week will bring. Thankfully, the ranks are chock-full of talented photographers that are always capturing what life as a service member is like, both in training and at war.
These are the best photos of the week:
U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein, left, greets Airman 1st Class Jessica Provencal, a fire team member assigned to the 736th Security Forces Squadron during his visit to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Feb. 8, 2018. The contingency response Airmen of the 736th SFS provide first-in force protection for the 36th Contingency Response Group during airbase opening, contingency, and humanitarian assistance operations throughout the Indo-Pacific area of operations.
U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Stone Williford, 20th Civil Engineer Squadron real property specialist, removes dirt to level the ground at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Feb. 6, 2018. Volunteers worked together and combined their various skills to rebuild the overflow bridge at Memorial Lake.
Pfc. Hunter Wood (left), military policeman assigned to the 287th MP Company, 97th MP BN, 89th MP BDE, deployed in support of Battle Group Poland receives a 2nd Cavalry Regiment coin of excellence from Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Muhlenbeck, 2CR senior enlisted advisor, for his unwavering work ethic as a gunner and initiative on being accountable for his military vehicle’s maintenance and progress while simultaneously ensuring mission success, near Bemowo Piskie Training Area, Poland Feb. 8, 2018. Battle Group Poland is a unique, multinational battle group, comprised of U.S., U.K., Croatian and Romanian soldiers who serve with the Polish 15th Mechanized Brigade as a deterrence force in northeast Poland in support of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence.
2nd Lt. Isaac Bandfield, infantry officer, 1st Battalion, 77th Armored Regiment, qualifies on the M240B to obtain an Expert Infantry Badge Feb. 6 at Fort Bliss, Texas. The qualification includes three steps, which are disassembling the weapon, assembling the weapon, and clearing then firing the weapon.
Rear Adm. Steve Koehler, second from left, commander, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 9, speaks with members of the Qatar Emiri Naval Forces and U.S. Army in the hangar bay of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Theodore Roosevelt and its carrier strike group are deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations to reassure allies and partners and preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the region.
Sonar Technician (Surface) 2nd Class Samuel Wellington helps Fire Controlman 1st Class John Willman practice aiming down the sight of an M4 rifle during a small-arms gun shoot aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71). Ross, forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, is on its sixth patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of regional allies and partners and U.S. national security interests in Europe.
Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert B. Neller shakes hands with Marines during a visit to Recruiters School aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, Calif., February 8, 2018. Neller addressed the Marines about his latest Message to the Force: Execute and answers questions.
Marines with Company F, 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division, pause to check the scheme of maneuver before a platoon formation rehearsal during exercise Winter Break 2018 near Camp Grayling, Michigan, Feb. 8, 2018. Winter Break 18 challenges Marines of Fox Co., 4th Tank Bn. to contend with employment problems caused by extreme cold weather and snow and adapt to the operational challenges of a severe climate.
Leighton Tseu, Kane O Ke Kai, gives a Hawaiian blessing during the arrival of the Coast Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Gerczak (WPC 1126), at Coast Guard Base Honolulu, Feb. 4, 2018. The Joseph Gerczak is the second of three Honolulu-based FRCs that will primarily serve the main Hawaiian Islands.
A Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater MH-60 Jawhawk helicopter crewmember medevacs a 42-year-old man suffering from stomach pains from the cruise ship Koningsdam Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018 approximately 46 miles east of the Bahamas. Coast Guard 7th District watchstanders launched the aircrew who hoisted the patient with his nurse and transferred them to local emergency medical services at Nassau, Bahamas.
There’s no shortage of heroic war stories — truth or fiction — with heavy amounts of glory and honor in them, which can cause young adults to crave certain adventures. Although serving in the infantry does bring a level of individual satisfaction, many facts tend to get left out regarding what it’s really like to be a ground pounder.
So before you run to your local recruiting office to sign on the dotted line and become a hero or whatever, here are a few things you might need to know:
1. It’s a dangerous job
Movies do a great job depicting how dangerous war can be as directors add in cinematic kills and awesome camera work.
In real life, there’s no pulse-pounding theme music or slow motion effects — the sh*t is real.
Once you make a friend in the infantry, you always have that special bond no matter what.
Hopefully, you’re the “Maverick” in the relationship. (Image via Giphy)
3. It can be really, really boring
You’ve probably heard the phrase “hurry up and wait.” In a grunt unit, everything takes more time than it should and you’re going to have plenty of down time. So make sure you have games downloaded on your smartphone to play and help you stay awake while you wait for the higher-ups to “pass the word.”
It’s called a “working party.” This sounds way more fun than it actually is. Instead of plenty of beer and drunken coeds, you’ll be outside in the heat “police calling” cigarette butts or mopping your boss’s office.
If this looks fun, being a boot in the infantry may be your calling(Image via Giphy)
The Air Force family tree has many branches and one branch, representing the service’s Gold Star families, has leaves that glow consistently with the rest.
Gold Star families are survivors of military service members who lost their lives during armed hostilities, including deployments in support of military operations against an enemy or during an international terrorist attack.
The Air Force’s Gold Star program provides enhanced support and outreach for the lifetime of each survivor, or until the survivor no longer needs or desires the services. The program is designed to let families know the Air Force cares for them and will continue to embrace them as part of the Air Force family.
“Our primary purpose is to continue recognizing and honoring the sacrifice these families and their loved ones made in the service of our nation,” said Vera Carson, Air Force Families Forever program manager at the Air Force Personnel Center. “Gold Star families fall under the Air Force Families Forever program, which ensures all families of our fallen Airmen are never forgotten.”
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein directed the provision of additional lifelong support to Gold Star families in April 2017. Gold Star family members, such as parents, adult children, and siblings, are now being offered the opportunity to receive a Gold Star identification card, which authorizes access to Air Force bases in the continental US, Alaska, and Hawaii. For additional information, contact your Air Force Families Forever representative at the local airman and family readiness center.
By allowing these families unescorted access to Air Force installations, they can visit their loved one’s gravesite, attend memorials and base-wide events, and stop by the local airman and family readiness center for immediate and long-term compassionate support.
“General Goldfein and his wife, Dawn, want to ensure our Gold Star families remain a part of the Air Force family, and this special ID card is helping us make that happen,” said Carla Diamond , Air Force Gold Star and Surviving Family Member representative. “We are reaching out to surviving family members, establishing contact, and ensuring that their needs are met.”
One resource for survivors is the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. This program provides emotional support and healing to anyone grieving the death of a military loved one. The staff provides military survivor seminars, Good Grief Camps for young survivors, peer mentors, and resources relating to grief and trauma.
Taking care of each Airman’s family is vital to ensuring an Airman is prepared and mission ready.
“Supporting family members is critical in making sure our Airmen are resilient and ready to meet their mission objectives and serve our nation daily,” said Randy Tillery, Airmen and Family Care director. “The Gold Star program reminds our surviving family members they are still an important part of the greater Air Force family.”
Gold Star families are not new. The term traces back to World War I when Americans would fly a flag with a blue star for every immediate family member serving in the armed forces. The star became gold if the family lost a loved one in the war. Along with the US flag, these family members now receive a lapel pin with a gold star resting on a purple background.
Since 1936, the last Sunday of September is observed as Gold Star Mothers’ and Families’ Day. Air Force officials are now planning events to commemorate the special day.
Innovations in battlefield medicine are constantly advancing. With deadly conflicts popping up all over the world, it’s vital to treat the wounded and get them to a safe and secure location as soon as possible.
Traditionally, field medics and Corpsman would manually pack deep wounds with Quik Clot and gauze to pack wounds, or use tourniquets to stop major bleeds. Wound control would consist of treating the damaged tissue by externally cramping large amounts of coagulated material with high hopes that your helping more than hurting.
But a new invention using these little sponges may be the key to prolonging life until the injured is transported to the next echelon of care.
FDA approved in 2015, the XSTAT hemorrhage control system is making its way into military hands. Specially designed to treat narrowed-entrance wounds like bullet holes, these circular sponges are housed in an injectable syringe and plunged into any deep wound and rapidly expand after coming into contract with liquid.
With the average wound packing time approximately three-to-five minutes, the injectable sponges cut application time down to just seconds. The sponges then completely fill up the wound and self-compress themselves outward soaking up the bleeds they come in contact with.
The XSTAT, which contains approximately 92 sponges, can treat wounds in areas tough to treat with a tourniquet and can be injected into nearly every part of the body without causing additional soft tissue damage.
“XSTAT 30 is cleared for use in patients at high risk for immediate, life-threatening, and severe hemorrhagic shock and non-compressible junctional wounds, when definitive care at an emergency care facility cannot be achieved within minutes,” – FDA
(CNN, YouTube)What do you think of this life-saving invention? Leave us a comment.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
Two Israeli F-35 “Adirs” fly in formation and display the U.S. and Israeli flags after receiving fuel from a Tennessee Air National Guard KC-135, Dec, 6, 2016. The U.S. and Israel have a military relationship built on trust developed through decades of cooperation.
Airmen, assigned to the 366th Fighter Wing, perform diagnostic checks on an F-15E Strike Eagle at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, Dec. 3, 2016. Their particular F-15E was gearing up to deploy to the annual Checkered Flag exercise hosted by Tyndall AFB. Checkered Flag is a large-force exercise that gives a large number of legacy and fifth-generation aircraft the chance to practice combat training together in a simulated deployed environment.
U.S. Soldiers assigned to Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division fire a M777 A2 Howitzer in support of Iraqi security forces at Platoon Assembly Area 14, Iraq, Dec. 7, 2016. Charlie Battery conducted the fire mission in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, the global Coalition to defeat ISIL in Iraq and Syria.
Ukrainian Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 80th Airmobile Brigade fire a ZU-23-2 towed antiaircraft weapon before conducting an air assault mission in conjunction with a situational training exercise led by Soldiers from 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Nov. 28, 2016 at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center. This training is part of their 55-day rotation with the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine. JMTG-U is focused on helping to develop an enduring and sustainable training capacity within Ukraine.
MEDITERRANEAN SEA (Dec. 11, 2016) Petty Officer 3rd Class Alexis Rey, from Stratford, Conn., conducts pre-flight checks on an EA-18G Growler assigned to the Zappers of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 130 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). Dwight D. Eisenhower, currently deployed as part of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.
MEDITERRANEAN SEA (Dec. 10, 2016) Petty Officer 1st Class Jeremy Parrish, from Apopka, Fla., signals to the pilot of an F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Sidewinders of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 86 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). Eisenhower, currently deployed as part of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.
A Marine participates in a field training exercise during Exercise Iron Sword 16 in Rukla Training Area, Lithuania, Nov. 29, 2016. Iron Sword is an annual, multinational defense exercise involving 11 NATO allies training to increase combined infantry capabilities and forge relationships.
Combat cargo Marines grab a short nap in the well deck of USS Carter Hall (LSD-50) December 1, 2016 before the ship prepares to receive amphibious craft during Amphibious Ready Group, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit Exercise off the coast of Onslow Beach, North Carolina. The Marines worked nearly 20 hours the previous day on-loading and securing equipment and vehicles to Carter Hall. These Marines were assigned the combat cargo billet as a part of ship taxes and come from a myriad of military occupational specialties native to the Marine units aboard the ship.
An aircrew aboard a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter, from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., prepares to take the load of a 14,000 pound buoy that washed ashore just south of the entrance to Tillamook Bay, in Garibaldi, Ore., Dec. 12, 2016. The Army aircrew assisted the Coast Guard in recovering the beached buoy that normally marks the navigable channel into Tillamook Bay.
Coast Guard Cutter Munro crewmembers render honors to the national ensign during colors at an acceptance ceremony for the Munro on December 16, 2016 on the ship’s flight deck at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi.
Parents tend to teach their kids that kindness is one of the greatest traits a human can exhibit. When those kids eventually join the military, they’ll learn that they need to drop the niceties before too long.
Troops should show a general politeness toward their peers — after all, the military wouldn’t function if everyone was truly spiteful toward one another. We’d never recommend that you treat others like dirt, but every service member must obtain a certain level of saltiness in order to get through their career.
In a way, military life is the reversal of civilian norms. In the military, kindness is negatively received; being assertive and salty is the only way to get what you want. We’re not saying this is bad or good — it’s just the weird life that troops live.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t help others out.
(Photo by Spc. L’Erin Wynn)
Your kindness will be perceived as weakness
Before any of this gets twisted, kindness isn’t a weakness and showing genuine empathy toward your fellow troop isn’t going to kill you. In fact, showing your brothers- and sisters-in-arms compassion will take you far and may save a life some day.
However, the harsh reality is that there are no brakes on the military train. Slowing down for others and offering a helping hand isn’t always smiled upon. When you pause to help someone who’s stalled, in the eyes of many, there are now two impediments.
It’s not an pleasant circumstance, but that’s how life in the military goes.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. R.J. Lannom)
Your kindness will get pushed to the limits
There’s another side to the compassion coin. Offer your help too readily and others will take advantage. One favor leads to three. “Hey, can you get me…” quickly turns into, “you don’t mind, do you?”
In a perfect world, there wouldn’t be any toxic leadership in the military. Everyone would take unit morale into consideration, do their part, and ensure tasks are completed on schedule. Unfortunately, when people find it easier to get someone else to their job, they’ll take that road.
But they’re not mutually exclusive in combat situations.
(Photo by Cpl. Darien J. Bjorndal)
Your saltiness will get things done
Aggression and anger are not essential traits of great leaders. A first sergeant who never yells still commands the same respect as a first sergeant who barks at everyone. It is entirely possible to be assertive and state your intentions to others without shouting.
…but most people won’t see it that way. The moment you raise your voice, people listen. If you’re of a lower rank, people will assume you’re ready for a leadership position — in actuality, yelling and true leadership skills are apples and oranges.
Troops will rarely give an honest answer if their first sergeant asks them how are they doing, even if it’s meant sincerely.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
Your saltiness won’t ever get questioned
Being nice will cause everyone to question your motives. Other troops will think you’re up to something, trying to work them over. Conversely, there’re almost no repercussions for being a dick to everyone.
The higher your rank, the less people will wonder why you’re grouchy. Everyone just accepts it as normal, everyday life. Niceties at that rank set off alarms in the lower ranks or just confuse everyone.
It’s a well-known fact that Marine recruits east of the Mississippi go to the flat lands of Parris Island for basic training while those from the west head to sunny San Diego.
What many don’t know is there is a huge rivalry between “Island” and “Hollywood” Marines, and it all boils down to who had it tougher. Although the competitive nature between the two is all in good fun, Marines are known for fighting both big and small battles.
Since the curriculum at both of the training camps is the same, there are a few differences that separate the two.
“I think the sand fleas give you that discipline because you’re standing in formation and you got them biting on the back of your neck,” Capt. Robert Brooks states during an interview, fueling the rivalry in support of Parris Island.
Capt. Joseph Reney, however, jokes in favor of California:
“San Diego has hills and hiking is hard. I would say San Diego makes tougher Marines.”
Regardless of the training location, both boot camps produce the same product — a patriotic Marine.
The American flag, also lovingly known as “the Stars and Stripes” and “Old Glory,” is one of the most famous patriotic symbols in the world. Over the years, it’s been modified to reflect our country’s growth and waves triumphantly across our great nation. We associate our nation’s emblem with the freedom and democracy the US champions.
The flag has been raised on various battlefields throughout the world and many Americans hoist it outside of their homes as a badge of loyalty. But nothing lasts forever and, eventually, flags need to be removed from operational service. When an American flag can no longer be used, the symbol must be removed from service in a dignified way.
So, how do you properly dispose of our nation’s flag?
(U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)
According to the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization, first, the flag should be folded up in the customary manner. This means holding the flag waist-high and folding the lower half of the stripe section lengthwise over the field of stars. Then, folded again, keeping the blue stars facing up.
Next, triangularly fold the striped corner of the already-folded edge to meet the open side of the flag. Continue making triangular folds until you’ve covered the entire length of the flag. Once the flag is prepared, it’s to be placed in a fire. Any individuals in attendance must stand at the position of attention, salute the flag, and state the Pledge of Allegiance, which is to be followed by a period of silence.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Brandon Cyr)
Once the flag is consumed by the flames, its ashes are to be buried.
Note: Please check with local fire codes before choosing your fire and bury sites.
While I’d never give up Christmas at home, there are some things I miss about celebrating the holidays with my brothers in arms.
As I sit here comfortably at my desk, nursing a scotch in a plastic cup after my guard unit Christmas party, I can’t help but feel nostalgia for my time spent away from home. While I wouldn’t trade Christmas morning at home with my wife and daughter for anything, I will forever recall those Christmases spent overseas fondly. Surprisingly, the things I miss the most about Christmas in Afghanistan are the same things that I missed when I was stuck there among my fellow Army members.
5. We shared the holidays with our military families.
One of the great things about Christmas overseas is that there are no awkward family interactions, like trying to remember the name of your cousin’s boyfriend or watching Uncle Cletus get drunk and set the Christmas tree on fire. The bond and fellowship that soldiers try to create when they are stuck away from home is a thing of magic. Granted, I’m pretty sure that they either made some barracks hooch or got some stuff in the mail, but in the midst of rural Afghanistan, they found a way to have a good time and take care of each other. I fondly remember watching the original Indiana Jones and Star Wars trilogies back to back while making concept of operations and fragmentary orders in 2010. And though I’m pretty sure my wife won’t let that fly this year, being stuck in a plans cell was halfway nice that day.
4. We gorged ourselves on the food.
The Army always tried hard to get quality food to all locations, even to the most remote bases, on Christmas. Entire missions with combined arms and air support were involved in transporting ham and turkey to all the outposts. At our little base in Kunar, Afghanistan in 2008, our cook and his band of merry Afghan helpers worked two nights to cook enough food for the soldiers at our base and those flown in from a neighboring outpost. The giant cow femur from a bone in roast beef was left for “Pork Chop,” the black and white dog who served as the mascot to multiple outposts in the Kunar River Valley, who would trek from Monti to Fortress south of Asadabad between 2007 and 2009.
It wasn’t the way grandma cooked it, but between the noble efforts of Army cooks and care packages from home, I count it among my favorite meals.
3. We improvised holiday decorations.
(Image from Warner Bros’ National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation)
Clark Griswold from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation would have been jealous of our Christmas tree. One of the remote outposts in our area of operations, which was under nearly constant attack with over 200 firefights in their six months in position, strung lights up through their base as a message to the Taliban. My wife mailed me a small artificial Christmas tree that I put in our small tactical operations center and gave our soldiers the mission to decorate. Slowly, we fleshed it out with M67 fragmentation grenades and individual ornaments of 7.62 rounds hung with care using the innards of a parachute cord. Lastly, we topped it with a Santa Claus Mr. Potato Head and a claymore at the base. We were full of Christmas cheer, surrounded by emergency munitions.
2. We had unique Christmas shenanigans.
Santa Claus (Lt. Jon Sunderland) directs aircraft movement during flight operations aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) Christmas Day. Nimitz Carrier Strike Group is on a routine deployment to the region. Operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations are focused on reassuring regional partners of the United States commitment to security, which promotes stability and global prosperity. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class David Mercil / Released).
One of the few days of the year when there was a general consensus for shenanigans to improve morale, the antics throughout were a thing of magic. From the secret targeting packets circulated on Santa Claus to the fellow staff officer that erected an inflatable Christmas decoration on the roof of our building to welcome the commander back from his Christmas tour, the practical jokers of the Army tried their best to make light of an otherwise crap situation being away from home.
1. There were occasional inexplicable Christmas miracles.
Somehow, some way, on Christmas the near impossible happened. It was eerily quiet — maybe because we weren’t out stirring up trouble — the Taliban generally left us alone and we enjoyed it. After weeks of no mail due to weather issues and unknown complications, a Chinook appeared on the horizon bringing hope in the Ring Route. We unloaded several thousand pounds of mail and other goodies on Christmas eve, and though it may seem silly, it was a real miracle to us.
There is a long history of the magic and merriment of Christmas for soldiers at war. From the Christmas Day Truce in 1914 to the ring route miracle of eastern Afghanistan, as I look at more inevitable deployments and more holidays away from home, it makes me cherish what I’ve experienced just a little bit more. As always it reminds me to enjoy this glass of scotch a little bit more for my friends and comrades overseas this season, and to not fear being gone from my family in the future. For those overseas this year, have a Merry Christmas and stay safe, but remember to have some fun while you are there.